Britain went 90 hours without using coal for electricity, breaking its previous record.

TheUK has just completed a full week without using coal, for the first time since the first coal-fired power station for public use was opened in London in 1882.

The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said on Twitter that at 1.24 p.m. on Wednesday, the UK had officially gone 168 hours without coal — seven days exactly.

“While this is the first time this has happened, I predict it will become the new normal,” said Fintan Slye, director of ESO, in a statement.


The new 168-hour record significantly beats the previous record for UK electricity generation without coal — which was reportedly set over Easter weekend, when the UK went 90 hours and 45 minutes without coal.

It means that overall in 2019, the UK hasgone over 1,000 hours without coal — reportedly putting the country on track to beat all of itsprevious annual records.

Coal is one of the worst contributors to carbon emissions and global warming.

BusinessSecretary Greg Clark said this was a “huge leap forward in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we’re not stopping there.

“We’re now on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions,” he added.

Clark was referring to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended targets for Britain, which were published last week.

The CCC, the independent adviser to the government on climate change, called on the UK to set legally-binding targets to cut carbon emissions to nearly zero by 2050, including emissions from aviation and shipping.

Hitting these targets would “stop the UK’s contribution to global warming” and would be achievable at low cost through UK domestic effort, according to the CCC.

A temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 is considered the threshold for dangerous levels of climate change and, according to the CCC, if we’re going to stay below that rise we need global greenhouse emissions to hit zero by 2070 — and carbon dioxide (CO2)emissions need to be at zero by around 2050.

“As more and more renewables come onto our energy system, weekends likethis are going to increasingly seem like the ‘new normal,’” a National Grid ESO spokesperson told the Independent, about the latest coal-free record.

“We believe that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon,” the spokesperson added.

“The transformation of how we get the energy to heat our homes and power our work is a massive change, but the advantages it brings in terms of green energy far outweigh any challenges,” they said.

Total coal power use for Britain has fallen by almost two-thirds for thefirst months of this year, compared to the same four month period in2018, according to BusinessGreen.

There are now reportedly just six coal-fired power stations operational in the UK, which are mainly used for back up during peak demand or when supplies drop from other means.

Back in 2014, coal was the main energy source for Britain, but it is now sixth on the list —behind gas, nuclear, wind, imports, and biomass.

Britain and Canada joined forces in 2017 to launch thePowering Past Coal Alliance, which is a voluntary coalition of governments, businesses, and other organizations.

As part of this, the UK pledged to close all of its coal power stations by 2025, and Canada pledged to do the same by 2030. There are now 80 members of the coalition, reported BusinessGreen.

But concerns have been raised about the increasing reliance on gas, given that it’s also a fossil fuel — although less harmful than coal.

The2008 Climate Change Act requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% compared with 1990 levels by 2050.

Muna Suleiman, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the BBC: “Electricity generated by renewable sources is a key part of the fight against climate chaos so it’s time to remove all the blockers to renewable energy.”

She added: “The government must prioritize the development of sources such as solar and onshore wind.”

This article originally appeared on Global Citizen. You can read it here.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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