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The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth – Walter Alvarez


The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth

Walter Alvarez

Genre: Geology

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: December 17, 2008

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

One of the world's leading geologists takes readers into Italy's Apennine Mountain Range—the Mountains of Saint Francis—on a journey to discover the fascinating secrets of the Earth's deep history. Modern geologists, Walter Alvarez among them, showed in the last decades of the twentieth century that the history of our planet has witnessed events profoundly more dramatic than even the most spectacular chapters in human history. More violent than wars, more life altering than revolutions—understanding the geologic events that have shaped the Earth's surface is the quest and the passion of geologists. In the knowledgeable and graceful prose of Alvarez, general readers are led to explore the many mysteries that our planet guards. The author has chosen Italy as a microcosm in which to explore this amazing past for several reasons. First, it is the land where the earliest geologists learned how to read the history of the Earth, written in nature’s rock archives. Second, it is where Alvarez and his Italian geological friends have continued to decipher the rock record, uncovering more historical episodes from the Earth’s past. And third, the lovely land of Italy is unusually rich in geological treasures and offers examples of the key processes that have created the landscapes of the entire world. The Mountains of Saint Francis begins in Rome. We discover that the landscape of Rome was built by violent volcanic eruptions in the very recent past, almost certainly witnessed by our human ancestors. Next we travel to Siena and come face to face with a fundamental discovery of the geologists—that much of the dry land that we currently inhabit was once underwater, beneath ancient seas or oceans. Then we stop in the small medieval city of Gubbio and contemplate the amazing secret that the limestone rocks kept hidden for 65 million years—that a huge asteroid smashed into the Earth, disrupting the environment so severely that the dinosaurs, and perhaps half of the other forms of life inhabiting the Earth at the time, disappeared forever, opening the way for the rise of the mammals and eventually of humans. The impact theory that came from those Italian limestones at Gubbio was one of the great geological discoveries of the twentieth century. Just as important to the field of geology was the theory of plate tectonics—the understanding that the outer layer of the Earth is divided into crustal plates that move around, sometimes carrying continents into collisions with one another, like the great collision between Italy and Europe that built the Alps. And yet, to explain the Mountains of Saint Francis requires something more than a collision between continents. These are mountains that are still jealously guarding the secret of their past, and in this book we go along with the geological detectives as they try to uncover that secret. It is a journey that has seen the land of Italy lifted out of the sea, squashed and folded, torn apart, left high and dry when the Mediterranean Sea evaporated away, and then flooded when the Atlantic waters poured back in. The story of the Earth's history is fascinating in its own right, but with Alvarez as the tour guide, the journey takes on a human dimension, full of stories about the landscape and history of Italy and about the great geologists who uncovered the deep past of this land. It is a journey recounted in warm tones and subtle colors, reflecting the transcendent beauty of Italy itself.

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The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth – Walter Alvarez

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Your kid’s first car just might be electric

Two decades from now, children born into a world shaped by COVID-19 will be coming of age, and while the pandemic’s lasting imprint is unclear, one detail is coming into focus: Baby’s first car will probably be electric.

Despite the slump in the global electric vehicle market this year, a new analysis from the research firm BloombergNEF suggests that electric vehicle adoption will accelerate, eventually. The researchers’ annual outlook estimates that by 2040, 58 percent of new passenger cars sold will be electric, up from 2 percent today, and electric models will make up 31 percent of all of the cars on the road.

But it’s going to be a bumpy road to get there. A report by research firm Wood Mackenzie released in early April predicted a 43 percent drop in global electric vehicle sales by the end of the year. The new analysis by BNEF estimated that sales would only dip by 18 percent. Either way, it’s a sharp change of course for the industry, which has been growing steadily for over a decade.

Automakers were also forced to shut down factories and suspend production to help contain the outbreak, delaying the release of some new electric models, such as the latest Chevy Bolt and the electric Hummer. And with oil prices at record lows, some experts predict that buyers won’t be able to justify the up-front costs of electric cars with savings on gas.

So how does any of this spell a fast and furious adoption of electric vehicles in the future? The short answer: cheaper cars and more aggressive climate change policy. In a statement, Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport for BNEF, said the firm’s analysis suggested that internal combustion engine car sales already peaked back in 2017, and that electric car prices will finally be on par with their gas counterparts by 2025, thanks to falling prices for lithium-ion batteries. That day could come even sooner for Tesla vehicles: The company claims to be on the verge of introducing a new, more-affordable, long-lasting battery in its Model 3 sedan as early as later this year that it says will make the car cost competitive with gas models. But it will only be available in China to start.

The outlook is even brighter for electric buses, expected to make up 67 percent of all buses on the road by 2040, according to the analysis, as well as two-wheeled vehicles like mopeds and motorcycles, which are expected to be 47 percent electric by that year. To make this electric future viable, the world is going to need about 290 million charging stations, with a total price tag of around $500 billion, said Aleksandra O’Donovan, head of electrified transport for BNEF. Electric vehicles will increase electricity demand by about 5 percent.

Much of the sales growth will be in Europe and China, at least in the near term, where there is more policy support. There are now 13 countries around the world that have plans to phase out gas-powered cars altogether. The United States isn’t one of them. The U.S. government is currently in the process of phasing out a tax credit that helped spur electric vehicle adoption.

But states are attempting to pick up the slack. In Colorado, a new plan unveiled last month promises to add almost 1 million electric cars to the road in the next ten years and fully transition trucks and buses to electric options. Connecticut released a similar roadmap, with the goal of ramping up electric vehicle use by more than 100,000 vehicles in just five years. While budget drains endanger both of those plans, officials are optimistic that the momentum for electric vehicles is pandemic-proof.

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Your kid’s first car just might be electric

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The EU is doing what the US won’t: kicking coal to the curb

The European Union has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation as of late — and we’re not talking about Brexit. The group of member states, which pledged as a collective to become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of Europe’s Green Deal, cut carbon emissions from electricity by a whopping 12 percent in 2019, according to a report compiled by the European thinktanks Agora EnergieWende and Sandbag. Coal use, in particular, plummeted by about 25 percent.

“What surprised us most was the magnitude of the collapse of coal and the accompanying decrease in CO2 emissions,” said report coauthor Fabian Hein. “The speed of it was impressive.”

Clayton Aldern / Grist

The dramatic drop in CO2 — the equivalent of cutting the U.S. state of Georgia’s annual carbon emissions — can be linked to both the E.U.’s commitment to making Europe “the first carbon-neutral continent” and a steep increase in the market price of carbon, which drove the cost of polluting to its highest level since 2008. Aggressive onboarding of wind and solar also helped renewables overtake coal for the first time as the largest contributor to the electricity sector.

While that’s good news for the planet, the numbers don’t guarantee Europe will continue to make steady progress toward its goal of a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. A milder-than-usual winter last year helped lower the demand for electricity slightly across every country included in the 2019 report. And a closer look at the data shows that while coal power is falling fast, natural gas use has actually crept back up since hitting a low point in 2014. Not all E.U. nations are making the same progress in renewable development. Many Eastern European countries continue to fall far behind their wealthier neighbors, like Germany, the U.K, or the Netherlands.

The E.U. still has a lot of work to do to hit its 2030 benchmarks, including rapid improvements in energy efficiency and transportation. But in a speech about the challenges Europe still faces in its energy transition, Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission and the head of the European Green Deal, singled out power generation as a reason to believe the E.U.’s can achieve its larger climate goals.”

That is one area at least in which progress is “go[ing] much faster than anybody had anticipated,” Timmermans said.

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The EU is doing what the US won’t: kicking coal to the curb

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The Math Book – DK


The Math Book


Genre: Mathematics

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: September 3, 2019

Publisher: DK Publishing


Discover more than 85 of the most important mathematical ideas, theorems, and proofs ever devised, and the great minds behind them, with this original and colorful book. Take a journey through the fascinating story of fractions, numbers, patterns, and shapes in order to better understand the complex world we live in. Continuing the "Big Ideas" series' trademark combination of authoritative, clear text and bold graphics to chart the development of math through history, the book explores and explains some of the most complex and fascinating mathematical subjects. Delve into everything from the mathematical ideas and inventions of the ancient world such as the first number systems, magic squares, and the Chinese abacus, through to the developments in mathematics during medieval and Renaissance Europe, to the rise of group theory and cryptography more recently. This diverse and inclusive account of mathematics will have something for everybody: for those interested in the maths behind world economies, secret spies, modern technology and plenty more, taking readers around the world from Babylon to Bletchley Park. Tracing maths through the Scientific Revolution to its 21st-century use in computers, the internet, and AI, The Math Book uses an innovative visual approach to make the subject accessible to everyone, casual readers and students alike.


The Math Book – DK

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Climate change means wild weather. Does that include snowstorms?

If it seems like just last week that summer ended, you are correct — so why does the first day of October look like the dead of winter in the Northern Rockies? Over the weekend, Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a state of emergency after an unusually intense “winter” storm dropped 48 inches of snow on some parts of the state.

This year has already included a slew of record-setting weather events in the Northern Hemisphere, all courtesy of climate change. Heatwaves across Europe and the Arctic made this the hottest summer ever recorded, the midwestern U.S. is still recovering from terrible floods, and we’re currently in the middle of an unusually intense hurricane season.

So where does Montana’s pre-Halloween winter wonderland fit into all that? If you’re reading this, you probably know that weather and climate are not the same thing, and extreme winter weather doesn’t refute the existence of climate change. (Seriously, y’all, it’s 2019 — don’t be that senator who brought a snowball into Congress to disprove global warming.)

But could the Montana storm have been caused or exacerbated by climate change? Yes. Meteorologists and atmospheric scientists caution that more research is required to know exactly how big a role climate change played in this weekend’s storm, specifically. But it’s possible, and even likely, that climate change contributed to, and intensified, the conditions that made a storm this big possible.

The first mechanism by which climate change could have affected the storm is pretty basic: Warming temperatures lead to evaporating water, which leads to a wetter atmosphere, which leads to more precipitation.

“[A]ll storms are influenced to some degree by climate change because the environment is warmer and moister than it used to be,” said Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Since weather events are determined by factors specific to each situation, Trenberth didn’t think it was accurate to say the storm’s strength was entirely due to climate change — however, “the potential for bigger snowfalls in spring and fall is one of the signatures of climate change.” (Heavy snowfall in Montana this early in the fall is unusual, but not entirely unprecedented — the first snow of the season in 1992 in Great Falls was on August 22.)

There might be another, slightly more convoluted way climate change is affecting the weather that basically boils down to this: Rising Arctic temperatures are messing with the jet stream.

Jet streams are currents of wind way up in the atmosphere (at the altitude planes fly, hence the name) flowing west to east along the boundaries between hot and cold air. There’s one above the northern U.S., and it’s a key player in determining a lot of the region’s weather.

Jennifer Francis, a scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, studies how Arctic warming affects the weather in the rest of the northern hemisphere. She said a “contorted jet-stream configuration” was “a less direct connection” between climate change the storm — “and much more controversial, but a topic of active research.”

It’s normal for jet streams to have some north-south fluctuation. But with the melting of cold-retaining sea ice, the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the hemisphere, which researchers like Francis think is making the jet stream slower-moving and wavier as the difference in temperature between the Arctic and land further south decreases.

Francis explained that “unusually warm ocean waters off the west coast and around Alaska” — the result of melting sea ice — helped caused the jet stream to dip so far south, setting up the conditions for this weekend’s wet, heavy storm.

“An early snowstorm like this could have occurred through random chance, but there’s no question (in my mind) that climate change has made it worse,” Francis said.

Scientists have long warned that climate change will bring more frequent, wetter, and slower-moving storms. If this weekend’s storm shows us anything, it’s that that doesn’t just mean hurricanes. “I’d say the dice are loaded in favor of more unusual weather events this winter,” said Francis, “but it’s hard to say who will be affected the most.”

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Climate change means wild weather. Does that include snowstorms?

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Crisis in the Red Zone – Richard Preston


Crisis in the Red Zone

The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come

Richard Preston

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $13.99

Expected Publish Date: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

The 2013–2014 Ebola epidemic was the deadliest ever—but the outbreaks continue. Now comes a gripping account of the doctors and scientists fighting to protect us, an urgent wake-up call about the future of emerging viruses—from the #1 bestselling author of The Hot Zone, now a National Geographic original miniseries. This time, Ebola started with a two-year-old child who likely had contact with a wild creature and whose entire family quickly fell ill and died. The ensuing global drama activated health professionals in North America, Europe, and Africa in a desperate race against time to contain the viral wildfire. By the end—as the virus mutated into its deadliest form, and spread farther and faster than ever before—30,000 people would be infected, and the dead would be spread across eight countries on three continents. In this taut and suspenseful medical drama, Richard Preston deeply chronicles the outbreak, in which we saw for the first time the specter of Ebola jumping continents, crossing the Atlantic, and infecting people in America. Rich in characters and conflict—physical, emotional, and ethical— Crisis in the Red Zone is an immersion in one of the great public health calamities of our time. Preston writes of doctors and nurses in the field putting their own lives on the line, of government bureaucrats and NGO administrators moving, often fitfully, to try to contain the outbreak, and of pharmaceutical companies racing to develop drugs to combat the virus. He also explores the charged ethical dilemma over who should and did receive the rare doses of an experimental treatment when they became available at the peak of the disaster. Crisis in the Red Zone makes clear that the outbreak of 2013–2014 is a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined—in any country, on any continent. In our ever more interconnected world, with roads and towns cut deep into the jungles of equatorial Africa, viruses both familiar and undiscovered are being unleashed into more densely populated areas than ever before.   The more we discover about the virosphere, the more we realize its deadly potential. Crisis in the Red Zone is an exquisitely timely book, a stark warning of viral outbreaks to come.

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Crisis in the Red Zone – Richard Preston

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2019′s Dirty Dozen: Which Foods Have the Most Pesticides?

Beware the ?Dirty Dozen.? The Environmental Working Group has released its annual list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides, based on testing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And this year?s Dirty Dozen ? as the produce is nicknamed ? has some unsettling surprises.

?Overall, the USDA found 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on popular fruits and vegetables Americans eat every day,? according to an Environmental Working Group news release. ?Before testing, all produce was washed and peeled, just as people would prepare food for themselves.? And the results for one particular trendy food were eye-opening. ?The most surprising news from the USDA tests reveals that the popular health food kale is among the most contaminated fruits and vegetables,? the news release says.

So which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (as opposed to organic) should you avoid if you want to limit the pesticides in your diet? Here is 2019?s Dirty Dozen.

12. Potatoes

Credit: Diana Taliun/Getty Images

The Environmental Working Group does point out that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is critical for a healthy diet. But to make sure you?re maximizing the benefits, try to consume pesticide-free, organic varieties as often as possible. Potatoes, for instance, have numerous health benefits ? as long as you?re not solely consuming them in chip form. One baked potato has about 145 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. It also contains many vitamins and minerals ? including several B vitamins, 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of magnesium, 17 percent of potassium, 13 percent of manganese and 17 percent of copper.

11. Celery

Have you joined the celery juice bandwagon? If you don?t want to be sipping or crunching on pesticides, aim to go the organic route. One cup of chopped celery contains just 16 calories with 2 grams of fiber and a gram of protein. And it still offers a fair amount of nutrients ? including 9 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 37 percent of vitamin K, 9 percent of folate and 8 percent of potassium. Plus, according to Healthline, celery is full of antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation and aid digestion.

10. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are great to grow in your home garden, where you can prevent pesticides and other chemicals from coming in contact with your food. A cup of chopped tomatoes has only 32 calories with 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Plus, the serving provides you with 30 percent of your daily vitamin A, 38 percent of vitamin C, 18 percent of vitamin K and 12 percent of potassium, among other nutrients. Tomatoes are especially known for their lycopene, which gives them their red pigment. ?Lycopene has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers,? according to Healthline.

9. Pears

A medium pear is a substantial snack ? containing about 100 calories, 6 grams of fiber and a gram of protein. It also offers some vitamins and minerals, including 12 percent of the recommended vitamin C intake, 10 percent of vitamin K, 6 percent of potassium and 7 percent of copper. Still, even though a pear?s skin helps to make it a great source of fiber, it doesn?t keep the pesticides out. So make sure you?re consuming clean varieties of this fruit.

8. Cherries

Credit: dulezidar/Getty Images

More than 90 percent of the cherry samples the Environmental Working Group analyzed tested positive for two or more pesticides. So for the full health-boosting potential of this tart little fruit, go organic. A cup of cherries has about 87 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. It also gives you a good amount of vitamin C, B vitamins and several minerals. Plus, according to Healthline, cherries are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that can protect your body against diseases and reduce inflammation.

7. Peaches

The thin skin of peaches doesn?t offer them much protection against pesticides. But it will contribute some fiber to your diet. One medium peach has about 60 calories, 2 grams of fiber and a gram of protein. It also contains several B vitamins, about 10 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 17 percent of vitamin C, 5 percent of vitamin K and 8 percent of potassium. And according to Healthline, peaches can be considered a low-sugar fruit with a little less than 13 grams of natural sugars.

6. Grapes

If you take pesticides out of the equation, grapes can be a very healthy addition to your diet. A cup of red or green grapes has roughly 100 calories and a gram of fiber. And it provides you with 27 percent of the recommended vitamin C intake, 28 percent of vitamin K, 8 percent of potassium and 10 percent of copper, among other nutrients. According to Healthline, the potent antioxidants in grapes can help fight several diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. Plus, grapes also might help to improve heart health and lower cholesterol.

5. Apples

Just like with cherries, more than 90 percent of the apple samples carried two or more pesticides. ?Apples are generally near the top of EWG?s Dirty Dozen list because they contain an average of 4.4 pesticide residues, including some at high concentrations,? according to the Environmental Working Group. And there?s one chemical in particular that?s especially controversial. ?Most conventionally grown apples are drenched in diphenylamine, an antioxidant chemical treatment used to prevent the skin of apples in cold storage from developing brown or black patches,? the Environmental Working Group says. U.S. growers and regulators say the chemical poses no risk, but European regulators feel there isn?t enough evidence to prove its safety.

4. Nectarines

Credit: gresei/Getty Images

Nectarines also are among the fruits and vegetables that had more than 90 percent of their samples test positive for two or more pesticides. But sans pesticides, nectarines are a healthy way to get several nutrients. A medium nectarine has about 62 calories ? most of those coming from its natural sugars. Plus, it contains 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. It also offers multiple B vitamins, 9 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 13 percent of vitamin C, 8 percent of potassium and 6 percent of copper.

3. Kale

The Department of Agriculture hadn?t included kale in its pesticide tests since 2009. At that time, it ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen list. But since its popularity has skyrocketed, so has the pesticide use. ?More than 92 percent of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues,? according to the Environmental Working Group news release. Especially alarming was the presence of the pesticide DCPA, or Dacthal, which showed up in roughly 60 percent of the kale samples. Since 1995, the EPA has classified DCPA as a possible carcinogen ? specifically citing liver and thyroid tumors ? and the European Union banned it in 2009. Yet it?s still legal to use on U.S. crops ? including kale.

2. Spinach

?Federal data shows that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested,? according to the Environmental Working Group. There were an average of 7.1 different pesticides on every spinach sample. And more than three-quarters of the samples contained one particularly scary ?neurotoxic bug killer? called permethrin. ?At high doses, permethrin overwhelms the nervous system and causes tremors and seizures,? the Environmental Working Group says. ?But several studies also found a link between lower-level exposure to permethrin-type insecticides and neurological effects in children.? Europe banned permethrin in 2000, but the EPA is still assessing its risks.

1. Strawberries

Credit: bee32/Getty Images

Sweet, juicy, pesticide-filled strawberries took the top spot on 2019?s Dirty Dozen. ?Conventionally grown strawberries ? contained an average of 7.8 different pesticides per sample, compared to 2.2 pesticides per sample for all other produce,? according to the Environmental Working Group. ?? What?s worse, strawberry growers use jaw-dropping volumes of poisonous gases to sterilize their fields before planting, killing every pest, weed and other living thing in the soil.? Of all the samples, 99 percent contained at least one pesticide ? and 30 percent had 10 or more pesticides. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, hormone disruption, neurological problems and more. So if you?re not keen on putting that in your body, stick to the organic varieties.

Bonus: Hot peppers

The Environmental Working Group expanded 2019?s Dirty Dozen to include hot peppers, which don?t meet its traditional ranking criteria but nonetheless should have their contaminants exposed. ?The USDA tests of 739 samples of hot peppers in 2010 and 2011 found residues of three highly toxic insecticides ? acephate, chlorpyrifos and oxamyl ? on a portion of sampled peppers at concentrations high enough to cause concern,? according to the Environmental Working Group news release. ?These insecticides are banned on some crops but still allowed on hot peppers.? So buy organic hot peppers whenever possible. But if you can?t, washing and cooking them can somewhat diminish the pesticide levels.

Main image credit: 4nadia/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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2019′s Dirty Dozen: Which Foods Have the Most Pesticides?

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Veggie discs? Seitan slabs? E.U.’s meat fans want to rebrand vegetarian food

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The E.U. is turning up the heat on fake meat. At a meeting in Brussels, the E.U. agriculture committee approved regulations that require the rebranding of meat alternatives to avoid confusion with the real thing. This decision, if passed by the rest of the E.U., could have major repercussions on vegetarian food.

Under the new food-labeling amendment, words like burger, hamburger, sausage, steak, and escalopes will be reserved for meat products. Veggie burgers might be called “veggie discs”; seitan steaks could be rebranded as “seitan slabs,” according to the Guardian. (If you’re wondering what an escalope is, it’s a thin slice of boneless meat or fish. Maybe forcing the renaming of “soya escalopes” isn’t the worst thing in the world after all.)

In 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled to protect words associated with dairy products — hence, “soya milk” became “soya drink” and anything marketed as “cheese” turned into “plant-based alternative to cheese.” Proponents for the new amendment cited this law as precedent.

Why the pushback on tofu burgers? Plant-based diets are on the rise in Europe as vegan and vegetarian options go mainstream. A 2018 study found that a third of people in the U.K. have reduced or altogether stopped their meat consumption. Searches for vegan or vegetarian barbecue recipes jumped up 350 percent, reflecting an overall increased interest in meat alternatives.

Some members of parliament suspect the vote might have been influenced by the meat industry. Molly Scott Cato, of the U.K. Green Party, told The Independent that she saw this as a move by meat companies to undermine the growing plant-based diet trend. “It is going to be a bit repulsive if you have to eat something called ‘vegetable protein tube,’” she said.

The E.U. food-labeling amendment would join six state laws in the U.S. that have pushed back against plant-based alternatives using meaty names. Missouri passed a law late last year that would jail producers of fake meats for not clearly representing their products. Watch our video on the strange fight over vegetarian food labels:

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Veggie discs? Seitan slabs? E.U.’s meat fans want to rebrand vegetarian food

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Climate change could push tropical diseases to Alaska, according to a new study

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Nearly a billion people could be newly at risk of tropical diseases like dengue fever and Zika as climate change shifts the range of mosquitoes, according to a new study.

Since the life cycle of mosquitoes is temperature sensitive, scientists have long been concerned about how their prevalence might spread as the world continues to warm. The study is one of the first to examine in detail how that might happen by using an overlap of two disease-carrying mosquitoes’ range and projected monthly temperature changes under a variety of future warming scenarios.

In the most extreme scenario of more than 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F) warming by 2080, certain tropical disease-carrying species of mosquitoes currently found only seasonally in the U.S. South and southern Europe could greatly expand their range, as far north as Alaska and northern Finland — north of the Arctic Circle. That would force a redefinition of the term “tropical” diseases.

The sheer enormity of people who could be exposed gave the lead author pause. “It’s rather shocking,” said Sadie Ryan, a disease ecologist at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, in an interview with Grist.

In Europe alone, the number of people exposed to the dengue-carrying Aedes egypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes could roughly double within the next 30 years. In currently warm climates like the Caribbean, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, tropical disease incedence could actually decrease as those climates become so warm that they “exceed the upper thermal limits for transmission.” In other words: It will be too hot for the mosquitoes to effectively carry dengue.

On the whole, “climate change will dramatically increase the potential for expansion and intensification of Aedes-borne virus transmission,” according to the study.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats to global health,” Ryan said. “There are many more vector-borne diseases out there that are temperature sensitive.” Ryan also cautioned that mosquitoes, ticks, bark beetles, and invasive fungus threaten animals and plants as well as human health, and climate change is making many of them worse.

Malaria, which was not considered in this study, already affects nearly half of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization, killing more than 400,000 people each year — one of the leading causes of death for children in Africa. Previous studies have shown that hundreds of millions of people could be newly exposed to malaria by the end of the century, which is carried by a different species of mosquito. Dengue is one of the most common tropical diseases, but it is far less deadly than malaria — out of 100 million infections, it causes about 22,000 deaths each year.

According to the work from Ryan and her colleagues, Europe could be hardest hit because it sits on the leading edge of where mosquitoes can now survive. The worst-case scenario that Ryan and her colleagues explore is actually worse than business-as-usual — it’s a world where civilization doubles down on fossil fuels and planetary systems cause the world to heat beyond the 3.4 degrees C (6.1 degrees F) currently projected.

Ryan said her results should send a clear message to public health departments to boost their budgets in preparation.

There are countless reasons to be scared of climate change, and invading mosquitos might be one of the most tangible. Still, Ryan points out that it’d probably be among the least of our worries — sea-level rise, food shortages, mass migration, and financial collapse would probably pose a much greater risk to civilization.

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Climate change could push tropical diseases to Alaska, according to a new study

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Coal, oil, and natural gas demand hits record high in 2018

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If the world is going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Last year, we took another lurching step toward planetary catastrophe.

Demand for coal, oil, and natural gas hit new all-time highs in 2018, according to a worrying new report from the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization that compiles statistics on global energy use.

IEA data released on Monday show that nearly every major economy on Earth boosted its use of polluting energy sources. Continuing on like this amounts to knowingly sentencing the world to an unlivable future.

The report provides further evidence that the world’s two biggest emitters, the United States and China, are choosing to switch from coal to natural gas, not coal to renewables. While natural gas is often touted as being lower in CO2 emissions than coal, it still releases plenty of CO2 as well as methane — an even more powerful greenhouse gas. The move could lock in decades of emissions.

In Asia, coal demand itself also continued to grow. In China and India, 2018’s growth came from coal power plants that are only 12 years old on average (coal plants typically last about 40 years). Although coal demand continued to drop in the U.S., natural gas consumption surged to its highest level since record-keeping began 46 years ago.

Despite strong growth from wind, solar, and nuclear, carbon-free sources accounted for just one-third of the world’s new energy in 2018, meaning fossil fuels remain firmly dominant.

For the most part, humanity’s growing demand for energy still means a growing demand for fossil fuels. Europe was the only region in the world that managed to stabilize its total energy demand through expanded use of renewable energy.

China added more than six times the amount of renewable energy to its grid than the United States did — but even that is nowhere near enough to offset continued investment in fossil fuels.

The IEA also said that efforts to improve energy efficiency failed to offset global economic growth. Society’s basic energy challenge is to simultaneously build huge amounts of carbon-free energy sources and radically boost efficiency. Energy efficiency is normally responsible for a huge offsetting of growth, but it fell last year due to the combination of ineffective and poorly enforced policies. In other circles, the idea of abandoning economic growth entirely is gaining steam.

There is a huge gap between global climate policy and the urgent demands placed on leaders by the bare truths of climate science: On our current pace, with current policies, the world will warm by about 3.3 degrees C this century — roughly in-line with the worst-case scenario, according to climate scientists.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A new research report from a clean-energy policy think tank found that solar and wind have become so cheap in the United States that it’s more cost-effective to immediately tear down and replace 74 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants than to continue fueling them. That poses an important question to utilities and elected officials: What, exactly, are you waiting for?

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Coal, oil, and natural gas demand hits record high in 2018

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