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NASA’s ambitious Space Launch System and its accompanying capsule — a mission known as Artemis I — blasted off today, achieving a major milestone in the agency’s plans to send astronauts back to the Moon. This is the first time since the Apollo missions that NASA has flown a rocket powerful enough to send humans beyond low Earth orbit. Artemis I will take a weeks-long test flight around the Moon while carrying several scientific experiments.The flight was delayed after two attempts in late August and early September, which means that several of the satellites on board have not had their batteries charged in more than a year. “We believe most of the secondary payloads are going to be able to power up and boot up once deployed,” says Jacob Bleacher, NASA's chief exploration scientist. “We’re just going to have to see.”
Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission, announced that the European Union willcut emissions by 57% by 2030 — and improvement on its previous pledge of 55%. The pledge shows that the energy challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not hamper the European Union’s climate ambitions, he says. “Don’t let anybody tell you here or outside that the EU is backtracking,” Timmermans told COP27 delegates. But some have accused the bloc of tweaking the numbers by factoring in carbon absorbed by land and forests.
Yesterday, the G20 summit in Indonesia featured some bold climate pledges of its own. The United States and Indonesia announced a US$20-billion deal to help Indonesia move away from coal. The money will come from governments across the global north and the private sector, including the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero group of banks and asset managers. It is the largest single climate-finance transaction ever, a US official said.
Inside the COP27 ‘Blue Zone’ — the area restricted to badge-holding delegates, observers and press — the feeling remains that of a great, sprawling trade show of governments, non-governmental organizations and lobbyists of every stripe. But the fervour has cooled in the vast temporary halls, even as the conference heats up behind closed doors. The Blue Zone belongs to the negotiators now.
They are buckling down for a long night: most expect that there will be sleepless nights needed to achieve a final deal by the Friday deadline (or soon after — last year’s COP didn’t end until Saturday).
Among the attendees — including the demonstrators who have been welcomed inside the Blue Zone this year to avoid clashing with Egypt’s restrictions on protest — a key topic of debate is 1.5 ℃, the Paris climate agreement goal of what global warming will ‘preferably’ be limited to over pre-industrial levels. At COP, many people sport ‘1.5’ badges on their lanyards, and the number is ever-present on placards and t-shirts. But many attendees think that bird has flown. “It’s gone,” said one climate modeller to me before I could finish asking him his opinion on the target. With the best of intentions on both sides, it’s a clash between the desire for an ambitious, motivating goal and the urge to knuckle down to planning for what happens if it is overshot. Estimates of how much carbon remains in the ‘budget’ to avoid breaking the 1.5 ℃ barrier vary, but there’s no doubt it’s not much. Even the focus on a single number can be counterproductive, four climate scientists argue in Carbon Brief. “It is important to note that it is neither harmless to keep emitting CO2 up until the budget is blown, nor instant armageddon if it is exceeded.”
Flora Graham, Senior Editor, Nature Briefing
“For my friends in the US and the UK, I’m telling you: our present is your future. We know how to survive. We know how to live with the Earth. We are actually the ones who have the solutions to the climate crisis.”
At COP, Namibian climate activist Ina Maria Shikongo told me that people in the global north must overcome the stereotype that Africans are not climate leaders.
Many researchers see a huge role for hydrogen in decarbonizing economies — but maybe not in the way you think. It has been touted as a potential fuel for transportation or heating, but it’s unlikely to have much impact in those sectors. Instead, hydrogen’s biggest contribution will be cleaning up industrial processes, from smelting steel to producing plastics. It could also be used to store excess power from renewable sources, such as solar or wind.
The pressure to publish in high-impact journals causes palaeontologists to turn to unethical and possibly even illegal practices to source fossils that have never been seen before, says palaeobiologist Emma Dunne. (Nature Index | 7 min read)