The European Union is forging ahead with a sweeping plan to become “climate neutral” by midcentury....

If implemented, the European Green Deal could mark a major advance in the effort to combat climate change, since EU members make up the third largest block of greenhouse-gas emitters behind China and the US. But it will require massive investments and rapid transformations across nearly every economic sector.

The details: A released document doesn’t provide many specifics on how nations will achieve these ambitious targets, but it lays out timetables for developing strategies to reach specific goals.

At various points next year, for instance, the European Commission plans to propose a binding European climate law; develop a plan to cut emissions 50% by 2030; create strategies for transforming the agriculture and transportation industries; and devise various funding mechanisms.

European leaders stress that the deal will strive to be “just and socially fair,” by providing support for people, businesses, and regions harmed by the rapid transition.

What’s next? The European Commission unveiled the plan on Wednesday, sending it on to additional government bodies for endorsement. The process hit a snag at the European Council, where Poland declined to commit to the 2050 goal.

But European leaders said they’ll press ahead with the plan, and the council said it will revisit Poland’s reservations in June.

Challenges: Building the amount of solar farms, wind turbines, and other sustainable infrastructure required to cut emissions in half within a decade will be extremely expensive. Meanwhile, there aren’t readily available tools to eliminate emissions from steel, cement, aviation, and agriculture at this point.  

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There’s little scientific basis to emotion recognition technology, so it should be banned from use in decisions that affect people’s lives, says research institute AI Now in its annual report....

A booming market: Despite the lack of evidence that machines can work out how we’re feeling, emotion recognition is estimated to be at least a $20 billion market, and it’s growing rapidly. The technology is currently being used to assess job applicants and people suspected of crimes, and it’s being tested for further applications, such as in VR headsets to deduce gamers’ emotional states.

Further problems: There’s also evidence emotion recognition can amplify race and gender disparities. Regulators should step in to heavily restrict its use, and until then, AI companies should stop deploying it, AI Now said. Specifically, it cited a recent study by the Association for Psychological Science, which spent two years reviewing more than 1,000 papers on emotion detection and concluded it’s very hard to use facial expressions alone to accurately tell how someone is feeling. 

Other concerns: In its report, AI Now called for governments and businesses to stop using facial recognition technology for sensitive applications until the risks have been studied properly, and attacked the AI industry for its “systemic racism, misogyny, and lack of diversity.” It also called for mandatory disclosure of the AI’s industry environmental impact.

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Space

Scientists have mapped out Mars’s upper atmosphere wind patterns for the first time. The findings, published Thursday in Science, reinforce our understanding of the Martian climate as equal parts...

How did it happen? The investigation uses data collected by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which has been orbiting Mars since 2013. MAVEN has helped teach us how Mars lost its thick atmosphere billions of years ago, but it was never designed to investigate winds. 

Instead, the team behind the new study had a clever idea: have MAVEN rapidly swing its normally stationary Natural Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) back and forth like a windshield wiper. This swinging effect meant that NGIMS, usually used to study atmospheric chemistry, was able to offset the orbiter’s own movements and measure the winds as if it were standing still.

What did they find? Overall circulation patterns in Mars’s upper atmosphere proved predictably stable season-to-season. But the team also found extreme variability within local pockets of the atmosphere, and so far there’s no good explanation for what’s causing this.

Another surprise was that winds as high as 170 miles in the air (MAVEN’s orbit is 106 miles above Mars) were still affected by mountains, canyons, and basins on the ground. Rising terrain can rapidly lift air masses up, causing them to ripple upward into higher altitudes. This happens on Earth, but not nearly as high as on Mars. It could be due to the thinner atmosphere, or because of how much bigger Martian mountains are. These findings in particular suggest Earth's upper atmosphere could have evolved into something much more chaotic had the surface formed more extreme peaks and valleys.

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AI ethics

The AI community needs to take responsibility for its technology and its actions

At the opening keynote of a prominent AI research conference, Celeste Kidd, a cognitive psychologist, challenged the audience to think critically about the future they want to build.