Automakers are starting to get more serious about the transition to electric vehicles, and that means they’re going to need rechargeable batteries. Lots of them.
To make those batteries, you need specific precious metals. And they’re getting more expensive. The price of one, rhodium, has gone from about $640 an ounce five years ago to a record $21,900 an ounce this year.
That steep increase isn’t only because of demand from battery producers. The rare metals are also used in the catalytic converters that help to scrub emissions from traditional gas-powered car and truck tailpipes. That means increasingly strict emissions rules are also increasing demand.
It also means that theft is rising sharply across the country.
In order to steal the rhodium and other metals, thieves are slithering under those vehicles in parking lots and driveways around the country and hacking off the catalytic converters.
You can read more in this article, and tell us what you think in the comments section.
The bad news: Unless you’re fully insured, replacing a catalytic converter and fixing the damage thieves can cause when they steal the device could set you back $2000 dollars or more in repairs.
The silver lining: Fully electric vehicles don’t require catalytic converters. So, once the country switches fully to plug-in cars, you won’t need to worry about a thief swiping yours in the wee hours of the morning.
More: Our colleague Neal E. Boudette discussed the future of cars and whether traditional automakers or tech companies, like Tesla and Apple, would rule the roads.
A very bad mix: mountains, ice and climate change
A flash flood killed dozens of people and left hundreds missing in the Indian part of the Himalayas on Sunday. It was far from the first such disaster to occur among the world’s high-mountain glaciers and, in a world with a changing climate, it won’t be the last.
Glaciers around the world are shrinking and thinning, and that means water is being released. And it has to go somewhere.
In the Himalayas, as elsewhere, some is trapped in lakes as it runs down mountainsides, dammed by rocky debris the glaciers leave behind. When those dams break, from earthquakes or just the weight of accumulating water, the result can be a sudden, catastrophic burst of water that can wipe out communities in valleys downstream. — Henry Fountain
The big picture: Glacial retreat is happening in mountain ranges around the world and has been measured, sometimes at a rate of 100 feet or more each year. In the Himalayas, the world’s most glaciated mountains and home to about 600 billion tons of ice, the rate of retreat has accelerated over the past four decades.
Get the eye drops. Allergy season is getting worse.
Climate change is contributing to disasters around the world, like that flood in India over the weekend. But it causes smaller, more personal bouts of misery, too. And scientists have now identified one: Climate change is making pollen season longer.
That’s the message of a new study this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. What’s more, researchers said, the trend of higher pollen counts is accelerating. — John Schwartz
The numbers: According to the paper, warmer air and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means springtime in North America has 21 percent more pollen than just a few decades ago.
Where: The most pronounced effects were seen in Texas, the Midwest and the Southeast.
Also important this week:
China’s emissions: New research confirmed that emissions of CFCs, a banned gas that harms Earth’s ozone layer, have fallen sharply after dangerous spike.
A surprise in Africa: Air quality is improving in one of the continent’s fastest-growing regions, according to a study. Usually, economic expansion means more pollution.
Coal use falls: The share of energy generated from coal dropped more sharply during the coronavirus pandemic than that of any other power source, researchers found.
Lost and found in Antarctica: A meteorologist lost his wallet at McMurdo Station in the 1960s. He just got it back.
Island feud: The Pacific Islands Forum is on the brink of collapse because of a leadership dispute. The regional group has long been a megaphone on climate change.
Climate anxiety: If you’re feeling it, you’re not alone. Distress over global warming is increasing, but formal and informal support networks are springing up, too.
Lives lived: Paul Crutzen, a Nobel laureate who fought climate change, is dead at 87. He warned the world of threats that certain chemicals posed to the ozone layer.
And finally, we recommend:
Life on Venus? The picture gets cloudier
A team of astronomers made a blockbuster claim in the fall. They said they’d discovered evidence of a molecule called phosphine on Venus, compelling evidence pointing to life floating in the clouds of the planet.
The members of the team are still certain of their findings today, even after lowering their estimates of how much phosphine may be present. At the same time, many of their peers remain just as resolute in their doubts.
The debate could linger, unresolved, for years, much like past disputed claims for evidence of life on Mars. But, if true, the finding would be stunning.
“Further observations are warranted,” said Bryan Butler of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M. “There’s nothing you can point to that says, ‘Oh, yeah, we absolutely see phosphine on Venus.’”
“But, you know, it’s tantalizing,” he added. “I would not bet my life savings that it’s not there.” You can read all about it here. — Kenneth Chang and Shannon Stirone
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