Almost all lemur species are now officially endangered

Almost all lemur species are now officially endangered

SOURCE: New Scientist

DATE: July 9, 2020

SNIP: This lemur species was once common across the south of Madagascar, but is now listed as critically endangered, the last category before extinction. The fate of Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) is sadly shared by many of its cousins, with an update of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List today finding more than half of African primates outside Madagascar are now endangered to some extent.

Due to rampant deforestation and hunting in their heartland of Madagascar, lemurs have it particularly bad: 103 of the world’s 107 species of these animals are threatened by extinction. A growing lemur pet trade in the country has also emerged as a new pressure.

“Everything seems to be stacked up against lemurs,” says Russ Mittermeier at the IUCN. Local taboos about hunting Verreaux’s sifaka had previously helped the species, but with new people moving to the forests they occupy as charcoal production booms, that protection has evaporated. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful animal,” says Mittermeier.

Algae turn Italian Alps pink, prompting concerns over melting

Algae turn Italian Alps pink, prompting concerns over melting

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 5, 2020

SNIP: Scientists in Italy are investigating the mysterious appearance of pink glacial ice in the Alps, caused by algae that accelerate the effects of climate change.

There is debate about where the algae come from, but Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council said the pink snow observed on parts of the Presena glacier is likely caused by the same plant found in Greenland.

“The alga is not dangerous, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles,” said Di Mauro, who had previously studied the algae at the Morteratsch glacier in Switzerland.

The plant, known as Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, is present in Greenland’s so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting.

Normally ice reflects more than 80% of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but as algae appear, they darken the ice so that it absorbs the heat and melts more quickly.

More algae appear as the ice melts more rapidly, giving them vital water and air and adding red hues to the white ice at the Passo Gavia, altitude 2,618 metres (8,590 feet).

Tourists at the glacier lament the impact of climate change. “Overheating of the planet is a problem, the last thing we needed was algae,” said tourist Marta Durante.

“Unfortunately we are doing irreversible damage. We are already at the point of no return, I think.”

Green-Energy Companies Have a Human-Rights Problem

Green-Energy Companies Have a Human-Rights Problem

SOURCE: Bloomberg News

DATE: July 4, 2020

SNIP: Land seizures. Dangerous working conditions. Mistreatment of native populations. For decades, such practices were associated in the public mind with the oil and gas industries. That perception in turn undermined confidence in fossil fuels and, as climate change worsened, helped set the stage for a widespread boom in the renewable-energy business.

Now that business is itself under scrutiny — and for some of the same practices.

According to a new report, at least 197 allegations of human-rights abuses have been leveled against renewable-energy projects in recent years, including land-grabs, dangerous working conditions and even killings. Meanwhile, many of the world’s largest publicly held solar and wind companies are failing to meet widely accepted human-rights benchmarks.

The report comes from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, a London-based group that promotes human rights in the corporate world and which has been scrutinizing the renewables business for several years. In 2019, the group documented 47 attacks, ranging from frivolous lawsuits to violence, on individuals who raised concerns about human-rights abuses in the industry. That ranked fourth, behind only mining (143 attacks), agribusiness (85) and waste disposal (51).

That’s hardly the kind of company that most renewables executives want to keep, and the report offers some insight into what’s gone wrong. The group evaluated 16 of the world’s biggest public renewables companies against standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as well as against several criteria that the group developed specific to the green-energy industry. The results were not good. None of the companies had policies to “to respect land rights, to govern their process of land acquisition, or on just and fair relocation of residents.” Perhaps more worrisome, the probe found that the companies had little to no ability to identify human-rights violations in their extensive supply chains.

Those accusations come on top of some other disturbing developments. Fed up indigenous communities in Mexico are now suing the French developer of a massive new wind park after years of complaining that they’ve been harassed into approving projects, for instance, while Norway is ignoring an appeal from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to suspend a state-backed wind-power project that could harm indigenous herding communities.

[Ed Note: So-called “renewables” are a false solution to climate change, and given the mining and land requirements for these “solutions”, will never solve the climate crisis, and will only exacerbate the destruction of nature, and thus ourselves.]

Arctic plants may not provide predicted carbon sequestration potential

Arctic plants may not provide predicted carbon sequestration potential

SOURCE: University of Stirling

DATE: July 2, 2020

SNIP: The environmental benefits of taller, shrubbier tundra plants in the Arctic may be overstated, according to new research involving the University of Stirling.

Current ecosystem and climate models suggest that, as the Arctic warms, tundra ecosystems are becoming more productive, with greater photosynthesis resulting in more carbon being removed, or sequestered, from the atmosphere.

However, most models do not consider the transfer and fate of this carbon below-ground, and how this can interact with soil carbon through the activities of soil microorganisms. This is critically important because the vast majority of carbon in Arctic ecosystems is found in soil and ‘permafrost’ (permanently frozen soil or sediment) in the form of organic matter produced by the incomplete decay of dead plants, animals and soil organisms in cold conditions.

The new research considered the impact of a shrubbier Arctic on soil carbon stocks and the overall carbon sequestration potential of these ecosystems. Significantly, it found that some tall shrub communities stimulate recycling of carbon in soils, releasing it back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide – meaning that more productive shrubs might not always result in greater carbon sequestration.

Professor Wookey said: “While previous studies suggest that a warmer, greener Arctic may increase the rate that carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, our research identified an acceleration in the rate of loss of carbon from soils, back into the atmosphere.

“This may more than offset carbon sequestration and would, unexpectedly, turn these ecosystems into a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Significantly, current ecosystem and climate models do not account for this conundrum, which means we may be underestimating future climate feedbacks from Arctic ecosystems.”

Climate change will make world too hot for 60 per cent of fish species

Climate change will make world too hot for 60 per cent of fish species

SOURCE: New Scientist

DATE: July 2, 2020

SNIP: Fish are at a far greater risk from climate change than previously thought, as researchers have shown that embryos and spawning adults are more susceptible to warming oceans.

In a worst-case scenario of 5°C of global warming, up to 60 per cent of fish species around the world would be unable to cope with temperatures in their geographical range by 2100, when different stages of their lives are taken into consideration. Even if humanity meets the Paris deal’s tough goal of holding warming to 1.5°C, it would be too hot for 10 per cent of fish.

Previously, we thought that just 5 per cent of fish species would struggle to cope with 5°C of global warming, but that was based on analysis of adult fish alone.

Previous analysis has focused very little on life stages, but the team took into account differences between spawning and non-spawning adults, larvae and embryos. Spawners and embryos were found to cope with a much smaller gap between minimum and maximum temperatures, on average 7.2°C and 8.4°C respectively, than the 27.5°C range for adults.

The greater vulnerability for embryos and reproductive adults is a “major cause for concern”, said Jennifer Sunday at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who wasn’t involved the study, in a commentary in the journal Science.

The main reason why embryos and spawners are less tolerant of warming oceans is down to their greater oxygen needs. Oxygen is more soluble in colder waters and less so in warmer ones.

Unfortunately, seas are expected to warm too quickly for evolutionary adaptation. While fish can move to cooler regions, appropriate new spawning sites aren’t always available.

Hundreds of elephants dead in mysterious mass die-off

Hundreds of elephants dead in mysterious mass die-off

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 1, 2020

SNIP: More than 350 elephants have died in northern Botswana in a mysterious mass die-off described by scientists as a “conservation disaster”.

A cluster of elephant deaths was first reported in the Okavango Delta in early May, with 169 individuals dead by the end of the month. By mid June, the number had more than doubled, with 70% of the deaths clustered around waterholes, according to local sources who wish to remain anonymous.

This is a mass die-off on a level that hasn’t been seen in a very, very long time. Outside of drought, I don’t know of a die-off that has been this significant,” said Dr Niall McCann, the director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue.

The Botswana government has not yet tested samples so there is no information on what is causing the deaths or whether they could pose a risk to human health. The two main possibilities are poisoning or an unknown pathogen. Anthrax – initially considered the most likely cause – has been ruled out.

McCann said: “When we’ve got a mass die-off of elephants near human habitation at a time when wildlife disease is very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it seems extraordinary that the government has not sent the samples to a reputable lab.”

Local witnesses say some elephants were seen walking around in circles, which is an indication of neurological impairment. “If you look at the carcasses, some of them have fallen straight on their face, indicating they died very quickly. Others are obviously dying more slowly, like the ones that are wandering around. So it’s very difficult to say what this toxin is,” said McCann.

Elephants of all ages and both sexes have been dying, local reports found. Several live elephants appeared weak and emaciated, suggesting more will die in the coming weeks. The true number of deaths is likely to be even higher because carcasses can be difficult to spot, say conservationists.

“The lack of urgency is of real concern and does not reflect the actions of a responsible custodian. There have been repeated offers of help from private stakeholders to facilitate urgent testing which appear to have fallen on deaf ears … and the increasing numbers are, frankly, shocking.”

Global warming will cause ecosystems to produce more methane than first predicted

Global warming will cause ecosystems to produce more methane than first predicted

SOURCE: University of London, Nature Climate Change

DATE: June 29, 2020

SNIP: New research suggests that as the Earth warms natural ecosystems will release more of the greenhouse gas methane than expected from predictions based on temperature increases alone.

The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, attributes this difference to changes in the balance of microbial communities within ecosystems that regulate methane emissions.

The production and removal of methane from ecosystems is regulated by two types of microorganisms, methanogens – which naturally produce methane – and methanotrophs that remove methane by converting it into carbon dioxide. Previous research has suggested that these two natural processes show different sensitivities to temperature and could therefore be affected differently by global warming.

Research led by Queen Mary University of London and the University of Warwick studied the impact of global warming on freshwater microbial communities and methane emissions by observing the effect of experimental warming of artificial ponds over 11 years. They found that warming produced a disproportionate increase in methane production over methane removal, resulting in increased methane emissions that exceeded temperature-based predictions.

Professor Mark Trimmer, Professor of Biogeochemistry at Queen Mary, said: “Our observations show that the increase in methane emissions we see is beyond what you could predict based on a simple physiological response to the temperature increase.”

Dr Kevin Purdy, Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology at Warwick, added: “Our studies have led to a better understanding of how global warming can affect methane emissions from freshwaters. This means that future predictions of methane emissions need to take into account how ecosystems and their resident microbial communities will change as the planet warms.”

Russian mining giant admits pumping wastewater into Arctic tundra

Russian mining giant admits pumping wastewater into Arctic tundra

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: June 28, 2020

SNIP: A Russian mining giant said on Sunday it had suspended workers at a metals plant who were responsible for pumping wastewater into nearby Arctic tundra.

Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta published videos from the scene showing large metal pipes carrying wastewater from the reservoir and dumping foaming liquid among nearby trees.

A source told Interfax news agency on Sunday that about 6,000 cubic metres of liquid used to process minerals at the facility had been dumped, and that the discharge had lasted “several hours”.

It was impossible to determine how far the wastewater had dispersed, the source said.

Norilsk Nickel cited a “flagrant violation of operating rules” in a statement announcing it had suspended employees responsible for dumping wastewater from a dangerously full reservoir into the natural environment.

The incident occurred at the Talnakh enrichment plant near the Arctic city of Norilsk, the company said.

It comes a month an unprecedented fuel leak at one of the company’s subsidiary plants near Norilsk saw President Vladimir Putin declare a state of emergency. More than 21,000 tonnes of diesel leaked from a fuel storage tank, with the fuel seeping into the soil and dying nearby waterways bright red.

The Novaya Gazeta journalists reported the factory funnelled the wastewater into wildlife areas and hastily removed their pipes when investigators and emergency services arrived on the scene.

China’s Three Gorges Dam, Largest in World, In Danger of Collapse After Worst Floods in 70 Years

China’s Three Gorges Dam, Largest in World, In Danger of Collapse After Worst Floods in 70 Years

SOURCE: Breaking Israel News

DATE: June 26, 2020

SNIP: Weeks of heavy rain have put the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower project in the world, in danger of collapse putting 400 million people at risk. The flooding has been described as the worst since 1949 with natural disasters being declared in 24 provinces and municipalities in the southwest and central China, especially in areas near the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam, causing the reservoir’s water level to exceed the flood control line.

The water level in China’s massive Three Gorges Reservoir reached 147 meters on Saturday, two meters above the flood warning line. Meanwhile, the inflow increased to 26,500 cubic meters per second from 20,500 cubic meters per second on the previous day.

An estimated 400 million people live downstream of the Three Gorges Dam. The Ministry of Water Resources said that 148 rivers had exceeded warning levels. For the first time in history the Chongqing section of the Qijiang River Basin issued a red warning, signifying a flood of more than 10 meters. More than 40,000 people have so far been evacuated.

Made of concrete and steel, the dam is 7,661 feet long and the concrete dam wall is 594 feet high above the rock basis. The dam caused considerable controversy when it was built, displacing over a million people and submerging large areas of the Qutang, Wu and Xiling gorges for about 600km. The dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and caused significant ecological changes including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been controversial both domestically and abroad –while creating a deep reservoir that ocean-going freighters can navigate for 2,250km inland from Shanghai on the East China Sea to the inland city of Chongqing.

Days after the first filling of the reservoir, around 80 hairline cracks were observed in the dam’s structure. It was determined that the submerged spillway gates of the dam might pose a risk of cavitation. In addition, the dam sits on a seismic fault. At current levels, 80% of the land in the area is experiencing erosion. In 2010, NASA scientists calculated that the shift of water mass stored by the dams would increase the length of the Earth’s day by 0.06 microseconds and make the Earth slightly more round in the middle and flat on the poles.

In July 2019, a satellite image of Google Maps appeared to show that the Three Gorges Dam was distorted, sparking concerns that it is at the edge of breaking.

B.C. First Nations say sea lice spreading from fish farms to wild salmon

B.C. First Nations say sea lice spreading from fish farms to wild salmon


DATE: June 26, 2020

SNIP: The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which represents First Nations from across the province, is calling for an end to open net-pen salmon farming in B.C.

The FNLC says that among its chief concerns is that farmed salmon may be spreading sea lice to salmon stocks throughout B.C.’s waters, which is lethal to juvenile wild salmon.

While the leadership council acknowledges that there are other contributing factors to a decline in salmon stocks over the past several years, the FNLC cites a study conducted by the Cohen Commission which recommends shutting down net-pen fish farms in the Discovery Islands if they pose a health risk to wild salmon.

The DFO says that if net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands are scientifically proven to “pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm” to wild fish stocks, then fish farms in the area will be required to close.

The FNLC says that now is the time for the DFO to take action, as a recent report published by fish farm companies Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg suggest that sea lice is now appearing in farmed salmon at rates that exceed limits imposed by the government.

“We have known for years that open net-pen salmon farming is one of the main contributors to the massive decline in wild salmon stocks in this province,” said BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

“The federal and provincial governments have been taking a piecemeal approach to this problem, with long timeframes for transition to closed containment pens, and only in a few places. We need to end salmon farming in our open oceans now to protect both wild salmon and Indigenous ways of being from extinction,” he said.