Scientific news in small doses

A few milligrams of all the scientific news of the week.


Less contaminants for belugas

Industrial contaminants in the environment of belugas in the St. Lawrence Estuary are declining, concludes a study published in the journal Total environmental science. The work was carried out by a team of Quebec researchers led by Dr.r Stéphane Lair, professor at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Scientists have found a significant decline in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in belugas. This contaminant is considered one of the causes of cancer in this marine mammal. For two other categories of contaminants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), the situation is slowly improving. Contaminants are just one of the mortality factors for belugas, which are also threatened by climate change.

Quiz

Do green belts reduce urban sprawl?


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Researchers have found that green belts force municipalities to densify more.

A study by two Concordia University researchers determined that greenbelts can significantly reduce sprawl in major urban centers. The study by Parnian Pourthaherian and Jochen Jaeger has been published in the journal Landscape and urban planning. Experts assessed 60 European cities, half of which had a green belt. A slowdown in urban sprawl was observed in 27 of these 30 cities. This is down by 90% in cities with a green belt, compared to just 37% for city centers that don’t. One of the main findings of the study is that green belts force municipalities into greater densification rather than geographic sprawl.

The number

60%


PHOTO QILAI SHEN, BLOOMBERG ARCHIVES

Electric taxi charging in Taiyuan, China

By the end of the year, China will capture 60% of global electric car sales, Bloomberg estimates. A percentage that has seen a dramatic increase in just seven years: from 26% in 2015 to 56% in the first half of 2022. In the United States, sales of zero-emission vehicles increased by 70% in the first nine months of 2022 compared to the equivalent period in 2021, according to research firm Cox Automotive.

Deforestation is accelerating in Africa


PHOTO PARTNERSHIP FOR FORESTS OF THE CONGO BASIN

The forest of the Congo Basin

Deforestation continues to gain ground in Central Africa, according to the latest Forest Statement Assessment Report. In 2021, this increased by 4.9% from the previous three-year average in the Congo Basin forest, which spans six countries. Forestry and mining industries, as well as agriculture, are the main causes of deforestation. However, this forest covering a total of 170 million hectares is also an important carbon sink, the report points out. There are large deposits of copper, cobalt and coltan, essential minerals for the manufacture of electronic products. The Congo Basin forest is the second largest on the planet, after the Amazon rainforest in South America.

Carbon neutral in 2050?


PHOTO EDU BAYER, NEW YORK TIMES ARCHIVES

Heavy traffic in New York

While most of the world’s major cities say they are aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, just over half have no specific plan or mechanism for measuring progress. That’s the conclusion of a recent analysis by the Net Zero Tracker, an organization that documents international carbon neutrality efforts. For large companies, 75% would be able to do the same, even though several companies still lack transparency about their activities. The organization also found that only 10% of large cities and 20% of businesses have interim goals for reducing their greenhouse gases – the vast majority have not set a goal for 2030. The Net Zero Tracker lists activities of over 1100 large companies and cities from all over the world.

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