Showing posts with label Climate crisis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Climate crisis. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Wexit and climate pollution: a tale of two Canadas

National Observer
This PinP photo was taken along a highway construction project in SK.
There are already two Canadas when it comes to climate pollution, and they've been heading in opposite directions for years. A successful "Wexit" would split them into two separate countries: One would become the world's most climate polluting country per person, with an economy twice as dirty as China's. Story here.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Earth set to warm 3.2 C by 2100 unless efforts to cut emissions are tripled, new UN report finds

CBC News

Syrian & Iraqi refugees. Photo by Ggia.
One expert calls findings of 3.2 C warming 'terrifying.’ Story here.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Greenhouse gas concentrations in atmosphere reach yet another high

Sunset over Manitoba. A PinP photo.
Levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Story here.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency (Condensed Version)

Alliance of World Scientists
Photo - public domain.
We scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat. In this paper, we present a suite of graphical vital signs of climate change over the last 40 years. Results show greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, with increasingly damaging effects. With few exceptions, we are largely failing to address this predicament. Story here.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

To Slow Global Warming, U.N. Warns Agriculture Must Change

The Salt 
Humans must drastically alter food production to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report from the United Nations panel on climate change.
 Story here.
An intensive sheep operation.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

What can a large, but routine highway project teach us about our climate crisis?

Larry Powell explores that question in this picture story - "Thinking Globally. Acting Locally."

Earlier this summer, in a letter in my community newspaper, the Crossroads, I complained about a huge multi-million dollar roadbuilding project south of Shoal Lake, in southwestern Manitoba. 

Here’s why.
A legion of dump trucks streams past my window.
Despite a standing warning from the United Nations that the construction sector needs to cut back on its huge carbon footprint “yesterday” if we are to meet our obligations under the Paris Climate Accord, a steady stream of diesel trucks rumbled through town for weeks, from dawn to dusk, right past my living and bedroom windows. (Above.)

And, scant weeks after the Parks and Wilderness Society informed us that biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal life on Earth) is declining faster than at any other time in human history, the trucks were making hundreds of round trips a day, hauling copious loads of gravel from a mine which, for years, has been transforming a beautiful and once-natural stretch of the Birdtail Valley west of here (below), into an ugly hub of commerce.  
Before the project.

I asked an employee of the gravel mine what the future holds. He speculated that, now stocks are depleting at the present site, expansion to the north might be in the works.
The Birdtail just upstream (north) of the mine.
Pelicans gather on a nearby pond.
Rumour has it the mine will be expanding in this direction.
(All photos by PinP.)
Yet my letter was met with a deafening silence. I wonder if a recent study by the University of BC might help explain why. It has found that high school students in Manitoba are actually being taught that the science of climate change has not been settled yet!

If that is what they are being taught, it is disturbing, unacceptable and untrue!. The science is settled! There’s an overwhelming and longstanding consensus among the world’s top climatologists. We humans are altering the nature of our atmosphere by the amount of fossil fuels we're burning. This is trapping heat close to the earth’s surface. And, if we do nothing, the only home we have could morph into a place that’s not just inhospitable, but downright deadly! 

So, would Earth have been spared from the worst ravages of manmade climate change had this project not gone ahead? 

Of course not.

But are we doomed to a worst-case scenario if every jurisdiction in the world plowed ahead with "business-as-usual," as mine is doing? 

P.S. I have written this in the spirit of the message we once tried to impart to the young. "Think globally. Act locally." Has that notion proven to be a mirage? A thing of the past? Please tell me it is not! l.p.


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Uninhabitable Earth

New York Intelligencer. 
Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: 
What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.  
Photo by Oxfam.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Seismic lines in Alberta's boreal forest boost methane emissions, according to UCalgary study

Newly discovered emissions would increase Canada's national reporting of greenhouse gases. 
Story here.
Photo by Roland "Roly" Roesler.

Photographer's Note

This is an aerial view of the Northern Alberta landscape, somewhere between Athabasca and Swan Hills. It consists of numerous shallow lakes, muskeg, and the typical vegetation including spruce, willow and poplars. The typical patterns of the vegetation are determined by the consistence and composition of the semi-solid soil underneath. 
The parallel lines that scar the landscape are seismic lines used for oil and gas exploration, and they cover good part of the province. Seismic exploration is somewhat similar in principle to radar, and even more similar to the ultrasound used in medical facilities. Straight, parallel stripes up to 10 m wide are cleared with bulldozers, and drilling equipment follows these stripes sinking explosive charges in the soil. The sound of the explosions bounces back of rock layers, is collected by listening devices and used for mapping the geology and potential resources. The statistic says that in this oil rich province more ground is cleared for seismic lines than by forestry.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Alternatives Journal

Having an awareness of the worst possible climate change scenarios can be motivating rather than paralyzing, argues David Wallace-Wells. The climate crisis has the potential to bring people together in the massive efforts required to mitigate the disaster. Story here.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Could our changing lifestyles and a changing climate spell a return of deadly diseases like malaria to Canada? A recent scientific study warns - it's possible!

by Larry Powell
A malaria mosquito, Anopheles albimanus.
Photo by CDC.
Mosquito-born diseases (MBDs) like dengue fever and malaria aren't currently established in Canada, partly due to our harsh climate. But global warming combined with increasing international travel, could change all that. 

New research by a Canadian team from the National Microbiology Lab, the Public Health Agency  of Canada (PHA) and two universities finds, given "an evolving situation" due to climate change, mosquitoes native to Canada "may become infected with new pathogens and move into new regions within Canada." But exotic species may move in, too, bringing diseases like malaria and dengue fever along with them, from afar, as well. 

And, "With high levels of international travel, including to locations where the diseases are present," states the report, "there will be more travel-acquired cases of MBDs."

As a result, the team stresses a need for active surveillance, a high level of awareness and mosquito-bite prevention to guard against a worst-case scenario.
Victoria Ng, PhD
Senior Scientific Evaluator, 
Infectious Disease Prevention & Control Branch
Public Health Agency of Canada / 
Government of Canada

A spokesperson for the study, Dr. Victoria Ng of the PHA (r), tells PinP in an e-mail, "I think one of the biggest impacts of climate change for exotic MBDs in Canada will be the increase in travel-acquired cases as well as the potential for limited autochthonous (local) transmission of diseases where there is climatic suitability for mosquito vectors and reservoirs." 

But these latest findings are not universally-accepted.  An expert who has contributed to other studies of malaria in Canada, Lea Berrang Ford (formerly with McGill University - now with the University of Leeds), is not too concerned. In an e-mail to PinP, Prof. Berrang Ford concedes, climate change could create more favourable conditions for the disease. But he beleieves there are factors other than temperature, such as a strong health care system that'll make a resurgence unlikely.

Dr. Ng agrees, other factors may make exotic diseases born by mosquitoes unlikely in Canada. But, she adds, "There's always the chance that, given a combination of suitable conditions occurring concurrently over time and space, that establishment could occur." She cites the introduction of West Nile virus in Canada some 20 years ago as a case in point. 

While Canada is considered, for all intents and purposes, malaria-free, readers might be surprised to learn, this has not always been the case. It ravaged the early European settlements of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Kingston. While rarely fatal, it also affected those working on the Rideau Canal in the 1830s to such a degree, construction was seriously impacted. Known then as "fever and ague," it was so widespread from 1780 to 1840,  few were spared.

Malaria - a grim reaper

Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases in human history. But, in the past couple of decades, gains in the fight against it have been so significant that. Collectively, they've been called "one of the biggest public health successes of the 21st century."   

However, the most recent figures from an international partnership, "The Global Fund (TGF)," suggest, there's still a long way to go. In 2017, malaria still sickened more than 200 million and claimed the lives of almost half-a-million more, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. 

And TGF, which allocates public and private funds to combat the disease, believes it's still not certain what the future holds. In some of the almost 100 countries currently reporting the disease, "progress is being made towards its elimination." Others with a higher burden, are still "suffering setbacks in their response." And even more money, beyond the substantial amounts already spent, will be needed, just to make sure the gains stay ahead of the setbacks.

Secrets of malaria exposed. New research peels back the layers which mask our understanding of one of the deadliest diseases known to man. 

Findings just published by a research team from the US and UK reveal, parasites that carry malaria, can mature inside their mosquito hosts way faster, at lower temperatures, than earlier thought. 

Lab tests showed (at between 17 and 20 degrees C), it can take as little as 26 days from the time mosquitoes have had an infectious blood meal, to the time the parasites grow and becomes capable of transmitting the disease. For decades, it’s been assumed it would take about twice that long…some 56 days.
A malaria mosquito, the Anopheles stephensi. Source: CDC.

For more than 50 years, medical experts have been relying on a guide known as the Detinova model to try to map the future course of the disease.  But that model did not fully take into account just what implications those cooler temperatures could have. Neither did it fully explore the impacts of routine fluctuations in daytime temperatures, which can also play a role.

"Ring" stage (in blue & pink) of the malaria parasite, 
Plasmodium falciparum in human red blood cells. 
Microscopic image by Eric Hempelmann.
Unlike previous studies, described in this new paper as “poorly-controlled,” two major malaria mosquito species were tested this time (including Anopheles_stephensi, above). 
“These novel results challenge one of the longest-standing models in malaria biology," states the study, "and have potentially important implications for understanding the impacts of future climate change."
Study co-author Jessica Waite, Ph.D. 
Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics
The Pennsylvania State University.
The study's co-author, Dr. Jessica Waite, tells PinP, "What we hope is that our work will help make better predictions about where, when and possibly how much malaria to expect. We believe our work provides a much-improved estimate for models of malaria." She also believes it'll help governments better direct their financial resources to aid areas that  need it most.

Her team consisted of experts from the Universities of Pennsylvania State in the US and Exeter in England. It acknowledges, there's still a need for further lab and field tests.

The findings have just been published in the journal, Biology Letters by The Royal Society.


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Human contribution to record-breaking June 2019 heatwave in France

World Weather Attribution
The darkest red areas are where temperatures have surpassed 40°C.
Several European cities have experienced hottest conditions ever recorded.

Map by NASA. 
Every heatwave occurring in Europe today is made likely and more intense by human-induced climate change. Story here.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Climate change puts health at risk and economists have the right prescription

PHYS ORG by Christopher Ragan And Courtney Howard, 
Wildfire smoke from Alberta descends on central
Manitoba, two provinces away. 2017. A PinP photo. 

Doctors and economists may seem like strange partners.  We spend our days working on very different problems in very different settings. But climate change has injected a common and urgent vocabulary into our work. We find ourselves agreeing both about the nature of the problem and the best solution. It is essential that we put a price on carbon pollution.  Story here.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

'Existential' Risk of Climate Crisis Could Lead to Civilizational Collapse by 2050, Warns Report

Common Dreams
Drivers near Ponoka, Alberta face smoke from wildfires burning further north.
2019 photo by TaqaSanPedroAko.
"The world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change." More here.

Loss of Canadian Arctic sea ice stokes summer heat waves in southern U.S.

Drift ice in the Arctic ocean. Wickimedia commons.
Over the last 40 years, Arctic sea ice thickness, extent and volume have declined dramatically. Now, a new study finds a link between declining sea ice coverage in parts of the Canadian Arctic and an increasing incidence of summer heat waves across the southern United States. Story here.

Measuring ecosystem disruption caused by marine heatwaves

 Nature Above, healthy bull kelp. Below, bull kelp degraded by a marine heatwave. DeWikiMan Marine heatwaves can displace therma...