The News at a Glance: Carbon Trackers, China’s COVID-19 Zero Adjustments and 8 Billion Humans | Science

CLIMATE POLICY

Carbon emissions are rising, and so are the ways to track them

Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to rise 1% this year from 2021 levels, making it harder for many countries to meet their goal of reaching net zero emissions. by 2050, scientists from the Global Carbon Project said last week. They cited a relaxation of pandemic precautions, including increased air travel, as one of the reasons for the increase. Most researchers say the world is unlikely to meet net zero goals and limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050. But two new tools announced last week will help the effort by improving the ability to track, verify and regulate greenhouse gases. A tool, developed by the Climate TRACE coalition, uses satellite imagery and machine learning algorithms to detect and measure emissions from 72,000 sources, including power plants. In addition, the United Nations unveiled the Methane Alert and Response System, which will use data from new satellites capable of detecting large leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The announcements came as politicians at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt debated whether and how rich countries should pay for climate-related damages to low-income countries.

RESEARCH SECURITY

Wrongful dismissal case settled

The US government has agreed to pay hydrologist Xiafen “Sherry” Chen $1.8 million to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit stemming from an unsuccessful federal lawsuit alleging national security threats. In 2014, the government accused her of tapping into a restricted US water management database and providing information to a Chinese government official while working at the National Weather Service. Chen denied acting improperly, and the government dropped the charges in 2015. The Department of Commerce, which includes the weather service, fired her in 2016, but after a review board ruled the dismissal illegal , placed her on administrative leave from 2018. Her case mobilized the Chinese-American community, who saw it as racial profiling years before former President Donald Trump’s Chinese Espionage Initiative. Trump does not draw similar criticism. In the Nov. 10 settlement, the Commerce Department does not admit any wrongdoing but agrees to meet with Chen to discuss her treatment and issue a letter praising her work. Chen agreed to retire by the end of this year. His legal team called the settlement “a blow…to bigotry and to the rights of Asian Americans.”

DEMOGRAPHY

World population hits 8 billion as growth slows

Earth’s population has passed a major milestone, surpassing 8 billion people, the United Nations said this week. But the rate of increase is slowing, and the world’s population could begin to decline by the end of the century after reaching around 10.4 billion, according to the United Nations Population Division. His World Population Prospects 2022 report notes that two-thirds of the world’s population already live in a country or region where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth for a population at low mortality. More than half of the projected increase in the world’s population by 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

graph showing the evolution of the population since 1950
(GRAPHIC) C. BICKEL/SCIENCE; (DATA) UNITED NATIONS, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS, POPULATION DIVISION, WORLD POPULATION OUTLOOK 2022
PUBLIC HEALTH

China scraps some COVID-19 rules

Last week, China announced 20 revisions to pandemic control and prevention measures that somewhat ease the burden on its weary and frustrated population. Changes include reducing required stays at designated quarantine facilities from 7 days to 5 days for international travelers and close contacts of infected people, ending contact tracing of patient contacts and restricting mass testing to situations where the source of infection is unclear. Local governments retain responsibility for setting the time, place and duration of shutdowns, which have disrupted the industry and sparked increasingly furious protests; on November 14, residents of Guangzhou defied a lockdown by breaking barriers and marching through the streets. The policy changes come as COVID-19 resurfaces in China: the National Health Commission reported 17,909 new cases on November 14, the most since the spring. Most of the new cases were asymptomatic.

CLINICAL RESEARCH

Roche Alzheimer’s drug flopped

An antibody that pharmaceutical giant Roche designed to treat Alzheimer’s disease by targeting beta-amyloid, a protein that accumulates in patients’ brains, has failed in two large phase 3 clinical trials. placebo, gantenerumab injections slowed cognitive decline in standard tests by just 6% or 8% in trials involving nearly 2,000 people with mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, Roche announced Nov. 13. This reduction was not statistically significant. The drug removed less beta-amyloid than expected, which some scientists believe explains its failure. The setback follows positive results earlier this year for an anti-amyloid antibody called lecanemab, made by Biogen and Eisai. More detailed results on several antibodies are expected at the Alzheimer’s clinical trials meeting later this month.

quotation mark

It just tells us how terrible our culture is getting, that we can’t have an honest scientific debate.

  • George Benjamin
  • executive director of the American Public Health Association, in MedPage Today, on public health expert and commentator Leana Wen’s decision not to speak at her annual meeting about harassment by public health officials, after receiving criticism and threats on his views on COVID-19.
PANDEMICS

Improved masks win US contest

Two small companies making innovative face masks designed to thwart the spread of pathogens are tied for first place this week in a US government-sponsored competition that awarded them $150,000 each to further develop the protective clothing . The Mask Innovation Challenge, funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), tested the masks for their ability to filter airborne particles as small as viruses and for breathability, comfort and durability. appearance. The competition started in March 2021 and attracted 1448 participants. A first-place winner, called Airgami and made by Air99, uses an origami shape that provides ample breathing space, making it comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The other, ReadiMask, from Global Safety First, has no straps and uses adhesive to conform snugly to differently shaped faces. Both masks are already on the market. Despite the wins, BARDA says it has no plans to buy either to stockpile for health emergencies.

SPACE POLICY

Large satellites annoy astronomers

Scientists fear the glow from the largest commercial communications satellite could interfere with ground-based observations. The satellite, BlueWalker 3, deployed its 64 square meter antenna this week, making it one of the brightest satellites in the sky. BlueWalker 3 is a prototype of the world’s first space-based broadband network, planned by AST SpaceMobile, which would deploy a constellation of 168 even larger satellites. Astronomers fear this could obliterate objects such as exploding stars or Earth-bound asteroids. Radio astronomers are also troubled because the satellites will operate at radio frequencies that could encroach on parts of the spectrum traditionally reserved for ground-based observatories. Astronomers were already worried that communications satellites launched by the company SpaceX, which plans a network of thousands, could interfere with observations.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.