Sunday, March 18, 2018

Coal still on the agenda for some despite its tragic negatives

“Coal, meanwhile, is widely recognized as the most toxic and emissions-intensive fossil fuel. The leading worldwide cause of climate change, coal-fired power plants are the largest source of CO2 – greater than tropical deforestation or oil use for transportation. An immediate rapid transition away from coal-fired energy is essential to limiting global warming to 1.5°C (or the catastrophic 2°C),” and yet the Adani coal mine in Queensland is still on the agenda and would be authorised tomorrow is some of our responsible men had their way.

Quote from the book “Unprecedented Crime: Climate Change Denial and Game Changers for Survival” by Dr Peter Carter and Elizabeth Woodworth.

Queensland is one of the world’s worst places for deforestation

MOST deforestation takes place in poor countries. In richer places, trees tend to multiply. Australia is an unhappy exception. Land clearance is rampant along its eastern coast, as farmers take advantage of lax laws to make room for cattle to feed Asia. WWF, a charity, now ranks Australia alongside Borneo and the Congo Basin as one of the world’s 11 worst “fronts” for deforestation.
Queensland is losting the equivalent of 1,000
rugby pitches’ worth of forest disappear every day.
The worst damage occurs in the north-eastern state of Queensland, which has more trees left to fell than places to the south, where agriculture is more established. It has been responsible for over half of Australia’s land clearance since the 1970s. Its bulldozers are at present busier than they have been for a decade. They erased 395,000 hectares of forest, including huge tracts of ancient vegetation, between 2015 and 2016—the equivalent of 1,000 rugby pitches a day. As a share of its forested area, Queensland is mowing down trees twice as fast as Brazil.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

It’s 50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry.
 ‘Scientists attribute 15-40% of the epic rain
 of Hurricane Harvey to climate change.’
The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century.

Read the climate change opinion piece on The Guardian by Richard Wiles - “It’s 50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out.”

Warm Arctic? Expect Northeast Blizzards: What 7 Decades of Weather Data Show

The warmer the Arctic, the more likely the Northeast will be clobbered by blizzards, says a team of researchers who analyzed winter weather patterns going back to 1950.
Three extreme winter storms have hit the Northeast this
month, dumping several feet of snow and in some areas
bringing destructive coastal flooding. The Arctic,
meanwhile, has had record warmth.
Citing disruptive storms like Snowzilla (2016), Snowmaggedon (2010) and Snowpocalypse (2009), the climate scientists wrote that "heavy snowfalls are generally more frequent since 1990, and in many cities the most extreme snowfalls have occurred primarily during recent decades.”

Their study, published in the journal Nature Communications, links the increased frequency of extreme winter storms with the rapid and persistent warming of the Arctic since around 1990. When temperatures over the Arctic spike, especially high in the atmosphere, extreme winter weather is two to four times more likely in Boston and New York, while the U.S. West tends to see warmer and drier conditions, they conclude.

Read the Inside Climate News storey by Bob  Berwyn - “Warm Arctic? Expect Northeast Blizzards: What 7 Decades of Weather Data Show.”

World’s coldest capital seeks to kick its deadly coal habit

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Mongolians have long relied on folklore to explain how miserably cold their winters are.
Residents walk through one of the so-called ger districts in
 Ulaanbaatar. According to government figures, around
80 per cent of the capital's air pollution is produced by
people living in the districts.
During the first of nine phases of winter - each composed of nine days, starting on December 22 - it is said that vodka made from milk freezes.

During the third set of nine days, when temperatures can hit -40 degrees in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the tail of a three-year-old ox is said to fall off. Around the sixth set of nine days, which falls in the middle of February, roads are expected to re-emerge from underneath the ice and snow.

But for the nearly 1.5 million residents of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, the misery of winter is now defined almost singularly by the smoke rising out of the city's chimneys.

Read Bryan Denton’s story from The Age - “World’s coldest capital seeks to kick its deadly coal habit.”

Biggest refugee camp braces for rain: ‘this is going to be a catastrophe’

New York: The world's largest refugee camp, a temporary home to more than half a million people that sprawls precariously across barren hills in south-eastern Bangladesh, faces a looming disaster when the first storms of the monsoon season hit, aid workers warn.

"It's going to be landslides, flash floods, inundation," said Tommy Thompson, chief of emergency support and response for the World Food Program. "It's going to be a very, very challenging wet season. That's if we don't have a cyclone.”

‘A warming atmosphere can hold more moisture and unleash more intense downpours, and make wet places even wetter’

Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees live in the camp, at Cox's Bazar, near the southern tip of Bangladesh. Cyclones, which can occur from March to July, would considerably worsen the situation beyond the dangers of flooding and landslides.

Read the story from The Age by Somini Sengupta - “Biggest refugee camp braces for rain: ‘this is going to be a catastrophe’.”

Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists

The number of tiny plastic pieces polluting the world’s oceans is vastly greater than thought, new research indicates.
Plastic pollution is known to harm marine life and can
enter the human food chain via our food and water.
The work reveals the highest microplastic pollution yet discovered anywhere in the world in a river near Manchester in the UK. It also shows that the major floods in the area in 2015-16 flushed more than 40bn pieces of microplastic into the sea.

The surge of such a vast amount of microplastic from one small river catchment in a single event led the scientists to conclude that the current estimate for the number of particles in the ocean – five trillion – is a major underestimate.

Read Damian Carrington’s story from The Guardian - “Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists.”