Island nations at risk!

A conference was recently held in Germany discussing the plight of island nations and climate change. Islands nations are the most vulnerable countries to global warming, essentially from rising seas and the loss of fresh water. Hopes that their plight at the German conference would take center-stage did not happen.

As climate change increases it will also increase the power of hurricanes and this summer Caribbean island nations have been pummeled. Barbuda has been hit as well as Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. These have still to recover.

Small islands believe that the industrialized world who are largely responsible for climate change owe some money to offset the disasters that will affect island nations in the future. They argue that as small island nations they are a small contributor to the problem, less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2010 wealthy countries set up the Green Climate Fund to compensate nations more vulnerable to climate change but the fund has been slow to start. The Maldives were one of the first to apply and yet it waited two years to get some money.

Other island nations, seeing the slowness of the process, have decided to go another route, that of the debt swap program. In the Seychelles for example, investors have decided to restructure a 30 million dollar debt if the country agrees to protect 30% of its ocean habitat. Money would be spent in protecting coral reefs that can shield the island from storm surges. Most now believe that too much bureaucracy is a major problem and that perhaps island nations should deal one on one with smaller groups or organization. At least it would be quicker.


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Delhi and the toxic haze.

What attracted my attention this week was the haze problem in Delhi. More and more people in cities are suffering due to air pollution levels that are too high. Nowhere are these problems more serious than in Asia. While we in the West have gotten better in giving clean air to our citizens things have deteriorated in poorer countries and especially in developing ones.

The problem of Delhi is a familiar one; vehicle emissions have gone higher and smoke from burning crops have affected the people. At the level that emissions are in the city it is similar to smoking two pack of cigarettes every day according to specialists. In 2015 it was found that pollution levels in India were responsible for 2.5 million deaths, more than any other country.

Naturally the solutions to the problem are simple but hard to implement; control car emissions, perhaps by a system of alternate-day for people using cars and reduce the burning in agriculture. But the best way to curb pollution is for the people themselves to pressure politicians in making good air quality a priority. It has to become a political movement, the right to clean air.

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The Totten glacier is melting.

For many years scientists thought that the Totten glacier was stable. Scientists thought that the glacier was in an area where warmer currents in the ocean would not affect it. No longer is this believed. They have discovered that the waters around the glacier were warmer than expected and thus, the glacier would melt the area that was underwater. The glacier is 75 miles in length and 19 miles wide.

Totten is the biggest glacier in the eastern part of Antarctica and its melting has the potential to contribute to the elevation of sea levels worldwide.

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Acidic oceans affecting sea life.

An eight-year study confirms that sea life will be affected by rising carbon dioxide emissions. This means that baby cod will be affected, with their numbers falling to a quarter of what they are now. Ocean acidification happens when CO2 from fossil fuels dissolves in seawater, producing carbonic acid and this will lower the ph of the water.

It is even possible that the changes could be made worse by an increase in pollution, more coastal development and over-fishing as well as climate change.

Already more than half of marines species tested react negatively to already moderate increases of CO2 concentrations. The early life stages of cod, blue mussels, starfish and sea urchins were affected. Some plants like algae may benefit from this change. More studies are planned to study the effect.


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Where are the flying insects?

This is not a question without dramatic consequences for us. For the past 25 years there has been a dramatic decline in flying insects according to a new study. At least in Germany. The drama in this is that no one knows if this applies to the rest of the world. I for one, as an amateur photographer can vouch that insects of all kinds this year were not plentiful and that birds were also in decline, at least in my neck of the woods.

Insects are important, both as pollinators and as prey for other wildlife. Our human societies could be seriously impacted by this. We depend on flying insects for pollination.

Even if this new data was done in reserves in Germany it has implications for all landscapes that are dominated by agriculture. The reason is simple; it is more than probable that pesticides play a role in the decline as well as the destruction of wild areas. At least it seems that climate change is not a reason for the decline.

What is even more worrying is that this study was done in protected areas in Germany, where one would think that things would be better than in areas not under protection. It is probable that when the insects leave the reserves they die due to lack of food and maybe the pesticides that are used in the surrounding areas. Studies will now be done elsewhere to see if this is really a worldwide phenomena or something that is localized and unique to Germany.


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A scary volcano!

Yellowstone National Park in the United States is home to a very large and famous volcano. If it ever woke up it would simply plunge earth into a volcanic winter, creating serious consequences for humanity. And now it seems that scientist have discovered that the forces that drive these events can move more rapidly than previously anticipated. Bad news for us.

Previously it was assumed that new magma entering the system would take milleniums to provoke an eruption, but in fact it could take only decades. A big time difference.

Scientists analyzed crystals that were left in the volcanic leftovers from the last eruption. Each crystal was once inside the magma underground and as they grow layers outwards they record changes in water content, temperature and pressure similar to tree rings. And the crystals recorded a clear up tick in temperature and a change in composition on a rapid time scale. I’m crossing my fingers and hope nothing happens as I type this….


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Flooding in Tokyo.

Because of global warming the city is more vulnerable than ever to flooding, and this despite spending billions of dollars on an underground system supposed to control those flood waters.

In the past three decades rainfall that measures more than two inches an hour has increased 30%. It seems that global warming is to blame for these intense rains in a country that is already among one of the wettest in the world.

On top of this, rising oceans makes the Tokyo area vunerable to storm surges and yet people and industries still want to settle near the waterfront. Pumping groundwater as also led parts of the city to sink by almost 15 feet in the past 100 years, thereby increasing the risk of these storm surges.

If one adds increased rainfall with the potential for destructive earthquakes and tsunamis, Tokyo is one of the riskiest city to live in. And the risk will not diminish in the future. Add to these woes the fact that the government is now heavily in debt and has an aging population one can see the financial challenges in making Tokyo secure, now and in the future.


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