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Science & Technology News from around the world.

World leaders applaud US formal return to Paris climate pact

The United States is back in the Paris climate accord, just 107 days after it left. While Friday’s return is heavily symbolic, world leaders say they expect America to prove its seriousness after four years of being pretty much absent. They are especially anticipating an announcement from the U.S. in coming months on its goal for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2030.The U.S. return to the Paris agreement became official Friday, almost a month after President Joe Biden told the United Nations that America wants back in. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office reversing the pullout ordered by his predecessor, President Donald Trump. The Trump administration had announced its withdrawal from the Paris accord in 2019 but it didn't become effective until Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, because of provisions in the agreement.United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that the official American re-entry “is itself very important,” as is Biden’s announcement that the U.S. will return to providing climate aid to poorer nations, as promised in 2009.“It’s the political message that’s being sent,” said Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief. She was one of the leading forces in hammering out the 2015 mostly voluntary agreement where nations set their own goals to reduce greenhouse gases.One fear was that other nations would follow America in abandoning the climate fight, but none did, Figueres said. She said the real issue was four years of climate inaction by the Trump administration. American cities, states and businesses still worked to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide, but without the federal government.“From a political symbolism perspective, whether it’s 100 days or four years, it’s basically the same thing,” Figueres said. “It’s not about how many days. It’s the political symbolism that the largest economy refuses to see the opportunity of addressing climate change.”“We’ve lost too much time,” Figueres said. United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said America has to prove its leadership to the rest of the world, but she said she has no doubt it will when it submits its required emissions cutting targets. The Biden administration promises to announce them before an Earth Day summit in April. “We hope they will translate into a very meaningful reduction of emissions and they will be an example for other countries to follow,” Guterres said. Already more than 120 nations, including No. 1 emitter China, have promised to have net zero carbon emissions around midcentury.University of Maryland environment professor Nate Hultman, who worked on the Obama administration’s official Paris goal, said he expects a 2030 target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions between 40% and 50% from the 2005 baseline levels.Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy panel, has criticized Biden for rejoining Paris, tweeting: “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change. The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.″ A longtime international goal, included in the Paris accord with an even more stringent target, is to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since that time.The U.S. rejoining the Paris accord and coming up with an ambitious target for emissions cuts would make limiting warming "to well below 2 degrees — not just to 2 degrees but below 2 degrees — a lot more likely,” said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, energy and climate director for the Breakthrough Institute.___Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.___Read stories on climate issues by The Associated Press at https://apnews.com/hub/climate___Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Mississippi: Up to 7,000 bodies from asylum may be in field

Mississippi: Up to 7,000 bodies from asylum may be in field

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Some of the boxes stacked inside anthropologist Molly Zuckerman's laboratory contain full bones — a skull, a jaw, or a...

Pledge drive urges funding racially diverse climate efforts

DETROIT (AP) — Ashindi Maxton was distraught as she toured neighborhoods in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code and met residents who live in one of the most polluted communities in Michigan. They live against the backdrop of heavy industrial sites that have long been a major concern in the nation’s largest Black-majority city, which has some of the country’s highest asthma rates among children and a lengthy history of environmental concerns. Residents shared stories of loved ones who grew sick after living in close proximity to the industrial sites, and also noted it’s often hard to breathe because of a thick, chemical stench that is most profound in the summer. It was a defining moment for Maxton, co-founder of the Donors of Color Network, a philanthropic group dedicated to racial equity and funding environmental projects and other racial justice movements nationwide.“Most of the people I know have more than one illness,” said 68-year-old Emma Lockridge, who has lived near an oil refinery for more than three decades and suffers from a rare blood cancer. Her brother, sister, mother and father all died from cancers or disease they blame on environmental toxins.“It just makes me want to cry. The environmental impact on our lives, no one should be living like this. We’ve got to figure out a better way,” Lockridge told The Associated Press.It’s because of tragedies like this that the Donors of Color Network launched a Climate Funders Justice Pledge Thursday, challenging the nation’s climate philanthropists to shift 30% of their donations toward environmental efforts led by Black, Indigenous, Latino and other people of color. “People say we have 10 years to solve the climate crisis but people of color are living it right now,” Maxton said. “Organizations led by people of color are chronically underfunded and there is a ... vibrant set of leaders and organizations that people can fund.”While the fight against climate change and for environmental justice has benefited in recent years from a growing push by politicians and activists, research shows funding isn’t spread equitably to communities of color, which are often hit hardest. A study last year by the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School found that between 2016 and 2017, 12 national environmental grant makers awarded $1.34 billion to organizations in the Gulf and Midwest regions, but of that, just $18 million — 1.3% — was awarded to groups dedicated to environmental justice. “What we’re asking for is everyone to collectively acknowledge that 1.3% is a systemic failure,” Maxton said. “We haven’t met anyone ... who thinks that is a sign of a healthy or winning climate movement." By setting a 30% goal, “you have a metric to strive for," Maxton added. “We felt it was really important for people to set a baseline of what racial equity should look like when it lands in a budget. It should show that you are investing in the communities that are most impacted by the climate crisis.”But there are barriers. New School professor Ana Baptista, who led the Tishman study, said several foundations told her they were concerned smaller organizations led by people of color didn't have the infrastructure to handle a large donation.But Baptista also found that other groups openly acknowledged longstanding structural racism and bias within the philanthropy sector that has led to environmental groups led by people of color being under-resourced and underrepresented in decision-making, with most funding going toward white-led efforts.“I think there’s definitely a great opportunity right now, with the increased awareness and re-centering of racial equity and racial justice within philanthropy, and an important moment of reckoning that we should use to hold these foundations accountable,” Baptista said. “Now is where the rubber meets the road and it’s a moment to put your money where your mouth is."The centerpiece of the pledge drive is to increase the share of funding to 30% over the next two years to groups with boards and senior staff that are at least half people of color, and whose work is focused on the most environmentally impacted communities.As a starting point, funders who take the pledge commit to disclosing within one month the percentage of their climate giving that is currently directed to such groups. The pledge drive is being supported by some of the nation’s top environmental groups led by people of color and six top funders, including The Kresge Foundation, which has already committed to the 30% goal.Kresge’s pledge comes after a $30 million grant announced last year to support nearly 60 racial justice and community-led efforts across the nation. Separately, they’ve increased funding to climate justice groups led by people of color from about 5%-7% in 2012 to more than 30% in 2019 and 2020.“Equity is obviously a central concern for us because of how structural racism is a barrier of opportunity,” said Lois DeBacker, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Environment Program. “If we're going to win on climate change in this country, the climate movement needs to look like all of the country. It does, but it hasn't been equally funded."The pledge drive comes at an opportune time. President Joe Biden signed sweeping executive orders last month to transform the nation’s heavily fossil fuel-powered economy into a clean-burning one, while also pledging to make environmental justice central to the White House’s efforts to fight climate change. He signed an order to establish an environmental justice council and directed the government to spend 40% of clean energy efforts in disadvantaged communities that bear the brunt of pollution.It also comes on the heels of proposed legislation by Democratic lawmakers Rep. Cori Bush and Sens. Edward Markey and Tammy Duckworth that would create a federal system to comprehensively identify the demographic factors, environmental burdens, socioeconomic conditions and public health concerns that are related to environmental justice. Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with Keep It in the Ground, a campaign dedicated to keeping the world's remaining fossil fuels underground, and a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the pledge drive is crucial.“It is no surprise and it has been no surprise for generations that the communities that are dealing with the highest instances of disease and sickness associated with toxic pollution are communities of color,” Goldtooth said. “It’s not about a short-term investment to address immediate concerns, it’s about shifting the entire landscape to address the generations of destruction and address the ways in which Black, brown and Indigenous communities have carried America’s addiction to fossil fuels and toxic pollution,” he said.The NAACP launched its own Environmental and Climate Justice Network in 2009 after it became clear Black communities were being impacted hard, and is supporting the climate pledge drive.“It's horrific the number of ways that we are disproportionately impacted,” said the program's director, Jacqui Patterson, noting in particular Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in and around New Orleans. “We are supporting it because we are on the front lines of these challenges.”For Mark Magaña, founding president and CEO of GreenLatinos, the fight is personal. His organization has worked for years to spread awareness and shed light on how Latino communities have been hurt by climate change and environmental issues. Magaña said many Latino Americans live in areas devastated by natural disasters made more extreme because of climate change, from wildfires in California, to hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico, and flooding in Florida. “The front-line communities need to be able to be heard," Magaña said. “When you're working on pennies on the dollar relative to what mainstream environmental leaders get ... it is unbelievable and unacceptable."“That's why this pledge is important," he said. “It puts the number where it needs to be as a floor to start with so we can really move toward equity and justice."___Stafford is an investigative reporter on The Associated Press’ Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kat__stafford.
Japanese supply run to space station delayed again

Japanese supply run to space station delayed again

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A Japanese supply run to the International Space Station has been delayed again.The countdown was halted Saturday local time...
EU warns of legal action over air quality standards

EU warns of legal action over air quality standards

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's top environment official on Tuesday warned several member countries that they face legal action if they continue to...

China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover

BEIJING (AP) — China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on...
Greek museum strike shut sites in Athens, Crete

Greek museum strike shut sites in Athens, Crete

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Museums and archaeological sites in the wider Athens area and on the Greek island of Crete are shut for the...
Lava spreads more than 2 miles from Philippine volcano

Lava spreads more than 2 miles from Philippine volcano

LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) — Lava flowing out a Philippine volcano has spread up to 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles) since it began intense eruptions more...
Popular Alaska peak weighs new rules for climbers' poop

Popular Alaska peak weighs new rules for climbers' poop

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Climbers on North America's tallest mountain may have to start packing out more of their poop after a researcher determined...
Al-Qaida in Syria losing ground in battles with insurgents

Al-Qaida in Syria losing ground in battles with insurgents

BEIRUT (AP) — For the first time since its meteoric rise in 2012 amid the chaos of war, al-Qaida's branch in Syria is in...