What Air Conditioners, Liquid Soap and Fireworks Have in Common

It’s both heartbreaking and impossible to keep up with all the news about global warming. Haaretz climate change briefs bring you the news you need but can’t bring yourself to read

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Photo provided by NASA: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft seen in false color infrared exposure as it is launched on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the International Space Station, May 30, 2020: Infrared imageCredit: SpaceX / Handout / Reuters
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

Air conditioners jack up electricity bill 42%
The haves, who have air conditioners, obviously weather heat waves better than the have nots, but a new study based on data in eight midlatitude OECD countries, published in the journal Economic Modelling, provides stark numbers. AC jacks up electricity bills by 42 percent on average, say researchers at Italy’s Ca’ Foscari University and the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change. Previous studies for the United States estimated an increase of 11 percent.

As global warming accelerates, which is what it’s doing, the extra spending will naturally depend on the intensity of change. In any case, air conditioning is increasingly exacerbating “energy poverty”: a situation where families spend more than 5 percent of their annual income on electricity. A double-digit percentage of households in parts of Europe already experience energy poverty.

Switch to soap bars, they’re eco-friendlier than liquid soap
A little. Not a lot. But millions of people switching back to soap bars will add up. The differences in ecological impact between bars of soap and bottled cleansers is explained by ZME Science, based on a study published in ACS. For example, with bars you use less soap; liquid soap has 10 times the carbon footprint of solid soap, and liquid soap requires tons more packaging, in plastic no less. And besides, soap bars are cheaper. Switch today.

How to reduce poisoning the world with your laundry
Here’s another eco-tip. Our laundry is loading the sea with microfibers, which can be deadly to plants and animals alike. To spare sea life, do your laundry cooler and faster: Run the machine at 15 degrees Celsius (the norm is 40) for 30 minutes (not 80), counsels a study from Northumbria University in PLOS One. Use the machine to capacity (though don’t overfill). Be loyal to old clothes; new ones release more microfibers.

And don’t assume that “natural clothes” made of cotton, wool or viscose don’t release fibers. In fact, 96 percent of laundry microfibers are from these classics, with synthetic rivals such as nylon, polyester and acrylic accounting for just 4 percent. And natural microfibers decay faster than synthetics.

Rocket fuel, fireworks toxin more perilous than thought
You might wonder how much of a problem this is. A chemical called perchlorate found in rocket fuels and fireworks, but also commonly put into fertilizers and other stuff, has been linked with health issues such as hypothyroidism (resulting in hormone output deficiency). Now researchers from Johns Hopkins’ med school warn in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology that the “safe” concentration of perchlorate in drinking water is 10 times less than previously thought.

And do you think the regulator will promptly protect you? Well, last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opted not to place regulations on the amount of perchlorate allowable in drinking water. “We hope that these findings will prompt the EPA to change its mind,” said the lead author, L. Mario Amzel, a professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Deep ocean could be warming 7x faster by 2050
Warming in the ocean depths may accelerate sevenfold by 2050 even if emissions of greenhouse gases are slashed, says a study in Nature Climate Change that looks at “climate velocity.” Among the things we don’t usually think about are different rates of change at different depths of the seas, which will lead to massive ecological disruptions as disconnects between species are created. The researchers are especially concerned about deep-sea species that aren’t used to climatic fluctuations. And note, species are already on the move from the surface to more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) down – at different speeds, The Guardian explains.

American lobster, Homarus americanus in Newfoundland, CanadaCredit: Derek Keats

Lobsters, scallops on the move
Among the species expected to move are the American lobster and sea scallops that “normally” live on the northeastern U.S. continental shelf. As the waters warm, scientists expect that the mobile lobster will move further offshore and that the sedentary scallop will move northward, as reported in Diversity and Distributions. People care mostly because they want to catch and eat these little beasts. Time to learn to cook vegetables.

Upside of volcanic eruptions: Mosquito repellent?
Volcanic eruptions are heart-stoppingly magnificent to watch, preferably on TV, but it’s hard to find immediate upsides to their proximity. Now a study in the journal Insects divulges that a nonchemical “indoor residual spray” made by combining a certain volcanic glass with water “showed effective control of mosquitoes that carry malaria.”

The scientists note that mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to pyrethroid pesticides and claim to have had considerable success with an insecticidal mineral derived from volcanic rock, trademarked Imergard. And why is this related to climate change? Because as the northern hemisphere warms, mosquito habitats are widening northward. There are about 1,500 active volcanoes around the world. If this volcanic rock repellent doesn’t work you could always try throwing a rock at a mosquito.

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