The Time is Growing Short

GR:  An article from last June 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).

Now, let me finish by saying that 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.

Christiana Figueres and colleagues set out a six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020.

Behind New Zealand’s wild plan to purge all pests

Invasive Species

GR:  After 1500 AD, sailing ships and then later on, motor-powered ships began transporting and introducing plant and animal species all over the globe. Freed from the predators and diseases of their homes, some of the introduced species became invasive–that is, they began spreading, replacing native species, and decreasing ecosystem stability and productive. This is not news, of course, biologists have long been aware of the devastation caused by invasive species.

Eradicating invasive species is very expensive and very difficult. National resolve and full public support are required. Eradication is something that we humans, who are responsible for spreading the invasive species, should be about everywhere.

However, it is essential to place greater focus preventing the initial introduction of non-native species. Prevention is cheaper and kinder than eradication. And again, prevention is not a new idea. Natural resource managers have known how to prevent invasions for the past century. In many instances, they just don’t take the necessary steps. Here are some articles on invasive plants.

New Zealand has one of the worst invasive plant and animal problems in the world. The article below describes an ambitious and necessary plan to do something about it.

New Zealand Eradication Plan

New Zealand has three invasive species of rat. The Pacific rat, or kiore (Rattus exulans), was introduced from Polynesia in about the twelfth century; the ship rat (Rattus rattus) arrived in the late 1700s; and the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) became established in the 1860s. All three prey on native birds, insects and lizards, and have been blamed for the decline or extinction of a variety of species.

“Razza the rat nearly ended James Russell’s scientific career. Twelve years ago, as an ecology graduate student, Russell was releasing radio-collared rats on to small islands off the coast of New Zealand to study how the creatures take hold and become invasive. Despite his sworn assurances that released animals would be well monitored and quickly removed, one rat, Razza, evaded capture and swam to a nearby island.

“For 18 weeks, Russell hunted the animal. Frustrated and embarrassed, he fretted about how the disaster would affect his PhD. “I felt rather morose about the prospects for my dissertation,” he says.

“Although there was a lot of literature on controlling large rat populations, little had been written about tracking and killing a single rodent, which turns out to be rather important in efforts to completely eradicate a species. “It demonstrated how hard it is to catch that very first rat as it arrives on an island — or, conversely, the very last rat that you’re trying to get off,” says Russell, now at the University of Auckland.

Brushtail possums are among the numerous invasive pests regularly culled in New Zealand.

“Razza’s escape became the subject of a paper in Nature1 as well as a popular children’s book. And now, with more than a decade of successful pest-eradication projects behind him, Russell is taking on a much bigger challenge. He is coordinating research and development for a programme that the government announced last July to eliminate all invasive vertebrate predators — rats, brushtail possums, stoats and more — from New Zealand by 2050 to protect the country’s rare endemic species.” –Brian Owens (Continue reading:  Behind New Zealand’s wild plan to purge all pests : Nature News & Comment)

Living Planet Report 2016

GR:  The Living Planet Index, which measures abundance levels of 14,152 monitored populations of 3,706 vertebrate species, continues to show a downward trend. On average, monitored species declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012.  The report ties the decline to humans and human population growth.  Authors of the report struggle to find optimism to share, but they do not directly deal with population. Unless we begin to cut our population, the continuing loss of wildlife is inevitable.

“The Living Planet Report documents the state of the planet—including biodiversity, ecosystems, and demand on natural resources—and what it means for humans and wildlife. Published by WWF every two years, the report brings together a variety of research to provide a comprehensive view of the health of the earth.

“What’s the status of some animal populations?

“Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. And we’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.

“- 38 % The terrestrial LPI shows that populations have declined by thirty-eight percent overall between 1970 and 2012.

“- 81 % The freshwater LPI shows that on average the abundance of populations monitored in the freshwater system has declined by eighty-one percent between 1970 and 2012.

“- 36 % The marine LPI shows a thirty-six percent overall decline between 1970 and 2012.

“This loss of wildlife is startling, and people are at risk, too. Without action, the Earth will become much less hospitable for all of us. We must consider our impact on nature as we make development, economic, business, and lifestyle choices. A shared understanding of the link between humanity and nature is essential to making profound changes that will allow all life to thrive for generations to come.” — Living Planet Report 2016 | Pages | WWF

Biodiversity Day – May 22

A Day for Biodiversity

Biodiversity Day - 2016The United Nations has declared that May 22 is Biodiversity Day.  The goal this year is to publicize biodiversity.  After studying the text of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, I believe that the UN is doing little or nothing for biodiversity.  I have studied plants and animals for many years.  What I’ve seen, and what others report, is that all of nature is in steep decline.  Humans are the cause.  I fear that people might be led to believe that the United Nations is taking effective action to protect biodiversity.  It is not.

The theme of the UN Convention on Biodiversity is sustainable development.  It’s text has lofty goals with vague strategies for their attainment.  The text makes clear the Convention’s desire for acceptance by even the most growth oriented government.  Each Article begins with phrases such as:  “Each Contracting Party shall, in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities. . . .” and this:  “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate. . . .”  Since human desires are the conditions that define what is appropriate, the phrases prohibit no “contractor” from full-bore growth and development if they say that these are needed to provide jobs and improved standards of living.

This is the UN’s definition of the Convention:

Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live (United Nations).

Biodiversity is definitely not about the needs of only one species.  It is a general term that gives equal importance to all species.  By placing humans ahead of all other species, the Convention’s definition replaces biological validity with the human bias that is destroying the Earth.

This year’s meeting focus is on promoting biodiversity. The meetings never do much more than report on small achievements.  They serve as an opportunity to search for funding for their development-friendly activities and they let governments reward their environmental managers with a two-week vacation in an international resort.

Homo sapiens’ unrelenting rape of the Earth and the rapid decline of biodiversity is taking us toward the greatest mass extinction of all time.  No one has found an effective means to stop this.  In 1992, the United Nations decided to formalize their support for continued devastation by sugar-coating human impacts with the term “sustainable.” A genuine Biodiversity Day would focus on curtailing human:

  • Population growth
  • Habitat destruction
  • Material aspirations

Over and over, our leading biologists call for emergency responses to our impacts on the Earth.  This blog has more than a thousand well-reasoned warnings and suggestions related to biodiversity.  However, biodiversity decline continues.  What do we do?  Even as our impacts grow beyond the hope of remediation, our environmental managers lay by the pool sipping rum punch, eying the pretty young servers, and discussing funding proposals and plans for more meetings.

What can we do for biodiversity?

I intend to look for ways to oppose development, call for population control, live a simpler life, and learn more about plants and animals.