California drought requires water rationing

May 6, 2022 by  
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Millions of California residents risk lacking water for essential use in the near future if they do not start rationing it now. Over six million residents of Southern California are called upon to cut their water usage, following a once-in-a-millennium  drought  that has lasted longer than expected, driving the water levels in reservoirs to historic lows. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California , which serves over 20 million people, faces the worst restrictions. This is the first time in nearly a century that the locals will have to be content with up to a 35% cut in their daily water usage. Related: California farmers find ways to work with less water Adel Hagekhalil, the general manager of the district, has urged residents to limit outdoor water usage. Those who use water for gardens have been asked to restrict watering to once a week. Further, they have been advised to cut water used for other outdoor activities such as car washing. “This is real; this is serious and unprecedented,” Hagekhalil told publication Al Jazeera. “We need to do it, otherwise we don’t have enough water for indoor use, which is the basic health and safety stuff we need every day.” While the district has faced water shortages previously and imposed restrictions, there has never been a case of this magnitude. “This is the first time we’ve said we don’t have enough water [from the Sierra Nevadas] to last us for the rest of the year unless we cut our usage by 35 percent.” Southern California mainly relies on stream water that originates from the Sierra Nevadas and the Rocky Mountains. When the snow melts from the mountains and flows downstream, the water is captured in reservoirs for future use. The system has worked effectively for the past century, but the last two decades have been a problem. Prolonged droughts fueled by the climate crisis have significantly reduced water levels, hence the depletion of reservoirs. The high temperatures caused by climate change have already cut down the snowpack on the Sierra Nevadas by 32% of its normal volume this year. The result is prolonged droughts with less water. Further, lack of precipitation over very long periods now necessitates water rationing. Officials are now urging residents to use greywater from other house chores to water their gardens. However, they are asked to only apply this to the ideal types of vegetation. Via Aljazeera , LA Times Lead image via Pexels

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Fabrics from Natural Materials Studio are made from algae

May 3, 2022 by  
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In a world of waste and pollution , returning to all-natural products makes sense for the health of humans and the planet. Danish Designer Bonnie Hvillum made it the focus of her work to create such options, resulting in a collection of bio-materials made from algae, clay and foam. Sample products of clothing , curtains and drapes were made from the materials. They were then put on display in a collaboration with multi-disciplinary design brand Frama. The collection was on display in Frama’s Copenhagen showroom during the Days of Design Festival in 2021.  Related: Charlotte McCurdy, Phillip Lim design carbon-neutral algae sequin dress Material research by Hvillum was well underway when she discovered the like-minded Frama. They also experiment with natural materials in their lifestyle object designs.  “I design interactive user experiences with a playful yet visionary approach, constantly exploring the potential in the unseen. That allows me to create highly sensory experiences that offer, at the same time, an insight of nature’s available resources and how to use those creatively,” said Bonnie Hvillum, founder of Natural Material Studio. Specifically, the fabrics included in the showroom display were created from products found in the environment . Alger is a seaweed fabric made from seaweed extract and softener, which is dyed with spirulina algae. Terracotta is a clay-pigmented biofabric formed using a protein-based binder extracted from collagen and a natural softener. B-foam is a product that has been in development by the Natural Material Studio since 2019. Charcoal is the base for the material, which had been previously featured in the Days of Design Festival.  The process includes hand casting the fabric inside wooden frames. After a few days of drying time, the designs are then cut from the frames.  As natural materials, all three are biodegradable. Inasmuch, Hvillum hopes the materials will become mainstream options, but encourages continued research on the potential beyond the bespoke fashion, interior design and furniture items Natural Material Studio developed. “These are early-stage versions – beta versions, pilot versions, whatever we call them in other industries . They do not live up to quality standards for fabrics yet, but hopefully they will one day with more research, testing and application trials continue,” said Hvillum. Her goal is to explore what is possible and encourage others to do the same without getting caught up in the challenges. The display at Frama set the stage of organic -looking prototypes that show the possibilities. This includes Japanese-inspired curtains and concept clothing.  + Natural Materials Studio  Images via Natural Materials Studio

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Climate change is driving a massive decrease in insects

April 21, 2022 by  
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Researchers have established that climate change and harmful agricultural practices have almost halved the number of insects on the planet. According to a  study  published in “Nature” by researchers from the University College London (UCL), there was a substantial decline in insect numbers from 1992 to 2012. The researchers reviewed records on over 20,000 insect species worldwide. In their review, the researchers found that some areas had experienced up to 49% decrease in insects compared to the natural habitats. They say, this is a cause for concern and the world must accept that humanity poses a threat to the ecosystem. Related: Butterfly Effect bridge offers safe passage for pollinators Dr. Charlie Outhwaite of UCL and the lead researcher on the study says that losing insects poses more serious threats to the environment than we realize. Further, she says that insects play a key role in sustaining human health at large. ‘Losing insect populations could be harmful not only to the natural environment, where insects often play key roles in local ecosystems, but it could also harm human health and food security, particularly with losses of pollinators,’ said Charlie On the flip side, the study found that preserving nature could actually help insects thrive. According to Dr. Charlie, the findings now call on us to take urgent actions to protect the environment. The researchers observed that, in areas that were protected from human actions such as farming and settlement, there were more insect species than in other regions. “Our findings highlight the urgency of actions to preserve natural habitats, slow the expansion of high-intensity agriculture, and cut emissions to mitigate climate change,” she added. To ensure that insect populations thrive, the researchers are proposing intentional management of land use, especially in agriculture . Dr. Tim Newbold, also of UCL says that protecting natural habitats, especially in areas where farming is practiced could be vital in protecting insect species. “Careful management of agricultural areas, such as preserving natural habitats near farmland, may help to ensure that vital insects can still thrive,” said Tim The other proposed solutions include avoiding intensive agricultural practices, planting wide varieties of crops , and retaining edgeways and patches of forests near farmlands among others. Study researcher, Peter McCann, added: “We need to acknowledge how important insects are for the environment as a whole, and for human health and wellbeing, in order to address the threats we pose to them before many species are lost forever.” + Nature Via BBC

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All-natural soap is a perfect solution for your dirty pets

April 14, 2022 by  
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The health and beauty industry has its share of bad publicity when it comes to the use of chemicals in its products. As consumers become more aware of the damage caused by products that set out to make us look and smell good, the wave has rolled over into products for pet care too. WashBar natural pet care is front and center, wagging its tail for attention as all-natural products that keep your pet looking, feeling and smelling his or her best. The New Zealand-based brand offers pet shampoos that are different from other brands in a variety of ways. Firstly, the shampoos are shaped into a bar of soap. This eliminates the need for shampoo bottles, which are typically made of petroleum-based plastic .  Related: Wanderruff makes puppy products from recycled bottles Secondly, the bar itself arrives in a recyclable cardboard box. It’s an example of only using the amount of packaging needed to do the job and minding the needs of the planet at the same time. Another benefit of the bar design is that a little goes a long way. Each bar is equivalent to an average 20-ounce bottle of liquid shampoo . A price comparison will show it’s an economical choice. Using the bar is also noticeably easier than handling a slick plastic bottle while trying to manage the animal. Finally, their shampoos are made from all-natural ingredients. Of course this is better for your pet, but it’s also a win for the environment . It avoids toxins that find their way back into our water stream. Making a full circle, that means it is better for humans too! The WashBar Original Soap for Dogs is made from natural ingredients. This included neem leaf, lemon scented tea tree oil and manuka oil to provide a wash that leaves your dog’s fur naturally soft and clean. It’s recommended for all skin types and is safe for puppies too.  The ManukaBar is another WashBar shampoo that is designed for animals with sensitive or problem-prone skin. It’s formulated with a nourishing blend of natural ingredients like manuka oil, kanuka oil, neem oil and lemon myrtle to help calm and soothe dry, irritated skin.  Often, chemicals are to blame for Fido’s skin problems anyway. So ditching the synthetic fragrances and colors, sulfates and parabens means the ManukaBar is safe for all dogs, along with smaller domestic animals like ferrets, guinea pigs and kittens. The bar is a bit smaller than The WashBar Original Soap for Dogs, so it can be more easily used on smaller animals . Each bar contains the equivalent of over 15 ounces of liquid shampoo.  On the other hand, the Paw Balm can be used for your dog’s dry patches, including the particularly persistent dry nose and paws of winter . With Paw Balm, even pets can lower their carbon pawprint by eliminating toxins in favor of natural ingredients that include kanuka and copaiba oils, as well as familiar ingredients such as beeswax, apricot and carrot. It aims to help repair cracks and minor wounds on paws and offer aid for minor skin conditions found in wrinkles, tail flaps, ear creases and on noses. The all-natural ingredients mean it’s safe for the inevitable licking that will occur. The Paw Balm comes in an easy-to-use and convenient 50 milliliter tin. WashBar is as dedicated to the planet as the health of your pet. To highlight this commitment, they are partnering with Trees that Count. They plant one tree for each Original or Manuka soap bar ordered during Earth Day weekend (April 22 to April 24). This effort will contribute to reforestation of New Zealand’s beautiful and biodiverse landscapes.  WashBar product review With three German shorthaired pointers in the house, I was more than willing to give WashBar a try. These are working dogs that get into everything during daily runs through fields, ponds and mud . Plus, one of them insists on rolling in every smelly thing she can find. Yuck! The company sent the WashBar Original Soap for Dogs and it wasn’t long before I had an occasion to try it out when the aforementioned pet , Dharma, brought a nasty stench home with her. This was the kind of stink that hits you when you enter a room. Since it was cold out, we enticed her into a small shower enclosure by the scent of peanut butter on a spoon and gave her a washdown with the WashBar.  The bar was somewhat slippery, yet much easier to maneuver in a small space than a plastic bottle that typically requires several pick ups and set downs to apply more shampoo. Overall, I found it convenient to have an extension of my hand in the bar soap rather than trying to identify spots with liquid shampoo on them.  I wouldn’t say the product produced a lot of sudsy action. It’s more of a lotion-type feel. However, it rinsed away easily and left her coat feeling really clean. Even better, the stink was gone. Completely gone, even while she would typically still be promoting “wet dog scent.” The bar itself has a lovely lemon-citrus scent, but after use, the dog didn’t smell like anything — which is exactly the result I hoped for.  They also provided a tin of the Paw Balm. My same pet Dharma, a.k.a the problem child, has severe allergies that causes her nose to dry and crack. I used the Paw Balm on it and found it to be very moisturizing with a pleasant scent. Of course, her predictable response was to begin licking her nose. I couldn’t decide if it was because she liked the flavor and scent, or because she was trying to get it off. So I held the container out in front of her to see if she would shy away. But instead, she began repeatedly licking and moved towards it as I moved it away so I guess I have my answer. Give it a try.  + WashBar Images via WashBar 

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PFAS and other chemicals found in dollar store products

April 13, 2022 by  
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A huge number of products sold at dollar stores contain harmful chemicals. A study on various products, including toys, electronics and food, found that many contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ( PFAS ) and other harmful chemicals.  Researchers behind the study tested 226 products purchased from five of the most popular dollar stores. They tested the products for various chemicals, including lead , phthalates and PFAS. Findings showed that over half of the products tested contained at least one harmful chemical. Baby toys and Disney-themed headphones are among the products that returned positive results for these chemicals. Related: Hemp is helping clean up PFAS chemicals in Maine The Campaign for Healthier Solutions has called on dollar stores to phase out such harmful products. Jose Bravo, the coalition’s national coordinator, said the findings should concern any parent whose children might interact with such products. “As a parent, I should be able to buy a product without expecting to poison my child,” said Bravo. Some of the chemicals found by researchers have proven detrimental health effects. For instance, phthalates are associated with high rates of childhood cancer. The researchers also found polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can disrupt reproductive and cognitive development, in some products. Such chemicals could directly harm children. “There are known substitutes for these hormone-disrupting chemical hazards,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director of Ecology Center Healthy Stuff Lab, the group that conducted the testing. “The fact that they continue to be used in these low cost products that dollar stores sell is a real problem.” The study also revealed concerning chemicals in canned foods sold by dollar stores. Many goods tested were coated in BPA, an endocrine disruptor that leaks into foods and drinks. The dangerous, non-biodegradable PFAS used in nonstick pans were also found in some products. PFAS are associated with conditions such as thyroid disease and cancer. Currently, the U.S. is home to well over 34,000 dollar stores. Most of these stores sell inexpensive products sourced from overseas. Although some dollar stores have regulations to end the sale of such products, many others fall behind. The two leading dollar stores, Dollar General and Dollar Tree, have banned products that contain potentially harmful chemicals. The Campaign for Healthier Solutions now wants all the other dollar stores to follow suit. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Conservation projects on track to score $1 billion

April 13, 2022 by  
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The new America the Beautiful Challenge will help tribes, territories, states and NGOs apply for grants for  conservation  projects. The Biden administration plans to use the new $1 billion program to help reach its goal of conserving 30% of U.S. waters and lands by 2030. Over the next five years, an initial $440 million will fund the challenge. The  Biden  administration hopes that philanthropic and private donations will boost America the Beautiful to its $1 billion target. Related: Supreme Court ruling could derail Biden’s climate plans The program “will help mobilize new investments in locally led, voluntary conservation and restoration projects across the country, while making it easier for  communities  to access these resources,” Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement. Many types of terrain stand to gain. Coasts, rivers, forests, grasslands and  wetlands  are all eligible for the award money. Groups working on expanding outdoor access, helping animals navigate landscapes, and increasing resiliency to climate impacts such as drought and coastal flooding can also apply for funding. Private nonprofit the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will oversee America the Beautiful. Tribal and Indigenous-led projects have priority.  Ecosystem  restoration funds of $375 million came to the Interior Department through a bipartisan infrastructure law. The Forest Service is kicking in $35 million in grants for improving water quality and preventing invasive species. The Department of Defense’s $25 million will help preserve natural resources near military installations. Not everybody wants to conserve land, though. Several climate-denying and anti-fed groups are hosting a Stop 30×30 Summit later this month in  Nebraska . Some big-name Republicans will be there to rant against the initiative. If you go, don’t expect any decent vegan refreshments. But many who understand the program are happy. “Protecting 30% of America’s lands and  waters  by the end of the decade can only be accomplished through partnerships and knowledge on the ground in all 50 states,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, as reported by HuffPost. “This billion-dollar commitment shows the administration is on the right track to reaching 30×30.” Via HuffPost Lead image via Pexels

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SeaWeed Naturals harnesses the magic of seaweed and CBD

April 1, 2022 by  
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Only one botanical brand pairs the ocean expertise of the Cousteaus with sustainable practices. SeaWeed Naturals products combine the bounty of the sea with the abundance of the land for botanicals that reduce signs of aging, relieve arthritis pains and more. Together with Ashlan and Philippe Cousteau, SeaWeed Naturals has created a line of products containing cannabis oil, seaweed , algae and kelp. The company describes itself as “the first   premium wellness impact brand to fuse the benefits of marine botanicals with the healing properties of cannabis.” Related: Surprising ways seaweed benefits the environment Seaweed is a naturally rich source of vitamin C, amino acids, antioxidants and collagen. That’s why it’s known as a superfood. Some studies even suggest that seaweed can improve skin, bone, joint and brain health . Further, this powerful material can also help restore oceans. SeaWeed Naturals focuses on restoratively farmed seaweed, algae and kelp. Seaweed restores oceans by absorbing CO2 and promoting a healthy marine ecosystem. It also protects shorelines, elevates pH and provides oxygen, which helps reduce the effects of ocean acidification and de-oxygenation. By working with responsible seaweed farms in Maine, SeaWeed Naturals supports the creation of healthy habitats for ocean life and sustainable incomes for fishers. “There has never been more urgency for companies to establish themselves as tools for positive change. We founded SeaWeed Naturals with the promise that every intention, every decision from packaging to ingredient sourcing to the charities we support would contribute to leaving this planet better than we found it. As an impact brand, we hope to set a new standard across the industry and lead a new category of wellness companies grounded in radical transparency and regenerative climate change efforts,” said SeaWeed Naturals cofounder Ashlan Cousteau. A featured product from SeaWeed Naturals is the Comfort Body Oil, a CBD oil formula designed to relieve pain. The formula also contains coconut, seaweed, Omega-3 and antioxidants. Not into oils? Try one of the brand’s two Body Comfort Balm formulations. Choose the 1:3 formula for more CBD, or the 3:1 formula for more THC. Both balms contain shea butter and seaweed with hints of lavender and lemon. It’s designed to soothe sore muscles, bruises, itchiness, skin inflammation and other ailments. The product line also includes oils, balms, edible gummies, tinctures and more. Each item features sustainably sourced ingredients that give back to Earth’s oceans . + SeaWeed Naturals Images via SeaWeed Naturals

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Razer x Cariuma shoes focus on environmental education

March 11, 2022 by  
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Cariuma established itself as a conscientious company with prior sneaker releases made using natural materials . The company is dedicated to reforestation too, as seen by its commitment to plant trees with each shoe sale. The most recent collaboration is with Razer, a notable gaming brand. The partnership brings trendy, collectible shoes paired with a focus on environmental education and support.  The Razer x Cariuma OCA Low All Black Canvas sneakers are made using the same process as others in the Cariuma product line-up. The highly-rated style is popular among a range of customers, including skaters , surfers and everyday trend keepers. But this sneaker brings in a cute and identifiable mascot, Sneki Snek, directly from Razer.  Related: Cariuma teams up with Mike Vallely for 100% vegan shoes Razer provides hardware, software, supplies and services to the gaming community. They are dedicated to maintaining a low carbon footprint in the process. #GoGreenWithRazer campaign builds a community of like-minded protectors for the planet. The goal is to engage youth and millennials into taking action in favor of environmental protections.  On the other hand, Cariuma, with its established association with green initiatives, sees this partnership as a way to promote both brands. Simultaneously, the partnership launches a campaign to inspire the next generation of planetary guardians. “We are so thrilled to be partnering with Razer for this limited-edition sneaker , such an incredible brand made by gamers for gamers,” said Cofounder of Cariuma Fernando Porto. “We thought it could be a great cause for us to support together in this collaboration. Together, we can touch more people and share our messages in a stronger and more effective way.” The shoes are available in a OCA High ($98) and OCA Low option ($79). Each shoe is handcrafted using GOTS-certified organic cotton canvas, natural rubber and recycled plastics. They are 100% vegan with memory foam insoles made from organic mamona oil and cork. The certified organic cotton used for the shoe’s uppers is grown using regenerative farming practices that are void of pesticides and fertilizers known to contribute to air and water pollution . Rubber for the shoes is ethically tapped from hevea brasiliensis trees, removing the sap from the bark without endangering the health of the tree.  Furthermore, the special collaboration between two sustainably-minded companies calls for an additional focus on giving back to nature. Therefore, for every pair sold, the company will save 10 trees through a partnership with Conservation International. In addition to focusing on a healthy planet, Cariuma is dedicated to creating a healthy work environment for employees. Cariuma is B-corp certified, meaning it meets high standards for accountability and transparency. This is in regards to material selection, manufacturing, employee benefits and charitable giving. Similarly, Razer is committed to eradicating single-use plastics across all its offices. They invest in reusable and eco-friendly office products to ensure operations will be 100% carbon neutral. Also, they aims to significantly reduce business-related air travel to further lower its carbon footprint. The company is currently converting all office locations to 100% renewable energy , with two offices already meeting that goal and the rest scheduled for conversion by 2025. Product Review With a 17-year-old rabid gamer in the house, I readily accepted the offer to present him with a pair of the Razer x Cariuma OCA Low All Black Canvas Sneakers . First I sent him a veiled text asking if he was familiar with the Razer brand. The response was a predictable eye roll and “of course,” so I requested a sample in his name, which quickly arrived a few days later.  The shoes were packaged in a sturdy box made from recyclable materials and zero plastic in sight. In fact, each pair of shoes comes with two pairs of shoelaces that are made from recycled plastic. Otherwise, the shoes refrain from using plastic. My son’s face lit up when he opened the box. He commented the black color with the notable lime green accents as “cool.” Sneki Snek is undeniably adorable and makes a statement about sustainable action in the trendiest ways. Then he put the shoes on and wore them around to try them out. He said they were comfortable, unlike many similar styles that have little to no support and rigid design. The shoes are about ½-size too big, but don’t slip when he walks . They’re the perfect match for his favorite black jeans and even his anything-other-than-trendy brother comments on how cool they are every time he sees them.  In short, Sneki Snek, Cariuma and Razer are a hit with the gamers in my house .  + Cariuma x Razer Images via Cariuma Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Cariuma or Razor. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Petroleum leak leads to Pearl Harbor fuel facility shutdown

March 10, 2022 by  
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Following a petroleum leak into Pearl Harbor’s tap water, a massive U.S. Navy fuel tank facility in Hawaii will be shut down. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the decision after an assessment carried out by the Pentagon. The shutdown decision comes amid Hawaii’s Department of Health  ordering the Defense Department to drain fuel tanks at the Red Hill bulk storage facility. Red Hill’s tanks were built into the side of the hill during World War II for security against enemy attacks. Related: Take a toxic tour to learn about pollution from locals The facility leaked contaminants into the Pearl Harbor tap water facility, forcing over 4,000 military households to relocate. Over 6,000 people reported symptoms such as nausea, headaches and rashes. Most of those affected lived in military housing or near the base.  According to Austin, the Defense Department will adopt an alternative secure military fueling system. While speaking with Hawaii’s government leaders on Monday, Austin said that the Department wants to protect the population and safeguard the environment. “This is the right thing to do,” Austin said in a statement. “Centrally-located bulk fuel storage of this magnitude likely made sense in 1943, when Red Hill was built. And Red Hill has served our armed forces well for many decades. But it makes a lot less sense now.” The Pentagon has committed to establishing a dispersed storage system for fueling military ships and aircraft. Expected to be safer than the current bulk storage, the new storage facilities will be spread out in the Indo-Pacific regions. According to the Pentagon, the decision was informed by an assessment that sought to expand the current fueling system while making it safer. Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, welcomed the move. “I have said from day one that ensuring the health and safety of the residents of Oahu is my top priority and I share the community’s big sigh of relief with this news,” said Hirono. Via HuffPost Lead image via Pixabay

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Terrifying new study warns of more heat-related deaths

March 9, 2022 by  
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If  global warming  increases by two more degrees Celsius, the death rate from extreme temperatures will increase significantly, according to a terrifying new study. The researchers expect heat-related deaths in summer will rocket up at a non-linear rate as the climate heats up. The  study , published in  Environmental Research Letters,  examined climate change’s impact on death rates in England and  Wales . Researchers focused on the risks of summer heat and winter cold. They predict temperature-related mortality to increase by 42% on the hottest days of summer. This would bring the death count from our current level of around 117 deaths per day to about 166 deaths on the year’s 10 hottest days. Related: Coral in the Mediterranean threatened by heatwaves “The increase in mortality risk under current warming levels is mainly notable during heatwaves, but with further warming, we would see risk rise on average summer days in addition to escalating risks during heatwaves,” said lead author Dr. Katty Huang of University College  London , as reported by Newswise. “What this means is that we shouldn’t expect past trends of impact per degree of warming to apply in the future. One degree of global warming beyond 2°C would have a much more severe impact on health in England and Wales than one degree warming from pre-industrial levels, with implications for how the NHS [National Health Service] can cope.” What if the globe heats up by 2.5°C, or even three? If the climate gets three degrees hotter, researchers predict mortality could increase by 75% during  heatwaves . The good news is that deaths from extreme cold in winter should decrease — unless there’s a bad winter storm. “As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change impacts report recently showed, it is increasingly common to examine how different levels of mean global warming raise the risk of significant harm to people and society,” said project lead Andrew Charlton-Perez of the University of Reading, as reported by Newswise. “Our study shows that because  death  rates will go up significantly if countries experience very high temperatures, limiting the average global rise in temperatures is likely to have substantial benefits for the overall health of the population.” Via Newswise Lead image via Pixabay

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