Biden returns US to Paris climate accord
Joe Biden has reinstated the US to the Paris climate agreement mere hours after being sworn in as president. The US president is pursuing this amid a number of executive orders aimed at tackling climate change, with the issue being one of the Biden Administration’s top priorities.
President Biden’s executive action, signed in the White House last Wednesday, will see the US rejoin the international effort to slow the heating of the planet, following a 30-day notice period. The US is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China, and was withdrawn from the Paris deal under Mr Trump.
President Biden is also set to block the Keystone XL pipeline, which was intended to bring large quantities of oil through Canada to the US, and would have involved drilling in two large, protected areas of wilderness.
Elephants counted from space for conservation
Scientists are using images taken from space to count the number of African elephants for the purposes of conservation. This new measure could allow scientists to survey up to 5,000 square kilometres of elephant habitat on a cloud-free day, the BBC reported.
Scientists are saved the drudgery of the work too – the counting is done via an algorithm that is trained to detect elephants against a variety of backdrops.
Dr Olga Isupova, from the University of Bath, explained the process: “We just present examples to the algorithm and tell it, ‘This is an elephant, this is not an elephant.’
“By doing this, we can train the machine to recognise small details that we wouldn’t be able to pick up with the naked eye.”
Conservationists have to pay for access to the commercial satellites and their images, but the novel approach could vastly improve the monitoring of elephant populations, particularly in areas that span international borders where it can be difficult to obtain permission for aircraft surveys.
Older people should increase exercise prior to Covid vaccination
Researchers of Trinity College Dublin have said that regular aerobic or moderate exercise in the weeks and months before Covid-19 vaccination can help improve antibody responses post vaccination in older people, according to The Irish Times.
The finding is set out in a report by scientists leading the on-going Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda). It suggests that adults aged 60 and above should regularly exercise, at least two to three times per week, prior to vaccination.
While the elderly are those in most need of the Covid vaccine, vaccine efficacy in older people is challenged by the effects of ageing on the immune system. As people age, their ability to formulate a strong antibody response following vaccination declines. They are much less likely to be able to summon up the long-term protection required for full immunity to a virus.