The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction

by A. Katwala, Aug 5, 2018 in Wired

Here’s a thoroughly modern riddle: what links the battery in your smartphone with a dead yak floating down a Tibetan river? The answer is lithium – the reactive alkali metal that powers our phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars.

In May 2016, hundreds of protestors threw dead fish onto the streets of Tagong, a town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. They had plucked them from the waters of the Liqi river, where a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine had wreaked havoc with the local ecosystem.

There are pictures of masses of dead fish on the surface of the stream. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing cow and yak carcasses floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water. It was the third such incident in the space of seven years in an area which has seen a sharp rise in mining activity, including operations run by BYD, the world’ biggest supplier of lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and electric cars. After the second incident, in 2013, officials closed the mine, but when it reopened in April 2016, the fish started dying again.



by Cap Allon, Jan 29, 2021 in Electroverse

The start of 2021 in Antarctica has been an unusually chilly one. In fact, the first half of January has been the coldest since 1978, according to data compiled by @LpdlcRamirez and @peikko763 on Twitter.

As of Jan. 19, the month-to-date temperature anomaly across Antarctic is approx. -0.5C, making this the continents coldest first 3-or-so-weeks of Jan. since 1978 (solar minimum of cycle 20), according to research conducted by @peikko163 on Twitter, who also notes that the Southern Hemisphere as a whole is suffering anomalous January chills not seen since 2012.

But this chill of solar minimum isn’t just confined to the Southern Hemisphere either, the mercury ACROSS the planet is tumbling. In one month global temperatures dropped by a whopping 0.26C: from 0.53C above the 1981-2010 avg. in Nov. 2020 to just 0.27C above the avg. in Dec. 2020 (UAH). This drop was in spite of a warming Arctic–a region expected to “heat” during times of otherwise “global” cooling (more on that below).

The Sun appears to be sliding into its next Grand Solar Minimum cycle–a multidecadal spell of reduced solar output where the solar disc can be devoid of sunspots for months or even years at a time. The result on Earth’s climate will be one of violent swings between extremes due to a weakening of the jet streams: intense bursts of heat will linger in one area, while a teeth-chattering chill will dominate nearby, and then the regions will “switch” — it is this unpredictable chopping and changing that will hasten the failure of our modern food production systems: crops will fail, on a large scale, and famine could quickly ensue.

Overall, Earth’s temperature trends colder during a Grand Solar Minimum, as the Sun’s output sinks lower and lower (increased cloud nucleation being one likely forcing). However, not ALL regions experience the chill: as with the previous GSM (the Maunder Minimum 1645-1715), areas such as the Arctic, Alaska, and S. Greenland/N. Atlantic actually warmed while the rest of the planet cooled — NASA reveals the phenomenon in their Maunder Minimum temperature reconstruction map: