Climate change to cause humid heatwaves that will kill even healthy people

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Extreme heatwaves that kill even healthy people within hours will strike parts of the Indian subcontinent unless global carbon emissions are cut sharply and soon, according to new research.

Even outside of these hotspots, three-quarters of the 1.7bn population – particularly those farming in the Ganges and Indus valleys – will be exposed to a level of humid heat classed as posing “extreme danger” towards the end of the century.

The new analysis assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, measured as the “wet bulb” temperature (WBT). Once this reaches 35C, the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade will die within six hours.

The revelations show the most severe impacts of global warming may strike those nations, such as India, whose carbon emissions are still rising as they lift millions of people out of poverty.

“It presents a dilemma for India between the need to grow economically at a fast pace, consuming fossil fuels, and the need to avoid such potentially lethal impacts,” said Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US who led the new study. “To India, global climate change is no longer abstract – it is about how to save potentially vulnerable populations.”

Heatwaves are already a major risk in South Asia, with a severe episode in 2015 leading to 3,500 deaths, and India recorded its hottest ever day in 2016 when the temperature in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, hit 51C. Another new study this week linked the impact of climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers.

Read here more information: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/02/climate-change-to-cause-humid-heatwaves-that-will-kill-even-healthy-people

A third of the world now faces deadly heatwaves as result of climate change

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Nearly a third of the world’s population is now exposed to climatic conditions that produce deadly heatwaves, as the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it “almost inevitable” that vast areas of the planet will face rising fatalities from high temperatures, new research has found.

Climate change has escalated the heatwave risk across the globe, the study states, with nearly half of the world’s population set to suffer periods of deadly heat by the end of the century even if greenhouse gases are radically cut.

“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” said Camilo Mora, an academic at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study.

Mora’s research shows that the overall risk of heat-related illness or death has climbed steadily since 1980, with around 30% of the world’s population now living in climatic conditions that deliver deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year.

The proportion of people at risk worldwide will grow to 48% by 2100 even if emissions are drastically reduced, while around three-quarters of the global population will be under threat by then if greenhouse gases are not curbed at all.

“Finding so many cases of heat-related deaths was mind blowing, especially as they often don’t get much attention because they last for just a few days and then people moved on,” Mora said.

“Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked, it’s pure torture. The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone.”

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/19/a-third-of-the-world-now-faces-deadly-heatwaves-as-result-of-climate-change

Invasive species

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Britannica identifies the invasive species as follows: “Invasive species, also called introduced species, alien species, or exotic species, any nonnative species that significantly modifies or disrupts the ecosystems it colonizes.” The way a species arrives in a new environment can be done in numerous ways; either by natural migration or by activities of other species. Humans do it directly through pet trade or global commerce or indirectly by unintentional “hitchhiking” invaders in ships, planes, trucks, shipping containers or packing materials. Another reason for such a phenomenon is that a species can no longer adapt to the environmental conditions of their habitat. Therefore the invasive species may have more opportunities in an alternative future climate than they have at present.
Recently in Greece there have been many headlines about a species that swarmed the Korinthian Gulf- the tropical scyphozoan Rhopilema nomadica, a kind of Jellyfish. This particular species is listed as one of the “100 worst invading species” in the Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe (DAISIE 2009).
There are several reasons that an invasive species can flourish. But before blaming it for destroying our weekend by the beach, let’s get to know it better. Rhopilema nomadica known in english as Nomad Jellyfish, is native in East Africa and Red Sea but its known introduced range is Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. Its natural predators are fish, like tuna, mackerel and marine turtles; apparently,overfishing these natural predators helps the species in question thrive. Spawning occurs between June and August and the sexually reproducing swimming scyphomedusae appears when the water temperature exceeds 24º C. It entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in the late 70s and it first appeared in Greece in Lakonikos Gulf in 2006 (Siokou-Frangou et al. 2006). Nonetheless, several other factors could help or hinder the rise of Nomad jellyfishes. Temperature is directly correlated with the population of this particular species and wind traffic at sea affects them. They are offshore and with the help of currents produced by the wind gather up at beaches.
Cost is another important factor that should be considered regarding alien species. When the costs have become apparent, they can be vast; one study in the United States in 2001 estimated that costs associated with alien species amount to some US$136 billion per year and Canada in 2004, estimated that a preliminary review of alien species pegged them conservatively at $13,3 millions to $34,5 millions, annually, for 16 invasive species alone (Joanne Laucious, 2017). These costs must usually be covered by someone other than those who sponsored or promoted the introduction of the species, usually the general public. Decision-makers need to invest more in assessing the potential impacts before allowing potential introductions as well as incorporate more biosecurity measures once the species has been introduced (Jeff McNeely, 2001).
Yet, the nomad jellyfish is a minor incidence of invasion. The most memorable examples of invasive species are the kudzu plant from Japan, the cane toad from America, the asian tiger mosquito, zebra mussels from southern Russia, rats etc. People have always been on the move, carrying other species with them. Australian aborigines brought in the dingo, Polynesians sailed with pigs, and the Asians who first peopled the Americas brought dogs with them (Jeff McNeely, 2001). In the very end,the worst invasive species known to human, is human.

Mara Vasileiou for Arid Zone Afforestation

Sources:
http://www.europe-aliens.org/pdf/Rhopilema_nomadica.pdf
http://jellyrisk.eu/media/cms_page_media/266/1.Daly-Yahia%20et%20al.%202013_1.pdf
http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/47850/2/paper01-02.pdf

13 Graceful Pictures of Rare Sea Turtles

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Sea turtles are one of a small number of species alive today that once roamed with dinosaurs, as far back as 150 million years ago. But despite their long history on this planet, sea turtles are now facing an existential crisis.

Of the seven species that swim in our oceans today, all face potential threats. The hawksbill sea turtle and the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle have the most uncertain future—the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies both as critically endangered.

Sea turtles feel the brunt of human influence on the environment. These animals inhabit both marine and beach ecosystems, and experts warn their extinction could harm seagrass beds and other ecosystems on which people also depend.

The world’s most vulnerable sea turtles face threats at all stages of their life. Sea turtle eggs are frequently harvested and consumed as a delicacy. The beaches upon which they depend to lay eggs and hatch their young are also disappearing or being degraded.

Of the seven sea turtles found around the globe, six travel through U.S. waters and are therefore protected under the Endangered Species Act. Because sea turtles can migrate as many as 10,000 miles across multiple oceans, multilateral agreements have been established internationally to ensure that each turtle is protected across all the regions it inhabits.

Follow the link to see some graceful pictures of rare sea turtles: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/world-sea-turtle-day-photos/

 

Climate change is turning Antarctica green, say researchers

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Antarctica may conjure up an image of a pristine white landscape, but researchers say climate change is turning the continent green. Scientists studying banks of moss in Antarctica have found that the quantity of moss, and the rate of plant growth, has shot up in the past 50 years, suggesting the continent may have a verdant future.

“Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it currently is,” said Matt Amesbury, co-author of the research from the University of Exeter.

“This is linking into other processes that are happening on the Antarctic Peninsula at the moment, particularly things like glacier retreat which are freeing up new areas of ice-free land – and the mosses particularly are very effective colonisers of those new areas,” he added.

In the second half of the 20th century, the Antarctic Peninsula experienced rapid temperature increases, warming by about half a degree per decade.

Plant life on Antarctica is scarce, existing on only 0.3% of the continent, but moss, well preserved in chilly sediments, offers scientists a way of exploring how plants have responded to such changes.

Learn more here: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/may/18/climate-change-is-turning-antarctica-green-say-reseatchers

Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says

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Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.

The Carbon Majors Report “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.

Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.

The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.

While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the “absolute tension” between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.

Click here, to learn more about that serious problem: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

Coral Reefs Could Be Gone in 30 Years

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The world’s coral reefs, from the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to the Seychelles off East Africa, are in grave danger of dying out completely by mid-century unless carbon emissions are reduced enough to slow ocean warming, a new UNESCO study says. And consequences could be severe for millions of people.

The decline of coral reefs has been well documented, reef by reef. But the new study is the first global examination of the vulnerability of the entire planet’s reef systems, and it paints an especially grim picture. Of the 29 World Heritage reef areas, at least 25 of them will experience twice-per-decade severe bleaching events by 2040—a frequency that will “rapidly kill most corals present and prevent successful reproduction necessary for recovery of corals,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization concluded. In some areas, that’s happening already.

By 2100, most reef systems will die, unless carbon emissions are reduced. Many others will be gone even sooner. “Warming is projected to exceed the ability of reefs to survive within one to three decades for the majority of the World Heritage sites containing corals reefs,” the report says.

Reefs, often referred to as the rainforests of the oceans, occupy less than one percent of the ocean floor, but provide habitat for a million species, including a fourth of the world’s fish. They also protect coastlines against erosion from tropical storms and act as a barrier to sea-level rise.

Follow the link to learn more: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/coral-reef-bleaching-global-warming-unesco-sites/

If you drop plastic in the ocean, where does it end up?

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It is estimated that between four and 12m metric tonnes of plastic makes its way into the ocean each year. This figure is only likely to rise, and a 2016 report predicted that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh the amount of fish.

A normal plastic bottle takes about 450 years to break down completely, so the components of a bottle dropped in the ocean today could still be polluting the waters for our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

A lot of plastic debris in the ocean breaks down into smaller pieces and is ingested by marine life, and it is thought that a significant amount sinks to the sea bed. But a lot of it just floats around, and thanks to sophisticated modelling of ocean currents using drifting buoys, we can see where much of it ends up.

Oceanographer Erik van Sebille, who works at Imperial College London and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has shown that thanks to strong ocean currents known as gyres, huge amounts of plastic end up in six “garbage patches” around the world, the largest one being in the north Pacific.

As can be seen in the image above, a bottle dropped in the water off the coast of China, near Shanghai, is likely be carried eastward by the north Pacific gyre and end up circulating a few hundred miles off the coast of the US.

Follow the link to find more examples about different countries: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/29/if-you-drop-plastic-in-the-ocean-where-does-it-end-up

How to live without plastic bottles

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Staying hydrated is good for our health. But contributing to the ever growing mound of waste plastic is not only bad for the planet, but for our wellbeing too.

The global demand for plastic bottles, spurred on by the drinks industry, is wreaking havoc on the environment. Every year, about half a trillion new bottles are produced, and many billions end up in landfill, the sea or the environment.

Plastic is now present in every corner of the earth and in the food we eat. As the Guardian considers the extent of this crisis, we look at six simple things you can do to stop contributing to the issue, starting today.

  1. Find the one
  2. Orb it
  3. Be anti-fashion
  4. Get over your embarrassment
  5. Make your own shampoo
  6. Recycle, recycle, recycle

Click here to learn more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/29/how-to-live-without-plastic-bottles

World has three years left to stop dangerous climate change, warn experts

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Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is still just about possible, but will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists in the next three years, a group of prominent experts has warned.

Warnings over global warming have picked up pace in recent months, even as the political environment has grown chilly with Donald Trump’s formal announcement of the US’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. This year’s weather has beaten high temperature records in some regions, and 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record.

But while temperatures have risen, global carbon dioxide emissions have stayed broadly flat for the past three years. This gives hope that the worst effects of climate change – devastating droughts, floods, heatwaves and irreversible sea level rises – may be avoided, according to a letter published in the journal Nature this week.

The authors, including former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argue that the next three years will be crucial. They calculate that if emissions can be brought permanently lower by 2020 then the temperature thresholds leading to runaway irreversible climate change will not be breached.

Scientists have been warning that time is fast running out to stave off the worst effects of warming, and some milestones may have slipped out of reach. In the Paris agreement, governments pledged an “aspirational” goal of holding warming to no more than 1.5C, a level which it is hoped will spare most of the world’s lowest-lying islands from inundation. But a growing body of research has suggested this is fast becoming impossible.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/world-has-three-years-left-to-stop-dangerous-climate-change-warn-experts