1. The new cold is the old hot
There have been a plethora of studies about how quickly the earth is heating up due to carbon emissions. The most recent makes what is arguably the scariest prediction yet. Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa have found via computer simulations that, by 2047, average temperatures in most parts of the world will be hotter than they had been in those places at any time between 1860 and 2005.
The areas near the equator, the tropics — home to coral reefs and rainforests and with populations who are poorer — will experience the greatest increases as climate variability there is less than in other latitudes. This soon-to-arrive change does not bode well for tropical plants and animals as they are not accustomed to a wide range in temperatures.
2. Pumpkin is now a flavor instead of a fruit
I probably haven’t been paying sufficient attention but it seems that, this season, “pumpkin” is the flavor of quite a cornucopia of foods (and non-food items): Pumpkin lattes, of course, as well as pumpkin hummus, pumpkin body butter, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin soup, pumpkin sushi, pumpkin toaster pastries, pumpkin dog treats, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin salad, pumpkin with eel, pumpkin ale, pumpkin wine, pumpkin butter, pumpkin macaroons, pumpkin won ton — well, there are worse ways to get your beta carotene, right?
3. J.P. Morgan loses $380 million, says it’s copacetic
J.P. Morgan lost $380 in the last quarter due to litigation expenses of $7.2 billion. While saying that the loss (the first for the mega-bank since 2004) is “very painful,” CEO Jamie Dimon maintains that the bank’s underlying performance is “really good” as, after all, it has a war chest of $23 billion in litigation reserves — just in case it faces any more accusations of financial improprieties.
4. The International Olympics Committee is acting as if everything in Russia is totally fine
But it’s not. With the Sochi Olympics due to take place in just a few months, the Olympic Committee has given no assurances to what might happen to gay athletes who enter Russia. In July, President Vladimir Putin signed harsh anti gay legislation that bans the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors, leading gay athletes and spectators fearful of discrimination, fines and arrest. The International Olympic Committee has said it has no reason to think that Russia is violating the Olympics’ anti-discrimination principles.
5. China is using up all of its water
Displeased at the U.S. government again being in a fiscal state of limbo that is threatening the global economy, China has been calling for a “de-Americanization” of the world; for an end to the U.S. dollar being the currency that most countries hold their foreign exchange reserves in. China’s own economy has been growing at a slower rate and its leaders (many of whom hold engineering degrees) have undertaken massive building projects — huge dams — to expand energy production and increase water supplies.
The country with the world’s biggest population is using water “at an unsustainable rate,” says The Economist. Four-fifths of China’s water is in the south (in the Yangzi river basin) but the north is where half of its population and two-thirds of its farmland are located. Most of the country’s rivers are overused and/or polluted and unfit for agriculture and certainly for humans to use. Plus, according to the Chinese media, in late 2012, “300 corpses were found floating in the Yellow River near Lanzhou, the latest of roughly 10,000 victims — most of them (according to the local police) suicides — whose bodies have been washing downstream since the 1960s.”
6. The longer we live, the worst it is for wildlife
Human life expectancy is now at its longest for a larger number of people. A new study from the University of California at Davis suggests an unfortunate consequence of our growing lifespans. The percentage of invasive species and of endangered species will increase.
The United States, New Zealand and the Philippines were found to have some of the highest percentages of invasive and endangered species. But New Zealand had the largest percentage of all endangered and invasive species combined. The 700 to 800 years since its colonization have witnessed a “massive invasion by nonindigenous species, resulting in catastrophic biodiversity loss.”
7. We can see, and walk, inside glaciers
Scientists have been able to explore the inside of the Pallin glacier in northern Sweden. A tunnel inside the glacier has been exposed for the first time in 50 years by melting ice due to global warming. The scientists are part of Project Pressure, which seeks to document melting glaciers around the world to highlight the effects of climate change.
8. Bubonic plague is really back
Madagascar and especially its rat-infested prisons could be facing an epidemic of bubonic plague. Cases of the disease known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages (when it killed an estimated 25 million) rose in Madagascar in October. Humid, hot weather attracts fleas, which transit the disease to rats and other animals and then to humans.
Last year, Madagascar had 256 plague cases and 60 deaths, the largest in the world; it and the Democratic Republic of Congo account for nearly 90 percent of the world’s cases. The August death of a 15-year-old herder in Kyrgyzstan of bubonic plague raised even more concerns about the disease traveling. India, Indonesia, Algeria and Peru have all experienced outbreaks in the past two decades.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva and the Pasteur Institute have been seeking to stop the spread of the disease with antibiotics, but medical facilities are limited in Madagascar. Killing the fleas that carry bubonic plague is also a necessary (and none too easy) step to prevent its spread.
9. Giant killer slugs are invading Britain
Millions of giant Spanish slugs are showing up in gardens and fields in Britain, as reported by Care2′s Steve Williams. As Dr. Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, describes Arion vulgaris as seemingly unaffected by the slug pellets meant to kill them, being a creature who “eats crops spared by our native slugs, tolerates drier conditions, reproduces in greater numbers and even eats dead animals and excrement.”
Dr. Bedford and other scientists have created a “slugwatch” website and are asking for photos and reports of sightings to get an idea of how pervasive the Spanish slug (which may be breeding with native slugs to yield a frost-tolerant hybrid) is in Britain.
10. One man could cause the global economy to collapse
The same man who was a prime mover in bringing about the current shutdown could also be the one to set a default and “global economic calamity” into motion. That he could, all by himself, be the architect of so much trepidation in economic spheres is, arguably, far more scary than a default — and you know if it does happen, rather than taking any blame, he won’t be saying mea culpa.
Images from Thinkstock except photo of Russia gay rights activist (via WIkimedia Commons