As Hindus across India celebrate Diwali this week, scientists fear a ban on firecrackers and other emergency anti-pollution measures deployed by authorities may not be enough to prevent a repeat of last year's "airpocalypse" in Delhi. Each year, as winter descends on the Indian capital, a perfect storm of seasonal crop stubble burning, dense cloud cover and smoke generated by millions of firecrackers used in Diwali celebrations turns Delhi's skies a putrid yellow. This time they are taking few chances, as India's environmental watchdog shut down a coal-fired power plant on Wednesday and banned the use of diesel generators in Delhi.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is about to take a major step toward reshaping the agency's scientific advisory committees. This action, to come in the form of a directive next week, will effectively replace scientists on scientific advisory committees with representatives of the industries the EPA regulates. Apparently conflict of interest means different things to different people. Typically staffed by top experts, the EPA's scientific advisory committees are tasked with ensuring that the scientific information the agency uses in its rule-making is the best-available data on the topic. SEE ALSO: EPA chief denies carbon dioxide is main cause of global warming and... wait, what!? This is especially important since the EPA gets sued constantly, so any rules or other actions the agency takes could be vulnerable in court if the science underpinning the decision turns out to be flawed or out of date. Pruitt has already taken unprecedented steps to alter the composition of these committees, including not renewing terms for existing panel members, or dismissing members outright. The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga., June, 3, 2017.Image: AP/REX/ShutterstockOn Tuesday, in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, Pruitt announced the next step in his quest to bring more industry-friendly voices to the committees. He said he plans to issue a directive next week that would prohibit anyone from serving on an advisory committee who has received grant funding from the EPA. While that might seem like a commonsense move toward greater independence, the fact is that the EPA is one of the largest funding sources of environmental health research. Therefore, this requirement will likely disqualify hundreds of potential committee members, and instead allow representatives of industries regulated by the EPA — such as the chemical and energy industries — to gain more representation. “The scientists that make up these bodies, and there are dozens and dozens of these folks, over the years as they’ve served on these committees, guess what’s also happened? They’ve received monies through grants, and sometimes substantial monies through grants," Pruitt said. One agency watchdog, Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called Pruitt's move "gobsmackingly boneheaded." The implicit message in Pruitt's statement is that money going to scientific research somehow biases scientists and the advice they would give. This is a common argument put forward by climate deniers who assail the government's grants for scientific research. (Perhaps it's not a surprise that Pruitt denies that carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming, then.) "And if we have individuals that are on those boards receiving money from the agency sometimes going back years and years to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars over time, that to me causes question on the independence and the veracity and the transparency of those recommendations that are coming our way," Pruitt said. Hinting at the upcoming actions, Pruitt said: The UCS' Halpern wrote in a blog post that Pruitt's actions were grossly distorting the meaning of conflicts of interest. "Getting science advice from the EPA Science Advisory Board is like getting basketball tips from 40 Steph Currys. It’s the best in the business, volunteering their time in service of the public good," Halpern, the deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy, wrote. "So let’s recap: according to some, scientists who receive money from oil and chemical companies are perfectly qualified to provide the EPA with independent science advice, while those who receive federal grants are not. It’s a fundamental misrepresentation of how conflicts of interest work." During the same Heritage Foundation appearance, which was broadcast via Facebook Live, Pruitt also addressed his desire for public debates on the fundamentals of climate science, which he says has never happened despite decades to centuries of open, peer-reviewed research. 2016 was the warmest year on record, beating the previous record set the year before.Image: bob al-greene/mashableSuch red team, blue team debates, currently slated to take place early in 2018, are widely seen among scientists as an attempt to confuse the public about the reliability of climate science findings. Pruitt, clearly sees it differently. “The American people deserve, in my view, an objective, transparent, honest discussion about what we know and what we don’t know about CO2," Pruitt said. "It’s never taken place.” Earlier this month, Pruitt announced the withdrawal of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which covered greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. For now, at least, the EPA isn't putting any replacement rules into effect, despite a Supreme Court-mandated requirement to do so. It looks like we'll have to wait-and-see what the new advisory committees have to say about this. WATCH: Only in Dubai—police now have hovercrafts
Two scientists believe they have found a possible cause of dyslexia, the disability that affects reading skills—and it could be treatable. Albert Le Floch and Guy Ropars wrote that, in dyslexic people, the light receptor cells in the eyes were arranged the same on both sides. When the patterns of cells are symmetrical, it can produce “mirror” images of the world and confuse the brain, the press statement explained.
Archaeologists working on the Greek island of Thirassia have uncovered what they believe to be an ancient monument of unknown origin, which may shed light on the earliest cultures to inhabit the area. Experts from the the Ionian University, the University of Crete and the Cycladic Antiquities Bureau made the discovery as they continued their excavations on the prehistoric settlement in Thirassia, one of the Santorini islands. In the area, they uncovered a series of different stone structures built on the mountainous island in terraces.
Critically endangered Swift Parrots are under threat from squirrel-like sugar gliders in a battle for space in Australia's ancient forests, scientists said Wednesday as they race to save the rare birds. Swift Parrots are migratory and only breed in the southern island state of Tasmania. The marsupials, which launch themselves from tree to tree and rarely descend to the ground, eat the nesting birds as well as their eggs and chicks, the Australian National University scientists said.
North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador says the country plans to launch many more satellites and is accusing the United States of trying to block its efforts to help achieve the peaceful development of outer space
Overnight rain and calmer winds have helped firefighters tame a spate of deadly wildfires that broke out over the weekend, devouring homes and killing 41 people in Portugal and another four in northern Spain. Portugal's civil protection agency said Tuesday that the 15 biggest fires, which had raged through the centre and the north of the country, had been brought under control, but that the death toll had risen. "We've gone from 37 dead to 41," civil protection agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar told AFP.
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA)—which develops and builds America’s nuclear arsenal—has completed production of the U.S. Navy’s Arming Fuzing Subsystem for the W76-1/Mk4A Life Extension Program (LEP) warhead.
The photo of an ancient Thracian chariot alongside the bones of two horses and a dog has quickly risen to the top of Reddit today (Oct. 13), with more than 65,000 likes. A team of archaeologists led by Veselin Ignatov, of the Istoricheski muzej Nova Zagora, a museum in Bulgaria, discovered the 2,000-year-old wooden chariot in 2008. In 2009, Ignatov and his team also found a brick tomb, containing the remains of a man dressed in what appears to be armor, near the chariot.
A nine-year study into how our bodies process sugar has shed new light on cancer development, and how sugar-heavy diets may wind up increasing the risk of tumor growth. By better understanding how cancer cells metabolize sugars we eat, scientists are a step closer to figuring out how those cells trigger the development of cancerous…
During this period, the moon is appropriately referred to as the "dark moon." As we mentioned last week, the moon has been waning ever since reaching fullness on October 6. At first, the dark moon has a similarly purifying energy.
A male chimpanzee has been observed snatching a seconds-old newborn then eating it. This behavior has never before been documented by scientists, who say it could explain why female chimpanzees normally hide themselves away during the late stages of pregnancy. In December 2014, scientists were studying a group of chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains in Tanzania.
Last week, a former Australian prime minister and climate change denier delightfully dubbed global warming "beneficial." Now Australia's gone and dumped its Clean Energy Target for a so-called "plan" that removes subsidies for renewable energy and hands the mic to coal power. Great work, guys. The country's government has announced a scheme to abandon the country's Clean Energy Target (CET) in favor of a new plan that's made some seriously question the country's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, which went into force in 2016. The agreement requires nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the preindustrial average. SEE ALSO: Ex-Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott denies climate change, then praises it in confusing speech The government's decision to ditch the CET, proposed by chief scientist Alan Finkel, in favor of a National Energy Guarantee (NEG), is ostensibly aimed at improving the reliability of the country's electrical grid. The NEG requires energy retailers (primarily coal) to meet a "reliability guarantee," offering on-demand power when needed, to avoid crises like blackouts. This so-called reliability guarantee will be imposed by the government on providers to deliver on-demand energy from ready-to-use sources such as coal, gas, pumped hydro and batteries needed in each state. Each energy provider must also adhere to an "emissions guarantee," which will be set to meet Australia’s international commitments to reducing emissions. The Turnbull government reckons they can lower prices for consumers by creating a power surplus, encouraging investment and, importantly, removing subsidies for renewable energy suppliers. "Unlike previous approaches, we are not picking winners, we are levelling the playing field," said the government's press release. “These guarantees will ensure there is a place for all power sources in the nation’s future energy mix — solar, wind, coal, gas, batteries, pumped hydro,” Turnbull said in a video posted on Facebook. “Our plan has no subsidies, no certificates and no tax.” The government's new Energy Security Board estimates typical household bills would fall by an average of $110-$115 per year over the 2020-2030 period. The government insists it still will meet the national emissions reduction targets set in the Paris Agreement, by lowering Australia's greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030. However, any plan that incentivizes the increased use of coal, which is the most greenhouse gas intensive electricity source, will make this more difficult. The leader of the Greens, Richard Di Natale, was having none of it, accusing the prime minister of having “effectively pulled out of the Paris Agreement." Natale said the new plan amounts to "throwing coal a lifeline," and that he was "leading the most pro-coal, anti-renewables government in the nation's history." Malcolm Turnbull is showing a complete failure of leadership - leading the most pro-coal, anti-renewable government in Australian history. pic.twitter.com/Uk9lFzcbkg — Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) October 17, 2017 One member of Australian parliament was particularly happy — former prime minister and current MP Tony Abbott, a steadfast climate change denier who recently gave that bizarre, inaccurate speech on climate science. Others were divided. "This government appears to be hellbent on destroying renewable energy," Shadow Minister Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler told reporters. Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said the package would prevent Australia from becoming a "banana republic" — something Hastie thinks would happen if the country used more renewable energy. Turnbull or is it Abbott has ruled out a Clean Energy Target...Flies in the face of community, energy providers and chief scientist #auspol — Helen polley (@polley_helen) October 16, 2017 The government's new energy policy is a great step forward into the land of common sense. We must ensure the lights stay on — Matthew Canavan (@mattjcan) October 17, 2017 Malcolm Roberts, verbatim, on energy policy #auspol pic.twitter.com/Yjq5QHqqKe — Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) October 17, 2017 The government and the ESB now need to convince state governments to implement the National Energy Guarantee. WATCH: Ai Weiwei debuts 'Good Fences Make Good Neighbors' in NYC in response to the refugee crisis
Ptolemaic Egypt—which existed in the years 305-30 BC—was uniquely dependent on the seasonal shifts of the Nile, which in turn made them particularly susceptible to any significant changes to the cycle and mores of the their environment. Researchers at Yale released a study this week in the journal Nature Communications that, for the first time,…