Research warns of the long timescale of climate change impacts unless urgent action is taken to cut emissions drastically Plastic waste near Dakar, Senegal. Around two-thirds of the national population lives in the Dakar coastal area, which is threatened by sea-level rise.
Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilisation to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically. Even if global warming is capped at governments’ target of 2C – which is already seen as difficult – 20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged. “Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years,” said Prof Peter Clark, at Oregon State University in the US and who led the new work. “People need to understand that the effects of climate change won’t go away, at least not for thousands of generations.” “The long-term view sends the chilling message of what the real risks and consequences are of the fossil fuel era,” said Prof Thomas Stocker, at the University of Bern, Switzerland and also part of the research team. “It will commit us to massive adaptation efforts so that for many, dislocation and migration becomes the only option.” The report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, notes most research looks at the impacts of global warming by 2100 and so misses one of the biggest consequences for civilisation – the long-term melting of polar ice caps and sea-level rise. This is because the great ice sheets take thousand of years to react fully to higher temperatures. The researchers say this long-term view raises moral questions about the kind of environment being passed down to future generations. The research shows that even with climate change limited to 2C by tough emissions cuts, sea level would rise by 25 metres over the next 2,000 years or so and remain there for at least 10,000 years – twice as long as human history. If today’s burning of coal, oil and gas is not curbed, the sea would rise by 50m, completely changing the map of the world. “We can’t keep building seawalls that are 25m high,” said Clark. “Entire populations of cities will eventually have to move.” Advertisement By far the greatest contributor to the sea level rise – about 80% – would be the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet. Another new study in Nature Climate Change published on Monday reveals that some large Antarctic ice sheets are dangerously close to losing the sea ice shelves that hold back their flow into the ocean.
At least two-thirds of the global population, over 4 billion people, live with severe water scarcity for at least one month every year, according to a major new analysis. The revelation shows water shortages, one of the most dangerous challenges the world faces, is far worse previously than thought. The new research also reveals that 500m people live in places where water consumption is double the amount replenished by rain for the entire year, leaving them extremely vulnerable as underground aquifers run down. Many of those living with fragile water resources are in India and China, but other regions highlighted are the central and western US, Australia and even the city of London. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Water scarcity map. Photograph: Mekonnen et al These water problems are set to worsen, according to the researchers, as population growth and increasing water use – particularly through eating meat – continues to rise. In January, water crises were rated as one of three greatest risks of harm to people and economies in the next decade by the World Economic Forum, alongside climate change and mass migration. In places, such as Syria, the three risks come together: a recent study found that climate change made the severe 2007-2010 drought much more likely and the drought led to mass migration of farming families into cities. “If you look at environmental problems, [water scarcity] is certainly the top problem,” said Prof Arjen Hoekstra, at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and who led the new research. “One place where it is very, very acute is in Yemen.” Yemen could run out of water within a few years, but many other places are living on borrowed time as aquifers are continuously depleted, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Hoekstra also highlights the Murray-Darling basin in Australia and the midwest of the US. “There you have the huge Ogallala acquifer, which is being depleted.” He said even rich cities like London in the UK were living unsustainably: “You don’t have the water in the surrounding area to sustain the water flows” to London in the long term. The new study, published in the journal Science Advances on Friday, is the first to examine global water scarcity on a monthly basis and at a resolution of 31 miles or less. It analysed data from 1996-2005 and found severe water scarcity – defined as water use being more than twice the amount being replenished – affected 4 billion people for at least one month a year.
How do we grieve the death of a river? Written by Winona LaDuke “Our people blocked the road. When the troops arrive, we will face them .”– Ailton Krenak, Krenaki People, Brazil This eighteen months saw three of the largest mine tailings pond disasters in history. Although they have occurred far from northern Minnesota’s pristine waters, we may want to take heed as we look at a dozen or more mining projects, on top of what is already there, abandoned or otherwise. These stories, like many, do not make headlines. They are in remote communities, far from the media and the din of our cars, cans and lifestyle. Aside from public policy questions, mining safety and economic liability concerns, there is an underlying moral issue we face here:the death of a river. As I interviewed Ailton Krenak, this became apparent. The people in southeastern Brazilian call the river Waatuh or Grandfather. “We sing to the river, we baptize the children in this river, we eat from this river, the river is our life,” That’s what Ailton Krenak, winner of the Onassis International Prize, and a leader of the Indigenous and forest movement in Brazil, told me as I sat with him and he told me of the mine waste disaster. I wanted to cry. How do you express condolences for a river, for a life, to a man to whom the river is the center of the life of his people? That is a question we must ask ourselves. November 2015’s Brazilian collapse of two dams at a mine on the Rio Doco River sent a toxic sludge over villages, and changed the geography of a world. The dam collapse cut off drinking water for a quarter of a million people and saturated waterways downstream with dense orange sediment. As the LA Times would report, “Nine people were killed, 19 … listed as missing and 500 people were displaced from their homes when the dams burst.” The sheer volume of water and mining sludge disgorged by the dams across nearly three hundred miles is staggering: the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools or the volume carried by about 187 oil tankers. The Brazilians compare the damage to the BP oil disaster, and the water has moved into the ocean – right into the nesting area for endangered sea turtles, and a delicate ecosystem. The mine, owned by Australian based BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world, (and the one which just sold a 60-year-old coal strip mine to the Navajo Nation in 2013) is projecting some clean up. Renowned Brazilian documentary photographer Sebastiao Salgado, whose foundation has been active in efforts to protect the Doce River, toured the area and submitted a $27 billion clean-up proposal to the government. “ Everything died. Now the river is a sterile canal filled with mud,” Salgado told reporters. When the mining company wanted to come back, Ailton Krenak told me, “we blocked the road.” They didn’t get the memo. – Read more at: http://americanindiansandfriends.com/news/how-do-we-grieve-the-death-of-a-river-written-by-winona-laduke#sthash.oVTqm8uZ.dpuf
Reforestation in Norway: showing what’s possible in Scotland and beyond Scotland and Norway suffered large-scale deforestation over centuries but over the last 100 years the trees have been returning to Norway. It could be happening in Scotland too Much of SW Norway was once deforested. Now it has more trees and more people than the Highlands of Scotland.
Rewilding Britain 20 Jan 2016. Incredibly, some people think that the reason there are no trees growing across great swathes of Scotland is that they can’t grow in these places – it’s too wet, it’s too windy, the soil is too thin. But they’re wrong. Look at the landscape in Scotland today and you’ll see a diverse mix of trees hanging on the edges of streams and gullies and rock faces. They’ve survived for centuries in extreme fringe locations where grazing mouths can’t reach them. ‘Southwest Norway has an overall population density higher than the Scottish Highlands. It has reforested, largely through natural regeneration, since the late 19th century’ The forests of Scotland could return – if deer numbers were reduced to a level the land can support, if land wasn’t burned to favour shooting birds, and if livestock was managed alongside woodland as it is in many other countries. Reforesting is a part of rewilding. Rewilding is about dedicating areas of land to nature, where nature decides the outcome. We can see what that might mean for Scotland by looking across the water to southwest Norway – an area almost identical to Scotland in climate and geology.
Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution World Health Organisation describes new data as ‘health emergency’, with rising concern likely to influence decision over Heathrow expansion Smog in central London in 2011. The World Health Organisation has issued a stark new warning about deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe. ‘Yucky pollution,’ says my daughter, as Delhi chokes Read more Before the release next month of figures that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments. The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes. The toxic haze blanketing cities could be clearly seen last week from the international space station. Last week it was also revealed that several streets in London had exceeded their annual limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions just a few days into 2016. “We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations. “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira. Last week David Cameron, whose government has been accused of dragging its feet over air pollution and is facing legal challenges over alleged inaction, conceded in the Commons that the growing problem of air pollution in urban areas of the UK has implications for major policy decisions such as whether to expand Heathrow airport.
The global oceans community supports and urges States Parties and Observers in the UNFCCC climate negotiations to reach an ambitious legally binding agreement at the COP 21 in Paris in December 2015 adopting stringent and immediate reductions in CO2 emissions. This is essential to ensure the continuing functioning of the oceans in sustaining life on Earth, and to avoid disastrous consequences on ocean and coastal communities around the world. For the full statement given by Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, GOF President, at the World Oceans Day, 8 June 2015, UNESCO, Paris, please see here: GOF Statement on Oceans and Climate June 8 2015 Posted in News | Tags: COP21, UNFCCC, World Oceans Day « NEW: Update on ABNJ Workshop – Presentations Now AvailableThe Oceans Day at the UNFCCC COP 21 – December 4, 2015, Rio Conventions Pavilion, Le Bourget, Paris, France »
The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.”I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected,” Worm says in a news release.”This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.”If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all,” Beaumont adds.Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% — a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.But the issue isn’t just having seafood on our plates. Ocean species filter toxins from the water. They protect shorelines. And they reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide.”A large and increasing proportion of our population lives close to the coast; thus the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have disastrous consequences,” Worm and colleagues say.The researchers analyzed data from 32 experiments on different marine environments.They then analyzed the 1,000-year history of 12 coastal regions around the world, including San Francisco and Chesapeake bays in the U.S., and the Adriatic, Baltic, and North seas in Europe.Next, they analyzed fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems.And finally, they looked at the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas.Their bottom line: Everything that lives in the ocean is important. The diversity of ocean life is the key to its survival. The areas of the ocean with the most different kinds of life are the healthiest.But the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster, the researchers say.Worm and colleagues call for sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, habitat maintenance, and the creation of more ocean reserves.This, they say, isn’t a cost; it’s an investment that will pay off in lower insurance costs, a sustainable fish industry, fewer natural disasters, human health, and more.”It’s not too late. We can turn this around,” Worm says. “But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now.”Worm and colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 3 issue of Science.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet stores water equivalent to 58 m in global sea-level rise. We show in simulations using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model that burning the currently attainable fossil fuel resources is sufficient to eliminate the ice sheet. With cumulative fossil fuel emissions of 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC), Antarctica is projected to become almost ice-free with an average contribution to sea-level rise exceeding 3 m per century during the first millennium. Consistent with recent observations and simulations, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable with 600 to 800 GtC of additional carbon emissions. Beyond this additional carbon release, the destabilization of ice basins in both West and East Antarctica results in a threshold increase in global sea level. Unabated carbon emissions thus threaten the Antarctic Ice Sheet in its entirety with associated sea-level rise that far exceeds that of all other possible sources.
The worst fears about the northern region of the country losing its groundwater have been confirmed. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) satellite imagery made available to the Centre warns of fast disappearing of subsoil water in these states.
The NASA report forwarded to the Punjab Government by the Union Ministry of Agriculture says that “beneath north India’s irrigated fields, the groundwater has been disappearing”. “It is being pumped out and consumed for human activities, principally to irrigate cropland, faster than the aquifers can be replenished by natural processes such as rainwater,” the report says.
Union Agriculture Ministry’s Joint Secretary RB Sinha has urged Punjab to immediately take steps to check the steep fall in water table. Union Agriculture Secretary Shairaz Hussain also met Punjab Irrigation and Agriculture Department officials recently and asked them to arrest the declining water table.