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COP26 Glasgow will provide world stage for Scotland’s green innovation

Every year since 1994, the UN has gathered together the world’s governments at its Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference of the parties (COP), held in a different country each time. The convention’s ultimate aim is to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. The onus is on developed countries to lead the way and the convention directs funds to developing countries to help them in their efforts.

COP25, held in Madrid at the beginning of December 2019, did not end well. Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg’s solemn speech gave short shrift to countries neglecting their responsibilities, and the likes of the US President, Donald Trump, and Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, responded with personal attacks.

Tensions ran high when climate justice activists were barred from entering the venue and talks stalled, and negotiations ending two days late with a compromise deal on cutting global carbon emissions. Given the raised status of the world’s climate emergency, it was a disappointing end to a conference for which many had high hopes.

In the cold light of a new year, everyone from activists to world leaders are reflecting on COP25’s ultimate failure to set down rules on creating a carbon market between countries. But already, behind the scenes, the UK is looking to the next summit – because this year COP26 will be pitching its tent in Glasgow.

More than 30,000 people are expected to descend on the city in November 2020. For those who live and work in Glasgow it will be a chance to experience being part of an important climate action event. People from around the country will be able to participate in hundreds of events that will be happening across the city. So why will COP26 be such a big occasion for Glasgow, and what will the city itself bring to the mix?

Why hosting COP26 is a big deal

The world’s governments have met every year for nearly three decades to (try to) agree how to stop – or at least reduce the impacts of – climate change. But the fact that these nations have not been able to meet the overall UNFCCC objectives is one of the reasons we now face a global climate emergency.

As world summits go, they don’t get much more important than the UN’s climate change convention. In those three decades, this will be the first time a COP summit has been held in the UK. From a policy perspective, COP26 will be important for at least four reasons:

1. It will take place in the year when all countries are asked to submit their new long-term goals – so ambition to address the global climate emergency will be high on the agenda.

2. It will have to finish the work that COP25 was unable able to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries.

3. From Glasgow onwards, the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be the key driver of international climate action.

4. COP26 will come just weeks after the US presidential election with the potential implications this will have for US climate policy and US participation in COP26.

Come November 2020, the eyes of the world will be firmly on Glasgow.

Glasgow on show

The Scots have always been keen innovators.

Scotland has a long and rich history of discovery and innovation, including Glasgow’s past as a world-class centre of shipbuilding, trade and industrial production – a legacy that has contributed to greenhouse gas emissions but has also added much to the quality of human life. From pioneering work on the steam engine and wind turbines, to the invention of television and the life-saving discoveries of penicillin, gin and tonic and Billy Connolly’s shipyard humour, Glasgow has helped shape the modern world.

Glasgow and its history can also shed light on how cities, societies and people can reinvent themselves from a former industrial workhorse to a city of culture, services and new green technologies. Scotland’s collective commitment to net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045 now puts the country at the forefront of real action on the climate emergency. During COP26, Glasgow’s research and innovation will be on show to the world.

Engineers are leading the development of renewable technologies such as tidal energy and floating offshore wind turbines. Scotland is at the forefront of establishing hydrogen as a viable energy source, providing hubs for related skills and knowledge-sharing, to ensure that new technologies can be integrated into the grid and controlled.

Scotland also leads the way not only on the science innovation, but on ways in which research and development can provide community-informed solutions to sea and climate change challenges, and on how climate change relates to Scotland’s coastline and islands.

Researchers in Scotland are also at the forefront of the science-policy-practice interface, working with people in the field to deliver climate change risk and adaptation policies. And with climate change already a reality, Glasgow is also producing science that helps communities become more prepared and resilient.

Scotland is at the forefront of offshore wind turbine technology.
Shutterstock

More than a political event

Glasgow’s experts and innovators will have their moment to shine at COP26 – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with those deciding the direction and effectiveness of the global debate on climate change action. COP26 Glasgow can also be an inspirational event for Scotland’s young people, the generation which will inherit both the burden of climate change and the means to address it.

As we build up to COP26, the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council, alongside the universities of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian, will be planning numerous events that will run alongside the main COP26 activities.

The countdown has begun. Glasgow will seek to demonstrate to the world how Scottish research and innovation is playing an important role in tackling the global climate emergency.

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Planet Earth

A previously unknown species of winged dinosaur very similar to a dragon discovered in China

Artistic representation of how the Wulong bohaiensis could have been. Credit: Erick Toussaint / San Diego Natural History Museum

A new species of dinosaur, a relative of Velociraptor, has shown scientists a little more about the origins of similarities and differences between the feathers of dinosaurs and birds.

The fossil belongs to a fierce dinosaur from the Cretaceous period called the “dancing dragon” who lived 120 million years ago in what is now China.

‘Dancing dragon’

Fossil of the Wulong bohaiensis. Credit: Erick Toussaint / San Diego Natural History Museum

Called Wulong Bohaiensis, It was a two-legged carnivore, a little bigger than a raven, that resided in an environment next to lakes. He had a scaly face, a mouth full of pointed teeth, a particularly dangerous toenail, and probably hunted small mammals, lizards, birds and fish.

He was gound in the Chinese province of Rehe, in northeastern China and his name translates as ‘dancing dragon’, as it refers to the articulated position in which his skeleton is.

Conserved in its entirety, the skeleton included soft tissues such as feathers, which appear together on its arms and legs, very similar to those of birds now. In addition to its four long limbs and two long feathers at the end of the tail, his body was covered by spongy filaments.

At the end of its long bone tail, fused in a rigid rod, there were 2 very long feathers.

«The Wulong specimen is a magnificent fossil. With the feathers and claws, I think it would have been beautiful and a little scary. I would love to see one alive, ”said leading research paleontologist Ashley Poust of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Plumage differences between birds and feathered dinosaurs

A thorough examination of the bones showed that this Wulong individual was approximately one year old, that is, he was a young male still growing.

A new species of feathered dinosaur in China

This characteristic puzzled the experts, since usually the feathers appear in the adult stage. “Either the young dinosaurs needed these tail feathers for some function we don’t know, or they were cultivating their feathers very differently than most current birds”, Poust explained

Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs approximately 150 million years ago. But there were many feathered dinosaurs that didn’t fly, like Wulong.

Young Wulong seemed to have the plumage of an adult.

«It has long and isolated feathers that extend from its long tail. This is quite different from live birds and tells us that these decorative feathers preceded adulthood in dinosaurs. Of course, they may be using these feathers in a very different way from live birds too, ”said the expert.

Paleontologists are eager to understand many more plumage differences between birds and these feathered dinosaurs.

The finding was described in the scientific journal. The Anatomical Record.

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Planet Earth

Australia Firefighters Save the Only Wild Prehistoric Wollemi Pines on Earth

Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
Waking Times

It looks as if firefighters in Australia have succeeded in saving a secret grove of prehistoric trees belonging to a species that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

The Wollemi pines once grew widely across Australia from more than 100 to 60 million years ago, The Washington Post reported. But now less than 200 remain in the wild, in a national park 125 miles northwest of Sydney.

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Planet Earth

“Huge anomalies” at the edge of the earth’s core

At the edge of the Earth’s core lie two gigantic blobs of ultrahot rock — and that’s about the extent to which geologists agree about them.

NASA PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY. DISTRIBUTED ACTIVE ARCHIVE CENTER

The mysterious blobs are on opposite sides of the planet, one hidden beneath Africa, the other in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – the Quanta Magazine compared the ‘massive anomalies’ to Princess Leia’s iconic hairstyle (Star Wars).

Scientists discovered the blobs decades ago by mapping the interior of the planet, but have not learned much since.

Some ideas

There are two main schools of thought regarding the blobs, according to Quanta. The first camp holds that they’re merely massive clusters of hot plumes.

The other argues that the blobs — so big that they would drown the planet’s surface in a lava ocean over 60 miles deep — are their own distinct entity and not just a particularly warm region of the core.

Recent evidence supports the second camp: Quanta reports that scientists found traces of unique, ancient rocks and isotopes in magma that’s flowed upward from the blobs — materials nearly as old as the Earth itself and not found elsewhere on the planet.

Persistent Mystery

Still, great mystery still surrounds the deeply-buried hotspots. One theory is that they could be fragments of a Mars-sized object that crashed into the Earth.

University of Maryland seismologist Vedran Lekić told Quanta

It would be like having an object in the sky, and asking, ‘Is that the moon?’ And people are like, no. ‘Is that the sun?’ No. ‘What is it?’ We don’t know.

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