Coral reefs

Key West bans sunscreens that harm coral reefs

A school of snapper in the Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys. Photo by Getty Images

City officials in Key West voted this week to prohibit the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals scientists say are harmful to the coral reef ecosystem, beginning on Jan. 2, 2021.

Why it matters: Supporters of the measure are calling it an important step to protect the Florida Keys, the largest and only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S., and the third-largest barrier reef system in the world. However, opponents — including some dermatologists and trade groups — are calling for more research, arguing that banning the sale of some sunscreens could lead to a spike in skin cancer rates, the New York Times reports. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to ban the sale and distribution of similar sunscreens, also slated to take effect in 2021.

Ocean heat is climbing 40% faster than thought

Trends in ocean heat from 4 different observational datasets, compared to the CMIP5 computer model mean, from 1955 through 2017. Data: Cheng et al. Science, 2019; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios.

New, independent observations from ocean buoys and other data sources show Earth's oceans are warming at a rate that's about 40% faster than indicated in the 2013 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Why it matters: The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, resolves a key uncertainty in climate science by reconciling analyses from a variety of different scientific teams.

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