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Scientists say a drastic cut in meat consumption is needed, but this requires political will
Sam WolfsonSat 19 Jan 2019 06.00 GMTLast modified on Sat 19 Jan 2019 11.58 GMTShares6212
Scientists are calling for a shift in approach towards a regime that is less rigid about the rules of meat consumption. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
It has been known for a while that the amount of animal products being eaten is bad for both the welfare of animals and the environment. People cannot consume 12.9bn eggs in the UK each year without breaking a few.But the extent of the damage, and the amount by which people need to cut back, is now becoming clearer. On Wednesday, the Lancet medical journal published a study that calls for dramatic changes to food production and the human diet, in order to avoid “catastrophic damage to the planet”.The study sets out the targets for a daily diet to “place consumption within the boundaries of the planet”. They include a reduction in red meat consumption of more than 50%, and a doubling of the intake of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. “But in specific places the changes are stark. North Americans need to eat 84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils. For Europeans, eating 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds meets the guidelines,” wrote The Guardian’s Damian Carrington.Others have called for even more drastic changes to human diet to be made. Another study, published in Octoberin the journal Nature, estimated that meat consumption had to be reduced by 90% to avoid unsustainable global warming, deforestation and water shortages.FacebookTwitterPinterest A chef preparing meat in Buenos Aires. A study is calling for a 50% reduction in intake. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty ImagesWhatever the figure, there is a growing consensus that a drastic reduction in overall meat consumption is needed to maintain the health of the planet. What is not clear is how that will be achieved.Excessive meat consumption, like other environmental crises, needs political solutions. Yet most discussion about whether to eat meat remains rooted in personal choice. So far the biggest change in our diets has come from a small but increasing percentage of people who identify as vegetarian or vegan: their answer to a global crisis is to swap out beef for cauliflower steak.The trend towards a meat-reduced diet is largely being driven by young people. A study released this month by the analysts Mintel found the UK has overtaken Germany in the number of new vegan products brought to market. Another agency, Acosta, found 26% of millennials are currently vegetarian or vegan.But by just focusing on personal consumption, a paradoxical situation has emerged where the number of people who consider themselves vegetarian has risen, but so has overall meat consumption because the population of the world is increasing, and many people who do eat meat are eating more of it.That is why many are now calling for a shift in approach: towards a regime that can involve more people and be less rigid about the rules of meat consumption. Sometimes given the slightly clunky titles flexitarian or reducetarianism, advocates of this approach are not especially bothered if you eat a bowl of chicken soup every now and again. What is more important to them is encouraging people to think about what they can do to reduce meat consumption worldwide.One of the leaders of this movement is a man called Brian Kateman, who coined the term reducetarian and now runs a foundation bearing that name. Speaking to the Guardian via Skype, he paces his office eating a bowl of vegetables from the salad chain Sweetgreen. He says there is no one thing behind his desire to motivate people to eat less meat: he is worried about heart disease, animal cruelty, high food prices and environmental destruction. Reducing meat intake can solve a lot of problems, but he says people need to be less puritanical. Brian Kateman. Photograph: Andrei SevernyHis own inspiration came from a bout of sibling score-settling. “I remember one Thanksgiving, I ate a small piece of turkey and in that moment my sister, as siblings will do, said to me: ‘I thought you were a vegetarian Brian.’ I couldn’t articulate then as well as I can now, but I thought about how the average person in the developed world eats around 200lb [90kg] of meat a year, and I’m eating let’s say 5lb of meat a year. That’s a lot better. We need to be mindful of how challenging that can be for people and we need to create systems where the default choice is the moral one.” Brian also says that not all meat is the same. High quality, organic meat produced in cruelty free conditions is preferable.The foundation he set up aims to encourage society at large to reduce its intake. “We’re used to thinking about food as a personal choice so in our brain we’re accustomed to it being in this different category. But once you understand that factory farming and the products it produces are so connected to so many issues that are detrimental not just to ourselves but to others, it allows us to recognise that what comes out of your mouth is just as important as what goes into your mouth.” He suggests supporting policy initiatives and encouraging restaurants to broaden their menus as small actions that can help.FacebookTwitterPinterest The UK consumes 12.9bn eggs each year. Photograph: David Levene for the GuardianWhile there has been some light government intervention around food when it comes to personal health, including improvements to school dinners and the levy on sugary drinks, food ethics has traditionally been outside the realm of parliamentary politics.Dr Marco Springmann, who led the research group that published the report in Nature, says the stakes are too high for politicians to remain squeamish about regulation. “Just yesterday I had a meeting with civil servants from Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and they were commenting that dietary change is a contentious topic and politicians don’t want to get close to that. We saw similar statements from some politicians after we released the report. I think they’re just so afraid of not being electable if it appears to be trying to prescribe what people eat. If there is not a substantial change within society first, politicians won’t lead the way because it’s too controversial.”He says he is hopeful there will be a groundswell of change, particularly in big cities where restaurants specialising in plant-based dishes are popular. But millennials cannot make the change on their own. “The challenge is to make it not only a very trendy thing for young folks but also to make it accessible for the older generation.”A big problem with relying on vegetables becoming increasingly fashionable, though, is that it is a global issue that needs a global solution. Even if it becomes cool to eat less meat in western metropolitan cities, will that offset increases in meat consumption elsewhere in the world? Since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, pork demand in China has increased by an average of 5.7% each year. It is now the biggest per-capita consumer of pork products in the world.FacebookTwitterPinterest A customer builds a salad at a supermarket in Los Angeles. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBut Springmann says small local changes can still have a global impact. “If you look at why people in China eat the way they eat, for one they have a huge rise in income levels so they can afford more meat, but why do they even want to eat meat? Well they very often look towards the west to see what rich people eat,” he says. “If you talk to a Chinese person and you say you’re vegetarian for example they don’t get it. But if there is a large enough group that eats that way and it’s clear that it is progressive rather [than] a sacrifice, then it would be a strong signal to rapidly industrialising countries like China that want to catch up.”Even in the west, people switching from animal to plant products does not necessarily mean an immediate reduction in meat and dairy production. In the US, a decrease in dairy consumption has led to lower milk prices, meaning that farmers are now overproducing to try to offset their loses. Thousands of gallons of unwanted milk have been turned into processed cheese and is sitting in warehouses across the US, uneaten. May I have a word about… flexitarian dietsJonathan Bouquet Read moreBut there are reasons to be optimistic. In California, campaigners petitioned for a ballot measure that would make intense factory farming of caged chickens illegal. It passed during the most recent midterm elections and although Peta and others say it does not go far enough, itis a step in the right direction.If, in the UK, councils fine people for not recycling and high-emissions cars can be banned from the centre of London, it is time for individuals, companies and governments to actively work to reduce people’s meat intake, whether they want to or not, campaigners say.Springmann says if we do not get over our squeamishness about making these changes quickly, things are going to get a lot worse. “If we continue with our current levels of meat consumption, it’s very likely that we will have more flooding, more hurricanes, extreme weather that is associated with exceeding the two-degree target for climate change ... if nothing is done then those pressures could increase by 50 to 90% and by that time it will basically exceed all environmental limits or so-called planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity.”
Dec 3rd 2018
This optimistic vision stands in contrast to the climate talks in Poland, where the US will host an event to promote coal on December 10. Mr Trump will deliver a video message.
The conference centre where the Katowice summit will take place was built on the site of an old coal mine, and the smog that hangs in the air hints at the heavy industry that still fuels this part of southern Poland.
But perhaps the air pollution and the abandoned coal mines are an appropriate reminder of what is at stake, as the global climate agreement faces its toughest test yet.
Nov 27th 2018
Stop global warming by dimming the SUN! UV-blocking aerosols could be sprayed into the stratosphere by 2033 (but some warn the results will be 'catastrophic')
· Global warming could be cut in half, says study by Harvard and Yale universities
· Scientists say they will use high-altitude aircraft, balloons or large naval guns
· Sceptics say that the hypothetical is costly and ' more risky over the long run'
· There are potentially extreme risks including droughts or extreme weather
· Scientists are proposing an unproven way to tackle climate change by spraying sun-dimming chemicals into the Earth's atmosphere.
· A technique known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) could cut the rate of global warming in half, they say.
· The research was led by scientists at Harvard and Yale universities and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
· The idea would involve spraying large amounts of sulphate particles into the Earth's lower stratosphere at altitudes as high as 12 miles.
· The scientists say they will deliver the sulphates with specially designed high-altitude aircraft, balloons or large naval-style guns.
· The report does, however, acknowledge that the technique is purely hypothetical right now.
· There is no existing technology or aircraft suitable for adaptation but the team say the system could be created in 15 years time.
· They say they are 'developing a new, purpose-built tanker with 'substantial payload capabilities' and would neither be 'technologically difficult nor prohibitively expensive.'
· The cost of launching the SAI system is estimated at £2.7 billion ($3.5 bn) with running costs of £1.7 billion ($2.25 bn) a year.
· 'We make no judgment about the desirability of SAI,' the report states.
· 'We simply show that a hypothetical deployment program commencing 15 years hence, while both highly uncertain and ambitious, would indeed be technically possible from an engineering perspective. It would also be remarkably inexpensive.'
· The team acknowledge that there would be extreme risks with the hypothetical system.
· Coordination between multiple countries in both hemispheres would be required.
· Aside from that they say the SAI techniques could jeopardise agriculture, lead to droughts or cause extreme weather.
· Dr Gergot Wagner from Harvard University's School of Engineering and co-author of the study said: 'Given the potential benefits of halving average projected increases in radiative forcing from a particular date onward, these numbers invoke the ''incredible economics'' of solar geoengineering.
· 'Dozens of countries could fund such a program, and the required technology is not particularly exotic.'
· In 2013, the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published a report which looked at the frequency of extreme weather events.
· Since then, there has been a continued rise in how common these events occur.
· In order to cope when such adverse weather conditions strike, they made recommendations as to how the EU can better protect its citizens from climate change.
· 1. Information
· The report claimed that in order to best deal with the issues, it is necessary to understand them first.
· To understand how global warming will affect the extremes of weather, it is necessary to study and model them.
· 2. Heat waves
· Across the European continent, heatwaves can vary massively and have vastly different impacts.
· Understanding the nuances of these phenomena is key to weathering the storm.
· 3. Flood defence and early warning
· Good practice in flood preparedness and for flood defence across Europe should be shared, including information about different responses to flood preparedness and flood warnings.
· 4. Agriculture
· The report stated that the agriculture sector as a whole needed to improve.
· Vulnerability to extreme weather and possible measures to increase resilience should be produced.
· 5. Strengthen the knowledge of climate change
· The research found that it was crucial that we viewed climate change adaptation as a continuous process.
· In order to do this sustained observations, analysis and climate modelling about the Earth are integral parts of a robust and flexible climate-change adaptation strategy.
· It claims knowledge dissemination, innovation and building international relationships is key.
· 6. Changes in policies
· Before adaptation can be achieved, there are several barriers which include those that are physical, technical, psychological, financial, institutional and knowledge-based.
· The proposals also don't address the issue of rising greenhouse gas emissions, which are a leading cause of global warming.
· But not everyone is convinced.
· Philippe Thalmann from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, an expert in the economics of climate change said the system would be more costly and 'much more risky over the long run'.
· David Archer from the department of geophysical science at the University of Chicago told CNN: 'The problem with engineering climate in this way is that it's only a temporary Band-Aid covering a problem that will persist essentially forever.
· 'It will be tempting to continue to procrastinate on cleaning up our energy system, but we'd be leaving the planet on a form of life-support.
· 'If a future generation failed to pay their climate bill they would get all of our warming all at once.'
July 19th 2018
Climate change, in other words, is not a hypothetical future event — it’s here. We’re living it. And at a major science conference this month, some of the world’s leading climate scientists said it was changing our world in ways beyond what they’d anticipated.
“The red alert is on,” Laurent Fabius, who was president of the 2015 international climate change negotiations in Paris, told an audience last week at the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting. As of 2015, global temperatures had risen about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “It’s a race against time,” Fabius said, and the political challenge is to avoid acting too late.
A draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reportthat leaked earlier this year concludes that global temperatures are on track to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by about 2040. The 2015 Paris climate agreement set limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a sort of stretch goal, with the less ambitious target being 2 degrees Celsius. The IPCC report, which is expected to be released in October, says that even if the pledges made under the Paris agreement are fulfilled, warming will still exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report also says that the differences between the present day and just 0.5 degrees more warming are “substantial increases in extremes,” including hot temperatures, “heavy precipitation events” and extreme droughts.
We don’t have to look to the future to see what climate change can do. At the EuroScience Open Forum, Camille Parmesan,1 a professor and member of IPCC, discussed her research showing that 90 percent of the 490 plant species examined at two sites, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Chinnor in the U.K., are responding to climate change in measurable ways. Some plants she’s studied require winter chilling to thrive, and that’s a problem, because winter is warming more than spring.
And temperatures aren’t rising uniformly. Areas at higher latitudes are warming faster than other places, and that has allowed outbreaks of infections from Vibrio, a bacteria genus that thrives in warm waters, to happen in places like the Baltic Sea area. “We’ve underestimated the impact of climate change thus far,” Parmesan said.
The accelerating consequences of climate disruption will be a major theme when COP24, the next iteration of the climate conference that produced the Paris agreement, meets in Poland in December. Another focus of discussion will be the progress that each country has made toward its “nationally determined contributions,” the voluntary goals for reducing emissions that nations set for themselves in Paris. Progress is not in line with these goals in many countries, Fabius said. “Germany is not fulfilling its [NDCs], and in France last year, CO2 emissions were up,” he said.
If decision-makers can’t agree on politics, they might be persuaded by economics, said Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist and a longtime member of IPCC. De-carbonizing our energy systems is “the biggest opportunity in the 21st century,” he told the EuroScience Open Forum.
Some local and state governments in the U.S. are exploring that opportunity. “The Trump White House is not just failing to do climate,” Parmesan said. “It’s doing its best to stop every advance we’ve made in the last 20 years, but what’s happening is a reaction from the ground level up that’s countering that national-level resistance.” (The White House did not respond to FiveThirtyEight’s request for comment.) As an example, she pointed to Georgetown, Texas, a city north of Austin. The electric company there is owned by the city, which has just switched to 100 percent renewable energy. “The mayor is quite conservative, and he got mad when people said it was for climate change,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no — it just makes economic sense.’”
July 6th 2018
Belize Praised for Saving Its Huge Coral Reef From Utter Destruction
The reef is the second-largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced Tuesday that the Belize Barrier Reef is no longer on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites, the BBC reported.
The site had been flagged by the world heritage body in 2009, when the Belize government considered allowing oil exploration in adjacent waters. But since that time, the Central American country had taken "visionary" steps to preserve it, UNESCO said.
“The Belizean government deserves tremendous credit for partnering with the NGO sector and taking concrete steps toward safeguarding this truly special seascape — and that work will continue,” Nicole Auil Gomez, Belize country director for the Wildlife .Conservation Society, said in a statement, according to HuffPost
“We remain optimistic that smart, effective conservation measures, with a focus on long-term commitments that lead to results, can help save endangered World Heritage Sites before they disappear.”
described as one of the most biodiverse marine sites on the planet, noted HuffPost’s report. A 190-mile-long swatch of coral that includes world-renowned destinations like the Great Blue Hole, is home to nearly 1,400 species and has been described as one of the most biodiverse marine sites on the planet, noted HuffPost’s report.
Included among those are a number of threatened species, such as marine turtles, manatees, and the American marine crocodile, according to the BBC.
But the reef and its inhabitants now benefit under the protection of a landmark moratorium on oil exploration in Belizean waters, passed in December 2017. The BBC noted that Belize is one of only a handful of countries in the world with such legislation.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, which call on countries to promote biodiversity. You can take action on this issue here.
March 6th 2018
Global sea level rise is accelerating incrementally over time rather than increasing at a steady rate, as previously thought, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data.
If the rate of ocean rise continues to change at this pace, sea level will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100 — enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, according to the new assessment by Nerem and colleagues from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; CU Boulder; the University of South Florida in Tampa; and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The team, driven to understand and better predict Earth's response to a warming world, published their work Feb. 12 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is almost certainly a conservative estimate," Nerem said. "Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that's not likely."
Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways. First, warmer water expands, and this "thermal expansion" of the ocean has contributed about half of the 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) of global mean sea level rise we've seen over the last 25 years, Nerem said. Second, melting land ice flows into the ocean, also increasing sea level across the globe.
These increases were measured using satellite altimeter measurements since 1992, including the Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2 and Jason-3 satellite missions, which have been jointly managed by multiple agencies, including NASA, Centre national d'etudes spatiales (CNES), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the U.S. portion of these missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The rate of sea level rise in the satellite era has risen from about 0.1 inch (2.5 millimeters) per year in the 1990s to about 0.13 inches (3.4 millimeters) per year today.
"The Topex/Poseidon/Jason altimetry missions have been essentially providing the equivalent of a global network of nearly half a million accurate tide gauges, providing sea surface height information every 10 days for over 25 years," said Brian Beckley, of NASA Goddard, second author on the new paper and lead of a team that processes altimetry observations into a global sea level data record. "As this climate data record approaches three decades, the fingerprints of Greenland and Antarctic land-based ice loss are now being revealed in the global and regional mean sea level estimates."
Even with a 25-year data record, detecting acceleration is challenging. Episodes like volcanic eruptions can create variability: the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 decreased global mean sea level just before the Topex/Poseidon satellite launch, for example. In addition, global sea level can fluctuate due to climate patterns such as El Ninos and La Ninos (the opposing phases of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation), which influence ocean temperature and global precipitation patterns.
Nerem and his team used climate models to account for the volcanic effects and other datasets to determine the El Nino/La Nina effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying rate and acceleration of sea level rise over the last quarter century.
The team also used tide gauge data to assess potential errors in the altimeter estimate.
"The tide gauge measurements are essential for determining the uncertainty in the global mean sea level acceleration estimate," said co-author Gary Mitchum, University of South Florida College of Marine Science. "They provide the only assessments of the satellite instruments from the ground." Others have used tide gauge data to measure sea level acceleration, but scientists have struggled to pull out other important details from tide-gauge data, such as changes in the last couple of decades due to more active ice sheet melt.
In addition to NASA's involvement in missions that make direct sea level observations from space, the agency's Earth science work includes a wide-ranging portfolio of missions, field campaigns and research that contribute to improved understanding of how global sea level is changing. Airborne campaigns such as Operation IceBridge and JPL's Oceans Melting Greenland gather measurements of ice sheets and glaciers, while computer modeling research improves our understanding of how Antarctica and Greenland will respond in a warming climate.
In 2018, NASA will launch two new satellite missions that will be critical to improving future sea level projections: the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership with GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ) in Germany, will continue measurements of the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets; while the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will make highly accurate observations of the elevation of ice sheets and glaciers.
June 30th 2017
According to a recent Yale survey, 7 in 10 Americans believe global warming is real and happening. And 6 in 10 believe it is affecting U.S. weather. But only 1 in 3 say they’ve personally felt its effects. That disconnect stuck with Heidi Cullen. “You’re never going to think of it as an issue that’s urgent unless you recognize the fact that you’re already being impacted,” says Cullen, chief scientist for the nonprofit Climate Central. Now in its ninth year, Climate Central is part research hub and part journalism outfit—an unusual hybrid that tries to connect climate change to people’s lives.
The organization’s latest project, World Weather Attribution, identifies direct links between extreme weather events and global warming. Cullen and her team created the program after realizing that while the tools for attributing such events have evolved, the results were coming out too late to influence the conversation. Cullen also worried that media covering extreme weather operated off outdated information: They would say you couldn’t tie any specific event to climate change. “Now the techniques exist,” Cullen says. So she set out to provide objective answers, swiftly. Researchers from Climate Central and other institutions around the world combine information from climate models, on-the-ground observations, and a range of peer-reviewed research to supply evidence for their reports. Recently, her team determined that global warming made 2017’s exceptionally warm February in the U.S. at least three times more likely.
Connecting science to regular people’s lives is second nature to Cullen, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 2002, when she was forecasting droughts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, a producer from the Weather Channel called. They wanted to hire a climate expert to appear on air. It was four years before An Inconvenient Truth, and many Americans were just opening their eyes to global warming. “It seemed like a really important moment,” Cullen says. She packed up and headed for Atlanta.
“You’re never going to think of it as an issue that’s urgent unless you recognize the fact that you’re already being impacted."
Cullen arrived at the Weather Channel a complete communication novice, unsure of how to convey any scientific info succinctly, and clueless about makeup and other accoutrement of television personalities. She would submit scripts for short segments to the producers, “and they would shake their heads” at the overly complex, jargon-laden writing, she recalls. “I’d walk down the hallway, and they would start singing ‘She Blinded Me with Science.’” Eventually, though, Cullen became a pro, earning her own weekly show.
In 2008, Princeton ecologist Stephen Pacala contacted her about joining Climate Central. Her first project was a program to enable meteorologists to connect the dots between local weather and global warming. For World Weather Attribution, Cullen is as likely to do the research that will be used in reports as write up results based on others’ investigations.
For someone who’s been immersed in the scary realities of global warming for so long, Cullen is surprisingly optimistic. She credits two things. One, she’s found a proven method for staying upbeat: puppies, which she trains for the Seeing Eye, the nation’s oldest guide-dog training program. Her current charge is a Lab/golden cross named Earl. “It’s a counterpoint to climate change.” The other, she says, is that in her field, “you look with this long-term perspective.” That’s helping her ride out the current administration’s direct attacks on science. “Four years isn’t a long time.”
April 13th 2017
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is recognized as the biggest living structure on Earth. Unfortunately, it's dying--with many portions facing no hope for recovery--thanks to back to back mass bleaching events.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Why care about reefs? In a word—biodiversity. The reef is home to 3,000 varieties of mollusks, over a hundred types of jellyfish, 1,625 species of fish, hundreds of shark and ray species, and over 30 kinds of whales and dolphins. These sea creatures call the soft and hard corals that make up the reef “home.” And without it, many of them will die.
If that’s not enough, it has the distinction of being the largest living structure on the planet.
The Great Barrier Reef is home to 3,000 individual coral reefs stretching across a staggering 2,575 kilometers (1,600 miles), covering an area of about 344,400 square kilometers (133,000 square miles.)
Unfortunately, because of back to back Mass bleaching events
scientists are telling us that the massive, impressive Australian Great Barrier Reef is now at a ‘terminal stage’—with large portions having no hope of recovery.
Mass bleaching, a phenomenon caused by global warming, is prompted when the water warms to a point that corals begin ejecting the symbiotic algae in their tissue, essential for their survival. Throughout history, there have only been four instances of this occurrence, and after such an event, it will take decades to recover.
“This is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss,” said researcher James Kerry from James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He clarifies why the 2017 bleaching is significant: “It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”
The newest aerial surveys covered over 8,000 kilometers (5,000) miles, which includes 800 individual coral reefs.
According to the surveys, 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached. These new statistics come less than a year after 93 percent of the reef suffered severe damage, with reports adding that the effects have also spread further south.
Combined with the mass bleaching event, the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Debbie added to the devastation, as it struck a section of the reef that managed to escape the worst of the bleaching.
“We’ve given up,” said Jon Brodie, a James Cook University water quality expert, who was referring to inaction on the part of the Australian government. “It’s been my life managing water quality, we’ve failed.”
Unfortunately, in this age of global warming, temperatures are expected to continue rising, which means more of these bleaching events will happen, and they will cause even more damage. And the reality is, this could be the last generation who will get to see the grand beauty of this reef.
Fortunately, it’s not too late for us to save the rest of the planet from the worst effects of climate change. But we must act now.
This is James Hansen and a video of his TED talk.
June 5th 2016
The Arctic is on track to be free of sea ice this year or next for the first time in more than 100,000 years, a leading scientist has claimed.
Provisional satellite data produced by the US National Snow & Ice Data Centre shows there were just over 11.1 million square kilometres of sea ice on 1 June this year, compared to the average for the last 30 years of nearly 12.7 million square kilometres.
This difference – more than 1.5 million square kilometres – is about the same size as about six United Kingdoms.
Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, told The Independent that the latest figures largely bore out a controversial prediction he made four years ago.
“My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than one million square kilometres for September of this year,” he said.
“Even if the ice doesn’t completely disappear, it is very likely that this will be a record low year. I’m convinced it will be less than 3.4 million square kilometres [the current record low].
“I think there’s a reasonable chance it could get down to a million this year and if it doesn’t do it this year, it will do it next year.
“Ice free means the central part of the Arctic and the North Pole is ice free.”
Most of the remaining ice within the Arctic Circle would be trapped among the myriad of islands along Canada’s north coast.
The last time the Arctic was clear of ice is believed to be about 100,000 to 120,000 years ago.
The rapid warming of the polar region has been linked with extreme weather events such as “bomb cyclones”, flooding in the UK and out-of-season tornadoes in the United States.
And the sea ice off the north coast of Russia, which normally insulates the water below to keep it cool, is no longer present for much of the year, allowing the sea to get significantly warmer than before.
Scientists have monitored greenhouse gas methane – once frozen on the sea bed – bubbling up to the surface at an alarming rate.
According to one study published in the journal Nature by Professor Wadhams and others, this could produce an average rise in global temperature of 0.6 degrees Celsius in just five years.
“That would be a very, very serious upward jerk to global warming,” Professor Wadhams said, saying the prospect was “frightening”.
Less sea ice also means the surface of the Earth is darker, so it absorbs more of the sun’s energy.
“When the sea ice retreats, it changes the whole situation. People are right to be concerned about the sea ice retreat and disappearance mainly because of all these other feedbacks,” Professor Wadhams added.
Sea ice is usually at its lowest in September and starts to build again when the winter sets in.
Dr Peter Gleick, a leading climatologist, said he had “no idea” if Professor Wadhams’ prediction was correct.
And he added: “If it's wrong, this kind of projection leads to climate sceptics and deniers to criticize the entire community.”
However Dr Gleick said Professor Wadhams was right to sound a warning about the rising temperatures in the region, saying it was “extraordinarily disturbing even in a world of disturbing news about accelerating climate change”.
“An ice-free - and even an ice-reduced - Arctic is leading to global impacts on weather and ecosystems, and most importantly, that the changes in the Arctic presage dramatic fundamental changes in climate throughout the globe,” he said.
“We're on a runaway train, scientists are blowing the whistle, but politicians are still shovelling coal into the engine.”
Professor Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers University in the US, who has studied the effect of the Arctic on the weather in the rest of the northern hemisphere, was also sceptical about Professor Wadhams' prediction, saying it was “highly unlikely” to come true this year.
She said she thought this would not happen until sometime between 2030 and 2050.
But Professor Francis stressed: “We are definitely looking at a very unusual situation up in the Arctic.
“The ice is very low and there have been record-breaking low amounts of ice in January, February, March, April and now May, so this is very worrisome.
“I think we are going to see perhaps a new record [in September], that’s very possible.”
The following is a video about research into ice loss at the poles.
An inconvenient truth
SEA LEVEL RISE
Global warming is probably responsible for more tidal surges this is how we describe a situation where the normal tide is much higher than expected due to the wind and weather conditions in the catchment area.
Low atmospheric pressure will cause the surface of the sea to be higher than normal, this is a normal fact of nature but if it coincides with strong onshore winds then the breaking waves can be much higher than normal.
This situation is being made worse by the rising sea levels caused by global warming and in many places it is necessary to strengthen the sea defenses to meet modern conditions safely.
I refer you to our Air pollution page
If you live in a coastal area you can protect yourself and your family by carefully watching the weather forecasts and listening to the local news, you may get warnings from the local police or civil defense issued by radio or television.
Human beings are not doing this planet any good, we are slowly destroying its ability to support life, atmospheric pollution is making life difficult for many people and in lots of cases scarce species are driven into extinction.
The only thing we can be proud of is that there are scientists collecting and storing DNA.
There are some examples where a species has been brought back from the brink of extinction and better communication is making the general public more aware of the problem so maybe we can have more hope for the future.
Global air pollution
Air pollution is most keenly felt in cities that are positioned where there is little wind, a dense population and many motor vehicles, with dozens of factories on the city outskirts air pollution sometimes forces people to wear breathing masks.
Having taken steps to protect the ozone layer by banning some chemicals that used to be freely used in spray cans and refrigerators we can now see steps that we’re winning this battle with the ozone holes over the poles gradually closing up.
The main task now seem to be to reduce the amount of carbon that we discharge into the atmosphere, some of this is absorbed by the forests and other green plants and more disappears into the ocean, but we are a long, long way from achieving a carbon balance.
There is hope as measures intensify to attack the problem on all fronts, that one day, hopefully before it is too late, that we can turn our attention to the next problem.
Our seas and oceans are getting more and more polluted every year and not everything that we put into the sea is biodegradable the main problem is plastic materials of all sorts it stays in the sea for a very long time.
Although it may get battered into small pieces it is still there being more of a danger to the smaller creatures who swallow it and cannot just digest such plastic.
Then there's the new problem of the microscopic plastic balls that they put in some toothpastes.
There are islands of floating plastic garbage concentrated in one place by the ocean currents, those plastic items that do not float sink to the bottom of the ocean.
They litter the ocean floor, as they sink the larger sea creatures will swallow these plastic items and not being able to digest them they remain in the stomachs slowly killing the animal.
There is a lot of concern these days about what we put into the atmosphere in the form of exhaust emissions, factories and transport as well as animals including humans all emit gas which goes into the atmosphere.
We all have what is called a carbon foot print, this is a measure of the amount of carbon each entity is responsible for putting into the atmosphere. We should all try to reduce our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy that we are responsible for burning.
We can do this turn down our thermostat, turn off lights we don’t need, go for a walk instead of taking a joy ride in the car there are a multitude of ways that everyone of us can help and we’re encouraged to do it because it is for the good of every living thing.
We have had droughts recorded going back hundreds of years so they’re not a new event, but the evidence suggests that they are more severe and more common than they used to be and global warming is thought to be the cause.
Unfortunately humans are little better able to cope with droughts than they used to be all those years ago, we have bioengineered some crops that are more drought resistant.
We have had some improvements in irrigation but none of this is really significant if we get a lasting drought everything dies and the fields turn to dust so long as the wind is not too strong, the dust won’t blow away.
Global warming is with us, it’s going to get worse, it’s going to last a long time, we must all do everything we can to slow the progress as much as possible.
We can argue that it is natural or that it is man made, that is not going to change the situation it is here and we have got to do our best to live with it.
Please do all you can to reduce your carbon footprint.
Then there is the sceptics view. This film is seven years old, but I think it's still relevant in its information.