58 Global Warming News Articles
for September of 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
9-30-16 Living in a changed climate
Living in a changed climate
“Climate change is here,” said Tim Dickinson. Drought, fire, and floods of an intensity not seen before in our lifetimes are wreaking devastation throughout the U.S. Southern California was so hot and dry in August—with 122 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in Palm Springs—that wooded areas exploded like kindling under a blowtorch. One wildfire spawned fire tornadoes and a rapidly moving, 90-foot-high wall of flames that consumed 30,000 acres in a single day. In Louisiana, a bizarre superstorm dumped up to 30 inches of rain, inundating more than 60,000 homes. It was the second “one-in-1,000-year” rainfall event to hit the state this year. Climatologists say there’s no doubt that man-made greenhouse gases are making extreme weather events more commonplace. Why? A hotter atmosphere absorbs more water. In dry climates, that leaves soils and trees bone-dry. In wet regions like the coastal South, “the atmosphere can become supersaturated,” leading to biblical rainstorms. But the devastating weather events we’re experiencing are not “acts of God.” All of us have contributed to making this planet hotter. And the consequences are just beginning.
9-29-16 Longest-lasting deserts are more than 30 million years old
Longest-lasting deserts are more than 30 million years old
Central Asia may have hosted deserts for longer than anywhere on the planet – and degreening continues in the region. Central Asia may have hosted deserts for longer than anywhere on the planet – and degreening continues in this inner part of the world’s largest continent. These are the findings of Jeremy Caves at Stanford University and his colleagues, who worked out the amount of vegetation in Central Asia over time by analysing carbon isotopes in ancient soils. The relative levels of different isotopes reflect take-up by vegetation. Caves and his team found consistent and exceptionally high levels of carbon-13 stretching back more than 30 million years. A high ratio of this isotope indicates low plant productivity, and hence low rainfall. “It appears that Central Asia has been dry much longer than many other regions of the planet,” says Caves. The Sahara desert, for instance, has existed fitfully for 7 million years, but evidence suggests it was green and covered in great rivers as little as 6000 years ago. The American West and the Australian desert were wet during the last Ice Age. “The American West was much wetter 20,000 years ago, during the last glacial maximum, than it is today,” says Daniel Breecker at the University of Texas at Austin. Australia also had a “hiatus from aridity” at that time. But Central Asia, which hosts deserts such as the Gobi, Ordos and Taklamakan, seems to have stayed dry.
9-28-16 Glass bits, charcoal hint at 56-million-year-old space rock impact
Glass bits, charcoal hint at 56-million-year-old space rock impact
Timing coincides with period of rapid warming perhaps sparked by comet. Bits of microscopic charcoal were found along the U.S. Atlantic coast and imaged by an electron microscope. The presence of charcoal supports the idea that a large space rock hit Earth around 56 million years ago near the start of a bout of rapid warming, triggering wildfires. A period of skyrocketing global temperatures started with a bang, new research suggests. Impact debris and evidence of widespread wildfires around eastern North America suggest that a large space rock whacked Earth around 56 million years ago at the beginning of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, also known as the PETM, a period of rapid warming and huge increases in carbon dioxide. The event is one of the closest historic analogs to modern global warming and is used to improve predictions of how Earth’s climate and ecosystems will fare in the coming decades.
9-28-16 Soil isn’t sexy but we need to dig in and help conserve it
Soil isn’t sexy but we need to dig in and help conserve it
The dirt beneath our feet, vital to food production and biodiversity, is under threat like never before. We need new laws to save it. Soil, earth, mud, dirt; whatever word you choose, it is difficult to think of a less glamorous topic to campaign on. But a campaign is now vital. Soil is critical to much of our food. It also safeguards biodiversity, as a habitat for below-ground life that includes many thousands of types of microbe, containing more species in number and quantity than all other surface biota put together. Here in Europe, most countries lack laws dedicated to safeguarding this vital layer. In the absence of policies and national regulations that guarantee adequate protection, it is down to EU citizens to put our downtrodden, neglected soils back on the agenda. Which is why a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has been launched – a democratic tool by which citizens can push the European Commission (EC) to draw up protections.
9-28-16 Canada approves giant LNG project on British Columbia coast
Canada approves giant LNG project on British Columbia coast
Canada has authorised the construction of an energy project that would see its liquefied natural gas (LNG) exported to emerging Asian markets. The move comes despite concerns over the project's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the threat to an important salmon habitat. The terminal, which will cost CA$11.4bn ($8.6bn/£6.6bn), will be built on British Columbia's northern coast. It is one of the largest resource development initiatives in the country. The federal government said it was granting permission to the Pacific Northwest LNG project to be built on Lelu Island, which sits at the mouth of the Skeena river near Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The project will see the construction of a natural gas liquefaction and export terminal in Canada's westernmost province. (Webmaster's comment: Nothing matters but making money. The destruction of the environment, air pollution, and global warming are secondary concerns.)
9-28-16 Grass food crops facing climate change challenge
Grass food crops facing climate change challenge
A study has highlighted the risk posed by projected climate change on the world's ability to grow enough food. A US team of researchers found that forecasted shifts in climate by 2070 would occur too quickly for species of grass to adapt to the new conditions. The species facing an uncertain future include wheat, corn, rice and sorghum, which provide almost half of the calories consumed by humans. The findings appear in the Royal Society Biology Letter journal. Not only does the grass family (Poaceae) of more than 11,000 species form the staple of people's diets across the globe, natural grasslands cover about a quarter of the planet's land area and provide a home to a rich diversity of dependent flora and fauna. The team from the University of Arizona, US, observed: "Thus, if climate change has strong negative impacts on grasses, there might be significant consequences for both global biodiversity and for humans."
9-28-16 Climate change could destroy wild relatives of cereals by 2070
Climate change could destroy wild relatives of cereals by 2070
With their ability to adapt to climate change outstripped by the rate of global warming, the wild relatives of many grasses may be doomed. Global warming could rapidly threaten grasses, including wild relatives of staple foods such as wheat and rice that provide half of all the calories consumed by humans. A new study looking ahead to 2070 found that climate change was occurring thousands of times faster than the ability of wild grasses to adapt. This doesn’t directly threaten food crops, but wild relatives provide a source of genetic diversity for, say, creating disease-resistant strains of crops. While the research cannot predict what might happen to world food supplies as a result, the authors warn of “troubling implications”.
9-27-16 Methane didn’t warm ancient Earth, new simulations suggest
Methane didn’t warm ancient Earth, new simulations suggest
Alternative explanation needed for why planet didn’t freeze despite dim sun. Scarce oxygen and abundant sulfate prevented methane concentrations from getting high enough to explain why Earth didn’t freeze over around 1.8 billion to 800 million years ago when the sun was dimmer, researchers say. Methane wasn’t the cozy blanket that kept Earth warm hundreds of millions of years ago when the sun was dim, new research suggests. By simulating the ancient environment, researchers found that abundant sulfate and scant oxygen created conditions that kept down levels of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — around 1.8 billion to 800 million years ago (SN: 11/14/15, p. 18). So something other than methane kept Earth from becoming a snowball during this dim phase in the sun’s life. Researchers report on this new wrinkle in the so-called faint young sun paradox (SN: 5/4/13, p. 30) the week of September 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Limited oxygen increases the production of microbe-made methane in the oceans. With low oxygen early in Earth’s history, many scientists suspected that methane was abundant enough to keep temperatures toasty. Oxygen may have been too sparse, though. Recent work suggests that oxygen concentrations at the time were as low as a thousandth their present-day levels (SN: 11/28/14, p. 14).
9-27-16 Polluted air affects 92% of global population, says WHO
Polluted air affects 92% of global population, says WHO
Nine out of 10 people on the planet breathe polluted air, even outdoors, the World Health Organisation said. Some 92% of the population live in places where air pollution exceeds WHO limits, which can contribute to lung cancer, heart disease, and strokes. The south-east Asia and western Pacific regions account for nearly two out of every three such deaths, it said, with poorer countries "getting worse". Around three million deaths every year are linked to outdoor air pollution. When "indoor" air pollution - which includes pollutants like wood smoke and cooking fires - is added, air pollution is linked to one in every nine deaths worldwide, the WHO said. The air quality model used in the data measures the smallest particles, less than 2.5 micrometres across - which can enter the bloodstream and reach the brain.
9-26-16 US set to miss its emissions target under the Paris climate deal
US set to miss its emissions target under the Paris climate deal
The UN's Paris climate agreement looks likely to come into effect earlier than thought, but the US for one needs to do much more to honour its commitments. The good news: the Paris climate agreement is likely to come into effect this year, earlier than expected. But even if countries stick to their Paris targets it will not be nearly enough to limit warming to 2 °C. And the bad news is that the second biggest polluter, the US, is not on course to meet its target. Although most countries have already signed the Paris agreement, it doesn’t take effect until at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per of greenhouse gas emissions, individually approve it. It was feared this ratification process could drag on for years. The 1997 Kyoto protocol did not come into effect until 2005 (and was never ratified by the US). However, 61 countries – accounting for 48 per cent of emissions, and including the two largest polluters, China and the US – have now ratified the Paris agreement, so it is already very close to coming into effect. Many other countries, including the UK, say they will ratify it before the end of the year. Unfortunately, it has always been clear that the emissions cuts that countries have volunteered to make by 2030, as part of the Paris agreement, are not nearly enough to limit warming to 2 °C, let alone the aspirational 1.5 °C. And “coming into effect” does not mean much in practice as the entire agreement is essentially voluntary: countries are obliged to set targets under the treaty but not to meet them. The agreement was designed this way this way to allow the US to ratify the agreement without a vote in the Republican-dominated Senate, where it would not pass.
9-23-16 Dry tropical forests 'overlooked and under threat'
Dry tropical forests 'overlooked and under threat'
Tropical dry forests are among the most threatened habitats on the planet, yet remain overlooked by scientists and conservationists, warn researchers. Despite being home to many species found nowhere else on the planet, few forests are protected, a study showsThe extent of these valuable biological hotspots is just 10% of its historical range, as the biome's fertile soil make it an ideal place to grow cash crops.
9-22-16 Natural ally against global warming not as strong as thought
Natural ally against global warming not as strong as thought
Soils may take in far less carbon than simulations predict. Soils will absorb far less climate-warming carbon in coming decades than previously thought, worsening global warming, a new study shows. A natural ally against global warming may provide far less aid than previously hoped. Researchers estimate that the planet’s soils will soak up about 40 percent less carbon by the end of the century than environmental simulations have predicted. That means the atmosphere in 2100 would hold an extra 4 ½ years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning at current rates, the researchers report in the Sept. 23 Science. “Future climate change may be underestimated,” says study coauthor Yujie He, a carbon cycle researcher at the University of California, Irvine. “Whatever mitigation we should do, we should do it faster.”
9-22-16 You can see fracking’s impact on Earth’s surface from space
You can see fracking’s impact on Earth’s surface from space
Fracking can cause the ground to rise – a change visible from space, which can now be used to predict where frack-induced quakes might strike. Fracking can lift Earth’s surface, a movement that has now been detected from space and can help predict where quakes induced by the activity are likely to strike. This slight buckling – just 3 millimetres a year – happened when frackers injected waste water at high pressure into rocks deep underground. The deformations were seen near the location of the biggest quake ever recorded in eastern Texas: the magnitude 4.8 Timpson earthquake in 2012, widely blamed on waste water being injected at fracking sites close to the eponymous town. “To the best of our knowledge, it’s the best explanation and proof that injection can trigger an earthquake,” says Manoochehr Shirzaei at Arizona State University in Tempe. Shirzaei’s team found that the geology of the zone where the water is injected can determine whether a quake is likely. They studied two pairs of fracking wells 15 kilometres apart, one to the west and one to the east of Timpson.
9-22-16 The oil and gas we have already tapped will take us past 1.5 °C
The oil and gas we have already tapped will take us past 1.5 °C
Fossil fuels already being exploited will take us past the dangerous 2 °C warming level, exceeding the cap agreed at the Paris climate summit. If the world is to have any chance to halt warming below 2 °C, as agreed at the UN’s climate summit in Paris, we cannot develop any more oil wells, coal mines or gas fields. In fact, we need to go further and start phasing out existing projects, according to the first study of the likely carbon emissions from current fossil fuel extraction. As more world leaders this week ratify the Paris Agreement at the UN General Assembly in New York, the study finds that “potential carbon emissions from developed reserves – where the wells are already drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways and export terminals constructed – will take us just beyond the Paris Agreement’s two degrees Celsius warming limit”. Developed reserves of oil and gas alone, even if coal were phased out immediately, would threaten the agreement’s preferred lower target of 1.5 °C, says the study from Oil Change International, a US think tank that opposes fossil fuels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says capping warming at 2 °C requires total post-2015 emissions to be kept below 843 billion tonnes of CO2 – or 22 years of emissions at current rates. But the report’s author, Greg Muttitt, used industry data to calculate that developed reserves of coal, oil and gas will deliver emissions of 941 billion tonnes.
9-22-16 Should UK’s Royal Society host those who deny climate science?
Should UK’s Royal Society host those who deny climate science?
The scientific society risks undermining some of its good work by hiring out its prestigious platform to people who should be ignored, says Michael Le Page. Lawson is chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which lobbies against climate change mitigation, so normally such invitations go straight into the bin where they belong. But what caught our eyes was the venue: the Royal Society of London. Yes, the world’s most famous scientific society is allowing its premises to be used by those who deny what science is telling us about climate change. Let’s be clear: I’m not arguing that such people should be silenced. They have a right to express their views. Personally, I’d prefer they did it where they don’t disturb the reality-based community, but if they want to hold meetings in obscure venues to talk among themselves, I don’t really care. What does disturb me is when these views are given a public platform. Ridley’s claims should not be cited as if he were an expert on, say, sea ice, as he was by the BBC earlier this week. His views are not supported by evidence. He admits the world is warming, but not nearly as much as scientists claim. He says the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide is going to turn the planet into a garden of Eden. He says coral reefs may be suffering, but it’s nothing to do with warming or ocean acidification. None of these things are true. (Webmaster's comment: Free speech does not mean we have to supply and finance a platform for those we disagree with. However, they are welcome to supply their own location and money.)
9-22-16 Repairing your old fridge sounds green but buying new is better
Repairing your old fridge sounds green but buying new is better
A proposed tax cut for repairs in Sweden is designed to reduce carbon emissions, but for some possessions it's better to just replace it, says Michael Le Page. This week Bolund, of Sweden’s Green Party, unveiled proposals for changing the tax system to reduce the cost of repairs, with the aim of boosting sustainability and creating jobs locally. So is this a great idea that other countries should copy? Possibly not. Much to my surprise, it turns out I might well have hurt the environment – and possibly my wallet too – by keeping that washing machine running for so long. How so? Because not all machines are worth repairing when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing them can actually be the greener option. In general, if running a machine uses a lot more energy over the years than it takes to manufacture it, replacing it regularly may reduce energy consumption. Fridges, air conditioners, televisions and, yes, washing machines typically take far more energy to run than to make.
9-21-16 Paris climate deal may come into force by the end of 2016
TParis climate deal may come into force by the end of 2016
More than 55 countries have ratified the UN’s climate agreement, meeting the first of two thresholds needed for it to come into force. Some 60 countries have now ratified the world’s first comprehensive climate deal, meeting one of two thresholds needed to bring the agreement into force. At an event at the United Nations 31 countries submitted their ratification of the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to cutting greenhouse emissions to stop dangerous climate change, bringing the total who have done so to 60. For the Paris Agreement, secured in the French capital last December, to come into force, it must be ratified by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of the world’s emissions. The 55 countries target has now been met, while the emissions total is just below 48 per cent.
9-21-16 #BBCElectionTrain: Where the oil industry and climate change meet
#BBCElectionTrain: Where the oil industry and climate change meet
Our team that’s been travelling across the northern US hearing from voters is now at the halfway stage - crossing the states of North Dakota and Montana. There, our North America correspondent, Aleem Maqbool has been looking at the thorny issues surrounding the oil industry and climate change, in a place that’s directly affected by both.
9-21-16 Revealed: The renewable energy scam making global warming worse
Revealed: The renewable energy scam making global warming worse
The largest source of "clean" energy is not reducing carbon emissions by as much as official figures claim – and it is causing immense harm to the poor and to wildlife. ON THE face of it, Europe is a leader in tackling climate change, on course to get 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. But don’t cheer just yet. Why? Because the biggest source of renewable energy in the European Union isn’t one of the ones everyone talks about – wind, solar or even hydro. No, the EU now gets more than 60 per cent of its renewable energy from biomass: some from crops grown to make liquid biofuels, but mostly from waste wood and felled trees. That means about a tenth of the energy that Europeans use for heating, transport and electricity will soon come from forests and farms. Many fear that this push for biomass will be disastrous for wildlife and drive up food prices. But what’s most shocking is that this push is based on flawed assumptions. The carbon balance sheets of developed countries hide a scam, one whose long-term effects could be far more damaging than the subprime mortgage scandal that led to the global recession of 2008. Overall, bioenergy may be reducing emissions compared with fossil fuels, but not by nearly as much as is claimed. That’s because UN and EU rules mean countries don’t have to count the significant carbon dioxide produced by burning biomass.
9-21-16 Melissa Omand’s clever tech follows the fate of ocean carbon
Melissa Omand’s clever tech follows the fate of ocean carbon
Recent work shows that eddies can pull climate-warming carbon deep into the seas. Drawn to the water early, oceanographer Melissa Omand now leads research cruises studying how carbon and nutrients move through the seas. As chief scientist for a voyage of the research vessel Endeavor, oceanographer Melissa Omand oversaw everything from the deployment of robotic submarines to crew-member bunk assignments. The November 2015 expedition 150 kilometers off Rhode Island’s coast was collecting data for Omand’s ongoing investigations of the fate of carbon dioxide soaked up by the ocean. Still, missing the trip was unthinkable, she says. The Inner Space Center, she realized, offered a way to direct the mission from shore via satellite. After proposing the solution to her higher-ups, and a lot of meetings that followed, she got permission to be the first chief scientist to remotely lead an Endeavor cruise.
9-21-16 Arctic ice melt is killing birds and will leave caribou stranded
Arctic ice melt is killing birds and will leave caribou stranded
The trend for more sea ice to melt sooner spells trouble for Arctic ecosystems on an unprecedented scale – and it’s not just polar bears that are in peril. The ongoing loss of sea-ice cover is wreaking havoc on ecosystems across the Arctic, and may spell the end of more species than previously thought. Arctic sea-ice cover has shrunk this year to the second lowest summer level ever recorded, following an unprecedented winter low. “There will be winners and losers,” says Martin Renner of Tern Again Consulting in Homer, Alaska. “Species that rely directly on sea ice, like ivory gulls, will run into difficult times.” But less obvious species may also be in trouble. Renner and his colleagues examined data on sea ice and zooplankton, fish and seabirds in the south-east Bering Sea between 1975 and 2014. They found that most seabird and large zooplankton species were less abundant – by 90 per cent on average for birds – when sea ice melted early in spring, suggesting that these species will decline in a warmer climate.
9-20-16 Shrinking sea ice threatens natural highways for caribou, plants
Both furry and flowery travelers face trouble in a warmer world. Shrinking sea ice threatens natural highways for caribou, plants
Shrinking sea ice matters to land dwellers too, as ice bridges and transport dwindles for migrating Peary caribou and seed dispersing mountain avens flowers. As warming breaks up the sea ice that serves as great frozen highways for Arctic wildlife, caribou and even wildflowers face route shutdowns, long detours or outright strandings. Already, ice bridges Peary caribou need for their seasonal migrations from island to island are becoming scarcer, with worse to come, an international research team reports September 21 in Biology Letters. In the same issue, other researchers suggest that even some plants need the icy travel routes: Ancestors of dozens of wildflower and miniature tree species probably used sea ice to colonize the far north after the last ice age.
9-20-16 China embarked on wind power frenzy, says IEA
China embarked on wind power frenzy, says IEA
China has been building two wind turbines every hour, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has told BBC News. This is the world's biggest programme of turbine installation, double that of its nearest rival, the US. The nation’s entire annual increase in energy demand has been fulfilled from the wind. But the IEA warns China has built so much coal-fired generating capacity that it is turning off wind turbines for 15% of the time. The problem is that coal-fired power stations are given priority access to the grid. The average European wind farm is forced to stop generating between 1-2% of the year. (Webmaster's comment: That's 17,520 wind turbines per year. Even with 15% being turned off that's still 14,892 new wind turbines in use per year. Even that is 30% of the total numbers of wind turbines in the United States, IN ONE YEAR!)
9-20-16 Oil pipeline leak threatens Alabama river rich in unique species
Oil pipeline leak threatens Alabama river rich in unique species
South-eastern US faces price hikes as hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel spill into a pond in Alabama, upstream of an ecologically important river. More than a quarter of a million gallons of petrol spilled into a central Alabama pond after an underground pipeline ruptured earlier this month. The pond, a defunct mining retention pool, feeds a small creek that flows into the Cahaba river, home to dozens of rare and threatened species. Despite the close proximity – the pond is within a couple kilometres of the river – the fuel hasn’t made it that far, says Chris Smith at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Currently it seems to be contained,” Smith says. “There are, no doubt, some threats, but right now there doesn’t seem to be any significant impact on the Cahaba river or the tributary.”
9-19-16 'Let mangroves recover' to protect coasts
'Let mangroves recover' to protect coasts
Healthy mangroves offer protection and food to populations of both humans and wildlife. Allowing mangrove forests to recover naturally result in more resilient habitats that benefit both wildlife and people, say conservationists. In Indonesia, a Wetlands International project uses permeable dams to restore sediment needed for the trees to grow. The charity says early results suggest "ecological restoration" is more effective than planting programmes. More than half of the world's most at-risk habitats have been felled or lost over the past century, UN data shows.
9-17-16 Our teachers might be raising a generation of climate change deniers
Our teachers might be raising a generation of climate change deniers
Virtually every climate scientist in the world believes that climate change is real and caused by human activities, but one in three high school and middle school teachers beg to differ. That's obviously disappointing — these are the people entrusted with molding young minds — but until recently it was unclear whether these teachers and their opinions were in fact harming students. Now, a recent study in PLoS One demonstrates that middle school students tend to share their teachers' beliefs about whether or not climate change is happening — but are not necessarily beholden to their specific opinions on why it could be happening, if they believe it is. As to whether teacher opinions directly affect student opinions on climate change, "The answer is yes and no," said coauthor Kathryn Stevenson of North Carolina State University, in a statement. "While students generally mirror a teacher's belief that global warming is happening, when it comes to the cause of climate change, students reason for themselves and reach different conclusions than their teachers do." (Webmaster's comment: Teachers who do not teach what science has proven should be fired!)
9-16-16 Arctic sea ice shrinks to second-lowest low on record
Arctic sea ice shrinks to second-lowest low on record
Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent for the year on September 10, tying for the second-smallest minimum size on record. The orange line marks the 1981 through 2010 average sea ice extent for the date. Sea ice around the North Pole has reached its second-lowest low on record, tying with 2007, scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced September 15. Arctic sea ice reached its expected low point for the year on September 10, bottoming out at an area of 4.14 million square kilometers. That’s well below the 1981 through 2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers, though above the record-lowest extent of 3.39 million square kilometers, set in 2012.
9-16-16 Second lowest minimum for Arctic ice
Second lowest minimum for Arctic ice
Arctic ice cover in 2016 reached the second lowest minimum on record, tied with 2007. The sea-ice extent on 10 September stood at 4.14 million sq km, some way short of the 3.39 million sq km record low in 2012. Arctic sea-ice cover grows each autumn and winter, and shrinks each spring and summer. It has long been regarded as a sensitive indicator of change to the Earth's climatic system. The ice extent has been tracked by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, using satellite measurements.
9-16-16 Arctic summer sea ice melts to second lowest level ever recorded
Arctic summer sea ice melts to second lowest level ever recorded
The melt follows last year’s record low of winter ice that set stage for the summer low. Long term consequences for ecosystems could be dire. Arctic sea ice has melted to the second lowest level on record despite a fairly cool summer – and the loss of ice may already be having ecological consequences. The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic at the end of the annual summer melt was 4.1 million square kilometres, tied for the second lowest level with 2007, the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in the US said. There was about 750,000 square kilometres more ice in the polar region at the end of the 2016 summer melt than the record low set in 2012, as ice cover fell well below the 37-year average for this point in the year, the preliminary figures show. With more typical warmer conditions, the Arctic could see very dramatic losses of ice in the coming years, the scientists warned. “It was a stormy, cloudy, and fairly cool summer,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “Historically, such weather conditions slow down the summer ice loss, but we still got down to essentially a tie for second lowest in the satellite record.”
9-16-16 Energy: New Texas oil field discovery
Energy: New Texas oil field discovery
Oil-and-gas giant Apache Corp. is trumpeting what could be “one of the biggest energy finds of the past decade,” said Bradley Olson and Erin Ailworth in The Wall Street Journal. Apache announced last week that its discovery of a new oil field in West Texas reveals the equivalent of at least 2 billion barrels of oil. “Conservative estimates” put the oil field’s value at $8 billion, though Apache says it could ultimately be worth 10 times more. Some analysts caution that “oil and gas discoveries touted as game changers have historically produced less than advertised.” (Webmaster's comment: More Fuel For The Fire!)
9-16-16 Air pollution and Alzheimer’s
Air pollution and Alzheimer’s
Breathing air polluted by traffic fumes may be harmful not only to your heart and lungs but also to your brain. In a new study, researchers discovered millions of tiny particles of magnetite, an iron oxide, in samples of brain tissue from people who had lived in busy cities. Magnetite nanoparticles that occur naturally in the brain are angular in shape, but the vast majority of these particles were round—indicating they formed from the burning of fuel at high temperatures. These pollution-derived particles can generate unstable molecules, which can be harmful to other, more important molecules. In high concentrations, they have been linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
9-16-16 Lost Wilderness
Earth has lost 10 percent of its wilderness since the early 1990s—an area twice the size of Alaska, according to a new study in Current Biology. In all, we’ve lost roughly 1.2 million square miles of wilderness in recent decades, leaving 12 million square miles still intact.
9-15-16 Fuel 'too dirty' for Europe sold to Africa
Fuel 'too dirty' for Europe sold to Africa
Swiss firms have been criticised in a report for their links to the African trade in diesel with toxin levels that are illegal in Europe. Campaign group Public Eye says retailers are exploiting weak regulatory standards. Vitol, Trafigura, Addax & Oryx and Lynx Energy have been named because they are shareholders of the fuel retailers. Trafigura and Vitol say the report is misconceived and retailers work within legal limits enforced in the countries. Three of the distribution companies mentioned in the report have responded by saying that they meet the regulatory requirements of the market and have no vested interest in keeping sulphur levels higher than they need to be. Although this is within the limits set by national governments, the sulphur contained in the fumes from the diesel fuel could increase respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis in affected countries, health experts say. (Webmaster's comment: Capitalists will sell you anything they can get away with, even if they know it will kill you.)
9-13-16 Yacht sails through low-ice Arctic sea routes
Yacht sails through low-ice Arctic sea routes
A project led by adventurer David Hempleman-Adams that aimed to sail the Arctic's North East and North West passages in a single season has completed its quest. The yacht Northabout left Bristol, UK, in June and circled the North Pole in an anticlockwise direction. Its exit from Canada's Lancaster Sound on Monday signalled the successful navigation of both sea routes. Mr Adams initiated the project to highlight Arctic sea-ice decline.
9-13-16 Oil pipeline construction halted after Native American protests
Oil pipeline construction halted after Native American protests
The conduit for oil has sparked protests and a lawsuit led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and now the US has halted construction on a section of the pipeline. US officials have temporarily halted the building of part of a contentious oil pipeline in North Dakota. Protests and a lawsuit led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have swirled around the project in recent months, as Native Americans and other groups have raised concerns that the pipeline will disturb culturally significant sites and threaten water supplies. “All pipelines leak eventually,” says Wayde Schafer of the North Dakota branch of environmental organisation the Sierra Club. “We want to leave clean water for our great-great-grandchildren.”
9-12-16 Oceans given boost as nations agree to protect a third worldwide
Oceans given boost as nations agree to protect a third worldwide
But the deal is not legally binding, and opposition from some big countries to the idea could make it largely symbolic. Things are looking up for conservation of the world’s oceans. A major environmental conference of governments and NGOs has called on nations to set aside at least 30 per cent of them as “highly protected” areas by 2030. However, opposition from China, Japan and South Africa may undermine chances of success, say delegates.The ambitious and controversial Motion 53 was passed in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the World Conservation Congress, held once every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).Speaking at the opening ceremony of the congress, President Tommy Remengesau of Palau “challenged” the IUCN to follow the Pacific nation’s example by setting the 30 per cent target for protected areas. Only about 2 per cent of the world’s oceans are currently protected. The motion was passed with 129 states and government agencies in favour, and 16 against. Among NGOs, which made up a separate voting category, 621 were for and 37 against.
9-12-16 Pump CO2 into rocks, report urges
Pump CO2 into rocks, report urges
The costs of tackling climate change can be slashed if a network of pipes is built to store waste carbon dioxide under the North Sea, a report says. The technology - carbon capture and storage (CCS) – involves pumping CO2 emissions from power stations into rock formations. It is expensive, but parliamentary advisors say the costs can be halved. Savings can be achieved if the system to deliver the London Olympics is copied, they tell ministers. The climate change minister Nick Hurd told BBC News he would welcome new ideas for promoting CCS.
9-12-16 Seaweed farmers in Indonesia sue in major oil spill case
Seaweed farmers in Indonesia sue in major oil spill case
More than 13,000 Indonesian seaweed farmers have launched a massive class action in Australia's federal court demanding compensation for the effects of Australia's worst oil spill. In August 2009 there was a huge explosion at an oil well in Australian waters in the Timor Sea. The seaweed farmers said, for more than 10 weeks enough oil to fill 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools spewed into the sea. Indonesian seaweed farmers on Rote Island, 250km (155 miles) away from the oil well, say the disaster adversely affected their livelihood.
9-10-16 US government halts oil pipeline opposed by Native Americans
US government halts oil pipeline opposed by Native Americans
The US government has stepped into a dispute over an oil pipeline in North Dakota, blocking its construction on federal tribal lands. It also asked the company behind it to "pause" action on a wider stretch held sacred by a Native American tribe. The government order came shortly after a district judge denied a request to halt construction on the pipeline. The Dakota Access Pipeline is opposed by over 200 Native American groups who fear its impact on waterways.
9-9-16 Global treaty set to halt invasive species ravaging our oceans
Global treaty set to halt invasive species ravaging our oceans
Many ships will soon have to install systems to deal with stowaways species in their ballast water that have caused havoc when dumped far from home. At last, the game may be up for marine invaders that hitch free rides across the globe in ships’ ballast water. A global convention to stop this happening was formally triggered on 8 September, more than two decades after it was proposed, and will officially come into force a year from then. The convention will compel many of the world’s 70,000 or so registered cargo ships to install equipment guaranteed to kill off any aquatic creatures in seawater taken on board to maintain stability. Ships often discharge their ballast at distant destinations, and for decades this has led to hugely damaging introductions of new and invasive species from one part of the world into another.
9-9-16 Myth busted: dumped pills aren’t main source of drugs in sewage
Myth busted: dumped pills aren’t main source of drugs in sewage
Waste water tests show the pharmaceuticals they contain are mainly excreted, suggesting that more expensive treatment may be needed to deal with them. The next time you pick up a prescription, you might notice a message on the label exhorting you not to flush leftover pills down the toilet. This advice reflects the official belief in some countries, including that dumping medicines down the toilet is the number one source of pharmaceutical contamination in waste water. The trouble is, it’s not true. “We’re not sure where this urban myth came from,” says Patrick Phillips at the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Troy, New York. Phillips’s latest work, together with Christine Vatovec at the University of Vermont and colleagues, seems to well and truly bust the myth. It also reveals some surprising sewer epidemiology. Why is it important to know the provenance of pharmaceuticals in waste water? They, and the compounds that result from mixing them, are becoming “chemicals of concern” – and only 50 per cent gets filtered out by treatment plants. The other 50 per cent could potentially end up in your drinking water.
9-9-16 White gulls dependent on ice are disappearing from the Arctic
White gulls dependent on ice are disappearing from the Arctic
Melting sea ice may be one of the factors driving ivory gulls to whiter pastures as they search for food. As Arctic sea ice dwindles, a gull that depends on it seem to be disappearing from the ocean around Greenland. Ivory gulls range throughout the Arctic, spending their lives on or near pack ice in the far north. They survive on whatever food they can turn up: fish and invertebrates, the faeces of other animals, scavenged bits of seals killed by polar bears. But the Canadian population of nesting Ivory Gulls was known to be in steep decline. Their numbers in the early 2000s were about 80 per cent lower than in the 1980s. “We’ve noticed big changes in where the colonies are, the numbers of birds seen,” says Nina Karnovsky at Pomona College in California. It’s difficult to visit every potential nesting site as some are remote, “but in the places we’re going, there’s a lot fewer,” she says.
9-9-16 World's wilderness reduced by a tenth since 1990s
World's wilderness reduced by a tenth since 1990s
A tenth of the world's wilderness has vanished in the past two decades, research shows. New maps show "alarming losses" of pristine landscapes, particularly in South America and Africa, according to World Conservation Society scientists. They argue in Current Biology that wild areas are ignored in international conservation agreements, despite their ecological and cultural value. About 20% of the world's land area is classed as wilderness.
9-8-16 Paradise lost: we’ve destroyed most of the world’s wilderness
Paradise lost: we’ve destroyed most of the world’s wilderness
World’s truly wild regions could be gone altogether by the end of the century if current trend of decline continues. Blink and you may miss it. Wilderness now covers less than a quarter of land on Earth, and could disappear this century unless robust protection measures are introduced. Wilderness areas are defined as ecologically intact landscapes that are mostly free from human disturbance. These complex ecosystems provide vital havens for endangered species, act as carbon sinks and support indigenous people. James Watson at the University of Queensland, Australia, and his colleagues recently assessed the state of global wildernesses using a “human footprint index” that incorporated measures such as road, building, farm and population density. The team found that the world’s wilderness has shrunk from 33 to 23 per cent of land since the early 1990s.
9-8-16 Human activity means sharks are disappearing from the North Sea
Human activity means sharks are disappearing from the North Sea
A two month survey of marine sites in the North Sea has found few long-living species in the water, and other signs that the ecosystems there are changing. Long-lived species like sharks, rays and skates are declining at an alarming rate in sites across the North Sea. So says Ricardo Aguilar, senior research director of marine conservation organisation Oceana whose European headquarters are in Madrid, Spain. His team has just returned from a two-month expedition surveying waters around the UK, Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. “It’s scary how quickly they seem to be disappearing, and it’s not just the sharks. Big molluscs, quahog and the horse mussels are also getting harder and harder to find.” The team visited 13 sites, chosen for their diverse range of habitats and ecosystems. “We wanted to visit a really good cross-section of marine environments. Places where the seabed was made up of mud and clay, coastal areas, coral gardens, even kelp forests off the coast of Norway.”
9-8-16 The worrisome rise of neoskepticism
The worrisome rise of neoskepticism
An increasing number of Americans now acknowledge that climate change exists and is exacerbated by humans. But, even as the uproar from climate deniers diminishes into a whisper, a fresh and potentially detrimental ideology is taking hold: neoskepticism. Neoskeptics aren't deniers. They recognize the prevalence and cause of climate change, but still, they advocate against large-scale efforts to stop it. Why? Some believe there's too much uncertainty surrounding the issue. Others think stopping climate change would simply be too costly. But whatever their reasons, this increasingly popular perspective has started to worry scientists. With this summer seeing the warmest global temperatures in NASA's records, neoskepticism could lead to "policy paralysis," says Paul Stern, co-author of a recent report about the ideology in the journal Science. By waiting for more certainty on the threat of climate change or more evidence of its catastrophic nature, the country is "postponing decisions that need to be made," he says.
9-8-16 India and Nepal concern over Tibet flood advice gap
India and Nepal concern over Tibet flood advice gap
India and Nepal say a lack of information from China about glacial lakes and rivers in Tibet could hamper their ability to plan for flash floods. Sources say there has been a rise in avalanches, landslide-dammed rivers bursting, glaciers cracking and glacial lakes dangerously filling up. Studies by Chinese scientists have shown glaciers and permafrost rapidly melting in Tibet. Earthquakes also continue to destabilise them. A recent study has shown Tibet topping the list of places across the globe that has experienced an increase in water.
9-8-16 Red river near Arctic nickel plant examined by inspectors
Red river near Arctic nickel plant examined by inspectors
The defence ministry channel Zvezda TV shows the red river on its website. Russian environmental inspectors are trying to establish why a river near the Norilsk Nickel industrial complex in the Arctic has turned blood-red. Dramatic pictures of the discoloured Daldykan river have been posted widely on Russian media. The government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta says a leaking slurry pipeline carrying waste copper-nickel concentrate could be to blame. Norilsk Nickel is the world's largest nickel and palladium producer. Its vast furnaces were built on the Taimyr Peninsula, in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, in the Soviet era. The mining group has a production facility called Nadezhda by the Daldykan river. But company officials said they were not aware of any river pollution from the plant.
9-7-16 A wall of trees across the Sahara is cool – but we don’t need it
A wall of trees across the Sahara is cool – but we don’t need it
The African Union is planning an 8000 kilometre stretch of trees across the entire continent, but the Great Green Wall isn't the best way to halt desertification. IT IS terraforming on a grand scale. A sinuous line of trees has started to spring up across the hottest, driest and widest part of Africa. Once finished, the band of green against gold will stretch from the Atlantic coast of Senegal, across the southern fringe of the Sahara desert to the Red Sea – and be visible from space. The purpose of this Great Green Wall? To hold back the advancing sands of the Sahara in the name of fighting climate change. Formally inaugurated in May, it is a grand project of the African Union (AU), with 11 nations signed up. Senegal has taken the lead and last year its president Macky Sall announced that it had already planted 12 million trees, mostly native acacias. The final wall, set to be 15 kilometres wide and almost 8000 kilometres long, will number more than a billion trees. And yet questions abound. Will it work? What part of the “desertification” process is it intended to prevent? Is advancing sand the real problem? Come to that, what’s wrong with deserts anyway? Maybe we should be saving deserts – and their unique flora and fauna – rather than fighting them.
9-7-16 Boom time for whales in the Arctic driven by the loss of sea ice
Boom time for whales in the Arctic driven by the loss of sea ice
The unprecedented loss of sea ice at high latitudes has one benefit – it has created ideal conditions for baleen whales. It’s boom time for large whales in the Arctic – an unexpected benefit of the unprecedented sea ice reduction seen in the region over the past 30 years. Sue Moore at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle has analysed 30 years of whale survey information gathered in the Chukchi Sea – which separates Russia and Alaska – and the surrounding area. She realised that three species of plankton-eating baleen whales – humpback, fin and minke – are now routinely spotted in the region, even though surveys in the 1980s never encountered these species there. The population of bowheads – a baleen whale native to the Arctic – may also be thriving, according to Moore’s analysis. This rise in whale sightings coincides with the loss of sea ice. “Millions of square miles of sea ice has been lost in the past decade,” says Marc Macias-Fauria at the University of Oxford. “If you take the last 30 years alone, that’s 10 per cent per decade. It’s unbelievable.” The lack of ice leads to extraordinarily favourable growing conditions for zooplankton – which is a good thing for the baleen whales that eat them, says Patrick Miller at the University of St Andrews in the UK. More light can penetrate into the surface water of ice-free oceans, fuelling blooms of phytoplankton and the zooplankton that graze on them. Nutrient levels also increase. “Wind driven across the now open sea surface causes water to mix,” says Miller. “This brings nutrients up from depth.”
9-6-16 Arctic Ocean shipping routes 'to open for months'
Arctic Ocean shipping routes 'to open for months'
Sea-ice is in decline but scientists expect quite a bit of variability year on year. Shipping routes across the Arctic are going to open up significantly this century even with a best-case reduction in CO2 emissions, a new study suggests. University of Reading, UK, researchers have investigated how the decline in sea-ice, driven by warmer temperatures, will make the region more accessible. They find that by 2050, opportunities to transit the Arctic will double for non ice-strengthened vessels. These open-water ships will even be going right over the top at times. And if CO2 emissions are not curtailed - if the aspirations of the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise "well below two degrees" are not implemented - then moderately ice-strengthened vessels could be routinely ploughing across the Arctic by late century for perhaps 10-12 months of the year. "The reduction in summer sea-ice, perhaps the most striking sign of climate change, may also provide economic opportunities," commented Reading's Dr Nathanael Melia. "There is renewed interest in trans-Arctic shipping because of potentially reduced costs and journey times between Asia and the Atlantic. So far only a few commercial vessels have utilised these routes as they are not currently reliably open."
9-6-16 Hurricane Hermine’s flood damage was ramped up by climate change
Hurricane Hermine’s flood damage was ramped up by climate change
The hurricane has caused widespread flooding across four US states, thanks in part to existing sea-level rise in the region. Global warming and rising sea levels may be exacerbating the widespread flooding along the east coast of the US in the wake of Hurricane Hermine this week. The category 1 hurricane made landfall in Florida on Friday with wind speeds of 120 kilometres per hour. This contact with land weakened it to a tropical storm, which then moved north-east along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina on Saturday. Despite being relatively weak compared with other hurricanes – including a category 5 hurricane that hit Florida in 1935 at a speed of 300 kilometres per hour – Hermine caused significant flooding across the four states affected. Two people died and 400,000 homes lost power. The extent of flooding may be related to higher sea levels stemming from global warming and natural geological processes that are making the US east coast gradually sink, says Kevin Walsh at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Along parts of the coastline sea levels have risen by 30 centimetres over the last 50 years. Sean Sublette at Climate Central in the US agrees. “The fact that sea level has continued to rise, as a lot of the polar regions have seen the glacial ice melt, will compound any kind of storm surge flooding that comes from hurricanes,” he told US broadcaster PBS. This theory is consistent with a 2012 modelling study which showed that if sea levels rise by 1 metre by 2100 as predicted, major hurricane-related flooding that typically affects the US east coast once per century will happen every three to 20 years.
9-5-16 Warming strengthens typhoons that batter Asian coast
Warming strengthens typhoons that batter Asian coast
Worse to come as rising sea temperatures close to Asian mainland pump extra energy into typhoons at landfall. Typhoons pummelling the coastlines of east and South-East Asia have become more destructive in the past 40 years, and are likely to intensify further because of climate change. The region has recently suffered some of the world’s most devastating typhoons, including Haiyan, which killed 6340 people in 2013, and Morakot which killed 789 in 2009, both in the Philippines. A new study reveals that, on average, typhoons hitting the region have increased in intensity by 14 per cent compared with 40 years ago, with average wind speed increasing by 7 metres per second. “That’s a huge difference,” says Wei Mei at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who carried out the study with Shang-Ping Xie at the University of California at San Diego. It equates to an increase in destructiveness of 50 per cent, says Mei. The researchers reached their conclusion after analysing historical data collected both by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and by the Japan Meteorological Agency. They found that it was mainly typhoons that reached land that had become more intense, perhaps because sea water closer to land is warming more rapidly and provides storms with more energy. “The water closer to the coastline gets hotter and so creates more heat energy that’s fed into the storm,” says Mei.
9-5-16 Ocean warming is already spreading diseases and killing corals
Ocean warming is already spreading diseases and killing corals
It is one of our greatest hidden challenges – and we are completely unprepared, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The warming of the world’s oceans is already spreading dangerous diseases and affecting fish stocks and crop yields, according to a report. Conservationists warned the world is “completely unprepared” for the impacts of warming oceans on wildlife, natural systems and humans, some of which are already being felt. Even with action to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which are causing ocean warming, there will still be a high risk of impacts, according to the report launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Ocean warming is one of this generation’s greatest hidden challenges – and one for which we are completely unprepared,” said IUCN director general Inger Andersen. “The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with, is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially.” As part of the report, findings from Camille Parmesan and Martin Attrill of the University of Plymouth, in the UK, show that marine-related tropical diseases and harmful algal blooms are spreading to colder regions for the first time. Outbreaks of Vibrio vulnificus, a relation of the bacteria causing cholera and which causes death in between 30 and 48 per cent of cases, have been newly diagnosed some 1,600 kilometres further north than previously recorded. The disease has previously been a problem in warm waters such as the Gulf of Mexico where mostly it has been contracted by eating infected oysters, but cases have recently occurred in the Baltic and Alaska, the report warns.
9-5-16 Endangered glaciers: Alpine ice begins Antarctic voyage
Endangered glaciers: Alpine ice begins Antarctic voyage
More than 400 pieces of Alpine ice have been moved to a giant freezer - a first step in their journey to Antarctica. The seemingly strange plan to send ice to the coldest place on Earth is part of a scientific mission to "rescue" some of the world's most endangered glacial ice. Bubbles in old, deep glacial ice are frozen records of our past atmosphere. Scientists say their purpose-built Antarctic ice bunker will keep these safe for future research. The temperature at the Col du Dome glacier has increased by 1.5C in the last decade. "What we know for sure is that the ice will not be here in 50 or 100 years time - any glacier below 3,500m altitude will be gone by the end of the century," explained Jerome Chappellaz from France's National Centre for Scientific Research, one of the leaders of the project.
9-5-16 Pressure grows on UK to ratify Paris climate change deal
Pressure grows on UK to ratify Paris climate change deal
Pressure is growing on the UK government to ratify the Paris climate change deal immediately. A spokesman for the prime minister told the BBC the UK would ratify "as soon as possible", but did not suggest a date. But Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP and the Greens say the UK has lost its long-term leadership on climate after the US and China jointly ratified the deal at the weekend. They say there is no good reason for the UK to delay.
9-5-16 Mapuche community in Argentina fights fracking site
Mapuche community in Argentina fights fracking site
The deep red craggy hills of Vaca Muerta, or Dead Cow, rise up against the horizon. This site produces more shale gas than any other place in the world, outside the United States. Fracking could provide Argentina with cheap energy for generations, but Mapuche indigenous communities who live here say it is polluting their land. Susana Campo is a Mapuche goat farmer. Last year, she says, 60 of her baby goats were born without hair. A week later they died. She thinks fracking has contaminated the groundwater. "The animals drank the water and then they gave birth to kids with just skin, no hair. That's never happened before." Her sister Josifa say the water has made her sick. "I've had stomach aches. I've also vomited. "We know it's because the water is contaminated, but we have to continue drinking this water. "Poor people can't afford to buy water." (Webmaster's comment: Free Enterprize and Capitalism don't care about the welfare of people. They are just in the way of profits and money for the owners and executives.)
9-3-16 Paris climate deal: US and China announce ratification
Paris climate deal: US and China announce ratification
Signing up to cut emissions means China will have to move away from coal power. The US and China - together responsible for 40% of the world's carbon emissions - have now both ratified the Paris global climate agreement. After arriving with other leaders of G20 nations for a summit in the city of Hangzhou, Mr Obama said: "History will judge today's effort as pivotal." CO2 emissions are the driving force behind climate change. Last December, countries agreed to cut emissions enough to keep the global average rise in temperatures below 2C.