The Weekly Roundup – Feb 08, 2019

Asia / Climate Change

1/ One-third of Himalayan glaciers will melt by the end of the century due to climate change — threatening water sources for 1.9 billion people — even if current efforts to reduce climate change succeed (keeping the climate to 1.5 degrees warming). If global efforts to curb climate change fail, the impact could be far worse: a loss of two-thirds of the region’s glaciers by 2100 (with 2 degrees warming). The area, which includes the world’s tallest mountain peaks, has glaciers that feed into river systems including the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, Irrawaddy and Mekong. The Hindu Kush Himalaya encompass hundreds of the world’s most iconic mountains, hold over 30,000 square miles of glacier ice—more than anywhere else in the world besides the poles—and sustain 240 million people in their peaks and valleys. Over 200 scientists collaborated on a report that forecasts a hot future for the high mountains of Asia. (ABC / National Geographic / The Guardian)

World / Climate Change

2/ Last year was the fourth warmest year on record and the outlook is for more sizzling heat approaching levels that most view as dangerous for humankind on the Earth, a United Nations report has shown. The new report said the world was on track to have average global temperatures rise to 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, as record levels of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. 20 out of the past 22 years have been the hottest on record.  We do anticipate the next El Niño will bring record or near-record temperatures. Already, Australia was baked in its hottest January on record, followed by massive flooding. (ABC / Vox / The Guardian)

UK / Animals

3/ Seabirds on British island decline by 80% after overfishing and climate change cut off food source. A population crash in a massive seabird colony on Ascension Island has been attributed to a poor diet after their normal food sources dried up. Numbers of sooty terns living in the UK overseas territory have plummeted by over 80 per cent in recent decades, from several million to just a few hundred thousand. (Independent)

World / Climate Change

4/ In a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists for the first time quantified the effects of rising temperatures on ice cover across 1.4 million lakes in the Northern Hemisphere. They found that, from Wisconsin to Japan, thousands of lakes that used to freeze reliably every winter already see some years without ice, and that “an extensive loss of lake ice will occur within the next generation.” Without winter ice, lakes begin warming earlier in the year. Warmer surface water increases the risk of toxic algal bloomsand decreases oxygen levels in a lake, putting stress on fish and other organisms. Water temperature also affects which fish species can thrive. Humans rely on lake ice, too. Dependably frozen lakes support cultural and economic activities like ice fishing, skating and winter festivals. Ice roads across lakes and rivers also provide wintertime lifelines for many remote areas, including Native American communities in northern Canada. (NYT)

Australia / Animals

5/ A study mapping the eastern Australian grey nurse shark population has found it has declined rapidly over the last few decades, with only 400 breeding sharks left. The number of breeding individuals remaining is not enough to maintain genetic health and reduces the ability of the population to survive future environmental changes. The grey nurse shark suffered major declines from overfishing in the 60s and 70s because they were considered dangerous and are easy to kill. (Phys)

World / Animals

6/ The vast majority of the world’s largest species are being pushed towards extinction, with the killing of the heftiest animals for meat and body parts the leading cause of decline, according to a new study. While habitat loss, pollution and other threats pose a significant menace to large species, also known as megafauna, intentional and unintentional trapping, poaching and slaughter is the single biggest factor in their decline, researchers found. An analysis of 362 megafauna species found that 70% of them are in decline, with 59% classed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Direct killing by humans is the leading cause across all classes of animals. (The Guardian)

The good news…

UK / Climate Change

1/ The mass closure of coal-fired power stations has helped reduce UK greenhouse gases whilst global emissions (GHG) are rising. The finalized official statistics show Britain’s GHG in 2017 were 2.7%lower than in 2016 – and 42.1%lower than in 1990. Coal use for electricity fell 27% to a record low following the closure of two major plants. The emissions from agriculture and waste increased in 2017 and the biggest challenges going forwards will be transport, farming, homes and parts of industry. (BBC)

World / Environment

2/ Ahead of a crucial global meet on biodiversity next year, a group of 13 international conservation organizations urged governments to set an ambitious target to protect the world’s natural sites and wildlife population. In the last 58 years, massive loss of natural areas including forests has resulted in the decline of wildlife — mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians — by more than 60 percent.  At least 30 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 30 percent of oceans must be conserved and effectively managed by 2030. And these protected areas should be gradually increased to 50 percent of the Earth’s area by 2050, a joint statement released by the conservation groups stated. At present, only 14.9 percent of the land surface and 7.3 percent of the oceans are under a protected category. (CGTN)

World / Oceans

3/ The Ocean Health Index (OHI) has ranked Seychelles first in Africa after the latest global assessment of ocean health. First was the Heard Island and McDonald Islands nearby the Antarctic content. Germany was the first country, ranking at 5th and the only region with a population exceeding one million to score 80 or above.  Improving ocean health will require efforts from all sectors to promote peace, justice, gender equality, socially-responsible business and other aspects of civil health, because progress in those areas makes it much easier for communities and nations to improve the environmental and economic conditions needed to boost ocean health. (Seychelles Newsagency / OHI)

America / Climate Change

4/ Liberal Democrats put flesh on their “Green New Deal” slogan on Thursday with a sweeping resolution intended to redefine the national debate on climate change by calling for the United States to eliminate additional emissions of carbon by 2030. It includes a 10-year commitment to convert “100 percent of the power demand in the United States” to “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” to upgrade “all existing buildings” to meet energy efficiency requirements, and to expand high-speed rail so broadly that most air travel would be rendered obsolete. (NYT)

Other notables…

  • A spike in the number of turtles washing up stunned on beaches in the northeastern US has been linked to changes in global ocean temperatures. Just a decade ago, it was rare to see more than 100 cold-stunned turtles washing up on the north Atlantic shores annually, but in recent years the figures have exceeded 1,000. (Independent)
  • Plastic in the oceans is being turned into an even greater threat to small sea creatures than previously thought because bacteria are sticking particles of it together. The fact that these agglomerates become large enough to see raises concern, as they are likely to be seen as a food source by small marine animals. (Independent)
  • A special airlift for thousands of baby flamingos is under way in South Africa as drought has put their breeding ground in peril. Three thousand flamingo chicks have been moved in all. Another 6,000 to 8,000 young flamingos remain at the reservoir near Kimberley, active but still too young to fly. (Phys)
  • A die-off of sea stars so massive that scientists believe it could be the largest disease epidemic ever observed in wild marine animals has been linked in a new study to global warming. Creatures with the sea star wasting disease simply fall apart and progress rapidly to death. Scientists believe a disease once of little concern has been wiping out the sea star population because of warming waters. (Huffington Post)
  • Scientists are in a race to save giant kelp off Tasmanian coast. Giant kelp forests once dominated Tasmania’s east coast, but 95 per cent has been lost over the past few decades. The underwater forests have come under stress in recent years due to ocean warming, urbanisation and pollution. (ABC)

  • Australia’s cheap, dirty petrol ranks among the worst of the OECD nations. A 2015 report by oil and gas consultants Stratas Advisors ranked 100 countries by the sulphur content of their fuels and found Australia landed at 66. Improving the quality of high sulphur fuel could offer 5% improvement on CO2 emissions ‘overnight’. (The Guardian)
  • Rising temperatures increase the concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere that cause air pollution.
    Aerosols affect the climate system, including disturbances to the water cycle, as well as human health. They also cause smog and other kinds of air pollution that can lead to health problems for people, animals, and plants. (Economic Times)
  • Shark Bay, in Western Australia, received the highest rating of vulnerability using the recently developed Climate Change Vulnerability Index, created to provide a method for assessing climate change impacts across all World Heritage Sites. Shark Bay is especially vulnerable to future climate change, given that the temperate seagrass that underpins the entire ecosystem is already living at the upper edge of its tolerable temperature range. (The Conservation)
  • In Australia, Tasmania’s lakes are among most contaminated in the world. Historic mining has polluted lakes with lead, copper and arsenic, including in a World Heritage Area. (The Guardian)

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