Habitat loss threatens all our futures, world leaders warned

Habitat loss threatens all our futures, world leaders warned

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 17, 2018 SNIP: As a UN conference convenes to work out a new deal for protecting the planet’s biodiversity, the focus falls on the nations that are not attending. Amid the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs, the agenda at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh could hardly be more important, but the spirit of international collaboration appears to be as much at risk of extinction as the world’s endangered wildlife. The United States has never signed up and Brazil is among a growing group of countries where new nationalist leaders are shifting away from global cooperation. Media research suggests there is only one news story about UN biodiversity talks for every 20 about UN climate negotiations. Coverage tends to focus on a few totemic species, such as lions, chimpanzees and pandas, rather than the collapsing ecosystems on which we depend. Yet there is growing evidence that the crisis of the natural world has become as much of a threat to humankind and is amplifying the chaos in the world’s weather systems. Since 1970 humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, according to the latest Living Planet report by WWF, which warned that the loss of wildlife was now an emergency that is threatening our civilisation. This followed a report earlier this year that one in eight bird species is threatened with global...
‘It blows my mind’: How B.C. destroys a key natural wildfire defence every year

‘It blows my mind’: How B.C. destroys a key natural wildfire defence every year

SOURCE: CBC DATE: November 17, 2018 SNIP: Last year, 12,812 hectares of B.C. forest was sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate. It’s an annual event — a mass extermination of broadleaf trees mandated by the province. The eradication of trees like aspen and birch on regenerating forest stands is meant to make room for more commercially valuable conifer species like pine and Douglas fir. But experts say it also removes one of the best natural defences we have against wildfire, at a time when our warming climate is helping make large, destructive fires more and more common. When aspen and other broadleaves are allowed to flourish, they form “natural fuel breaks” if their leaves are out, according to Lori Daniels, a professor of forest ecology at the University of B.C. That’s why aspen stands are often referred to as “asbestos forests” in wildfire science circles. The province’s Forest Planning and Practices Regulation states that when a block of forest is regrowing after a wildfire or logging, broadleaves can’t make up more than five per cent of trees, or two hectares — whichever total is smaller. The concern is that trees like aspen will out-compete conifer species, which are the lifeblood of the timber industry. If there’s too much aspen, the block must be sprayed with glyphosate, a chemical known more familiarly as the active ingredient in Roundup. Over the last three years, 42,531 hectares of B.C. forest have been treated with the herbicide. “At the end of the day, we have rules that make fire-resistant trees illegal in our forests. That’s just nuts,” James Steidle, a member of the anti-glyphosate...
Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds

Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 16, 2018 SNIP: China, Russia and Canada’s current climate policies would drive the world above a catastrophic 5C of warming by the end of the century, according to a study that ranks the climate goals of different countries. The US and Australia are only slightly behind with both pushing the global temperature rise dangerously over 4C above pre-industrial levels says the paper, while even the EU, which is usually seen as a climate leader, is on course to more than double the 1.5C that scientists say is a moderately safe level of heating. The study, published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications, assesses the relationship between each nation’s ambition to cut emissions and the temperature rise that would result if the world followed their example. Among the major economies, the study shows India is leading the way with a target that is only slightly off course for 2C. Less developed countries are generally more ambitious, in part because they have fewer factories, power plants and cars, which means they have lower emissions to rein in. On the opposite side of the spectrum are the industrial powerhouse China and major energy exporters who are doing almost nothing to limit carbon dioxide emissions. These include Saudi Arabia (oil), Russia (gas) and Canada, which is drawing vast quantities of dirty oil from tar sands. Fossil fuel lobbies in these countries are so powerful that government climate pledges are very weak, setting the world on course for more than 5C of heating by the end of the century. Only slightly better are the group of countries that...
At U.N. climate talks, Trump team plans sideshow on coal

At U.N. climate talks, Trump team plans sideshow on coal

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: November 15, 2018 SNIP: The Trump administration plans to set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels at the annual U.N. climate talks next month, repeating a strategy that infuriated global-warming activists during last year’s talks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. As with the 2017 gathering in Bonn, Germany, the administration plans to highlight the benefits of technologies that more efficiently burn fuels including coal, the sources said. This year’s talks in Katowice, Poland – located in a mining region that is among the most polluted in Europe – are intended to hammer out a rule book to the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. The United States, the world’s top oil and gas producer, is the only country to have announced its intention to formally withdraw from the Paris accord. The event is expected to be led by Wells Griffith, Trump’s international energy and climate adviser, the sources added. Griffith’s main energy policy experience involves a year at a political job at the Department of Energy and helping to set up a deal last year to supply Ukraine with U.S. coal after the country lost control of mines to Russian-backed separatists. Last year, the fossil fuels event set up by the White House drew widespread protest and condemnation from climate activists. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote on Twitter that “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.” Environmentalists should not get excited that any State Department cooperation in Poland signals the Trump administration is eyeing a return to the Paris agreement, one of the...
Heatwaves can ‘wipe out’ male insect fertility

Heatwaves can ‘wipe out’ male insect fertility

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 13, 2018 SNIP: Heatwaves severely damage the fertility of male beetles and consecutive hot spells leave them virtually sterilised, according to research. Global warming is making heatwaves more common and wildlife is being annihilated, and the study may reveal a way in which these two trends are linked. The scientists behind the findings said there could also be some relevance for humans: the sperm counts of western men have halved in the last 40 years. Insects are such an integral part of life, as pollinators and prey, that scientists say their decline could lead to “ecological Armageddon”. Little is known about the precise causes of the decline, though climate change, habitat destruction and global use of pesticides are considered probable factors. The research, published in the Nature Communications journal, found that exposing beetles to a five-day heatwave in the laboratory reduced sperm production by three-quarters; females were unaffected. After being exposed to a heatwave, the number of offspring produced by males fell by half. Even more worryingly, harmful effects were inherited by the males they produced – their lives were 20% shorter and they in turn produced fewer offspring. The most extreme impact was in male beetles exposed to two heatwaves 10 days apart – their offspring production fell by...