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Floating Tar, Dead Fish: Oil Spill Threatens Greek Beaches

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The Greek authorities scrambled on Thursday to clean up fuel leaked by an oil tanker that sank near Athens, putting popular beaches off limits to swimmers and raising fears of environmental damage.

The Agia Zoni II, a 45-year-old oil tanker, sank near the island of Salamis, about seven miles from the country’s main port, Piraeus. It was carrying more than 2,500 metric tons of fuel oil and marine gas oil.

Though the leak was initially thought to be contained to the area of the shipwreck, it soon expanded to the coastline area known as the Athens Riviera.

Evaggelia Simou, a resident of Salamina, on the island, denounced the authorities for not tackling the oil spill more quickly and fully.

“We drove by the Selinia beach on Sunday night, and were alarmed because of the suffocating smell of oil,” Ms. Simou said.

When she and her husband went to the beach, they were shocked to see that a thick coat of oil had blackened the water. “Huge pieces of floating tar were burdening the waves, dead fish floated on the surface,” Ms. Simou said. They were surprised to see no cleanup workers, she said.

George Papanikolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, said he got a phone call from the Piraeus harbor master warning of the spill only a few hours before the black ooze washed up.

Since then, three private antipollution vessels have cleaned up more than 180 metric tons of fuel from Glyfada’s four beaches. Just this summer, one of the beaches had been recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education as a Blue Flag beach, a certification of water quality.

It’s tragic that it happened now, after all four beaches have gotten so beautiful,” Tima Vlasto, 51, an American who has lived in Glyfada for six years, said in a phone interview. “Seeing this makes you want to leave. If I can’t swim here, what’s the point of living in Glyfada?”

Mr. Papanikolaou said that emotions were running high in his community. “We’re angry”, he said. “It’s just such a shame that all this hard work can be destroyed in a split second.”

Some ecologists have called the oil spill an environmental disaster, with immediate and potential long-term effects.

The full extent of the pollution and its effects are not yet clear; areas like uninhabited rocky islets are also thought to be affected.

The Hellenic Register of Shipping, an independent organization that oversees shipping safety, said that the tanker had not been certified as seaworthy, although its owner, Fos Petroleum, said that it had all of the proper credentials. The Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy did not respond to several requests for information.

Read here the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/world/europe/greece-oil-spill.html?mcubz=1

“Importance and Value of Trees”

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Since the beginning, trees have furnished us with two of life’s essentials, food and oxygen. As we evolved, they provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine, and tools. Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles.

Here, some important benefits of the trees that you probably didn’t know:

  1. An acre of nature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 42.000 Km.
  1. An acre of nature trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people.
  1. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 40 percent.
  1. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room size air-conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  1. A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.
  1. One large tree can supply a days’ supply of oxygen for 4 people.
  1. A healthy tree can store 6 kg of carbon each year.
  1. An acre of trees can store 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
  1. For every 16.000 km you drive, it takes 7 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produced.
  1. A hundred million new trees would absorb 18 million tons of CO2 and cut air-conditioning cost by 84 billion annually.
  1. A belt of trees 40 meters wide and 12 meters high can reduce highway noise by 40 percent.
  1. A tree can absorb as much as 24 kg of CO2 per year and can sequester on ton of CO2 by the time it reaches 40 years old.
  1. A mature tree can have an appraised value between 1.000$ and 10.000$ council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.
  1. About 20 percent of the worlds’ emissions are a result of deforestation.
  1. CO2 worlds’ emission is 35.000.000 metric tons per year.
  1. CO2 sequestration is 25 kg per tree per year.
  1. One half the dry weight of wood is carbon.
  1. One person emit 20 ton of CO2 per year.

So, what you have to do is “take action”, and just plant a tree. It is so simple, but so important!! Protect the environment!! Do not destroy it!!

Arid Zone Afforestation

 

 

Soil erosion and degradation: a global problem – Effects (Part 2)

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The consequences of soil erosion are primarily centered on reduced agricultural productivity, as well as soil quality. But also, water ways may be blocked, and it may affect water quality. This means, most of the environmental problems the world face today, arises from soil erosion.

Particularly, the effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. In other words, it has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding.

So, the effects of soil degradation include:

  1. Loss of arable land: Lands used for crop production have been substantially affected by soil erosion. Soil erosion eats away the top soil which is the fertile layer of the land and also the component that supports the soil’s essential microorganisms and organic matter. In this view, soil erosion has severely threatened the productivity of fertile cropping areas as they are continually degraded. Because of soil erosion, most of the soil characteristics that support agriculture have been lost, causing ecological collapse and mass starvation.
  1. Water Pollution and Clogging of Waterways: Soils eroded from agricultural lands, carry pesticides, heavy metals, and fertilizers which are washed into streams and major water ways. This leads to water pollution and damage to marine and freshwater habitats. Accumulated sediments can also cause clogging of water ways and raises the water level leading to flooding.
  1. Increased flooding: Land is commonly altered from its natural landscape when it rids its physical composition from soil degradation. In other words, soil degradation takes away the soil’s natural capability of holding water thus contributing to more and more cases of flooding.
  1. Drought and Aridity: Drought and aridity are problems highly influenced and amplified by soil degradation. As much as it’s a concern associated with natural environments in arid and semi-arid areas, the UN recognizes the fact that drought and aridity are anthropogenic induced factors especially as an outcome of soil degradation. Hence, the contributing factors to soil quality decline such as overgrazing, poor tillage methods, and deforestation are also the leading causes of desertification characterized by droughts and arid conditions.
  1. Destruction of Infrastructure: Soil erosion can affect infrastructural projects such as dams, drainages, and embankments, reducing their operational lifetime and efficiency. Also, the silt up can support plant life that can, in turn, cause cracks and weaken the structures. Soil erosion from surface water runoff often causes serious damage to roads and tracks, especially if stabilizing techniques are not used.
  1. Desertification: Soil erosion is also responsible for desertification. It gradually transforms a habitable land into deserts. The transformations are worsened by the destructive use of the land and deforestation that leaves the soil naked and open to erosion. This usually leads to loss of biodiversity, alteration of ecosystems, land degradation, and huge economic losses.

Finally, we all understand that the erosion of the soil is a very serious issue, especially in our days. That is why we need to take action and prevent the unpleasant effects.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

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Soil erosion and degradation: a global problem – Causes (Part 1)

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Soil degradation, defined as lowering and losing of soil functions, is becoming more and more serious worldwide in recent decades, and poses a threat to agricultural production and terrestrial ecosystem.

Particularly, soil degradation simply means the decline in soil quality, which comes about due to aspects such as improper land use, agriculture and pasture, urban or industrial purposes. It involves the decline of the soil’s physical, biological and chemical state. In other words, it is a process that leads to decline in the fertility or future productive capacity of soil, as a result of human activity.

It is well known that all soils undergo soil erosion, but some are more vulnerable than others, due to human activities and other natural causal factors. The severity of soil erosion is also dependent on the soil type and the presence of vegetation cover.

Here are few of the major causes of soil degradation:

  1. Physical factors: There are several physical factors contributing to soil degradation, distinguished by the manners in which they change the natural composition and structure of the soil.  Rainfall, surface runoff, floods, wind erosion, tillage, and mass movements result in the loss of fertile top spoil thereby declining soil quality. All these physical factors produces different types of soil erosion (mainly water and wind erosion) and soil detachment actions, and their resultant physical forces eventually changes the composition and structure of the soil by wearing away the soil’s top layer as well as organic matter.
  1. Chemical factors: The reduction of soil nutrients because of alkalinity or acidity or water logging, are all categorized under the chemical components of soil degradation. In the broadest sense, it comprises alterations in the soil’s chemical property that determine nutrient availability.
  1. Biological factors: Biological factors refer to the human and plant activities that tend to reduce the quality of soil.  Some bacteria and fungi overgrowth in an area can highly impact the microbial activity of the soil through bio-chemical reactions, which reduces crop yield and the suitability of soil productivity capacity. Also, human activities such as poor farming practices may also deplete soil nutrients thus diminishing soil fertility.
  1. Deforestation: Deforestation causes soil degradation on the account of exposing soil minerals by removing trees and crop cover, which support the availability of humus and litter layers on the surface of the soil. When trees are removed by logging, infiltration rates become elevated and the soil remains bare and exposed to erosion and the buildup of toxicities.
  1. Improper cultivation practices: There are certain agricultural practices that are environmentally unsustainable and at the same time, they are the single biggest contributor to the worldwide increase in soil quality decline. For example, due to shortage of land, increase of population and economic pressure, the farmers have adopted intensive cropping patterns of commercial crops in place of more balanced cereal-legume rotations.
  1. Misuse and Extensive cultivation: The excessive use and the misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill organisms that assist in binding the soil together. In other words, it increases the rate of soil degradation by destroying the soil’s biological activity and builds up of toxicities through incorrect fertilizer use. We all know that due to tremendous population increase, the use of land is increasing day by day.
  1. Overgrazing: The rates of soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients as well as the top soil, are highly contributed by overgrazing. Overgrazing destroys surface crop cover and breaks down soil particles, increasing the rates of soil erosion. As a result, soil quality and agricultural productivity is greatly affected.
  1. Industrial and Mining activities: Soil is chiefly polluted by industrial and mining activities. For example, mining destroys crop cover and releases a myriad of toxic chemicals such as mercury into the soil thereby poisoning it and rendering it unproductive for any other purpose. Industrial activities, on the other hand, release toxic effluents and material wastes into the atmosphere, land, rivers, and ground water that eventually pollute the soil and as such, it impacts on soil quality. Altogether, industrial and mining activities degrade the soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties.
  1. Roads and Urbanization: Urbanization severely affects the erosion process. Land denudation by removing vegetation cover, changing drainage patterns, soil compaction during construction and then covering the land by impermeable layers of concrete or asphalt, all of them contribute to increased surface runoff and increased wind speeds.

Finally, taking into consideration all the above, we understand that soil erosion is a continuous process and may occur either at a relatively unnoticed rate or an alarming rate contributing to copious loss of the topsoil. So, we have to be careful and avoid all the above problems.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

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The US cities at risk of flooding – and how they deal with it

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Tropical storm Harvey may have bared its teeth at Houston, but other cities in the US have felt the pangs of nervousness. Several cities are vulnerable to the fiercer storms and sea level rise that are being fueled by climate change.

Cities, by their very nature, struggle during flood situations. Water that would have been soaked up by grass and other vegetation washes off the concrete and asphalt of urban areas and, if not properly diverted away, can inundate homes.

Add in, as in Houston’s case, lax rules around property zoning and a federal flood insurance system that repeatedly pays out for damage to poorly situated houses, and it’s clear cities have much work to do to cope with the changes upon them.

Harvey brought a huge amount of rainfall, but cities now face flooding threats even without a major storm. “Rare events are going to become more common in the future strictly due to sea level rise,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

“We are already seeing flooding in property and the streets in Charleston, Norfolk and Miami on sunny days, driven by the tides. That is a looming crisis that is only going to grow more severe over time.”

The nightmare of a Harvey (or Katrina or Sandy) has led to many cities opt for huge sea walls and other expensive engineering fixes. But there is no easy solution – a sea wall simply pushes the water elsewhere, perhaps on to a neighbor’s head. The water has to go somewhere and decades of development on flood-prone land has left little space to maneuver for some municipalities.

“There are coastal cities at risk from an extreme event and they have giant sea walls or houses on stilts,” said Sweet. “But then there are communities that don’t face a big hurricane threat but water is bubbling up from underneath them. They can’t defend against this sort of flooding. You can’t build a wall everywhere.”

Some progressive cities have started to look at alternative approaches, most notably from the Netherlands, where communities “live” with the water, allowing certain areas to flood while aggressively defending critical infrastructure. Natural sponges such as parklands, wetlands and dunes are now also in vogue with city planners.

But as attitudes to flooding slowly shift, the problem is escalating. Scientists are now confident that hurricanes will become more powerful, fed by a warming, moisture-laden atmosphere, while more common “nuisance” flooding will become so frequent along parts of the US east coast that they will occur once every three days by 2045. By around this time, a majority of US coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year.

So which cities are at risk and what are they doing about the threat?

Follow the link to learn more about that serious problem, and how climate change is responsible for this situation: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/31/us-risk-flooding-harvey-boston-new-york-miami-beach

World has missed chance to avoid dangerous global warming – unless we start geo-engineering the planet

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The world has missed the chance to avoid dangerous global warming – unless we start geo-engineering the atmosphere by removing greenhouse gases, according to new research.

Scientists used computer models to assess what needs to be done to restrict global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, the limits adopted by the Paris Agreement on climate change. They found that the world was likely to overshoot this temperature but could bring it back down to 1.2C by the end of this century by using techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Giant biological machines could be created to do this by growing vegetation which absorbs carbon, then burning the resulting biomass in power stations that capture the emissions.

The researchers also said other techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere would need to be developed. Another team of researchers reached similar conclusions last month, finding that geo-engineering would be required to restrict warming to 1.5C but 2C could be achieved without it.

Scientists previously thought limiting global warming to 2C would avoid the most dangerous effects, but there is increasing evidence that allowing it to go much above 1.5C could lock in considerable sea level rise for the next few centuries. So far the world has warmed by just under 1C in little over a century.

The world would have to bring about a “complete shift” to an energy system based on renewables, nuclear, hydrogen, and bio-energy with carbon capture and storage.

Follow the link to learn more about the research: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/world-global-warming-avoid-geo-engineering-planet-climate-change-man-made-a7904966.html

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

Europe’s extreme June heat clearly linked to climate change, research shows

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Human-caused climate change dramatically increased the likelihood of the extreme heatwave that saw deadly forest fires blazing in Portugal and Spain, new research has shown.

Much of western Europe sweltered earlier in June, and the severe heat in England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland was also made significantly more likely by global warming. Such temperatures will become the norm by 2050, the scientists warned, unless action is taken to rapidly cut carbon emissions.

Scientists combined temperature records and the latest observations with a series of sophisticated computer models to calculate how much the global rise in greenhouse gases has raised the odds of the soaring temperatures. They found the heatwave that struck Portugal and Spain was 10 times more likely to have occurred due to global warming. In Portugal, 64 people died in huge forest fires, while in Spain 1,500 people were forced to evacuate by forest blazes.

The intense heat was made four times more probable in central England, which endured its hottest day since 1976, and in France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, where emergency heatwave plans were triggered.

The analysis was carried out by World Weather Attribution (WAA), an international coalition of scientists that calculates the role of climate change in extreme weather events. “We found clear and strong links between June’s record warmth and human-caused climate change,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and part of WWA.

Heat can be deadly – especially for the very young and the elderly,” said Friederike Otto, at Oxford University and also part of WWA. “This extreme event attribution analysis makes clear that European heatwaves have become more frequent, and in the South of Europe at least 10 times more frequent. It is critical that cities work with scientists and public health experts to develop heat action plans. Climate change is impacting communities right now and these plans save lives.”

Click here for more information: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/30/europes-extreme-june-heat-clearly-linked-to-climate-change-research-shows

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