Trump administration gives go-ahead to use ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wildlife

Trump administration gives go-ahead to use ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wildlife

SOURCE: Bird Guides

DATE: August 11, 2019

SNIP: The Trump administration has reauthorized the use of ‘cyanide bombs’ – controversial poison devices designed to kill Coyotes, Red Foxes and other animals across the US that are deemed as pests [sic] by private farmers and ranchers.

The spring-loaded traps, called M-44s, are filled with sodium cyanide and are most frequently deployed by Wildlife Services, a federal agency in the US Department of Agriculture that kills vast numbers of wild animals each year to assist farmers.

In 2018, Wildlife Services reported that its agents had dispatched more than 1.5 million native animals, from North American Beavers to Black Bears, Grey Wolves, ducks and owls. Roughly 6,500 of them were killed by M-44s.

[T]he traps traps are facing increasing opposition from conservationists and members of the public alike and have, in the past, led to the accidental deaths of endangered species and domestic pets, as well as caused harm to humans.

In the months before the EPA announced the reauthorization, conservation groups and members of the public flooded the agency with comments calling for a total ban on the predator-killing poison across the US. According to an analysis provided by the Center for Biological Diversity, a leading opponent of M-44s, 99.9 per cent of all comments received by the EPA opposed the reauthorization of sodium cyanide for predator control purposes.

Brooks Fahy, the executive director of the environmental group Predator Defense and a leading opponent of M-44s, denounced the EPA’s decision, describing it as a “complete disaster”. He added that the EPA “ignored the facts and they ignored cases that, without a doubt, demonstrate that there is no way M-44s can be used safely”.

From OPB:

The M-44 devices are used to kill coyotes, foxes and other canid-type predators that threaten livestock. The devices, which roughly resemble a sprinkler head, are baited. When triggered, they spray a dose of sodium cyanide into the mouth of the animal, causing chemical asphyxiation and death.

The problem, says those who oppose their use, is that M-44s kill indiscriminately.

Climate change: Marine heatwaves kill coral instantly

Climate change: Marine heatwaves kill coral instantly

SOURCE: BBC

DATE: August 9, 2019

SNIP: Increasingly frequent marine heatwaves can lead to the almost instant death of corals, scientists working on the Great Barrier Reef have found.

These episodes of unusually high water temperatures are – like heatwaves on land – associated with climate change.

Scientists studying coral after a heat event discovered that extreme temperature rises decayed reefs much more rapidly than previously thought.

The study revealed that corals became up to 15% weaker after an extreme heat event, causing some fragments to actually break off from the reef.

Dr Tracy Ainsworth, from the University of New South Wales in Australia, worked on the study. She told BBC News that her whole research team, made up of scientists who have worked on corals for more than a decade, was shocked to find them to be “really brittle”.

More typically, temperature rises cause something called coral bleaching – when the coral expels vital algae that lives in its tissues. In those events, the coral itself remains intact. “But what we’re seeing here is that – when the coral tissue dies – it falls and breaks away from the skeleton,” Dr Ainsworth explained.

Commenting on the paper, Dr Laura Richardson, from the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, UK, said that the really significant discovery was “the rapidity with which the reef skeleton breaks down when you have these severe heatwaves”.

Dr Richardson added that the team had documented, for the first time, that severe heatwaves were causing “almost instant mortality of corals”.

Dr Ainsworth said the researchers referred to the resulting, heat-damaged skeletons as “ghost corals, because there was just nothing left”.

Bolsonaro has blessed ‘brutal’ assault on Amazon, sacked scientist warns

Bolsonaro has blessed ‘brutal’ assault on Amazon, sacked scientist warns

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: August 9, 2019

SNIP: Illegal loggers are ramping up a “brutal, fast” assault on the Brazilian Amazon with the blessing of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, the sacked head of the government agency tasked with monitoring deforestation has warned.

Speaking to the Guardian five days after his dismissal, Ricardo Galvão said he was “praying to the heavens” the far-right leader would change tack before the Amazon – and Brazil’s international reputation as an environmental leader – were ruined.

“This government is sending a very clear message that the control of deforestation will not be like it was in the past …. And when the loggers hear this message that they will no longer be supervised as they were in the past, they penetrate [the rainforest],” Galvão said, claiming “enormous” damage had already been done since Bolsonaro took power in January.

“It is a question of brutal, fast economic exploitation.”

“There is no doubt about it. They have much closer relations with the loggers [than previous governments] … The president has said explicitly that he wants to make deals with American companies to exploit minerals in indigenous reserves,” Galvão said.

Galvão said he hoped the international community would now support “those Brazilians who are struggling against this state of affairs, and force the government to understand that increasing deforestation in the Amazon will only cause harm to Brazil – and to the government itself”.

That seems unlikely. This week, as new Inpe data emerged suggesting an “explosion” of Amazon deforestation in July, Bolsonaro scoffed at his portrayal as Brazil’s “Captain Chainsaw” and mocked Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel for challenging him on the environment.

To hoots of approval from his audience, Bolsonaro declared: “They still haven’t realized Brazil’s under new management.”

88 percent decline of big freshwater animals

88 percent decline of big freshwater animals

SOURCE: Science Daily

DATE: August 8, 2019

SNIP: Rivers and lakes cover just about one percent of Earth’s surface, but are home to one third of all vertebrate species worldwide. At the same time, freshwater life is highly threatened. Scientists from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and international colleagues have now quantified the global decline of big freshwater animals: From 1970 to 2012, global populations of freshwater megafauna declined by 88 percent – twice the loss of vertebrate populations on land or in the ocean. Large fish species are particularly affected. And yet there remain large gaps in monitoring and conservation actions for freshwater megafauna, particularly in areas with high levels of biodiversity.

The results are alarming and confirm the fears of scientists involved in studying and protecting freshwater biodiversity,” says Sonja Jähnig, senior author of the study and expert for global change effects on river ecosystems at IGB. From 1970 to 2012, global populations of freshwater megafauna declined by 88 percent, most notably in the Indomalaya (by 99 percent) and Palearctic (by 97 percent) realms – the former covering South and Southeast Asia and southern China, and the latter covering Europe, North Africa and most of Asia. Large fish species such as sturgeons, salmonids and giant catfishes are particularly threatened: with a 94 percent decline, followed by reptiles with 72 percent.

Overexploitation is the primary threat to freshwater megafauna as they are often targeted for meat, skin and eggs. “Furthermore, the decline of large fish species is also attributed to the loss of free-flowing rivers as access to spawning and feeding grounds are often blocked by dams. Although the world’s large rivers have already been highly fragmented, another 3700 large dams are planned or under construction — this will exacerbate the river fragmentation even further. More than 800 of these planned dams are located in diversity hotspots of freshwater megafauna, including Amazon, Congo, Mekong and Ganges river basins,” says Fengzhi He, first author of the study and expert for diversity patterns and conservation of freshwater megafauna at IGB.

IPCC Report Shows Food System Overhaul Needed to Save the Climate

IPCC Report Shows Food System Overhaul Needed to Save the Climate

SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: August 8, 2019

SNIP: Negotiators for the world’s governments signed off on a report Wednesday that describes in alarming detail how agriculture, deforestation and other human impacts on lands are transforming the climate.

The report, from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shows the urgent need to overhaul the global food system to help control climate-warming emissions.

Written by more than 100 scientists from around the globe, it takes an unprecedented look at the impacts of climate change on lands and the effects of land use on the climate.

The authors say that the entire food production system, with transportation and packaging included, accounts for as much as 37 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and that better land use, less-meat-intensive diets and eliminating food waste should be global priorities, crucial to the immediate, all-out effort needed to forestall a climate catastrophe.

“There’s no doubt the window is closing rapidly,” said Pamela McElwee, one of the report’s authors and a professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. “That’s a key message of this report.”

Climate Change Is Taking a Bigger Toll on Our Food, Water, and Land Than We Realized

Climate Change Is Taking a Bigger Toll on Our Food, Water, and Land Than We Realized

SOURCE: Mother Jones

DATE: August 8, 2019

SNIP: As the planet warms, parts of the world face new risks of food and water shortages, expanding deserts, and land degradation, warns a major new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Those effects are already underway, and some of them could soon become irreversible.

The changing climate has already likely contributed to drier climates in South and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, reducing the food and water supply. In 2015, about 500 million people lived in dry areas that experienced desertification in recent decades as a result of human activities. Those problems are only going to get worse as climate change continues to take its toll.

“Global warming has led to shifts of climate zones in many world regions, including expansion of arid climate zones and contraction of polar climate zones,” the IPCC says in the report, released Thursday. With high confidence, it adds, “Climate change has already affected food security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”

The new report focuses on land, which covers 30 percent of the Earth’s surface and is warming nearly twice as fast as the planet overall.

China is going to get hot

China is going to get hot

SOURCE: Cosmos

DATE: August 7, 2019

SNIP: Two months ago, climate scientists studying US cities found that global warming could produce killer heat waves causing thousands of excess deaths during unusually hot summers like the one now affecting the eastern US and much of Europe.

Now, researchers have found that China faces an even worse problem – not just a few thousand extra deaths in unusually hot summers, but tens of thousands of additional deaths each year. And the problem, they say, will kick in at much lower rates of global warming than those predicted to endanger US cities.

Part of the problem, write Yanjun Wang of Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology and colleagues, in the journal Nature Communications, is that temperatures in China have been increasing faster than the global average.

But it isn’t the rise in average temperature that is the true problem, Wang’s team writes, so much as the fact that this rise is accompanied by an increase in the number of dangerously hot days.

In Chinese cities, they say, global warming of 1.5° degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels (the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious not-to-exceed goal) could produce a 32.6% increase in the number of dangerously hot days.

An increase of 2.0 degrees (the Paris Agreement’s less-ambitious back-up goal) could produce a 45.8% increase.

Combining that with heat-fatality data from 27 large Chinese cities, the researchers calculated heat-death rates per year under each warming scenario, then extrapolated them to the rest of China’s 831 million city dwellers.

Their conclusion was that the difference between 1.5° degrees and 2.0° degrees matters – a lot. Even at 1.5° degrees, they found, China would experience a substantial increase in the number of annual deaths from heat. But at 2.0 degrees it would be substantially worse, with at least 27,900 extra deaths per year due simply to that extra 0.5 degree.

India’s coal-fired generation needs growing 22 percent by 2022

India’s coal-fired generation needs growing 22 percent by 2022

SOURCE: Power Engineering

DATE: August 7, 2019

SNIP: India expects that its coal energy generation will grow by 22% by the end of 2022, putting climate change goals – just recently reported as being on-track – in severe jeopardy.

That’s the word from Ghanshyam Prasad, chief engineer at the country’s Federal Power Ministry, who told Reuters that the country’s coal capacity is likely to reach 238GW over the three-year period.

India’s Coal Minister, Pralhad Joshi previously stated that the demand for coal for the year March 2018-19 had spiked by 9.1% and 991.35 million tonnes, with three-quarters of that figure due to utilities.

If those projections prove true, it would jeopardise the country’s chances of achieving its climate-change goals, whilst worsening already-poor air quality.

Minister Joshi said that despite thermal capacity out-performing power consumption in recent years, India would need more coal-fired plants in order to meet future growth requirements.

He noted: “If we have to meet demand and address the intermittencies we have with solar and wind, we have no choice but to keep depending on coal-based generation in the near future.”

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises

SOURCE: NY Times

DATE: August 6, 2019

SNIP: Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water.

From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data published Tuesday.

Many are arid countries to begin with; some are squandering what water they have. Several are relying too heavily on groundwater, which instead they should be replenishing and saving for times of drought.

In those countries are several big, thirsty cities that have faced acute shortages recently, including São Paulo, Brazil; Chennai, India; and Cape Town, which in 2018 narrowly beat what it called Day Zero — the day when all its dams would be dry.

“We’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future,” said Betsy Otto, who directs the global water program at the World Resources Institute. “The picture is alarming in many places around the world.”

Climate change heightens the risk. As rainfall becomes more erratic, the water supply becomes less reliable. At the same time, as the days grow hotter, more water evaporates from reservoirs just as demand for water increases.

Water-stressed places are sometimes cursed by two extremes. São Paulo was ravaged by floods a year after its taps nearly ran dry. Chennai suffered fatal floods four years ago, and now its reservoirs are almost empty.

Today, among cities with more than 3 million people, World Resources Institute researchers concluded that 33 of them, with a combined population of over 255 million, face extremely high water stress, with repercussions for public health and social unrest.

By 2030, the number of cities in the extremely high stress category is expected to rise to 45 and include nearly 470 million people.

Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

SOURCE: National Geographic and PLOS One

DATE: August 6, 2019

SNIP: America’s agricultural landscape is now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to widespread use of so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS One.

This enormous rise in toxicity matches the sharp declines in bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as birds, says co-author Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth US.

“This is the second Silent Spring. Neonics are like a new DDT, except they are a thousand times more toxic to bees than DDT was,” Klein says in an interview.

The study found that neonics accounted for 92 percent of this increased toxicity. Neonics are not only incredibly toxic to honeybees, they can remain toxic for more than 1,000 days in the environment, said Klein.

“The good news is that we don’t need neonics,” she says. “We have four decades of research and evidence that agroecological farming methods can grow our food without decimating pollinators.”

“It’s stunning. This study reveals the buildup of toxic neonics in the environment, which can explain why insect populations have declined,” says Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy.

As insects have declined, the numbers of insect-eating birds have plummeted in recent decades. There’s also been a widespread decline in nearly all bird species, Holmer said. “Every bird needs to eat insects at some point in their life cycle.”

Neonic insecticides, also known as neonicotinoids, are used on over 140 different agricultural crops in more than 120 countries. They attack the central nervous system of insects, causing overstimulation of their nerve cells, paralysis and death.

They are systemic insecticides, which means plants absorb them and incorporate the toxin into all of their tissues: stems, leaves, pollen, nectar, sap. It also means neonics are in the plant 24/7, from seed to harvest, including dead leaves. Nearly all of neonic use in the U.S. is for coating seeds, including almost all corn and oilseed rape seed, the majority of soy and cotton seeds, and many yard plants from garden centers.

However only 5 percent of the toxin ends up the corn or soy plant; the rest ends up the soil and the environment. Neonics readily dissolve in water, meaning what’s used on the farm won’t stay on the farm. They’ve contaminated streams, ponds, and wetlands, studies have found.

In April 2019 a major study warned that 40 percent of all insect species face extinction due to pesticides—particularly neonics, since they’re the most widely used insecticide on the planet—but also because of with climate change and habitat destruction.