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World strives to limit damage as greenhouse gas levels hit record

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Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record last year and the world is “way off track” on capping rising temperatures, the United Nations said on Monday, showing the task facing climate talks in Glasgow aimed at averting dangerous levels of warming.

A report by the U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020, rising more than the average rate over the last decade despite a temporary dip in emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises “far in excess” of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century.

“We are way off track,” he said. “We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life,” he added, calling for a “dramatic increase” in commitments at the COP26 conference beginning on Sunday.

The Scottish city of Glasgow was putting on the final touches before hosting the climate talks, which may be the world’s last best chance to cap global warming at the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius upper limit set out in the Paris Agreement.

“It is going to be very, very tough this summit,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference with children.

“I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done,” he said.

The German government announced Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Glasgow to take part.

STAKES ARE HUGE

The stakes for the planet are huge – among them the impact on economic livelihoods the world over and the future stability of the global financial system.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said on Saturday that the world’s top oil exporter aims to reach “net zero” emissions of greenhouse gases, mostly produced by burning fossil fuels, by 2060 – 10 years later than the United States. He also said it would double the emissions cuts it plans to achieve by 2030.

An official plan unveiled in Ottawa showed developed nations were confident they can reach their goal of handing over $100 billion a year to poorer countries to tackle climate change by 2023, three years late.

The plan on how to reach the goal, prepared by Canada and Germany, said developed countries still needed to do more and complained private finance had not lived up to expectations.

A Reuters poll of economists found that hitting the Paris goal of net-zero carbon emissions will require investments in a green transition worth 2%-3% of world output each year until 2050, far less than the economic cost of inaction.

By contrast governments since January 2020 have spent a total of $10.8 trillion – or 10.2% of global output – in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘WE DON’T HAVE TIME’

A “business-as-usual” trajectory leading to temperature rises of 1.6C, 2.4C and 4.4C by 2030, 2050 and 2100 respectively would result in 2.4% lost output by 2030, 10% by 2050 and 18% by 2100, according to the median replies to the survey.

Australia’s cabinet was expected to formally adopt a target for net zero emissions by 2050 when it meets on Monday to review a deal reached between parties in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition government, official sources told Reuters.

The ruling coalition has been divided over how to tackle climate change, with the government maintaining that harder targets would damage the A$2-trillion ($1.5-trillion) economy.

In London, climate activists restarted their campaign of blockading major roads by disrupting traffic in the city’s financial district, while in Madrid a few dozen people staged a sit-in protest, briefly blocking the Gran Via shopping street.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are provoking climate catastrophes all over the planet. We don’t have time. It’s already late and if we don’t join the action against what’s happening, we won’t have time to save what is still left,” said Alberto, 27, a sociologist who took part in the protest.

 

(Additional reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan in London, Zuzanna Szymanska in Berlin, David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Marco Trujillo in Madrid; Writing by Michael Shields, Editing by William Maclean)

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NASA astronauts complete ISS spacewalk after debris scare – TRT World

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The spacewalk, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, was postponed after NASA received a “debris notification” for the orbital outpost.

Last month, Russia destroyed an old satellite in a missile test, sending pieces everywhere.
(Reuters)

Two NASA astronauts have completed the 13th spacewalk at the International Space Station (ISS) this year, days after the event was postponed over a debris risk.

Astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron headed outside the space laboratory on Thursday, replacing a faulty antenna and restoring its capability, the agency said.

“It was awesome!” Barron said after completing her first spacewalk, according to a tweet NASA posted.

The duo also “did some get-ahead tasks for future spacewalks,” the US agency said, adding that the astronauts returned to the station after six hours and 32 minutes.

The spacewalk, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, was postponed after NASA received a “debris notification” for the orbital outpost.

READ MORE: What is ‘space junk’ and what are we doing about it?

In a subsequent statement, the agency said Houston experts were assessing a fresh risk from orbital rocket debris that may pass close to the ISS on Friday.

“Mission Control is working with NASA’s international partners to prepare for a possible debris avoidance maneuver,” they said.

NASA footage showed Marshburn catching a ride on the robotic arm to move around the ISS before getting to work on the antenna.

Decades of continued human presence

The spacewalk was the fifth for the astronaut, a doctor who flew aboard a Space Shuttle in 2009 and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in a mission from 2012-13.

Barron, who was selected for the NASA astronaut corps in 2017, previously served as a submarine warfare officer for the US Navy. 

The pair arrived at the ISS on November 11 aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance with NASA’s Crew-3 mission for a six-month stay.

READ MORE: SpaceX returns ISS astronauts to Earth after 200-day flight

The ISS marked 21 years of continuous human presence this month, NASA said on its website.

During that period, they said, it had hosted 249 people from 19 nations who had taken part in thousands of research projects.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Government intervention needed to save endangered night sky, says scientist – CBC.ca

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Samantha Lawler lives in the small village of Edenwold, Sask. It’s “a place that’s so dark that I can walk out my back door and see the Milky Way,” she said.

But that deep darkness won’t last, as companies like SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper proceed with plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites into orbit, forming “mega-constellations” of satellites.

She knows exactly what that could look like, because she’s been working on simulations of satellites in the night sky.

“Every night I can see probably a few satellites in a few-minute period. And I know that’s going to increase a lot,” Lawler, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Her model relies on the planned or actual orbits of 65,000 satellites from four major companies: Starlink, Project Kuiper, OneWeb and StarNet/GW. The majority of these satellites have not yet been launched, but there are already nearly 4,000 operational satellites in orbit, Lawler noted.

According to our simulations, which take into account the brightness of satellites reflecting sunlight and the orbits that these companies want to use, I predict that there will be a couple of hundred satellites visible at any time during the summer in my night sky and within a couple hours of sunrise and sunset all year long,” she said.

The companies filed plans with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the International Telecommunications Union that detail the angles of the orbits and how many satellites would be on each orbit. As a result, Lawler and her colleagues are able to predict where the satellites will be in the sky as viewed from different locations on Earth at different times of year, and estimate how much light they’ll reflect.

They relied on observations of existing Skylink satellites at the Plaskett Telescope in Victoria, B.C. to help calibrate their model.

Samantha Lawler says that people living close to 50 degrees north will be most affected by plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites into space in the next few years. (Campion College, University of Regina/Submitted by Samantha Lawler )

“We really wanted to make sure that our model is applicable to Canada. We want to know what’s going to happen to our skies,” she said.

According to her research, people living along 50 degrees of latitude north and south will be most affected by visible satellites and other night sky light pollution. The north latitude line runs across some Canadian cities including Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary.

If 65,000 satellites are launched into space and the industry isn’t regulated, the could drown out the light from actual stars, of which we can usually only see a few thousand with the naked eye, she said.

“If you have a couple hundred satellites [visible] at all times, that means that one out of every 15 points in the sky will actually be moving. It’ll be very disorienting,” said Lawler. 

Making satellites fainter

So many moving visible satellites pose enormous challenges for research, to say nothing of the amount of pollution they’ll cause, said Lawler.

Some of them “will completely die in orbit and then they’ll just become space junk,” while others will burn up in the upper atmosphere, she explained. She noted that they’re mostly made of aluminum, and that we have no information on what such a large increase of burning aluminum will do the upper atmosphere.

WATCH | What a future with a sky full of satellite mega-constellations could look like

[embedded content]

Lawler said that instead of launching their own satellites to support their respective internet services, companies should be forced to share infrastructure, whether by government action or other forms of regulation. Failing that, they could at least be forced to ensure their devices don’t reflect so much light.

There are fantastic engineers who work for all of these companies, but right now they have absolutely no incentive to make their satellites fainter, so they’re not doing it,” said Lawler. “Starlink, to their credit, has tried. They put a tiny bit of effort into making their satellites a little bit fainter, but they’re still very much naked-eye visible.”

Lawler says that governments must push forward legislation at a federal level, but she also notes that consumers do have some power.

“If you have another option for good internet, don’t buy satellite internet. If … satellite internet is the only the only option that you have, tell your company, tell your provider that you care about the night sky, that it’s important to you that they put effort into engineering their satellites to be fainter,” she said.

She also notes that putting pressure on local governments can be effective too.

A lot of the lack of internet infrastructure in rural places is from many years of neglect by local governments, by provincial governments. If we pressure our governments into investing more in alternate forms of … internet [access], then there wouldn’t be so much demand for this.”


Written by Andrea Bellemare. Interview produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. 

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Spacewalking astronauts replace antenna after debris scare – Phys.Org

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This photo provided by NASA shows astronaut Tom Marshburn replaces a broken antenna outside the International Space Station after getting NASA’s all-clear for orbiting debris, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Marshburn and Kayla Barron completed the job Thursday. Credit: NASA via AP

Spacewalking astronauts replaced a broken antenna outside the International Space Station on Thursday after getting NASA’s all-clear for orbiting debris.

U.S. astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron were supposed to complete the job Tuesday, but NASA delayed the spacewalk because of potentially threatening space junk. NASA later determined the astronauts were safe to go out, despite a slightly increased risk of a punctured suit from satellite wreckage.

But soon after the spacewalk ended, Mission Control notified the crew that the station would need to move into a slightly lower orbit Friday to avoid an old U.S. rocket fragment.

Last month, Russia destroyed an old satellite in a missile test, sending pieces everywhere. NASA isn’t saying whether that event was the source of the junk that delayed the spacewalk.

During the first National Space Council meeting under Vice President Kamala Harris this week, top U.S. government officials joined her in condemning Russia’s extensive debris-scattering last month. More than 1,700 sizable pieces of the shattered satellite are being tracked, with tens if not hundreds of thousands too small to see.

Barron reported at least 11 small debris strikes to the failed antenna that was removed during the spacewalk, with some of the holes looking old. The device—up there for more than 20 years—malfunctioned in September.

Marshburn, 61, became the oldest person to conduct a spacewalk. It was the fourth of his career. Barron, a 34-year-old space rookie, ventured out on her first. They flew up on SpaceX last month for a six-month stay. Two other Americans are aboard the space station, along with two Russians and one German.


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Space junk forces spacewalk delay, too risky for astronauts


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