Less plastic in the oceans?

A UN resolution has recently passed that would make countries stop plastic waste entering the ocean waters. The problem with this resolution is that it has no timetable and is not binding. In other words, it is a wish. Sad. Guess who did not want a more binding resolution that had specific goals? The United States of course. Somehow I am not surprised of that.

The good news is that countries are realizing that plastics entering the oceans is a major planetary problem that will affect us all. There is a need to move quickly on this issue.

I was surprised to discover that those countries that mismanage plastic waste are by far developing nations such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines. Of these China is the worst offender.

The plastics industry has been fighting this issue taking exception to measures that would ban plastic bags for example. They need to come aboard and become more green. Dirty tricks have to stop. Paying reporters to write good stories about plastics and the jobs they create has to stop.

Some African countries have stepped up the fight against plastics on their own as they have witnessed the impact these have had on their environment. Mauretania, Senegal and Mali are some of the countries that have acted. More are sure to follow now that the UN has shined a light on this issue.


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Will the Great Barrier Reef survive?

The Great barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure, being made up of 3800 individual reefs that stretch 2300km down the eastern coastline of Australia. A new study has found that 112 robust source reefs, only 3% of the entire system, had ideal properties to help in recovery of other reefs by spreading fertilized eggs to replenish depleted areas.

These reefs have the ability to survive more easily bleaching incidents and starfish outbreaks. Climate change is the culprit in bleaching incidents and the last time this happened in 2016 it killed 25% of the reef. This ability of the reef to heal itself is excellent news as climate change will not reverse itself any times soon.

Still, scientist are skeptical that the reefs could survive the long-term assault that climate change represents. And of course, animals that used to survive in one area of the reefs may not survive with other reefs. The long term viability is still not assured. Other measures such as climate mitigation, local management and coral re-seeding will be needed.

It should be noted that the reefs are part of Australia’s biggest drawing card as it generates 2 million annual visitors and contributes to enriching the Australian economy. Well worth saving for the future inhabitants of Australia and the world.

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Wood Buffalo National Park is in peril.

This park which is located in Canada straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories and is a vast stretch of grassland, forest, wetland and lakes. With 45,000 square kilometers it contains one of the world’s largest freshwater delta. Flocks of waterfowl and songbirds are often found on its shores. According to UNESCO it has an outstanding and universal value and therefore was designated a World Heritage Site.

According to experts the area is now in danger more than ever, especially since 2014. The main threats stem from the possible development of hydro dams. With less water flowing in the park birds will be affected as well bison’s and muskrats. Even people will get stuck on mudflats as water levels will not be high enough. Oil development upstream of the park could also endanger it. The Frontier oil sands mine proposed would be the closest to the park yet.

Parks Canada has responded that the focus of various reports were too narrow, pointing out that the challenges come mostly from outside the boundaries of the park such as climate change. It has also said that the reports did not take into account the future management actions that it intends to take to correct the problems. In other words, we have to trust Parks Canada that it will do the right thing for the management of the park.

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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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