Category: Earth & climate

Articles focusing on the current and future state of our planet and its climate. We explore the causes and consequences of anthropogenic climate change.

I love travelling and it’s ruining the planet

This week I am enjoying Greek salads with feta cheese, morning swims in the sea, and lazy afternoons in the sun. I am in Cyprus, a country whose tourism sector’s greenhouse emissions per capita are the sixths largest in the world. And it’s not the Cypriots who are to blame, rather the troops of tourists (including me) that fly into the Mediterranean island to enjoy their holidays in luxurious hotel rooms kept cool by batteries of air conditioners. Thanks to a new study, for the first time ever we now have a comprehensive overview of the footprint of global tourism. And it’s not a pretty picture, rather an inconvenient truth (to use Al Gore’s words).

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Ocean plastics: where to fight them first?

I am sure you all have seen those heart-sickening pictures of dead albatrosses on the beaches of the Galapagos Islands. Between what remains from their deck of feathers, plastic bottle caps are bulking out of their stomachs. The issue of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is reaching alarming rates with far-reaching impacts. It seems that finally, the issue has reached the greater public thanks to mind-boggling footage in documentaries like the Plastic Ocean, and the renowned BBC series Blue Planet II. Better late than never. If the little sea turtles tangled up in an abandoned fisher net didn’t pull you over the line, the danger of microplastics building up in the fish on your plate surely should get you onboard the fight against ocean plastics. But you might be wondering… where to start?

The Philippines have a huge waste mismanagement problem, leading to tonnes of plastic being dumped into the ocean every year

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Meat the future

I get it. You love how the patty sizzles in the pan, how the fat seeps out of the meat, how the smell is an anticipation of the first bite, which gives the eater a glimpse of what’s beyond: heaven. At least, if I have to believe some of my carnivorous friends –I’m vegetarian– who get slightly poetic when defending their eating habits. And it’s not that I just happen to have very weird friends. Not a surprise that many vegetarian brands have tried to win meat lovers over with alternatives that promise to bring the full meat experience in a vegetarian or vegan version. Although most purists will claim we’re not yet there, some are admitting it’s getting pretty close.

For many people, the sizzling, the smell, and the bleeding of the meat is part of the burger experience

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Love, sex, and marriage in times of climate change

This Wednesday is Valentine’s day. Chances are high your thoughts are already floating off to your date night. Although it might seem as if there are few things further apart than love and climate change, I figured out they can affect each other in (sometimes scarily) significant ways.

You might not give a damn about rising seas and melting permafrost, but beware: hotter temperatures might affect action in the bedroom. What a bummer! In a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US a couple years back, three researchers found indications that exceptionally hot days lead to a reduction in birth rates nine months later. To put it in the authors own words: “Extreme heat could raise the physiological cost of coitus on a given fertile day, leading to a shift in coital frequency to some subsequent day(s).” In layman’s words: when it’s too hot to bang, people usually catch up later. But postponing the sex doesn’t make up entirely for the decline, as the study of US birth rates between 1931 and 2010 suggests.

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2018: time to step up the climate game

2017: Devastating fires in Portugal, Hurricane Maria kicking Puerto Rico KO, record temperatures in Sydney, an iceberg as big as Delaware braking of the Antarctic Larsen-C ice-shelf, a wildfire season spanning 6 months in California, accelerated melting of Greenland’s glaciers, streets turned into rivers in… I could go on and on. As bloggers and journalists on climate change we used to write in the future tense to describe a warmer world. That has changed.

I have the feeling the last year gave us a look into the future. As you might know, it is difficult to prove the relationship between one particular extreme weather event and the rise of average global temperatures. Yet, we do know as a fact that the intensity and frequency of weather events like those  scourging the planet the previous 12 months will increase. What do I say, are increasing. You see, I haven’t got used to the change of tenses myself yet.

Wildfires caused billions in losses and claimed several lives in Portugal, Spain, California, and Australia

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Plastics – our dirty addiction

Cofee, games, fitness, Netflix, or beer. It seems to be very human to have your own peculiar addiction. There is one product none of us can’t get enough of: plastic. Once hailed as a revolution, it is now quickly becoming one of mankind’s biggest health hazards. Last week I went to a screening of the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ in Brussels. Preceded by a panel discussion between director Craig Leeson, marine biologist Richard Thompson, activists Hugo Tagholm and Maria Westerbos, and CEO of Klean Kanteen Jim Osgood. It was an eye-opening evening for me. This is what I take away.

The screening of the documentary was preceded by a panel discussion. From left to right: Leeson, Tagholm, Westerbos, Thompson, Oswood, Beck (own photo).

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