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Coming to Hawaii, National Drive Electric Week

 

Transportation puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other sector in the U.S. economy. In Hawaii, the percentage of transportation-related pollution is higher than on the mainland, and represents an excess of 40% of all local greenhouse gas emissions.  Hawaii is now following a global trend in the electrification of transportation, and off fossil fuels.

Tesla CybertruckIf you are curious about all-electric and zero emissions vehicle alternatives to your gas guzzler car, SUV, or truck, then you should not miss the 10th annual National Drive Electric Week (September 26 – October 4), which promises to answer your questions and excite anyone interested driving electric.

Locally, this year’s National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) event is locally hosted by the newly formed Hawaii EV Association (HEVA), a grassroots, multi-island, all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping Hawaii accelerate its transition to zero-emission transportation. The statewide organization brings together expertise from EV stakeholders across the islands.

Hawaii Electric Vehicle Association, a newly incorporated statewide organization representing Hawaii’s electric vehicle owners in Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, will host two separate webinars designed to assist Hawaii’s residents interested in and owners of electric vehicles.

Whether you’re curious about electric vehicles or an experienced EV driver, this national celebration, offers a local emphasis through exciting virtual workshops, expert presentations, and everyday EV owner experiences — all shared in an interactive two-day online event held on two consecutive Saturdays:

Saturday, September 26th  

Webinar Event begins at 9 AM, ends at 11 AM

To register online visit: https://hawaiiev.org/events

Session 1        EV 101 – Buying and Owning an EV

(with webinar Audience Q&A)

  • EV Buyer Benefits and Incentives
  • EV Buying Tips
  • EV Charging
  • EV Owner’s Panel – Experiences with electrification
  • EV Owner’s Panel – Audience Q&A
  • Contest Give Away

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Saturday, October 3rd  

Webinar Event begins at 9 AM, ends at 11 AM

Session 2        EV 102 – Accelerating EV Adoption within Hawaii

(with webinar Audience Q&A)

  • What the Future Holds for Electric Transportation in Hawaii
  • Hawaii’s EV – Clean and Renewable Energy Connection
  • New EV Models Coming – beyond EV Cars and SUV’s: Trucks, Buses, and other EV vehicles form factors
  • EV Speed Bumps part 1  – Panelist presentations: Blue Planet, Hawaiian Electric, Hawaii County, and Rep. Nicole Lowen, Chairperson, House Committee, Energy & Environment
  • EV Speed Bumps part 2 – Panelist – Audience Q&A
  • EV Resources and Recap

For more information and to register for the free community events, visit:  https://hawaiiev.org/events


— Big EV News today

  • CA mandate to go all electric with cars and auto-trucks beginning 2035

– drivers throughout the U.S. may want to start a rainy day car fund in the wake of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s climate-change-focused ban on sales of new gas-powered autos-SUV’s and light trucks, beginning in 2035.

California, the world’s fifth-largest economy and the state that created U.S. car culture, will stop selling gasoline-powered automobiles within 15 years, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Wednesday.

Facing a record-breaking wildfire season as well as years of heat waves and droughts exacerbated by climate change, the Golden State is seeking to accelerate the shift away from combustion engines on its roads, which account for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other source.

“For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe,” Newsom in announcing an executive order Wednesday. “You deserve to have a car that doesn’t give your kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air.”

Under Newsom’s order, the state’s air regulator, the California Air Resources Board, will develop regulations that ensure every new passenger car and truck sold in the state is electric or otherwise “zero-emissions” by 2035.

  • ChargePoint, the world’s largest provider of electric-vehicle charging stations, said on Thursday it is going public with a reverse-merger agreement worth $2.4 billion.

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— EV 2020 Political News

The Biden campaign has previously underlined the important role electric vehicles (EV) will play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

To encourage EV adoption, the campaign has three key targets: deploying 500,000 new public EV charging outlets, restoring the full EV tax credit, and developing a new fuel economy target.

Wood Mackenzie’s projection for public charging infrastructure deployments in the US is 800,000 new outlets by 2030. “A promise of 500,000 new charging outlets rings hollow considering organic growth is projected to be higher,” said Ram Chandrasekaran, Wood Mackenzie Principal Analyst.

However, according to Wood Mackenzie’s analysis, fewer than 20% of the projected charging outlets are fast chargers.

“Range anxiety – running out of charge before reaching your destination – is one of the biggest consumer hurdles for EV adoption. Deployment of fast chargers is arguably the best way to combat range anxiety regardless of the size of the car’s battery pack,” added Chandrasekaran.

While fast chargers are 15 times quicker to charge the vehicle, they are 30 times more expensive to construct and operate.

Electric vehicle share across major markets, 2015 to 2020 H1

Ev Market Share Graph

 

“A higher share of fast chargers will be harder to achieve without well-directed efforts from the federal government. If the policy support promised by the Biden campaign is effective in increasing the number of fast chargers, it could ease some consumer concerns and boost EV sales,” said Chandrasekaran.

The current tax credit system is capped at the first 200,000 vehicles sold by a manufacturer. As of 2020, Tesla and General Motors have reached the cap, while Nissan and Ford are rapidly approaching it and other automakers are below the halfway point.

While previous efforts to increase the cap failed last year, Wood Mackenzie believes the Biden campaign’s promise to restore the full tax credit would mean increasing the cap to 600,000 as outlined in the previously down-voted bill.

“The average price difference between a number of internal combustion engine vehicles and their battery electric vehicle counterparts is $8,000. Raising the cap would immediately help Tesla and General Motors. All other automakers would likely welcome the opportunity to achieve the economies of volume before feeling the pressure to reduce the sale price of their EVs,” added Chandrasekaran.

Increasing the cap to 600,000 would positively impact over 7.5 million new EV sales, whereas the current cap helps only 2.2 million EVs. “A cap change for the tax credit system would certainly boost the share of EVs in the US for the next four to five years,” said Chandrasekaran.

As noted in Wood Mackenzie’s research, the most impactful policy change for EV adoption would be increasing federal fuel economy targets.

On 31st March, during the early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration passed the SAFE act. The directive reduced fleet-level fuel economy targets and implemented less stringent goals for 2021-2026.

The Obama-era regulations targeted a 5% improvement in fleet fuel economy every year. The Trump administration’s new rules reduced this target to 1.5% annually.

“Going beyond the Obama-era regulations or even reversing the new targets set by the Trump administration would definitely increase EV adoption.

“This has already been evidenced in other global markets. Setting a target at an automaker fleet level forces the automaker to manufacture more efficient cars. Automakers would also be required to spend more money on effective marketing campaigns and automaker-provided subsidies,” added Chandrasekaran.

Passing stricter emissions regulations would push US EV sales over the 4 million mark by 2030, 50% higher than Wood Mackenzie’s base case projection.

 

 

 

 

Ff Pollution

Hawaii (and the world) is feeling the Heat

Sea Level Rise Hawaii Climate


Anartic Meltdown

Two major Antarctic glaciers are tearing loose from their restraints, scientists say …

Two Antarctic glaciers that have long kept scientists awake at night are breaking free from the restraints that have hemmed them in, increasing the threat of large-scale sea-level rise.

Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 percent of global sea-level rise. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the United States and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier.

The loss of the glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise seas by about 10 feet.

The new findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from analysis of satellite images. They show that a naturally occurring buffer system that prevents the glaciers from flowing outward rapidly is breaking down, unleashing far more ice into the sea in coming years.

While many of the images have been seen before, the new analysis suggests that they are a sign of further disintegration to come.

“The stresses that slow down the glacier, they are no longer in place, so the glacier meltdown is speeding up,” said Stef Lhermitte, a satellite expert at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands who led the new research along with colleagues from NASA and other research institutions in France, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands.

“We already knew that these were glaciers that might matter in the future, but these images to me indicate that these ice shelves are in a very bad state,” Lhermitte said.

It’s just the latest in a flurry of bad news about the planet’s ice.

Arctic sea ice is very close to — but likely to not quite reach — a record low for this time of year. Last month, Canada lost a large portion of its last major Arctic ice shelf.

And in Greenland, the largest still-intact ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere, sometimes known as 79 North because of its latitude, just lost a large chunk of ice, equivalent in size to roughly two Manhattan islands, according to the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

Experts there blamed the fracture on a strong general warming trend and temperatures that have been “incredibly” high in the northeast of Greenland in recent years.

 


Westeern Fires

The mayor of Portland declared a state of emergency as fires burned toward the city. California and Washington State are battling growing fires, too.

RIGHT NOW —

The National Weather Service said a huge cloud of smoke would descend on Washington State today, creating unhealthy breathing conditions around the state.

Multiple mega fires are now burning more than three million acres, millions of residents in California, Oregon,and Washington are being smothered in toxic air, experiencing rolling blackouts, and triple-digit heat waves. No this is not a script for an apocalyptic movie — it’s not a movie, it’s real, it’s now, and it’s Climate Change and its effects.

The West Coast is on fire; towns are being decimated by infernos, and firefighters are stretched  beyond their limits.

The climate crisis now unfolding is not limited to the Western United States, or the nation’s most populous state, but what is happening in California is more than just an accumulation of individual catastrophes, it is an example of something climate experts have long worried about, but which few expected to see so soon: a cascade effect, in which a series of disasters overlap, triggering or amplifying each other.

“You’re toppling dominoes in ways that Americans haven’t imagined,” said Roy Wright, who directed resilience programs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency until 2018 and grew up in Vacaville, Calif., near one of this year’s largest fires. “It’s apocalyptic.”

San Francisco Bay Bridge, 10:30 AM, Thursday

From LA to San Francisco, orange-red skies choking with smoke require driving with headlights in the middle of the day.

Wildfires continued their explosive spread along the West Coast on Thursday, scorching entire neighborhoods and forcing mass evacuations across California, Oregon and Washington State as a record-breaking fire season continued.

West Coast firefighters continued their efforts to contain fires that had caused extensive damage and killed at least seven people.

In California, hundreds of fires blazed across the state, including in the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California and Fresno in the central part of the state, as well as areas near Los Angeles and in Silicon Valley. Because of the extraordinary number of fires, California’s forces have been stretched, preventing them from sending firefighters to Oregon, where multiple fires, including the Almeda Fire, have caused extensive damage.

A barrage of scientific evidence shows that climate change has intensified droughts and hotter, drier weather across the Western United States, which has made brush, trees and other organic matter more combustible. According to one study, between 1984 and 2015, climate change contributed to the near-doubling of the geographical area vulnerable to wildfires in the West.

Officials said hundreds of homes had been consumed by flames and aerial images of towns like Talent and Medford, Or., showed streets lined with homes that were charred, if not destroyed.

Living in the West, the connection between climate change and fire is unavoidable. A month ago, California suffered a record-breaking heat wave that baked the earth into kindling. Then the match was struck. The Bay Area woke up to a sky flashing blue with dry lightning — lightning unaccompanied by rain. Nearly 9,000 strikes hit the ground, sparking fires across the region.

Can the climate-denying right really continue to ignore this basic cause-and-effect? Trump’s brand of denial is hardly unique. In some ways, it is embedded in our political system. Trump has ignored climate change because it’s been politically easy to do so. The effects of climate change are imprecise, and in the case of the wildfires, they’re almost not his problem, as the Electoral College allows him to write off the West Coast entirely. (Trump often tweets as if “blue states” are not even part of the country.)


Climate Change is going in one direction – a Hotter Hawaii

Hawaii maybe in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but it cannot escape the impacts of global warming and its Climate Change side effects —  no longer theory, but now fully engaged globally.

For Hawaii, an island state, sea level rise is major concern…

Global warming is behind the recent acceleration of sea level rise observed since record keeping began in 1880. The ocean, which has absorbed 93 percent of the heat that human activities have added to the climate system, expands as it warms, which pushes up sea levels. Warming also melts glaciers and ice sheets on land, with the run-off adding to sea levels.

The sea level anomalies recorded in Honolulu during May-August have been the highest ever, with observed values of 20 centimeters (8 inches) above normal in April, +17 centimeters (6.7 inches) during May, +9 centimeters (3.5 inches) in both June and July, and +10 centimeters (4 inches) in August.  Data from the Honolulu tide gauge shows the increasing trend in sea-level since 1905, with the recent events in 2017 above all others.

Sea surface temperature has increased as the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans has surged in the past few decades, causing marine heat waves and contributing to more intense stormssea level risesea ice melt, and widespread ecosystem change.

While heavy precipitation events in most parts of the United States have increased in both intensity and frequency, there are important regional and seasonal differences in total precipitation change. Climate change is linked to increased total precipitation and flood risk

Sea surface temperature has increased as the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans has surged in the past few decades, causing marine heat waves and contributing to more intense stormssea level risesea ice melt, and widespread ecosystem change.

 

Extreme Weather Swings from excessive rainfall to droughts

Abundant rainfall occurred throughout most of the U.S. Pacific island region during the first half of 2017, with almost all recording stations reporting above-average first-half totals.  It was one of the wettest spring periods on record in Pohnpei, with flash flooding reported from American Samoa to Hawaii.  However, rainfall patterns over the last three months of June, July, and August have been much drier than normal across the region.

Extreme Heat and Heat Waves

Global warming has amplified the intensity, duration and frequency of extreme heat and heat waves. The National Academy of Sciences reports and validates numerous studies as well as two major science assessment reviews that definitively identify the fingerprint of human influence in driving the changes observed to date.

The climate has shifted significantly, leading to more heat records in every season. The number of local record-breaking average monthly temperature extremes worldwide is now on average five times larger than expected in a climate with no long-term warming.

NOAA reports that global warming has contributed to the severity and probability of 82 percent of record-hot days globally.

Sea surface temperatures

Sea surface temperature data from NOAA’s Optimum Interpolation Sea-Surface Temperature (OISST) dataset indicate that many areas were warmer than normal across much of the Pacific during the first 8 months of 2017, with a small, localized region of cold anomalies now starting to develop along the equatorial eastern Pacific.

 


Hawaii Climate Singles


Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by about 17% during the height of the global shutdown, according to research in the journal Nature, was a relatively small drop, especially considering just how many millions of people were avoiding driving and flying.

For decades fossil fuel companies have pushed the idea of a personal carbon footprint, a metric that ignores the fact that more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from energy production.

To ward off the worst effects of climate change, scientists say we must make massive shifts in our behavior to prevent the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2040. Hawaii state engaged scientists and climate specialists to conduct a one year study on climate changes throughout the state. The project Hawaii 2040 investigated communities around Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, looking into present day and projected climate changes in various impacts and form from sea level rise, wildfires, coral bleaching, extinction, disease, to watersheds.

For example, the study determined what was already suspected, Climate Change is as much an economic issue as it is environmental. Three feet of sea level rise is estimated to cause more than $20 billion in damage to coastal businesses, roads and land. That doesn’t economic impact on the state does not include the compounding effect on tourism, the loss of environmental assets, and other industries that drive the state’s economy.

As a coral reef scientist, Mark Hixon of Honolulu said he is appalled at how unprepared Hawaii is for forthcoming massive coral bleaching events. His focus is on saving the uhu, a parrotfish whose feeding habits make reefs more resilient.

Edward Matukawa of Kapaa, Kauai, said the unprecedented flooding in April 2018 impacted his family’s rental property in Hanalei. He’s worried about what he and other property owners should do in light of rising seas and stronger storms.

The state has policies and data that identify the many indicators of a changing climate, the 2050 sustainability audit (produced in 2008), noted how 70 percent of Hawaii’s coastline is eroding, streams are drying, rainfall is decreasing and corals are bleaching.

The March audit concluded that comprehensive planning would help the state adapt, but it hasn’t happened in a meaningful way.

“Through the course of the past 12 years, the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan was disregarded,” the audit said.


2020, the year Climate Change Predictions

Turned Real, and Beyond Denial

2020 Climate Headlines

Dirty Power Plant Emissions

Hu Honua – An Open Letter to Hawaii’s PUC

ref: LETTER IN SUPPORT OF PUC DECISION – Docket No 2017-0122

To whom it may concern,

Hawaii’s PUC decision to deny Hu Honua’s exemption from a public and competitive power supplier process (in which all other power suppliers must compete to benefit ratepayers), was summed up by this well-reasoned PUC decision and explanation:

“The pertinent issue here is whether this particular Project (Hu Honua) should be exempted from competitive bidding against other renewable projects to determine the best value for HELCO and its customers. The Commission is aware that biomass resources offer different considerations than other renewable resources, such as solar and wind, but believes that these distinctions are better weighed and addressed in the context of the Competitive Bidding Framework.”

Hawaii Island (like much of the rest of the state) is on two divergent and transitional energy paths, and depending on which path we take, future energy costs to consumers and the state’s environmental impacts can range from beneficial-to-significant.   This energy transition is best exemplified by both good and bad fossil fuel replacements available to Hawaii Electric and ratepayers – enabled by present-day legislative deficiencies within state-mandated RPS rules.

Hawaii Electric’s PPA track record in addressing both cost and environmental considerations has not always been in the interest of ratepayers and our island residents.

What two better examples of clean energy versus dirty and renewable energy options for Hawaii Electric than the present day energy choices here on Hawaii Island between Hu Honua (the tree-burning) 21.5 megawatts bio-energy power plant in Pepeʻekeo, and the proposed Waikoloa Village 55 megawatt photovoltaic solar array with a 220-megawatt battery storage system – both offering on-demand power delivery options to the grid.

Which of these two examples of energy replacements options best serve the public interest and ratepayers?

We believe the graph below clearly illustrates the differences and which is best for Hawaii Island, ratepayers, and the state’s clean energy future.

Huhonua Comparison To Solar

Although not all the above points of consideration within the graph are within the regulatory purview of Hawaii’s PUC authority or mission, clearly there are other public benefits to the PUC’s decision to deny Hu Honua’s exemption from a competitive process, and considerations that exceed the strictly regulated elements of the Commission’s decision — a PUC decision the majority of Hawaii Island’s residents support, and with great appreciation.


Story Update: Sept 21, 2020

Lawsuit: Hu Honua ‘A Fiasco From The Beginning’

An Oily Planet

Real World Consequences

Editorial

As lethal fires are spreading across the West — like the coronavirus that has ravaged the country for months; Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland glacier meltdowns are accelerating their contribution to global sea level rise.

The president of a divided states of America represents a shrinking minority of Americans who are increasingly disconnected from reality.  They listen to a president who spins tales of an imaginary world in which science is fiction, reality is what you want to believe, and humans have the God-given right to destroy the very God-given planetary environment in which all life depends — and do so without consequences.  This is unconscionable .

But not to be dissuaded by real world consequences, the president has used his time in the nation’s highest office to aggressively promote the burning of fossil fuels, cutting backroom deals with the polluters for profit industrial cabal by rolling back or weakening every major federal policy intended to combat dangerous and human-generated global warming emissions — from the extraction to the burning of fossil fuels.

At the same time, Mr. Trump and his self-appointed fossil-fuel puppets are playing a very public role as senior environmental officials who have stuck to the Trump made-for-TV script, and regularly mocked, denied or minimized the established science and overwhelming evidence of human-caused global warming and climate change.

All this climate change denial and obfuscation is a betrayal of the public trust, and crime unto itself, but official tales require little effort and produce no risk to Trump’s money sources, especially when they replace corrective actions that could be taken by the federal government to protect the public and the planet.

False Narratives

This entire passion play of false narratives by Trump defies the facts and common sense reasoning, especially as the Western United States burns, the southeastern United States continues to be hammered by drought, floods, and superstorms, and the Midwest experienced its first every recorded hurricane-like storm which flattened crops across three states.

When Trump nominated a career fossil fuel industry lobbyist to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we all knew what was coming.  So it’s no surprise that EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said he’s planning to shift the agency’s focus away from climate change.  Consider this a warning: the Trump administration is using this coded language to say that they’re going to allow even MORE greenhouse gas pollution sources in a second term, if re-elected.

How many voters will hold Trump, the party of Trump, and his administration accountable for brushing aside human-caused climate consequences, greater than any single pandemic event, deny science singularly and in total, and fail to take effective actions to mobilize the government to address the causes of unnatural disasters that have claimed lives, increasingly are destroying large segments of the global environment, damaged property, and threatened economic prosperity?

In 50 days we will know the answer to this question – and not even the Russians can hack their way to a Trump victory in face of the current administration’s failures to govern, and govern in the interest of the American people and the planet on which all life depends — the bill has come due, and it’s time Trump and his fossil-fueled party billionaires are held accountable.


Previously published:

Global Deaths 8 26

America’s Rising Coronavirus Death Rate

As death rate from the COVID-19 virus infections rises daily in Hawaii, here’s a jarring thought experiment: If the United States had done merely an average job of fighting the coronavirus — if the U.S. accounted for the same share of virus deaths as it did global population — how many fewer Americans would have died?

The answer: about 145,000 fewer American COVID-19 deaths.  

That’s a large majority of the country’s 183,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.

No other country looks as bad by this measure. The U.S. accounts for 4 percent of the world’s population, and for 22 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths. It is one of the many signs that the Trump administration has done a poorer job of controlling the virus than dozens of other governments around the world.

 

Covid 19 Death Chart

 

The specific numbers are based on virus statistics that are unavoidably incomplete. Most scientists believe the real U.S. death toll is higher than the official numbers indicate, and under-counting of deaths may be even greater in some other countries.

After the U.S., Brazil and Mexico have the next largest gaps between population share and official death share. They are also countries with less advanced medical systems, where some experts think the actual death toll is vastly higher than the official one. If that’s right, the true gaps in Brazil and Mexico may be as large as the U.S. gap.

But no other affluent country has nearly so big a gap. Canada and several European countries each account for a greater percentage of deaths than population, yet the differences aren’t nearly as severe as in the U.S.

And some countries, like Australia and South Korea, have a positive version of the gap. Japan is home to 1.7 percent of the global population but less than 0.2 percent of deaths. An additional 12,000 Japanese residents would not be alive if the country had merely an average death rate.

The U.S. remains the world’s richest country, with vast medical capabilities, and the virus started on a faraway continent. All of which suggests that there was nothing inevitable about the U.S. performance. It is instead a tragic reflection of the country’s failed response and absence of leadership and governance of the Trump Administration.

(source: New York Times)

Waterworld 2020

Waterworld was a big screen production filmed off the Big Island in 1995. The film depicted a post-apocalyptic world in which human-driven global warming of the planet had reached its final conclusion, after the melting of Greenland and the polar ice caps, leaving most of the globe underwater. Waterworld 1

Waterworld screenwriter, Peter Rader, says he was an early adopter to climate change warnings, which provided part of the inspiration for Waterworld. “I wrote the original draft in 1986 very much thinking about global warming, even back then. We didn’t have Google at the time, but if you went to any library you could easily find out that if all the ice melted, the sea would rise and cover much of the Earth’s land mass.”  

Fast forward your VCR to today, and thanks to environmental activists like Greta Thunberg, and the near daily reports of climate warming impacts from around the world, public awareness and concerns have moved climate-related topics to the front page of the world’s media – a hot topic, especially among America’s younger generations who will live with the global failure of humankind to take immediate measures to address global warming and mitigate its fossil-fueled consequences.  For them, Waterworld isn’t just a movie: It’s a dire warning call of a world to come.

Loss of Greenland Ice Sheet Reached a Record Last Year

The ice loss in 2019 was more than twice the annual average since 2003.

Greenland lost a record amount of ice in 2019, researchers reported Thursday. Nearly half of it was lost in July, when the region roasted from an unusual heat wave.

The net ice loss of more than 530 billion metric tons was more than twice the annual average since 2003, the scientists said. In July, when warm air from Europe moved north, leading to temperatures that were well above normal and causing widespread surface melting of the ice sheet, the loss was roughly equal to the average loss in a full year.

Greenland’s ice sheet is nearly two miles thick in places, and if all the ice were to melt, sea levels would rise about 24 feet.

That kind of catastrophic melt down could take a century or two. But since the 1990s, as the Arctic has warmed faster than any other part of the planet, ice loss from Greenland and its contribution to sea level rise have accelerated.

But ice loss can vary from year to year. So far in 2020, he said, net ice loss appears to be a little below average.  Both 2017 and 2018 had colder-than-usual summers, when cold air flowed from the north along the west coast of Greenland, reducing ice loss. But in 2019 that circulation pattern was reversed, with warm air coming from the south.

Many scientists are increasingly seeing a link to global warming that is made worse by sea-ice loss in the Arctic Ocean.

Waterworld 2In Greenland, ice loss results from runoff of surface meltwater and from discharge of ice from glaciers that serve as outlets for the ice sheet, connecting it to the ocean. Accumulation results from snowfall that, compressed over years, eventually becomes ice. When runoff and discharge exceed accumulation, the result is net loss.

“Mass (ice) loss is not going away anytime soon,” Dr. King said, said the study’s lead author. “But of course we have control over the rate by taking steps to mitigate climate change“.  “It’s not a throw-your-hands-up kind of situation,” she said.

Co2 Levels June 2020

Mauna Loa tracks record high levels of carbon dioxide, with local and global consequences

Today, there is more carbon dioxide in the air now than at any time in the last 3 million years — The last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere, global average surface temperatures were significantly warmer than they are today, and sea levels were 50 to 80 feet higher.

The continuing rise in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere may sound surprising in light of recent findings that the pandemic, and the associated lockdowns, had led to a steep drop in global greenhouse gas emissions; a 17 percent decline in early April, but only a temporary blimp on the climate radar. Mauna Loa Observatory

“The buildup of CO2 is a bit like trash in a landfill. As we keep emitting, it keeps piling up,” said Ralph Keeling, who directs Scripps’s carbon dioxide monitoring program, and whose late father, Charles David Keeling, began measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in 1958, and at that time it was 313 parts per million in atmospheric CO2 gas concentrations.

Fossil Fuel Emissions Push Greenhouse Gas Indicators to Record High in May – New measurements show that not even the pandemic can flatten the Keeling Curve.

As graphs go, the Keeling Curve is simple, but it clearly illustrates the planet’s vexing global warming challenge. In a decades-long upward zigzag it charts the unrelenting increase of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Natural factors such as El Niño events in the tropical Pacific Ocean and changes in terrestrial carbon sinks, such as forests, can have a large influence on the rate of climb in CO2 concentration from year to year, but the historic trend is undeniable.

This year’s May CO2 peak marked an increase of about 2.4 ppm compared with a year ago. The 2010 to 2019 average rate of increase is precisely the same at 2.4 ppm per year, according to NOAA. The decline of El Niño during the past year may help explain why the increase in the last year was not as large as recent years.

Because atmospheric levels of CO2 are cumulative, they will continue to increase until net emissions are cut to zero. Molecules of CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years.

Scientists warn that we’re on course to reach 450 ppm by mid-century, where levels would need to stop increasing to have a decent chance of meeting the goals in the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit climate change to well below 3.6 degrees (2 Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2100.Co2 Levels June 2020

Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, says the new findings underscore the need to act now. “It is a reminder that climate change is not on pause in any way, shape or form,” she said.

“We estimated that fossil carbon emissions dropped 8 percent [during] January through April, from 12 billion metric tons in 2019 to 11 billion in 2020,” he said. “A billion tons is a lot, but not so much that we can find it with statistical confidence.”

Keeling says it would take a sustained drop in emissions, rather than a sudden decline related to the coronavirus pandemic, to show up more clearly in measurements of atmospheric CO2. “What really matters here is setting a new trajectory,” he said.

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The current pace of human-caused carbon emissions is increasingly likely to trigger irreversible damage to the planet

According to a comprehensive international study released last week, Researchers studying one of the most important and vexing topics in climate science — how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to a doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — found that global warming is extremely unlikely to be on the low end of estimates.

Scientists say it is likely that if human activities — such as burning oil, gas and coal along with deforestation — push carbon dioxide to such levels, the Earth’s global average temperature will most likely increase between 4.1 and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (2.3 and 4.5 degrees Celsius). The previous and long-standing estimated range of climate sensitivity, as first laid out in a 1979 report, was 2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius).

If the warming reaches the midpoint of this new range, it would be extremely damaging, said Kate Marvel, a physicist at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and Columbia University, who called it the equivalent of a “five-alarm fire” for the planet.   The new range is narrower than previous studies but shows at least a 95 percent chance that a doubling of carbon dioxide, which the world is on course to reach within the next five decades or so, would result in warming greater than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) relative to pre-industrial temperatures.


Breaking Climate News

Trump rolls back methane climate standards for oil and gas industry

The Trump administration is revoking rules that require oil and gas drillers to detect and fix leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that heats the planet far faster than carbon dioxide.

Methane has a much more potent short-term warming effect than CO2 and addressing it is critical to slowing global heating as the world is already on track to become more than 3C hotter than before industrialization.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that heats the planet far faster than CO2 and addressing it is critical to slowing global heating

The Trump administration’s changes apply to new wells and those drilled since 2016, when President Barack Obama enacted the regulation in an effort to help stall climate change during a boom in fracking – a method of extracting fossil gas by injecting water and chemicals underground. The regulations required companies to regularly check for methane leaks from valves, pipelines and tanks.

Roughly a quarter of global warming the planet has experienced in recent decades has been due to methane, said Robert Howarth, a researcher who studies methane at Cornell University. The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of the pollutant.

“Methane is the second most important gas after carbon dioxide,” Howarth said. “For the time it’s in the atmosphere, it’s about 120 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. There’s nowhere near as much of it in the atmosphere so it ends up being not quite as important overall, but it’s very powerful.”

Methane emitted today is largely gone in 30 years and totally gone in about 60 years, but it has a big effect on the climate in the meantime. That effect is most significant in the first months methane is released, when it is about 120 times stronger than carbon. That drops to around 86 times more powerful over 20 years and 33 times more powerful if compared with carbon over 100 years, Howarth said.

US methane emissions have become more concerning as scientists have begun to better understand their prevalence and impacts, and as gas production has continued to grow rapidly, increasing 10% last year.

Average global temperatures are already more than 1C higher. And they are expected to be 1.5C to 2C higher within the next 10 to 25 years, Howarth said. Reductions in carbon have a delayed effect on temperatures. But reductions in methane have a more immediate impact.

The world essentially cannot meet the near-term goals nations agreed to in an international climate agreement without reducing methane, Howarth said.


On the Path to Extinction

 


Ocean Warming Dooms Most Fish

The oceans could look much emptier by 2100, according to a new study that found that most fish species would not be able to survive in their current habitat if average global temperatures rise 4.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as The Guardian reported.

The researchers of the new paper said that 60 percent of fish species face a grave threat from global heating if temperatures approach that worst-case scenario level. The species under threat include many common fish found in grocery stores, including staples like Atlantic cod, Alaska pollock and sockeye salmon, and sport fishing favorites like swordfish, barracuda and brown trout, as CNN reported.

The new study, published in the journal Science, looked at how nearly 700 fresh and saltwater fish species respond to warming ocean temperatures. The problem for most fish is that as ocean temperatures rise, the oxygen level goes down, which makes it extremely challenging for embryos to survive.

“A 1.5C increase is already a challenge to some, and if we let global warming persist, it can get much worse,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a co-author on the paper and a climatologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, as The Guardian reported.

That 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold would result in 10 percent of marine species suffering over the next 80 years, including the aforementioned grocery staples.

However, even a 10 percent decline in fish species has a large ripple effect on ecosystems as one species being pushed out effects the food supply and the habits of many other species that have evolved to be interdependent.

“More than half of the species potentially at risk is quite astonishing, so we really emphasize that it’s important to take action and follow the political commitments to reduce climate change and protect marine habitats,” said Dr. Flemming Dahlke, a marine biologist at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute and one of the authors of the study, as CNN reported.

“Some species might successfully manage this change,” said Dahlke, as the Daily Mail reported. “But if you consider the fact that fish have adapted their mating patterns to specific habitats over extremely long time frames, and have tailored their mating cycles to specific ocean currents and available food sources, it has to be assumed that being forced to abandon their normal spawning areas will mean major problems for them.”

A lot of this is a conservative estimate since the study did not take into account pollution or the increased acidity of the ocean, which could present additional challenges to sensitive species, as The Guardian noted.
“Some tropical fish are already living in zones at their uppermost tolerance, their areas are already 104F,” Pörtner said. “Humankind is pushing the planet outside of a comfortable temperature range and we are starting to lose suitable habitat. It’s worth investing in the Paris Climate Accord goals.”


Seasonal allergies getting worse, the climate connection

Pollen related allergies and their symptoms are starting earlier in the year and seemingly getting worse, doctors around the world now reporting.  Allergy season is worse than ever, with a constellation of symptoms — runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and even difficulties in breathing, changes tracked back to the increasing global effects of climate change.

Increasingly, patients are telling their doctors that their allergy symptoms have become increasingly severe in recent years. One reason for this may be the rise in seasonal pollen counts, as demonstrated by ragweed, one of the most common allergens in the United States.

Studies show that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is produced when fossil fuels are burned for energy, leads to increased plant growth and pollen production. Between 1900 and 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide rose from 280 to 412 parts per million, which correlates with a more than twofold increase in the production of ragweed pollen, with trends projected to increase fourfold in the next 40 years with continued unchecked carbon dioxide emissions.

This escalation of seasonal pollen concentration does not only affect quality of life, it also has an economic impact, as those suffering from allergies spend more money on medicine to control and relieve their symptoms.

For those who are experiencing the familiar symptoms of sneezing, itchy eyes and stuffy nose, this is not just a “bad pollen” year. The world is warming and pollen is lasting longer and increasing in concentrations all around us.

Biohazard

Scientists Worry About Political Influence Over Coronavirus Vaccine Project

UPDATE; August 2, originally published July 31

“DEADLINE: Enable broad access to the public by October 2020,” the first slide read, with the date in bold.  It escaped no one that the proposed deadline also intersected nicely with President Trump’s need to curb the virus before the election in November.

Under constant pressure from a White House anxious for good news and a public desperate for a silver bullet to end the crisis, the government’s researchers are fearful of political intervention in the coming months and are struggling to ensure that the government maintains the right balance between speed and rigorous regulation, according to interviews with administration officials, federal scientists and outside experts.

Even in a less politically charged environment, there would be a fraught debate about how much to accelerate the process of trials and approval. The longer that vaccines are tested before being released, the likelier they are to be safe and effective.

Despite concerted efforts by the Trump administration and a bevy of pharmaceutical companies it is working with, the original October target has slipped, with the administration now pushing to have hundreds of millions of doses available by the end of the year or early 2021.

“There are a lot of people on the inside of this process who are very nervous about whether the administration is going to reach their hand into the Warp Speed bucket, pull out one or two or three vaccines, and say, ‘We’ve tested it on a few thousand people, it looks safe, and now we are going to roll it out,’” said Dr. Paul A. Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, who is a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee.    “They are really worried about that,” he added. “And they should be.”

Dr.  Fauci to the rescue?

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, reassured members of Congress and the public last Friday that the United States would likely have a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year or early in 2021, and pointedly cast doubt on efforts by Russia and China.

Dr. Fauci Reassures Congress “U.S. Will Likely Have Vaccine By Year’s End or Early 2021”

“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they’re administering the vaccine to anyone,” Dr. Fauci said, adding, “I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines.”

Dr. Fauci also cast doubt on a study, touted by Mr. Trump and conservatives, conducted by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit that showed an apparent benefit for hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that President Trump has touted as a Covid-19 treatment. “That study is a flawed study,” Mr. Fauci said.


–  what to expect

On Jan. 20, just nine days after Chinese health authorities published the DNA sequence for a new coronavirus that had sickened dozens of people in China, Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, wrote in an email: “I’m certain this will cause our next pandemic.”

The next day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first U.S. case of someone infected with what became known as COVID-19. Since then, as outbreaks intensified and the virus spread to Europe, and then the Americas, Osterholm, a flu expert with experience working in the CDC who heads up the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, has become one of the nation’s leading voices on the pandemic, weighing in on everything from masks to contact tracing.

A production facility of the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi in Val-de-Reuil, France.

“Everyone is looking at the vaccine as being a light switch: on or off. And I look at it as a rheostat, that’s going to take a long time, from turning it on from its darkest position to a lightest position. If you’re anticipating a light switch, you’re going to be concerned, confused, and in some cases very disappointed in what it might look like in those first days to months with a vaccine”, said Dr. Osterholm.

The White House has described the COVID-19 pandemic, when the president, on the rare occasion, acknowledges the full extent of it, has repeatedly set expectations of the virus is at the stage of the “beginning of the end”.  Dr. Osterholm and others within the medical community disagree with that optimistic assessment.

Dr. Osterholm went on to add… “We will be dealing with this virus forever. Effective and safe vaccines and hopefully ones with some durability will be very important, even critical tools, in fighting it. But the whole world is going to be experiencing COVID-19 ‘til the end of time.

“We’re not going to be vaccinating our way out of this to eight-plus billion people in the world right now. And if we don’t get durable immunity, we’re potentially looking at revaccination on a routine basis, if we can do that. We’ve really got to come to grips with actually living with this virus, for at least my lifetime, and at the same time, it doesn’t mean we can’t do a lot about it.”

The one of the main questions yet be answered and Administration’s, so-called “Wrap Speed” eight billion dollar (and counting) to push drug companies to rush development of a viable vaccine, are we going to see some of these vaccines fail in clinical studies?

One of the challenges we have, Dr. Osterholm explained, is what do we mean by fail? “What’s the definition? Some people right now have a view that any vaccine that isn’t like the measles vaccine is going to be a challenge, meaning they’ve got to work 93% to 98% of the time. I don’t think there’s any sense that that’s going to happen with this vaccine.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be an effective vaccine at 50%, 60% or 70%.”

Osterholm went on to explain, “We’ve never had a pandemic due to coronavirus before.”

“We’ve had influenza pandemics. With an influenza pandemic, you do get true waves, meaning you get a first big peak of cases, then the numbers come down substantially without any human intervention. It’s nothing we do. We’ve never understood why that happens, and then a few months later you get a second wave. At this point, that’s not what’s happening here.”

“This is like a forest fire and wherever there’s human wood to burn, it’ll do it. What we see, though, are these spikes in cases where human mitigation strategies ended, or they’re not adhering to them … This is just one constant pressure that’s occurring.”

Pandemic response failure – a befuddled White House response and an absence of Federal leadership — on this point, Osterholm explain, “We’ve failed because we declared victory over the virus when we had no business doing so. This virus has been poised to be transmitted in our communities, and we thought we had done enough to get it down, and then we gave up.”


At Today’s House hearing

Democrats on the House panel wasted little time in pointing out that the caseload is much lower in Europe and Asia than in the United States. Mr. Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee, displayed a chart showing the disparity. Pressed to explain, Dr. Fauci said countries in those parts of the world were more aggressive about shutting down as the pandemic raged.

“When they shut down, they shut down to the tune of about 95 percent, getting their baseline down to tens or hundreds of cases a day,” Dr. Fauci said.

By contrast, Fauci went on to explain that, “…only about 50 percent of the United States shut down, and the baseline of daily cases was much higher — as many as 20,000 new cases a day — even at its lowest. More recently, the United States has recorded as many as 70,000 new cases a day.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, suggested that lack of social cohesion and political leadership was to blame. To that Dr. Fauci said, “I think there was such a diversity of response in this country from different states that we really did not have a unified, bringing everything down.”

 

Bees 2

Loss of bees causes shortage of key food crops

Hawaii agriculture potential, and its growth and diversification in order to address home grown food security and sustainability, may be threatened by a loss of  worldwide loss of pollinating bees.  Bees

 New research appears to confirms earlier scientific findings that pollinating bees are on the decline worldwide.

  • Bees affected by loss of habitat, pesticides and climate crisis

A total of 131 crop fields were surveyed for bee activity and crop abundance by a coalition of scientists from the US, Canada and Sweden.

Species of wild bees, such as bumblebees, are suffering from a loss of flowering habitat, the use of toxic pesticides and, increasingly, the climate crisis.

A lack of bees in agricultural areas is limiting the supply of some food crops, a new US-based study has found, suggesting that declines in the pollinators may have serious ramifications for global food security.

Managed honeybees, meanwhile, are tended to by beekeepers, but have still been assailed by disease, leading to concerns that the three-quarters of the world’s food crops dependent upon pollinators could falter due to a lack of bees.

Of seven studied crops grown in 13 states across America, five showed evidence that a lack of bees is hampering the amount of food that can be grown, including apples, blueberries and cherries.

The researchers found that wild native bees contributed a surprisingly large portion of the pollination despite operating in intensively farmed areas largely denuded of the vegetation that supports them.

Wild bees are often more effective pollinators than honeybees but research has shown several species are in sharp decline.

The rusty patched bumblebee, for example, was the first bee to be placed on the US endangered species list in 2017 after suffering an 87% slump in the previous two decades.


Swaths of American agriculture is propped up by honeybees, frantically replicated and shifted around the country in hives in order to meet a growing need for crop pollination.

The US is at the forefront of divergent trends that are being replicated elsewhere in the world – as farming becomes more intensive to churn out greater volumes to feed a growing global population, tactics such as flattening wildflower meadows, spraying large amounts of insecticide and planting monocultural fields of single crops are damaging the bee populations crucial for crop pollination.

The research recommends that farmers gain a better understanding of the optimal amount of pollination needed to boost crop yields, as well as review whether the level of pesticide and fertilizer put on to fields is appropriate.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the amount of crop production dependent upon insect and other pollinators has increased 300% over the past 50 years. Pollination shortfalls could cause certain fruit and vegetables to become rarer and more expensive, triggering nutritional deficits in diets. Staple foods such as rice, wheat and corn won’t be affected, however, as they are pollinated via the wind.

“The crops that got more bees got significantly more crop production,” said Rachael Winfree, an ecologist and pollination expert at Rutgers University who was a senior author of the paper, published by the Royal Society.

“The trends we are seeing now are setting us up for food security problems,” Winfree said. “We aren’t yet in a complete crisis now but the trends aren’t going in the right direction.  Our study shows this isn’t a problem for 10 or 20 years from now – it’s happening right now.”

Medical Science

How Long Must We Wait for a Corona Virus Cure?

The Limits of Science

The common cold is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract.   Catching a cold is easy enough, and it can lead to health complications and death in extreme cases. It has been with humans since medical records have been kept.  To date, there is no antiviral medication that is an effective cure for the Common Cold.

In 1983, scientists discovered the virus that causes of HIV (AIDS).  Billions of dollars have been spent in R&D pursuing an effective vaccine and cure by the global scientific community. Since the beginning of its discovery, 74.9 million people have become infected with HIV and 32.0 million have died of AIDS-related illnesses. An estimated 1.7 million individuals worldwide acquired HIV in 2019, marking a 23% decline in new HIV infections since 2010.

Unlike COVID-19 which is airborne spread, the infectious spread of AIDS is limited to the fluid transmission of the disease from one infected person to another.

Like the Common Cold, no amount of money, time, scientific knowledge, technology and effort to date has so far produced a cure for AIDS.


Covid-19, a 21st century challenge for science

Doctors and scientists are scrambling to find treatments and drugs that can save the lives of infected people and perhaps even prevent infection. Politicians and a global economy is literally dying to get back to work.

Researchers around the world are developing more than 155 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 23 vaccines are in human trials. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.  Virus Vaccines Efforts

On 29 June, University of Oxford clinical scientists Martin Landray and Peter Horby changed how physicians around the world consider treating COVID-19—for the third time in little more than 3 weeks.

The principal investigators of a U.K. megatrial called Recovery, which has been testing existing drugs as therapies for the new infection, the pair had just finished reviewing data from 1596 patients who had received a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, two antivirals known to curb HIV, and 3376 patients who had received only standard care. In a press release, they and their Recovery colleagues announced there had been no significant difference in the death rate between the two groups. “This could have worked. And it was a bust,” says Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

Here’s what we know…

  • Scientists around the world are working on potential treatments and vaccines for the new coronavirus disease known as COVID-19.
  • Several companies are working on antiviral drugs, some of which are already in use against other illnesses, to treat people who already have COVID-19.
  • Other companies are working on vaccines that could be used as a preventive measure against the disease.

With confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide surpassing 14 million and continuing to grow, scientists are pushing forward with efforts to develop vaccines and treatments to slow the pandemic and lessen the disease’s damage.  Some of the earliest treatments will likely be drugs that are already approved for other conditions, or have been tested on other viruses. Meaning, what we can expect are treatments, not a cure for the near term, if ever. We are still working on a cure for the common cold.


Today’s COVID-19 Medical Treatment Options, and Political Snake Oil

Treatment Ratings Graph 1

Treatments Expected to Block the Virus

Antivirals can stop viruses such as H.I.V. and hepatitis C from hijacking our cells. Scientists are searching for antivirals that work against the new coronavirus.

  • STRONG EVIDENCE EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION

Remdesivir
Remdesivir, made by Gilead Science, was the first drug to get emergency authorization from the F.D.A. for use on Covid-19. It stops viruses from replicating by inserting itself into new viral genes. Remdesivir was originally tested as an antiviral against Ebola and Hepatitis C, only to deliver lackluster results. But preliminary data from trials that began this spring suggested the drug can reduce the hospital stays of people with severe cases of Covid-19 from 15 to 11 days. These early results did not show any effect on mortality, though retrospective data released in July hints that the drug might reduce death rates among those who are very ill.

  • TENTATIVE OR MIXED EVIDENCE
    Favipiravir
    Originally designed to beat back influenza, favipiravir blocks a virus’s ability to copy its genetic material. A small study in March indicated the drug might help purge the coronavirus from the airway, but results from larger, well-designed clinical trials are still pending.

EIDD-2801
Another antiviral originally designed to fight the flu, EIDD-2801 has had promising results against the new coronavirus in studies in cells and on animals. It is still being tested in humans.

Recombinant ACE-2
To enter cells, the coronavirus must first unlock them — a feat it accomplishes by latching onto a human protein called ACE-2. Scientists have created artificial ACE-2 proteins which might be able to act as decoys, luring the coronavirus away from vulnerable cells. Recombinant ACE-2 proteins have shown promising results in experiments on cells, but not yet in animals or people.

  • NOT PROMISING
    Lopinavir and ritonavir
    Twenty years ago, the F.D.A. approved this combination of drugs to treat H.I.V. Recently, researchers tried them out on the new coronavirus and found that they stopped the virus from replicating. But clinical trials in patients proved disappointing. In early July, the World Health Organization suspended trials on patients hospitalized for Covid-19. But they didn’t rule out studies to see if the drugs could help patients not sick enough to be hospitalized, or to prevent people exposed to the new coronavirus from falling ill. The drug could also still have a role to play in certain combination treatments.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine
German chemists synthesized chloroquine in the 1930s as a drug against malaria. A less toxic version, called hydroxychloroquine, was invented in 1946, and later was approved for other diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers discovered that both drugs could stop the coronavirus from replicating in cells. Since then, they’ve had a tumultuous ride through the first few months of the pandemic. A few small studies on patients offered some hope that hydroxychloroquine could treat Covid-19. The World Health Organization launched a randomized clinical trial in March to see if it was indeed safe and effective for Covid-19, as did Novartis and a number of universities.

Meanwhile, President Trump repeatedly promoted hydroxychloroquine at press conferences, touting it as a “game changer,” and even took it himself. The F.D.A. temporarily granted hydroxychloroquine emergency authorization for use in Covid-19 patients — which a whistleblower later claimed was the result of political pressure. In the wake of the drug’s newfound publicity, demand spiked, resulting in shortages for people who rely on hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for other diseases.

When data emerged from the randomized clinical trials, the message was clear: hydroxychloroquine didn’t help people with Covid-19 get better or prevent healthy people from contracting the coronavirus. (One large-scale study that concluded the drug was harmful as well was later retracted.) The World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health and Novartis have since halted trials investigating hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19, and the F.D.A. revoked its emergency approval. The F.D.A. now warns that the drug can cause a host of serious side effects to the heart and other organs when used to treat Covid-19.

In July, researchers at Henry Ford hospital in Detroit published a study finding that hydroxychloroquine reduced mortality in Covid-19 patients. President Trump praised the study on Twitter, but experts raised doubts about it because it was not a randomized controlled trial. Still, the White House has initiated a push for the F.D.A. to reauthorize hydroxychloroquine as an emergency Covid-19 treatment.

Despite negative results, a number of hydroxychloroquine trials have continued. A recent analysis by STAT and Applied XL found more than 180 ongoing clinical trials testing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, for treating or preventing Covid-19. Although it’s clear the drugs are no panacea, it’s possible they could work in combination with other treatments, or when given in early stages of the disease.


Mimicking the Immune System

Most people who get Covid-19 successfully fight off the virus with a strong immune response. Drugs might help people who can’t mount an adequate defense.

  • PROMISING EVIDENCE EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION
    Convalescent plasma
    A century ago, doctors filtered plasma from the blood of recovered flu patients. So-called convalescent plasma, rich with antibodies, helped people sick with flu fight their illness. Now researchers are trying out this strategy on Covid-19. Early trials with convalescent plasma have yielded promising, if preliminary, results, and the F.D.A. has authorized its use on very sick patients infected by the coronavirus.
  • TENTATIVE OR MIXED EVIDENCE
    REGN-COV2 and other monoclonal antibodies
    Convalescent plasma contains a mix of different antibodies, some of which can attack the coronavirus, and some of which can’t. Researchers have been sifting through the slurry for the most potent antibodies against Covid-19. Synthetic copies of these molecules, known as monoclonal antibodies, can be manufactured in bulk and then injected into patients. Safety trials for this treatment have only just begun, with several more on the way.

Interferons
Interferons are molecules our cells naturally produce in response to viruses, rousing the immune system to attack. Injecting synthetic interferons is now a standard treatment for a number of immune disorders. Rebif, for example, is prescribed for multiple sclerosis. Early studies, including experiments in mice and cells, hint that injecting interferons may help against Covid-19. There’s even some evidence that the molecules could help prevent healthy people from getting infected.


Putting Out Friendly Fire

The most severe symptoms of Covid-19 are the result of the immune system’s overreaction to the virus. Scientists are testing drugs that can rein in its attack

  • STRONG EVIDENCE
    Dexamethasone
    This cheap and widely available steroid blunts many types of immune responses. Doctors have long used it to treat allergies, asthma and inflammation. In June, it became the first drug shown to reduce Covid-19 deaths. That study of more than 6,000 people, which has not yet been published in a scientific journal, found that dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in patients on ventilators, and by one-fifth in patients on oxygen. It may be less likely to help — and may even harm — patients who are at an earlier stage of Covid-19 infections, however. In its Covid-19 treatment guidelines, the National Institutes of Health recommends only using dexamethasone in patients with COVID-19 who are on a ventilator or are receiving supplemental oxygen.
  • PROMISING EVIDENCE EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION
    Cytosorb
    Cytosorb is a cartridge that filters immune-signalling molecules called cytokines from the blood. Although cytokines are essential for fighting off diseases, they can sometimes trigger a runaway response. The body produces so much inflammation that it damages itself. By removing excess cytokines, Cytosorb may be able to cool this so-called cytokine storm. The machine can purify a patient’s entire blood supply about 70 times in a 24-hour period. It was granted emergency use authorization by the F.D.A. for Covid-19 after reports in March suggested that it had helped dozens of severely ill Covid-19 patients in Europe and China. Many clinical trials evaluating the device’s effectiveness against Covid-19 are now underway.
  • TENTATIVE OR MIXED EVIDENCE
    Cytokine Inhibitors
    Researchers have created a number of drugs that can potentially halt cytokine storms, and have proven effective against arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. Some turn off the supply of molecules that launch the production of the cytokines themselves. Others block the receptors on immune cells to which cytokines would normally bind. A few block the cellular messages they send. Against the coronavirus, several of these drugs, including tocilizumab, sarilumab and anakinra, have offered modest help in some trials, but faltered in others. The drug company Regeneron recently announced that a branded version of sarilumab, Kevzara, failed Phase 3 clinical trials.

Stem cells
Certain kinds of stem cells can secrete anti-inflammatory molecules. Over the years, researchers have tried to use them as a treatment for cytokine storms, and now dozens of clinical trials are under way to see if they can help patients with Covid-19. But these stem cell treatments haven’t worked well in the past, and it’s not clear yet if they’ll work against the coronavirus.


Assisting Our Bodies

Caregivers can physically adjust a patient’s body to help weather Covid-19.

  • STRONG EVIDENCE
    Prone positioning
    The simple act of flipping Covid-19 patients onto their bellies opens up the lungs. The maneuver has become commonplace in hospitals around the world since the start of the pandemic. It might help some individuals avoid the need for ventilators entirely. The treatment’s benefits continue to be tested in a range of clinical trials.
  • STRONG EVIDENCE EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION
    Ventilators and other respiratory support devices
    Devices that help people breathe are an essential tool in the fight against deadly respiratory illnesses. Some patients do well if they get an extra supply of oxygen through the nose or via a mask connected to an oxygen machine. Patients in severe respiratory distress may need to have a ventilator breathe for them until their lungs heal. Doctors are divided about how long to treat patients with noninvasive oxygen before deciding whether or not they need a ventilator. Not all Covid-19 patients who go on ventilators survive, but the devices are thought to be lifesaving in many cases.

Undoing the Damage

Covid-19 can harm not just the lungs, but other parts of the body. Researchers are searching for ways to block or reverse this devastation.

Enoxaparin and other anticoagulants – The coronavirus can invade cells in the lining of blood vessels, leading to tiny clots that can cause strokes and other serious harm. Breaking up these clots with anticoagulants, which have long been used on patients with various heart conditions, improves the prospects of seriously ill patients. Early data has linked the use of anticoagulants to survival among Covid-19 patients, and many clinical trials teasing out this relationship are now underway.

  • PROMISING EVIDENCE
    Renal replacement therapy
    About one in five people with Covid-19 who are admitted to the ICU suffer from acute kidney injury. It’s not clear yet why — possibilities include the coronavirus infecting kidney cells or the immune system attacking the kidneys with a cytokine storm. In its guidelines for treating Covid-19, the National Institutes recommends filtering toxins from the blood with dialysis or other forms of renal replacement therapy. But they warn that few studies have yet been carried out to determine the best treatment for damaged kidneys.

Pseudoscience and Fraud

False claims about Covid-19 cures abound. The F.D.A. maintains a list of more than 80 fraudulent Covid-19 products, and the W.H.O. debunks many myths about the disease.

WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS
Drinking or injecting bleach and disinfectants
In April, President Trump suggested that disinfectants such as alcohol or bleach might be effective against the coronavirus if directly injected into the body. His comments were immediately refuted by health professionals and researchers around the world — as well as the makers of Lysol and Clorox. Ingesting disinfectant would not only be ineffective against the virus, but also hazardous — possibly even deadly. In July, Federal prosecutors charged four Florida men with marketing bleach as a cure for COVID-19.

WARNING: NO EVIDENCE
UV light
President Trump also speculated about hitting the body with “ultraviolet or just very powerful light.” Researchers have used UV light to sterilize surfaces, including killing viruses, in carefully managed laboratories. But UV light would not be able to purge the virus from within a sick persons’ body. This kind of radiation can also damage the skin. Most skin cancers are a result of exposure to the UV rays naturally present in sunlight.

WARNING: NO EVIDENCE
Silver
The F.D.A. has threatened legal action against a host of people claiming silver-based products are safe and effective against Covid-19 — including televangelist Jim Bakker and InfoWars host Alex Jones. Several metals do have natural antimicrobial properties. But products made from them have not been shown to prevent or treat the coronavirus.


For more details on evaluating treatments, see the N.I.H. Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines.