Climate change will significantly increase impending bird extinctions

December 6, 2007

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Where do you go when you’ve reached the top of a mountain and you can’t go back down?

It’s a question increasingly relevant to plants and animals, as their habitats slowly shift to higher elevations, driven by rising temperatures worldwide. The answer, unfortunately, is you can’t go anywhere. Habitats shrink to the vanishing point, and species go extinct.

That scenario is likely to be played out repeatedly and at an accelerating rate as the world continues to warm, Stanford researchers say.

By 2100, climate change could cause up to 30 percent of land-bird species to go extinct worldwide, if the worst-case scenario comes to pass. Land birds constitute the vast majority of all bird species.

”Of the land-bird species predicted to go extinct, 79 percent of them are not currently considered threatened with extinction, but many will be if we cannot stop climate change,” said Cagan Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and the lead author of a paper detailing the research, which is scheduled to be published online this week in Conservation Biology.

The study is one of the first analyses of extinction rates to incorporate the most recent climate change scenarios set forth earlier this year in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the Nobel Peace Price with Al Gore.

The researchers modeled changes to the elevational limits of the ranges of more than 8,400 species of land birds using 60 scenarios. The scenarios consisted of various combinations of surface warming projections from the 2007 IPCC report, habitat loss estimates from the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (an evaluation of the planet’s ecosystems by 1,360 experts around the world), and several possibilities of shifts in elevational range limits.

The worst-case scenario of 6.4 degrees Celsius surface warming combined with extensive habitat loss produced the estimate of 30 percent of land bird species going extinct by 2100. Increasing habitat loss exacerbates the effects of climate change because organisms seeking more suitable conditions will be less likely to find intact habitats. Even with an intermediate 2.8 C warming, 400 to 550 land-bird extinctions are expected.

”Vegetational shift is the key issue here,” Sekercioglu said. ”Birds will follow the shift in habitat.”

All plants have certain temperature and precipitation requirements they need to flourish. As lowlands become too warm for some species, higher slopes that were formerly too cool become better suited to their needs, and the distributions of plants slowly move upward. That shifting of populations renders bird species vulnerable to a host of complications.

Topography itself is a major issue. Each bird species is only found between specific elevations, limits based mainly on the temperatures at which it can survive and the presence of the plants, insects and other animals on which it feeds. Temperature decreases as one goes up a mountain, so as the lowlands become warmer, plant and animal communities need to move higher in order to remain in their required microclimates. Most bird species live in the tropics, mostly in lowland environments. In many of these areas, there may be no significantly higher slopes to which they can retreat. But even the presence of hills or mountains does not guarantee the survival of a species.

As one moves upslope, the extent of the area encompassed by a given elevational range almost always decreases. It’s a matter of simple geometry. The circumference of a mountain is typically smaller near the summit than at its base, so a range of, say, a hundred vertical meters occupies a far smaller band of area near the top than it does down at the base.

And once the summit of a mountain becomes too hot for a species or its preferred vegetation type, the habitable area is reduced to nothing.

”It’s like an escalator to extinction. As a species is forced upwards and its elevational range narrows, the species moves closer to extinction,” Sekercioglu said.

In some instances, species can expand their ranges, which the authors also considered in their models. If warming is limited and a species adapts, only the upper limit of a species’ elevational range might rise. As warming continues, however, the lower bound is likely to rise, as well.

Additional threats include interactions between the rising temperatures and other environmental factors. For example, as Hawaiian mountains get warmer, mosquitoes carrying avian malaria, to which most native bird species have no immunity, are moving upslope, invading the last refuges of birds already on the brink of extinction. In Costa Rica, toucans normally confined to lower elevations are colonizing mountain forests, where they compete with resident species for food and nesting holes, and prey on the eggs and nestlings of other bird species.

In addition, plant species that currently share a habitat may not all react the same way to temperature and moisture changes. Some species may be forced upslope while others are able to linger behind, tearing apart plant and animal communities even if all the species survive. Differences in soil composition can further disrupt plant communities. If soils at higher elevations are inhospitable to some plant species, those species will be wedged between a fixed upper bound and a rising lower bound until they are squeezed out of existence.

Until now, highland species have been less threatened by habitat loss and hunting, simply because most people live in flat lowlands instead of the steeper highlands. Compared to lowland birds, however, highland species are not only more sensitive to temperature changes, but their populations also are more isolated from each other, as mountains effectively constitute habitat islands surrounded by a sea of hotter lowlands.

The study also has shown that sedentary birds, which comprise over 80 percent of all bird species, are much more likely to go extinct from climate change than are migratory birds. That suggests that many sedentary mountain species currently thought to be safe are actually jeopardized by global warming. All in all, climate change is likely to be especially hard on the hundreds of bird species endemic to tropical mountains.

But in part because of the remoteness of the mountains and in part due to a lack funding for ornithological studies in most tropical countries, there are few data on these birds’ responses to climate change. Crucial remote sensing data are also becoming less available, as government satellites like Landsat age and as image distribution moves increasingly to the relatively expensive private sector.

”To effectively monitor the rate of change as warming progresses, especially in the species-rich tropics, we need a lot more data on birds’ distributions and on the speed and extent of birds’ elevational shifts in response to climate change,” Sekercioglu said.

Perhaps the most worrisome finding is that each additional degree of warming will have increasingly devastating effects. The authors estimate that an increase of 1 C from present temperatures will trigger roughly 100 bird extinctions. But if the global average temperature were to rise 5 C, from that point on an additional degree of warming, to 6 C, would be expected to cause 300 to 500 more bird extinctions.

”This emphasizes the importance of any measure that reduces surface warming, even if we cannot stop it altogether,” Sekercioglu said. ”Even a reduction of 1 degree can make a huge difference.”

”Giving up the fight against global warming would be the true disaster,” he added.

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Communities Across the Globe Getting to Grips with Climate Change

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UN Environment Programme/Global Environment Facility Report Points to Real Possibilities for Climate Proofing Economies, Livelihoods and Infrastructure

UN Climate Convention – 2 to 14 December – Bali and Beyond

Bali/Nairobi, 4 December 2007 – The way farmers in the Sudan, flood-prone communities in Argentina and dengue-challenged islands in the Caribbean are beginning to adapt to climate change are distilled in a new report launched today.

The five-year Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change provides new and inspiring examples of how vulnerable communities and countries may ‘climate proof’ economies in the years and decades to come.

In doing so, the assessments lay a foundation upon which at-risk nations and the international community can build and fund a credible and timely response to the climate change that is already underway.

Choices – the Tortoise and the ‘Hare’

The report underlines that factoring climate into development strategies is do-able but that in some cases hard choices may have to be made.

In a modern re-run of Aesop’s famous fable, it highlights the case of tortoise and the rabbit rather than hare.

One study in South Africa’s world famous Cape Floral Kingdom – a unique and economically important ecosystem – indicates that climate change is likely to increase the risk of extinction of the highly endangered riverine rabbit.

However, adaptation measures might conserve the padloper tortoise highlighting how across sectors – from biodiversity to agriculture, water and infrastructure – investments in adaptation will need to be intelligently and cost-effectively targeted.

The more than $ 9 million assessment has been funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the START secretariat in Washington DC and TWAS, the Academy of Science for the Developing World in Trieste, Italy.

Twenty-four case studies were carried out under the AIACC project, including eleven in Africa. They encompass food security in the Sahel; smallholder farmers and artisanal fishing communities in South America; coastal townships of small islands in the Pacific; pastoralists in Mongolia; rice farmers in the lower Mekong basin.

More than 350 scientists, experts and ‘stakeholders’ from 150 institutions in 50 developing countries and 12 developed ones took part. Pilot adaptation programmes have been drawn up in some cases and some of these have already been tested with many encouraging results.

The findings, stories and recommendations from the AIACC case studies are presented in two newly published books, Climate Change and Vulnerability and Climate Change and Adaptation. Results of the project are also summarized in the final technical report and detailed in a number of supporting reports available at http://www.start.org.

Community Involvement and Early Warning

A key success of the assessment has been the increased awareness among the scientists, governments and local communities as to the importance of adaptation.

It also highlights in many cases the need to develop early warning systems especially, but not exclusively in Africa, where weather and climate monitoring networks remain sparse, under funded or poorly maintained.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “2007 has, as a result of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), been a year in which the science of climate change has reached a finality – it is happening, it is unequivocal”.

“2007 has also seen clear and cost effective strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions put on the table from improved energy efficiency in buildings to ones that address deforestation and agriculture,” he added.

“One of the big missing links has been adaptation, both in terms of adaptive strategies and in terms of resources for vulnerable communities. This assessment, involving experts across the developed and developing world, lays a solid and much needed foundation – a foundation upon which adaptation can become part of country development plans and built into international assistance including overseas development aid,” said Mr Steiner.

Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF, said: “The GEF has a long history working with the world’s most vulnerable countries

that want environmentally-friendly ways to adapt to changing climate without sacrificing key development goals”.

“As this wide sweeping assessment shows first hand, we are moving forward in a very focused way to weave adaptation strategies into daily practice. GEF money is working today to ensure that food security, access to drinking and irrigation water, sound public health and other basic needs are protected now and into the future,” she added.

Neil Leary of the International START Secretariat in Washington, who along with the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World in Trieste, have executed the project said: “Adaptation to climate hazards is not new. People have always been at risk from the climate and have continually sought ways of adapting. Still, variations and extremes of climate regularly exceed abilities to cope, too often with devastating effect, and give evidence of what has been called an adaptation deficit”.

“Now climate change threatens to widen the deficit, as shown by the AIACC studies. But the AIACC studies also find and document a variety of adaptive practices in use that reduce vulnerability. Building on and improving many of these practices can serve as a good starting point for adapting to the growing risks from climate change. Reducing emissions of the gases that cause climate change is necessary. But adaptation is necessary too,” he added.

The decision to carry out the assessments was at the request of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC said the peer reviewed reports had made a significant contribution to the IPCC’s landmark fourth assessment report published this year.

Highlights – Africa

South Africa

The Berg River dam was commissioned in 2004 to supply Cape Town, South Africa with water for uses such as drinking and irrigation. Climate change is likely to put increased stress on water availability over the coming decades in the Western Cape region.

The researchers looked at various costs and benefits linked with a variety of adaptation measures including increasing the capacity of the dam to creative water markets. They conclude that “substituting water markets for the existing allocation system substantially increased the simulated marginal cost of water to urban users and led to reduced consumption”.

The researchers add that such a system would have to take into account the impact on poor households in the Cape Town area.

Another study has looked at cost effective adaptation opportunities in parts of the Cape Floral Kingdom in the Western Cape – a biodiversity hotspot and major tourist attraction.

By 2050, climate change may result in loss of habitat for over 10 per cent of species and six per cent would need to move to new locations. Wildlife corridors will help.

One option might also be to expand the conservation network including reserves. Overall however a more cost effective option will be to pay farmers to manage land for conservation or to encourage more environment-friendly farming, the study concludes.

The Gambia

Some projections of climate change suggest steadily declining rainfall from 2010 to the end off the century in West Africa. Should a drier climate come to pass, millet, a key staple crop, would undergo a gradual decline in yields unless adaptation measures are taken.

The researchers looked at four responses including the introduction and extension of irrigation, the introduction of new crop varieties and the use of fertilizers.

The findings show that millet crop yields can be increased even in a climate constrained world with harvests improved by 13 per cent if new varieties are deployed; up to a third if fertilizers are made available and increased by 37 per cent if irrigation is introduced.

The analysis indicates that new varieties and expanded use of fertilizer can be cost effective measures for maintaining grain yields in a drier climate. However, the adoption of irrigation is found to be too costly to be economically viable for growing relatively low valued grains.

The actual income for poor farmers might fall without assistance as irrigation will require the purchase and maintenance of diesel-powered water pumping kit. Solar-powered pumping could reduce the costs by perhaps 60 per cent.

Sudan

Here three case studies were undertaken in the dry, drought-prone and often degraded lands of Bara Province of North Kordofan; Arbaat, Red Sea State and El Fashir, North Darfur to see if communities can be made more resilient to climatic shocks.

The findings indicate that relatively minor but well thought out interventions, if supported by community involvement and involving in many cases the empowerment of women and services such as veterinary to micro-credit, can boost livelihoods and reduce vulnerability.

In Bara, a pilot to develop sustainable livelihoods has been tested under an UN Development Programme-GEF initiative called the Community-Based Rangeland Rehabilitation for Carbon Sequestration’.

Small-scale irrigated vegetable gardens, pest management, a switch from goats to sheep, sand dune stabilization and other measures have been tested as adaptive measures.

The project in Bara has seen land rehabilitation rise by close to 60 per cent; the carrying capacity for livestock rise by over 45 per cent and forage production climb by 48 per cent.

In Arbaat, various practical and institutional measures have been tested including the deployment of rainwater harvesting and tree planting alongside micro credit schemes, adult literacy for women and training for improved agricultural practices.

The work in Arbaat has led to land productivity increasing by 12 per cent and crop productivity by almost a fifth with improvements in both water quality and quantity.

In El Fashir, the community has developed their own response to a changing climate now supplemented by outside assistance.

Utilizing a water collection system known as trus alongside earth dams.

Responding to the encroachment of sand over fertile soils by adopting magun cultivation involving the sinking of regular placed holes five to 15 cm deep in which to plant melon and other seedlings.

Diversifying crop production including pumpkin, okra, tomatoes, citrus fruits, cucumbers, tobacco, millet and sesame.

The establishment of trades union – the Traditional Farmers and Fruits and Vegetable Unions – to organize production, harvesting and distribution.

The project has registered a 50 per cent improvement in productivity of the land as a result of dramatically increased water harvesting.

Asia

Mongolia

A study of livestock – a key mainstay of the Mongolian economy – indicates that climatic impacts are already affecting productivity.

Over the period 1980 to 2001, the average weight of sheep, goats and cattle have fallen by an average of 4kg, 2kg and 10 kg. Wool and cashmere production are also down.

Models forecast increasing impacts as a result of climbing air temperatures including a spread of the desert area to the north by 2080. The weight of ewes in the summer is expected to decline by 50 per cent by the same date as a result of factors including heat stress.

The area of land in Mongolia suitable for grazing may decline from 60 per cent now to 20 per in 2080.

There is also concern that climate change may intensify weather extremes from drought to a phenomenon called dzuds – sudden spurts of heavy and long-lasting snowfall that bar animals from access to grazing land.

In 1999-2000 a dzud event saw herders losing more than a quarter of their livestock forcing Mongolia to request international assistance.

A suite of adaptation measures are pinpointed ranging from insurance systems and risk funds to buffer herders against climatic shocks up to improved forecasting of extreme weather events.

The revival of traditional pasture management, reforestation of flood plains and irrigation of pasture lands are also proposed alongside the provision of animal shelters.

Studies on climatic impacts and possible adaptation strategies have also been carried out for Indonesia.

Here the Citarum watershed emerges as highly vulnerable to climate change with more extreme floods and droughts likely over the coming decades.

Studies indicate that many of these impacts can be minimized if forest cover is kept above 25 per cent. The authorities and the private sector are now looking at paying communities upstream to maintain rather than fell the forest – a system known as payment for ecosystem services.

“The electricity company Indonesian Power is also willing to support community reforestation activities through a community development programme. With these efforts, it is expected that a minimum forest cover of 25 per cent could be achieved to ensure a continuous supply of water during dry season and extreme drought years,” says the AIACC report.

China

A further study in Asia has focused on the Heihe River Basin in Northwestern China – an area where water supplies are already heavily utilized if not overtly utilized and where conflict of water is already occurring.

The study forecasts that that average temperature rises of between 2.5 degrees C and 6.5 degrees C could occur by 2050.

A vulnerability assessment has also been undertaken indicating a range of serious emerging risks as a result off climate change including very severe water shortages; increased floods and droughts and impacts on food supplies.

“Ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the Heihe River Basin is also high. The degree of vulnerability is highest in the lower reach of the basin which is largely unmanaged grassland,” says the report. Indeed, it warns that increasing pressure from climate, population and over use of nature-based resources could trigger ecological collapse in some areas.

The researchers have drawn up a list of adaptation options that might assist the communities of the Heihe River Basin.

These include water-saving irrigation strategies; leak reduction from irrigation channels; conserving soil moisture by plastic films, straw and deep plowing methods up to the establishment of market mechanisms such as water permits and water allocation policies.

Latin America

Argentina and Uruguay

One AIACC study here has focused on the likely impact of climate change on floods and storm surges on coastal and estuary lands on La Plata River.

Strong winds, high tides and the natural features of the La Plata mean flooding occurs already with vulnerable areas identified as Samborombon Bay and up stream as far as Buenos Aires and its surrounds.

The researchers modeled likely future floods as a result of climate change including effects on storm surges and sea level rise.

It is likely that the level of the La Plata will rise higher than average sea level rise because of changes in wind patterns with the increase higher on the Uruguay coast and greater up the river’s estuary.

The report estimates that, as a result of climate change and a modest one per cent per year increase in population, the population at risk of floods could be 1.7 million by 2070 – more than three times the current numbers at risk of floods.

Around a quarter of a million people will be at risk of flooding each year or six times the current number at risk.

Property and infrastructure losses for the period 2050-2100 could range from five to 15 billion US dollars. Part of the loss calculation is based on the assumption of a single storm surge surging into the Metropolitan region of Buenos Aires.

The findings have been presented to the governments concerned alongside recommendations that include a review of coastal and city defenses and of early warning systems and flood response strategies.

The report also flags up concern that a traditional adaptation strategy is being ignored with increasing numbers of poor settlements and ‘gated communities of upper middle class people’ being sited on very low coastal lands.

The Caribbean

Dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome are forecast to increase in the tropics and sub tropics as a result of climate change.

In the Caribbean cases have climbed from a few hundred a year in the 1980s to as many as 8,000 a year since the early 1990s.

There are concerns that rising cases of dengue could impact on the economically-important tourism industry which accounts for nearly 70 per cent of GDP in Antigua and more than 10 per cent on most other islands.

The researchers estimate that a two degree C temperature rise in the Caribbean could, by the 2080s, triple the cases of dengue.

This AIACC study not only assessed the likelihood of dengue increasing but pin pointed measures that can reduce the risk.

It found, for example, that pupae of the dengue-carrying mosquito favour breeding in 40 gallon drums commonly used for outside water storage. The study also concluded that informal settlements and poor households, often headed by a single unemployed woman, were at greatest risk.

Education on the disease and its transmission, targeted at these households, is suggested as one important adaptation strategy, alongside measures to deal with the breeding grounds.

A pilot early warning system has also been developed and the findings and recommendations discussed with several countries including Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

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Gore shares Nobel win with U.N. climate panel

October 12, 2007

OSLO (Reuters) – Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. climate panel won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their part in galvanizing international action against global warming before it “moves beyond man’s control”.

Gore and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) won “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

They were chosen to share the $1.5 million prize from a field of 181 candidates.

“He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted,” the committee said of Gore.

“The IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming,” it said.

“Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control,” the citation said of rising temperatures that could bring more droughts, floods, rising seas.

It was the second prize to a leading Democrat during the presidency of Republican George W. Bush.

The 2002 prize went to former President Jimmy Carter, which the Nobel committee head at the time called a “kick in the legs” to the U.S. administration over preparations to invade Iraq.

But chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the prize to Gore was not meant as criticism of Bush. “A peace price is never criticism of anyone, a peace price is a positive message and support to all fighting for peace in the world.”

Since leaving office in 2001 Gore has lectured extensively on the threat of global warming and last year starred in his own Oscar-winning documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” to warn of the dangers of climate change and urge action against it.

It was the first Nobel Peace Prize to climate campaigners, though the 2004 prize went to Kenya’s Wangari Maathai for her work to get women across Africa to plant trees — an earlier expansion of the concept of peace to environmental work.

OVERWHELMED

Gore, age 59, said he was deeply honored to win and said he would donate his share of the prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization.

“This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s preeminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis — a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years.”

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said he was overwhelmed.

“I can’t believe it, overwhelmed, stunned,” Pachauri told reporters and co-workers after receiving the news on the phone at his office in New Delhi.

“I feel privileged sharing it with someone as distinguished as him,” he added, referring to Gore.

The IPCC groups 2,500 researchers from more than 130 nations and issued reports this year blaming human activities for climate changes ranging from more heat waves to floods. It was set up in 1988 by the United Nations to help guide governments.

In the run-up to the announcement, speculation that Gore could win the Nobel prize prompted questions about whether it could lead Gore to join the 2008 race for the White House.

Monica Friedlander, founder of the group http://www.draftgore.com seeking to get Gore to run, said it would now “be very difficult for him to say no”.

“He’s in a position to make a big difference,” she said.

The scope of the prize established by the 1895 will of Swedish philanthropist and inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel has expanded over the decades from its roots in peacemaking and disarmament to human rights from the 1960s, to work for the environment and the fight against poverty.

Congratulations poured in from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barros, U.N. Environment Program chief Achim Steiner, environmental groups and others.

The Nobel prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.54 million) and will be handed out in Oslo on December 10.

All I can say really is well done.  I have seen his film, ‘An Inconvienient Truth’ and although it is pretty much an idiots guide to the basics of climate change he is putting the information out there, and for a Nobel Prize to go to someone promoting the issues that arise from climate change shows that the world is taking note.

On BBC News 24 today there was a small discussion about the prize, with one of the neigh sayers disputing man made climate change.  I wish I could have been on that program simply to dispute his ‘changes in solar activity’ point, which was his only point.  I think it was pointed out in a post I made recently that even the scientists involved in the solar research admit that man made greenhouse gases are causing the disaster that is happening now.  Read back if you are interested.

Well done Mr Gore, if for doing nothing other than promoting the issues.


Two Long Sleepless Nights

September 28, 2007

So baby CJ is settling well here at home though she hasn’t settled during the night. Both me and Olly are quite tired but we may have found the solution.

I bottle fed her some expressed milk for the first time today and she has settled like magic. We have one content baby. It’s the first time she has been fed by bottle and the first time I have fed her. What a magical experience. We’ll see if a bottle settles her tonight at bed time.

On a more serious note:

Nutrient pollution from farms and livestock hurts amphibians

Remember the uproar in 1995 when school kids in Minnesota began finding frogs with extra limbs? The mutated amphibians looked like props in some sci-fi movie, and scientists quickly began searching for the culprit behind the deformities. Speculation centered on pesticides, increased UV radiation, and infection from parasites—which ultimately turned out to be the “villain.”

But the question remained: why were these parasites—called trematodes—increasing in number and preying on frogs? According to a study published earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the leading cause of the problem is the runoff of phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizer, originating from agriculture (likely the monoculture corn and soybean farms of the Midwest), cattle grazing, and domestic runoff.

What’s the connection? Through a process called eutrophication, the excess nutrients from animal manure and fertilizers cause more algae to grow in surface waters, like the pond where the kids first found the mutated frogs. The extra algae helps increase populations of snails (which feed on algae), as well as populations of the microscopic parasites (trematodes), which the snails eat and release into ponds. The trematodes form cysts on developing tadpoles, which can cause frogs to develop missing, or in some cases multiple, limbs. The frog’s predators then eat the frogs and the parasites, spreading the trematodes back into the ecosystem and relaunching the cycle.

But don’t think you’re safe from the effects of this pollution just because you’re not an amphibian. “Since most human diseases involve multiple hosts, understanding how increased nutrient pollution affects freshwater and marine food webs to influence disease is an emerging frontier in ecological research,” says Pieter Johnson, a water scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the lead author of the study.

Organic farming is the way forward as I have said many times, along with getting rid of farmed animals totally.

Arctic thaw may be at “tipping point”

Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:24am EDT

 

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) – A record melt of Arctic summer sea ice this month may be a sign that global warming is reaching a critical trigger point that could accelerate the northern thaw, some scientists say.

“The reason so much (of the Arctic ice) went suddenly is that it is hitting a tipping point that we have been warning about for the past few years,” James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Reuters.

The Arctic summer sea ice shrank by more than 20 percent below the previous 2005 record low in mid-September to 4.13 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles), according to a 30-year satellite record. It has now frozen out to 4.2 million sq km.

The idea of climate tipping points — like a see-saw that suddenly flips over when enough weight gets onto one side — is controversial because it is little understood and dismissed by some as scaremongering about runaway effects.

The polar thaw may herald a self-sustaining acceleration that could threaten indigenous peoples and creatures such as polar bears — as Arctic sea ice shrinks, the darker ocean soaks up ever more heat than reflective snow and ice.

In Germany, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says Arctic sea ice has “already tipped.”

Among potential “tipping elements” that are still stable, it lists on its Web site a melt of Siberian permafrost, a slowdown of the Gulf Stream and disruptions to the Indian monsoon.

“I’d say we are reaching a tipping point or are past it for the ice. This is a strong indication that there is an amplifying mechanism here,” said Paal Prestrud of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.
“But that’s more or less speculation. There isn’t scientific documentation other than the observations,” he said.

SHIPPING, POLAR BEARS

Many experts now reckon Arctic ice may disappear in summer before mid-century, decades before earlier forecasts. The thaw would open the region to oil and gas exploration or shipping.

Reuters will host a summit of leading newsmakers on Oct 1-3 to review the state of the environment. Speakers will include Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. Climate Panel and Michael Morris, chief executive of American Electric Power.

“All models seem to underestimate the speed at which the ice is melting,” said Anders Levermann, a Potsdam professor.

“I do not believe that this is alarmist… not all tipping points are irreversible,” he said. And societies can weigh up remote risks, such as planes crashing or nuclear meltdowns.

Hansen said he is seeking more study of causes of the melt, widely blamed on greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels but perhaps slightly stoked by soot from forest fires or industries in Russia and China. Ice darkened by soot melts faster.

“It is a very good lesson, because the ice sheets (on Greenland and Antarctica) have their own tipping points, somewhat harder to get started but far more dangerous for humanity around the globe,” he said.

A melt of floating Arctic sea ice does not affect sea levels but Greenland has enough ice to raise oceans by 7 meters and Antarctica by about 57 meters, according to U.N. estimates.
Pachauri’s authoritative climate panel, in a summary report due for release in November, does not use the phrase “tipping point” but does say: “Climate change could lead to abrupt or irreversible climate changes and impacts.”

It says, for instance, that it is “very unlikely” that the Gulf Stream bringing warm water north to Europe will switch off this century. That could bring a big regional cooling.

And it says that a melt of ice sheets could lead to big sea level rises over thousands of years. “Rapid sea level rise on century time scales cannot be excluded,” it adds.

From the bits and pieces I have read it is going to take a long while for us to notice a difference in Global Warming even if we were to stop polluting now, maybe up to 10 to 20 years. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop, because the longer we continue the worse it is going to get. Fact. Hopefully the summit happening shortly will come up with some strong concrete goals and objectives that will be kept rather than spotlighted for a short period of time and then brushed under the carpet. A certain North American country and a treaty beginning with K springs to mind.


How climate change will affect the world

September 20, 2007

The effects of climate change will be felt sooner than scientists realised and the world must learn to live with the effects, experts said yesterday.

Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought. He said vulnerable people such as the old and poor would be the worst affected, and that world leaders had not yet accepted their countries would have to adapt to the likely consequences.

Speaking at a meeting to launch the full report on the impacts of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Parry, co-chairman of the IPCC working group that wrote the report, said: “We are all used to talking about these impacts coming in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Now we know that it’s us.”

He added politicians had wasted a decade by focusing only on ways to cut emissions, and had only recently woken up to the need to adapt. “Mitigation has got all the attention, but we cannot mitigate out of this problem. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world.”

The international response to the problem has failed to grasp that serious consequences such as reduced crop yields and water shortages are now inevitable, he said. Countries such as Britain need to focus on helping nations in the developing world cope with the predicted impacts, by helping them to introduce irrigation and water management technology, drought resistant crops and new building techniques.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said: “Wheat production in India is already in decline, for no other reason than climate change. Everyone thought we didn’t have to worry about Indian agriculture for several decades. Now we know it’s being affected now.” There are signs a similar shift is under way in China, he added.

The summary chapter of yesterday’s report was published in April, after arguments between scientists and political officials over its contents. Prof Parry said: “Governments don’t like numbers, so some numbers were brushed out of it.”

The report warns that Africa and the Arctic will bear the brunt of climate impacts, along with small islands such as Fiji, and Asian river megadeltas including the Mekong.

It says extreme weather events are likely to become more intense and more frequent, and the effect on ecosystems could be severe, with up to 30% of plant and animal species at risk of extinction if the average rise in global temperatures exceeds 1.5C-2.5C. The consequences of rising temperatures are already being felt on every continent, it adds.

Prof Parry said it was “very unlikely” that average temperature rise could be limited to 2C, as sought by European governments. That would place 2 billion more people at risk of water shortages, and hundreds of millions more will face hunger, the report says.

So there we have it, spelled out.

A couple of my books arrived the other day, I’ve started on Environment Ethics and I have to admit it isn’t as easy a read as a few others I have started and finished recently, but thats the point of studying, to challenge and push yourself. Despite it not being totally straight forward I am enjoying it and am learning and exploring ideas that wouldnt have come to me as easily as some other concepts that I come across daily on my travels. We’ll see how it goes of course.

In other news The Special One has left Chelsea and it’s a really dark day. I can’t see any other manager in the future being able to bestow the level of success he has in his time with us. Anyway I’m working on a tribute video which I will published as soon as it’s ready. That’s really all I want to say on the subject.