Saturday, 11 April 2020

Defending climate in the age of Covid 19.

by Larry Powell
An Australian sun, shrouded in bushfire smoke.
A public domain photo.
As Kermit the frog famously said, “It isn’t easy being green.” And, in a world which is, by necessity, now consumed in the battle against a pandemic, it’s even harder. It’s almost as if that other “existential threat,” manmade climate change, has been forgotten, even tho it never really received the attention it deserved in the first place! 

It’s both encouraging and bewildering to watch just how this latest, terrible and unprecedented chapter in our history, is playing out; Encouraging because so many of us are actually heeding the advice of our best minds in epidemiology by hand-washing, physical-distancing and self-isolating. This is surely saving countless lives from the deadly maw of the “Covid beast.”

By contrast, our climatologists - who’ve been warning us for a generation that our planet is on a dangerous trajectory toward “hothouse Earth” if we don’t eliminate or drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels - have been treated quite differently. While our top doctors now dealing with Covid are rightly hailed as heroes, our climate scientists are ignored, defamed or even threatened with death.  

Meanwhile, calamitous events related to a changing climate are not going away as the virus plays out. Ice caps and glacier are still melting. Sea levels are still rising. Global temperatures, along with greenhouse gas levels continue to spiral upward. 
Australian bushfires.
Photo credit - World Weather Attribution.
Yet news media are all but ignoring such important events if they are not Covid-related. Did you know, for example, that hundreds have already died and thousands more are in hospital in Australia after inhaling smoke from the bushfires there last winter? (More than 30 people, thousands of livestock and billions of wild animals died in the actual fires.) 

A crack team of climatologists has determined those fires “down under” (which ruined an area the size of more than 40 Riding Mountain National Parks), were made much more likely due to manmade climate change.
Unharvested crop in a Manitoba field. Unusually bad weather
made 2019 an extremely poor year for both cattle & grain producers.
A PinP photo.
 On the Canadian prairies, it's shaping up to be yet another bleak growing season for farmers. According to the farm paper, "The Co-Operator," five million tonnes of canola, wheat and other crops remain in the fields following terrible weather last year. And this year's spring seeding is being delayed, too thanks to "significant" rain and snow across the region this month.

As we speak, Alberta is scrambling to deal with a new wildfire season - a job now made infinitely more complicated by Covid-19. How will fire crews even get in to areas of the province almost certainly to be plagued by monster fires similar to last year, with the travel and other restrictions now in place? 

And as long as we keep electing politicians like Alberta’s premier, Jason Kenney, things will only get worse. Instead of pledging hard-earned tax dollars to help the legion of laid off oil workers - his own citizens - get retrained in sustainable, renewable energy projects, Kenney has pledged billions to the TransMountain pipeline, to carry greatly-devalued and highly-polluting Alberta "tar" to tidewater.

Meanwhile, Covid 19, like pandemics before it, will pass.

However, without immediate and urgent action to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels - and a new-found respect for our climatologists - disastrous climate breakdown will not! 

Ironically, the tough love being applied to help us fight the pandemic, are the same kind of measures that could help us blunt the climate onslaught. It seems likely that travel restrictions - the cancellation of millions of flights by high-flying, climate-destroying jet planes - and the closure of polluting industrial plants, are already resulting in historic drops in harmful toxins and greenhouse gas levels. 

People staying in their homes has offered a reprieve for embattled species whose traditional habitats we have occupied and destroyed. While all of this won’t result in an immediate stabilization of the crisis, it will surely be a step in the right direction. But this will only work if we somehow maintain those very tough measures, to some degree, over time.

Will it be easy? Of course not. And anyone who tells you that we can save the planet from environmental degradation while still maintaining the level of economic activity we've all become accustomed to, is lying.

So the key to a better world will depend on the wisdom, not just of our leaders, but all of us, too. Not to mention our willingness to make the profound sacrifices and societal changes needed to make it all happen. 

Will we recognize that there are lessons to be learned, even from a pandemic? Or will we simply pick up where we left off once it's over and come “roaring back” in a rush to reclaim all the bells and whistles we seem to think we actually need? 

Tragically, I expect the latter will be the more likely scenario.

Please prove me wrong!

Thursday, 9 April 2020

What does conservation have to do with Covid-19?

WORLD LAND TRUST

Bush meat for sale in Togo.
Photo by 
PGskot
As the news continues to be dominated by the Covid-19 crisis, CEO Jonathan Barnard reflects on the conversations about conservation that have arisen from the pandemic. Story here.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Bushfires damaged Australian rainforest that is home to Earth's only living specimens of ancient species

PHYS ORG
Rainforest foliage in Nightcap National Park, NSW Wales, an international heritage
site hit hard by the bushfires. Photo by Naught101
Recent wildfires in Australia torched more than 48,000 square miles of land (for context, more than 40 Riding Mountain National Parks). The fires impacted ecologically sensitive regions, including an area called the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Site. This region contains a vast concentration of living plants with fossil records from tens of millions of years ago, according to Peter Wilf. Story here.

RELATED:

The hand of man shows through once again in another climate catastrophe.

Catastrophic changes Planet Earth is undergoing today likely mirror many of those which happened hundreds of millions of years ago. The big difference? Volcanoes - not humans - were likely the main drivers of the changes back then.

NATURE
The amount of CO2 released into the end-Triassic atmosphere from volcanic eruptions was likely comparable to the projected total amount of anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 that will be emitted during the 21st century. The findings are published in Nature Communications. Such large volumes of volcanic CO2 likely contributed to end-Triassic global warming, sea level rise, and ocean acidification.


The end-Triassic extinction (approximately 201 million years ago) resulted in the demise of large proportions of all marine and terrestrial species. It is thought that this extinction was caused by dramatic climate change and rising sea levels which, are known to have occurred at that time. Volcanic CO2 released during the large volume Central Atlantic Magmatic Province eruptions has been considered as an important contributor to the process, but this is debated.
Manfredo Capriolo and colleagues found evidence of abundant CO2 in basaltic rocks from the end-Triassic Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, by analysing tiny gas exsolution bubbles preserved within the rocks. The authors used their analyses to estimate the total volume of volcanic CO2 released during these eruptions. They found that one eruption phase (100,000 km3 of lava over 500 years) is likely to have emitted a total volume of COequivalent to that projected from anthropogenic activities during the 21st century, in the 2⁰ C warming scenario.

The authors suggest that the end-Triassic climatic and environmental changes, driven by the large volume volcanic CO2 emissions, may have been similar to those predicted for the near future under anthropogenic warming.
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Urgent changes needed to reduce environmental costs of ‘fast fashion’


Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.
Stefan Müller (climate stuff)
from Germany
Fundamental changes to the fashion business model, including an urgent transition away from ‘fast fashion’, are needed to improve the long-term sustainability of the fashion supply chain, argue Kirsi Niinimäki and colleagues in a Review published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

The fashion industry is the second largest industrial polluter after aviation, and accounts for up to 10% of global pollution. However, the industry continues to grow, despite rising awareness of the environmental impacts, in part owing to the rise of fast fashion, which relies on cheap manufacturing, frequent consumption, and short-lived garment use.
The authors identify the environmental impacts of the fashion supply chain, from production to consumption, focusing on water use, chemical pollution, CO2 emissions and textile waste. For example, the industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste and consumes 1.5 trillion tonnes of water per year, with developing countries often bearing the burden for developed countries. These impacts highlight the need for substantial changes in the industry, including deceleration of manufacturing and introduction of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain, the authors say. 
“Slow fashion is the future”, Niinimäki and co-authors conclude, but “we need a new system-wide understanding of how to transition towards this model, requiring creativity and collaboration between designers and manufacturers, various stakeholders, and end consumers.” A joined-up approach is required with the textile industry investing in cleaner technologies, the fashion industry developing new sustainable business models, and policy-makers modifying legislation. Consumers also have a crucial role and must change their consumption habits and be ready to pay higher prices that account for the environmental impact of fashion.

COVID-19: only about 6% of actual infections have likely been detected worldwide

Actual number of infections may already have reached several tens of millions. Story here.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Bush-fire smoke linked to hundreds of deaths

nature
Bushfire smoke shrouds the Blue Mountains,
as seen from Sydney Harbour Bridge,
Dec.,2019. Photo by Sardaka.
The first study to estimate health effects from Australia’s extreme fires suggests that several thousand extra people were admitted to hospital. Story here.

Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

by Larry Powell No one would argue that Covid 19 demands our undivided attention. Surely,  defeating this "beast" has to be &...