Plants will reach point where they couldn’t possibly take another bite of our CO2


Plants love carbon dioxide. It’s their oxygen. That’s why forests, meadows, and the like are called carbon sinks — they help draw a fraction of our CO2 emissions back out of the atmosphere and into the soil.

But we can’t expect plants to clean up after us forever.

After running computer simulations, European and Japanese scientists concluded that plants that haven’t been bulldozed, poisoned, burnt up, or attacked by invasive pests will continue to absorb more carbon as atmospheric carbon levels rise. But they found that rising temperatures could eventually prevent vegetation from absorbing any more of our CO2 pollution.

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Is the coal industry about to wreck the Great Barrier Reef?


Here’s a conundrum for you: Would it be better to protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is visible from space, attracts more than a million visitors every year, and is home to thousands of species of fish, sharks, and other marine animals? Or would it be better to build one of the world’s largest coal ports near the reef, dredge the area around the port, dump millions of tons of dredged mud and sand into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and then create a coal-shipping superhighway through the reef so thousands of ships each year can ferry coal from Australia to Asia?

The answer is clearly the latter, according to Australia’s conservative government and the coal industry. The government, now under the control of climate-denying Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has just given the coal industry the go-ahead for its proposed project, despite warnings from environmentalists that the coal port and shipping…

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Ozone layer will take five more decades to fully recover


Remember when the world came together to save the ozone layer — even Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher? The Montreal Protocol, a treaty that went into effect in 1989, curbed the use of CFCs and other chemicals that tear up the planet’s UV-absorbing sheath of ozone. But that was nearly a generation ago — and things still haven’t been fully patched up in the lower stratosphere.

The ongoing fragility of the ozone layer reminds us how long it can take for atmospheric conditions to stabilize after we have screwed them up. The L.A. Times reports:

In 2006, the ozone hole grew larger than ever. It reached a similar extent in 2011, before shrinking to its second-smallest size in 2012. Naturally occurring meteorological conditions were mostly responsible for those fluctuations, two NASA studies found.

Over the next two decades scientists expect the ozone hole to continue to vary widely.

“It’s not…

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