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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 75122 times)
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« Reply #75 on: Sep 15, 2012, 06:25 AM »

Government study: Climate change boosted ‘unprecedented’ drought

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, September 14, 2012 14:39 EDT

An Australian government study published Friday claims to establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between man-made climate change and the country’s recently ended decade of “unprecedented” drought.

While the study establishes a link between climate change and drought, authors of the South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative’s synthesis report (PDF) said the changes forecast by their research point to weather systems becoming much more erratic and rainfall scarce across south-eastern Australia as the average annual temperature rises.

The study began with urgency in 2006, amid Australia’s so-called Millennium Drought, which got underway in 2001 and didn’t abate until 2010, then the country saw record rains a major typhoon that brought devastating floods. They added that the Millennium Drought was “unprecedented” in the country’s history, far outstripping the two worst droughts that preceded it, and even appeared to exceed previously observed “natural variability” observed in historical records. That could indicate “a shift in the climate ‘baseline,’” they warned.

Researchers said that it is possible some of the flooding in 2010 and 2011 was attributable to climate change as well, with drought-hardened ground contributing to greater water runoff and the warmest ocean temperatures on record supercharging major storms. “This is particularly true in the northern part of [Australia's major river network] the Murray–Darling Basin where it is estimated that elevated sea-surface temperatures may have contributed 10 to 25 percent of the total rainfall,” they wrote.

Despite record rains last year, south-eastern Australia experienced its fifth hottest month on record in August, and many forecasts are pointing to another severe drought on the horizon.

“Climate change projections show a wide range of possible and plausible impacts, and there is therefore a high degree of uncertainty about future rainfall and streamflow scenarios,” researchers concluded. “This means water resource managers need to ensure that their planning and management processes are robust and adaptive across a wide range of future climate and streamflow scenarios and are subject to regular review.”

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has long maintained that climate change can produce extreme weather, but they’ve tended to look for links in long term shifts in average temperatures rather than direct climate links to specific incidents.

——

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« Reply #76 on: Sep 15, 2012, 08:42 AM »

In the USA...

House Republicans Voted Against The Environment More Than 300 Times Since 2011

By Rebecca Leber posted from Climate Progress on Sep 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The House of Representatives added to its historic tally of anti-environment votes with a 245 to 161 vote on Friday approving the GOP’s “No More Solyndras Act” — a messaging bill that hampers Department of Energy loan guarantees to clean energy projects.

Under GOP leadership, the House has voted 302 times against the environment since 2011, according to the latest report from House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats. More than one hundred of these votes have favored profits in the oil and gas industry. Since June, the House has added 55 votes and counting to this list, amounting to more than one vote for every day it has been in session.

Here is a breakdown of some of Republicans’ votes against clean energy and in favor of oil:

    – 133 votes targeting the Environmental Protection Agency
    – 54 target the Department of Energy
    – 128 block measures preventing pollution
    – 55 to defund or repeal clean energy initaitives
    – 47 votes to promote offshore drilling

The latest vote today had little to do with Solyndra, and even less to do with smart investments in clean energy. After spending $1 million of taxpayer money, holding 12 hearings, and 300,000 pages of documents, House Republicans have found “no evidence” of wrongdoing. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) has admitted the ploy is political, and would likely stop on election day.

As the House’s anti-environment record grows, oil, gas and coal’s political spending has reached record levels. In addition to the in TV ads from fossil fuel groups this election, oil, gas and coal have contributed 88 percent of its $45 million to Republican candidates. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the coal mining and oil and gas industries have contributed 89-90 percent of their $12.6 million donations to House Republicans.
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« Reply #77 on: Sep 17, 2012, 07:50 AM »


Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

By John Vidal, The Guardian
Monday, September 17, 2012 9:09 EDT

One of the world’s leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years.

In what he calls a “global disaster” now unfolding in northern latitudes as the sea area that freezes and melts each year shrinks to its lowest extent ever recorded, Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University calls for “urgent” consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.

In an email to the Guardian he says: “Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades’ time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geo-engineering ideas that have been put forward.”

These include reflecting the sun’s rays back into space, making clouds whiter and seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more CO2.

Wadhams has spent many years collecting ice thickness data from submarines passing below the arctic ocean. He predicted the imminent break-up of sea ice in summer months in 2007, when the previous lowest extent of 4.17 million square kilometres was set. This year, it has unexpectedly plunged a further 500,000 sq km to less than 3.5m sq km. “I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years. The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer.

“At first this didn’t [get] noticed; the summer ice limits slowly shrank back, at a rate which suggested that the ice would last another 50 years or so. But in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months.

“This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”.

Wadhams says the implications are “terrible”. “The positives are increased possibility of Arctic transport, increased access to Arctic offshore oil and gas resources. The main negative is an acceleration of global warming.”

“As the sea ice retreats in summer the ocean warms up (to 7C in 2011) and this warms the seabed too. The continental shelves of the Arctic are composed of offshore permafrost, frozen sediment left over from the last ice age. As the water warms the permafrost melts and releases huge quantities of trapped methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas so this will give a big boost to global warming.”

© Guardian News and Media 2012


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« Reply #78 on: Sep 20, 2012, 05:49 AM »


‘Planetary emergency’ due to Arctic melt, experts warn

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, September 20, 2012 4:11 EDT

Experts warned of a “planetary emergency” due to the unforeseen global consequences of Arctic ice melt, including methane gas released from permafrost regions currently under ice.

Columbia University and the environmental activist group Greenpeace held separate events Wednesday to discuss US government data showing that the Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest surface area since record-keeping began in 1979.

Satellite images show the Arctic ice cap melted to 1.32 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers) as of September 16, the predicted lowest point for the year, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“Between 1979 and 2012, we have a decline of 13 percent per decade in the sea ice, accelerating from six percent between 1979 and 2000,” said oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski with the US Naval Postgraduate School, speaking at the Greenpeace event.

“If this trend continues we will not have sea ice by the end of this decade,” said Maslowski.

While these figures are worse than the early estimates they come as no surprise to scientists, said NASA climate expert James Hansen, who also spoke at the Greenpeace event.

“We are in a planetary emergency,” said Hansen, decrying “the gap between what is understood by scientific community and what is known by the public.”

Scientists say the earth’s climate has been warming because carbon dioxide and other human-produced gases hinder the planet’s reflection of the sun’s heat back into space, creating a greenhouse effect.

Environmentalists warn that a string of recent extreme weather events around the globe, including deadly typhoons, devastating floods and severe droughts, show urgent action on emission cuts is needed.

The extreme weather include the drought and heat waves that struck the United States in the summer.

One consequence of the melt is the slow but continuous rise in the ocean level that threatens coastal areas.

Another result is the likely release of large amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas — trapped in the permafrost under Greenland’s ice cap, the remains of the region’s organic plant and animal life that were trapped in sediment and later covered by ice sheets in the last Ice Age.

Methane is 25 times more efficient at trapping solar heat than carbon dioxide, and the released gases could in turn add to global warming, which in turn would free up more locked-up carbon.

“The implications are enormous and also mysterious,” said environmentalist Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, a global non-governmental organization focused on solving the climate crisis.

For Peter Schlosser, an expert with the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the impact of the polar ice cap melt is hard to determine because “the Arctic is likely to respond rapidly and more severely than other part of the Earth.

“The effects of human induced global change are more and more visible and larger impacts are expected for the future,” he said.

Some see the Arctic melt as a business opportunity — a chance to reach the oil and gas riches under the seabed, and a path for ships to shorten the distance between ports and saving time and fuel.

According to the US Geological Survey, within the Arctic Circle there are some 90 million barrels of oil — 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.

The potential bounty that has encouraged energy groups like Royal Dutch Shell Co. to invest heavily in the region.

Greenpeace International head Kumi Naidoo says that oil companies have thwarted governments from taking action to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Why our governments don’t take action? Because they have been captured by the same interests of the energy industry,” Naidoo said.

Anne Siders, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law, warned against the “temptation” of sending ships through the area.

The new shipping lanes are dangerous to use because there are plenty of ice floes and little infrastructure for help in case of an accident — which in turn increases the insurance costs.

Another consequence of global warming is that, as the oceans warm, more cold-water fish move north, “which means more fish will be taken out of their ecosystem,” said Siders.

Caroline Cannon, a leader of the Inupiat community of Alaska, reminded the participants that her indigenous community, including her nine children and 25 grandchildren, depend on Arctic fishing and hunting for survival.

“My people rely on that ocean and we’re seeing dramatic changes,” said Cannon. “It’s scary to think about our food supply.”


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« Reply #79 on: Sep 24, 2012, 06:11 AM »

Scientists say carbon taxes favor wealthy countries’ consumers over poor countries’ producers

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, September 23, 2012 17:40 EDT

Calls for carbon taxes to tackle global warming often dodge the complexity of this issue, with the risk that hasty action could damage the world economy and fuel the greenhouse-gas problem, experts warned on Sunday.

Carbon taxes — levies that would be imposed on goods according to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in making them and shipping them — have been proposed by some as a way of curbing warming gases.

The idea is furiously opposed by developing giants, especially China, the world’s No. 1 manufacturer and carbon emitter by volume.

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, German specialists cautioned the question is complex and a potential minefield.

“Typically in the West, we import goods whose production causes a lot of greenhouse-gas emissions in poorer countries,” said Michael Jakob of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

“It is a contested question to which countries these emissions should be attributed.”

In a 2010 study, imports to the United States were shown to contain on average 777 grammes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per dollar.

Exports from America, though, were far less carbon-intensive, at 490 grammes of CO2 per dollar.

The picture for China, though, was quite the opposite: its imports were just 49 grammes per dollar, but its exports were a whopping 2,180 grammes per dollar.

But these raw facts are misleading for several reasons, says the study.

For one thing, China’s higher CO2 output is caused in part by demand for its goods in the United States, which is running a huge trade deficit.

“We can show that of the CO2 flowing into the US in (the) form of imported goods, almost 50 percent are due to the American trade deficit alone,” said Jakob.

Other confounding factors are the economic role taken by developing countries, which are “relatively more specialised in the production of dirty goods”, and also energy efficiency, says the paper.

A typical export from Western countries to developing giants is machine tools, which are then used to make products such as toys.

These machines are made in the West using comparatively low-carbon industrial techniques.

But when they are plugged in and used, they are usually powered by coal-fired electricity, the dirtiest of the main fossil fuels.

In such conditions, a carbon tax would be counter-productive.

To do so could prompt the developing country to make its own machines, which are likely to be more energy-intensive. This in turn would drive up the carbon tax on what was manufactured.

“In the end, interventions in world trade could do more harm than good,” said co-author Robert Marschinski.

CO2 transfers alone “are not enough as a basis” to justify carbon taxes, he said.

What really counts is how clean or dirty national energy production is, he said.

Taxes “cannot replace what it really takes — more international cooperation” to set a goal for curbing carbon emissions, supplemented by help for greater energy efficiency and regional emissions-trading systems, he said.
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« Reply #80 on: Sep 24, 2012, 06:29 AM »

In half century, Brazil lost 80% of coral reef: study

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, September 23, 2012 20:40 EDT

In just five decades, Brazil has lost 80 percent of the coral reef once found along 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) of its northeastern coast, according to a study cited by local media Sunday.

Brazil’s reef ecosystems — with 18 species of coral, algae and at least three types of fish — lie not far out to sea, near major Brazilian cities like Fortaleza, Recife and Natal.

The study, cited by the G1 news portal, was conducted by the country’s environment ministry and the Federal University of Pernambuco.

Lead researcher Beatrice Padovani was quoted as saying that domestic, industrial and farm pollution were factors in boosting sediment accumulation that has devastated the reef systems.
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« Reply #81 on: Sep 25, 2012, 06:58 AM »

Scientists: ’93 percent’ of Fox News climate change coverage is ‘staggeringly misleading’

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, September 24, 2012 17:12 EDT

When it comes to reporting on what scientists say about climate change, the Union of Concerned Scientists told Raw Story that their research shows Fox News can be counted upon to mislead its viewers.

In a study (PDF) published Monday, the group takes Fox News and The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page to task for consistently misleading their audience on climate change. Data collected over six months showed that Fox News was the worst offender on climate issues between the two, allowing misleading statements to permeate “93 percent” of its broadcasts on the subject from February to July 2012. The Journal‘s editorial page did not fare much better, however: the Union said “81 percent” of their climate coverage from August 2011 to July 2012 was “misleading.”

our research] after, and we call on News Corporation to do the same.”

The report also cites News Corp. media baron Rupert Murdoch himself for ushering his company along a sustainable energy path and lauds him for announcing in 2011 that News Corp. had become entirely carbon neutral. In an internal News Corp. memo, Murdoch bragged that energy efficiency improvements made company-wide paid for themselves in just two years. “We made a bold commitment in 2007 to embed the values of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability into all of our businesses — for the benefit of our communities and our bottom line,” he wrote.

News Corp. isn’t alone either: 343 S&P 500 companies participated in the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project, and 92 percent of them reported undertaking “board or executive level oversight” on climate-related matters. The British environmental group behind that study said their results show a “tipping point” has been reached when it comes to corporate acceptance of climate change.

“News Corp. needs to help its staff to differentiate between opinions about climate change and scientific facts,” the Union’s report concludes. “It is entirely appropriate to disagree with specific actions or policies aimed at addressing climate change while accepting the clearly established findings of climate science. And while it is appropriate to question new science as it emerges, it is misleading to reject or sow doubt about established science—in this case, the overwhelming body of evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring.”
——

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« Reply #82 on: Sep 26, 2012, 07:37 AM »

Climate change slowing down world economy, ‘most savage impact is hunger and poverty’

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:36 EDT

Climate change caused by global warming is slowing down world economic output by 1.6 percent a year and will lead to a doubling of costs in the next two decades, a major new report said.

The DARA and Climate Vulnerable Forum report, which was commissioned by 20 governments and is due to be presented on Wednesday in New York, paints a grim picture of the economic fallout of climate change.

The “Climate Vulnerability Monitor” report finds “unprecedented harm to human society and current economic development that will increasingly hold back growth, on the basis of an important updating and revision of previous estimates of losses linked to climate change.”

However, according to the report, tackling climate change’s causes would instead bring “significant economic benefits for world, major economies and poor nations alike.”

Key findings include estimates that carbon-intensive economies and associated climate change are responsible for five million deaths a year, nearly all of them due to air pollution.

“Failure to act on climate change already costs the world economy 1.6 percent of global GDP amounting to $1.2 trillion in forgone prosperity a year,” the report says.

In addition, “rapidly escalating temperatures and carbon-related pollution will double costs to 3.2 percent of world GDP by 2030.”

Although poorer countries face the steepest economic damage in terms of GDP losses, big countries will not be spared.

“In less than 20 years China will incur the greatest share of all losses at over $1.2 trillion. The US economy will be held back by more two percent of GDP; India, over five percent of its GDP,” the report said.

It said these projected losses “dwarf the modest costs” of addressing climate change.

The climate forum’s chairman, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said weather pattern changes would be devastating for her country.

“One degree Celsius rise in temperature is associated with 10 percent productivity loss in farming,” she said. “For us, it means losing about four million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5 billion. That is about two percent of our GDP. Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about three to four percent of GDP.”

Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of the aid agency Oxfam International, called the report “another reminder that climate change’s most savage impact is hunger and poverty.”

“The economic and social costs of political inaction of unchecked climate change are staggering,” he said. “Behind the statistics are the stories of real families and communities, for whom climate change means putting children to bed with empty stomachs.”
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« Reply #83 on: Sep 26, 2012, 08:29 AM »

In the USA...

20 Dollar Per Ton Carbon Tax Could Reduce Deficit By $1.2 Trillion In 10 Years

By Stephen Lacey on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

Over the last year, there’s been increasing talk in Washington political circles — including conservative ones — about how to use a carbon tax as a deficit reduction tool. However, with an election season in full swing and a large number of Congressional Republicans campaigning against climate action, the current likelihood of getting a price on carbon is officially zero.

In theory, if Obama gets re-elected in November, there could be an opportunity to pass a carbon tax as part of a deficit reduction plan. With Bush-era tax cuts set to expire and Republicans talking a big fiscal game, Obama might have some leverage to play hardball with Congress and push for carbon pricing as part of a larger package.

It’s a long shot. But a new report from the Congressional Research Service released today illustrates why it’s such an enticing prospect. According to the CRS analysis, a modest carbon tax of $20 per ton that rises 5.6 percent annually could cut the projected 10-year deficit by 50 percent — from $2.3 trillion down to $1.1 trillion.

The CRS report models two scenarios — one based on current law (the blue bar below) and one based on an alternative scenario (gray bar below) that assumes a much greater increase in the deficit due to extension of tax cuts and the avoidance of automatic spending cuts through the Budget Control Act. While the two scenarios vary widely, they show that a price on carbon starting in 2013 could fill in a sizable chunk of the federal budget gap:



Here’s how CRS explained the two scenarios:

    The possible contribution of a carbon tax to deficit reduction would depend on the magnitude and scope of the carbon tax, various market factors and assumptions about the size of the deficit. In August 2012, CBO released updated budget projections for fiscal years 2012 to 2022. Under current law, CBO estimated the 10-year budget deficit at $2.3 trillion, or 1.1% of GDP. However, using an alternative fiscal scenario, CBO’s projected a larger deficit—$10.0 trillion, or 4.9% of GDP.

    Enacting the carbon tax options discussed in the previous section could reduce future budget deficits. As illustrated in Figure 4, a $20/mtCO2 price on carbon (increasing by 5.6% annually) would have a considerable impact on budget deficits using CBO’s August 2012 baseline projection.

        The 10-year budget deficit could be reduced from $2.3 trillion to $1.1 trillion, or from 1.1% to 0.5% of GDP.
        Overall, a $20/mtCO2 price on carbon would reduce the 10-year budget deficit by more than 50%.

        Under CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario, the same carbon tax would have a smaller impact on budget deficits.
        The deficit would be reduced from $10.0 trillion to $8.8 trillion, or from 4.9% to 4.4% of GDP.
        Overall, a $20/mtCO2 price on carbon would reduce the 10-year budget deficit by about 12%.

In the first year alone, CRS estimates that a $20 per ton carbon tax could generate $90 billion.

But here’s the catch: As the analysis points out, not all revenues from a carbon tax would go toward deficit reduction. Some revenues might need to be “recycled” back to groups of people that would disproportionately bear the costs of a carbon price; some might be offset by lowering the payroll tax; some might go back to industry to help companies invest in new technologies and make a low-carbon transition; and some might go into government clean energy deployment programs.

There are many possibilities that policymakers and economists need to consider. So simply saying that a carbon tax would reduce the deficit by specific amount doesn’t show the full picture. Still, this report offers a framework showing that a modest price on global warming pollution would be a significant revenue generator — and thus a possible bargaining chip in future conversations on deficit reduction.

The political climate for a carbon tax is not good. But polls show that Americans support such a policy by a fairly wide margin. According to a George Mason University poll from April, 61 percent of Americans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a “revenue neutral” tax on fossil fuels that would be used to reduce federal income taxes. That’s not the same as reducing the deficit, but it shows support for using a carbon tax to make changes to fiscal policy.

That same poll showed that 75 of Americans broadly support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.


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« Reply #84 on: Sep 28, 2012, 06:26 AM »

Organized crime behind the $100 billion illegal logging industry decimating worldwide forests

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, September 27, 2012 17:00 EDT

Organised crime is now a big player in illegal logging, which accounts for up to 30 percent of all wood traded globally, the UN and Interpol warned on Thursday.

In the mid-2000s, some tropical countries reported a fall in illicit forest clearance, but this may well have been a mirage, they said.

In fact, criminals laundered profits into tree plantation companies.

They used these as fronts for driving corridors into old forests, plundering trees which they frequently passed off as wood from sustainable sources.

“In many cases a tripling in the volumes of timber ‘originating’ from plantations in the five years following the law enforcement crackdown on illegal logging has come partly from cover operations to criminals to legalise and launder illegal logging operations,” said the report, Green Carbon: Black Trade.

Between 50 to 90 per cent of logging in the Amazon basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia is illegal, although not all of this is from organised crime, it said.

Globally, illegal logging is worth between $30 and 100 billion (25 and 77.5 billion euros) annually, or between 10 and 30 percent of all timber transactions.

Among examples cited in the report, some 3,000 companies in Brazil are under investigation for “eco-certifying” illegal timber and exporting it abroad.

“In Indonesia, the amount of logs allegedly produced through plantations increased from 3.7 million cubic metres (129 million cubic feet) in 2000 to over 22 million (770 million cu. ft.) in 2008,” it said.

Less than half of these plantations actually existed, investigators believe.

Among the casualties are indigenous forest dwellers, who face rising violence from loggers, as well as biodiversity and the fight against global warming.

Deforestation accounts for an estimated 17 percent of all man-made carbon emissions and 50 percent more than those from ships, aviation and land transport combined, the report noted.

The report called for a greater policing effort against illegal logging syndicates, tax fraud, corruption and laundering.

It also suggested an independent rating of companies to discourage investors from funding illegal practices.

The report pointed to some encouraging initiatives, including the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), whose partners include among others Interpol and CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Another weapon is so-called REDD-plus, in which wealthy countries provide funds to poorer countries to encourage them to be custodians of the forests.

However, “if REDD-plus is to succeed, payments to communities for their conservation efforts need to be higher than the returns from activities that lead to environmental degradation,” warned the report.

The report, authored by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol, was launched at the World Forest Conference at the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome.
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« Reply #85 on: Oct 01, 2012, 06:55 AM »

Scientists: Global warming will make fish smaller

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, September 30, 2012 13:51 EDT

PARIS — A hearty fillet of fish, already a rare treat because of over-trawled oceans, will become even more infrequent in the future when global warming starts to reduce fish size, scientists said on Sunday.

Researchers looked at computer models to see how warmer, and thus less oxygenated, seas affected more than 600 species of fish.

Compared to 2000, the maximum attainable body weight of these fish declined by between 14 and 24 percent by 2050.

Fish inhabiting the Indian Ocean were the most affected, reducing by 24 percent, followed by counterparts in the Atlantic (20 percent) and then the Pacific (14 percent), with tropical waters worst hit.

“It’s a constant challenge for fish to get enough oxygen from water to grow, and the situation gets worse as fish get bigger,” said Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia in western Canada, who first raised the warming-and-growth link 30 years ago.

“A warmer and less-oxygenated ocean, as predicted under climate change, would make it more difficult for bigger fish to get enough oxygen, which means they will stop growing more.”

The investigation appears in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The model used the so-called A2 scenario, which sees an average rise in global atmospheric — not sea — temperatures of 3.4 degrees Celsius (6.12 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 compared to 2000.

Until recently, this would have been considered a pessimistic scenario, but many climatologists today say it is realistic in the light of a relentless rise in fossil-fuel emissions.

Under the A2 scenario, the sea bottom temperatures of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Arctic Oceans would rise at average rates of between 0.012 (0.2 F) and 0.037 C (0.066 F) per decade up to 2050.

As those oceans warm, their oxygen levels would also see slight but progressive declines, a measurement expressed in a unit called millimoles.

The average fall, per decade, would range from 0.1 millimoles per cubic metre in the Arctic to 1.1 millimoles per cubic metre in the Atlantic.

“Although the projected rate of change in environmental temperature and oxygen content appears to be small, the resulting changes in maximum body size are unexpectedly large,” said the paper.
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« Reply #86 on: Oct 02, 2012, 06:22 AM »


Activists push for unprecedented protection of the polar bear

By Miriam Elder, The Guardian
Monday, October 1, 2012 9:37 EDT

Environmental activists in the United States and Russia have come together to push for unprecedented protection for the polar bear, hoping to stave off the decline of its already dwindling population.

With Arctic Sea ice at record low because of climate change, polar bears have been deprived of a key habitat and feeding ground. Legal trade in polar bears, mainly in the form of trophy skins and furs, remains legal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), leading to the death of hundreds more each year.

Activists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Human Society International (HSI) are hoping to change that by supporting government initiatives to upgrade the polar bear’s status from appendix two to one within the convention, thus banning all international commercial trade.

“The real opportunity to ban the trade is around the corner,” said Jeffrey Flocken, head of IFAW’s Washington DC office. Activists have been lobbying officials in the US to table the so-called “uplist” proposal by 4 October, ahead of a global Cites conference early next year, but fear US reluctance after a similar proposal did not pass a vote at the convention’s last meeting in Doha in 2010.

IFAW activists have also received written assurances from the Russian ministry of natural resources that it will support an initiative tabled by the US, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Guardian. Activists hope that joint Russian-US support will help the motion receive the two-thirds vote it needs to pass inside the 176-country body.

They warned of increasing urgency, following recent reports by the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado that Arctic Sea ice had declined to record lows. At the same time, prices for polar bear skins have soared, prompting increased hunting and poaching.

“Polar bears are becoming more and more scarce, and that scarcity is driving up demand,” said Teresa Telecky of HSI. “It’s helping drive the species towards extinction,” she said.

At a recent auction in Canada, two polar bear pelts fetched a record £10,200 each – about double the price at auctions five years ago. Canada is the only country to allow its polar bears to be killed and sold on international markets, something its indigenous population argue is key to its survival and livelihood.

In one Moscow shop, a large polar bear hide was going for 1.6m roubles (£31,760). The luxury items are most popular among buyers in Russia and China.

Russian websites have popped up to sell Cites certificates that indicate a legal kill under Canada’s quota, something used by many of the poachers who kill an average 200 polar bears in Russia per year, activists said. Nearly 6,000 polar bears are believed to have been killed between 2001 and 2010, with that number increasing in the past two years, according to IFAW and HSI.

The world’s polar bear population is now estimated at around 20,000, activists said. The US Geological Survey warned in 2007 that diminishing sea ice could result in the loss of two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population within 50 years.

© 2012 Guardian News

Photo via Shutterstock


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« Reply #87 on: Oct 02, 2012, 06:24 AM »

Great Barrier Reef coral halved in 27 years: study

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 2:37 EDT

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years due to storms, poisonous starfish and bleaching linked to climate change, a study found on Tuesday.

The research by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) and
the University of Wollongong warned that coral cover on the heritage-listed reef – the world’s largest – could halve again by 2022 if trends continued.

Intense tropical cyclones were responsible for much of the damage, accounting for 48%, with outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns starfish linked to 42%.

Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 due to ocean warming also had “major detrimental impacts” on the central and northern parts of the reef, the study found, putting the impact at 10%.

Study author Hugh Sweatman said the findings, which were drawn from the world’s largest ever reef monitoring project involving more than 2,700 days at sea, showed that coral could recover from such trauma.

“But recovery takes 10-20 years. At present, the intervals between the disturbances are generally too short for full recovery and that’s causing the long-term losses,” Sweatman said.

AIMS chief John Gunn said it was difficult to stop the storms and bleaching but researchers could focus their efforts on the large, spiny starfish, which feasts on coral polyps and can devastate reef cover.

Researchers believe starfish numbers have grown as its few predators declined and agricultural runoff such as fertiliser increased along the reef coast – causing algaes that starfish larvae feed on to bloom.

“We can’t stop the storms but perhaps we can stop the starfish,” said Gunn.

“If we can, then the reef will have more opportunity to adapt to the challenges of rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification.”

He said researchers would try to “better predict and reduce the periodic population explosions” of the crown-of-thorns starfish and explore how intervention on factors like water quality can reduce their numbers.

According to the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, coral cover would be able to rejuvenate by 0.89% every year without the starfish.

“So even with losses due to cyclones and bleaching there should be slow recovery,” said Gunn.

UNESCO warned it was considering listing the reef as a heritage site in danger earlier this year due to the unprecedented gas and coal mining boom in northern Australia and increasing coastal development.

[Dive on colorful coral reef via Shutterstock.com.]


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« Reply #88 on: Oct 03, 2012, 07:13 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/03/2012 01:28 PM

In the Land of the PizzlyL As Arctic Melts, Polar and Grizzly Bears Mate

By Laura Höflinger

The melting Arctic ice has brought polar bears and grizzly bears together and their hybrid offspring, known as "pizzlies," have been detected on Canadian islands. It is a trend that is happening with other species as well, and scientists are worried because it poses a risk to biodiversity. 

The two students from the University of Alberta, flying across the Arctic ice in a helicopter, were startled by what they saw below: a white dot and a brown dot on the ice. The biologists soon realized it was a grizzly bear next to a polar bear. The sighting was on Victoria Island, 500 kilometers (313 miles) from the grizzlies' normal habitat on the Canadian mainland.

The polar bear also struck them as a little strange. It had a dark stripe on its back, its snout looked dirty, its head was noticeably larger than normal, and there was a hump behind its shoulders, which is normally found only on brown bears. The paws looked as if the animal were wearing socks. The students had discovered a strange hybrid that goes by various names: grolar bear, pizzly or Nanulak, a combination of the two Inuit words for the animals' parents: polar bear (Nanuk) and grizzly (Aklak).

Two days later, on April 25, they spotted another strange-looking animal, probably also a hybrid. They also saw two other grizzlies. One was so fat that they believed it was feeding on seals, as polar bears do. Brown bears occasionally stray far north. But it's unusual for them to stay there, and it's even more unusual to find them mating with polar bears.

There have been hybrids in zoos, but their existence in the wild had for a long time only been speculated about. It isn't as if polar bears and brown bears never came into contact with one another, but their encounters were usually of the aggressive kind. In 2006, an American hunter shot an unusual-looking polar bear on Nelson Head, a cape in Canada's Northwest Territories.

DNA analysis established that the animal was the first recorded pizzly found in the wild. Another bear was shot on Victoria Island in 2010. This time it was an even greater sensation, because the animal was the offspring of a hybrid bear, which meant that it was already a second-generation pizzly.

Very Distant Relations

The polar bear and the brown bear are considered to be two different species and, therefore, should not be capable of producing viable offspring. But the polar bear emerged as an offshoot from the bloodline of the brown bear only 600,000 years ago. Thus, in a sense the polar bear is basically a white brown bear. Five hybrids have been reported to date, all living on the archipelago surrounding Victoria Island. A small group of grizzlies have settled there, says Andrew Derocher, the two students' professor. The bears probably got there while pursuing reindeer in the winter, when the ice was frozen. When the ice melted in the summer, they stayed on the islands. They can find everything they need there, and the summers are also getting longer.

Scientists expect that climate change and environmental degradation will result in more hybrids in the future. The melting of polar ice is increasingly forcing polar bears onto dry land, while road construction and mining in southern Canada are pushing grizzlies north. This summer marked the most drastic melting of Arctic sea ice to date. Biologists fear that this will promote the development of hybrids. A 2010 essay in the journal Nature counted 34 species that could be affected. Populations whose habitats have been separated by masses of ice could interbreed: belugas with narwhals, largha seals with common seals, Greenland whales with North Pacific right whales.

Threat to Wildlife

"Hybridization will endanger polar biodiversity," the authors wrote. But why should it be unnatural for polar and brown bears to mate, merely because one species is white and the other brown? Hybrids are not unknown in nature. For instance, a finback and blue whale hybrid was caught that had been impregnated by a blue whale.

But scientists argue that the frequency of such hybridization is disconcerting. It's as if two groups had long been living separately, but in adjacent rooms, and suddenly man came along and pushed open the door between them. In the end, it's conceivable that only hybrids will survive. This is currently happening with coyotes and wolves in North America, as well as between two types of flying squirrel.

Another problem is that of the offspring are infertile, the animals are expending unnecessary energy in raising their young without passing on their genes. For example, in the case of North Pacific right whales, whose numbers have dwindled to only 200, it would spell the extinction of the species. It is true that in evolution, not every mistake is necessarily a flaw. But hybrids are usually inferior to their parents, because they are not as well adapted to their environments.

A case in point is that of two hybrids born in a zoo in the northern German city of Osnabrück in 2004. Their coats were caramel-colored, and in many respects they were a combination of their father and mother. They move like polar bears when they catch seals, and yet the hybrids, with their shortened necks, aren't as proficient swimmers, and their long claws are poorly suited to ice. Canadian scientist Derocher doesn't believe that the pizzlies pose a threat to polar bears, because they are still too rare. Besides, he says, they are exposed to a unique kind of threat: Hybrids are not a protected species, because they are not considered polar bears. For hunters, on the other hand, their rarity makes them an especially coveted trophy.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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« Reply #89 on: Oct 06, 2012, 07:11 AM »

Study: Climate change disbelievers get most column space in U.S. and UK newspapers

By Leo Hickman, The Guardian
Friday, October 5, 2012 9:15 EDT

Climate sceptics feature more prominently in newspapers in the US and UK than other countries, and their views are more likely to go unchallenged in right-leaning papers, an academic study has shown.

Friday’s report, which was published in the Environmental Research Letters journal, delved deeper into data that was first published last year. For the study, 2,064 newspaper articles from the US, UK, France, China, Brazil and India over two three-month periods in 2007 and 2009-10 were scrutinised for the quantity and type of climate sceptic voices featured on both news and opinion pages.

The authors examined in particular the political leanings of each newspaper and concluded that there was “little evidence” that this influenced coverage of climate sceptics in Brazil, India and China. However, in the US and UK, and to some extent France, the political leaning of the newspaper did affect coverage of climate sceptics.

“The strongest evidence for a distinction between left-leaning and right-leaning newspapers can be found in the opinion pages in France, the UK and the US, where right-leaning newspapers are much more likely to include uncontested [climate] sceptical voices,” concluded the authors.

There were some surprises in the data, though, said the authors, James Painter of the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) and Teresa Ashe of Birkbeck College. For example, they found that there were slightly more articles of all types – opinion pieces and news stories – containing sceptical voices in the left-leaning newspapers from the countries studied, than in the centrist or right-leaning newspapers. But, in the left-leaning papers, the views of climate sceptics were far more frequently countered within an article by an opposing view.

The data was first released last year in a report entitled Poles Apart, published by the RISJ. It limited its search to two key time periods of climate coverage: the publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2007, and the release online of the hacked “Climategate” emails in late 2009.

It also differentiated between three types of climate sceptic featured in the chosen newspapers: the “trend sceptics” (who deny the global warming trend); the “attribution sceptics” (who accept the trend, but question the contribution of mankind’s emissions); and the “impact sceptics” (who accept human causation, but claim impacts may be benign or beneficial, or that the models are not robust enough to know).

The authors refrained from trying to theorise about why climate sceptic voices featured more frequently in the newspapers published in Anglo-Saxon countries, but did observe that “the presence of organised sceptical groups or individual climate sceptics in [the US and UK], and their virtual absence in the other four countries, could have been just as important driver of media outcomes as editorial decisions [of newspapers]. They are adept at getting their voices heard in the media when the opportunities arise.”

Painter, the lead author, said: “These results are significant because they do seem to support those who argue that climate scepticism is much stronger in “Anglo-Saxon” countries, such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia, as measured by its presence in the media. The data would also suggest a lot of the uncontested climate scepticism is found not so much in the news reports but in the opinion pages of right-leaning newspapers in the US and the UK.”

Painter added that the study left some intriguing unanswered questions: “It would be interesting to know what has happened since 2010. Others have reported that climate coverage in the media has fallen since then, but has the incidence of climate sceptics appearing in newspapers remained the same, or even increased proportionately? Also, ideally, a wider range of countries needs to be studied, including the study of countries such as Australia, Canada, Norway and eastern Europe, where climate scepticism is known to be prevalent. There is anecdotal evidence, too, that climate scepticism is now on the rise in the Brazilian media.”

The newspapers chosen for analysis were the Guardian/Observer and the Daily/Sunday Telegraph in the UK, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal in the US, Folha de São Paulo and Estado de São Paulo in Brazil, People’s Daily and Beijing Evening News in China, Le Monde and Le Figaro in France, and The Hindu and Times of India in India.

Separately, insurance company Axa published a survey on Thursday which showed that a higher proportion of respondents in the UK, US and Japan said they doubted climate science than in the other 10 countries polled, which included Turkey, Indonesia, Germany, and Mexico.

More than 13,000 people over the age of 18 were asked in an online survey whether they considered that climate change has now been scientifically proven. “Even in countries where people are least convinced of the scientific reality of this phenomenon (Japan, UK, the US), [climate] sceptics are in the minority (respectively 42%, 37% and 35%),” said Axa. Agreement was highest in Indonesia (95%), Hong Kong (89%) and Turkey (86%).

© Guardian News and Media 2012
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