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Wind and solar energy is steadily replacing coal

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Solar and wind power as a share of global electricity has doubled since 2015, according to a new report by climate-focused think tank Ember. It now makes up about a tenth of the global power mix, reaching close to the same amount of energy generated by nuclear power plants.

Those carbon-free sources of power are steadily replacing coal. Coal generation dropped a record-breaking 8.3 percent in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. The rise of wind and solar contributed to 30 percent of that drop in coal, according to Ember, while the majority of the decline was due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing down power demand.

“Countries across the world are now on the same path – building wind turbines and solar panels to replace electricity from coal and gas-fired power plants,” Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst at Ember, said in a statement. Ember’s analysis includes 48 countries that make up 83 percent of the world’s global electricity production.

The UK and EU are in the lead when it comes to how much of their electricity is powered by wind and solar. It now accounts for 42 percent of the power mix in Germany, 33 percent in the UK, and 21 percent across the EU.

That’s a way bigger proportion of renewable energy compared to the current top three carbon polluters in the world: China, the US, and India. Wind and solar powered about a tenth of electricity in China and India. China is now responsible for more than half of all the world’s coal power generation.

The US gets 12 percent of its power from wind and solar. Renewables and nuclear are set to surpass coal as a share of the US electricity mix in 2020, Reuters reports. Renewables will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation this year, according to a forecast released earlier this week by the US Energy Information Administration. In April 2019, the total amount of renewable power generated in the US beat out coal for the first time, contributing to a record-setting year for renewables.

This is all encouraging progress toward cutting down fossil fuel use in order to limit the devastating effects of climate change. But there’s still a long way to go to reach the goal set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement of stopping the planet from heating up more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To hit that target, coal needs to drop 13 percent every year over the next 10 years, and carbon dioxide emissions need to essentially disappear by 2050.

“The fact that, during a global pandemic, coal generation has still only fallen by 8% shows just how far off-track we still are,” Jones said. “We have the solution, it’s working, it’s just not happening fast enough.”

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Science

Too bright to breed

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Night light from coastal cities overpowers natural signals for coral spawning from neighboring reefs.

PHOTO: NOKURO/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Most coral species reproduce through broadcast spawning. For such a strategy to be successful, coordination has had to evolve such that gametes across clones are released simultaneously. Over millennia, lunar cycles have facilitated this coordination, but the recent development of bright artificial light has led to an overpowering of these natural signals. Ayalon et al. tested for the direct impact of different kinds of artificial light on different species of corals. The authors found that multiple lighting types, including cold and warm light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, led to loss of synchrony and spawning failure. Further, coastal maps of artificial lighting globally suggest that it threatens to interfere with coral reproduction worldwide and that the deployment of LED lights, the blue light of which penetrates deeper into the water column, is likely to make the situation even worse.

Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2020.10.039 (2020).

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SpaceX launches Starlink app and provides pricing and service info to early beta testers

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SpaceX has debuted an official app for its Starlink satellite broadband internet service, for both iOS and Android devices. The Starlink app allows users to manage their connection – but to take part you’ll have to be part of the official beta program, and the initial public rollout of that is only just about to begin, according to emails SpaceX sent to potential beta testers this week.

The Starlink app provides guidance on how to install the Starlink receiver dish, as well as connection status (including signal quality), a device overview for seeing what’s connected to your network, and a speed test tool. It’s similar to other mobile apps for managing home wifi connections and routers. Meanwhile, the emails to potential testers that CNBC obtained detail what users can expect in terms of pricing, speeds and latency.

The initial Starlink public beta test is called the “Better than Nothing Beta Program,” SpaceX confirms in their app description, and will be rolled out across the U.S. and Canada before the end of the year – which matches up with earlier stated timelines. As per the name, SpaceX is hoping to set expectations for early customers, with speeds users can expect ranging from between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, and latency of 20ms to 40ms according to the customer emails, with some periods including no connectivity at all. Even with expectations set low, if those values prove accurate, it should be a big improvement for users in some hard-to-reach areas where service is currently costly, unreliable and operating at roughly dial-up equivalent speeds.

Image Credits: SpaceX

In terms of pricing, SpaceX says in the emails that the cost for participants in this beta program will be $99 per moth, plus a one-time cost of $499 initially to pay for the hardware, which includes the mounting kit and receiver dish, as well as a router with wifi networking capabilities.

The goal eventually is offer reliably, low-latency broadband that provides consistent connection by handing off connectivity between a large constellation of small satellites circling the globe in low Earth orbit. Already, SpaceX has nearly 1,000 of those launched, but it hopes to launch many thousands more before it reaches global coverage and offers general availability of its services.

SpaceX has already announced some initial commercial partnerships and pilot programs for Starlink, too, including a team-up with Microsoft to connect that company’s mobile Azure data centers, and a project with an East Texas school board to connect the local community.

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Erratum for the Report “Meta-analysis reveals declines in terrestrial but increases in freshwater insect abundances” by R. Van Klink, D. E. Bowler, K. B. Gongalsky, A. B. Swengel, A. Gentile, J. M. Chase

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S. Rennie, J. Adamson, R. Anderson, C. Andrews, J. Bater, N. Bayfield, K. Beaton, D. Beaumont, S. Benham, V. Bowmaker, C. Britt, R. Brooker, D. Brooks, J. Brunt, G. Common, R. Cooper, S. Corbett, N. Critchley, P. Dennis, J. Dick, B. Dodd, N. Dodd, N. Donovan, J. Easter, M. Flexen, A. Gardiner, D. Hamilton, P. Hargreaves, M. Hatton-Ellis, M. Howe, J. Kahl, M. Lane, S. Langan, D. Lloyd, B. McCarney, Y. McElarney, C. McKenna, S. McMillan, F. Milne, L. Milne, M. Morecroft, M. Murphy, A. Nelson, H. Nicholson, D. Pallett, D. Parry, I. Pearce, G. Pozsgai, A. Riley, R. Rose, S. Schafer, T. Scott, L. Sherrin, C. Shortall, R. Smith, P. Smith, R. Tait, C. Taylor, M. Taylor, M. Thurlow, A. Turner, K. Tyson, H. Watson, M. Whittaker, I. Woiwod, C. Wood, UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) Moth Data: 1992-2015, NERC Environmental Information Data Centre (2018); .

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