Tourists may be making Antarctica’s penguins sick

Tourists may be making Antarctica’s penguins sick

SOURCE: Science Magazine

DATE: December 13, 2018

SNIP: You can give your cat the flu. You can also pass pneumonia to a chimpanzee or tuberculosis to a bird. This kind of human-to-animal disease transmission, known as reverse zoonosis, has been seen on every continent except one: Antarctica. Now, human-linked pathogens in bird poop reveal, for the first time, that even animals on this isolated, ice-bound landmass can pick up a bug from tourists or visiting scientists. This newly identified infection route could have devastating consequences for Antarctic bird colonies, including population collapse and even extinction.

From fecal samples, scientists isolated and identified bacterial species and compared them to strains in humans and domestic animals. DNA from Campylobacter jejuni, which causes food poisoning, was a close match for such strains, suggesting humans may be passing their bacteria on to local seabirds, the researchers report online in Science of the Total Environment. The presence of certain strains of Salmonella and an antimicrobial-resistant type of another gastrointestinal bug, C. lari, which was found in all four locations, supports that conclusion.

“We often think of polar environments as being too cold and that disease transmission is not a huge threat, but the authors have clear evidence that … bacteria can spread widely in polar environments.” Jacob González-Solís, an environmental and evolutionary biologist from the University of Barcelona, predicts that, even though Salmonella and Campylobacter don’t kill most infected wildlife, the pathogens could have “devastating” consequences to Antarctic bird colonies, because this is the first time most birds there have been exposed to these strains.

Rat Poison Found in 85 Percent of Tested Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Fishers

Rat Poison Found in 85 Percent of Tested Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Fishers

SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity

DATE: December 12, 2018

SNIP: A new state analysis has documented super-toxic rat poisons in more than 85 percent of tested mountain lions, bobcats and protected Pacific fishers, prompting state regulators to open a new evaluation of whether to further restrict or ban the powerful toxins.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s analysis of 11 different wildlife studies indicates non-target animals continue to be poisoned in large numbers despite state restrictions on the sale and use of the deadliest rodenticides since 2014. The long-lasting super toxins often poison non-target animals that eat poisoned rodents.

“This alarming new evidence should spur the state to ban these dangerous poisons,” said Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “There are safer, cheaper alternatives that greatly reduce risks to wildlife, pets and children. Pesticide regulators have no excuse for continuing to allow California’s wildlife to die slow, excruciating deaths.”

The new state analysis documented super-toxic rat poisons in more than 90 percent of tested mountain lions, 88 percent of tested bobcats and 85 percent of protected Pacific fishers tested.

Along with the high percentage of poisoning among tested mountain lions, fishers and bobcats, the re-evaluation analysis documented the potent rat toxins in seven out of ten endangered northern spotted owls tested and 40 percent of tested barred owls.

The harm caused by the super-toxic second generation anticoagulant rodenticides in California is well documented. More than 70 percent of wildlife tested in California in recent years has been exposed to dangerous rodenticides. Officials have found poisonings in more than 25 different species of animals, including endangered wildlife such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Pacific fisher.

Step up on climate or choose ‘immoral, suicidal’ path, says UN chief

Step up on climate or choose ‘immoral, suicidal’ path, says UN chief

SOURCE: Climate Change News

DATE: December 12, 2018

SNIP: Governments face a choice between increasing their climate pledges or embarking on an “immoral” and “suicidal” path, UN secretary general António Guterres said on Wednesday.

At a UN climate summit in Poland, Guterres was joined by Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama in issuing a plea for countries to renew and upgrade their Paris Agreement promises within a year.

“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal,” Guterres said. “This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this: a dramatic appeal.”

Launching the call, Bainimarama said governments needed to increase their current national climate pledges five-fold to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial level.

“Or enter history as the generation that blew it; that sacrificed the health of our world and ultimately betrayed humanity because we didn’t have the courage and foresight to go beyond our short-term individual concerns. Craven, irresponsible and selfish,” said Bainimarama.

East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: December 11, 2018

SNIP: A group of glaciers spanning an eighth of the East Antarctica coastline are being melted by the warming seas, scientists have discovered.

This Antarctic region stores a vast amount of ice, which, if lost, would in the long-term raise global sea level by tens of metres and drown coastal settlements around the world.

Freezing temperatures meant the East Antarctica region was until recently considered largely stable but the research indicates that the area is being affected by climate change.

East Antarctica is extremely remote and relatively little studied. What happens to the glaciers will depend on how exposed to warmer water they are, and that depends on the shape of the land beneath them and the sea bed ahead of them.

The discovery could mean much higher sea level rises than anticipated, said Chris Fogwill, a professor at Keele University in England, who was not part of the Nasa research.

The Arctic is in even worse shape than you realize

The Arctic is in even worse shape than you realize

SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: December 11, 2018

SNIP: Over the last three decades of global warming, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95 percent, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic Report Card.

The finding suggests that the sea at the top of the world has already morphed into a new and very different state, with major implications not only for creatures such as walruses and polar bears, but in the long term, perhaps, for the pace of global warming itself.

The oldest ice can be thought of as a kind of glue that holds the Arctic together and, through its relative permanence, helps keep the Arctic cold even in long summers.

If the Arctic begins to experience entirely ice-free summers, scientists say, the planet will warm even more, as the dark ocean water absorbs large amounts of solar heating that used to be deflected by the cover of ice.

The new findings about the decreasing age of ice in the Arctic point to a less noticed aspect of the dramatic changes occurring there. When it comes to the icy cap atop the Arctic ocean, we tend to talk most often about its surface area — how much total ocean is covered by ice, rather than by open water. That’s easily visible — it can be glimpsed directly by satellite — and the area is, indeed, in clear decline.

But the loss of old and thick ice, and the simultaneous decline in the total ice volume, is even larger — and arguably a much bigger deal. Young and thin ice can regrow relatively quickly once the dark and cold winter sets in. But it may not add much stability or permanence to the Arctic sea ice system if it just melts out again the next summer.

Increasingly, what remains is ice that only forms after the peak warmth of the summer, usually in September, and which may not survive the following summer. This “first year ice” is more brittle, more easily tossed around by winds and waves, rendering the Arctic ice pack more mobile and prone to breaking apart.

This process of reverse-aging, scientists say, is all headed to a crucial moment — when all of the ice in the Arctic will be thin and a year old or less. When that happens — the day of maximum youth — we will be on the verge of a much feared milestone: an entirely ice-free Arctic ocean in summer.

The open ocean absorbs about twice as much sunlight as floating sea ice, explained Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate expert at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Ramanathan fears that entirely ice-free summers, if they began to occur regularly, could add another half a degree Celsius (.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming on top of whatever else the planet has experienced by that time.

Turtles’ Tummies Found Clogged with Plastic

Turtles’ Tummies Found Clogged with Plastic

SOURCE: Hakai Magazine

DATE: December 10, 2018

SNIP: Tiny pieces of plastic in the ocean are killing juvenile loggerhead turtles, a new study shows, threatening the survival of the endangered species.

Wind, waves, and sunshine break down discarded plastic—from water bottles to fishing gear—into tiny pieces. About 90 percent of the estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic that litters the ocean measures less than five millimeters across, or about half the width of a pinky finger. Plastic like this can now be found littering a brown seaweed called sargassum, in which loggerhead turtles forage for food.

For the new study, Evan White of the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia examined the gastrointestinal tracts of 52 turtles that died at only days or months old and found that 48 contained plastic. The plastic bits, which were up to a millimeter wide, were sometimes lodged in the turtles’ narrow, winding intestines, blocking the passage of food. The blockages were enough to cause the turtles to starve. The plastic was just a tiny percentage of their body weight, but enough to kill them.

Juno Beach is one of the world’s most densely nested sea turtle sites. One of every 20 loggerhead turtles on the planet starts its life here. The beach is also littered with plastic. On a recent November survey, for instance, a team of center volunteers found dozens of plastic fragments, including pieces of straws, bottle caps, a comb, and even Chinese sausage packaging.

The study’s findings show how serious the dangers of microplastic are to the survival of loggerhead turtles, says Jeanette Wyneken, a biologist at Florida Atlantic University who was not involved with the work. “[Plastics are] considered a pretty substantial threat to survival of the species.

‘Like opening a fan oven’: Australia’s rainforest threatened by bushfires

‘Like opening a fan oven’: Australia’s rainforest threatened by bushfires

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: December 9, 2018

SNIP: This year, early summer heat broke all-time records for Queensland. In Cairns, the tropical port city in the state’s far north, 1,600km (1,000 miles) north of Brisbane, the previous highest temperature in November was 37.2C, set in 1900. On Monday 26 November, the mercury hit 42.6C.

Bushfires are common in Australia but they mostly flare in the south-eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, where summers can be hot and dry.

But Queensland, much of which is located in the tropics, joins other parts of the globe, such as California and Greece, where unusually hot and dry conditions have fuelled catastrophic fires which are forcing a rethink of what such regions can expect in the future.

Typically, rainforest should be able to self-protect during fire, with closed canopies that allow little sunlight to the forest floor and that keep the vegetation moist. But the cyclones have shredded the canopies, leaving an excess of fuel from debris on the ground, and a lack of rain meant the forest was dry.

Since 22 November, more than 1m hectares has been burnt across Queensland, much of which lies in the tropics. Since the beginning of its bushfire season in August, more than 3.6m hectares have been destroyed.

Philip Stewart, a fire ecologist with Queensland University’s school of earth and environmental sciences said areas of rainforest impacted could take decades or even centuries to recover, adding that the next possible threat to those areas was mudslides as the wet season sets in.

High-intensity fire tends to create a layer within the soil that is hydrophobic and therefore water repellent causing mass soil erosion,” he said.

Heavy rains batter Vietnam’s central coast, flood city streets

Heavy rains batter Vietnam’s central coast, flood city streets

SOURCE: Vietnam Express

DATE: December 9, 2018

SNIP: Experts say the downpours are triggered by the northeast monsoon in combination with strong winds.

The Central Meteorological and Hydrological Station stated that the onset of monsoon, combined with strong winds, have caused the heavy rain.

The rainfall in Da Nang in the last 24 hours since 7 p.m. Saturday is about 635 mm, the heaviest since archives were first available in 1975. Rainfall of 180 mm a day is considered heavy. [635mm is 25 inches].

Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

SOURCE: BBC

DATE: December 8, 2018

SNIP: Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed.

The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October.

Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report. The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C.

But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference “welcoming” the document.

Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would “take note” of the report.

“We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, by not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it,” said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, and a former climate negotiator for the UK.

“Climate science is not a political football,” said Camilla Born, from climate think tank E3G.

[File under: All these meetings are a waste of time. We need to take matters into our own hands.]

EPA’s New Water Rule will Gut the Clean Water Act

EPA’s New Water Rule will Gut the Clean Water Act

SOURCE: The Intercept

DATE: December 7, 2018

SNIP: A new water rule will greatly reduce federal water protections, imperiling drinking water, endangered species, and ecosystems across the country. According to the rule that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release next week — some details of which were leaked Thursday — streams that are dependent on rainfall and wetlands not physically connected to year-round waterways will no longer be covered by the Clean Water Act.

As a result of the change, an estimated 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways could lose federal protections that currently shield them from pollution and development, according to Kyla Bennett, director of science policy at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Alaska and the arid west will be hit particularly hard by the new rule, which will be subject to a comment period before it is finalized.

Environmentalists are bracing for what they predict will be disastrous consequences for our nation’s waterways. “For some parts of the country, it’s a complete wiping away of the Clean Water Act,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

By removing water quality standards and permitting requirements, the rule will open these streams, rivers, and wetlands to being paved over, filled in, or polluted. The result, environmentalists say, may take us back to the days of river fires. “You’ll be able to dump as much crap into them as you want,” Hartl said of our nation’s waterways. “Anyone will be free to destroy them as they see fit.”

Even before the new rule goes into effect, more than half of the waterways in the U.S. are officially impaired, according to EPA data. The majority of the more than 1 million miles of rivers and streams that have been assessed violate federal water quality standards — as do more than 70 percent of ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, and almost 80 percent of the bays and estuaries that have been assessed. Of the 4,460 miles of monitored Great Lakes shoreline, 98 percent is contaminated, as are virtually all the Great Lakes’ open waters, which now contain PCBs, dioxin, mercury, pesticides, and other pollutants.