Tag: Environment

Sunday set: Forests

Trees are our friends

Last week the UN celebrated the International Day of Forests as a way to acknowledge how important forests are to the world. To cynics, it may seem trite lip service by faceless bureaucrats. But in reality, it’s critical that everyone understands how important forests are for the planet. They cover about a  third of the Earth’s land mass and provide livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter for about 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80 percent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They may also be one of our last, best hopes for slowing climate change. Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at the rate of about 32 million acres per year, equivalent to 10-20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. Check out my article and photo essay for Pacific Standard to learn more about forests, especially for ways you can get involved in helping to protect and restore them.

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Plastic pollution is increasing in the Arctic Ocean

Plastic debris is increasing in the Fram Strait, east of Greenland. @bberwyn photo.

Study documents rising amount of sea-bottom debris

Staff Report

There’s more direct evidence that plastic pollution is increasing rapidly in the remote Arctic Ocean, according to German scientists, who have tracking sea-bottom litter at two research stations since 2002. The Hausgarten deep-sea observatory network includes a total of 21 stations in the Fram Strait, between Greenland and Svalbard.

The Alfred Wegener Institute’s Mine Tekman,  lead author of a new study published in the scientific journal Deep-Sea Research I, said the long-term monitoring confirms that the amount of plastic litter has increased rapidly in the past 15 years.  Other scientists with the AWI have also documented evidence of a floating garbage patch starting to form in the Barents Sea region of the Arctic Ocean. Plastic has already been reported from stomachs of resident seabirds and Greenland sharks. Continue reading “Plastic pollution is increasing in the Arctic Ocean”

Connecting the climate dots, from E-cars to rising sea level

Global climate reporting from Summit Voice

Oceans are warming, sea levels are going up, and will continue to rise for centuries to come. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

If you’re a long-time Summit Voice follower you’ve noticed that the pace of posts has dropped off a bit in the past few months, but that’s only because some of the content has moved to other locations. So here’s a quick roundup of some of my latest environment and climate stories from around the world.

For InsideClimate News, I took a close look at some of the latest research on ocean heat content, featuring work by Kevin Trenberth, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The new study he co-authored took a close look at data from thousands of autonomous ocean probes that measure ocean temperatures from the surface all the way down to a depth of 2,000 meters. The study found that the rate of ocean warming has doubled since the early 1990s from previous decades, and that the heat is getting into deep waters. The study also tracks regional variations in ocean warming, important because it will affect where and when sea level rises fastest: Rate of Ocean Warming Has Nearly Doubled Over 25 Years.

I also did some in-depth reporting on a potentially groundbreaking legal case in Austria, where an administrative law court ruled that citizens have a legal right to be protected from climate change impacts when the blocked construction of a third runway at the Vienna International Airport: Vienna Airport Expansion Blocked on Climate Change Grounds.

In my first story for Deutsche Welle, which is a German equivalent of NPR and PBS, I reported on how global warming is increasing forest fire danger all over the world, including forests in temperate, wet climates like Central Europe, even in the Alps. While residents of the West already have seen fire activity surge in the past 20 years, some other regions are just starting to experience those changes, and the risks are great: Global warming is increasing forest fire risk in the Alps.

Globally, there are also burgeoning efforts to electrify the transportation system in the fight to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avert dangerous climate change. In Austria, the federal government has teamed up with the private sector to invest in e-mobility. Consumers can get rebates of up to €4,000 for buying electric cars, and even E-bikes, and there are also subsidies available for investments in expanding the electric charging infrastructure. Altogether, the government expects that their initial €72 million investment will help spur the creation of 30,000 new jobs and €3 billion in new economic activity: Austria Is Making Electric Cars More Affordable Than Ever.

Legal battle over wolves heats up in California

Shasta pack photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ranching, farming groups sue to end legal protections

Staff Report

Wildlife conservation advocates are helping fend off a nuisance lawsuit by a right wing group that seeks to end state endangered species protection for wolves in California.  The lawsuit, brought against the California Fish and Wildlife Commission by the Pacific Legal Foundation, falsely claims that wolves are ineligible for state protection. Like many other legal actions filed by the group, this one is aimed mainly at harassing government agencies and others working in the public interest.

For conservation groups — he Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Cascadia Wildlands and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — have intervened in the case on behalf of wolves, represented by Earthjustice. Continue reading “Legal battle over wolves heats up in California”

What caused ‘snowball Earth?’

Volcanoes seen as likely trigger for global glaciation

In the right conditions, global ice can spread rapidly from pole to pole. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A 10-year string of steady volcanic eruptions may have been the trigger for a massive global cooling event that left much of the Earth encased in glaciers and ice sheets about 771 million years ago.

The eruptions could have spewed so much sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere that the planet’s climate reached a tipping point, resulting in what scientists call ‘snowball Earth,” according to a new study published this month in Geophysical Research Letters. Understanding the natural variability of climate is important to understanding current climate change driven by emission of greenhouse gases. Continue reading “What caused ‘snowball Earth?’”

Can ‘supersites’ anchor coral reef protection efforts?

Yellow tangs swim in a coral reef ecoystems.
Yellow tangs swim in a coral reef ecoystems. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study says 90 percent of all predatory fish species have been lost from Caribbean coral reefs

Staff Report

Not all Caribbean reefs are created equal, say researchers with the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who recently identified reef areas they are calling “supersites”that could help restore populations of predatory fish needed maintain an ecological balance.

That’s the good news. The bad news is their study also shows that up to 90 percent of predatory fish are gone from Caribbean coral reefs. The research suggests that these supersites should be prioritized for protection and could serve as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism and other uses. Continue reading “Can ‘supersites’ anchor coral reef protection efforts?”

Ocean acidification spreading in the Arctic

Study eyes warm water incursions from the Pacific

Sea ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait
Sea ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait in this satellite picture from the NASA Earth Observatory program. In recent years, the strait has become a conduit for warmer water flowing into the Arctic, resulting in spreading ocean acidification.

Staff Report

In the past 20 years, acidified waters have expanded in the Arctic ocean, spreading northward from Alaska’s Chukchi Sea coastline to just below the North Pole. The pool of acidified water is also getting deeper, from 100 to 250 meters, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In a press release, the researchers said it’s the first time they’ve documented such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, “at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” according to University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.

The changes will impact different types of ocean life, including tiny marine snails known to be susceptible to ocean acidification, said NOAA scientist Richard Feely. Other  Arctic species potentially at risk from ocean acidification are fisheries of shrimp and varieties of salmon and crab — all important food sources for indigenous communities. Continue reading “Ocean acidification spreading in the Arctic”