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Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found  Arctic   seawater is war...


venerdì 9 giugno 2017


Depletion of dissolved oxygen in our oceans, which can cause dead zones, is occurring much faster than expected, a new study finds.
And by combining oxygen loss with ever-worsening ocean warming and acidification, humans are re-creating the conditions that led to the worst-ever extinction, which killed over 90 percent of marine life 252 million years ago.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology reviewed ocean data going back to 1958 and “found that oxygen levels started dropping in the 1980s as ocean temperatures began to climb.”
Scientists have long predicted that as carbon pollution warms the globe, the amount of oxygen in our oceans would drop, since warmer water can’t hold as much dissolved gas as colder water. And, Georgia Tech researchers point out, falling oxygen levels have recently led to more frequent low-oxygen events that “killed or displaced populations of fish, crabs and many other organisms.”
But what is especially worrisome about this new research is how quickly it is happening. “The trend of oxygen falling is about two to three times faster than what we predicted from the decrease of solubility associated with the ocean warming,” said lead researcher Prof. Taka Ito. “This is most likely due to the changes in ocean circulation and mixing associated with the heating of the near-surface waters and melting of polar ice.”
Global warming drives ocean stratification — the separation of the ocean into relatively distinct layers. This in turn speeds up oxygen loss.
2011 study, “Rapid expansion of oceanic anoxia immediately before the end-Permian mass extinction,” found that rapid and widespread anoxia (absence of oxygen) preceded “the largest mass extinction in Earth history, with the demise of an estimated 90 percent of all marine species.”
As National Geographic reported in 2015, we’re already starting to see the impacts of anoxia. “The waters of the Pacific Northwest, starting in 2002, intermittently have gotten so low in oxygen that at times they’ve smothered sea cucumbers, sea stars, anemones, and Dungeness crabs,” the magazine reported.
Finally, a 2015 study found there is no techno-fix to prevent a catastrophic collapse of ocean life for centuries if not millennia if we continue current CO2 emissions trends through 2050.
If we don’t start slashing carbon pollution, then, as co-author John Schellnhuber put it, “we will not be able to preserve ocean life as we know it.”

Carbon pollution is suffocating ocean life and speeding up the next mass extinction Joe Romm May 8 2017

Last year's increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979 (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

As President Donald Trump prepared to pull the United States out of the global Paris climate agreement, scientists at NOAA reported that 2016 had recorded the second-biggest jump in atmospheric carbon dioxide on record.
Last year's increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979.
Once CO2 is in the atmosphere, the heat-trapping gas persists there for decades as new emissions pile in, which means that even if global emissions level off—as they have started to do—the planet is on a path toward more warming, rising sea levels and increased heat waves and droughts in the decades ahead.
Concentrations of other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, also increased last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's latest update to its greenhouse gas index. The heating effect of all combined greenhouses gases in the atmosphere increased by 2.5 percent in 2016, according to the index.
"The warming effect of these chemicals we're tracking has increased by 40 percent since 1990," said Steve Montzka, a NOAA scientist who co-authored the update. "Even though emissions are leveling off, CO2 is so long-lived that the concentration is still increasing."
Getting the atmospheric concentration to also level off would require reducing emissions by 80 percent, he said.
That 80 percent cut is exactly what is targeted under the Paris climate agreement, but the goal is in doubt as the Trump administration rolls back climate and energy policies meant to lower emissions in the United States, historically the world's largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution.
"All the indicators are going in the wrong direction, and warning bells are ringing so loud as to be deafening," said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "Without the Paris agreement, the acceleration will likely continue and we will exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial by the 2050s or earlier."
The index was established in 1979, when NOAA expanded the global network of 80 land- and ocean-based measurement sites, including the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. In the 1980s and 1990s, the CO2 level increased at about 1.5 parts per million each year. The last two years, it's been rising at nearly twice that rate—2.9 ppm—as emissions overwhelm the oceans' and forests' ability to take CO2 out of the air.  
The new data also show that the powerful effect of heat-trapping and ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—once widely used as refrigerants and propellants—continues to decrease. That decline reflects the success of the 1989 Montreal Protocol, one of the early global efforts to tackle an environmental challenge.
"That's given us a little reprieve from even more warming," according to Montzka, who said the continued use of CFCs could have had a substantial additional heating effect.
Methane, which is a much more powerful heat-trapping gas than CO2, increased in 2016 at about the same rate as the previous two years, which is double the pace set between 2007 and 2013. Scientists suspect the methane increase is mainly from decomposition of plant matter in the tropics, where global warming is speeding biological processes. Earlier spikes in methane have also been linked with warmer Arctic temperatures that release the gas by thawing permafrost.
Since 2013, the methane concentration has increased between 8.7 and 12.6 parts per billion each year, compared to an average annual increase of about 5.7 ppb between 2007 and 2013. Methane is measured in parts per billion rather than parts per million because the total amounts are much smaller.
Even though the latest figures are sobering, the fact that global carbon emissions are starting to plateau is a hopeful sign, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.
"This emphasizes a key basic truth: There is nothing Trump can do to stop the dramatic global transition away from fossil fuels toward clean and renewable energy," he said. "The world is moving on, and we will tackle this problem. At this point, it is simply a question of whether we get onboard the great economic revolution of this century, or whether we get left behind."

Second Biggest Jump in Annual CO2 Levels Reported as Trump Leaves Paris Climate Agreement BOB BERWYN, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS JUN 1, 2017

Climate change is undeniable and it is “absolutely essential” the world fights the problem togetherUnited Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres argued on Tuesday.
His comments come as US President Donald Trump considers pulling out of the Paris climate deal.
Trump refused to endorse the landmark climate change accord at a summit of the G7 group of wealthy nations, saying he needed more time to decide.
He then tweeted that he would make an announcement this week.
“If any government doubts the global will and need for this accord, that is reason for all others to unite even stronger and stay the course,” Mr Guterres said during an event at New York University.
“The message is simple: the sustainability train has left the station. Get on board or get left behind.”
The world is in a mess,” Mr Guterres said. “It is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement.”
Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax, has come under concerted pressure from other world leaders to honour the 2015 Paris Agreement, the first to bind all nations to setting goals to curb carbon emissions.
“We believe that it will be important for the US not to leave the Paris agreement,” said Mr Guterres.
“But even if the US government decides to leave the Paris agreement, it’s very important for the US society as a whole - the cities, the states, the companies, the businesses - to remain engaged with the Paris agreement,” he added.
The United States is the world’s biggest economy and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.
Mr Guterres said he intends to convene a climate summit in 2019 to review implementation of the global climate deal. He said that currently 147 parties representing more than 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the Paris agreement.
Climate change is undeniable. Climate action is unstoppable,” he said.
Big emitters led by China, the European Union and India have reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century by shifting to clean energies.
By contrast, Trump wants to favour US coal.
A UN panel of climate scientists says it is at least 95 per cent probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are the main cause of climate change since 1950.
Global average temperatures have hit record highs in each of the past three years, and warming is projected to cause worsening droughts, sea level rises, floods, heat waves and extinctions of wildlife.

Climate change is ‘undeniable and unstoppable,’ says UN May 31, 2017

GENEVA (1 June 2016) – Speaking ahead of the World Environment Day on Monday 5 June, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox, urges all States to do more to fulfil their existent obligations to protect the world’s biological diversity from extinction.

“We should all be alarmed at the accelerating loss of biodiversity on which healthy ecosystems depend. We should also be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic human rights without a healthy environment.

While the eyes of the international community are justifiably focused on the future of the Paris agreement on climate change, this year’s World Environment Day brings us an opportunity to celebrate our intimate relation to nature.

We depend on healthy natural ecosystems for so much – nutrition, shelter, clothing, the very water we drink and the air we breathe. And yet, natural forest area continues to decline, marine ecosystems are increasingly under siege, and estimated populations of vertebrate animals have declined by more than half since 1970.

Many scientists fear that we are at the outset of the sixth global extinction of species around the world, the first in over 60 million years.

States have reached agreements to combat the causes of biodiversity loss, which include habitat destruction, over-exploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change. But the same States are woefully failing to meet their commitments to reverse these disturbing trends.

Nearly one third of natural and mixed World Heritage sites reportedly suffer from illegal poaching, logging and fishing, which have driven endangered species to the brink of extinction and threatened the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them. 

The extinction of species and the loss of microbial diversity undermines our rights to life and health by destroying potential sources for new medicines and weakening human immunity. Reduced variety, yield and security of fisheries and agriculture endangers our right to food. Nature’s weakened ability to filter, regulate and store water threatens the right of access to clean and safe water.

Without healthy ecosystems, governments will be severely challenged to meet their commitments on sustainable development. Biodiversity and human rights are interlinked and interdependent, and States have obligations to protect both. In that connection, they should carry out their commitments to implement legal and institutional frameworks for biodiversity protection.

Governments should ensure public information and participation in biodiversity-related decisions and provide access to effective remedies for its loss and degradation.

Park rangers, indigenous peoples and others who put their lives on the line to safeguard natural ecosystems should be recognized as human rights defenders and protected.

The World Environment Day is an opportunity to appreciate nature’s beauty and its importance to humanity. For us to truly connect to it, we must collectively encourage our Governments to fulfill their legal obligations to protect the Earth, its biodiversity and those who defend it from harm.”


The Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the Human Rights Council, in March 2017, focused on the relationship between human rights and biodiversity, illustrating its many connections to healthy human life and stressing the dependence of the world’s sustainable development on healthy ecosystems.

Professor John H. Knox (USA) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 as Independent Expert, and reappointed in 2015 as Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Council requested him, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United States, to clarify the application of human rights norms to environmental protection, and to identify best practices in the use of human rights obligations in environmental policy-making.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

“Connect with nature, before it is too late” – UN expert urges all governments to save biodiversity World Environment Day – 5 June 2017

We are teetering on the brink of a sixth mass extinction according to a new report published in Nature magazine.

Without immediate intervention, there is little, to no hope of recovering tens of thousands of species threatened by human activities. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has predicted the possible extinction of 61,000 animal species.

The previous five mass extinctions were caused by meteorites, volcanoes and ice ages over a period of 500 million years. The sixth mass extinction will be caused by human activity and without action in the next 50 years will be irreversible.

Currently, culling, poaching, deforestation, hunting, pollution, loss of habitat, introducing invasive species and climate change are the leading causes of extinction in mammals and a third of amphibians and birds. The animal population has decreased by 60 percent, with the human population projected to reach 10 billion by 2060.

The report suggests that efforts made to conserve animals and the environment will have greater benefits for humans in the long run. Including shelter, food, and clean air among others.

According to the study, by intensifying current conservation policies, there is a chance to save some of our more threatened species:

This is dependent on immediate global intervention, it is up to the global community to take action.


Trading in Extinction 8 FEBBRAIO 2017

Unless we sort out how we feed the growing human population, thousands of birds and mammals will face the specter of extinction in coming decades, according to a new study published June 1 in the journal Nature.
“With so many people on Earth now, and the numbers increasing by another 3 or 4 billion before we finally level off at our carrying capacity, the impact on extinctions is really great,” said lead author David Tilman.
Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues looked at the data for the world’s “threatened” birds and mammals, which they defined as the Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered animals on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. They also pinpointed where these animals occurred, homing in primarily on the biodiverse tropics in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America. These regions are also experiencing – or are poised to experience – huge upticks in human populations and wealth.
The team found that 80 percent of these animals owed their threatened status to the loss of their habitat for agriculture. And the killing of animals has brought the survival of 40 to 50 percent of these species into question. Often, that hunting is for meat, but the trade in body parts, such as rhinoceros horn or ivory from elephants, takes a substantial toll.
But the thrust of their work wasn’t just to identify these trends, which Tilman said weren’t all that surprising.
“I’m not unique among ecologists in warning that we are in the midst of an extinction event,” he said in an interview. Study after study has shown that we’re in the midst of a sixth great extinction. “My goal in starting to do these analyses was to try to find pathways toward some kind of a solution.”
Without a concerted effort to stop clearing forests and other wildlife habitats to meet our nutritional needs, the trend toward extinction will continue, he said, especially with an increase 3.2 billion people to Earth’s population by 2060.
“People will win out over any other organism,” Tilman said. “It’s hard for large species to live around humans because humans take up so much of their habitat and break it into little pieces.
But changes to the way we churn out food for those additional mouths could be hugely beneficial for biodiversity, particularly in developing economies where yields are far below what they could be, the researchers argue in the paper.
“A dollar invested in increasing yields in a typical African country gives $3 to 4 of more food,” Tilman said.
Similarly, habitat disruptions such as water pollution could be avoided in developed countries like the United States if we can better time the applications of “inputs” such as fertilizer. If farmers cut its use by 25 percent, they would still wind up producing about the same amount of food, the authors write.
They advocate the inclusion of these concerns in conservation as a way of stopping the need for habitat destruction, before it cascades into the steep declines in wild animal populations seen recently. And Tilman said turning that trend around will require a shift in how we deal with threatened species.
Currently, he said, “Our actions are viewed as having no impact until we finally push a species to the brink of extinction, which then puts it on our endangered species list, at which time we start paying attention to it,” he said.
Scientists have managed to save animals such as the Critically Endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) from extinction, and they’ve successfully reintroduced the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) back into the wild, which is now listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Tilman doesn’t see those sorts of approaches as sustainable for all of the world’s threatened species, however.
“Every [species] that we’ve saved has been a wonderful achievement, but it has taken immense effort,” Tilman said. “We don’t have the money to babysit … tens of thousands of species around the world.
Limited resources combined with the rates at the number of people is increasing makes the need for solutions especially urgent, he added.
“It’s this last big burst of growth and human influence on the Earth, and what we do now is going to determine forever the kind of world we have,” Tilman said. “It’s crunch time for biodiversity.
  • Tilman, D., Clark, M., Williams, D. R., Kimmel, K., Polasky, S., & Packer, C. (2017). Future threats to biodiversity and pathways to their prevention. Nature546(7656), 73-81.

‘Crunch time for biodiversity’: Farming, hunting push thousands of species toward extinction 7 June 2017 / John C. Cannon

HK needs tougher rules to help save elephants from extinction Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong Jun 2, 2017

March Against Monsanto 2017 MAY 22, 2017

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