TIME climate change

Here’s How Much Money Climate Action Could Save Us

Inside The American Electric Power Co. Coal-Fired Power Plant
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Obama administration sees cost savings, health benefits from aggressive climate policies

If the United States doesn’t mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution will worsen, labor hours will decrease, and crop prices will be higher, a new report from the EPA warns.

The comprehensive survey estimates the potential economic damage from global warming, tallying up billions of dollars that could be saved through aggressive climate policies.

By surveying six sectors — health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agriculture and forestry, and ecosystems — the EPA report found that global warming’s associated extreme temperatures and increased incidence of natural disasters could lead to a variety of unforeseen consequences. In the health sector, the EPA estimated that more than 69,000 lives could be at risk by 2100 due to worsening air quality and extreme temperatures. Plus, more than 1.2 billion labor hours could be lost in the same period due to extreme temperatures.

The report also forecasted that mitigation efforts taken now could prevent the loss of more than a third of the U.S. oyster and scallop supplies and more than a quarter of the clam supply by 2100. The damage to resulting from water shortages could range as high as $180 billion.

The EPA report comes at a time when House Republicans are preparing to vote this week to weaken or kill the Obama administration’s limits on power plant emissions, The Hill reports.

TIME space

Charlotte Kelly: Thinking of My Dad in Space

Courtesy Virginia Beach City Public Schools Scott Kelly and Charlotte Kelly

Charlotte Kelly, the 11-year-old daughter of astronaut Scott Kelly, is a TIME For Kids correspondent for the year

The 11-year-old daughter of Astronaut Scott Kelly writes about how she celebrated Father's Day with him

I am on summer break from school right now, but before school ended, my dad was able to set up a video conference with my class. All of the kids really enjoyed seeing him and asking him questions about space. I don’t care how many times I see it, I still have to laugh when I see him flip around in zero gravity and eat floating M&M’s.

Two nights ago, my mom and I went to a beach party with my classmate Joe and his family. Just around 9:10 p.m., we were all able to look into the night sky and see the International Space Station fly over. It looked like a bright star just moving across the sky. For those four minutes we were all watching, I couldn’t help but miss my dad.

Today is Father’s Day. My sister and I were able to do a video conference with our dad at the same time. She was in Houston, I was in Virginia Beach and my dad was flying over us! Really! He was actually flying over us. He put his video monitor in his window and took a picture of us with Virginia Beach in the background.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

Scientists Warn ‘Sixth Extinction’ May Be Underway

extinction
Science Advances

The paper used conservative premises and still arrived what scientists said was a concerning conclusion

A new paper warns that a major extinction event, one that would be the sixth in our planet’s history, may be underway. The authors of the paper, published in Science Advances, sought to determine whether recent loss in biodiversity has been caused by human activity; the conclusion they reach is that “a sixth mass extinction is already under way.”

The scientists’ abstract concludes:

Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

As Kaleigh Rogers points out at Vice, this paper hardly breaks ground in its premise; the idea that Earth is undergoing the sixth extinction has been written about by scientists before. What differs, here, are the criteria; the scientists estimated very conservatively when it came to how many species have recently gone extinct, and still found that conservative estimate showing the likelihood of an environmental cataclysm.

TIME Natural Disasters

This Is What It’s Like to Get Caught in an Avalanche

A helmet cam video shows what it's like to get buried by snow

It’s every skier’s worst nightmare, but one that can indeed be survived.

Kristoffer Carlsson survived an avalanche while skiing in 2011, and brought back helmet-cam video of the snow burying him. Experts say that the best way to survive in Carlsson’s scary situation is to do exactly what he did: Use your hands to create a pocket of air as the snow falls.

TIME space

Check Out These Beautiful NASA Photos From Across the Solar System

The Deep Space Network beams back images from space

It’s one of the most mysterious aspects of the universe—what, exactly, is out there? NASA’s Deep Space Network has for decades been helping us get closer to understanding, sending back images from across our solar system. It’s a glimpse into just how vastly different, and how strangely lovely, our neighboring yet still far-off planets are.

Read Next: TIME is following astronaut Scott Kelly’s yearlong mission to the International Space Station in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer for the series here.

TIME animals

Why Elephant Advocates Crushed A Ton of Ivory In Times Square

ivory trade
Justin Worland Hundreds of ivory trinkets sit on display in New York's Times Square before their destruction.

'We're not only crushing ivory, we're crushing the ivory market'

Correction appended: June 21

More than a ton of ivory taken from poached animals was crushed in New York’s Times Square on Friday to highlight the threat of the ivory trade to the African elephant. Environmental activists say the ivory crushing gathering, which featured lawmakers, wildlife advocates and celebrities, will show that the illegal ivory trade can’t continue.

“Today’s ivory crush will send a message to the world,” U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told a crowd of lawmakers, wildlife advocates and celebrities. “We’re not only crushing ivory, we’re crushing the ivory market.”

When the speeches concluded, a 25-ton rock crusher buzzed to life and began grinding the first of hundreds of seized ivory pieces into a sand-like pulp. The hundreds of wildlife supporters gathered to watch broke out in applause as shards of ivory flew from the machine. The destroyed ivory, along with six tons that were destroyed in 2013, will be used to create an elephant memorial.

Read More: How DNA Could Help Catch Elephant Poachers

The event comes the week before the U.S. is expected to issue new regulations prohibiting the ivory trade, and weeks after the Chinese government said it would plan to do the same. Wildlife activists say such actions have never been more urgent. The prevalence of elephant poaching has increased in recent years, largely as a result of increased demand for ivory in China, and as a result, elephant populations have dwindled. Fewer than 500,000 elephants roam Africa today, and poachers kill 50,000 more each year.

Destroying ivory that has been traded illegally may seem like a no-brainer, but the practice has drawn criticism from a variety of groups, including some who support the conservation of wildlife. Some say that ivory contains evidence that could be used against traders. Others argue that ivory crushes reduce the supply and increases the likelihood that poachers will hunt for elephants, they say.

But the groups behind the ivory crushing say the public awareness of the event far outweighs the reduction in supply that destroying ivory may cause.

“I had no idea that the U.S. was one of the largest ivory markets in the world,” said Food Network star Katie Lee, who works with conservation group 96 Elephants. “Every time I tell someone the statistics, they’re shocked. The more people that hear about this, the more change that can take place.”

Jeffrey Flocken, who leads the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s North American branch, described the one ton load as “a drop in the ocean” when it comes to satisfying “infinite demand.” Still, he said, crushing the ivory sends a clear message that the illegal trade won’t be tolerated.

(An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Jeffrey Flocken’s statement.)

TIME A Year In Space

See 2 Dramatic Views of Space Travel

International Space Station Scott Kelly
Scott Kelly—NASA

A pair of pictures tell a powerful tale

A trip to the International Space Station starts and ends with fire, but in between, there is only a sweet, shimmery drift. That’s a fact of your work life if you’re one of the tiny handful of people who fly those missions, but for the rest of us, it’s nice to have a little photographic evidence now and again. For that reason, this is a good week to offer a hat tip to astronaut Scott Kelly who can be found 251 mi. (404 km) above the Earth, where he’ll be until his year in space mission ends next March; and to NASA photographer Bill Ingalls, who can be found, well, pretty much anywhere on the planet his history-capturing services are needed. As the pictures above and below prove, both men have been doing their jobs exceptionally well.

Kelly’s picture was part of his “Good night from the International Space Station” series, a regular image he posts on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds before bunking down for the night—which easily qualifies him as having a much, much more interesting Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feed than you do.

MORE: See The Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

In the foreground of the image is one of the station’s many projecting limbs of hardware. In the background is the rainbow-hued onion skin of Earth’s atmosphere and the spine of the Milky Way, ranging in all directions.

Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-15M Landing
Bill Ingalls—NASAThe Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft lands with Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from European Space Agency (ESA) near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on June 11, 2015.

Ingalls’ picture was taken on June 11, from the open hatch of helicopter 28, as it hovered over the Kazakhstan steppes when the Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Terri Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti returned to Earth. As a Soyuz makes its final approach, it is moving at a parachute-controlled 24 ft. per sec (8.5 m/sec), which is a whole lot slower than the speed it was traveling during its blistering plunge through the atmosphere, but still way too fast for a safe landing. So one second before impact, two small clusters of engines ignite, braking the spacecraft to just 5 ft. per sec (1.5 m/sec). That’s a speed that you’ll easily survive but you won’t remotely enjoy, as any crewmember who has ever experienced the teeth-rattling impact of hitting the Kazakh deck will tell you.

But never mind. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti returned home safely, Kelly logged another busy day aboard the station, and the rest of us rode along in our own small way, thanks to the people who capture the images of the otherworldly places humanity goes.

TIME Innovation

See Why NASA Is Dying to Visit Jupiter’s Moon Europa

"The time has come to seek answers"

A new mission to see if water or life exists beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa has moved from concept to development, NASA announced this week.

“Observations of Europa have provided us with tantalizing clues over the last two decades, and the time has come to seek answers to one of humanity’s most profound questions,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a public statement.

An observational spacecraft is slated to launch by the late 2020’s. After several years, the craft will enter Jupiter’s orbit, offering upwards of 45 opportunities to fly within shutter range of Europa, collecting images of the planet’s surface and possibly “tasting” spumes from massive geysers erupting into space. However, the craft won’t actually land on the Europa’s surface.

The spacecraft will have to take only a glancing look, given the intense levels of radiation. “Any mission that goes in the vicinity of Europa gets cooked pretty quickly,” says Europa mission project scientist Robert Pappalardo.

Europa first captivated NASA scientists in the late 1990’s, when the Hubble telescope returned images of the planet’s icy crust. Scientists theorized that an ocean might lay beneath the crust, holding twice as much water as large as all of Earth’s oceans combined. NASA hopes to gain a deep enough understanding of the water’s composition to see if it contains signs of life or life-sustaining nutrients.

“That would mean the origin of life must be pretty easy throughout the galaxy and beyond,” Pappalardo says.

TIME Environment

The Surprising Link Between Trans Fat and Deforestation

palm oil deforestration Nutella
Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images A tree stands alone in a logged area prepared for palm oil plantation near Lapok in Malaysia's Sarawak State in 2009.

The ban will likely lead to an increase in palm oil cultivation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans fat this week in a move hailed as major step forward in the fight against heart disease. But the move may have some unfortunate environmental consequences. The increased demand for palm oil—the leading replacement for trans fat—will likely lead to deforestation as wooded areas in the tropics are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.

“It’s the single greatest immediate threat to tropical forests and wildlife,” said David Wilcove, Princeton University professor of public affairs and ecology and evolutionary biology, about palm oil. “It is the leading cause of deforestation and has been for a number of years.”

When the trans fat ban takes effect in three years, experts say that palm oil will be the clear alternative for food producers. In 2006, the FDA enacted a rule that manufacturers label trans fat on food products—and palm oil imports the United States jumped by 60%. The number will be much larger this time around, experts say.

“The labeling rule gives us a pretty clear indication that actually banning trans fats is going to further increase U.S. imports of palm oil,” said Jeff Conant, who leads the international forests program at the Friends of the Earth environmental group.

But with the new demand for palm oil also comes an opportunity to advocate for creating better regulations for the product, Conant said. Many manufacturers already prohibit their suppliers from cutting down new forest and instead ask that they rely on land that was already cleared. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil develops these standards and monitors the production of palm oil. Conant says the FDA rule provides the perfect opportunity to encode standards like these into law.

“Until now we’ve been saying avoid products that use palm oil but now that’s not really possible,” he said. “Now that we have mandatory rules for eliminating trans fat from our diets, we need mandatory rules to protect rain forests.”

TIME weather

Earth Just Had Its Warmest Spring on Record

People gather in in Central Park as temperatures in Manhattan hit 90 degrees F (32C) for the first time in 2015, in New York City on June 11, 2015.
Kena Betancur—AFP/Getty Images People gather in in Central Park as temperatures in Manhattan hit 90 degrees F (32C) for the first time in 2015, in New York City on June 11, 2015.

It was officially the warmest May ever, too

This year is shaping up to be a hot one—literally.

This past May was officially the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a new report. What’s more, researchers say Earth experienced the warmed spring and first five months of the year on record, too. Land and sea temperatures across the globe were higher than the agency has ever recorded in more than 130 years.

Last month was 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit above the average worldwide of 58.6 degrees, the agency said. And the spring averaged 1.53 degrees above the the typical temperature. In the U.S., May turned out to be the country’s wettest month on record.

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