Witnesses say many dead, injured in shooting at New Zealand mosque

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 49 people have been killed and injured in a shooting at a mosque in the center of Christchurch, New Zealand.

New Zealand police tweeted that officers responded to a “serious ongoing firearms incident” around 1:40 p.m. Friday (8:40 p.m. Thursday ET). They said schools in the city had been placed on lockdown and urged people to stay indoors.

Nearly two hours after the initial response, police tweeted that the situation was “serious and evolving.”

“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”

There was no official word on casualties, but witnesses said the Masjid Al Noor mosque was full for Friday afternoon prayers and many people were dead.

Witness Len Peneha told the Associated Press he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror. Peneha, who has lived next door to the mosque for about five years, said the gunman ran outside, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in Peneha’s driveway, and fled before emergency services arrived.

Peneha said he went into the mosque to try and help.

“I saw dead people everywhere,” he said. “There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque. It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”

Zayd Blissett, chairman of the Association of Marlborough, told Stuff.co.NZ that he received a text the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) saying “50 shot” at the mosque.

“I’m just heartbroken,” he said. “In fact, I’m sitting here crying. This is New Zealand. This can’t happen here.”

A third witness, Mohammed Nazir, told TVNZ he saw three women shot and bleeding outside the mosque. He told police that he called the police climbed a wall to escape, leaving his shoes behind in the process.

A witness who declined to give his name told Stuff the gunman was wearing a helmet and fired more than 50 shots.

“He had a big gun and a lot of bullets and he came through and started shooting like everyone in the mosque, like everywhere, and they have to smash the door and the glass from the window and from the small door to try and get out,” he said.

The Guardian reported that police had discovered a bomb in a beige Subaru that had crashed in the center of Christchurch, approximately two miles from the mosque. The paper reported that police officers had cordoned off the street and were keeping a safe distance from the vehicle.

Christchurch, located on New Zealand’s South Island, is the third-largest city in the country with a population of just over 400,000. It was affected by a devastating earthquake in February 2011, which killed 185 people and triggered the collapse of thousands of buildings across the city.

The case for spraying (just enough) chemicals into the sky to fight climate change

If you think pumping the sky full of chemicals sounds like a weird way to fight climate change, you’re not alone. Solar geoengineering — the idea of injecting aerosols into the high atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space and make for a cooler planet — is very controversial. And not just because it seems so offbeat.

Although geoengineering is not yet being deployed in the real world, past computer modeling studies have suggested it could produce unintended effects like droughts. Some have worried that it might create new climate inequities, worsening the weather in some regions even as it improves conditions in others. It’s incurred so much backlash that until recently it’s been among scientists, and even today, much less attention is devoted to exploring this strategy than to cutting emissions.

But a study published this week in Nature Climate Change argues that the strategy could be highly successful — it’s all a matter of how much geoengineering we use. Yes, spraying a huge quantity of aerosols aimed at totally eliminating global warming can produce unwanted effects. Yet applying the right “dose” — just enough to cut global warming in half — could do the trick without causing negative side effects, the scientists say.

“The analogy is not perfect, but solar geoengineering is a little like a drug which treats high blood pressure,” said lead author Peter Irvine of Harvard University. “An overdose would be harmful, but a well-chosen dose could reduce your risks.”

In the study, Irvine and his co-authors used a high-resolution computer model to simulate what would happen if we deployed geoengineering with the goal of halving global warming, in a scenario where the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have doubled preindustrial levels. (Currently, we’re at about 1.4 times those earlier levels.) Whereas most previous research only looked at temperature and precipitation, this study also examined other things that matter to people, like water availability.

The results? Geoengineering cooled the planet and reduced the intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes. Importantly, this held true across the entire globe. There weren’t regional winners and losers, just winners. If anything, the researchers noted, the regions that suffered most from climate change were the most likely to see it reduced.

Critics of geoengineering have worried that although it may benefit the rich, it could harm low-income people, who may be less equipped to cope with unpredicted weather changes if things go awry, and who won’t get as much say in deployment. But David Keith, a senior author on the study and a Harvard physics professor, told me he believes it would be a net benefit for low-income people.

“The poorest people tend to suffer most from climate change because they’re the most vulnerable. Reducing extreme weather benefits the most vulnerable the most. The only reason I’m interested in this is because of that,” he said.

The study has significant limitations
Don’t get too excited just yet. The study — a collaboration between Harvard, MIT, and Princeton — is based on a highly idealized scenario.

The researchers chose to use a scenario where atmospheric CO2 levels have doubled preindustrial levels by the time geoengineering is deployed. “Double” may sound like a lot, but some climate scientists believe our CO2 levels will be woefully higher than that by the middle of this century. And we’re not even close to ready for any large-scale deployment of geoengineering. So by using this scenario, the study may be setting itself up for an unrealistically optimistic result.

It’s also important to note that the study doesn’t actually model what happens when you shoot aerosols into the sky. It models what happens if the sun’s rays are dimmed. Although that’s a fairly common proxy, Rutgers University climate expert Alan Robock objects that it doesn’t precisely capture the impact of spraying aerosols, which could have other effects, like messing with atmospheric circulation.

The team behind the study agrees that modeling aerosols is also important but believes that asking one model to do everything isn’t necessarily the best option, according to Keith. “The climate models treat aerosols pretty badly, so it’s not clear you can trust the results. In our opinion it makes more sense to use this model, and then separately do models that have very good representations of aerosols. It’s like building a bridge from two sides,” he told me.

This artificial leaf wants to help fight climate change

A man-made leaf may hold the potential to help combat carbon dioxide emissions that lead to climate change.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have created an artificial leaf prototype that is designed to cut down on carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas behind global warming and climate change, experts say. CO2 is released by humans through things like electricity, transportation and steel production.
In 2016, carbon dioxide made up roughly 81.6% of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the US caused by humans, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The researchers behind the leaf, who published their work in a recent paper in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, are the latest group to try to mimic the work that real leaves do in order to fight emissions.

Meenesh Singh, an assistant professor in UIC’s department of chemical engineering, and Aditya Prajapati, a graduate student in his lab, are behind the artificial leaf prototype. According to Singh, the artificial leaf could be 10 times more efficient than real leaves at converting carbon dioxide to cut down on climate change and produce cleaner energy.
Singh’s motivation was to create a device that could work outside of a lab.
It works in the same way trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide through leaves and turns it into the fuel they need to live. The carbon, which is turned into carbohydrates, is stored while the oxygen is released back into the atmosphere.

But the artificial leaf doesn’t produce carbohydrates the way real plants do, and instead produces carbon monoxide to create cleaner synthetic fuels. It also produces oxygen gas that can be released into the atmosphere.
Singh said the leaf can be used on a small scale such as the roof of a house or on a larger scale at, say, a powerplant.
The cube-shaped artificial leaf features an acrylic covering and was made using artificial stomata to mimic the pore-like openings on real leaves. Artificial stoma is a membrane that allows the exchange of negatively charged ions.
A lot of research is being conducted around artificial leaves and even artificial trees. But the UIC team has created a prototype that’s been tested in a lab and can work in real-world conditions.

Still, it’s unclear when something like this will be ready for large-scale commercial use.
Singh’s prototype can work using diluted forms of CO2. This more closely resembles the CO2 in the atmosphere as a byproduct of industrial processes. Most other prototypes rely on pure CO2, which is closer to the carbon dioxide found in carbonated water than it is to emissions. Because Singh’s leaf can use diluted CO2 it can pull it straight from the air and work outside of laboratory conditions. Singh said the prototype is currently being tested to see at what rate it can continuously capture carbon from the air.
Larry Curtiss, a distinguished fellow at the Argonne National Laboratory, believes technology like what’s come out of UIC could potentially be effective as a solution for decreasing harmful gases in the atmosphere.
“This type of innovative lab-scale research is one step to an eventual commercial system that can help to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Curtiss.