The Weekly Roundup – Apr 19, 2019

World / Climate Change

1/ Two-thirds of the ice in the glaciers of the European Alps is doomed to melt by the end of the century as climate change forces up temperatures, a study has found. Half of the ice in the mountain chain’s 4,000 glaciers will be gone by 2050 due to global warming already baked in by past emissions, the research shows. After that, even if carbon emissions have plummeted to zero, two-thirds of the ice will still have melted by 2100. From the Caucasus to the South Island of New Zealand, mountains are losing more than 1% of their ice each year now: “At the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century,” said Michael Zemp, who runs the World Glacier Monitoring Service from his office at the University of Zurich. (The Guardian / The Guardian 2)

2/ The Bering Sea is not frozen right now as it should be. Right now, it should be at peak ice cover, reaching its maximum ice extent for the entire year. High atmospheric temperatures are causing profound and rapid changes around the Bering Strait — the pace of which has startled scientists. Related: Alaska is in the midst of one of the warmest springs the state has ever experienced. The historic warm temperatures this spring are linked to vanishing ice on the Bering and Chukchi seas west of Alaska. Both areas set records this year for their lowest amount of ice in March. Utqiagvik set daily temperature records on 28 of the first 100 days of this year. (Huffington Post / Washington Post / NOAA)

3/ It was hoped that the recycling crisis would kick-start a “circular economy” in Australia but today, some of what households put in the yellow bin is still shipped to alternative offshore markets such as Thailand, Malaysia, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, and Australians are now sending more waste overseas than they did before the China ban. With recyclers struggling, dozens of councils, most recently in Victoria, have been forced to send material to landfill. RPA General Manager says the Federal Government has been absent from the conversation about waste, while Australians are operating in a culture where “we don’t do what we’re not forced to do”. India, Malaysia and Thailand will soon ban imports of Australian waste. (ABC / SMH)

4/ Microplastic is raining down on even remote mountaintops, a new study has revealed, with winds having the capacity to carry the pollution “anywhere and everywhere”. The scientists were astounded by the quantities of microplastic falling from the sky in a supposedly pristine place such as the French stretch of the Pyrenees mountains. Researchers are now finding microplastics everywhere they look; in rivers, the deepest oceans and soils around the world. (The Guardian)

5/ Marine plastic pollution costs the world up to $2.5tn a year, researchers find. Fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activities and global wellbeing are all negatively affected by plastic pollution, with an estimated 1-5% decline in the benefit humans derive from oceans. The estimates do not take into account the direct and indirect impacts on the tourism, transport and fisheries industries, or on human health which still needs to be calculated. (The Guardian)

Bering Sea Alaska Climate Change Nowhere & Everywhere Sustainability Environmentalism Blog Activism
Image courtesy of NOAA

The good news…

World / Climate Change

6/ British climate group Extinction Rebellion is peacefully taking over London. Almost 300 people have been arrested during the second a day of climate protests in London which shut down roads in Westminster, the West End, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge. The activists are calling for action to address the escalating global climate crisis. In the UK the group is demanding the government declare a climate and ecological emergency and to act to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025. (Independent)

7/ South Korea has managed to increase food waste recycling levels from 2 percent to 95 percent. The South Korean government banned sending food to landfills in 2005 and, in 2013, also prohibited the dumping of garbage juice (leftover water squeezed from food waste) into the sea. Today, a staggering 95 percent of food waste is recycled ― a remarkable leap from less than 2 percent in 1995. Seoul has managed to cut the amount of food waste produced by 400 metric tons per day. (Huffington Post)

8/ Tens of thousands of young people in Britain and abroad are demonstrating for climate action in the latest wave of strikes. Students across the UK took to the streets on Friday to call for the government to act to tackle the climate change crisis. A further 30 countries across the globe also held events today. (The Guardian)

9/ Kind of good news (if not being needed isn’t an option). Scientists are working on a technique to track plastic debris in the ocean from space. It’s extremely challenging, especially since the individual pieces of litter are smaller than the minimum-sized objects that satellites can resolve. But the approach works by looking for plastic’s reflected light signature in the water. This is the key zone of opportunity if you want to monitor plastic discharge to the ocean, because much of the eight million tonnes globally that’s thought to make its way out to sea every year does so through rivers and their estuaries. (BBC)

10/ Bavaria has announced that it will pass into law a popular “save the bees” petition that promises drastic changes in farming practices – without putting it to a referendum first. The landmark move comes amid increasingly alarming warnings from scientists that nearly half of all insect species are in rapid decline – a third of the crucial pollinators threatened with extinction. The proposal set a target for 20% of agricultural land to meet organic farming standards by 2025, before reaching 30% by 2030. Ten per cent of green spaces in Bavaria would have to be turned into flowering meadows, and rivers and streams better protected from pesticides and fertilisers. (The Guardian)

“I find it hard to exaggerate the peril. This is the new extinction and we are half way through it. We are in terrible, terrible trouble and the longer we wait to do something about it the worse it is going to get.”
David Attenborough

Other notables…

  • Pollution from fossil fuels in Canada continues to grow by staggering amounts, with the oilsands sector alone responsible for more carbon pollution than all of B.C. or Quebec in 2017, says the federal government in its latest climate change report to the United Nations. (National Observer)
  • Scientists have laid out a strategy to protect nearly a third of the world’s oceans by creating a massive network of sanctuaries. Released ahead of a major vote on the issue at the United Nations (UN), the study describes a blueprint for a strategy many now see as crucial to preserve wildlife and tackle climate change. (Independent)

  • A south London housing development has been approved in an area where air pollution is so high that residents will be advised to keep their windows closed. (The Guardian)
  • Emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost may be 12 times higher than previously thought, scientists have discovered. Nitrous oxide, a third greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, stays in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Independent)
  • A landmark decision in Australia in the NSW Land and Environment Court to knock back a new open-cut coalmine in the Hunter Valley based on its contribution to climate change is looming over other projects around the state. (ABC)
  • Egypt’s Red Sea Governorate is to introduce a ban on single-use plastics that are destroying marine life. The ban, set to take effect in June, covers items including disposable plastic bags, cutlery and cups, and aims to protect the area’s unique sea life. (Phys)

  • Unsustainable harvesting, including hunting, trapping, fishing and logging, comprises one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. Yet, no previous assessment has investigated which areas are most vulnerable to this threat globally. In a new article published in the journal Science Advances, a team of scientists has identified regions under high-intensity threat from commercial harvesting of species. On land, high-risk regions occur across all continents, but are especially concentrated in Asia and North and South America. (Phys)
  • In the middle of Western Australia in a special restricted zone, the Birriliburu Indigenous rangers are searching for traces of bilby. It used to be found over 70% of Australia, but now it’s restricted to 15% — a vast majority of which is Aboriginal-held land. They are looking for the muntarngarku, as well as many other threatened and culturally-important species such as great desert skinks and night parrots. “I think that if the rest of Australia can appreciate the important work Indigenous rangers are doing — acknowledging their knowledge and their commitment and appreciating the work — it’s another way of working towards reconciliation.” (ABC)
  • A new University of Toronto study confirms that recent climate warming in the central Yukon region has surpassed the warmest temperatures experienced in the previous 13,600 years. (Phys)
  • Scientists and officials around the US have told the Guardian that the Trump administration has withdrawn funding for a large, successful conservation program – in direct contradiction of instructions from Congress. Unique in scale and ambition, the program comprises 22 research centers that tackle big-picture issues affecting huge swaths of the US, such as climate change, flooding and species extinction. They are known as Landscape Conservation Cooperatives – or were, because 16 of them are now on indefinite hiatus or have dissolved. (The Guardian)

  • Update on shark culling in the Great Barrier Reef:  Whilst we reported the news last time on the win that shark culling would be halted, an application by the Queensland Government to suspend the orders was granted by the Federal Court. Shark culling will continue until the appeal is heard in court later this year. (HSI)
  • The last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) has died, putting the critically endangered species at risk for extinction. There are now only three left in the world. The turtle lived at Suzhou Zoo in China, where researchers attempted to artificially inseminate her. She did not wake up. (Eco Watch)

  • Suspected members of an armed militia ambushed and killed 5 rangers and a driver in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, park authorities said, in the deadliest attack yet at what is already one of the most dangerous conservation sites in the world. (Mongabay)

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