Balance/Sustainability — Hydrogen and helium shortages put weather balloons at risk

Disruptions to global hydrogen and helium supplies have forced the National Weather Service to scale back weather balloon launches, which could impact climate forecasting and research, The New York Times reports.

To replace dwindling balloons — made worse by the closure of a Cape Cod launch site last year — the agency has relied on balloons at sites still open, as well as ground-based sensors, satellites and commercial aircraft, according to the newspaper.

While the National Weather Service stressed that these changes would not affect forecasts and warnings, other meteorologists expressed concern. The balloons are typically launched twice a day, 12 hours apart, and can make observations up to a height of around 20 miles, The Times reported.

“We can’t go back and get this data,” Sandra Yuter, an expert in remote sensing of weather data at North Carolina State University, told The Times. “We are going to have big differences.

welcome to balance, a newsletter that follows the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We are Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. A friend sent you this newsletter? Subscribe here and check out today’s full edition here.

Today we will explore a decision by the European Union to launch a new sanctions package against Moscow, including a ban on Russian coal. Next, we’ll look at a new study detailing illegal fishing and labor abuses on the high seas.

EU targets Russian coal in new sanctions package

The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it would impose a ban on coal imports from Russia as part of its latest sanctions package against Moscow.

  • The ban, worth 4 billion euros a year ($4.4 billion), “will reduce another important source of income for Russia”, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in a press release.
  • In 2020, the European Union depended on Russia for 19.3% of its coal, according to the European Commission’s Eurostat website.

While earlier media reports on Tuesday suggested the new package could include an oil ban, the EU leader only said the commission was “working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports”.

Pressure increase: Noting that the four sanctions packages the EU has issued so far “have hit hard and limited the Kremlin’s political and economic options”, von der Leyen stressed the need “to further increase our pressure”.

“Today we are proposing to go further in our sanctions,” she said. “We’re going to make them wider and sharper, so they cut even deeper into the Russian economy.”

Prohibition of transaction to banks: This fifth sanctions package contains five other pillars in addition to the coal ban, including a complete ban on transactions on four key Russian banks.

These banks, which, according to von der Leyen, would now be “completely cut off from the markets”, represent 23% of the market share of the Russian banking sector.

Prohibition on ships, with some exceptions: A third part of the package is the banning of Russian and Russian-operated vessels from EU ports, apart from in some cases covering essential goods such as agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid and energy. , the EU leader’s statement said.


Another pillar of the package involves “targeted export bans” worth around 10 billion euros ($10.9 billion) in areas such as quantum computing, advanced semiconductors and sensitive machinery.

“With this, we will continue to degrade Russia’s technological base and industrial capacity,” von der Leyen said.

‘Cut the flow of money’: The fifth embargo concerns 5.5 billion euros ($6 billion) in new specific imports of products such as wood, cement, seafood and alcohol.

The purpose of these sanctions, according to von der Leyen, is “to cut off the flow of money from Russia and its oligarchs.”

Removal of financial support: The latest part of the sanctions package includes ‘very targeted measures’, such as an EU-wide ban on Russian companies’ participation in public procurement in member states, as well as the exclusion of any support financial support to Russian public bodies, the commission explained the president.

More on the horizon: Von der Leyen said the committee was working on additional sanctions, including a ban on oil imports, and considering other ideas put forward by EU member states, such as certain types of taxes.

“Having a clear position is not only crucial for us in Europe, but also for the rest of the world,” von der Leyen said. “A clear position against the violation of the fundamental principles of the world order.”

To read the full story, please click here.

Abusive work, endemic illegal fishing at sea: study

Coastal regions off West Africa, the mid-Atlantic near Portugal and Peru are the riskiest places for illegal fishing and labor abuse, according to a new report. study.

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that most problems with illegal fishing and labor abuse stem from vessels registered in China and other countries with poor anti-corruption oversight.

  • Large number : The researchers found that almost half of the more than 750 ports assessed worldwide are linked to either labor abuses or illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • “A haven of peace” for illegal fishing: This is how the authors described the high seas, with millions of tons of these fish caught each year. The authors cited an online survey of experts that revealed the pervasive nature of these practices.

Researchers have found that ships that engage in such activity often have labor abuses on board, including forced labor, debt bondage and poor conditions.

A first step: “Deep sea monitoring is inherently challenging, so this data is an essential first step in helping stakeholders understand where to look deeper,” lead author Elizabeth Selig said in a statement.

How did the authors meet this challenge? They first distributed an anonymous survey to experts from seafood companies, research institutes, human rights groups and governments to help quantify the degree of certainty about whether a port was linked to illegal fishing or labor abuse.

They then used machine learning to combine survey responses with satellite vessel tracking data, curated by Global Fishing Watch, an international NGO that provides open-source datasets relevant to ocean governance.


The authors used human insight and machine learning to focus on the hard-to-trace periods when ships exchange crews and catch – called “transhipment”.

From there, they identified the points where illegal behavior was occurring during the exchange of people and equipment.

Which countries have resisted the least well? The authors found that fishing vessels were most at risk of labor abuse and illegal fishing off the coasts of West Africa, Peru and the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal located in the middle of the Atlantic.

Vessels registered in countries with poor corruption controls, vessels belonging to countries other than the “flag state” – or the country to which a vessel is linked – and vessels registered in China were at higher risk to participate in illegal activities, according to the study.

Risk mitigation pathways: The authors highlighted some potential ways to mitigate the risks through port detection and response activities.

The researchers noted that a particularly strong link was the time a ship stays in port and the likelihood of labor abuse.

They concluded that ships with higher risks of labor abuse are in port for shorter periods of time, with port officials having less time to interfere with potential illegal activity.

Refine port policies: “Ports are one of the few places to identify and respond to workplace abuse,” Jessica Sparks, a fellow at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and associate director of the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, said in a statement.

“We need to ensure that policies and practices allow fishers to access trusted actors and services in port so they can report their condition safely,” she added.

To read the full story, please click here.

Technical Tuesday

Solar cells thriving at dusk, batteries blazing, and a fingerprint for death from the forest heat.

Scientists design solar cells that work after the sun goes down

Dispose of rechargeable batteries properly – or risk flames

RResearch team identifies ‘fingerprint’ for forest heat and drought threshold

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you on Wednesday.

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