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The most-efficient solar cells use Pb-based halide perovskites; however, their toxicity poses environmental and health risks. Here, the authors report an adsorbent that allows for sustainable Pb management in these devices.
Although deserts have been the focus of large-scale solar power development, this study finds that ecosystem services are degraded during such development, with impacts not only on plants and animals, but indigenous peoples as well.
The presence of microplastics in wastewaters used for irrigation highlights the urgency of analysing the possible uptake of microplastics by crop plants. This study shows that submicrometre and micrometre plastic particles from treated wastewater enter the steles of crop plants via a crack entry at sites of lateral root emergence.
Solar-driven interfacial evaporation can be a sustainable process to obtain clean water but device efficiency and simplicity need improving. This study presents a super-wicking and super-light-absorbing aluminium surface with increased efficiency, a simple structure and strong performance.
Urban air quality remained remarkably worse than WHO recommended levels in cities during the first COVID-19 lockdown in China, despite substantial pollution reductions and the high costs of the measure.
Runoff from mountain water sources is critical to some lowland populations. In this Article, these populations are projected to increase from 0.2 billion people in the 1960s to 1.5 billion by mid-century.
Moral concerns matter for decisions in markets where activities generate negative externalities such as pollution emissions. With controlled experiments in which trading creates pollution, this study shows that a large portion of producers refrain from polluting even at the cost of forgoing profits.
Air pollution harms health but rises with economic activity, which aids health. This study uses long-range Saharan dust to isolate impacts, finding a significant rise in Sub-Saharan infant mortality from particulate pollution.
After forest loss, public subsidies often encourage reforestation with tree plantations. This modelling study finds that between 1986 and 2011, Chile’s forest subsidies probably reduced biodiversity without increasing carbon stored in aboveground plant material.
Forest planting is considered a natural climate solution, but effects on soil carbon are unclear. This study, in northern China, finds that planting forests increases carbon in soils poor in it and vice versa.
Air pollution and dust can reduce photovoltaic electricity generation. This study shows that, without cleaning and with precipitation-only removal, particulate matter can reduce photovoltaic generation in polluted and desert regions by more than 50%, with soiling being the major cause of reduction.
A smart management of hydropower, combined with solar and wind energy, can provide the flexibility needed to power West Africa and at cheaper cost than using natural gas, according to a simulation model.
Natural disasters can obstruct first responders when and where they are needed most. This analysis models the response of emergency service stations during flooding events in England to find major impacts on ambulance and fire services at a time of escalating flood risks to the country.
Biomass pyrolysis for renewable energy and chemicals offers sustainability advantages but is expensive. This study shows a route to improve both the sustainability and economic viability of biomass pyrolysis by using pyrolytic gases and waste heat to fabricate high-quality carbon nanomaterials.
A large-scale land-titling programme in the Brazilian Amazon did not affect forest cover in large landholdings, but induced deforestation in the small and medium ones, driven by crop and cattle price increases.
Photovoltaic panel conversion generates heat that reduces the energy efficiency and lifetime of the panel. A photovoltaic panel cooling strategy by a sorption-based atmospheric water harvester is shown to improve the productivity of electricity generation with important sustainability advantages.
The long-term impacts on mortality risks of exposure to disasters have not been analysed. Using data from Indonesia collected before and after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, this study examines the effects of the disaster on mortality risks of survivors over the subsequent ten years.
Transforming the energy system to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2100 is vital to fight climate change. This target can be achieved in California, USA, by 2050—alongside air quality benefits especially in disadvantaged communities—by using bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration.
Water and wastewater infrastructure worldwide faces unprecedented challenges. A new model can assess the environmental and economic implications of a hybrid water supply system that provides a centralized surface water supply with distributed direct potable reuse of municipal wastewater.
Agriculture has a massive and growing footprint. This study finds that optimizing fertilizer and major crops globally could reduce by 50% needed global cropland, allowing restored vegetation on spared land to sequester carbon.
The effect of education on climate change risks is integral to the relation between climate and development, but difficult to quantify. This article finds potential increases in emissions as well as HDI values due to improved educational attainment in developing countries.
Cleaner hydrogen production can help energy sustainability. The use of yeast biomass-derived materials to develop efficient, eco-friendly and economical catalysts—compared with industrially adopted catalysts—is shown to improve hydrogen production as a strategy towards a sustainable energy system.
Carbon use often tracks economic development. This study finds the top 5% of Chinese households by income have 17% of the nation’s carbon ‘footprint’ in 2012 but that such inequality declined with China’s economic growth.
Natural disaster risk assessments neglect impacts on households’ well-being. A model to quantify disaster impacts more equitably shows that, in a hypothetical earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, poorer households suffer 19% of the asset losses but 41% of the well-being losses.
Synthetic detergents are environmentally damaging and eco-friendly alternatives would help reduce environmental impacts. This study shows a more sustainable detergent, based on cellulose nanospheres obtained from agricultural waste corncob, with strong cleaning performance and low toxicity.
Heat waves can pose a threat to biodiversity as heat stress kills sperm cells across the animal kingdom. Here, honey bee queens are found to be vulnerable to temperature changes and the specific stress-response proteins activated in the spermatheca are discussed as potential indicators of heat stress.
Little is known about the actual effects of electrification policies on carbon emissions. This study shows that, under current carbon intensities of electricity generation, electric cars and heat pumps are less emission intensive than fossil-fuel-based alternatives in 53 of 59 world regions.
A comparison of the recommended dietary guidelines in France from 2001 and 2017 finds that the updated guidelines perform better in terms of health (nutrition) and the environment (food production), albeit with a small increase in cost.
Hydropower is important in Brazil, but climate change and deforestation are changing river flows. This study finds that future conditions will worsen a mismatch between seasonal electricity supply and peak demand.
Cattle are replacing wildlife in many African savannas. This field study finds that wild megaherbivores, such as elephants, increased soil carbon and nitrogen, and hence soil fertility, normally lost when only cattle are present.
The production of lithium requires the purification of lithium chloride, which is expensive and unsustainable. A new method allows the production of high-purity electrolytic lithium from low-purity lithium chloride using solid-state electrolyte, with substantial reductions in costs and environmental impacts.
Water use in river basins is an age-old resource-management question, but it is rare to quantify consumption by specific sectors. The Colorado River is being overused for beef and dairy production, endangering the entire river ecosystem.
Inequality—wealth concentration among few people—stimulates direct foreign investment in agriculture, leading to flex-crop expansion and associated deforestation in Latin America and Southeast Asia, as found in this econometric study.
Physicochemical treatments of heavy-metal pollution in waste water have several environmental and structural disadvantages. This Article shows that sulfide-producing yeasts are able to remove mercury, lead and copper from real-world water samples and offer a platform for metal re-extraction.
Two-dimensional lamellar membranes for water purification are promising but suffer from swelling that reduces their ion sieving performance in water. This study reports easy-to-fabricate, non-swelling MXene membranes prepared by the intercalation of Al3+ ions that could be scalable.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon affects both older (primary) and younger (secondary) forests. This study finds that most forest loss over the period 2008–2014 was from secondary forests and that the almost 190% rise in deforestation buffered losses from primary forests.
Modern land management often assumes that past human activity shaped iconic landscapes. This study finds that climate, rather than indigenous activity, controlled fire severity in New England, with open landscapes developing after deforestation for European agriculture.
Agriculture transforms the Earth and risks crossing thresholds for a healthy planet. This study finds almost half of current food production crosses such boundaries, as for freshwater use, but that transformation towards more sustainable production and consumption could support 10.2 billion people.
Recent policies to address wildfires mainly addressed risk-related challenges to conduct prescribed fires, but barriers related to resources and regulations need further action, according to a mixed-methods study.
Urbanization and economic development fuel demand for sand, used for concrete. This study finds that sediment loads are insufficient to replace the sand mined from the Mekong River delta, with mining rates high enough to make river banks unstable.