Warming Trends: Weather Guarantees for Your Vacation, Plus the Benefits of Microbial Proteins and an Urban Bias Against the Environment

SOLUTIONS

A growing market thanks to climate change

A long-awaited vacation like a day at a theme park with the kids, a night of glamping with the girls or a weekend on the slopes can quickly be ruined by rain. And as climate change brings more frequent extreme weather, more customers may become reluctant to commit to trips at the risk of being ruined by a storm.

That’s what motivated Nick Cavanaugh, a climate scientist who advised a weather risk hedge fund, to start Reasonable weather, a company that insures trips against bad weather. The company’s weather guarantees are offered and sold to customers when they pay for a hotel room, ski rental or theme park tickets online. If the day of their activity calls for rain, Sensible reimburses customers for the cost of their tickets or accommodation.

For example, if a customer buys $100 worth of theme park tickets, Sensible will offer them a weather guarantee for a percentage of their total based on the risk of bad weather depending on where and when their excursion is, say approximately $10. If there is rain in the forecast that day, Sensible will text the customer in the morning and offer them a refund for their tickets.

Sensible, launched in 2019, now has thousands of customers and is growing rapidly, Cavanaugh said. It operates like an insurance company, using newly developed technology that can quickly assess the risk of bad weather and offering customers the option to purchase protection when they are about to pay for a trip. Weather guarantees are currently available on a few camping and theme park websites, but Cavanaugh said he hopes to make the product available on major travel booking sites soon.

The data behind the risk analysis is based on historical trends, but Cavanaugh said climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and future warming projections will also be incorporated to ensure the company is prepared for more extreme weather events.

“For a given consumer, you’re going on vacation, you’re taking a chance, and it’s not a catastrophic risk, but for that consumer, if you only have one week of vacation a year, it could be catastrophic” , Cavanaugh said. “If you were looking forward to it, that’s a serious expense.”

SCIENCE

As long as immigrants are birds and insects

Species are migrating poleward out of their native environments as global warming increases temperatures, which can pose challenges for wildlife managers as new arrivals arrive, potentially disrupting native species.

But a survey of UK birdwatchers and wildlife watchers shows most have a positive view of these climate refugee species. The survey asked more than 300 wildlife watchers about eight species of birds and eight species of insects that have moved around the UK in recent years. They were strongly opposed to the idea of ​​eradicating new arrivals, a study based on the survey found, and stressed the need to preserve biodiversity.

“One of the things we were thinking about was whether [respondents think] climate change is bad, so species that move due to climate change are also bad, which we haven’t seen a clear pattern of,” said lead author Jamie Cranston, who holds a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Exeter. “Most people were sort of neutral or kind of sympathetic.”

The survey focused on wildlife watchers because they were more likely to understand the implications of species changing range and would potentially be involved in collecting data on those species, Cranston said.

“Nature is something we manage for the public good. Therefore, it is the right thing to consult people on how this should be handled,” he said. “There must be a balance between the views of different people, and also the interests of future generations.”

SCIENCE

Could make a good burger

An alternative protein source produced by fungi could reduce our demand for land- and water-intensive animal protein like beef.

In fact, if humans replaced 20% of their consumption of beef and other ruminant products with this alternative protein, deforestation could be halved by mid-century, scientists have calculated in a new study in the journal Nature.

The study focused on microbial protein, which is a meat substitute with similar protein content and texture to conventional meat. The microbial protein is produced in a fermentation process, similar to alcohol or bread, and fueled with sugar in a bioreactor. Researchers from Potsdam’s Institute for Climate Impact Research have modeled future projections to 2050 that microbial protein has replaced animal protein, resulting in less land used for pasture and crops for feed the cattle. Their results showed that even a relatively small amount of adoption resulted in a “more than proportional” benefit to the environment, said study co-author Hermann Lotze-Campen, director of the research institute of Potsdam.

“For the same amount of protein produced, you would need to use a lot less land, you would avoid deforestation and therefore protect valuable ecosystems,” he said, “and you also reduce everything related to production Fertilizer used for animal feed production, irrigation water for animal feed production, you are essentially removing these effects, and so the overall footprint of the food sector would be scaled down.

In addition to the environmental benefits, microbial proteins would not need a specific climate because they are produced in a controlled environment, Lotze-Campen said. But, these products are not yet widely available. A company that sells microbial protein is based in the UK Quornavailable in 16 countries, including the United States.

To achieve the environmental benefits, Lotze-Campen said, more technology will be needed to scale up production and make products competitive with traditional meat products, and consumers should be willing to try and replace these alternatives. by beef. and other meats in their diet.

“How soon will people understand this? he said. “It’s a bit difficult to predict.”

SCIENCE

City dwellers and the environment

People who live in urban coastal areas are less likely to have a complex understanding of how humans and ecosystems influence each other, a new study found. Researchers believe this may be related to a lack of exposure to natural coastlines, as more human infrastructure occupies these environments.

The study, published in the journal npj Urban sustainabilitywas based on surveys of residents living on the East Coast of the United States and found that people who lived in urban areas with shorelines with more infrastructure, such as seawalls and boat ramps water, had more uniform perceptions of ecosystems than groups outside of urban areas. areas.

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Urban respondents tended to think of human-environment interactions in a more linear way, according to the study by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), while non-urban respondents had a more linear view. more systematic of these interactions. For example, linear thinkers can understand that if humans overfish, it could lead to a decrease in the fish population. But a systems thinker would have a more complex view, understanding that a decline in the fish population due to overfishing would lead to a shortage of fish and more regulations and restrictions for anglers.

“In reality, humans impact the environment, and the environment impacts human lives, and there’s a feedback loop here,” said lead author Payam Aminpour, a postdoctoral fellow at NIST. . “Linear thinking is that you only see direction one way, either from human to ecosystem or from ecosystem to human. You don’t see interactions, feedback loops, two-way or reciprocal relationships.

The survey also found that respondents from urban areas were less likely to engage in pro-environmental behaviors, such as donating money to a conservation organization, voting for a candidate based on their stance on environmental issues, or change purchasing habits based on the environmental impact of a product. . Aminpour said he thinks it might be related to lack of exposure to natural environments, although that can’t be definitively proven in this study.

Study co-author Jennifer Helgeson, an economist at NIST, said this simplification of the knowledge of urban populations could lead to a decrease in interest in the protection of natural ecosystems, especially since a growing proportion of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Two-thirds of the population is expected to live in cities by mid-century, according to the United Nations.

“We have this vision of living in urban areas as sometimes having less impact,” Helgeson said. “But I think we’re showing that there can be a real balance here of having more negative impacts if you’re not in tune with those natural systems.”

About Jermaine Chase

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