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Volume 560 Issue 7719, 23 August 2018

Veiled threat

The cover illustrates how the dust veil generated by the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines shaded and cooled Earth. This, in part, inspired geoengineering proposals to mitigate the effects of a warming climate by injecting precursors to sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere. In this week’s issue, Jonathan Proctor and his colleagues use the eruptions of Mount Pinatubo and of El Chichón in Mexico (1982) as natural experiments to study the effects of such aerosol veils on global crop yields. They find that the changes in sunlight induced by the stratospheric aerosols had a negative effect on the yields of maize, soy, rice and wheat. The researchers then model a geoengineering scenario and find that the technology’s benefits to crop production from cooling are washed out by its damages from shading. These results suggest that solar geoengineering using sulfate aerosols would fail to mitigate the danger that climate change poses to global agricultural production and food security.

Cover image: Jonathan Proctor and Solomon Hsiang

This Week

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News in Focus

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  • An error of judgement?

    • John Gilbey
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  • News & Views

    • Certain materials contain both electric dipoles and magnetic moments. An experiment demonstrates that these properties can be coupled in previously unrecognized ways, leading to advanced functionality.

      • John T. Heron
      • Julia A. Mundy
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    • The route to the establishment of a beneficial microbial community in the gut after birth is not fully understood. It now emerges that a gut-cell protein in newborn mice shapes the long-term composition of this community.

      • Andrew J. Macpherson
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    • A drug that slows cancer growth has been found to elevate the level of the hormone insulin. This insulin rise lessens the drug’s effectiveness, but a diet that lowers insulin can increase the benefits of the therapy in mice.

      • Michael Pollak
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  • Articles

    • A cryo-electron microscopy structure of the insect Orco subunit, which forms ion channels with diverse olfactory receptors, reveals a tetrameric cation channel and sheds light on insect olfaction.

      • Joel A. Butterwick
      • Josefina del Mármol
      • Vanessa Ruta
  • Letters

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Amendments & Corrections

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