Wildlife

Starving Polar Bear’s Last Hours Captured in Heartbreaking Video

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A hard-to-watch video from Canada’s Baffin Islands shows an emaciated polar bear in what were likely the last few hours of its life. The video shows the bear staggering toward a trash can and searching in vain for something to eat. It ends with the bear resting on the ground, exhausted.

See video here.

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Global Warming

Worst-case global warming predictions are the most accurate, say climate experts

Current predictions of climate change may significantly underestimate the speed and severity of global warming, according to a new study.

Reappraisal of the models climate scientists use to determine future warming has revealed that less optimistic estimates are more realistic.

The results suggest that the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep global average temperatures from rising by 2C, may be overly ambitious.

Based on a “business-as-usual” scenario in which emissions continue at the same rate, climate models range in their predictions from a 3.2C increase in global temperatures to a 5.9C increase. The new study, published in the journal Nature, sought to resolve this situation and establish whether the upper or lower estimates are more accurate.

The study concludes that models with higher estimates were more likely to be accurate, with the most likely degree of warming 0.5C higher than previous best estimates.

Global Warming

Hindu Kush Himalayan Ice at Risk

Global warming is not only posing a serious threat to glaciers, it will also result in a loss of 33 per cent of total ice volume in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region which extends from Afghanistan to Myanmar by the end of the century, leading dire consequences for people living there according to the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

When the glaciers retreat, new lakes will be formed and this has already happened in Sikkim in India. The increased water mass can cause flash floods if the lakes and dams overflow or burst bringing a new risk to the people living there. The HKH sources 10 major river systems in Asia that provide water, ecosystem services and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region holds and distributes water for more than 1.3 billion people living in the downstream river basins.

Global Warming

Migrating birds winter in Israel as climate change makes desert too dangerous

Climate change is turning Israel into a permanent wintering ground for some of the 500 million migrating birds that used to stop over briefly before flying on to the warm plains of Africa, Israeli experts say.

The birds now prefer to stay longer in cooler areas rather than cross into Africa, where encroaching deserts and frequent droughts have made food more scarce.

Cranes are one of the most abundant species to visit the Hula wetlands and Agmon said that the number that prefer to stay in Israel until the end of March has risen from less than 1,000 in the 1950s to some 45,000 currently.

Although migrating birds are a welcome attraction for ornithologists and tourists, their hunger for food from crop fields makes them a menace to farmers.

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Climate change threatens olive trees across Mediterranean

Environmental groups have warned that the olive oil industry across the Mediterranean, worth billions of dollars, is under threat due to climate change.

From Italy to Tunisia, and Lebanon to Greece, increasingly hot summers and unpredictable winters have seen yields decline by as much as 20 percent.

Environment

Groundwater CO2

Using water from underground aquifers faster than it is being replenished is releasing large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

While small compared to the burning of fossil fuels, this groundwater depletion in the U.S. alone could be responsible for 1.7 million metric tons of atmospheric CO2 pollution each year, scientists from Michigan State University estimate.

That would rank among the top 20 sources of carbon pollution outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We were somewhat surprised that this hasn’t been accounted for … in the [EPA and IPCC] evaluations,” said study hydrogeologist David Hyndman.

Wildlife

California birds nesting earlier to try to survive global warming

The early bird not only gets the worm, but may stand a better chance of riding out global warming.

A new study finds that birds in California are breeding up to 12 days earlier than they did a century ago, an apparent effort to maintain their optimal nesting temperatures as the planet warms.

The study of 202 species of California birds found that by nesting five to 12 days earlier in the year, birds are breeding at the same temperatures they did 75 to 100 years ago. Although other researchers have noted earlier nesting times, they theorized that birds were making the changes to when food was available — and that with spring coming earlier, insects and seeds were in greater supply earlier.

The study concludes that birds are moving up their nesting schedules to time the births of chicks with the temperatures they need to survive.

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Global Warming

Warning to Humanity

In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire “warning to humanity.” They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. The letter listed environmental impacts like they were biblical plagues — stratospheric ozone depletion, air and water pollution, the collapse of fisheries and loss of soil productivity, deforestation, species loss and catastrophic global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

To mark the letter’s 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting.

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” they write.

This letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, serves as a “second notice,” the authors say: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

Global climate change sits atop the new letter’s list of planetary threats. Global average temperatures have risen by more than half a degree Celsius since 1992, and annual carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 62 percent.

But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.

The lone bright spot exists way up in the stratosphere, where the hole in the planet’s protective ozone layer has shrunk to its smallest size since 1988. Scientists credit that progress to the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons — chemicals once used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans that trigger reactions in the atmosphere to break down ozone.

The authors offer 13 suggestions for reining in our impact on the planet, including establishing nature reserves, reducing food waste, developing green technologies and establishing economic incentives to shift patterns of consumption.

Global Warming

Global Carbon Pollution Rises

Global carbon pollution rose this year after three straight years when levels of the heat-trapping gas didn’t go up at all, scientists reported Monday.

Preliminary figures project that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are up about 2 percent this year, according to an international team of scientists. Most of the increase came from China.

The report by the Global Carbon Project team dashed hopes that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas had peaked.

Estimates for 2017 put it at about 40.8 billion tons (37 billion metric tons). Sixty years ago, the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons (8.3 billion metric tons).

Global Warming

Climate Change Is Destroying World Wonders

From the Everglades in the US to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, climate change is destroying the many of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

A new report on Monday from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that the number of natural world heritage sites being damaged and at risk from global warming has almost doubled to 62 in the past three years.

Those at high risk include iconic places from the Galapagos Islands to the central Amazon and less well known but equally vibrant and unique sites such as the karst caves of Hungary and Slovakia and the monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico.

Coral reefs are particularly badly affected by rising ocean temperatures, from the Seychelles to Belize, where the northern hemisphere’s biggest reef is situated. Global heating is also causing mountain glaciers to rapidly shrink, from Kilimanjaro in Kenya to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch – home to the largest Alpine glacier.

Other ecosystems being damaged are wetlands, such as the Everglades, where sea level is rising as the ocean warms and salt water is intruding. In the Sundarbans mangrove forest on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, two islands have already been submerged and a dozen more are threatened. Fiercer storms are also increasing the risk of devastation.

Rising numbers of wildfires are damaging the beautiful Fynbos flowerscapes in the Cape region of South Africa and the Monarch butterfly site in Mexico. Elsewhere, warming is melting the permafrost in the newly declared Qinghai Hoh Xil heritage site, which is at 4,500m altitude in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

Australia is especially exposed as it has 10 natural heritage sites where climate change damage is rated as high or very high risk, from its Gondwana rainforests to Shark Bay in western Australia and islands such as Fraser and Macquarie.

2000

Global Warming

Ozone Hole Is Smallest Since 1988

Higher temperatures over Antarctica this year shrank the hole in the ozone layer to the smallest it’s been since 1988.

The ozone hole is a depletion of (O3) in the stratosphere above Antarctica. The three-oxygen molecule is toxic at ground level, but high in the atmosphere, it deflects dangerous ultraviolet rays from reaching Earth’s surface.

This year on Sept. 11, NASA measured the maximum extent of the hole at 7.6 million square miles (19.6 million square kilometers), 2.5 times the size of the United States.

That was smaller than in 2016, when the maximum extent was 8.9 million square miles (22.2 million square km), also a below-average size. According to NASA, the average maximum extent of the ozone hole since 1991 has hovered at about 10 million square miles (25.8 million square km).

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Global Warming

Massive US Government Report Says Climate Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause

It is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming, according to the most comprehensive study ever of climate science by U.S. government researchers.

The climate report notes that the past 115 years are “the warmest in the history of modern civilization.” The global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over that period. Greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture are by far the biggest contributor to warming.

The findings contradict statements by President Trump and many of his Cabinet members, who have openly questioned the role humans play in changing the climate.

The report states that the global climate will continue to warm. How much, it says, “will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally.” Without major reductions in emissions, it says, the increase in annual average global temperature could reach 9 degrees Fahrenheit relative to pre-industrial times. Efforts to reduce emissions, it says, would slow the rate of warming.

Global Warming

UN Warns on Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions are on course to be about 30 percent above the 2030 global target, but there are signs of a move away from fossil fuels that not even U.S. President Donald Trump can stop, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

An annual U.N. audit of progress towards that goal showed emissions are likely to be 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, far above the 42 billion tonne threshold for averting the 2 degree rise.

But U.N. Environment chief Erik Solheim hailed signs of progress, with an apparent three-year plateau in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, cement production and other industrial processes, largely due to slower growth in coal use in China and the United States.

“We are at a watershed moment where we have stopped the rise in CO2 emissions, there is every reason to believe we can bring them down, and we see great news coming from all over the world every day,” Solheim said.

Global Warming

Pollution Fuelling Climate Change

Climate change is already affecting the health of populations around the world, but things are set to get worse if adequate changes aren’t made, according to an international consortium of climate experts.

Fueling the impact is the fact that more than 2,100 cities globally exceed recommended levels of atmospheric particulate matter — particles emitted when fuels, such as coal or diesel, are burned and are small enough to get into the lungs — says a report published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet. In the UK alone, 44 cities exceeded levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

More than 803,000 deaths across 21 Asian countries in 2015 were attributable to pollution from coal power, transport and the use of fossil fuels at home, the report states.

Global Warming

Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years. Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.

This year’s greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO, is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The figures published by the WMO are what’s left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth’s “sinks”, which include the oceans and the biosphere. 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million, up from 400ppm in 2015.

“It is the largest increase we have ever seen in the 30 years we have had this network,” Dr Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO’s global atmosphere watch programme.

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