48 Global Warming News Articles
for February of 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
2-27-17 The oceans are churning towards a warm, fishless future
The oceans are churning towards a warm, fishless future
Seafood is a critical protein source for more than 2.5 billion people worldwide, but decades of overfishing have decimated fish populations, while warming waters have pushed species into new territory and affected their reproductive cycles. Already, according to World Wildlife Fund's 2015 stock assessment, populations of fish that frequent dinner plates — including tuna, mackerel, and bonitos — have fallen 74 percent since 1970. Malin L. Pinsky, a marine ecologist at Rutgers University, believes runaway climate change could, one day, be the final nail in the coffin for global fish markets. "That's a real concern when billions of people rely on fish as a key part of their nutrition," he said. "If temperatures continue to climb unabated, we'll find water that's too hot for many species. Many species would find they can't get enough oxygen. We wouldn't recognize many of the fish off our coasts. It's not an ocean I'd be excited to pass off to my kids." Before Trump's election, limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius — though it still would bring droughts, floods, and sea level rise — seemed like a reasonable goal for the world to aspire to. Even then, that threshold was still a difficult stretch, given the current pace of actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Now, to many looking at Trump's plans to revive coal, drill for oil, and strike down climate policies, that goal seems like a pipe dream. The most dire climate predictions, including famine, flooding, and plagues, are back on the table. The seas, and the people who rely on them, could take the biggest hit.
2-27-17 Bread's environmental costs are counted
Bread's environmental costs are counted
The biggest single factor is the use of fertiliser to grow wheat, which accounts for 43% of greenhouse gas emissions, say experts. Emissions arise from energy needed to make ammonium nitrate fertiliser and from nitrous oxide released when it is broken down in the soil. Around 12 million loaves are sold each day in the UK. Consumers need to be more aware of the environmental costs of their food, say researchers at the University of Sheffield. There are growing concerns about pollution from plastic packaging around food, as well as wider environmental issues. Lead researcher Dr Liam Goucher said that in every loaf there is embodied global warming resulting from the fertiliser farmers use to increase their wheat harvest. "That one key raw material accounts for - in terms of global warming potential - 43% of a loaf of bread," he told BBC News.
2-27-17 A loaf of bread emits half a kilo of CO2, mainly from fertiliser
A loaf of bread emits half a kilo of CO2, mainly from fertiliser
Fertiliser use accounts for 40 per cent of greenhouse gases emitted to make bread, and bread production accounts for half a per cent of all UK emissions. Giving you your daily bread is costly for the climate. The equivalent of half a kilogram of carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere for every loaf of bread produced in the UK, according to the best study on the subject yet. That suggests making the bread eaten in the UK results in massive greenhouse emissions: equal to an astonishing half a per cent of all the UK’s greenhouse emissions. The finding highlights the urgent need to tackle global emissions from farming, which produces a third of all greenhouse gases. In the case of a loaf of bread, the main source of these emissions is the nitrogen fertiliser used to grow the wheat. Its production and use creates 40 per cent of the emissions. “The 40 per cent figure was quite a shock to us,” says Liam Goucher of Sheffield University in the UK, whose team worked with farmers and an industrial bakery to directly measure what goes into producing a wholemeal loaf. While several other teams have calculated the emissions associated with bread-making, these studies relied more heavily on estimates than direct measurements. Two-thirds of fertiliser emissions come from its manufacture, a high-temperature process that usually relies on natural gas.
2-27-17 Snow will melt more slowly in a warmer world – here’s why
Snow will melt more slowly in a warmer world – here’s why
Snowmelt will start earlier but happen more slowly, depriving river systems and reservoirs of the big gush of water they rely on. As global temperatures rise, snow will melt more slowly. Yes, you read that right – more slowly. Warmer global temperatures will lead to less snow in many mountainous areas, says Keith Musselman, a hydrologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. That thinner layer of snow will be less likely to last into the late spring and early summer, when melting rates are highest. Instead, it will melt slowly throughout the winter and early spring, when night-time temperatures are lower and there is less direct sunlight, releasing just a trickle of water instead of a sudden gush. In short, a warming planet will cause the snow to melt sooner but more slowly. “The more you think about it, it becomes one of those ‘aha!’ stories,” says Musselman, who used historical snowpack measurements and computer simulations to predict how the melting rate will change by the end of the century.
2-25-17 New UN climate chief: 'Action on warming unstoppable'
New UN climate chief: 'Action on warming unstoppable'
The UN’s new climate chief says she’s worried about President Donald Trump - but confident that action to curb climate change is unstoppable. President Trump said he’d withdraw from the UN climate deal and stop funding the UN’s clean energy programme. But former Mexican diplomat Patricia Espinosa told BBC News that the delay in any firm announcement suggests the issue is still unresolved. She travels to US this weekend to try and meet the new US secretary of state. Ms Espinosa said it would be more damaging for the US to leave the on-going climate talks process altogether than to stop funding the clean energy programme. The US pays approximately $4m (£3.2m) towards this programme every year - and often an extra $2m in voluntary funding. But she said the rest of the world would carry on tackling climate change without the US, if necessary. She said China’s stated willingness to lead the world in curbing emissions might cause American diplomats to ponder the implications of allowing China a role of global moral leadership. “We are of course worried about rumours that the possibility of the US pulling out of the Paris agreement and the convention on climate change,” she said. “It would be very bad if there were a change of position in the US. That’s why I’m looking forwards to engaging with the US as a partner.” She did not explain how the US would be able to remain within the Paris framework whilst scrapping action on its own emissions strategy that helps underpin that process.
2-24-17 There’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’ – it’s dirty and expensive
There’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’ – it’s dirty and expensive
Australia and the US want to revive an uneconomical and polluting technology, and, worse, Australia plans to take money from a clean energy fund to do it. Earlier this month, Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged his support to “state-of-the-art clean coal-fired technology”. A week later, the federal treasurer gleefully passed a lump of coal around parliament. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you,” he soothed. Australia is trying to rekindle its relationship with the carbon-belching fuel, and it’s not alone. The US has also been seduced. Unveiling its energy plan in January, the Trump administration announced that in “reviving America’s coal industry”, it was “committed to clean coal technology”. The trouble is, it’s not clean, and it’s not even what you might think of as “clean” coal – coal-fired power stations equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to trap emitted carbon dioxide. It’s just upgraded coal-fired power stations. And worse, the Australian government is looking to pay for it with money that was earmarked to support emerging green energy technologies. (Webmaster's comment: We've going to spend 100's of billions trying to make something clean that will never be clean instead of investing in co2-free green energy. What is wrong with us?)
2-24-17 Pruitt confirmed
Scott Pruitt, was confirmed as the agency’s new head last week—marking the start of the Trump administration’s starkly different environmental agenda. A climate change skeptic, Pruitt sued the EPA at least 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, accusing the Obama administration of “unwarranted regulation and systematic overreach.” The night before the confirmation vote, an Oklahoma judge ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails that showed close cooperation between his office and fossil fuel companies, with Pruitt even adopting lobbyists’ exact language. But before the emails were made public, Republican senators approved Pruitt by a vote of 52 to 46. Laying out his vision on his first day in the job, Pruitt told EPA workers the agency should be “both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment.”
2-24-17 Pollution in the world’s deepest waters
Pollution in the world’s deepest waters
In a sign that even the most remote and inaccessible places on Earth are not immune to human activity, high levels of toxic pollution have been discovered in the deepest waters on the planet. British researchers used robotic submarines to retrieve small crustaceans from the Mariana Trench, in the Western Pacific, and the Kermadec Trench, north of New Zealand, both of which are more than 6 miles deep. When they analyzed these hardy critters, they found they were contaminated with levels of toxic chemicals up to 50 times higher than those in species that survive in China’s most heavily polluted rivers. The contaminants were persistent organic pollutants, or POPs—industrial chemicals that can take decades to break down. Many POPs, including one that was discovered in every sample taken for the study, have been outlawed since the late 1970s because of their links to cancer. The study’s lead author, Alan Jamieson from Newcastle University, says it wasn’t a surprise to find the chemicals in the deepest parts of the ocean—once the toxic particles reach the sea, currents and gravity disperse them rapidly. But he says the “sky-high” level of contamination was unexpected and worrisome. “We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact,” he tells The Guardian (U.K.). “Our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth.”
2-24-17 'Good vibration' hand pumps boost Africa's water security
'Good vibration' hand pumps boost Africa's water security
The simple up-and-down motion of hand pumps could help scientists secure a key water source for 200 million people in Africa. Growing demand for groundwater is putting pressure on the resource while researchers struggle to accurately estimate the future supply. But a team from Oxford University says that low-cost mobile sensors attached to pumps could solve the problem. Their study shows that pump vibrations record the true depth of well water. While fresh water from Africa's rivers and lakes is hugely important for people, it is dwarfed by the amount of groundwater available, estimated to be 100 times greater than the annual renewable fresh resource. Groundwater lies in aquifers under the surface of the earth and is often extracted from wells by pumps. In many places these are simple devices, operated by hand. In 2012 the Oxford research team started a trial in Kenya where hand pumps in 60 villages were fitted with data transmitters.
2-23-17 The EU’s renewable energy policy is making global warming worse
The EU’s renewable energy policy is making global warming worse
Independent report concludes the massive subsidies for wood energy are increasing greenhouse emissions, and are a waste of public money. Countries in the EU, including the UK, are throwing away money by subsidising the burning of wood for energy, according to an independent report. While burning some forms of wood waste can indeed reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in practice the growing use of wood energy in the EU is increasing rather than reducing emissions, the new report concludes. Overall, burning wood for energy is much worse in climate terms than burning gas or even coal, but loopholes in the way emissions are counted are concealing the damage being done. “It is not a great use of public money,” says Duncan Brack of the policy research institute Chatham House in London, who drew up the report. “It is providing unjustifiable incentives that have a negative impact on the climate.” The money would be better spent on wind and solar power instead, he says. It is widely assumed that burning wood does not cause global warming, that it is “carbon neutral”. But the report, which is freely available, details why this is not true.
2-23-17 Most wood energy schemes are a 'disaster' for climate change
Most wood energy schemes are a 'disaster' for climate change
Using wood pellets to generate low-carbon electricity is a flawed policy that is speeding up not slowing down climate warming. That's according to a new study which says wood is not carbon neutral and emissions from pellets are higher than coal. Subsidies for biomass should be immediately reviewed, the author says. Energy from trees has become a critical part of the renewable supply in many countries including the UK. While much of the discussion has focussed on wind and solar power, across Europe the biggest source of green energy is biomass. It supplies around 65% of renewable power - usually electricity generated from burning wood pellets. EU Governments, under pressure to meet tough carbon cutting targets, have been encouraging electricity producers to use more of this form of energy by providing substantial subsidies for biomass burning. However this new assessment from Chatham House suggests that this policy is deeply flawed when it comes to cutting CO2.
2-23-17 Worst-ever coral bleaching event continues into fourth year
Worst-ever coral bleaching event continues into fourth year
NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch is predicting that many reefs will bleach in the next three months as sea temperatures remain high despite the recent El Niño coming to an end. It’s a catastrophe for coral reefs. Sea surface temperatures are so high across much of the tropics that many reefs will suffer severe bleaching for an unprecedented fourth year in a row. Divers in Australia are already reporting new bleaching in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, where last year half of corals in the worst-hit areas died. Corals bleach – and can die – when stresses such as abnormal heat make them expel their symbiotic algae. The ongoing global bleaching is the longest and most widespread ever known. It began in 2014, when global warming and a developing El Niño heated seas. During El Niños, changes in trade winds spread warm surface waters across the Pacific Ocean. The bleaching became the worst on record when the strong El Niño of 2015 and 2016 hit. The 2015/16 El Niño was followed by a La Niña, which cools sea surfaces by bringing up deeper waters. But surface waters remain so warm that NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch is now predicting that many reefs will bleach in the next three months despite the recent La Niña conditions.
2-22-17 Plane flies along Antarctica's giant Larsen crack
Plane flies along Antarctica's giant Larsen crack
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has released new footage of the ice crack that promises to produce a giant berg. The 175km-long fissure runs through the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. If it propagates just 20km more, a block of ice a quarter the size of Wales (the size of Delaware) will break away into the Weddell Sea. Scientists gathered the new video while recovering instrumentation that had been placed on the ice shelf. Uncertainty about the stability of the region means researchers cannot set up camp as they would normally do, and instead make short visits in a Twin Otter plane. The most recent sortie enabled the researchers also to fly along the length of the crack, which is 400-500m wide in places, to assess its status. No-one can say for sure when the iceberg will calve, but it could happen anytime. At 5,000 sq km, it would be one of the biggest ever recorded.
2-22-17 Plastic from tyres 'major source' of ocean pollution
Plastic from tyres 'major source' of ocean pollution
Particles of debris from car tyres are ending up in the ocean as "plastic soup", conservationists warn. Microplastics from tyres and textiles are a bigger source of marine pollution than the breakdown of larger plastic waste in some areas, says the IUCN. Up to 30% of plastic released into the oceans each year comes from primary microplastics, not the disintegration of larger pieces, a report found. Debris from tyre abrasion and synthetic fabrics are the main sources, they say. The IUCN reviewed data from seven global regions to look at how much of the estimated 9.5 million tonnes of new plastic waste released into the oceans each year comes from primary microplastics. These are tiny plastic particles from the likes of consumer products rather than the degradation of larger bits of plastic in the oceans. The report found between 15% and 31% of plastic pollution came from primary microplastics, of which the biggest contributors (almost two-thirds) were abrasion of synthetic textiles, while washing, and abrasion of tyres, while driving. Synthetic rubber, made from a variant of plastic, makes up around 60% of the rubber used in tyres.
2-21-17 Thousands of spills at US oil and gas fracking sites
Thousands of spills at US oil and gas fracking sites
Up to 16% of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells spill liquids every year, according to new research from US scientists. They found that there had been 6,600 releases from these fracked wells over a ten-year period in four states. The biggest problems were reported in oil-rich North Dakota where 67% of the spills were recorded. The largest spill recorded involved 100,000 litres of fluid with most related to storing and moving liquids. The rapid growth in the extraction of oil and gas from unconventional sources in the US has had a massive impact on the production and consumption of energy over the past ten years. The key to this expansion has been the use of hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting fluids with chemical additives under pressure to crack underground rock and release the trapped resources. However, environmental campaigners have long been troubled by the potential for this process to contaminate water supplies and the environment through leaks and spills. A study carried out by the US Environment Protection Agency on fracking in eight states between 2006 and 2012 concluded that 457 spills had occurred. But this new study, while limited to just four states with adequate data, suggests the level of spills is much higher. The researchers found 6,648 spills between 2005 and 2014. "The EPA just looked at spills from the hydraulic fracturing process itself which is just a few days to a few weeks," lead author Dr Lauren Patterson from Duke University told BBC News. (Webmaster's comment: With the new lack of regulations and reporting standards we ain't seen nuthin' yet!)
2-20-17 Alarm as climate sceptic named head of US environment agency
Alarm as climate sceptic named head of US environment agency
Scientists within the EPA say work continues as usual for now, but they worry about potential changes when Scott Pruitt – a climate change sceptic – takes charge. The US Senate has confirmed Scott Pruitt as the new administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees regulations to control pollution of air, water and land. Pruitt, who was confirmed on 17 February, is a controversial choice. In his previous role as the attorney general of Oklahoma, he spent much of his career embattled in lawsuits against the agency he will now lead. He has stated that he plans to reverse Obama-era policies on carbon emissions and water regulation, including the Clean Power Plan, which sets national limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, which defines the waterways that fall under EPA jurisdiction. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, anonymous EPA scientists told New Scientist that work inside the agency is moving along as usual, though concerns about future changes still loom large. And at a protest rally for science in the city centre during the conference, worries about climate and the fate of the EPA were a reoccurring theme. “We need bold action on climate change. The fact that we’re ignoring it is backwards,” said rally attendee Emily Gilstrap, a zooarchaeologist who lives in Massachusett
2-19-17 US scientists voice fears over how science will fare under Trump
US scientists voice fears over how science will fare under Trump
Concerns over the impact of President Trump’s policies on science have been raised at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston. Anxiety has been running high at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, as scientists and policy-makers have been discussing the implications of President Trump’s policies for science. Hundreds of people also gathered in Copley Square in the city centre just down the road from the conference for a protest rally. The rally was organized by two science activist groups called climatetruth.org and The Natural History Museum, and endorsed by more than a dozen national and regional scientific organizations. The event drew attendees from AAAS as well as students from Boston universities and non-scientists from the area who chanted “Stand up for science”. At the conference itself, a session on Saturday entitled “Defending Science and Scientific Integrity in the Age of Trump” was so well attended that many were forced to stand, or to sit in the aisles. The hour was dedicated to discussions of what’s to come for scientists in America under the new White House leadership. The high-spirited talk swung from an optimistic view of a newly energised and vocal scientific community, to gloomy predictions of how science will fare under the Trump administration. Gretchen Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said scientists in America should take lessons from the past, like the side-lining of science under the George W. Bush administration, and warned of a difficult path ahead. “We know the playbook, but this is a different sport. We’ve seen that President Trump isn’t going to respect scientists,” said Goldman. (Webmaster's comment: Trump's power lies in appealing to the brutes in our society so scientists need not apply.)
2-18-17 Can curbing gentrification help stop climate change?
Can curbing gentrification help stop climate change?
Creating affordable housing to combat the effects of gentrification is a key factor in tackling climate change. But is it enough? As Ben Carson moves toward his confirmation hearings for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the question remains how exactly his influence will be felt. Once Carson assumes this role, any choices he makes can have spillover effects that contribute not only to housing stock, health risks, and living conditions for our most vulnerable populations, but also to the very quality of our air. Depending on his decisions, climate change, and air quality conditions could worsen by unlikely sources — namely, affordable housing and transit-oriented development. Gentrification is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste." Such a benign definition can betray families and whole communities being subjected to this process sans proper planning and forethought. Yet gentrification, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), paints a more realistic picture; simply put, it results in the serial displacement of communities. While the exact causes of gentrification can be heavily debated, the unexpected, mostly hidden effects surrounding it should be cause for concern. There are many known effects of gentrification on communities, with higher rates of birth defects, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and cancer all among the CDC's major causes for concern. One commonly overlooked issue: the precipitous decrease in air quality between gentrified and lower-income neighborhoods, which, in turn, further compounds a diminished quality of life for those who've been pushed out.
2-17-17 Antarctic sea ice shrinks to record low
Antarctic sea ice shrinks to record low
The extent of sea ice around Antarctica hit a new low in January, bucking an overall growing trend since recordkeeping began in 1979. Sea ice around Antarctica shrunk to its lowest monthly extent on record in January, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports. Antarctic sea ice extent averaged just 4.04 million square kilometers, 1.19 million square kilometers below the 1981 through 2010 average. That’s 280,000 square kilometers smaller than the previous record low, set in 2006. The new record comes just two years after the largest January Antarctic sea ice extent on record. Southern Hemisphere sea ice has been growing by about 3 percent per decade since recordkeeping began in 1979, albeit with considerable year-to-year variability.
2-17-17 Antarctic sea ice is very low – but don’t jump to conclusions
Antarctic sea ice is very low – but don’t jump to conclusions
Drawing premature conclusions about global warming’s role in Antarctic sea ice loss is unjustified whether positive or negative. The evidence must speak for itself. “Sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to the smallest annual extent on record after years of resisting a trend of man-made global warming,” is how Reuters put it on 14 February in a story reproduced around the world. It might seem obvious that this record low is due to global warming – but we don’t yet know if it is. Since satellite observations of Antarctica began in 1979, the maximum and minimum area of sea ice has varied each year, but the average area has grown slightly. Climate change deniers have seized on this increase as evidence that the world is not warming. They’re wrong. However, to suggest that this year’s trend-bucking low is certainly a sign of climate change would also be wrong. “There is little chance this is a signal of global warming,” says Mark Brandon of the Open University in the UK, who studies the oceans around Antarctica.
2-17-17 Cutting regulations
The Trump administration is overseeing one of the biggest regulatory rollbacks ever, according to a Washington Post investigation—using legislative and executive methods to dismantle rules governing how dentists dispose of mercury fillings, how schools look after disabled students, and more. GOP lawmakers have aided President Trump by using the 1996 Congressional Review Act to nullify eight different regulations that were enacted in the past 60 days, and are considering another measure that would weaken environmental regulations on mining companies. Trump has also signed an executive order freezing new regulations for 60 days and has ordered agencies to eliminate or weaken two existing regulations for each new rule they enact.
2-16-17 Seagrass meadows help remove dangerous bacteria from ocean water
Seagrass meadows help remove dangerous bacteria from ocean water
Seawater samples reveal that seagrass areas have much lower levels of a microbe found in sewage – adding to the known benefits of these declining ecosystems. Come on in, the water’s fine – at least, where seagrass beds still line the coast. A microbe found in sewage seems far less common in these areas than elsewhere, although it’s not yet clear why. Joleah Lamb, a marine disease ecologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, sampled waters off four small islands in the Spermonde archipelago, Indonesia. Her study areas included some with seagrass meadows and others without. She found that the level of Enterococcus bacteria in seagrass areas was just one-third that in areas lacking the underwater meadows. In seagrass-free areas the bacteria were present at 10 times the limit for recreational water set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. These Indonesian islands lack sanitation systems, but in areas where seagrass meadows flourish, the bacteria seem to be kept in check to some degree. Lamb is now trying to pin down how this happens. One possibility is that the sediment beneath the grasses is locking the pathogens away, although she says early results don’t point in this direction. Or aquatic life colonising the seagrass might be involved. “We’re looking at microbial communities that are on the surface of the seagrass blades,” Lamb says. But so far, it looks like the seagrass itself is doing the job, she says. Seagrasses could act in the same way as wastewater treatment facilities, releasing oxygen – made via photosynthesis, in the case of the plants – which is toxic to pathogens.
2-16-17 Seagrasses boost ecosystem health by fighting bad bacteria
Seagrasses boost ecosystem health by fighting bad bacteria
Underwater meadows of flowering plants clean oceans near island shores. Seagrasses, flowering plants that grow in shallow seas, can decrease bacterial contamination in the surrounding water. For a lawn that helps the environment — and doesn’t need to be mowed — look to the ocean. Meadows of underwater seagrass plants might lower levels of harmful bacteria in nearby ocean waters, researchers reported February 16 during a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That could make the whole ecosystem — from corals to fish to humans — healthier. Not truly a grass, seagrasses are flowering plants with long, narrow leaves. They grow in shallow ocean water, spreading into vast underwater lawns. Seagrasses are “a marine powerhouse, almost equal to the rainforest. They’re one of the largest stores of carbon in the ocean,” says study coauthor Joleah Lamb, an ecologist at Cornell University. “But they don’t get a lot of attention.” It’s no secret that seagrasses improve water quality, says James Fourqurean, a biologist at Florida International University in Miami who wasn’t involved in the research, which appears in the Feb. 17 Science. The plants are great at removing excess nitrogen and phosphorus from coastal waters. But now, it seems, they might take away harmful bacteria, too
2-16-17 'Seagrasses' vital to coastal health
'Seagrasses' vital to coastal health
The importance of seagrasses to the health of coastal ecosystems is underlined in new research conducted around Indonesian atolls. These underwater flowering plants, which have been with us since the age of the dinosaurs, have long been known to have anti-microbial properties. But the latest study demonstrates that their presence really does help to suppress pollution. Coral reefs also seem to be in a better condition when the grasses are nearby. Although these plants grow in vast meadows, fringing every continent except Antarctica, they are also being damaged on a large scale by human activities, with global losses estimated at 7% each year since 1990.
2-16-17 Weather experts say new El Niño possible later this year
Weather experts say new El Niño possible later this year
Scientists from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) say there is a possibility of a new El Niño event forming later this year. In 2015 and 2016, a powerful El Niño drove up global temperatures and played a role in droughts in many parts of the world. Normally the weather phenomenon only re-appears every two to seven years. Neutral conditions are most likely later this year but there is also a 40% chance of a new El Niño forming. The complex and natural weather event is marked by an upwelling of warm water in the Pacific that accumulates off the west coast of North and South America, causing stormy conditions locally. The so-called "Super El Niño" of 2015 and 2016 is said by experts to have had a role in driving global temperatures to record highs. Earlier this week researchers detailed the impact of the event on winter beach erosion in California, which was 76% above normal according to the study. However, the influence of El Niño is felt right around the globe, affecting monsoons in Asia and droughts in Africa. (Webmaster's comment: With global warming running away it may be now that we are in for one "Super El Niño" after another. It won't be very pleasant for many of us and it will only get worse.)
2-14-17 More people now believe human-made climate change is happening
More people now believe human-made climate change is happening
The proportion of people in the UK who accept climate change is happening and is largely human-made has risen from 57 per cent three years ago to 64 per cent now. The proportion of people who accept climate change is happening and is largely human-made has risen to almost two-thirds, a survey shows. A poll of 2,045 people in the UK reveals a “discernible shift” in public opinion as 64 per cent agreed climate change is happening and is mainly caused by human activity, up from 59 per cent when the same question was asked in 2015 and 57 per cent in 2014. Just 4 per cent said it was not happening, while 22 per cent said it was occurring but humans were not mainly responsible, the poll by ComRes for the Energy and Climate Information Unit revealed. Four out of five said they were worried about harm to wildlife and nature as a result of a changing climate, while almost three quarters of those polled said a rise in flooding was a concern. Some 60 per cent of people were concerned there would be more variation in availability and prices of some foods, while almost half were worried about an increase in heatwaves. People’s understanding of what experts think about climate change is also increasing, with 69 per cent now saying that almost all or a majority of scientists believe it is mainly the result of human activity, up significantly on previous years. (Webmaster's comment: Only American's are still in the dark ages on this subject thanks to the Republicans, Libertarians, conservatives, the rich, and the village idiots!)
2-14-17 Mapping rainforest chemistry from the air reveals 36 types of forest
Mapping rainforest chemistry from the air reveals 36 types of forest
Chemical signatures of the Peruvian tree canopy reveal previously unrecognized biodiversity. A single hectare of Peruvian tropical forest is shown in natural color and in colors that correspond to as many as 23 different chemicals. The images, taken from a plane, reveal a surprising level of complexity within the forest. To some forest creatures, a tree is a home. To scientists, it’s a beacon. A new way of mapping forests from the air by measuring chemical signatures of the tree canopy is revealing previously unrecognized biodiversity. The swath of tropical forest covering the Peruvian Andes Mountains and the Amazon basin is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. But it’s such a wild and remote region that variation within the forest is hard to spot. “If you look in Google Earth, it just looks like a big green blanket,” says study coauthor Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. Up close, it’s a different story. Each tree species has a distinctive set of chemical traits, such as levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the leaves. Collectively, those characteristics can reveal a lot about the makeup of the forest.
2-14-17 History sheds light on Amazon's rich tree diversity
History sheds light on Amazon's rich tree diversity
The rich diversity of trees in the Amazon could be the result of widespread dispersal over geological time, a study has suggested. Although the vast tropical area is now divided into regions, scientists suggest these areas did not evolve in isolation from one another. Modern fragmentation could be damaging the process that made the Amazon so important for plant biodiversity. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Writing in their paper, the authors said that while some of the estimated 16,000 tree species were spread throughout the Amazon, others were confined to particular areas. They said that this had provided the basis for the vast seven million square-kilometre habitat to be divided into "floristic regions". However, they observed: "The pattern of diverse local Amazonian tree communities assembled from a species pool composed of mostly regionally restricted species raises the question of how the regional communities are assembled over time."
2-13-17 Australia’s extreme heatwave is a preview of things to come
Australia’s extreme heatwave is a preview of things to come
The current record-breaking heat, sparking bush fires and putting people in hospital, could be a foretaste of the new normal as climate change proceeds. The heatwave down under is unusual even for Australia – but it may not be so for much longer. The country is in the grip of one of the most ferocious heatwaves on record, and climate change is being held accountable. The scorching heat began in South Australia and Victoria last week, before spreading to New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory over the weekend. The heatwave is now moving north through Queensland. Parts of South Australia and Victoria reached 46 °C, while New South Wales and Queensland recorded temperatures above 47 °C. At least five towns in New South Wales and four in Queensland had their hottest day ever recorded over the weekend. Moree in northern New South Wales is closest to breaking the state heatwave record of 50 consecutive days over 35 °C. Today marks the 49th day in a row, and the forecast shows no signs of any cooling over the next week. The heatwave began when a high pressure system stalled over central Australia and caused a build-up of heat, says Karl Braganza at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. An approaching front then dragged the hot air towards the east coast. However, the heatwave would not have been this long and intense if it wasn’t for climate change, says Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “Usually, you would only get this kind of extreme heat if it was an El Niño summer,” she says. The most recent El Niño phenomenon ended in mid-2016.
2-13-17 Climate change is already battering hundreds of animal species
Climate change is already battering hundreds of animal species
Almost half of all threatened land mammals and a quarter of threatened birds may be feeling the pinch as a result of habitat loss and other changes. Climate change is already harming around 700 species of mammals and birds. That means that warming is not just a theoretical future threat, and conservation work must focus on the “here and now”, says a new study. It reviewed 136 studies published between 1990 and 2015, as well as modelling the risks to animals on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It concluded that almost half of terrestrial mammal species and nearly a quarter of all bird species could already be negatively affected, without us even realising. “We have the knowledge to take action,” says Lee Hannah, a conservation ecologist and senior researcher at Conservation International, a non-profit based in Arlington, Virginia. “Truly massive climate-triggered insect outbreaks have killed millions of trees in North America. Heat flashes in the oceans have killed corals and changed coral reefs in every ocean.” A third of all species may be at risk of extinction, says Hannah, and the study shows the changes are happening already. Lead author Michela Pacifici at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, says their results also show the most affected species are in highly developed areas or areas expecting a human population boom in coming decades. So conservation needs to focus more on monitoring in these locations and on “control of human demand for natural resources”, she says.
2-13-17 Desert songbirds increasingly at risk of dehydration
Desert songbirds increasingly at risk of dehydration
Fatal thirst may become a more frequent risk for desert birds, especially small-bodied ones like this lesser goldfinch, as climate warms. Desert songbirds, especially the little fit-in-your-hand ones, could soon face widening danger zones for lethal thirst in the southwestern United States, a new study predicts. Coping with heat waves can demand so much water evaporation to prevent heat stroke — from panting, for instance — that birds can die from dehydration, says Blair Wolf of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Small species like the lesser goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) dehydrate at a proportionately higher rate than larger birds such as towhees. If temperatures rise 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, a lesser goldfinch could face a risk of death within five hours on as many as 120 days a year in the worst hot spots, Blair and colleagues report February 13 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Four other larger bird species studied, including cactus wrens and curve-billed thrashers, probably won’t see as many risky days as the goldfinch, but there’s dangerous thirst ahead for them, too.
2-13-17 Banned chemicals persist in deep ocean
Banned chemicals persist in deep ocean
Chemicals banned in the 1970s have been found in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a new study shows. Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment. The results are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. The team led by Dr Alan Jamieson at the University of Newcastle sampled levels of pollutants in the fatty tissue of amphipods (a type of crustacean) from deep below the Pacific Ocean surface. The animals were retrieved using specially designed "lander" vehicles deployed from a boat over the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, which are over 10km deep and separated from each other by 7,000km.
2-10-17 New talk of warming pause just another faux climate controversy
New talk of warming pause just another faux climate controversy
The latest attempt to resurrect climate change deniers' favourite trope of a warming pause is just more smoke and mirrors, say Michael Mann and Susan Hassol. A favourite climate contrarian talking point is that there was a pause or “hiatus” in warming from 1998 until the early part of the current decade. With the last three years being by far the hottest on record, we’ve heard somewhat less about this faux pause, but there are still those who cling to this utterly debunked idea. The science is clear. Warming continued unabated, as established by multiple independent data sets from around the world, and numerous studies in peer-reviewed journals. But that hasn’t stopped British newspaper The Mail on Sunday trying to resurrect a dead duck: this time claiming that scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) played fast and loose with data on a well-regarded 2015 paper in Science that definitively showed there was no pause in global warming. Cue Lamar Smith, Republican chair of the US Congress House Science Committee and his cronies, who not only ate up the newspaper’s warped claim, but gleefully promoted it, tweeting up a storm and proclaiming “falsified data!” The real story is that these Republicans embraced an easily debunked story because it told them precisely what they wanted to hear. This is just the latest example of the post-truth scourge bombarding society. Propagandists deliver tribal tales that reinforce entrenched world views. The role of the UK tabloid press in this latest episode was central. The Mail piece was posted online on Saturday night, at the same time as a separate fake news video attacking NASA and NOAA was posted by the Wall St. Journal.
2-10-17 Sound of crickets 'could become a thing of the past'
Sound of crickets 'could become a thing of the past'
The first comprehensive assessment of Europe's crickets and grasshoppers has found that more than a quarter of species are being driven to extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the insect group is the most threatened of those assessed so far in Europe. Europe harbours more than 1,000 species of grasshopper and cricket. If we don't act now the sound of crickets could become a thing of the past, said the IUCN. Crickets, bush crickets and grasshoppers - a group known as Orthoptera - live on grassland. They are an important food source for birds and reptiles, and their decline could affect entire ecosystems. Their habitat is being lost due to wildfires, intensive agriculture and tourism development.
2-10-17 Fleeting dead zones can muck with seafloor life for decades
Fleeting dead zones can muck with seafloor life for decades
Effects of low-oxygen conditions could offset some human-caused warming, but at a price. The effects of low-oxygen conditions on seafloor communities linger even when oxygen returns, suggests a new study comparing oxygen and ecological activity in the Black Sea. Short bouts of suffocating conditions can desolate swaths of seafloor for decades, new research suggests. That devastation could spread in the future, as rising temperatures and agricultural runoff enlarge oxygen-poor dead zones in the world’s oceans. Monitoring sections of the Black Sea, researchers discovered that even days-long periods of low oxygen drove out animals and altered microbial communities. Those ecosystem changes slow decomposition that normally recycles plant and animal matter back into the ecosystem after organisms die, resulting in more organic matter accumulating in seafloor sediments, the researchers report February 10 in Science Advances.
2-9-17 Young penguins follow false food cues
Young penguins follow false food cues
Warming, other changes create ‘ecological trap,’ endangering seabirds’ survival. Juvenile African penguins forage for their own food when they leave the nest. Some from the Western Cape of South Africa become trapped in areas without any fish, a new study finds. African penguins have used biological cues in the ocean for centuries to find their favorite fish. Now these cues are trapping juvenile penguins in areas with hardly any food, scientists report February 9 in Current Biology. It’s the first known ocean “ecological trap,” which occurs when a once-reliable environmental cue instead, often because of human interference, prompts an animal to do something harmful. When juvenile Spheniscus demersus penguins off the Western Cape of South Africa leave the nest for their maiden voyage at sea, they head for prime penguin hunting grounds. But the fish are no longer there, says Richard Sherley, a marine ecologist with the University of Exeter Environment and Sustainability Institute. Increased ocean temperatures, changes in salinity and overfishing have driven the fish eastward.
2-9-17 Great lettuce crisis is a taste of climate crop chaos to come
Great lettuce crisis is a taste of climate crop chaos to come
The UK's lettuce shortage is a stark warning of how even the world's wealthy will find their food supply disrupted by climate change, warns Olive Heffernan. Severe snowfall across southern Spain has devastated crops, squeezing supplies of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and courgettes (zucchini) reaching the UK. Some supermarkets are resorting to rationing – notably of iceberg lettuce, limited to three per customer in one big chain. With shortages expected to last until spring, and big price hikes on the cards, the “lettuce crisis” has come as a shock to most consumers. Some have turned to panic buying, hoarding leafy greens where possible, although a few are even reselling them to hard-hit restaurants and cafes. Others, however – such as celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh – have welcomed a rare opportunity for the British public to contemplate where, exactly, their food comes from. As it turns out, half of all vegetables eaten in the UK are grown overseas. In winter, most come from southern Spain’s Murcia, Almeria and Valencia regions. But recent extreme weather, including flooding, snow and poor light, have left entire fields of salad crops lying frozen, to spoil, in the solid ground. If there’s one thing this can teach us, it’s the extent to which climate change can wreak havoc on food grown for the world’s wealthy. Europe is likely to see far more freak weather events of this sort, if global temperatures increase by 2 °C.
2-9-17 Dakota Access Pipeline: Construction completion under way
Dakota Access Pipeline: Construction completion under way
Construction on the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline has begun and is expected to be completed within three months, its developer said. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) was granted formal permission to proceed with laying the pipeline under a North Dakota reservoir on Wednesday. The $3.8bn (£3bn) project had stalled for months due to opposition from Native American protesters. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says the pipeline endangers its drinking water.
2-8-17 Massive lake drained for hydropower leaves dry bed and no fish
Massive lake drained for hydropower leaves dry bed and no fish
A large artificial lake in Bosnia’s Neretva valley has been emptied by an energy firm, leaving locals crying foul over damage to wildlife. A large artificial lake in the Balkan state of Bosnia and Herzegovina totally vanished this month and with it an estimated 2 million fish. Following rains and snowmelt, Jablanica lake has now started to reappear, but the ecological damage might take years to repair, say environmental groups and local fishers. Water levels in the lake are usually regulated to keep enough water to generate hydroelectricity and to avoid floods in the city of Mostar, which lies downstream. So it came as a surprise to local people, especially fishers, to see the lake completely drained last week, and with it all its life gone, too. Normally, the lake is 30 kilometres long, around a kilometre wide with a depth of about 70 metres. Water levels had dramatically dropped twice before, during droughts in 2005 and 2012, but never by this much. The discharge was carried out largely last month by power firm Elektroprivreda BiH, which says it was needed to maintain electricity production during a dry and especially cold period when energy demand was above average.
2-7-17 Hot nests, not vanishing males, are bigger sea turtle threat
Hot nests, not vanishing males, are bigger sea turtle threat
Climate change killing nestlings with heat could be worse than sex ratios going too female. Climate change may skew the sex ratios of sea turtles, but that could be a small worry compared with the dangers of overheated nests. Worries about climate change threatening sea turtles may have been misdirected. Warming that could lead to far more female hatchlings than males isn’t the most immediate danger from climate shifts. Lethally overheated beach nests are more important, researchers argue February 8 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Climate change can meddle with sex ratios of the seven species of sea turtles because their embryos start life without a genetically fixed sex. Nest temperatures greater than roughly 29° Celsius tip the ratio toward more female hatchlings, explains marine ecologist Graeme Hays of Deakin University in Warrnambool, Australia.
2-6-17 Ocean acidification may be good for thriving marine snails
Ocean acidification may be good for thriving marine snails
Although acidifying oceans are expected to be bad news for marine life overall, tiny snails prove that there will be winners as well as losers. Tiny marine snails have challenged doomsday assumptions that ocean acidification driven by global warming will inevitably render the oceans sterile. While there’s no doubt that many species will suffer, the fate of the tiny snails (Eatoniella mortoni), nicknamed turfwinkles by researchers, living near carbon dioxide-rich ocean vents suggests that at least some species may thrive. The research is the latest to show that the impacts of acidification may produce winners as well as losers, depending on whether secondary, indirect benefits override the negative direct effects. The primary negative effect is that water acidified through absorption of extra carbon dioxide dissolves carbonate, the basic ingredient in shells. As a result, shell building species are expected to be particularly affected. However, the new findings show that even though carbon dioxide produced by the vents may have made it harder for turfwinkles to build shells, they still thrived overall. This is because it also fueled the growth of algal “turf” on which they feed. The researchers took advantage of a natural gradient in ocean acidity near carbon-dioxide vents in shallow waters off New Zealand. This gave them an insight into what an acidified world might mean for some marine ecosystems, says team member Brian Helmuth of Northeastern University Marine Science Center in Massachusetts. “We found that the total plant mass of algal mats at vent sites was more than twice that at control sites, and that correspondingly there were almost 2.5 times more snails at the vent sites,” says Helmuth.
2-6-17 Boosting water table can curb climate risks, says study
Boosting water table can curb climate risks, says study
Increasing the water table under the UK's arable peatland can help boost yields and the amount of carbon stored in the soil, a study has suggested. University of Sheffield researchers are encouraging farmers to increase the water table to 30cm under the surface, rather than the recommended 50cm. Under current practices, the nation's farmed peatlands could be lost by the end of the century, they add. The findings appear in the Science of the Total Environment journal. The team of researchers wanted to test the idea that increasing the water table underground would lead to an increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide from the air. In order to do this, they carried out a lab experiment using soil taken from peat agricultural land on the Norfolk Fens (one of the largest UK lowland peatlands used for commercial farming). They raised the water table to 30cm beneath the soil surface and then planted radish crops.
2-3-17 Pipeline decision near?
Pipeline decision near?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to approve the controversial final section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, two Republican lawmakers claimed this week. Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, both of North Dakota, said the acting secretary of the Army had told the corps to grant an easement so that the 1,172-mile pipeline could run under Lake Oahe, located half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Standing Rock members say the pipeline threatens their water supply, and they mounted a months-long protest that drew thousands of tribal members and environmentalists last year. Former President Barack Obama ordered the corps to look elsewhere for the pipeline’s final segment, but President Trump has signed a memo instructing the agency to approve the section “in an expedited manner.”
2-2-17 Car ban fails to curb air pollution in Mexico city
Car ban fails to curb air pollution in Mexico city
Banning cars on Saturdays in Mexico city hasn't reduced air pollutants according to a new study. Scientists had expected that limiting driving at the weekend would reduce vehicle emissions by 15%. But this analysis looking at pollution measurements in a city with serious air quality problems, found no discernible effect. Residents got round the restrictions by car pooling, using taxis and purchasing. Back in 1992, the UN declared Mexico the world's most polluted city. (Webmaster's comment: How one could expect this minor change to make any significant difference is beyond me.)
2-2-17 Cone snails wander in circles, lose focus with boosted CO2
Cone snails wander in circles, lose focus with boosted CO2
Cone snails love to eat jumping snail. Research suggests that the behavior of both predator and prey may be affected by ocean acidification. Cone snails are normally stealthy hunters, but they become clumsy and unfocused in water with increased levels of carbon dioxide. Oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, those in the oceans do too, changing the chemistry of the seawater. Cone snails (Conus marmoreus) that spent several weeks in water dosed to simulate CO2 levels expected at the turn of the century had trouble catching their favorite snack, jumping snails. Only 10 percent caught and ate their prey, compared with 60 percent of snails living in water with current CO2 levels, researchers report February 1 in Biology Letters.
2-1-17 Dakota pipeline: US Army to allow work on final section
Dakota pipeline: US Army to allow work on final section
The US Army has been ordered to allow the construction of the final section of a controversial oil pipeline. North Dakota Senator John Hoeven said the Army Corps of Engineers had been directed to allow work under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River. Native Americans, who have protested against the Dakota Access Pipeline for months, vowed legal action to stop it. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order signalling his support for the pipeline. But the president has insisted the order was contingent upon pipeline makers using US-made materials and equipment. The US Army Corps of Engineers, which has approval authority, decided last year to explore other routes for the pipeline amid huge protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. (Webmaster's comment: Property rights be hanged. All that matters is that the rich get more money!)
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