The Weekly Roundup – Dec 14, 2018

Arctic / Climate Change

1/ The Arctic has been warmer over the last five years than at any time since records began in 1900, a new report has found, and the region is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the planet. The ice that sits atop Greenland spans an area more than three times the size of Texas and almost two miles deep at its thickest. Scientists are reporting that this sheet of ice is thawing, and doing so at an accelerating rate not seen for more than 350 years. Greenland’s ice melt is the main reason the rate of average sea level rise. (NYT / Vox)

India / Pollution

2/ Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Indian Government and the Indian Council of Medical Research, a new Lancet study found India’s toxic air claimed 1.24 million lives in 2017, or 12.5 per cent of total deaths recorded that year. The average life expectancy in India would be higher by 1.7 years if air quality was at healthy levels the study claims. (ABC)

World / Palm Oil

3/ Palm-oil forests certified as sustainable are being destroyed faster than non-certified land, experts have found. Plantations with eco-friendly endorsements have lost 38 per cent of their forest cover since 2007, while non-certified areas have lost 34 per cent. The use of sustainability labels had allowed for even greater expansions of plantations that are driving orangutans towards extinction. They drew their conclusions after 15 years of fact-finding missions, using data from these missions as well as from satellite, governmental, charities and palm oil companies’ own reports. Based on forest loss trends, the world will almost completely lose southeast Asian forests in a few decades. “There is no reason for companies to claim sustainable palm oil and to use labels for certified products because, in terms of deforestation, there is no significant difference between a certified and a non-certified palm oil plantation. Both need (or needed in the recent past) the complete removal of the original tropical forest.” (The Independent)

Asia / Climate Change

4/ The glaciers that flank the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia are moving slower over time. Nyainqêntanglha, for example, has seen a 37% reduction in speed per decade. For Spiti Lahaul, it is 34% – equivalent to about -5m/year per decade. These are glaciers that would normally move at tens of metres per year. The meltwater that flows from the 90,000 glaciers in High Mountain Asia is critical to the lives and livelihoods of the people downstream. But the significance goes much wider, because the snow and ice stored “in the freezer” at high altitude would otherwise push up global sea levels if it all melted and ran into the ocean. (BBC)

World / Climate Change

5/ The UN secretary-general has warned negotiators at a major meeting that failing to increase efforts on climate change would be “not only immoral but suicidal” for the planet. Antonio Guterres has flown back to Poland to try and push COP24 to a successful conclusion. Over the weekend the US and Saudi Arabia, back by Russia and Kuwait, refused to welcome the IPCC report on how a temperature rise of 1.5C would impact the world. (BBC / The Guardian)

Arctic / Animals

6/ The population of wild reindeer, or caribou, in the Arctic has crashed by more than half in the last two decades. A new report on the impact of climate change in the Arctic revealed that numbers fell from almost 5 million to around 2.1 million animals. Some herds have shrunk by more than 90% – “such drastic declines that recovery isn’t in sight”. (BBC)

The good news…

Italy / Climate Change

7/ Milan to plant 3 million trees by 2030 to fight climate change and improve air quality. Experts say ambitious project could offer relief from city’s humid weather. Milan officials estimate the program to boost the number of trees by 30 per cent in the broader metropolitan area will absorb an additional 5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – four-fifths of the total produced by Milan. Significantly, it would also reduce temperatures in the city by 2C, they say. (The Independent)

UK / Plastics

8/ Walkers to recycle crisp packets after postal protest. Walkers Crisps make 11 million packets of crisps a day. Following a petition in which 330,000 people called for action on packaging, the company has announced it will introduce a recycling scheme in conjunction with TerraCycle. (The Independent)

World / Climate Change

9/ EU, Canada, New Zealand and developing countries to keep global warming below 1.5C. United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia & Australia will not commit to larger carbon emissions reductions above its Paris agreement target. (The Guardian 1 / The Guardian 2)

Other notables…

  • A butterfly sanctuary to be bulldozed for Trump’s border wall. More than 200 species make their homes at America’s most diverse sanctuary, but construction through the reserve could begin in February. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case this week that challenged the wall on environmental grounds. (The Guardian)
  • The Trump administration is planning to strip Obama-era pollution protections from thousands of US streams and millions of acres of wetlands. The federal government plans to scale back the list of waterways for which land users are required to obtain permits to be able to pollute. Environmental experts said the change could harm wetlands that are home to fish and wildlife and help protect against floods and naturally purify water. They said it could allow pollution into connected drinking water sources, too. (The Guardian)
  • The cost of rehabilitating a uranium mine surrounded by a World-Heritage-listed national park will be almost $300 million higher than previous estimate, and there is still uncertainty about how the site will be monitored beyond 2026, which should continue for decades beyond rehabilitation. So far, most of the rehabilitation money has been spent on a treatment plant for heavily contaminated water used in uranium ore processingThe Mirrar traditional owners of the region withdrew support for the mine’s operation beyond ERA’s January 2021 lease expiry and the company has an obligation to rehabilitate the site by 2026. (ABC)
  • Environmental groups have sued the Trump administration over offshore drilling tests, which could harm hundreds of thousands of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales. (The Guardian)
  • A photographic expose on the gruelling live trade export of animals from Australia to Israel. The route from Australia to Israel is particularly long – the journey is three weeks at sea, where cattle and sheep are often kept in cramped pens for the duration. Dead farm animals are routinely washing up on Tel Avivian public beaches. Due to the distressing conditions animals are in, many don’t survive the journey at sea and it’s believed their corpses are just thrown overboard. In one particular journey, more than 880 animals died during the course of the voyage. (The Guardian)

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