Environmental impact

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Accurate seasonal forecasts of sea ice are highly valuable, particularly in the context of sea ice loss due to global warming. A new machine learning tool for sea ice forecasting offers a substantial increase in accuracy over current physics-based dynamical model predictions.

    • Tom R. Andersson
    • , J. Scott Hosking
    •  & Emily Shuckburgh
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Methane emissions from oil and gas systems are underestimated in official inventories. Here the authors synthesize thousands of field measurements and develop an inventory-based model for a better understanding of why this underestimation exists and how it can be fixed.

    • Jeffrey S. Rutherford
    • , Evan D. Sherwin
    •  & Adam R. Brandt
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The global water demands of irrigated agriculture are estimated through country surveys or through hydrological models, but both approaches are taxing. Here, the authors show that they can simply be estimated as a function of irrigated areas.

    • Arnald Puy
    • , Emanuele Borgonovo
    •  & Andrea Saltelli
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Lead toxicity poses a big hurdle for the commercialization of perovskite optoelectronics, hence reducing the environmental impact holds the answer for its future application. To tackle this challenge, the authors utilize germanium to reduce the lead content, enabling highly luminescent eco-friendly compound for LEDs.

    • Dexin Yang
    • , Guoling Zhang
    •  & Dawei Di
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Freshwater salinisation is a growing water quality problem, but impacts and drivers across regional to global scales have been lacking. A new assessment of inter-regional freshwater salinisation demonstrates the importance of irrigation as a driver of salinisation.

    • Josefin Thorslund
    • , Marc F. P. Bierkens
    •  & Michelle T. H. van Vliet
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Conserving mangrove biodiversity has numerous co-benefits, including climate change-mitigation. Here the authors demonstrate that blue carbon storage in mangroves can be best sustained by combining site-specific dominant species with other species with contrasting functional traits.

    • Md Mizanur Rahman
    • , Martin Zimmer
    •  & Ming Xu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Afforestation is an important greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategy but the efficacy of commercial (harvested) forestry is disputed. Here the authors apply dynamic life cycle assessment to show that new commercial conifer forests can achieve up to 269% more GHG mitigation than semi-natural forests, over 100 years.

    • Eilidh J. Forster
    • , John R. Healey
    •  & David Styles
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Aviation contributes to climate change and ways to reduce its emissions are widely debated. Here, the authors assess the effects of technology improvements and the use of sustainable aviation fuels and find that even when these are considered aviation is unlikely to meet emissions goals in line with the Paris Agreement.

    • Volker Grewe
    • , Arvind Gangoli Rao
    •  & Katrin Dahlmann
  • Review Article
    | Open Access

    Whether or not a city achieves absolute sustainability is difficult to assess with existing frameworks. Here the authors, in a review, show that a further integration of consumption-based accounting and benchmarking is necessary to aid the monitoring and assessment of Sustainable Development Goals in cities.

    • Thomas Wiedmann
    •  & Cameron Allen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Advanced copper supply chain modeling shows China’s new waste trade policy may increase pollution, while limiting other low-value imports reverses this trend. Here the authors show that recycling is vulnerable to supply chain shocks, requiring investment during recoveries to promote a circular economy.

    • John Ryter
    • , Xinkai Fu
    •  & Elsa A. Olivetti
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is one of the most important environmental health risk factors in many regions. Here, the authors present an assessment of PM2.5 emission sources and the related health impacts across global to sub-national scales and find that over 1 million deaths were avoidable in 2017 by eliminating PM2.5 mass associated with fossil fuel combustion emissions.

    • Erin E. McDuffie
    • , Randall V. Martin
    •  & Michael Brauer
  • Review Article
    | Open Access

    Water scarcity is a rapidly spreading global challenge but water purification technologies are often not sustainable. Here, the authors review the research on water purification technologies based on protein nanofibrils as a green and affordable solution to alleviate a water crisis.

    • Mohammad Peydayesh
    •  & Raffaele Mezzenga
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Open fires can increase heavy exposure to hazardous particulate matters, and thus harm human health, particularly among the vulnerable individuals, such as pregnant women. Here, the authors show an association between maternal exposure to fire smoke and increased risk of pregnancy loss in South Asia.

    • Tao Xue
    • , Guannan Geng
    •  & Tong Zhu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Individual exposure to heat is associated with adverse health and economic outcomes. Here, the authors show that people of color and people living in poverty bear a disproportionate burden of urban heat exposure in almost all major cities in the continental United States.

    • Angel Hsu
    • , Glenn Sheriff
    •  & Diego Manya
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mercury is a neurotoxin and pollutant with enhanced emissions from anthropogenic activities. Here, the authors develop a global emissions, transport, and human risk model and find substantial future losses in revenue and public health if emission reductions proposed by the Minamata Convention are delayed.

    • Yanxu Zhang
    • , Zhengcheng Song
    •  & Ping Li
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Filling of dams, when coinciding with droughts, can lead to severe downstream hydrology and ecology problems. The authors hence here provide a multisectoral perspective, using a dam in Ethiopia as an example, to develop adaptive filling solutions that support decision making, favourable filling timing and an effective filling policy.

    • Marta Zaniolo
    • , Matteo Giuliani
    •  & Andrea Castelletti
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Quantifying land use change is critical in tackling global challenges related to food, climate and biodiversity. Here the authors show that land use change has affected 32 % of the global land area in six decades (1960- 2019) by combining multiple open datasets to create the HIstoric Land Dynamics Assessment +.

    • Karina Winkler
    • , Richard Fuchs
    •  & Martin Herold
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Deforestation in the Amazon region has suggested to influence precipitation in a non-linear way. Here, the authors show that forest loss is associated with decreasing precipitation after a scale-dependent threshold is crossed, which can cause stress on agriculture if deforestation is expanded.

    • Argemiro Teixeira Leite-Filho
    • , Britaldo Silveira Soares-Filho
    •  & Jan Börner
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The assessment of soil sustainability in prehistoric times requires comparing millennium-scale erosion rates with geological background rates. Here, the authors apply in situ cosmogenic 14C, 10Be, and 26Al to reveal rapid soil erosion on the Andean Altiplano in response to Late Holocene climate change and the onset of agropastoralism.

    • Kristina Hippe
    • , John D. Jansen
    •  & David Lundbek Egholm
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The authors investigate the impacts of wildfires on fluvial networks in the western US. They find that wildfires directly impacted ~6% of the total stream length between 1984 and 2014. When longitudinal propagation was included, they estimate that wildfires affected ~11% of the total stream length.

    • Grady Ball
    • , Peter Regier
    •  & David Van Horn
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The COVID-19 response has led to unparalleled changes in the functioning of human society, from travel restrictions to changes in consumption. Here the authors use high resolution satellite data to track the global reduction in marine traffic during the pandemic, and more recent hints of recovery to pre-lockdown levels.

    • David March
    • , Kristian Metcalfe
    •  & Brendan J. Godley
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Microplastic pollution is a major threat to marine food webs, but the wider ranging impacts on global ocean biogeochemistry are poorly understood. Here the authors use an Earth system model to determine that zooplankton grazing on microplastics could exacerbate trends in ocean oxygen loss.

    • K. Kvale
    • , A. E. F. Prowe
    •  & A. Oschlies
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The global agrarian transition is characterized by a rise in large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs), whose energy impacts are unknown. Here, the authors assess how LSLAs change land use, finding that they necessitate greater investment in energy to meet demands, and greater greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Lorenzo Rosa
    • , Maria Cristina Rulli
    •  & Paolo D’Odorico
  • Article
    | Open Access

    This study investigates the relation between El Nino and landslide impacts. The authors show how El Nino and La Nina can cause swings in exposure of population to landslides that are as large as those due to rainy-season/dry-season variability in key locations, particularly South America.

    • Robert Emberson
    • , Dalia Kirschbaum
    •  & Thomas Stanley
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Superfund sites have hazardous wastes that could affect the health of those who live near them, but this has not been assessed across the USA. Here the authors find that proximity to superfund sites decreases life expectancy and is further exacerbated by sociodemographic and climate change factors.

    • Amin Kiaghadi
    • , Hanadi S. Rifai
    •  & Clint N. Dawson
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Large fissure eruptions can cause air pollution events when the volcanic plume returns to the same area after the initial advisory has been lifted. Here, the authors show that these events had a significant impact on health care usage in Iceland, and the impact was exacerbated when advisories were not issued successfully.

    • Hanne Krage Carlsen
    • , Evgenia Ilyinskaya
    •  & Thorolfur Gudnason
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The effectiveness of large historical efforts for decarbonizing steel production is unclear. Here, the authors show that such efficiency gains were offset by a booming steel demand increase. This has led to a stagnating decarbonization progress over past decades, which jeopardizes realization of future climate targets.

    • Peng Wang
    • , Morten Ryberg
    •  & Wei-Qiang Chen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    This study proposes a method to differentiate between local plutonium-based contamination in soils versus trace plutonium stemming from global dispersion in the past, such as fallout from detonation and atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

    • Chris Tighe
    • , Maxi Castrillejo
    •  & Malcolm J. Joyce
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Fire activity in China and its associations with climate are not well quantified at a local scale. Here, the authors present a detailed fire occurrence dataset for China and find a dipole fire pattern between southwestern and southeastern China that is modulated by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

    • Keyan Fang
    • , Qichao Yao
    •  & Valerie Trouet
  • Article
    | Open Access

    BIPP with biochar sequestration is a ready-to-implement negative emission technology in China. Here, the authors show that its national deployment could contribute to a 61% reduction of carbon emissions per GDP in 2030 compared to 2005, and contribute 13–31% of the global biomass-based negative emission goal by 2050.

    • Qing Yang
    • , Hewen Zhou
    •  & Michael B. McElroy
  • Article
    | Open Access

    A key strategy for meeting China’s 2060 carbon neutrality goal and the global 1.5 °C climate goal is to rapidly shift away from unabated coal use. Here, the authors detail how to structure a high-ambition, plant-by-plant coal phaseout in China while balancing multiple national needs.

    • Ryna Yiyun Cui
    • , Nathan Hultman
    •  & Mengye Zhu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    It is expected that tropical deforestation and related increases in heat exposure have negative impacts on labour productivity, but the size of the effect is not well known. Here, the authors show that deforestation reduces productivity by 8.22% in rural Indonesia and causes behavioural adaptation responses like more work breaks.

    • Yuta J. Masuda
    • , Teevrat Garg
    •  & June T. Spector
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The effect of climate change on highland malaria transmission remains unclear because of increasing and decreasing trends. Here, Rodó et al. analyze malaria case data and climate data for the Ethiopian highlands from 1968 to 2008 and find that changes in temperature and associated climate variability facilitated the effect of interventions at the beginning of the 21st century.

    • Xavier Rodó
    • , Pamela P. Martinez
    •  & Mercedes Pascual
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Tropical cyclones can cause severe damage and can thus have devastating impacts on societies. Here, the authors use Medicare data to show that tropical cyclone exposure in the United States is associated with increased hospitalization rates for older adults from many different acute causes.

    • Robbie M. Parks
    • , G. Brooke Anderson
    •  & Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Global warming is expected to increase mortality due to heat stress in many regions. Here, the authors asses how mortality due to high temperatures changes in China changes for different demographic groups and show that heat-related excess mortality is increasing under climate change, a process that is strongly amplified by population ageing.

    • Jun Yang
    • , Maigeng Zhou
    •  & Qiyong Liu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Biological fate of nanomaterials in organisms is an important topic, however, limitations of analytical techniques has hampered understanding. Here, the authors report on a study into the fate of model, gold nanoparticles in an aquatic food chain using an analytical workflow and range of analytical methods.

    • Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh
    • , Latifeh Chupani
    •  & Willie J.G.M. Peijnenburg
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Carbon curing or mixing in concrete is promising for carbon dioxide sequestration. Here, the authors show that the increased use of binder material to compensate the loss in compressive strength and electricity for carbon dioxide curing is more likely to increase carbon dioxide emissions on a life cycle basis for carbon cured or mixed concrete.

    • Dwarakanath Ravikumar
    • , Duo Zhang
    •  & Victor Li
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Online shopping deliveries are booming, but the environmental cost is not always accounted. Here, the authors examine the impact of delivery services in China from 2007 to 2018 and find that Greenhouse gas emissions surged from 0.3 Mt in 2007 to 13.7 Mt of CO2-equivalent in 2018, they predict that emissions could reach 75 MtCO2e by 2035 if no mitigation measures are adopted.

    • Peng Kang
    • , Guanghan Song
    •  & Huabo Duan
  • Article
    | Open Access

    China announced a ban on its import of most plastic waste in 2017, resulting in an impact on global environmental sustainability. Here the authors quantify the environmental impacts of changes in the flow patterns and treatment methods of 6 types of plastic waste in 18 countries subsequent to the ban.

    • Zongguo Wen
    • , Yiling Xie
    •  & Christian Doh Dinga
  • Article
    | Open Access

    This study investigates in the importance of non-fossil fuel NOx emissions in the surface-earth-nitrogen cycle. The study shows how changes of regional human activities directly influence δ15N signatures of deposited NOx to terrestrial environments and that emissions have largely been underestimated.

    • Wei Song
    • , Xue-Yan Liu
    •  & Cong-Qiang Liu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Control of mosquito populations using pesticides is important for malaria elimination, but effects of pesticides on humans aren’t well understood. Here, Prahl et al. show in a cohort of pregnant Ugandan women and their infants that household spraying with bendiocarb affects the fetal immune system and response to vaccination in infancy.

    • Mary Prahl
    • , Pamela Odorizzi
    •  & Margaret E. Feeney
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions not only amplify the global climate crisis, but cause damage currently unaccounted for by food prices. Here the authors show the calculation of prices with internalized climate costs for food categories and production systems, revealing strong market distortions.

    • Maximilian Pieper
    • , Amelie Michalke
    •  & Tobias Gaugler
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Randomised controlled experiments are the gold standard for scientific inference, but environmental and social scientists often rely on different study designs. Here the authors analyse the use of six common study designs in the fields of biodiversity conservation and social intervention, and quantify the biases in their estimates.

    • Alec P. Christie
    • , David Abecasis
    •  & William J. Sutherland
  • Review Article
    | Open Access

    Large-scale meat production can have negative impacts on public health, the environment and animal welfare. In this Review, the authors consider plant-based and cell-based approaches to meat production and the challenges they face.

    • Natalie R. Rubio
    • , Ning Xiang
    •  & David L. Kaplan