Atlantic Ocean Circulation Weakens to Raise More Climate Change Fears

Ocean scientists believe that the Atlantic is experiencing its weakest circulation levels in almost 1,000 years. The decline in this systemic movement could lead to higher sea levels in the United States and more extreme weather events in Europe.

The reason why weak circulation creates potential weather issues involves the Gulf Stream. This event brings the mild weather to Europe, preventing heatwaves and droughts from impacting the continent.

If nothing changes with the current structure, the Gulf Stream could experience up to a 45% reduction in strength by 2100.

Circulation Has Already Slowed About 15%

Researchers believe that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is already down by 15% from its average rate. That’s why we already see weather impacts that include more heatwaves in Europe and more hurricanes along the Americas.

It’s expected to continue weakening over the next two or three decades. Researchers studied sediments, ice cores, and other proxy data to reach these conclusions.

The issue is notable because the AMOC has only been studied since 20004. That means researchers are seeing a 1% average decline each year.

Why Is the AMOC Important to Global Health?

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation carries the warm surface water from the Gulf of Mexico further north into the Atlantic. It becomes colder and saltier until it reaches north of Iceland, where it can pull more warmth from the Caribbean.

That pattern is why wet and mild weather often comes to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and western Europe.

Researchers say that the risks of having the AMOC wind down further are so significant that we must consider making adjustments immediately. If global warming issues cannot be reversed, unprecedented changes could be waiting for us in the future.

Although the AMOC won’t collapse soon, the goal is to prevent instability by the end of the century by starting the work today.

Freshwater Fish Populations Continue Decline

Although we often think of commercial fishing as an offshore task, freshwater fish account for more than 50% of the world’s species. We need them as a resource to take care of our wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Without freshwater fish, the well-being of our economy and society becomes unbalanced. Although we recognize this fact, about one-third of our current species are endangered and threatened with extinction.

Diversity Is Declining at Twice the Rate of Marine Species

Whether the problem is from over-fishing, global warming, or population expansion, the fact is that freshwater biodiversity is declined at double the speed of marine and terrestrial species. Even though offshore commercial fishing presents its own set of challenges, it’s the inland waters that offer a primary protein source for over 200 million people.

Freshwater fish also create jobs and livelihoods for about 60 million people in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Why is diversity declining at such a tremendous rate? It’s because we undervalue this resource, so we end up overlooking the problems.

Migratory freshwater fish populations have declined by 76% since 1970. For the larger species, such as catfish, that rate increases to 94%.

That means our wetlands, lakes, and rivers are in a crisis state already. If we don’t take action now, the world could be a very different place in the next 20 years.

Solutions Are Always Available When We Look for Them

A team of global scientists from several organizations, including IUCN, WWF, and Cardiff University, has come together to create the Emergency Recovery Plan.

It launched in February 2020 to provide a roadmap to protect freshwater habitats and restore population levels.

The group delivers six points to consider, ranging from letting rivers flow naturally to controlling invasive species.

Without this natural resource, we might lose a valuable part of our society. It goes beyond hunger to the very survival of the planet.

Best Guitars for Intermediate Skill Guitar Players

If you’re an intermediate player, then you’re most likely on the hunt for an intermediate guitar. To know if you’re an intermediate skill guitar player, you should consider the following:

  • You should know the rudimentary Major and Minor bar chord shapes.
  • You should be aware of power chords, how they work, and how to use them smoothly.
  • You should also know your necessary open chords and be able to move between them without a hitch.
  • As time goes on, you will be able to discern whether there has been an improvement or not. If you’re still struggling to decide, consider asking someone who listened to you play when you were a beginner. They may be able to provide you with an answer after comparing your skills.

It can be difficult finding wonderful intermediate guitars. Vintage guitars are a wonderful choice because they are often exceptionally well-produced; however, they can be a bit pricey. If you’re really passionate about vintage guitars, you can try finding more inexpensive brands; however it may still be more expensive than the average modern design. Vintage guitars are amazing, but in case you can’t find one you like or are just not a fan of them in general, we have something else for you.

We’ve compiled this list of three electric guitars and three acoustic guitars for intermediate-skill guitar players.

Electric Guitars for Intermediate Skill Guitar Players

Ibanez RG421

The Ibanez RG421 is an electric guitar with a cool design and quality hardware. The design may be simple, but the build is really good, so you will get a lot of use out of it. However, it does not have a locking nut, and it only has one tone control.

ESP LTD GL200K George Lynch

This colorful electric guitar has a basswood body, and it can produce 22 frets. It also has a master volume tone control. It is an affordable option. However, if you prefer 24 frets, this may not be the best option for you. 

Schecter Damien Special

This comes with a rosewood fingerboard that offers 24 frets. It has a great finish and great hardware. It has a volume, pickup, and tone selector switch. However, the locking nuts may be hard to tune, and the fretboard markers are a bit difficult to understand. Overall, it’s a good choice for an intermediate-skill guitar player.

Acoustic Guitars for Intermediate Skill Guitar Players

Taylor Guitars Big Baby Taylor

This is a solid guitar. It is a bit smaller than average, which makes it a good choice for younger players. If you’re not a fan of big guitars, then this is the acoustic guitar for you. It is a bit pricey, but the Big Baby Taylor is worth it.

Voyage-Air Songwriter Series VAD-04 Folding Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

This foldable guitar is easy to carry and use. The design is unique; however, it may be a little confusing. Regardless, it plays well, and it’s quite affordable.

Fender CD-60S Acoustic Guitar

Fender is a well-known maker of guitars. This guitar plays really well and is easy to master. It comes with a lot of accessories. However, you’ll have to be careful with it because of the black design, which is easy to scratch. 

If you would like to try out the combination, check out the Alvarez Artist Series AJ80CE Jumbo Acoustic-Electric Guitar. Alvarez is well known as a quality producer of acoustic guitars, and the Jumbo is no exception. This guitar produces amazing sound and is easy to play. However, it is rather large, so if you’re a fan of smaller guitars, this may not be the best option for you.

Here Is Why the Myanmar Military Initiated a Coup

The Myanmar military initiated a coup on February 1, 2021. This effort gave it control of the government, with leaders detaining hundreds of people. Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was among them, and at least three protestors of this event were killed.

This southeast Asian country shares borders with India, China, Bangladesh, Laos, and Thailand. With approximately 54 million people living there, the country gained its independence from Britain in 1948.

Armed forces ruled the country from 1962 until 2011. After the coup, they are in charge again while declaring a 12-month state of emergency.

The Coup Happened After an Electoral Landslide

Myanmar’s armed forces were backing the opposition party to Aung San Suu Kyi. As with the U.S. election, leaders claimed that widespread fraud tainted the result, which saw Kyi win by a landslide.

The coup took place when a new parliament session was about to open, mimicking the insurrection attempt in Washington on January 6.

Military leaders are currently holding Kyi under house arrest. Her charges included “possessing a legal walkie talkie.”

The commander-in-chief for the military, Min Aung Hlaing, has taken power over the country while the military remains in charge.

The Myanmar Coup Has Received International Condemnation

Myanmar had experienced the largest protests in the country since 2007, when thousands of monks confronted the military government at the time.

During this coup effort, the protestors are now bank officers, students, government employees, lawyers, and teachers.

The military is imposing gathering limits and curfews to prevent a continued uprising. Security forces have fired live ammunition at crowds since the successful coup.

Myanmar’s neighbors are calling the coup an “internal” matter. Officials in the United States and the United Kingdom have initiated sanctions against military officials. The UN Security Council has not acted since China blocked a statement that would condemn the actions.

This Is What Biden’s Environmental Plan Includes

When Joe Biden first started running for office in 2019, one of his first released initiatives was to provide a “clean energy revolution.” By focusing on environmental justice, he hoped to set himself apart from the rest of the candidates.

That ambitious effort worked. After defeating Donald Trump in the general election, the Biden Administration started reversing the policies from the past four years that they saw as detrimental to the environment.

One of the first steps of that process was to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

What Does the Biden Plan Hope to Accomplish?

Biden and his team have some lofty goals with their environmental plan, but the efforts could lead the United States to a leadership position in future green energy solutions.

Here are the goals of the Biden plan.

1. Ensure a 100% clean energy economy.

Biden wants the United States to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. By creating a clean energy economy, the goal is to start reversing the problems that greenhouse gases cause with the global warming issue.

2. Build a stronger country.

Whenever technology changes happen, people get displaced from their jobs. Biden’s efforts include infrastructure updates that offer training to workers while encouraging greener transportation, construction, and resource access. This process also contains regional climate resiliency plans.

3. Stand up to the polluters.

Instead of allowing vulnerable communities to continue carrying the greatest portion of pollution’s dangers, Biden plans to take action against the companies that profit from fossil fuels and environmental damage. That means safe drinking water, access to electric vehicles, and other opportunities to restore the land.

By taking these steps, the Biden Administration hopes to bring the American environment back to a place of restoration. Although time will tell if it works, this structure does provide hope to many who were hurt by previous policies. If Kamala Harris succeeds the current President, she will likely follow through with the same plan.

GM Will Phase Out Gas Engines By 2035

General Motors (GM) set a lofty goal in early 2021. The company’s CEO announced that they would focus entirely on electric vehicles, seeking to phase out gasoline engines by 2035.

This effort is part of a larger plan to be an entirely carbon-neutral company by the year 2040.

GM had already accelerated its plans in this space in 2020, announcing the intention to create 30 new electric vehicles by 2025. This bolder plan would eliminate diesel and gasoline engines, putting it on a course to meet the expected environmental regulations from the Biden Administration through 2024.

Can This Transition Happen in 14 Years?

According to General Motors, every vehicle in its catalog will get retooled to meet the environmental emissions standards that the future is expected to bring. That includes the iconic Corvette, if GM intends to keep that name.

It’s not just the vehicles that are “going green” with GM. The company also announced that all American factories would be using renewable energy by 2030 with these updated corporate goals. They’ll switch over other global manufacturing facilities by 2035.

GM intends to pull their suppliers into the plan, ensuring that the ambitious targets are plausible to reach. Future cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans will get built using more sustainable resources.

GM Signed the 1.5 Celsius Commitment

The world’s governments have the Paris Agreement to consider when working toward a healthier environment. For the corporate world, there is the Business Ambition for the 1.5 Celsius Commitment.

The goal of this commitment is to limit global warming to under two degrees Celsius by changing their practices. Over 1,000 other organizations have already joined this agreement.

GM might be putting a stake in the ground by committing to electric vehicles, but they are still behind the curve with this technology. Several automakers, including rival Ford, have already made similar efforts in this space.

How Australia’s Record Wildfires Cooled the Planet

The record wildfires Australia experienced in 2019 and 2020 gave us haunting images of orange skies and koalas requesting water from cyclists. It was an event fueled by climate change.

Now we know that those wildfires are also creating more changes in our planetary climate.

The most devastating impact to the environment from the fires was the release of trapped carbon dioxide as plants and organic materials were consumed by the flames. The dark smoke could also create plumes that hasten glacial melting when coming into contact with the ice.

Some of the smoke even went to the upper atmosphere, creating wildfire-induced thunderclouds that could trigger lightning and additional damage.

If enough smoke gets into the upper atmosphere, it could block the sun’s rays from reaching our planet. It’s a result similar to the volcanic eruptions that likely created our planetary ice age thousands of years ago.

What Caused the Australian Wildfires?

The record Australian wildfires were a combination of gusty weather, dry conditions, and hot weather. These features are a regular part of the area’s recurring ocean patterns, but they were amplified in 2019 and 2020 from the drying and warming effects of climate change.

Over 26 million acres were burning in January 2020, which is an area larger than the state of Indiana. Almost half of that acreage was in New South Wales.

Although most of the flames were kept to the eucalyptus forests in Australia, some of the wildfires scorched through heathlands, farmlands, and even the subtropical rainforests.  The net effect was a massive release of dust, ash, and numerous gases.

This combination of different factors creates unique climate issues. Although the warming effect continues, the smoke can also have cooling issues in micro-climates that might change how we proceed with mitigation.

It will be at least a decade before we understand the entire impact of the 2020 wildfire season. As these issues become more intense and last longer, it shows how urgent we must be when addressing this concern.

Current State of the COVID Vaccine Rollout

The problem with the COVID vaccine rollout in the United States is that each local government controls its administration. That means Americans are following 50 different plans, along with additional changes in their territories.

By the end of January 2021, approximately 27 million people had received their COVID-19 vaccine. About twice that many inoculations were sent to the states to ensure that the booster shots were available to those qualified for the first one.

That means approximately 8% of Americans are receiving their vaccines each month. Similar outcomes are being experienced in Europe, Asia, and Australia, which means it could be late summer or early fall before everyone gets a chance to get this protection.

Some States Are Doing Better Than Others

When we look at the distribution rates of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, a few governments are doing a lot better than others by getting people through their clinics and appointments.

West Virginia has been a national leader in this area, distributing over 80% of the vaccines it receives within 30 days of each shipment.

Only three other states are above 70% in this statistic: North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico.

What makes this information interesting is that most of the states that see the best inoculation rates lean toward Republican politics. Many of the elected officials in that party were quick to say that COVID-19 isn’t scary, that masks aren’t necessary, and vaccines might not be needed. Now they’re the first ones in line.

What States Are Failing at Vaccine Distribution?

Most states are administering their COVID-19 vaccines at a 60% clip or higher. A few governments are falling far behind that curve.

Alabama is ranked last in this statistic, administering only 42.5% of the vaccines they’ve received to fight the coronavirus.

Eleven other states join Alabama in the under 50% category. They include California, Idaho, Maryland, Arizona, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Kansas, Missouri, Hawaii, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. [Source]

You can check on the up-to-date statistics by contacting your local government.

Why a Senate Majority Is Critical for Democrats

After the January 6, 2021, insurgency where mostly Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building to prevent Joe Biden’s certification as the 46th President, it became more apparent than ever that a Senate majority is critical for Democrats.

The Georgia runoff election changed the tide of governing in the United States until 2022. Unless something drastic happens, Democrats now control the White House, House of Representatives, and the Senate with VP Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

If Biden wants to leverage his position and start making legislative changes, it’s much easier to do that with Chuck Schumer in the lead than it would be for Mitch McConnell. The majority party gets control at the committee level, ensuring cabinet picks and reconciliation votes can breeze through in the coming months.

It Is Still a Long Path to Follow for Legislative Change

The Senate might offer a technical majority to Democrats, but it won’t be the most comfortable place to pass legislation. With the filibuster rules in place, a minimum of 60 votes is necessary to proceed on most new bills.

That means Democrats must work across the aisle to build relationships with their Republican colleagues if they want to get anything done.

What Biden and the Democrats can accomplish involves votes for replacing judicial members. Since Republicans won’t have enough votes in the Senate to prevent a confirmation, they can work to shape the course of American justice over the next few years. If McConnell had been the majority leader still, nothing would probably have been accomplished.

What to Expect Through 2022

The first item on Biden’s agenda is to restart the American economy, which shrank at 3.5% in 2020. It was the largest contraction in the United States since 1946.

We can also expect swing votes to be unpredictable in the Senate. Joe Manchin is a Democrat, but he leans toward the conservative spectrum. Lisa Murkowski is more of a moderate Republican. Both senators are likely to cut deals in some policy areas.

Biden hit the ground running right after his inauguration. The next two years should be quite interesting in American politics.

Tech Companies Face Fines Equal to 10% of Revenue

The European Union is seeking to impose fines of up to 10% of a company’s revenues in a curb to stop the power bids made by today’s tech giants. These organizations could also face orders from the EU to divest their businesses.

These rule changes are part of a December 2020 effort to implement “gatekeeper rules” for the continent. Tech companies given this designation could face these massive fines if they don’t follow the EU’s rules on data usage.

The current companies that would receive the gatekeeper designation in Europe include Amazon, Apple, and Google. These new rules, which legislators want to work alongside antitrust laws, prevent the agencies from using customer data from business users to compete against them, or treat internal products or services more favorably.

What Defines Non-Compliance in the New Rules?

The European Union says that companies that systematically infringe on their obligations to protect business-related consumer data could face orders to make structural or behavioral changes.

This designation applies if a company receives three fines within five years.

A company must have a user count in the millions before earning the gatekeeper designation from the EU. The overall revenues of a qualifying organization must be higher than $1 billion, and the agency’s impact on the global data market will also get evaluated.

The designations get updated every two years under this proposed plan.

As part of the rules package, companies will also face responsibility for the content that users post on their platforms. Fines of up to 6% of total global revenues could apply for the social media websites that fail to comply with orders to remove illegal posts or terrorism propaganda.

This legislation aims to stop tech companies from having too much influence on global politics and international relationships. If these agencies become too profitable, consequential, or large, they could create the same issues that happened during the 2007-2008 recession in the financial markets.