Scientists Warn of Global Dangers
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
GR: An article from June, 2016 should be on everyone’s mind now. Here’s my discussion followed by a link to the article.
A group of scientists analyzed the sources of CO2 and the dynamic relationship between the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature to devise a global carbon budget they could use to assess the effect of timing of changes in CO2 emissions. The analysis enabled them to calculate the changes we must make to preserve a livable climate. You’ll have to read the article to see the individual sources of CO2 that must be adjusted. I wanted to mention the timing for the budget. The analysis shows that if CO2 emissions begin to fall immediately and reach zero in 30 years, we will remain within the global warming limits set by the Paris treaty. After the flat emissions of 2014, 2015, and 2016, the authors believed that the fall in emissions was ready to begin. This is good, because their budget shows that if we wait to 2020 to start tapering off CO2 production, we only get 20 years to reach zero emissions. If we wait to 2025, we get less than 10 years to reach zero. Transforming our energy use that quickly would be impossible.
SO, how are we doing. Six months after the analysis was published, we find that 2017 emissions have gone up, not down. Lot’s of positive changes have begun, but we have to wait to see what happens in 2018. If we begin to taper off CO2 emissions by 2020, we will have 20 years to reach zero emissions. I suggest you take a look at the six milestones the authors believe must be reached by 2020. Then you can monitor the world’s progress toward painful climate change (the Paris treaty) or disastrous climate change (with too many storms, fires, heat waves, and rising seas).
Climate change is just one of the approaching disasters. Human population and its impact is growing, wildlife species are going extinct at incredible rates, freshwater supplies are dropping, and toxic wastes are building up. If we can’t do more than take our CO2 emissions to zero over the next 20-30 years, most of the diversity and beauty of life on Earth will disappear.
GR: Legalizing marijuana has been a progressive goal for many years. Over the same period, illegal pot farming and distribution has been one of the nation’s largest illegal industries. Now, the industry is becoming legal. Fine; people should have freedom to make personal choices. However, the pot industry, like most other industries has no concern for the consequences of its business operations. The story below is about pesticides, but other reporters have described the loss of wilderness, wildlife, soil, and water as pot farmers shove nature aside to make a profit.
Legalizing an industry can give public (government) control over product safety and environmental abuse. Of course, the current American administration is working hard to give all industries unregulated freedom comparable to the illegal pot industry. We all hope that this is a temporary blip in public control of the irresponsible actions of the weaker members of our species and that we can reinstate regulations soon.
“Illegal cannabis grow operations are polluting California waterways with banned pesticides, according to reports from Reuters. Despite recent legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, California still accounts for over 90% of illegal grow operations within the U.S. The extent of contamination puts wildlife and drinking water at risk, necessitating increased monitoring and enforcement to stop ongoing ecological damage.
“Unreleased reports obtained by Reuters indicate the presence of pesticides, such as diazinon and carbofuran, which have been linked to a range of adverse human health outcomes. Both chemicals inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme important for the transmission of nerve impulses. When AChE is inhibited, acetylcholine accumulates leading to overstimulation of neurotransmitters, resulting in muscle weakness, confusion, and paralysis, among other symptoms. Both chemicals have also been shown to be highly toxic to birds. According to EPA reports from the 1980s, carbofuran applications contributed to the death of between one and two million birds each year. Diazinon has likewise been linked to hundreds of bird kill incidents, with reports in the 1980s involving over 23 bird species in 18 states.
“Reuters reports that law enforcement officers have been hospitalized from only touching plants or equipment contaminated with illegal pesticides. A police dog almost died from jumping in contaminated water, and there have been accounts of cows poisoned by nearby grow operations. “Carbofuran is in the water, and it’s not supposed to be,” said Mourad Gabriel, PhD, an ecologist who works with law enforcement on marijuana contamination issues to Reuters.
“According to Dr. Gabriel, half of the streams in eight watersheds known for illegal cannabis cultivation are contaminated with pesticide residues. “It’s like a layer cake,” Dr. Gabriel indicated. “They put chemical on chemical on chemical. We’ll find different chemicals in the water on different years.” Indeed, while some creeks tested clear during one season, return testing is finding new chemicals making their way into streams, likely as a result of their movement through the soil.” –Beyond Pesticides (Continue: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive Illegal Cannabis Operations Are Fouling California Waterways with Banned Pesticides – Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog.)
GR: Farms are a far greater source of toxic wastes than urban areas. Farming does it all. First, it obliterates natural habitats, second, it increases soil erosion, and third, it invites pesticide poisons that kill insects and the wildlife that depend on them. Join the Union of Concerned Scientists’ call on Congress to reject the Trump administration’s unacceptable budget cuts at the USDA, and instead vote to fully fund proven programs that keep our water clean, improve farmers’ livelihoods and help hungry families.
“Summer is almost here, and you know what that means. Sun, sand and … a watery wasteland devoid of all life? Yep, this is the time each year when a team of federal and university scientists predicts the size of the so-called dead zone that will develop in the Gulf of Mexico later in the summer. We’re waiting for that official prediction, but based on federal nitrate flux data and Midwest weather patterns this spring, it seems likely that it will be bigger than usual.
“That means a swath of marine habitat considerably larger than the state of Connecticut could be lifeless by summer’s end—a haunting prospect for coastal ecosystems, fisheries, and the men and women who earn their livelihoods from them. And the Trump administration’s budget proposal and general antagonism toward science and environmental protection are likely to make the problem worse in the future.
“Marine and coastal dead zones are the result of a phenomenon called hypoxia—a state of low dissolved oxygen that occurs when excess pollutants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, accumulate in bodies of water. These nutrients feed blooms of algae that, when they die and decompose, deplete the oxygen in the surrounding water. Hypoxia is a silent killer, suffocating organisms that can’t escape the low-oxygen zone quickly enough, and causing others to flee.
“As we wrote a year ago when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an “average” (roughly Connecticut-sized) Gulf dead zone, even average is not the same as normal. Nitrogen and phosphorus can come from many sources, but the largest are due to human activity, including sewage discharges and fertilizers from farm fields running off into rivers and streams.
“In 2010, researchers at the University of Illinois showed that the problem of runoff from industrialized, corn-and-soybean intensive agriculture, with its system of underground drainage channels, dwarfs the impact of cities and other nutrient sources in the Midwest. Essentially, each year the Mississippi River and its many tributaries meandering through the Corn Belt quietly funnel a vast amount of agricultural pollution into the Gulf.” –Karen Perry Stillerman (More: This Summer’s Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Could Be Bigger Than Connecticut.)
GR: Here’s some good news. In a surprising development, India has begun moving from coal to solar energy. The country’s air-pollution problems are part of the reason. The rapid decline in the price of solar power is also a factor.
The next bit of good news I would like to see is a decline in India’s population. In the words of Indian conservationist Dr. K. Ullas Karanth, “India is renowned as the land of the tiger and the elephant; many of our gods are depicted riding peacocks or tigers. But sadly, the equation that existed between people and wildlife centuries ago has vanished, and our protected areas, which comprise a mere 4 percent of India’s landscape, are now mere islands amidst a sea of people, with tremendous demands and pressures being put upon them.”
MUMBAI, India — “Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020.
“India’s plans were cited by American critics of the Paris climate accord as proof of the futility of advanced nations trying to limit their carbon output. But now, even as President Trump pulls the United States out of the pact, India has undergone an astonishing turnaround, driven in great part by a steep fall in the cost of solar power.
“Experts now say that India not only has no need of any new coal-fired plants for at least a decade, given that existing plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, but that after that it could rely on renewable sources for all its additional power needs.
“Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And last month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million.
“The sharp reversal, welcome news to world leaders trying to avert the potentially deadly effects of global warming, is a reflection both of the changing economics of renewable energy and a growing environmental consciousness in a country with some of the worst air pollution in the world.
“What India does matters, because it is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. And its energy needs are staggering — nearly one-quarter of its population has no electricity and many others get it only intermittently.
“With India’s power needs expected to grow substantially as its economy continues to expand, its energy use will heavily influence the world’s chances of containing the greenhouse gases that scientists believe are driving global warming.
“Much attention at the time of the signing of the Paris agreement was focused on the role President Barack Obama played in pushing India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, to sign. In doing so, Mr. Modi committed India to achieving 40 percent of its electricity capacity from nonfossil-fuel sources by 2030.” –Geeta Anand (Continue reading.)
GR: People have often tried to import species to solve problems or increase productivity. Many times, unintended consequences have proven disastrous as the imported species spread beyond the objective and replaced local plants and animals. [Here’s an example from my research.] The story below gives another example for a current problem.
“Caterpillars that can munch up plastic bags have just been identified, fuelling excited speculation that this could one day eliminate global pollution from plastic waste. The chance discovery, initially made by a scientist and amateur beekeeper whose plastic bag had been eaten through by the moth caterpillars, was reported this week by researchers at Cambridge University and the Spanish National Research Council.
“How thoughtful of nature to provide bugs that eat our rubbish. Is this the end of landfill, turtles with plastic-congested stomachs, and trees adorned with tattered ribbons of shopping bags?
“Well, it’s never that simple, is it? Attempts to commandeer nature to do our dirty work never seem to turn out as hoped, whether these take the form of planting trees to soak up carbon dioxide, or introducing invasive species for pest control, or using microorganisms to clean up oil spills. Remember the Australian cane toad debacle? The toads were introduced in the 1930s to control crop pests but instead gorged themselves on other local wildlife and spread across the country.
“These creatures, the larvae of the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella), can devour polyethylene, which along with the closely related polypropylene is the main type of plastic found in waste. But you’d need an awful lot of them to make a significant dent on the plastic waste problem. The UK alone discards almost 2m tonnes of this stuff every year. At the rate of consumption reported by the researchers – one worm gets through about two milligrams of plastic a day – you’d need billions of caterpillars eating constantly all year round to deal with that.
“Quite aside from how and where you’d farm all these bugs, there’s something about them that news reports have failed to mention. Wax moths, which are found throughout the world, are so-called because they eat wax. Specifically, they love to eat the wax from which bees make their honeycombs – and so they can devastate bee colonies. The two common species of wax moth, of which Galleria mellonella is one, are thought to cause more than £4m worth of damage annually in the United States alone.” –Philip Ball (Continue: Plastic-eating bugs? It’s a great story – but there’s a sting in the tail | Philip Ball | Opinion | The Guardian)
GR: Of course, Trump and his band of nature trolls will ignore the experts. Nevertheless, the thoughts of each one are worth reporting. And remember, global warming is one of the reasons that the doomsday clock is at two and a half minutes to midnight.
“President Donald Trump’s March 28 Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth is but the latest in a series of rollbacks intended to dismantle the Obama administration’s climate change policies. Although Trump never uttered the words “climate change” during the signing ceremony, his order will have profound effects on programs and environmental protections intended to rein in global warming—primarily by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“Among other things, Trump’s order lifts a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands, removes restrictions on fracking on federal and tribal lands, directs the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan regulations designed to limit emissions from power plants, and eliminates the requirement that climate change be considered in federal environmental reviews and decision making. The White House claims that these moves will bring back jobs in coal mining and foster energy independence.
“The order does not entirely obliterate Obama’s climate legacy. The Clean Power Plan is not yet in effect, and will have to go through a lengthy rule-making process that will likely include legal challenges. Vehicle fuel-efficiency standards are still standing, although the White House says a rollback is coming soon. State mandates for renewable energy, along with other efforts aimed at reducing emissions, will continue. And the White House is thus far silent on whether the president intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
“Some critics say the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks are even worse than they expected, and that it will be impossible for the United States to achieve its Paris pledges without the programs and protections that are being cut. Others see a silver lining for the Paris Agreement: Maybe the failure of US leadership will clear the way for other nations to work toward a more ambitious shift away from fossil fuels.
“We asked leading experts on climate change to weigh in on what the Trump rollbacks mean for climate change, and for the Paris Agreement in particular. Here are their thoughts.Invited
“Expert Commentary” — Dawn Stover (Continue: Experts respond to Trump’s climate blitzkrieg | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
GR: Fossil fuels are harmful during their extraction, delivery, refinement, and use. Alternative energy sources are available that are safer and offer tangible benefits for people. More employment opportunity is an example. It is imperative for the survival of nature, wildlife, and humanity that we close the door on the fossil-fuel industry and its disastrous impact. The first step is replacing all the kleptocrats who serve in our governments with progressive politicians able to resist the financial incentives for destroying the Earth. To do this with a balanced integration of human and nature concerns, we must form an alliance of progressive political parties and nature-conservation organizations.
Though the political alliance is the primary strategy, we can have some influence over our kleptocrats by showing them the strength of our numbers. Here’s a petition to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau that focuses on the delivery part of the fossil-fuel cycle.
“A ‘simple’ oil spill that released an estimated 550 litres of fuel off the northern coast of Vancouver Island has been deemed impossible to clean up. Neither skimmer vessels or sorbent materials can risk touching the environmentally rich affected area that a local First Nation relies on for food and income.
“The fact that there is no current technology that can recover the remaining oil is unacceptable and goes to show that even relatively small spills can be complicated and do great damage to environments and local economies. In this case, while some of the pollutants will evaporate others will remain in the area for much longer, continuing to degrade the the ecosystem and putting the First Nation’s livelihood and health at risk for years to come.
“We have been told that the government and petroleum companies know what they are doing and that they have the knowhow and technology to quickly and responsibly clean up any spills that may occur. Yet, time and time again when an accident happens we learn that they are utterly unprepared to deal with these disasters.” –Andrew (Continue: petition: Stop the Approval of Canadian Pipelines).
GR: Reduced air pollution, less noise, increased health, clear skies, and more jobs. All cities could follow Karin. Is there any movement stirring in your city? Read the interview and get ideas for your home town. Oh, for another benefit, there’s saving the planet and all its wonderful plants and animals from the greed of oily politicians and their owners.
“Karin Wanngård, the mayor of Stockholm, rides an electric bike to work each morning — at least when it is not snowing too heavily.
“She also wears second-hand clothing — a trendy move in Stockholm, she says — and eats less meat than she used to. It is all part of her contribution to meeting an ambitious goal she set for her city: eliminating all use of coal, oil and other fossil fuels by 2040.
“Leadership is really important when you want to make things happen,” said the 41-year-old, who has run Sweden’s capital city since 2014. “You can always have politicians making nice speeches but when it comes to action you need to have leadership.”
“Around the world, cities are increasingly at the forefront of action to curb climate change. Some, like Stockholm, have set ambitious emissions reduction goals, while others have pushed ahead with climate policies despite national policy reversals, such as under President Donald Trump in the United States.
“Increasingly, many of the cities leading on climate change — Paris, Washington, Sydney, Cape Town — are run by women.
“In two years, the number of women leading large cities that are at the forefront of climate action has risen from four to 16, according to the C40 Cities network of more than 80 cities committed to addressing climate change, which is organising a conference for women leaders in New York this month.” —Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation (Continue reading: Stockholm’s Mayor is Taking on Climate Change | Climate Central).
GR: There is growing realization that waste plastics including everything from packaging to the microfiber fabrics used in clothing, are harming wild plants and animals. An earlier petition campaign and many other reports have finally been heard. It’s good to see the UN tackling the problem.
“BALI, Indonesia, February 26, 2017 (ENS) – An unprecedented global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter within five years was launched this week by UN Environment, the United Nations agency formerly known as UNEP. The campaign is targeting microplastics in cosmetics and single-use plastics such as straws, bags and packaging materials.
SolheimUN Environment chief Erik Solheim of Norway (Photo courtesy World Bank)
“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans, said Erik Solheim of Norway, the former Norwegian environment and development minister who now heads UN Environment. “Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”
“Introduced at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the UN’s new #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to adopt plastic reduction policies.
“Ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide.
“Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by a massive 70 percent by 2025.
“Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica will take measures to reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.
“The campaign is targeting industry with the message that it’s important to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products, and is calling on consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to the oceans.
“Each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. Up to 80 percent of all litter in the oceans is made of plastic – items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups.” –Environmental News Service (Continue reading: – UN Campaigns to ‘Turn the Tide’ on Ocean Plastics | ENS.)