Global Warming

Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in past 20 years

The rate glaciers are melting in the Himalayas has doubled in just 20 years, according to a study which examined 40 years of satellite data.

Glaciers have been losing more than a vertical foot and a half of ice each year since 2000. This equates to 8 billion tons of water being released – or the equivalent of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

The rate of melting is more than double that which took place between 1975 and 2000, according to the study published in Science Advances. It is the latest indication climate change is threatening the water supplies for 800 million people living downstream.

These glaciers currently harbour 600 billion tons of ice and they may have lost as much as one quarter of their mass over the past four decades.

Environment

‘Fly-Pocalypse’ in Russian Town

A farmer in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region allegedly fertilized his field with chicken litter and unwittingly unleashed a fly-pocalypse, according to local news reports.

Footage recently captured by state news agency Channel One Russia and shared online June 13 revealed unsettling views from the village of Lazorevy. In the video, piles of dead and near-dead flies cover floors, tables and other surfaces in villagers’ homes. Meanwhile, outdoors, seething swarms of flies gather on roads, yards and fields.

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Global Warming

What would life be like in a zero-carbon country?

Drastic restrictions on almost every aspect of people’s lives, from the cars they drive, the way they heat their homes, to the fridges they buy — even the food stored in them. That is the reality of what awaits us in 2050 if a UK government pledge to cut greenhouse emissions to “net zero” is to be met.

If it can do it, the country will become the world’s first major economy to stop contributing to climate change. Net zero means the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is no more than the amount taken out.

Petrol and diesel vehicles will need to be phased out and replaced by electric or hydrogen powered ones by 2035. Consumption of beef, lamb and dairy must be cut by 20% by 2050. No houses built after 2025 will be connected to the gas grid. The owners of older buildings will need to switch their heating system to a low carbon one by around 2035. Aviation and shipping are other sectors where low-carbon alternatives don’t yet exist.

Emissions that can’t be cut, like the ones created by belching animals, must be offset for the country to reach the net zero target. Trees take carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, so planting more of them is one way to do this. But growing more trees is not always practical. Britain is a small island and space is limited, so the government wants the option of paying other countries to plant trees instead. Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are sounding the alarm about that idea. They worry that being able to pay someone else to act could undermine UK’s domestic efforts.

Another way to offset emissions is by storing greenhouse gases underground or under the sea. But scientists are still figuring out how exactly to do that in a cost-effective and safe way.

Reaching net zero will cost about £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion), a price that for some, is simply too much. There are also those who argue the UK and other countries should move much faster. Extinction Rebellion, which recently staged major protests in central London and pushed the UK parliament to declare a climate emergency, wants the net zero target to be set for 2025.

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Global Warming

Trump Seeks Strategy Advice from Climate Change Deniers

The Trump administration sought advice from a vocal climate-change denier to help shape its environmental message, according to the Associated Press, which saw emails acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. The emails, written in 2018 and 2019, included correspondence between William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, and officials from the Heartland Institute, one of America’s most vocal climate-change challengers. The AP quotes a March 3 email exchange between Happer and Heartland adviser Hal Doiron in which the Trump official was given arguments that would help counter environmentalists’ messaging. In those emails, Happer admitted he had also discussed the issue with another Heartland adviser. “It’s the equivalent to formulating anti-terrorism policy by consulting with groups that deny terrorism exists,” Matthew Nisbet, a professor of environmental communication and public policy with Northeastern University said.

Global Warming

Arctic Permafrost Is Going Through a Rapid Meltdown — 70 Years Early

In the Canadian Arctic, layers of permafrost that scientists expected to remain frozen for at least 70 years have already begun thawing. The once-frozen surface is now sinking and dotted with melt ponds and from above looks a bit like Swiss cheese, satellite images reveal.

Permafrost is ground that remains frozen for at least two years. It underlies about 15% of the unglaciated Northern Hemisphere and serves a critical role in the transfer of carbon from living things to the atmosphere.

The researchers recorded permafrost thawing to depths that were not expected until air temperatures reached levels the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted will occur after 2090, according to one of its “moderate” climate change models.

The researchers believe higher summer temperatures, low levels of insulating vegetation and the presence of ground ice near the surface contributed to the exceptionally rapid and deep thawing.

The most striking evidence is visible to the naked eye. As upper layers of permafrost thaw and ice melts, the land settles unevenly, forming what is known as thermokarst topography. Landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that had been defined by gently rolling hills are now pockmarked with ditches and small ponds. The ground at the northernmost study site sank by about 35 inches (90 centimeters) over the course of the study.

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Environment

Locusts in Sardinia

Locusts are devouring crops across the Italian island of Sardinia in the worst such invasion seen there in 70 years.

While the ravenous insects are often seen on the Mediterranean island during the summer, farmers say they are now greater in number than at any time since World War II because of extreme weather swings during the past two years.

“We had droughts in 2017 and a lot of rain in 2018, the ideal climate for locusts to emerge from fallow land and then move to cultivated fields to eat,” Michele Arbau from the agricultural association Coldiretti Sardinia told Reuters.

Heat and Dust in India

A searing heat wave across India that brought Delhi its hottest ever temperature of 118 degrees F. has killed dozens of people and severely affected wildlife.

Officials say as many as 36 people have perished in the heat so far this year.

At least one troop of monkeys died from suspected heatstroke, or from violent conflicts with other monkeys over dwindling water supplies. Similar deadly conflicts among the human population have also been reported.

Tigers that are dying from thirst in parched forests have been observed moving into communities in search of water.

Wildlife

Plant Extinctions

After analyzing the populations of more than 330,000 seed-bearing plants around the world, the study authors found that about three plant species have gone extinct on Earth every year since 1900 — a rate that’s roughly 500 times higher than the natural extinction rate for those types of plants, which include most trees, flowers and fruit-bearing plants. Unsurprisingly, human activity plays a key role in this elevated extinction trend.

The researchers found that, while roughly 1,300 seed plant species had been declared extinct since 1753, about half of those claims were ultimately proven to be false. In the last 250 years, more than 400 plants thought to be extinct have been rediscovered, and 200 others have been reclassified as a different living species. That leaves approximately 571 species confirmed extinct in the last 250 years, vanishing at a rate of roughly 18 to 26 extinctions per million species per year.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) in Jacobabad, Pakistan.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 116.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 82.2 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok base, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Environment

Everest clean-up

Nepali climbers have retrieved four bodies and collected some 11 tonnes of decades-old garbage from Mount Everest and its approach below the base camp as part of a drive to clean up the world’s highest mountain.

Climbers returning from the 8,850-metre mountain say its slopes are littered with human excrement, used oxygen bottles, torn tents, ropes, broken ladders, cans and plastic wrappers left behind by climbers, an embarrassment for a country that earns valuable revenue from Everest expeditions.

The garbage, along with the bodies of some of the 300 people who have died over the years on Everest’s slopes, are buried under the snow during winter, but become visible when the snow melts in summer.

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Plastic Pollution

Humans on Earth eat at least 50,000 particles of microplastic on average each year and inhale a comparable amount as well, according to new research that looked at data from 26 previous studies. Some experts estimate the level being absorbed by people is actually much higher.

The plastic pollution is entering the human food chain and environment due to the disintegration of plastic bags, bottles and other litter, which has now reached virtually every corner of the planet.

Another study cautions that pathogens and other organisms have been found to grow on microplastics in fresh water, posing a potential threat to the health of humans and wildlife.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 124 degrees Fahrenheit (51.1 degrees Celsius) in Jacobabad, Pakistan.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 106.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 76.7 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok base, Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Australian Report Lays Out Devastating Consequences Climate Change Could Have By Mid-Century

According to analysis put together by a Melbourne, Australia-based think tank, climate change is “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization” which “threatens the premature extinction of Earth- originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development.” The analysis goes on to describe what could happen in as little as three decades if the problem isn’t seriously addressed and combated with a massive global effort.

The report says that the risk to the planet is far more dire than most people seem to think, and that the potential devastation is hard to comprehend because it falls “outside the human experience of the last thousand years.”

It also says, again like many previous reports, that the “point of no return” is quickly approaching, and could arrive around 2050. If/when this happens order would break-down both domestically and internationally. The report states that the only way to counter the impending disaster would be with an effort “akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization,” which we already know is way too optimistic.

The report comes to the conclusion that the earth’s current path will probably lock in a global heating temperature of at least three degrees Celsius. They go on to say that this would trigger an acceleration of the collapse of ecosystems “including coral reef systems, the Amazon rainforest and in the Arctic.” Additionally the report notes that even coming up short of this projection would still have disastrous consequences, writing “Even for 2°C of warming, more than a billion people may need to be relocated and in high-end scenarios, the scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end, two billion would have to deal with major water scarcity, agriculture would be devastated in the sub-tropics, and food production would dramatically reduced.

Environment

Philippines returns waste to Canada

cargo ship carrying tonnes of rubbish dumped in the Philippines by Canada more than five years ago, has left the Southeast Asian country, as nations in the region increasingly reject serving as dumpsites for wealthier states.

The 69 shipping containers of rotting waste were loaded onto the M/V Bavaria at Subic Bay port in the early hours of Friday, before embarking on a 20-day journey to Vancouver, in southwestern Canada.

The waste was transported to the Philippines in 103 containers in 2013 to 2014, and falsely declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Several containers of the rubbish had been disposed of, including in a landfill, leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports.

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Global Warming

Climate change is already affecting global food production – unequally

The world’s top 10 crops — barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat — supply a combined 83 percent of all calories produced on cropland. Yields have long been projected to decrease in future climate conditions. Now, new research shows climate change has already affected production of these key energy sources — and some regions and countries are faring far worse than others.

Published in PLOS ONE, the University of Minnesota-led study, conducted with researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Copenhagen, used weather and reported crop data to evaluate the potential impact of observed climate change. The researchers found that:

– observed climate change causes a significant yield variation in the world’s top 10 crops, ranging from a decrease of 13.4 percent for oil palm to an increase of 3.5 percent for soybean, and resulting in an average reduction of approximately one percent (-3.5 X 10e13 kcal/year) of consumable food calories from these top 10 crops;

– impacts of climate change on global food production are mostly negative in Europe, Southern Africa, and Australia, generally positive in Latin America, and mixed in Asia and Northern and Central America;

– half of all food-insecure countries are experiencing decreases in crop production — and so are some affluent industrialized countries in Western Europe;

– contrastingly, recent climate change has increased the yields of certain crops in some areas of the upper Midwest United States.

Marine Species More Vulnerable to Global Warming Than Terrestrial Species

A new study published in the journal Nature reveals that marine species may be more susceptible to global warming effects — specifically increases in temperatures — than land creatures.

All organisms, whether you’re warm-blooded or cold-blooded, have this range of temperatures that you can tolerate before your body starts to shut down and experience serious physiological stress — a lower bound and an upper bound. And so with warming, we’re mostly concerned about the upper bound because these temperatures are getting hotter and hotter.

The scientists compiled the upper thermal limits for 406 total ectothermic species — 88 marine and 318 terrestrial — and assessed their position relative to the temperature threshold before they would begin to experience heat shock or heat stroke.

It turned out that in the ocean, marine animals were sitting much closer to that maximum, much closer to this ceiling where they would overheat and get into a real physiological stressful situation than terrestrial animals were, on average — which means that there is then less buffering for them to get to these overheating points in the ocean.

In addition, the scientists found that local species extinctions in the ocean occurred at twice the rate than those on land. Marine organisms may also have heightened vulnerability and sensitivity to thermal stress because they experience less thermal variability on average than do land creatures. During the transition from winter to summer or even across the duration of a day, a temperature logger tracks noticeably greater changes on land than in water.

Marine species haven’t needed to worry about temperature fluctuations as much, leaving them more disadvantaged to deal with the rapidly rising ocean temperatures.

Environment

Drought – Alaska

The wettest part of Alaska is currently experiencing something unusual: extreme drought. Last week, the region, which has been experiencing drought conditions for almost two years, was upgraded by the United States Drought Monitor to a D3—meaning extreme drought, the second-highest level of drought severity measured by the United States Drought Monitor. The affected areas include the southernmost region of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell, and Metlakatla.

Environment

Nuclear Testing Legacy

Cracks in a dome built over a crater left by a 1958 nuclear blast in the Marshall Islands may now be leaking radioactive contamination around Enewetak Atoll.

The Runit dome was built by the United States in 1977, designed to also contain radioactive debris from other nuclear tests in the Pacific between 1946 and 1958. But the new cracks and rising sea levels threaten to inundate the atomic dump, further contaminating the Pacific atoll.

Some of the Enewetak residents evacuated before the blast were finally allowed to return in 1980 after the dome was completed and the Marshall Islands government accepted the U.S. cleanup efforts as final.

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