Drought and climate change blamed for the death of centuries-old sandalwood trees

Drought and climate change blamed for the death of centuries-old sandalwood trees

SOURCE: ABC (Australia)

DATE: July 6, 2019

SNIP: Rare Australian sandalwood trees that are more than 200 years old are dying in South Australia’s outback.

Ecologist John Read spotted the dying trees on his property at Secret Rocks, between Whyalla and Kimba, on the state’s Eyre Peninsula.

The trees had been seen by the explorer Edward John Eyre in 1840.

“If it was just a single species of tree, you might think it would be a pest or disease that’s gone through, but we’ve noticed quite a significant die-off of wattles and long-lived pine trees.”

Mr Read called for national action on climate change and said: “old trees don’t lie”.

Anchorage hits an official 90 degrees for the first time on record

Anchorage hits an official 90 degrees for the first time on record

SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News

DATE: July 5, 2019

SNIP: The National Weather Service said Friday it took a long look at Thursday’s record afternoon temperatures before announcing late in the day that the thermometer had reached an astonishing 90 degrees at the official recording site at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

The weather service first reported that a record of 89 degrees had been reached in an hourly sampling of airport weather. The actual temperature was 89.1, but it is the weather service’s practice to round to the nearest whole number.

But because the temperature of record is collected at an airport, it is sampled more frequently than on the hour, an NWS official in Anchorage said. Upon evaluation of minute-to-minute temperatures, the weather service said, meteorologists saw that at exactly 5 p.m. the temperature spiked to 89.6 degrees before cooling back down to 87.8 five minutes later.

Anchorage’s new highest temperature on record — after rounding – is now 90 degrees on Independence Day, 2019. The previous record of 85 was set on June 14, 1969.

The average high for July 4 in Anchorage is 65.

‘Unprecedented’ Wildfires Burned Across the Arctic Circle In June

‘Unprecedented’ Wildfires Burned Across the Arctic Circle In June

SOURCE: Vice

DATE: July 4, 2019

SNIP: Across the Arctic, more than 100 wildfires are releasing clouds of carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

The fires have been burning across the Arctic Circle in Siberia and Alaska for weeks. Though fire is a natural part of some Arctic ecosystems, scientists are calling the wildfires “unprecedented” for the month of June based on their size and carbon dioxide emissions.

“These are some of the biggest fires on the planet, with a few appearing to be larger than 100,000 hectares,” Thomas Smith, professor of geography at the London School of Economics, said in an email. “The amount of CO2 emitted from Arctic Circle fires in June 2019 is larger than all of the CO2 released from Arctic Circle fires in the same month from 2010 through to 2018 put together.”

In Alaska alone, there have already been 369 wildfires this year, burning through 648,489 acres. New ones are igniting every day, contributing to the 115 still burning as of Tuesday. With hot, dry conditions, Alaska is expecting more wildfires throughout the month.

Melissa Price approved uranium mine knowing it could lead to extinction of 12 species

Melissa Price approved uranium mine knowing it could lead to extinction of 12 species

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 4, 2019

SNIP: The former environment minister Melissa Price acknowledged that approval of a uranium mine in Western Australia could lead to the extinction of up to 12 native species but went ahead with the decision anyway.

The admission is contained in a statement of reasons signed by the minister before she approved the Yeelirrie uranium mine, 500km north of Kalgoorlie, the day before the federal election was called in April.

The document also shows the environment and energy department recommended conditions that would require the developer, Cameco, to ensure the project would not result in the extinction of up to 11 stygofauna, which are tiny groundwater species.

But Price instead adopted a weaker set of conditions aimed at reducing the risk to groundwater species but which the department said contained “significant uncertainties” as to whether or not they would be successful.

Price wrote that she “accepted that there was a risk” that species could be lost. Neither the stygofauna nor the saltbush are listed species under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Baked Alaska: record heat fuels wildfires and sparks personal fireworks ban

Baked Alaska: record heat fuels wildfires and sparks personal fireworks ban

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 3, 2019

SNIP: Record-breaking heat across Alaska is pushing tourists to beaches, and sending flames across the unseasonably hot, dry state.

Anchorage experienced higher than average temperatures nearly every day of June, reaching a balmy 80F on days that once maxed out at a mild 67.

The weather is forecasted to heat up further through and after the Fourth of July, with temperatures expected to climb to nearly 90F in Fairbanks and Anchorage over the weekend.

If the forecasts are correct, the state could set several new local heat records before the week is out.

Alaska’s heating has a cascading effect. As ocean temperatures rise, the coasts heat up, with potentially catastrophic consequences on land and in the water. And all that local heat contributes to faster planet-wide warming.

Alaska is trapped in a kind of hot feedback loop, as the arctic is heating up much faster than the rest of the planet. Ocean surface temperatures upwards of 10F hotter than average have helped to warm up the state’s coasts. When Bering and Chukchi sea ice collapsed and melted months earlier than normal this spring, the University of Alaska climate specialist Rick Thoman characterized the water as “baking”.

“I intentionally try to not be hyperbolic, but what do you say when there’s 10- to 20- degree ocean water temperature above normal?” Thoman told the Guardian. “How else do you describe that besides extraordinary?”

The hot water has affected sea birds and marine life, with mass mortality events becoming commonplace in the region. The National Park Service characterizes Alaska’s increasingly frequent sea bird die-offs, called “wrecks”, as “extreme”. “The folks in the communities are saying these animals look like they’ve starved to death,” said Thoman.

Bitcoin’s energy consumption ‘equals that of Switzerland’

Bitcoin’s energy consumption ‘equals that of Switzerland’

SOURCE: BBC News

DATE: July 3, 2019

SNIP: Bitcoin uses as much energy as the whole of Switzerland, a new online tool from the University of Cambridge shows.

The tool makes it easier to see how the crypto-currency network’s energy usage compares with other entities.

However, one expert argued that it was the crypto-currency’s carbon footprint that really mattered.

Currently, the tool estimates that Bitcoin is using around seven gigawatts of electricity, equal to 0.21% of the world’s supply.

Over the course of a year, this equates to roughly the same power consumption as Switzerland.

In order to “mine” Bitcoin, computers known as mining machines are connected to the crypto-currency network.

They are tasked with verifying transactions made by people who send or receive Bitcoin. This process involves solving puzzles.

The puzzles aren’t integral to verifying movements of Bitcoin, they simply provide a hurdle to ensure no-one fraudulently edits the global record of all transactions. As a reward for pitching in to this system, miners occasionally receive small amounts of Bitcoin.

To make as much money from this process as possible, people often connect large numbers of miners to the network – even entire warehouses full of them.

That uses lots of electricity because the miners are more or less constantly working.

[D]espite its many proponents, the Bitcoin network has an energy consumption problem. It uses lots of energy despite processing fewer than 100 million financial transactions per year.

[T]he number was “completely insignificant” in global terms. The traditional financial industry processes 500 billion transactions per year.

Amazon destruction accelerates 60% to one and a half soccer fields every minute

Amazon destruction accelerates 60% to one and a half soccer fields every minute

SOURCE: CNN

DATE: July 2, 2019

SNIP: Amazon deforestation accelerated more than 60% in June over the same period last year, in what environmentalists say is a sign that the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro are starting to take effect.

The rate of rainforest destruction had been stable during the first few months of Bolsonaro’s presidency but began to soar in May and June, according to Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE), a government agency whose satellites also monitor the Amazon.

769.1 square kilometres were lost last month – a stark increase from the 488.4 sq km lost in June 2018, INPE’s data showed. That equates to an area of rainforest larger than one and a half soccer fields being destroyed every minute of every day.

More than two-thirds of the Amazon are located in Brazil and environmental groups blame far-right leader Bolsonaro and his government for the increase, saying he has relaxed controls on deforestation in the country.

During Bolsonaro’s election campaign, he promised his government would focus on recovering the Brazilian economy and said he would look at ways of exploring the Amazon’s economic potential. Six months after his inauguration, the populist president is certainly delivering on his promises.

“The strong indication of the increase in the deforestation rate during the government of Jair Bolsonaro shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the environment NGO network Observatorio do Clima (Climate Observatory) said. “It’s, after all, the accomplishing of a campaign promise: Bolsonaro was the first president in all of Brazil’s history to be elected with an openly anti-environmental and anti-indigenous speech”.

Rittl says loggers, farmers and miners emboldened by Bolsonaro’s pro-business stance have jumped on the opportunity, taking advantage of reduced controls and less oversight to seize control of a growing area of land within the Amazon forest.

Record-breaking temperatures for June

Record-breaking temperatures for June

SOURCE: Copernicus Programme Climate Change Service

DATE: July 2, 2019

SNIP: Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Union, show that the global-average temperature for June 2019 was also the highest on record for the month. It was about 0.1°C higher than that of the previous warmest June, in 2016, following a strong El Niño event.

The map of temperature anomalies highlights just how unseasonably warm the end of the month was. Compared to the average for the same five days during 1981-2010 (the standard 30-year climatological reference period), temperatures of 6-10°C above normal occurred over most of France and Germany, northern Spain, northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

Looking at the temperature data from a longer-term perspective reveals the month to be even more unusual. Merging the latest C3S data with datasets that extend further back in time shows that the June 2019 European-average temperature was more than 3°C higher than the average for 1850-1900.

‘Precipitous’ fall in Antarctic sea ice since 2014 revealed

‘Precipitous’ fall in Antarctic sea ice since 2014 revealed

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 2, 2019

SNIP: The vast expanse of sea ice around Antarctica has suffered a “precipitous” fall since 2014, satellite data shows, and fell at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic.

The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years. The cause of the sharp Antarctic losses is as yet unknown and only time will tell whether the ice recovers or continues to decline.

But researchers said it showed ice could disappear much more rapidly than previously thought. Unlike the melting of ice sheets on land, sea ice melting does not raise sea level. But losing bright white sea ice means the sun’s heat is instead absorbed by dark ocean waters, leading to a vicious circle of heating.

Sea ice spreads over enormous areas and has major impacts on the global climate system, with losses in the Arctic strongly linked to extreme weather at lower latitudes, such as heatwaves in Europe.

Antarctic sea ice had been slowly increasing during the 40 years of measurements and reached a record maximum in 2014. But since then sea ice extent has nosedived, reaching a record low in 2017.

“There has been a huge decrease,” said Claire Parkinson, at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the US. In her study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she called the decline precipitous and a dramatic reversal.

“The Arctic has become a poster child for global warming,” Parkinson said, but the recent sea ice falls in Antarctica have been far worse. She has tracked Antarctic sea ice for more than 40 years. “All of us scientists were thinking eventually global warming is going to catch up in the Antarctic,” she said.

Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal

Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 2, 2019

SNIP: The booming liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry will play at least as big a role as new coal investments in bringing on a climate crisis if all planned projects go ahead, US-based energy analysts and campaigners say.

The Global Energy Monitor, formerly known as CoalSwarm, is a US-based research and advocacy group that tracks fossil fuel development. It found there were US$1.3tn in planned LNG investments across the globe, including nearly $38bn in Australia, putting it fourth on a list behind the US, Canada and Russia.

Ted Nace, the group’s executive director, said the proposed tripling of global LNG capacity risked introducing decades of emissions of methane, a potent and difficult-to-monitor greenhouse gas, at odds with the Paris climate agreement. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year estimated methane emissions would need to be reduced by 35% between 2010 and 2050 to meet the Paris goals.

Natural gas is at times described as a transition fuel in the response to the climate crisis as it has about half the carbon dioxide emissions of black coal when burned to generate electricity. That argument has been rejected by the head of the International Energy Agency and science bodies warning the world needs to rapidly move to clean energy and industries.

Nace said it was difficult to compare emissions from coal and gas given their different nature. Gas has lower CO2 emissions than black coal when burned for electricity, but LNG developments also leak methane, which is a relatively short-lived gas that lasts in the atmosphere about 12 years but still has a warming power about 28 times greater than the same amount of CO2 when calculated over a century.

Global Energy Monitor researchers found fugitive methane emissions from new LNG extraction and processing would be expected to have as large or larger global heating impact than proposed coal power expansion.