Unchecked Global Warming Could Collapse Whole Ecosystems, Maybe Within 10 Years

A new study shows that as rising heat drives some key species extinct, it will affect other species, as well, in a domino effect.

BY BOB BERWYN, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS

APR 8, 2020

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07042020/global-warming-ecosystem-biodiversity-rising-heat-species

Global warming is about to tear big holes into Earth’s delicate web of life, pushing temperatures beyond the tolerance of thousands of animals at the same time. As some key species go extinct, entire ecosystems like coral reefs and forests will crumble, and some will collapse abruptly, starting as soon as this decade, a new study in the journal Nature warns.

Many scientists see recent climate-related mass die-offs, including the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and widespread seabird and marine mammal mortality in the Northeastern Pacific linked to a marine heat wave, as warning signs of impending biodiversity collapse, said lead author Alex Pigot, a biodiversity researcher at University College, London. The new study shows that nowhere on Earth will escape the impacts.

“In the U.S., the southern states from Texas to Florida, the Appalachians and the West Coast are projected to be at particularly high risk, with between 20 and 40 percent of species facing conditions beyond anything they have previously experienced,” Pigot said.

In those regions many species live in small geographic areas under a narrow range of climatic conditions. As global warming heats their habitat to the point that it is intolerable, many species have no place to go. Some will go extinct, with a domino effect that affects scores of other species. If it gets too hot for bumblebees, for example, it affects the reproduction of plants. If it gets too warm for insects and reptiles, it affects food supplies for birds and mammals.

“I hope our predictions are wrong. But increasingly, what we’re observing around us are the signs of this happening,” Pigot said, referring to research showing how global warming affects individual species. “I think these studies are showing that many species are already living very near their thermal limits. Our results suggest that these losses are likely to involve multiple species near simultaneously rather than happening gradually, one species at a time,” he said.

At the current rate of warming, abrupt exposure events in tropical oceans will begin before 2030 and spread to tropical forests and higher latitudes by 2050. The risks decrease and arrive more slowly if global warming is capped at less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as per the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the study concluded.

“If we can avert the worst of the warming we can buy extra time,” Pigot said. “Even if we can get a few extra decades, it gives us time to work on expanding protected areas, or deciding on whether to try things like assisted migration and assisted evolution.”

Even an immediate curb on greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t preclude warming of up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century because the current amount of warming could be magnified by big increases of heat-trapping methane in the Arctic or by changes to cloud processes, he said.

Jennifer Sunday, a research biologist at McGill University, said the new study for the first time shows when species will be faced with warmer temperatures than they’ve ever experienced for five years in a row. And it turns out that a surprising number of animals within various ecosystems will hit those climate thresholds at the same time, which can lead to widespread ecosystem disruptions or collapse, said Sunday, who was not involved in the research.

“We did not know about the time-course of events. We have lots of models that compare species ranges today to those at a future date, but we did not know when most of the changes were going to happen,” she said. The research also makes it clear that global warming’s impacts on ecosystems could arrive very suddenly.

“I think we often and maybe subconsciously expect climate change to be a gradual process, but this helps to illustrate that the impacts may be in fits and spurts,” she said. “As we know today, our human adaptive systems are not great at dealing with synchronous events,” she said, referring to the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The findings show that some climate impacts could be as sudden and widespread as the pandemic, challenging our adaptive management systems.

Species in Tropics, Polar Regions, Will be Hardest Hit

In the study, Pigot’s team assessed temperatures ranges for more than 30,000 land and sea species—birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and other marine animals and plants—to estimate when they will start experiencing unprecedented temperature conditions. Capping global warming at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit would decrease the risk of ecosystem failures significantly, but allowing global warming to continue unchecked would lead to widespread biodiversity decline quickly, they found.

Ecological communities in tropical regions near the equators will be hard hit because many species there are already living near the upper end of their heat tolerance spectrum. In high latitudes, toward the poles, communities of species will struggle because those areas are warming about twice as fast as the global average, giving them even less time to adapt, he said.

Pigot said the study shows how the risks from climate change will change from year to year. “The key finding of our study, that exposure to potentially dangerous climate conditions is likely to occur abruptly, hasn’t been previously detected.” he said.

Pigot said he sees parallels between the new study and current discussions about the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which seems to be raising general awareness of how nonlinear systems work, changing slowly at first, then dramatically spiking all at once. The study shows how risks to biodiversity are highly magnified in a non-linear way with warming of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit or more, he said.

“By the time things get really bad it’s going to be too late,” he said. “But our results show very clearly that it is not too late to act to delay the risk or even avert it entirely for many thousands of species. By holding warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), we can effectively flatten the curve of how climate risks to biodiversity accumulate over time.”

I STUDIED WHAT HAPPENS TO REEF FISH AFTER CORAL BLEACHING. WHAT I SAW STILL MAKES ME NAUSEOUS.

The Great Barrier Reef is suffering its third mass bleaching event in five years.

The Great Barrier Reef is suffering its third mass bleaching event in five years. It follows the record-breaking mass bleaching event in 2016 that killed a third of Great Barrier Reef corals, immediately followed by another in 2017.

While we don’t know if fish populations declined from the 2016 bleaching disaster, one 2018 study did show the types of fish species on some coral reefs changed. Our study dug deeper into fish DNA.

I was part of an international team of scientists that, for the first time, tracked wild populations of five species of coral reef fish before, during, and after the 2016 marine heatwave.

From a scientific perspective, the results are fascinating and world-first.

Marine heatwaves are now becoming more frequent and more severe with climate change. Corals are bleaching, as pictured here.Jodie Rummer, Author provided

We used gene expression as a tool to survey how well fish can handle hotter waters. Gene expression is the process where a gene is read by cell machinery and creates a product such as a protein, resulting in a physical trait.

We know much tropical coral reef fish are already living at temperatures close to their upper limits. Our findings can help predict which of these species will be most at risk from repeated heatwaves.

But from a personal perspective, I still feel nauseous thinking about what the reef looked like during this project. I’ll probably feel this way for a long time.

REWIND TO NOVEMBER 2015 — We were prepared. Back then we didn’t know the reef was about to bleach and lead to widespread ecological devastation. But we did anticipate that 2016 would be an El Niño year. This is a natural climate cycle that would mean warm summer waters in early 2016 would stick around longer than usual.

But we can’t blame El Niño – the ocean has already warmed by 1°C above pre-industrial levels from continued greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, marine heatwaves are becoming more frequent and severe with climate change.

Given this foresight, we took some quick liver biopsies from several coral reef fish species at our field site in December 2015, just in case.

Coral bleaching at Magnetic Island, March 2020.Victor Huertas, Author provided

THEN WE WERE LITERALLY IN HOT WATER — In February 2016, my colleague and I were based on Lizard Island in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef working on another project.

The low tides had shifted to the afternoon hours. We were collecting fish in the shallow lagoon off the research station, and our dive computers read that the water temperature was 33°C.

We looked at each other. These are the temperatures we use to simulate climate change in our laboratory studies for the year 2050 or 2100, but they’re happening now.

The water was murky with slime from the corals’ immune responses and because they were slowly exuding their symbiotic zooxanthellae – the algae that provide corals with food and the vibrant colors we know and love when we think about a coral reef. The reef was literally dying before our eyes.

A third of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef perished after the 2016 heatwave.Jodie Rummer, Author provided

TRAITS FOR DEALING WITH HEATWAVES — We sampled fish during four time periods around this devastating event: before, at the start, during, and after.

Some genes are always “switched on”, regardless of environmental conditions. Other genes switch on or off as needed, depending on the environment.

If we found these fish couldn’t regulate their gene expression in response to temperature stress, then the functions – such as metabolism, respiration, and immune function – also cannot change as needed. Over time, this could compromise survival.

The plasticity (a bit like flexibility) of these functions, or phenotypes, is what buffers an organism from environmental change. And right now, this may be the only hope for maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems in the face of repeated heatwave events.

SO, WHAT WERE THE FISH DOING? We looked at the expression patterns of thousands of genes. We found the same genes responded differently between species. In other words, some fish struggled more than others to cope with marine heatwaves.

Ostorhinchus doederleini, a species of cardinalfish, is bad at coping with marine heatwaves.Göran Nilsson, Author provided

The species that coped the least was a nocturnal cardinalfish species (Cheilodipterus quinquelineatus). We found it had the lowest number of differentially expressed genes (genes that can switch on or off to handle different stressors), even when facing the substantial change in conditions from the hottest to the coolest months.

In contrast, the spiny damselfish (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) responded to the warmer conditions with changes in the expression of thousands of genes, suggesting it was making the most changes to cope with the heatwave conditions.

WHAT CAN THESE DATA TELL US? Our findings not only have implications for specific fish species, but for the whole ecosystem. So policymakers and the fishing industry should screen more species to predict which will be sensitive and which will tolerate warming waters and heatwaves. This is not a “one size fits all” situation.

One of the species that showed the least amount of change under warming was Cheilodipterus quinquelineatus.Moises Antonio Bernal de Leon, Author provided

Fish have been on the planet for more than 400 million years. Over time, they may adapt to rising temperatures or migrate to cooler waters.

But, the three recent mass bleaching events are unprecedented in human history, and fish won’t have time to adapt.

My drive to protect the oceans began when I was a child. Now it’s my career. Despite the progress of my colleagues and I have made, my nauseous feelings remain, knowing our science alone may not be enough to save the reef.

The future of the planet, the oceans, and the Great Barrier Reef lies in our collective actions to reduce global warming. What we do today will determine what the Great Barrier Reef looks like tomorrow.

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Jodie L. Rummer at James Cook University. Read the original article here.

The Great Barrier Reef likely just experienced its most widespread bleaching event on record

The Great Barrier Reef just experienced its most widespread bleaching on record

The Great Barrier Reef just experienced its most widespread bleaching on record 01:02

(CNN)Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has likely experienced its most widespread bleaching event on record, according to a US government scientist who monitors the world’s coral reefs.

This marks the third mass bleaching event on the reef in just the last five years.
And scientists say that the rapid warming of the planet due to human emissions of heat-trapping gases are to blame.
On the heels of severe bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 that left half of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef dead, scientists fear this one could be a devastating blow.
“If we do not deal with climate change quickly … we are going to continue to see more severe and more frequent bleaching, and we are going to see the loss of coral reefs in much of the world,” said Dr. C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch.
close dialog
The mass bleaching conditions were observed by Coral Reef Watch, which uses remote sensing and modeling to predict and monitor for signs of bleaching.
A file photo taken in October 2016 shows coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Scientists say that another mass bleaching event has occurred in 2020.

Eakin says that the bleaching in 2016 and 2017 was extremely intense, but severe damage was concentrated in a few hotspots in the northern and central parts of the reef.
Early indications show that this latest event was not as damaging, but that a much larger area of reef experienced at least some bleaching.
Past bleaching events have typically occurred in years with a strong El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a climate phenomena that can increase the odds of a host of extreme weather events around the globe.
El Niño is characterized by warmer waters in the Pacific ocean, which makes bleaching events in the region more likely. But there is no El Niño currently, which Eakin says makes this bleaching that much more surprising — and frightening.
“The upper ocean has absorbed a tremendous amount of heat in recent years, and it has really put coral reefs around the globe much closer to their upper thermal limits.”

Why the Great Barrier Reef is so critical

Coral reefs are some of the most vibrant marine ecosystems on the planet — between a quarter and one-third of all marine species rely on them at some point in their life cycle.
And none is more vital than the Great Barrier Reef.
Covering nearly 133,000 square miles, it is the world’s largest coral reef and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.
It’s also a vital resource to Australia’s economy, contributing more than $5.6 billion annually and supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
The abnormally hot ocean temperatures that led to this year’s bleaching began in February and stretched all the way into early March. As you can see from the animation below, almost the entire reef was under a bleaching alert from mid-February until mid-March.
Temperatures have since cooled and the bleaching has subsided, but scientists in Australia are currently assessing the damage to the reef’s health.
A fuller picture should come into focus in the coming weeks. Though initial reports indicate that this year’s bleaching may not be as severe as in 2016 or 2017, Eakin says it appears few parts of the reef have been spared.
“This time it is not as intense, but it’s much more widespread, so we’re seeing it all over the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

The future of coral reefs looks grim

Warm ocean temperatures are the main driver of coral bleaching.
Corals turn white as a stress response to warm water temperatures by expelling the algae that grows inside them, which is their main energy source and gives them their color.
Bleaching doesn’t kill coral immediately. But if temperatures remain high, eventually the coral will die, destroying a natural habitat for many species of marine life.
“When they’re bleached, corals are starving, injured and more susceptible to disease, so [recovery] is really a question of how long and intense the heat stress is and how healthy the coral was to begin with,” Eakin said.
For the Great Barrier Reef to fully recover from bleaching that has occurred would take decades, Eakin says.
But because of the massive amounts of heat the world’s oceans have already absorbed, the reef likely won’t have the chance to recover before it bleaches again.
“If it takes decades for a reef to recover … what chance do we have for reefs recovering when events are coming back this fast?” he said.
Though researchers around the world are exploring ways to revive reefs, Eakin says those efforts will not be enough if we don’t address the root cause of their demise — human-caused climate change.
“We have to address climate change if we want to have coral reefs in the future.”

Great Barrier Reef could be hit with coral bleaching ‘disaster’ in weeks as temperatures rise

Underwater image of a diver swimming over coral reef
Researchers have been monitoring bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef since the 1980s.(Supplied: ARC Centre Of Excellence)

Fears have been raised over a potential coral bleaching “disaster” on the Great Barrier Reef in coming weeks, with sea surface temperatures already two degrees above average in many parts of the marine park.

Climate Council professor Lesley Hughes said there were reports of bleaching that had already occurred at three sites off Cape York, in Far North Queensland.

“If those temperatures are maintained there is definitely a heightened risk of bleaching over the next few weeks with a potential peak in the second week of March,” she said.

“It’s very, very concerning.”

Reef on high alert

An underwater image of coral that appears washed out and bleached.
Scientists say the Great Barrier Reef has not had time to recover from previous mass bleaching events.(Supplied: Peter Harrison, Southern Cross University)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has placed the Great Barrier Reef on Alert Level 1 for the next seven days, meaning significant bleaching is likely.

Ben Domensino@Ben_Domensino

A mass coral bleaching event could unfold across the Great Barrier Reef during the coming weeks, where sea surface temperatures are currently 1-2ºC above average in many areas. https://twitter.com/p_hannam/status/1230295928889692160 

View image on Twitter
Peter Hannam

@p_hannam

(Breaking, from me): Concerns rise for Great Barrier Reef health as corals start to bleach https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/concerns-rise-for-great-barrier-reef-health-as-corals-start-to-bleach-20200220-p542lx.html … via @smh #climate @gbrmpa

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Professor Hughes said bleaching could have devastating consequences for the World Heritage-listed marine park.

The summers of 2016 and 2017 saw back-to-back mass bleaching, which wiped out half of all shallow-water coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

“If we get bleaching in the northern parts again this year certainly there won’t have been enough time for those reefs that were previously bleached a couple of years ago won’t have had time to recover,” Ms Hughes said.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said another bleaching event was “the last thing” the reef and its coastal communities needed.

“Unfortunately we are a whisker away from bleaching disaster yet again because of global warming driven marine heatwaves,” campaigner Shani Tager said.

“As underwater heatwaves threaten once again to cook our corals, our politicians must move beyond half-baked plans to tackle global warming.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been contacted for comment.

Is it wrong to be hopeful about climate change?

CLIMATE EMOTIONS

ENVIRONMENT

In 201https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200109-is-it-wrong-to-be-hopeful-about-climate-change

8, a 30-minute documentary was premiered in San José, Costa Rica’s capital and my hometown. The film followed the early efforts of a handful of marine biologists who are fighting coral bleaching. They grow tiny bits of coral in underwater nurseries and once they’re big enough move them back to the reef, hoping to restore it.

Their pace is slow, possibly too slow to keep up with bleaching due to climate change. Warming waters swipe entire reefs in a matter of weeks. The biologists need months to nurture enough corals to restore a couple of square meters. Reef restoration seems like an impossible task, but they are relentless. It must be done to give corals a chance, so they are doing it.

It’s the same principle guiding young climate activists, atmospheric scientists and climate essayists. As author Rebecca Solnit wrote in 2016: “We don’t know what is going to happen, or how, or when, and that very uncertainty is the space of hope.”

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In the dark movie theatre, I felt a new bond with the scientists carrying baby corals and the filmmakers chasing after them. We are, indeed, losing this battle. They understand that, I believe, but in a tropical gulf thousands of miles away from where diplomats and politicians decide our carbon policies and international accords, a group of stubborn biologists and documentarists were refusing to give up. They were earning their own hope, one coral at a time.

I think of these dogged coral reef scientists whenever I’m asked, “What gives you hope?” in the context of climate change.

It’s a question full of nuance. Weighing it up, you have to consider the slew of recent record-breaking heatwaves, but also the indomitable force of schoolchildren protesting for their futures. It acknowledges our dire situation, yet suggests there might be a way forward. As climate change awareness goes mainstream – along with the feelings of anxiousness, pain and grief that come with it – this question has quickly become code for: “Where can I find hope?”

It may be a losing battle, but taking every step possible to stop the damage of climate change is one route to hope (Credit: Javier Hirschfeld/Getty/Alamy)

The answer, coming from both the climate movement and psychology, is clear: within yourself.

Several months ago, teenage activist Greta Thunberg scolded European MPs for failing to understand this. “You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come,” she said last February in Brussels. “Then you are acting like spoiled irresponsible children. You don’t seem to understand that hope is something that you have to earn.”

That was a new concept for me: earning hope. Years of environmental campaigns trained me to believe hope existed somewhere out there, and I only had to look for it. For instance, Al Gore’s Climate Reality tells us that 2018 gave us teenagers striking, new advances in solar panel technology and entire nations announcing divestment from fossil fuels. Meanwhile the Green New Deal is gaining traction in the US.

But Thunberg was suggesting that these developments are not cause for hope. Nothing we’ll read about online should make us hopeful, because scrolling for hope by browsing through social media from your sofa won’t cut it. I think that’s even selfish. Those achievements are the result of exhausted youths, overworked scientists and grieving activists. For each green bill presented in a legislative body, there’s an anxious, underslept staffer who needs backup. Can one hope from the sidelines?

“A lot of times, when I hear people say ‘Yeah, I’m hopeful or I’m optimistic’, they’re basing their hope and their optimism on someone else’s back, someone else’s actions,” says climate justice essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar.

Scrolling through social media showing other people’s efforts on climate breakdown can give a false sense of optimism (Credit: Javier Hirschfeld/Getty/Alamy)

Real, good, useful hope has nothing to do with positive news. Instead, it is profoundly linked with action: both ours and that of others alongside us. It’s a sentiment that resonates with me. There’s only one way to earn hope, and that’s rolling up our sleeves.

Hope, not optimism

In her book Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit argues that hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It’s something restless, alive. “It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency,” she writes.

This matches the mainstream psychological understanding of hope. Psychologists believe it emerges out of two elements: personallydetermined goals and pathways to reach them. It can be a driving force, but it has to come from within.

That’s one of the differences between hope and optimism, says Matthew Gallagher, the psychologist who literally edited the handbook on hope.

“Optimism is a more general expectation that good things are going to happen,” he says, “even if you don’t know how they’ll happen.” Hope, meanwhile, has positive expectations about the future but is driven by our capacity to identify goals and set strategies to achieve them, he says.

There’s little reason to be optimistic about climate change. We are set to overshoot our self-imposed temperature targets and carbon emissions started creeping up again in 2018. The transformation we must undergo is unlike anything we’ve seen before. The case for climate pessimism, and why it’s useful, is actually stronger.

And for the people in the frontlines – the Arctic communities, the small-town fishermen in the Tropics and the displaced people of colour in coastal America – hope is not even on the horizon. When survival is your number one priority, the future you need to solve is today. Hope is a luxury.

Many people gain hope from seeing how the younger generations are leading the efforts in making society sustainable (Credit: Javier Hirschfeld/Alamy)

But we want to know everything will be OK. Ours is a techno-optimistic society where electric cars are touted as a solution. That addiction to optimism has made the climate movement increasingly distrustful of hope. “I don’t think hope is a super motivating emotion,” says Heglar, who feels environmentalism has over-relied on it. “I think anger drives you to action, but hope puts you back to sleep.”

This is something I can relate to. If I believe falling solar panel prices and new international agreements will carry the day on their own, why should I bother to cut my own carbon footprint? Heglar and others are warning against this unfounded, passive hope. “We need courage, not hope,” writes Nasa scientist Dr Kate Marvel.

Grounding hope

Despite this, the search for hope still has an extraordinary pull. Because we often use hope and optimism interchangeably, scholars have come up with another distinction that is perhaps easier for dinner-table conversations. “There are different kinds of hope, because hope is a very complicated emotion,” says Jennifer Marlon, a climate researcher at Yale.

Her team surveyed hundreds of Americans about climate change and came up with a two-type taxonomy: false and constructive hope. People who rely on false hope believe God or nature will make this problem go away, and that humanity need not take the lead. People who adopted a mindset of constructive hope, in contrast, believe that transformation must emerge from us.

Engaging with like-minded groups with a common goal is one way to build collective hope (Credit: Javier Hirschfeld/Getty)

But on climate change, automatically expecting a better world because society acts in a certain way isn’t enough. We defeated Nazism, eradicated polio and reversed the hole in the ozone layer, right? Why not climate change?

Because it’s not that simple, writes Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes. Overestimating society’s powers can be as dangerous as false hope, because we start telling Disney-like stories in the midst of a global crisis. “[We expect] Star Wars’ sixth movie, where the little bears [ewoks] show up and together we defeat the evil empire,” he says.

His antidote is healthy skepticism. Stoknes argues we should settle our hope in our values – in what we believe is right and needed. Our actions can’t be based on the expectations of a happy ending. That outcome is outside of our control. If emissions keep rising, we risk deflation and action can dry up. Our values, however, persist.

This view of grounded hope embraces the unknowns and accepts uncertainty as the natural habitat of hope. “You’re no longer dependent or addicted to optimism,” says Stoknes. “You can be pessimistic and yet full of hope.”

Hoping together

In her 2004 essay The Art of Good Hope, Princeton philosopher Victoria McGeer brushes away both wishful thinking and wilful stubborn determination. She warns that wishful hopers depend on external forces, while wilful hopers overestimate their own powers. One pathway she suggests is to balance these extremes through communities.

Our earliest lessons of hope and agency were provided by our parents, our very first clan. With them we learned that we can walk, read, ride a bicycle or swim ten feet. But learning to hope as adults in our increasingly individualistic societies requires new scaffolding, argues McGeer. It involves empowering ourselves in part through empowering others with the energy of a responsive hope. In this way, hope is a deeply social phenomenon.

“If you’re feeling hopeless about climate change, get involved with people who are actively involved in doing things,” says McGeer.

One of the most visible groups at the moment are school strikers. Even adults are rallying around them in search of hope. Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe was asked what gave her hope so frequently that she decided to start polling the audience at her talks with the same question. Six months and 500 responses later, the top answer was young people.

In some cases, the drive to praise youth activism might be a case of “scrolling for hope”, which comes with the risk of falling back into passivity. But Hayhoe believes those already engaged see youths as fellow comrades, not as others to lay the burden onto.

“When you see a new voice enter the arena you don’t put down your sword. “You say: ‘Oh, my goodness, there’s a little bit of help’,” says Hayhoe. Those already engaged are not leaving the burden to the kids, they’re “redoubling their efforts because of the children.”

Genuine, grounded hope comes from rolling up one’s sleeves, rather than watching other people do the work (Credit: Javier Hirschfeld/Getty)

Personally, I would not call myself hopeful. “There’s so much science and so little will,” read my final dispatch from my first climate conference, six years ago. Not much has improved since 2013. Writing about the climate crisis often seems futile. I’m guessing the same goes for forest firefighters, flood planners at coastal cities and progressive lawmakers.

But after reading and talking about hope for months, I have a different view. Hope hurts, and feels at times pointless, yet we have to keep doing it. It’s the only way. “Hope is meaning-focused coping,” says Maria Ojala, senior lecturer in psychology at Örebro University in Sweden who did her PhD in how hope and doubt permeate kids’ environmentalism. She believes positive and negative emotions about climate change are not mutually exclusive. “It’s ‘and’ instead of ‘or’,” says Ojala.

No individual will bend the emissions curve alone. No writer, modelling team, no forest firefighter, no environmental lawyer will carry the day. But if you’re looking for hope, there might be a space in constructing something together – in responsive hope. No single coral restoration programme will heal the wounds inflicted on reefs around the world, but perhaps networks offer a way forward. That collective goal, and the space of uncertainty in that “perhaps”, is our hope.

Climate Emotions

Climate change is harming the planet, and it may be harming our mental health too.

From fear and anxiety to hope and healing, BBC Future’s Climate Emotions series examines our complex responses to climate change, and how those responses will shape our ability to deal with the environmental challenge we face.

Painfully slow hurricanes, deadly heat, and cities without water: What the climate crisis will look like in the next 10 years, according to experts

venice flood
A woman walks in a flooded street during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 11, 2012. The water level in the canal city rose to 149 cm (59 inches) above normal. 
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
  • In the last few years, we’ve seen record-breaking temperatures, intense hurricanes and wildfires, and unprecedented ice melt.
  • All of these are predicted consequences of climate change and are expected to get worse in the coming years.
  • Addressing this threat in the next 10 years is critical: Scientists say the world must slash its carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avoid catastrophic warming.
  • Here’s what we can expect in the next decade.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more.

We only have a decade to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

That’s the warning the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out last year. But so far, nations are not slashing emissions enough to keep Earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the threshold established in the Paris climate agreement.

“What we know is that unabated climate change will really transform our world into something that is unrecognizable,” Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute’s climate program, told Business Insider.

That transformation has already begun. The last few years saw record-breaking temperatures, catastrophic and bizarre storms, and unprecedented ice melt. That’s all likely to get worse by 2030.

Here’s what we can expect in the next 10 years.

Scientists attribute the increasing frequency of record-breaking temperatures, unprecedented ice melt, and extreme weather shifts to greenhouse-gas emissions.

greenland ice melt
Ice melts during a heatwave in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019. 
Caspar Haarloev from “Into the Ice” documentary via Reuters

Fossil fuels like coal contain compounds like carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat from the sun. Extracting and burning these fuels for energy releases those gases into the atmosphere, where they accumulate and heat up the Earth over time.

“As long as we burn fossil fuels and load the atmosphere with carbon pollution, it all gets worse,” climate scientist Michael Mann told Business Insider in an email.

Last year, the IPCC warned that we only have until 2030 to act in order to avoid the worst consequences of severe climate change.

IPCC climate change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Hoesung Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, October 8, 2018. 
Ahn Young-joon/AP

According to the IPCC, the world’s carbon emissions have to fall by 45% by 2030 to keep the world’s average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

So the next 10 years are crucial for any efforts to slow this trend.

If Earth warms more than 1.5 degrees, scientists think the world’s ecosystems could start to collapse.

arctic sea ice melting
The 2015 Arctic sea ice summertime minimum was 699,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, shown here as a gold line in a visual representation of a NASA analysis. 
NASA via Reuters

“The choices that we make today are going to have profound impacts,” Levin said.

Even if nations stick to the goals they set under the Paris climate agreement, emissions will still likely be too high, according to the IPCC.

Reuters paris agreement
President Donald Trump departs after announcing his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, in Washington D.C., June 1, 2017. 
Reuters

Under the voluntary goals set in the Paris agreement, the world would still emit the equivalent of 52 to 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, according to the report. (This is measured as an “equivalent” in order to factor in other greenhouse gases, like methane, which is 84 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.)

So far, most countries are not on track anyway.

Regardless of what actions we take, there are a few changes scientists know we’ll see in the next 10 years.

greenland ice melt
Satellite image shows meltwater ponding on the surface of the ice sheet in northwest Greenland near the sheet’s edge on Monday, July 30, 2019. 
NASA via Associated Press

That’s because the world will keep getting warmer even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases immediately.

In the worst case scenario, we might even the 1.5-degree temperature-rise mark by 2030.

global warming temperature climate change 2014 to 2018
This map shows Earth’s average global temperature from 2014 to 2018, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980, according to a NASA analysis. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline. 
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The globe’s ice caps will continue to melt, and crucial ice sheets like the one in Greenland might start down an irreversible path toward disappearing completely.

greenland ice melt
Ice melt formed gushing white water in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019. 
Caspar Haarloev from “Into the Ice” documentary via Reuters

“Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 degrees, there’s a tipping point after which it will no longer be possible to maintain the Greenland Ice Sheet,” Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told Inside Climate News. “What we don’t have a handle on is how quickly the Greenland Ice Sheet will be lost.”

Greenland’s ice is already approaching that tipping point, according to a study published in May. Whereas the melting that happened during warm cycles used to get balanced out when new ice formed during cool cycles, warm periods now cause significant meltdown and cool periods simply pause it.

That makes it difficult for the ice sheet to regenerate what it’s losing.

That will lead to more sea-level rise — about 0.3 to 0.6 feet on average globally by 2030, according to the US’ National Climate Assessment.

venice flood sea level rise
People walk in the flooded street during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 15, 2019. This week saw the city’s worst flooding in 50 years. 
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

In addition to melting ice, rising ocean temperatures cause seas to rise because warm water takes up more volume. As the globe heats up, scientists expect that simple fact of physics to account for about 75% of future sea-level rise.

The risk of high-tide flooding (which happens in the absence of storms or severe weather) is rapidly increasing for communities on the US Gulf and East Coasts.

king tide flooding florida
A motorbike navigates through floodwater caused by a seasonal king tide, October 17, 2016, in Hollywood, Florida. 
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

In 2018, the US Northeast saw a median of one major sunny-day flood per year. By 2030, projections suggest the region will see a median of five such floods per year. By 2045, that number could grow to 25 floods.

The rising seawater won’t be distributed evenly across the globe.

new orleans climate change
A Climate Central plug-in for Google Earth shows how New Orleans could disappear underwater by 2100. 
Google Earth/Climate Central

Low-lying countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Seychelles are especially vulnerable. Rising oceans have already begun to threaten cities like Miami, New Orleans, Venice, Jakarta, and Lagos.

Some areas could see sea levels up to 6 feet higher by the end of the century.

Extra warmth and water means hurricanes will become slower and stronger. In the next decade, we’re likely to see more cyclones like Hurricane Dorian, which sat over the Bahamas for nearly 24 hours.

hurricane dorian satellite 130pm mon
Hurricane Dorian ground to a halt over the island of Grand Bahama on September 2, 2019. 
NOAA GOES-East

That’s because hurricanes use warm water as fuel, so as Earth’s oceans and air heat up, tropical storms get stronger, wetter, and slower.

Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, according to a 2018 study.

When storms are slower, their forceful winds, heavy rain, and surging tides have much more time to cause destruction. In the Bahamas, Dorian leveled entire towns.

Hurricane Dorian
Aliana Alexis of Haiti stands on the concrete slab of what is left of her home after destruction from Hurricane Dorian on Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, September 5, 2019. 
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

“The slower you go, that means more rain. That means more time that you’re going to have those winds. That’s a long period of time to have hurricane-force winds,” National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham said in a Facebook Live video as Dorian approached the Bahamas.

A study published earlier this month found that the frequency of the most damaging hurricanes has increased 330% century-over-century.

To make matters worse, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. The peak rain rates of storms have increased by 30% over the past 60 years.

hurricane harvey
People evacuated their Houston homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. 
David J. Phillip/AP

That means up to 4 inches of water per hour. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was a prime example of this: After it made landfall, Harvey weakened to a tropical storm then stalled for days, dumping unprecedented amounts of rain on the Houston area. Scientist Tom Di Liberto described it as the “storm that refused to leave.”

Hurricanes are likely to intensify more rapidly as well.

Hurricane Dorian
A woman seeks cover from wind, blowing sand, and rain whipped up by Hurricane Dorian as she walks in Cocoa Beach, Florida, September 2, 2019. 
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“It’s pretty well understood that if the water is warmer and it’s causing more moist air to come up, you have the potential of a storm to grow quickly and intensely,” Brian Haus, a researcher who simulates hurricanes at the University of Miami, previously told Business Insider.

Overall, extreme weather is expected grow more common and intense.

Screaming heat skull of death
In June 2019, France faced its worst heat wave since 2003. The heat map looked like a screaming skull. 
Meteoceil

“Certain types of extreme events in the US have already become more frequent and intense and long-lasting,” Levin said. “There’s no reason to think that we’re not going to start to see an amplification of what we’ve been seeing.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that, overall, climate change will kill an additional 241,000 people per year by 2030.

Rio Grande drought
Sandbars fill the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, after sparse rainfall in the US Southern Plains caused drought conditions to worsen, February 18, 2018. 
Susan Montoya Bryan/Associated Press

The WHO expects that heat-related illnesses will be a major culprit, killing up to 121,464 additional people by 2030.

In the coming years, experts expect to see “day zeros” — the term for the moment when a city’s taps run dry.

chennai india water day zero
Residents gather to fill empty containers with water from a municipal tanker in Chennai, India, as the city faces a “day zero” water crisis, June 25, 2019. 
P. Ravikumar/Reuters

In January 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, got dangerously close to this reality: The government announced the city was three months from day zero. Residents successfully limited their water use enough to make it to the next rainy season, however.

The IPCC projects severe reductions in water resources for 8% of the global population from 2021 to 2040.

Dry vegetation in hot regions lights up easily, which means more frequent, bigger wildfires.

Kincade Fire firefighter
Firefighter Joe Zurilgen passes a burning home as the Kincade Fire rages in Healdsburg, California, on October 27, 2019. 
Noah Berger / AP

“Climate change, with rising temperatures and shifts in precipitation patterns, is amplifying the risk of wildfires and prolonging the season,” the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a July release.

2016 study found that climate change nearly doubled the amount of forest that burned in the western US between 1984 and 2015, adding over 10 billion additional acres of burned area. In California in particular, the annual area burned in summer wildfires increased fivefold from 1972 to 2018.

We’re also likely to see more wildfires in the Arctic, which is warming almost twice as fast as the global average. That means Arctic sea ice is also disappearing.

greenland wildfire
Satellites detected the infrared signal of a wildfire near Sisimiut, Greenland on July 10, 2019. 
Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

Rapid warming means that crucial sea ice is melting, which accelerates warming even more.

“You take what was a reflective surface, the white ice, and you expose darker oceans underneath it,” Levin said. “That can lead to a much greater absorption of solar radiation, and knock-on warming impacts as well as change of weather patterns.”

The Amazon rainforest is in trouble as well, largely because farmers and loggers are cutting it down so rapidly.

Amazon fire
An aerial view of a tract of the Amazon jungle burning as it gets cleared by loggers and farmers, August 23, 2019. 
REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

A 2008 study projected that humans would clear away 31% of the Amazon by 2030. Another 24% would be damaged by drought or logging, the study found.

People have already cut down 20% of the Amazon. If another 20% disappears, that could trigger a feedback loop known as a “dieback,” in which the forest could dry out and become a savannah.

“The risk of transforming the Amazon to a savannah-like state — it could have a tremendous impact for our ability worldwide to get a handle on the climate-change problem,” Levin said.

amazon deforestation in brazil
A September 15, 2009 photo shows a deforested area of the Amazon rainforest near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para. 
AP Photo/Andre Penner

That’s because the Amazon stores up to 140 billion tons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of 14 decades’ worth of human emissions. Releasing that would accelerate global warming.

“You have a vital carbon sink no longer acting as a carbon sink, but instead acting as a carbon source,” Levin added.

Other crucial ecosystems face collapse in the next decade as well. At present rates, it’s expected that 60% of all coral reefs will be highly or critically threatened by 2030.

bleached coral
Bleached coral in Tahiti, French Polynesia, late-May 2019. 
Luiz Rocha, California Academy of Sciences

High ocean temperatures can cause coral to expel the algae living in its tissue and turn white, a process called coral bleaching.

It’s an increasingly dire problem, given that oceans absorb 93% of the extra heat that greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere. Recent research revealed that the seas are heating up 40% faster, on average, than the prior estimate.

The consequences of coral bleaching extend beyond the coral itself, since reefs house 25% of all marine life and provide the equivalent of $375 billion in goods and services each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

About 55% of the world’s oceans could suffer due to rising temperatures, acidification, decreasing oxygen, and other symptoms of climate change by 2030.

sea turtle coral reuters
A green turtle lies on a bed of corals off the Malaysian island of Sipadan in the Celebes Sea, December 7, 2008. 
David Loh/Reuters

These largely irreversible changes will eventually force mass migrations of marine life, upend ocean ecosystems, and threaten human livelihoods that depend on the ocean, according to a 2017 study. Many species that can’t adapt could die out.

“Climate impacts are also going to exacerbate social inequality,” Levin said.

California Drought Farm
A farm worker picks table grapes in Maricopa, California, United States, July 24, 2015, during the fourth year of a drought. 
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

That’s because people with fewer resources will be less able to avoid the worst impacts.

“That National Climate Assessment shows that residents, for example, in rural communities who often have less capacity to adapt, are going to be especially hard-hit given their dependence on agriculture,” Levin explained.

She added: “You can think also of the scenario of the poor who live in cities who could be at greater exposure to heat stress if they lack air conditioning and heat waves increase in frequency and duration.”

 More: https://www.businessinsider.com/climate-change-in-the-next-decade-2019-11#climate-impacts-are-also-going-to-exacerbate-social-inequality-levin-said-24

Ocean heat wave threatens severe damage to Hawaii coral

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In this Sept. 11, 2019 photo, a green sea turtle swims near coral in a bay on the west coast of the Big Island near Captain Cook, Hawaii. Just four years after a major marine heat wave killed nearly half of this coastline’s coral, federal researchers are predicting another round of hot water will cause some of the worst coral bleaching the region has ever seen. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)

CAPTAIN COOK, Hawaii (AP) — At the edge of an ancient lava flow where jagged black rocks meet the Pacific, small off-the-grid homes overlook the calm blue waters of Papa Bay on Hawaii’s Big Island — no tourists or hotels in sight. Here, one of the islands’ most abundant and vibrant coral reefs thrives just below the surface.

Yet even this remote shoreline far from the impacts of chemical sunscreen, trampling feet and industrial wastewater is showing early signs of what’s expected to be a catastrophic season for coral in Hawaii.

Just four years after a major marine heat wave killed nearly half of this coastline’s coral, federal researchers are predicting another round of hot water will cause some of the worst coral bleaching the region has ever experienced.

Gove in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Researchers using high-tech equipment to monitor Hawaii’s reefs are seeing early signs of bleaching in Papa Bay and elsewhere caused by a marine heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring to record highs for months. June, July and parts of August all experienced the hottest ocean temperatures ever recorded around the Hawaiian Islands. So far in September, oceanic temperatures are below only those seen in 2015.

Forecasters expect high temperatures in the north Pacific will continue to pump heat into Hawaii’s waters well into October.

“Temperatures have been warm for quite a long time,” Gove said. “It’s not just how hot it is — it’s how long those ocean temperatures stay warm.”

Coral reefs are vital around the world as they not only provide a habitat for fish — the base of the marine food chain — but food and medicine for humans. They also create an essential shoreline barrier that breaks apart large ocean swells and protects densely populated shorelines from storm surges during hurricanes.

In Hawaii, reefs are also a major part of the economy: Tourism thrives largely because of coral reefs that help create and protect iconic white sand beaches, offer snorkeling and diving spots, and help form waves that draw surfers from around the world.

Ocean temperatures are not uniformly warm across the state, Gove noted. Local wind patterns, currents and even features on land can create hot spots in the water.

“You have things like two giant volcanoes on the Big Island blocking the predominant trade winds,” making the island’s west coast, where Papa Bay sits, one of the hottest parts of the state, Gove said. He said he expects “severe” coral bleaching in those places.

“This is widespread, 100% bleaching of most corals,” Gove said. And many of those corals are still recovering from the 2015 bleaching event, meaning they are more susceptible to thermal stress.

According to NOAA, the heat wave’s causes include a persistent low-pressure weather pattern between Hawaii and Alaska that has weakened winds that otherwise might mix and cool surface waters across much of the North Pacific. What’s causing that is unclear: It might reflect the atmosphere’s usual chaotic motion, or it could be related to the warming of the oceans and other effects of human-made climate change.

Beyond this event, oceanic temperatures will continue to rise in the coming years, Gove said. “There’s no question that global climate change is contributing to what we’re experiencing,” he said.

For coral, hot water means stress, and prolonged stress kills these creatures and can leave reefs in shambles.

Bleaching occurs when stressed corals release algae that provide them with vital nutrients. That algae also gives the coral its color, so when it’s expelled, the coral turns white.

Gove said researchers have a technological advantage for monitoring and gleaning insights into this year’s bleaching, data that could help save reefs in the future.

“We’re trying to track this event in real time via satellite, which is the first time that’s ever been done,” Gove said.

In remote Papa Bay, most of the corals have recovered from the 2015 bleaching event, but scientists worry they won’t fare as well this time.

“Nearly every species that we monitor has at least some bleaching,” said ecologist Greg Asner, director of Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, after a dive in the bay earlier this month.

Asner told The Associated Press that sensors showed the bay was about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit above what is normal for this time of year.

Asner dives in Papa Bay. (Greg Asner/Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science via AP)

He uses advanced imaging technology mounted to aircrafts, satellite data, underwater sensors and information from the public to give state and federal researchers like Gove the information they need.

“What’s really important here is that we’re taking these (underwater) measurements, connecting them to our aircraft data and then connecting them again to the satellite data,” Asner said. “That lets us scale up to see the big picture to get the truth about what’s going on here.”

Scientists will use the information to research, among other things, why some coral species are more resilient to thermal stress. Some of the latest research suggests slowly exposing coral to heat in labs can condition them to withstand hotter water in the future.

“After the heat wave ends, we will have a good map with which to plan restoration efforts,” Asner said.

Meanwhile, Hawaii residents like Cindi Punihaole Kennedy are pitching in by volunteering to educate tourists. Punihaole Kennedy is director of the Kahalu’u Bay Education Center, a nonprofit created to help protect Kahalu’u Bay, a popular snorkeling spot near the Big Island’s tourist center of Kailua-Kona.

The bay and surrounding beach park welcome more than 400,000 visitors a year, she said.

“We share with them what to do and what not to do as they enter the bay,” she said. “For instance, avoid stepping on the corals or feeding the fish.”

The area suffered widespread bleaching and coral death in 2015.

“It was devastating for us to not be able to do anything,” Punihaole Kennedy said. “We just watched the corals die.”

Climate Crisis Weekly: Trump no-show at G7 climate change meeting, Amazon forest fires, Great Barrier Reef in a ‘very poor’ state

  • Donald Trump skips the G7 climate change meeting in France.
  • More repercussions — both good and bad — from the Amazon forest fires.
  • Thousands of fires are also burning in central Africa, but it’s not quite the same as the Amazon.
  • Climate activists will fly drones at London Heathrow to pressure the UK government to reduce emissions.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is rated as being in a ‘very poor’ state in a new report.
  • And more…

A friend’s young son said to her yesterday about the state of our environment: “There’s a hurricane coming to Florida and the rain forest is on fire. This is horrible!” It’s been one heckuva tough week for the Earth’s environment.

So let’s kick off the Climate Crisis Weekly with a quick look back at the G7 meeting in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France. The crucial climate change, biodiversity, and oceans meeting was held on Monday, and world leaders discussed how to reduce carbon emissions and the Amazon rain forest fires, among other issues.

But not everyone attended the meeting. See that empty chair above, between the Egyptian and Chilean presidents? That’s Donald Trump’s chair. Trump said he couldn’t go because he had meetings scheduled with Angela Merkel and Narendra Modi, but the German and Indian leaders were both at the climate change meeting. (That’s Merkel’s hand on the far right.) Trump’s aides went to the meeting without him.

Trump described himself at the G7 as an “environmentalist” who cares about “clean air, clean water.” (In the Paris agreement naysayer’s latest move, he deregulated highly polluting methane emissionsin the US on Thursday, but hey.)

CNN’s Chris Cillizza had a theory about Trump’s no-show:

He didn’t decide he wanted to meet with staff from the governments of India and Germany. He just didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to sit around and be, in his mind, lectured by foreign leaders about how he needs to think and feel about the issue.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed hope that the American people would do what its president won’t:

I am very optimistic about American society and its capacity to deliver in relation to climate action. What matters here is to have a strong engagement of the American society and of the American business community and the American local authorities.


The G7 countries pledged $20 million to fight the Amazon rain forest fires at the climate change meeting. It’s not a huge sum, but they hoped it would bring more attention to the crisis. However, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro rejected the money over a bunfight with French president Emmanuel Macron (and he then hinted at a reversal). Bolsonaro announced a ban of fire to clear land for 60 days on Thursday.

And in a weird twist, Trump’s love of trade threats had a positive knock-on effect in EU discussions with Brazil, according to Time:

President Trump’s destruction of trade norms may have cleared the way for a powerful new weapon in the fight as countries increasingly crack down on rogue climate counterparts.

As tens of thousands of fires engulfed the Amazon, the European Union threatened to block a landmark trade deal with Brazil and ban imports of Brazilian beef if the country’s right-wing leader, Jair Bolsonaro, didn’t act. Within days of the threat, and as G7 leaders prepared to discuss the matter in France, Bolsonaro buckled, abandoning his passive approach to the crisis and sending more than 40,000 troops to fight the fires.

There was another interesting side effect of the horrific Amazon fires. Search engine Ecosia partners with Microsoft’s Bing and “donates 80% of the revenue it makes from search ads to planting trees.” According to Business Insider, Ecosia saw a 1,150% increase in downloads on August 22 in response to the Amazon fires. Ecosia’s daily download is around 20,000, and on that day, it was around 250,000. Ecosia works with tree planters in Brazil; they have their work cut out for them.

And finally, it’s not just the forest and the animals who are affected by the fires. The indigenous tribes are suffering, too. The tribes near the Xingu River (an Amazon tributary) released a message saying they will fight for the forest. (Learn more about the tribes here):

We are going to resist for our way of living, to produce without destroying, for the future of our children and grandchildren, for the planet.

Lillys Plastic Pickup@lillyspickup

Share this message everywhere- they are in the fight for their lives

Embedded video

64.4K people are talking about this

And finally, to see footage of the Amazon destruction’s aftermath, head over to our sister-site DroneDJ, who posted a Guardian video taken by a drone.


Nasa’s Fire Information for Resource Management System map (be warned, it looks shockingly red) shows nearly five times as many fires burning in central Africa than in South America. Deliberately set, controlled fires have been a part of agriculture in central Africa for millennia. But as the Independent explains, a “lack of traditional grasslands is driving increased slash-and-burn clearing of forests in parts of Africa, and therefore concerns are growing.”

CNN urges readers to exercise caution when it comes to being alarmed about the fires in Zambia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — they call it “comparing apples to oranges.” They point out that the controlled fires can increase soil quality, and that satellite data doesn’t give the cause or type of fire. But, as Macron said on Twitter in so many words, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.


OK, back to drones. Climate activist group Heathrow Pause says they are going to fly toy drones to disrupt London Heathrow Airport from September 13. It’s “a step they hope will ground flights and put pressure on the government to take tougher steps to reduce carbon emissions,” Reuters reports.

The Heathrow Pause group said it would fly toy drones within a 5 km (3.1 mile) restricted zone around the airport but outside the flight paths of the airport, a step the group said would force the airport to ground flights.

“This is a symbolic action, using a legal loophole and participants’ self-sacrifice to draw attention to the most serious and urgent crisis humanity has ever faced,” the group said.

“The government’s inaction on climate change, and the looming catastrophe of airport expansion, gives us no choice and compels us to act.”

A Heathrow spokesperson replied: “We agree with the need to act on climate change. This is a global issue that requires constructive engagement and action. Committing criminal offenses and disrupting passengers is counterproductive.”


The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has downgraded Australia’s Great Barrier Reef’s outlook from “poor” to “very poor” in its latest report, according to the BBC. This is due to warming waters as a result of human-driven climate change. The GBRMPA produces the report every five years.

The 1,400-mile (2,300-km) reef is a World Heritage site. There were mass coral-bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.

Addressing reporters in Sydney, the GBRMPA’s chief scientist, David Wachenfeld, agreed the reef’s problems were ‘largely driven by climate change.

‘Despite that, with the right mix of local actions to improve the resilience of the system and global actions to tackle climate change in the strongest and fastest way possible, we can turn that around,’ he added.


Guess we loved bottlenose dolphins just a little too much.

New Zealand’s government has banned people from swimming with bottlenose dolphins in the North Island’s Bay of Islands region. “Human interaction was ‘having a significant impact on the population’s resting and feeding behavior,’” according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DoC) [via the Guardian].

“Their numbers in the Bay of Islands have declined by 66% since 1990,” according to the DoC. There is also a 75% mortality rate among their calves, the highest in New Zealand, internationally, and in captivity.

Tourists can still swim with common or dusky dolphins in tours operated in the South Island.


Eylul Tekin, a research assistant for Clever, analyzed data from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) to see which cities should be most worried about climate crisis.

Her findings? “The cities that are most vulnerable to climate disasters happen to also be the least prepared for managing those catastrophes,” according to an article in Mother Jones. Further:

The poorer the city, the higher its vulnerability to climate change, and the lower its preparedness for those impacts.

Madison, Wisconsin, was the most prepared, and the least prepared cities included Hialeah, Florida; Santa Ana, California; Miami; and Newark, New Jersey. That’s pretty worrying, seeing how an increasingly powerful Hurricane Dorian is headed for south Florida.

To see all of Tekin’s charts, visit the article.

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

Great Barrier Reef health outlook downgraded to “very poor” due to ocean warming

 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/great-barrier-reef-australia-downgrades-outlook-coral-very-poor-ocean-warming-today-2019-08-30/
AUGUST 30, 2019 / 5:40 AM / CBS/AP

Canberra, Australia — The government agency that manages Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has downgraded its outlook for the corals’ condition from “poor” to “very poor” due to warming oceans. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s condition report, which is updated every five years, is the latest bad news for the 133,360-square-mile colorful coral network off the northeast Australian coast as climate change and coral bleaching take their toll.

The report issued Friday finds the greatest threat to the reef remains climate change. The other threats are associated with coastal development, land-based water runoff and human activity such as illegal fishing.

“Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing the deterioration of the reef’s ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery,” the report said. “Such actions will complement and greatly increase the effectiveness of local management actions in the Reef and its catchment.”

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The report is the agency’s third and tracks continuing deterioration since the first in 2009. The deterioration in the reef’s outlook mostly reflects the expanding area of coral killed or damaged by coral bleaching.

The report said the threats — which include the star-of-thorns starfish that prey on coral polyps — are “multiple, cumulative and increasing.”

“The accumulation of impacts, through time and over an increasing area, is reducing its ability to recover from disturbances, with implications for reef-dependent communities and industries,” the authority’s chairman Ian Poiner said.

“The overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is very poor,” he added.

A study of coral bleaching on the reef, published in the journal Nature in 2017, found 91% of the coral reef had been bleached at least once during three bleaching events of the past two decades, the most serious event occurring in 2016.

A fourth major bleaching struck later in 2017 after the Nature study was published.

Bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by unusual environmental changes, such as increased sea temperature. They respond by expelling the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing the coral to turn white. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food and often can’t survive.

As CBSNews.com’s Sophie Lewis reported, the Great Barrier Reef — which stretches for more than 1,400 miles off the coast of Australia — has gone through four mass bleaching events due to above-average sea temperatures, in 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017. Time periods between future bleaching events are expected to continue to shrink as global warming intensifies.

The deteriorating Great Barrier Reef
The deteriorating Great Barrier Reef
25 PHOTOS
“It’s highly unlikely that we could escape a fifth or sixth event in the coming decade,” said Professor Morgan Pratchett, who co-authored a report earlier this year on the Barrier Reef. “We used to think that the Great Barrier Reef was too big to fail, until now.”

The United Nations’ World Heritage Committee expressed concern about bleaching in 2017 and the report Thursday could lead to the World Heritage-listed natural wonder being reclassified by UNESCO next year as “in danger.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she was not surprised by the downgrade in the reef’s condition given the damage done by recent cyclones and latest bleaching events in successive years.

15 creatures that could disappear with the Great Barrier Reef
15 creatures that could disappear with the Great Barrier Reef
15 PHOTOS
She said her government was “building resilience in this important global reef” and was keeping its Paris commitment to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

“I want to make the point that it’s the best managed reef in the world,” she said.

While the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, reefs around the world are under stress from warming ocean temperatures.

First published on August 30, 2019 / 5:40 AM

Deep Seagrass Bed Could Stall Climate Change, If Climate Change Doesn’t Kill It First

Researchers studied the carbon storage of deep-water seagrasses living at Lizard Island, Australia.

Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Amid a sea of dire climate change news, researchers say they’ve found a rare bright spot.

A meadow of seagrass among Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — estimated to be twice the size of New Jersey — is soaking up and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

Scientists call this carbon-removal powerhouse a “blue carbon sink.” The term refers to an ocean or coastal ecosystem — including seagrasses, salt marshes and mangrove forests — that captures carbon compounds from the atmosphere, effectively removing carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“These coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems can sequester or remove carbon from the atmosphere about four times the rate of terrestrial forests on land, and they store about 10 times more carbon in the system itself compared to forest on land,” says Jennifer Howard, director of marine climate change at Conservation International, in an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin.

new study published in Biology Letters suggests that these deep-water seagrass meadows play a more central role in the carbon cycle than previously thought. Authors Peter Macreadie of Deakin University in Australia, and Paul York and Michael Rasheed, both from James Cook University, compared carbon stocks from deep-water, mid-water and shallow-water seagrass living at Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef. The researchers found that the seagrass in deeper regions contained similar carbon levels as seagrass in shallower waters.

Previously, data has been very sparse on deep-water seagrass as Blue Carbon sinks. They’re hard to get to, buried deep beneath water and invisible even from satellite.

“You usually have to throw somebody in the water with a scuba mask to go actually find them,” Howard says. “And because of that we just don’t know how many of these large patches of sea grasses there actually are out there.”

Howard says her organization has mapped nearly 109,000 square miles, “but that’s probably less than half of what’s actually out there.”

What’s more, that number only reflects the more detectable, shallower seagrasses. As for the deeper-water seagrasses analyzed in the study, the Australian researchers figured that if the deep-water seagrass stores a comparable amount of carbon as other deep-water meadows in the region, the area around the Great Barrier Reef may be sequestering tens of millions of tons of carbon.

Worldwide, Howard says, “We think that there’s probably about several billion tons of carbon locked away in these seagrass meadows” — ecosystems, she says, that exist on every continent except Antarctica.

These new findings are valuable to policymakers working to curb climate change, according to Howard. But the value of these ecosystems, she says, disappears if they’re not protected.

“When you destroy those ecosystems, all that carbon can be re-released back into the atmosphere. So, through poor land use management or through degradation, the significant carbon sink can actually become a global carbon source.”

Seagrasses are vanishing globally at a rate of 1.5 percent per year, Reuters reports, a decline that’s comparable to coral reefs and tropical rainforests. Scientists point to coastal development as the culprit behind water pollution that perpetuates erosion. And, while seagrasses can mitigate climate change, climate change can also destroy the grasses.

“When you have pollutants and too much sediment running down the river, it blocks out the light, it buries the seagrass and they start to die,” Howard says.

She says the solution to alleviating seagrass loss has to be “land-based.”

“You’re going to have to address the pollution component first. Remove the threat, and then planting [seagrass] could be a very viable option to increase carbon stock.”


NPR’s Chad Campbell and Martha Wexler produced and edited this story for broadcast.