Modern society is literally built on sand. Most of our buildings and bridges are made with concrete, which consists mostly of sand and gravel. The same is true for the asphalt that covers our roads and parking lots. Glass, from window panes to eyeglass lenses to smartphone screens, is made by melting sand, and the semiconductors in our electronics come from heating silica sand ... After air and water, sand is humankind’s most consumed natural resource.

The world is on track to add 700 million new ACs by 2030, and 1.6 billion by 2050, largely in hot, developing countries like India and Indonesia ... Air conditioners use refrigerants, and some of the most common types — hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs — are powerful greenhouse gases, with thousands of times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. If HFC use continues to grow at its current pace, these chemicals could make up as much as 19 percent of emissions by 2050.

The world’s second-biggest economy, which has vowed to cap its carbon emissions by 2030 and curb worsening air pollution, is the latest to join countries such as the U.K. and France seeking to phase out vehicles using gasoline and diesel. The looming ban on combustion-engine automobiles will goad both local and global automakers to focus on introducing more zero-emission electric cars to help clean up smog-choked major cities.

A growing body of research has established the presence of microscopic plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, freshwater, soil and air. This study is the first, however, to show plastic contamination in tap water from sources around the world ... The contamination defies geography and income: The number of fibers found in a tap water sample from a washroom sink at the Trump Grill was equal to that found in samples from Quito, Ecuador.

Twenty years ago, an orange juice producer dumped thousands of tons of orange peels and pulp onto a barren section of a Costa Rican national park, which has since transformed into a lush, vine-laden woodland. The shift is a dramatic illustration of how agricultural waste can regenerate a forest and sequester vast sums of carbon — for free.

even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed—and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese—this one dietary change...substituting beans for beef...could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the target ... if everyone were willing and able to do that—hypothetically—the U.S. could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals, pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009.

If the sea rises by six feet by the end of the century, more than 600 communities would experience chronic inundation, including more than 50 urban centers from Oakland to Miami to boroughs of New York City... Under this scenario, damages could significantly start to really rack up. The real estate service Zillow predicts that if tides rise by six feet, nearly 300 cities in the nation would lose at least half of their housing stock.

Six decades after the construction of the first wave of nuclear power plants, no country has opened a permanent storage site. Spent nuclear fuel and other contaminated material — deadly byproducts of electricity generation — remain stockpiled in temporary locations around Europe and the world, sometimes alongside the reactors where they were used ...The problem is only getting more urgent as power plants across the world near the end of their lives

Scientists...in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study...reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.

Now, for the first time, researchers have published a sweeping, public, and in-depth accounting of all plastic that has ever been made in the entire world. The number is so big as to defy human comprehension: 8,300 million metric tons since 1950. Of this, 6,400 million metric tons has outlived its usefulness and become waste; 79 percent of that waste is sitting in landfills or the natural environment, 12 percent has been incinerated, and just 9 percent has been recycled.