Great Barrier Reef at ‘terminal stage’: scientists despair at latest coral bleaching data

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-reef-terminal-stage-australia-scientists-despair-latest-coral-bleaching-data?
Last year was bad enough, this is a disaster,’ says one expert as Australia Research Council finds fresh damage across 8,000km

Back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, new aerial surveys have found.

The findings have caused alarm among scientists, who say the proximity of the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events is unprecedented for the reef, and will give damaged coral little chance to recover.

Scientists with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for CoralReef Studies last week completed aerial surveys of the world’s largest living structure, scoring bleaching at 800 individual coral reefs across 8,000km.

The results show the two consecutive mass bleaching events have affected a 1,500km stretch, leaving only the reef’s southern third unscathed.

Where last year’s bleaching was concentrated in the reef’s northern third, the 2017 event spread further south, and was most intense in the middle section of the Great Barrier Reef. This year’s mass bleaching, second in severity only to 2016, has occurred even in the absence of an El Niño event.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/aus/2017/apr/gbr-bleaching/bleach-16-17/

Mass bleaching – a phenomenon caused by global warming-induced rises to sea surface temperatures – has occurred on the reef four times in recorded history.

Prof Terry Hughes, who led the surveys, said the length of time coral needed to recover – about 10 years for fast-growing types – raised serious concerns about the increasing frequency of mass bleaching events.

“The significance of bleaching this year is that it’s back to back, so there’s been zero time for recovery,” Hughes told the Guardian. “It’s too early yet to tell what the full death toll will be from this year’s bleaching, but clearly it will extend 500km south of last year’s bleaching.”

A reef from the air
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Aerial surveys of the world’s largest living structure, scoring bleaching at 800 individual coral reefs across 8,000km. Photograph: Ed Roberts/ARC

Last year, in the worst-affected areas to the reef’s north, roughly two-thirds of shallow-water corals were lost.

Hughes has warned Australia now faces a closing window to save the reef by taking decisive action on climate change.

The 2017 bleaching is likely to be compounded by other stresses on the reef, including the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish and poor water quality. The category-four tropical cyclone Debbie came too late and too far south for its cooling effect to alleviate bleaching.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/aus/2017/apr/gbr-bleaching/gbr-coverage

But Hughes said its slow movement across the reef was likely to have caused destruction to coral along a path up to 100km wide. “It added to the woes of the bleaching. It came too late to stop the bleaching, and it came to the wrong place,” he said.

The University of Technology Sydney’s lead reef researcher, marine biologist David Suggett, said that to properly recover, affected reefs needed to be connected to those left untouched by bleaching.

He said Hughes’ survey results showed such connectivity was in jeopardy. “It’s that connection ultimately that will drive the rate and extent of recovery,” Suggett said. “So if bleaching events are moving around the [Great Barrier Reef] system on an annual basis, it does really undermine any potential resilience through connectivity between neighbouring reefs.”

Some reef scientists are now becoming despondent. Water quality expert, Jon Brodie, told the Guardian the reef was now in a “terminal stage”. Brodie has devoted much of his life to improving water quality on the reef, one of a suite of measures used to stop bleaching.

The reef from the air
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ARC conducted an aerial and underwater survey of the reef which concluded that two-thirds of it has been hit by mass coral bleaching for second time in 12 months. Photograph: Ed Roberts/ARC

He said measures to improve water quality, which were a central tenet of the Australian government’s rescue effort, were failing.

“We’ve given up. It’s been my life managing water quality, we’ve failed,” Brodie said. “Even though we’ve spent a lot of money, we’ve had no success.”

Brodie used strong language to describe the threats to the reef in 2017. He said the compounding effect of back-to-back bleaching, Cyclone Debbie, and run-off from nearby catchments should not be understated.

“Last year was bad enough, this year is a disaster year,” Brodie said. “The federal government is doing nothing really, and the current programs, the water quality management is having very limited success. It’s unsuccessful.”

Bleached coral at Mission Beach Reefs
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Bleached coral at Mission Beach Reefs. Photograph: Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Others remain optimistic, out of necessity. Jon Day was a director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for 16 years until retiring in 2014.

Day, whose expertise lies in protected area planning and management, said the federal government’s approach to protecting the reef was sorely lacking. He said it was taking too relaxed an approach to fishing, run-off and pollution from farming, and the dumping of maintenance dredge spoil.

The government was far short of the $8.2bn investment needed to meet water quality targets, he said, and Australia was on track to fail its short-term 2018 water quality targets, let alone achieve more ambitious long-term goals.

“You’ve got to be optimistic, I think we have to be,” Day said. “But every moment we waste, and every dollar we waste, isn’t helping the issue. We’ve been denying it for so long, and now we’re starting to accept it. But we’re spending insufficient amounts addressing the problem.”

A diver over bleached coral at Orpheus Island
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A diver over bleached coral at Orpheus Island. Photograph: Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

The Queensland tourism industry raised questions about the reliability of the survey, saying scientists had previously made exaggerated claims about mortality rates and bleaching.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/apr/2017-04-09T01:14:30/embed.html

“There is no doubt that we have had a significant bleaching event off Cairns this time around,” said Col McKenzie, of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators.

“The far north probably did a little bit better, Port Douglas to Townsille has seen some significant bleaching,” he said. “Fortunately we haven’t seen much mortality at this time, and fortunately the temperatures have fallen.”

McKenzie said more money needed to be invested in water quality measures, and criticised what he saw as a piecemeal and uncoordinated approach to water quality projects up and down the coast.

A Brain-Invading Parasite Is Believed to Be Spreading Because of Humans

http://gizmodo.com/a-brain-invading-parasite-is-believed-to-be-spreading-b-1794144135

Snails are a known carrier of rat lungworm disease Photo: Getty

Health officials in Hawaii have been warning residents not to touch snails or slugs with their bare hands because of an increase in cases of people coming into contact with a rare parasitic infection known as a rat lungworm. Experts are blaming its sudden spread across the United States on climate change and globalization.

In the last two decades, there have only been two documented cases of rat lungworm infections in Hawaii. But in the past three months, six more cases have occurred in rapid succession. Other states where it has recently popped up include California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. According to the Atlantic, the first known case of the disease occurred in Taiwan in 1944 but in the past few years, it’s believed to have spread to the U.S. by way of rats in cargo ships.

Pretty much everything about this disease is nasty. Rat lungworm is a parasitic nematode (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that begins its life as an infection in rat’s lungs, blood, and brains. From there, the rats defecate worm larvae that are spread to other creatures like snails, slugs, and freshwater shrimp. Humans might eat one of these infected hosts or they might eat produce that has had the worm transferred to it by a host. Next thing you know, your brain is being invaded and it doesn’t sound good at all. Once rat lungworm disease moves into the brain it can cause meningitis and its symptoms include tremors, pain, and inflammation. It is often fatal.

The Maui News reported on the recent cases this week and spoke with local residents about the spread of the invasive semi-slug on the island, and the infectious disease that it carries. Locals say that they’ve become increasingly paranoid about eating produce and they line their yards with slug bait. And for an area that thrives on tourism, paranoia about eating the local food can be an economic nightmare.

A local preschool teacher described her experience with parasitic meningitis that was a result of rat lungworm to the Honolulu Civil Beat:

The parasites are in the lining of my brain, moving around. Because I work with children I try to tell stories through word pictures. My visual graphic for what’s happening is that every once in a while somebody opens the top of my head, sets a hot iron inside my brain, then pushes the steam button.

I have a half dozen medicine bottles, several for pain because any movement of my head spikes my pain level to 12. I don’t see any improvement, just that every day is a different day, different pain.

The severity of the disease can vary wildly, there’s no known treatment, and it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose.

Cases of rat lungworm infections have been documented in over 30 countries and health officials are worried about its appearance in areas where previously the habitat was believed to be unsuitable. One recent surprise location was in Oklahoma. Scientists fear that this is just another consequence of climate change. A 2004 World Health Organization report warned that “most new infections seem to be caused by pathogens already present in the environment, which have been brought out of obscurity, or given selective advantage, by changing ecological or social conditions.”

Infectious disease researchers say that some low-income areas of the globe are perfectly situated as transmission zones for tropical diseases that are on the rise. The fear is that these countries are the least prepared to deal with an outbreak. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worried about wealthy countries like the United States. We have our own problems because our leaders constantly refuse to acknowledge the threats that come along with climate change. The current head of the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t believe in climate change and has vowed to destroy environmental regulations. The current budget proposal is hoping to cut the EPA’s funding by 31 percent by focusing on killing climate change programs. And just yesterday, it came to light that the agency was eliminating its climate adaptation program which helps states and localities adjust to the changes that are already occurring their areas. Unfortunately, these fools don’t appear to have a brain parasite, they simply don’t give a shit.

[The Atlantic, The Maui News, Honolulu Civil Beat, Ars Technica]

Trump’s big new executive order to tear up Obama’s climate policies, explained

Vicious cycle ties warmer cow food to higher methane emissions

March 30, 2017

As major exponents of greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, what cows consume is increasingly gaining attention from scientists trying to apply the brakes to global methane emissions. The latest promising discovery in this area comes from an international team of researchers, who have found that livestock plant food grown in warmer climates leads to higher methane releases, and could potentially be inhibiting milk and meat production at the same time.

Methane emitted by cows, or from any source for that matter, is a problem because it is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, due to its superior heat-trapping abilities. Meanwhile, global meat production is on the rise, from 71 million tons in 1961 to 318 million tons in 2014.

So scientists have been looking at the effects of livestock diets, and how they might be tweaked to reduce the amount of methane produced by the world’s growing bovine population. Last year, Australian scientists identified a strain of seaweed that can reduce methane emissions by 99 percent, while earlier this year another research team discovered that feeding cows tropical leaves in addition to regular food could cause also cause sharp decline.

The latest research doesn’t unearth new dietary supplements, rather it reveals an already existing culprit. Scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Scotland’s Rural College, and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt studied published data on forage quality, and found that nutritional value of grass was reduced at higher temperatures.

This is turn makes it harder for grazing livestock to digest the plants, and the scientists say there are a few reasons that might be. The extra heat causes plants to adapt and they may flower earlier, produce thicker leaves or possibly allow tougher invasive plants to spread into new areas and replace more nutritious species. With the plants tougher to digest, they spend longer inside the animal and produce more gas, and the scientists say this is setting in motion a vicious cycle.

“The vicious cycle we are seeing now is that ruminant livestock such as cattle produce methane which warms our planet,” says Dr. Mark Lee, a research fellow at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “This warmer environment alters plants so they are tougher to digest, and so each mouthful spends more time in the animals’ stomach, producing more methane, further warming the planet, and the cycle continues. We need to make changes to livestock diets to make them more environmentally sustainable.”

With an eye to the future, the scientists used published empirical models to estimate how changes to the climate will impact global methane production. They found that methane production increased by 0.9 percent with a 1 °C temperature rise (1.8 °F), and by 4.5 percent with a 5 °C rise (9 °F). They expect this to be a worldwide trend, but did identify hotspots in North America, Central/Eastern Europe and Asia, places where livestock farming is increasing and climate change is expected to hit hardest.

“Now is the time to act, because the demand for meat-rich diets is increasing around the world,” says Lee. “Our research has shown that cultivating more nutritious plants may help us to combat the challenges of warmer temperatures.”

The research paper was published in the journal Biogeosciences.

Trump wants to make avian flu great again

 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/3/30/1648493/-Trump-wants-to-make-avian-flu-great-again

It’s at least a little bit weird how focused Team Trump is on defunding, specifically, the nooks and crannies of the federal government meant to stave off disasters.

First, President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pushed a health care plan that would have slashed funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency that tracks farm flu outbreaks and works with the US Department of Agriculture and local authorities to “minimize any human health risk” they cause.That effort collapsed, but now Trump is taking a more direct whack at flu-tracking funding.

The new effort? A $1 billion cut to the Department of Agriculture, plus revoking most of the remaining budget from the 2015 funding to combat that year’s disastrous bird flu epidemic. They plan to use that $50 million, like all their other petty cuts to decent programs, to supersize the military and, we’ll assume, give some specific billionaire yet another tax cut.

Back here in 2017, however, a new avian flu strain is popping back up in multiplestates. It’s too soon to say if it will become a full-on epidemic, but it is a handy reminder that we will undoubtably be spending more money on avian flu, not less.

And the government spends money on these things because not only do they want to avoid a repeat of 2015, when 48 million birds had to be culled from American producers, but because avian flu needs only slight mutations to spread to humans, and we want to avoid a human pandemic.

What’s the Trump-Ryan solution?

Claw back the money meant for those outbreaks, and cut the Department of Agriculture budget by $1 billion dollars, and defund the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, shrinking the CDC’s budget by 12 percent, and cut a whopping $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health, just to make good and sure new diseases get a sporting head start on us.

Maybe Trump isn’t a Russian puppet after all. Maybe he’s a big ol’ virus in a suit, and he’s got a plan to Make America Great Again that only involves the rest of us as host organisms

Al Gore Releases ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ Trailer Same Day Trump Rolls Back Climate Change Agenda

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/cortneyobrien/2017/03/30/al-gore-releases-an-inconvenient-sequel-year-after-first-film-said-earth-would-be-gone-in-10-years-n2306157

|Mar 30, 2017
Al Gore Releases 'An Inconvenient Sequel' Trailer Same Day Trump Rolls Back Climate Change Agenda

Former presidential candidate and environmentalist Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” predicted doom for our world back in 2006. If we humans didn’t stop polluting, global warming would threaten our environment. He teased a follow up to the film back in April and on Tuesday Gore released the trailer for “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

The sequel largely seems to star President Trump. In the trailer, Gore is seen praising global environmental regulations like those adopted at the Paris Climate Accords, but the scene turns dark when his words are contrasted with Trump’s campaign pledges to upend the Paris deal and abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Five’s” Greg Gutfeld offered an insightful film review on Wednesday, suggesting that “Truth to Power” was lacking on the truth part.

“You know who proved Al Gore wrong?” Gutfeld asked. “Al Gore.”

As Gutfeld explained, “An Inconvenient Truth” gave a doomsday timeline, predicting in 2006 that Earth would be destroyed in 10 years. Eleven years later, Gore released the sequel.

In the documentary, however, Gore insists that other predictions in the original were spot-on. For instance, critics accused him of exaggerating that the 9/11 Memorial site in New York City would one day be flooded. When Hurricane Sandy arrived, that prediction came true, he said, showing footage of the waters reaching the memorial.

The activist urged his fellow Americans to take care of their surroundings.

“Don’t let anybody tell you we’re going to get on rocket ships and live on Mars,” Gore says in the trailer. “This is our home.”

Interestingly, Gore’s documentary sequel was released just hours after President Trump signed an executive order to dismantle his successor’s climate change agenda.

 

A vicious cycle of climate change, cattle diet and rising methane has been revealed in a new scientific study: as temperatures rise, forage plants get tougher and harder to digest, and cause more methane to be produced in bovine stomachs. And with cattle numbers rising and methane 85 times more powerful a greenhouse gas over 20 years, that spells trouble.

This warmer environment alters plants so they are tougher to digest, and so each mouthful spends more time in the animals’ stomach, producing more methane, further warming the planet, and the cycle continues.

Plants growing in warmer conditions are tougher and have lower nutritional value to grazing livestock, inhibiting milk and meat yields and raising the amount of methane released by the animals.

That’s because more methane is produced when plants are tougher to digest – an effect of a warmer environment.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, around 25 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a century, and 85 times stronger over 20 years.

More than 95% of the methane produced by cows comes from their breath through eructation (belching) as they chew the cud.

The findings come in a published a paper today in the journal Biogeosciences by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt.

The key finding is a near doubling of ruminant emissions of methane: “Upscaling the GHG footprint of the current livestock inventory to the 2050 projected inventory increases annual GHG emissions from enteric sources from 2.8 to 4.7 GT CO2eq.”

Dr Mark Lee, a research fellow at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew who led the research says; “The vicious cycle we are seeing now is that ruminant livestock such as cattle produce methane which warms our planet.

“This warmer environment alters plants so they are tougher to digest, and so each mouthful spends more time in the animals’ stomach, producing more methane, further warming the planet, and the cycle continues. We need to make changes to livestock diets to make them more environmentally sustainable.”

Harsher climate makes tougher plants

There are several reasons why rising temperatures may make plants tougher for grazing livestock to digest. Plants have adaptations to prevent heat damage, they can flower earlier, have thicker leaves or in some cases, tougher plants can invade into new areas replacing more nutritious species – all of which makes grazing more difficult.

This is a pressing concern, because climate change is likely to make plants tougher for grazing cattle, increasing the amount of methane that the animals breathe out into the atmosphere.

The researchers mapped the regions where methane produced by cattle will increase to the greatest extent as the result of reductions in plant nutritional quality. Methane production is generally expected to increase all around the world, with hotspots identified in North America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia, where the effects of climate change may be the most severe.

Many of these regions are where livestock farming is growing most rapidly. For example, meat production has increased annually by around 3.4% across Asia, compared with a more modest 1% increase across Europe.

The calculations, write the scientists, “suggested a previously undescribed positive climate change feedback, where elevated temperatures reduce grass nutritive value and correspondingly may increase methane production by 0.9% with a 1C temperature rise and 4.5% with a 5C rise (model average), thus creating an additional climate forcing effect.

“Future methane production increases are expected to be largest in parts of North America, central and eastern Europe and Asia, with the geographical extent of hotspots increasing under a high emissions scenario.”

Act now to limit the damage!

Global meat production has increased rapidly in recent years to meet demand, from 71 million tonnes in 1961 to 318 million tonnes in 2014, a 78% increase in 53 years (FAOSTAT, 2016). Grazing lands have expanded to support this production, particularly across Asia and South America, and now cover 35 million km2; 30% of the Earth’s ice-free surface.

However, livestock are valuable. They are worth in excess of $1.4 trillion to the global economy and livestock farming sustains or employs 1.3 billion people around the world (Thornton, 2010). The upward trend in livestock production and associated GHG emissions are projected to continue in the future and global stocks of cattle, goats and sheep are expected to reach 6.3 billion by 2050 (Steinfeld et al. 2006).

If these rises are to continue then the researchers say it will be necessary to limit the growth of livestock farming in the most rapidly warming regions, and, to avoid significant losses in livestock production efficiency and increases in methane emissions. Other measures, including eating less meat and farming more sustainably, are also essential:

“A global switch in human diets and a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices, as well as a greater prevalence of organic and silvopastoral farming, may reduce our reliance on intensively farmed cattle and other ruminants.

“In countries with high or increasing meat consumption, these measures could reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture and contribute to GHG emissions cuts with an associated improvement in human health.”

And the authors emphasise that we need to start implementing policy measures as soon as possible. “Now is the time to act,” said Dr Lee, “because the demand for meat-rich diets is increasing around the world. Our research has shown that cultivating more nutritious plants may help us to combat the challenges of warmer temperatures.

We are undertaking work at Kew to identify the native forage plants that are associated with high meat and milk production and less methane, attempting to increase their presence on the grazing landscape. We are also developing our models to identify regions where livestock are going to be exposed to reductions in forage quality with greater precision.

It is going to be important to put plans in place to help those countries exposed to the most severe challenges from climate change to adapt to a changing world.”

 

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

What Trump’s executive order on climate change means for the world

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/28/world/trump-climate-order-world-impact/

A woman wearing a mask on a heavily polluted day in Beijing.

(CNN)Less than a week after the failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, President Trump will sign an executive order that could spell the end of Obama-era environmental policy.

The order will curb the enforcement of a number of climate regulations, in an effort, the Trump administration says, to prioritize American jobs above addressing climate change.

What effects will it have?

According to Mark Lynas, a British author, journalist and environmental activist who focuses on climate change, the order “is intended to make coal competitive again in the US economy, by refossilizing the US power sector and demonstrably increasing carbon emissions.”
“This is politically symbolic, as it will show that the Obama legacy on climate can be deleted,” he added.
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in 2013.

The order will, among other things, rescind the moratorium on coal mining on US federal lands and initiate a review of the Clean Power Plant initiative: “Without it, the country will be lacking a very important signal in decarbonizing a sector which emits a lot,” said Ajay Gambhir, a Policy Research Fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London.
It will also weaken a number of environmental protection policies that are not strictly related to climate change, but to such things as protecting the waterways: “By removing economy-harming regulations, the door will be left open for health-harming regulations,” said Gambhir.

What does it mean for the world?

While the order focuses on domestic policies, it will likely signal a shift in the US’s global approach to climate change.
“The rest of the world will be asked to cover for the US falling behind,” said Lynas.
“It’s extremely concerning and I can only hope that the people’s response to Trump’s order will be sufficient to reverse it.”
But some experts retain an optimistic view, arguing that the momentum towards renewable energy is unstoppable: “The damage this administration can do might be less then most people think: of course it will slow things down, and that’s the last thing we need, but business leaders are smart enough to understand that they must invest in renewable energy,” said Karsten Haustein, a climate systems and policy researcher at the University of Oxford.
The order could have implications around the world.

“It might send a bad signal to some countries which may loosen their efforts seeing that the US isn’t decarbonizing, but I expect most to carry on with the plans they have been developing for some time — as innovation and cost reduction continue they will find it easier and less costly to reduce their emissions,” said Gambhir.
The effects may therefore be more ideological than practical: “The most harmful way this administration can act is by undermining people’s trust in science and scientific evidence, by putting climate change deniers in positions of power. As a scientist I’m worried about what that means for my colleagues in the US,” said Haustein.

Who will lead the charge now?

If the US will be perceived to step down from its role in combating climate change, will this create a leadership vacuum?
According to Lynas, the big question is what attitude China will adopt.
Obama's Energy Secretary on Trump's climate plans

Obama’s Energy Secretary on Trump’s climate plans 01:22
“As the world’s largest emitter, if China continues to fulfill the deal that was made with Obama all is not lost, but if it seizes the opportunity to abandon the Paris agreement, then we really face an extreme and terrifying future.”
Europe is unlikely to step into the driving seat, says Haustein: “Unfortunately Europe is muddled up with other political issue like Brexit, and the UK is unlikely to do anything about this in the next two years.This move will destabilize the political world to some degree. Perhaps Canada?”
But we might not have lost a leader after all, according to Gambhir: “In the run up to the Copenhagen talks in 2009 there was a degree of leadership from the EU, with China and the US falling behind. These two gave strong signals in the run up to Paris in 2015, but there was no sign of the US being an unequivocally global leader,” he said.
“There’s no need for one specific region to lead, but a requirement that many regions act multilaterally.”

Al Gore Blames Unrest on Global Warming

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783784/Al-Gore-GLOBAL-WARMING-climate-change-Brexit-EU-referendum

Is CO2 behind Brexit?! Al Gore says GLOBAL WARMING led to shock Leave victory

IN ONE of his most astonishing claims ever, the former US Vice President Al Gore insisted that the Brexit victory was impacted by climate change and rising temperatures.

PUBLISHED: 12:01, Sat, Mar 25, 2017

Al Gore, who nearly became US President in 2000, has said that the causes of Brexit, and even the Syrian Civil War, could be traced to climate change.

The environmental activist revealed the bizarre claim during a speech to fans in London ahead of the release of his new environmental film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Mr Gore, who was Vice President to Bill Clinton between 1992 and 2000, said the rising temperatures fueled the discontent the led to the Brexit referendum outcome.

He explained that extreme weather conditions were creating political instability “the world will find extremely difficult to deal with”.

GoreGETTY

Gore said that the growing temperatures led to the Brexit referendum outcome

Mr Gore told the audience at the Advertising Week Europe event in London that the “principal” cause of the Syrian Civil War had been the worst drought in 900 years, which forced 1.5 million people to move from the countryside to the cities.

He said that this created a “political powder keg situation” that Syrian government officials privately feared would explode into a war.

This then triggered a mass refugee wave into Europe, causing even greater political instability within the EU and helping convince UK voters to leave the Union last year.

The former presidential candidate said: “This collision between the power of industrial civilisation and the surprising fragility of the Earth’s ecosystem now poses a great danger that could even threaten the future of human civilisation itself.

“One of the lines of investigation scientists have been pursuing has led them to the conclusion that significant areas of the Middle East and North Africa are in danger of becoming uninhabitable.

“And, just a taste of this, to link it to some of the events that the UK and European Union are going through – think for a moment about what happened in Syria.”

Week Europe event in LondonGETTY

The former presidential candidate told an audience at the Advertising Week Europe event in London

Al Gore feels good after climate change conversation with Trump

This contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the UK to say ‘whoa, we’re not sure we want to be part of that anymore’

Al Gore

Mr Gore added: “Before the gates of hell opened in Syria, what happened was a climate-related extreme drought.

“From 2006 to 2010, 60 per cent of the farms in Syria were destroyed and 80 per cent of the livestock were killed.

“The drought in the eastern Mediterranean is the worst ever on record – the records only go back 900 years, but it’s historic.

“And 1.5 million climate refugees were driven into the cities in Syria, where they collided with refugees from the Iraq War.

“Wikileaks revealed the internal conversations in the Syrian government where they were saying to one another ‘we can’t handle this, there’s going to be a social explosion’.

“There are other causes of the Syrian civil war, but this was the principal one.

“This produced the incredible flow of refugees into Europe, which is creating political instability and which contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the UK to say ‘whoa, we’re not sure we want to be part of that anymore’”.

extreme weatherIG

He said that extreme weather conditions were creating political instability

CO2 emissions GETTY

Did CO2 emissions make the difference for Brexit voters?

Mr Gore’s alarming explanation comes just after current US Defence Secretary, General James Mattis, confirmed that the American military was taking climate change seriously.

He said: “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.

“Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defence must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.

“The effects of a changing climate – such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others – impact our security situation.”

Full Story: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783784/Al-Gore-GLOBAL-WARMING-climate-change-Brexit-EU-referendum

Dahr Jamail | Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39957-release-of-arctic-methane-may-be-apocalyptic-study-warns

Thursday, March 23, 2017
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

On a lake, plumes of gas, most likely methane from the breakdown of carbon in sediments below the lake, keep the water from freezing in spots, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, October 21, 2011. As the Arctic warms, the threat of abrupt methane releases is rising, too.  (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times) On a lake, plumes of gas, most likely methane from the breakdown of carbon in sediments below the lake, keep the water from freezing in spots, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, October 21, 2011. As the Arctic warms, the threat of abrupt methane releases is rising, too. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times)

A scientific study published in the prestigious journal Palaeoworld in December issued a dire — and possibly prophetic — warning, though it garnered little attention in the media.

“Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic,” reads the study’s abstract. “But the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”

The study, titled “Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction,” highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on the planet, was methane hydrate.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

In the wake of that mass extinction event, less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas lived, and less than one-third of the large land animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died.

Methane hydrate, according to the US Office of Fossil Energy, “is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas.”

While there is not a scientific consensus around the cause of the Permian Mass Extinction, it is widely believed that massive volcanism along the Siberian Traps in Russia led to tremendous amounts of CO2 being added to the atmosphere. This then created enough warming to cause the sudden release of methane from the Arctic sea floor, which kicked off a runaway greenhouse effect that led to sea-level increase, de-oxygenation, major oceanic circulation shifts and increased acidification of the oceans, as well as worldwide aridity on land.

The scenario that humans have created by way of the industrial growth society is already mimicking these eventualities, which are certain to worsen.

“The end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change,” the abstract of the recent study concludes.

As the global CO2 concentration continues to climb each year, the threat of even more abrupt methane additions continues to escalate along with it.

The Methane Time Bomb

The methane hydrate situation has, for years now, been referred to as the Arctic Methane Time Bomb, and as been studied intensely.

A 2010 scientific analysis led by the UK’s Met Office, published in the journal Review of Geophysics, states clearly that the time scale for the release of methane in the Arctic would be “much shorter for hydrates below shallow waters, such as in the Arctic Ocean,” adding that “significant increases in methane emissions are likely, and catastrophic emissions cannot be ruled out.… The risk of rapid increase in [methane] emissions is real.”

A 2011 study of the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), conducted by more than 20 Arctic experts and published in the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences, concluded that the shelf was already a powerful supplier of methane to the atmosphere. The conclusion of this study stated that the methane concentration in the atmosphere was at levels capable of causing “a considerable and even catastrophic warming on the Earth.”

Scientists have been warning us for a number of years about the dire consequences of methane hydrates in the Arctic, and how the methane being released poses a potentially disastrous threat to the planet. There has even been a study showing that methane released in the Arctic could trigger “catastrophic climate change” that would cost the global economy $60 trillion.

Of course, that level of planetary heating would likely extinguish most life on the planet, so whatever the economic costs might be would be irrelevant.

“Highly Possible at Any Time”

The ESAS is the largest ice shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world’s total area of continental shelf.

In 2015, Truthout spoke with Natalia Shakhova, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, about the ESAS’s methane emissions.

“These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons,” she told Truthout. “The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual.”

Shakhova warned that a 50-gigaton — that is, 50-billion-ton — “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the ESAS is “highly possible at any time.”

This, Shakhova said, means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that “could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes,” and that there would be nothing “smooth, gradual or controlled” about it. She described it as a “kind of a release [that] is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline.”

In other words, we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

A study published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2013 confirmed what Shakhova had been warning us about for years: A 50-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is highly possible.

Such a “burp” would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (For perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

The UK’s Met Office considers the 50-gigaton release “plausible,” and in a paper on the subject added, “That may cause ∼12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden, with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.”

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