Despite the United States pulling out of the Paris treaty on climate change some states are still chugging along and achieving notable results. Witness the state of California which has seen its gas emissions fall below 1990 levels years ahead of the schedule that was self-imposed.
Since 2004 pollution levels were down 13% but the economy grew 26% since then. This gives the lie to Republicans who say that fighting climate change will mean losing jobs and a bad economy. How did California achieve those results? By an increased use of renewable power. In 2016 alone solar power has jumped 33% and imports of hydro power shot up 39%.
Reaching the 2030 targets will be more challenging, and for that to happen the transportation industry will have to continue to sell more efficient vehicles and use cleaner fuels. But because of tough tailpipe standards that exceed federal standards the state has a head start in reaching these targets, despite a hostile Trump administration.
According to a new study, 800 million people living in South Asia could experience sharply diminishing living conditions if greenhouse gases are not reduced significantly. This area of the world is already one of the poorest and one of the hungriest regions.
It seems that unchecked climate change will amplify the hardships of poverty in already poor regions. These hot spots of deterioration are also home to development challenges such as limited access to markets and poor road connections.
For some cities like Karachi, Pakistan higher temperatures are forecast to lower labor productivity and worsen public health while in India farmers will be more stressed as hotter days and increase rainfall are expected.
The study also shows that some of the hottest regions are getting hotter. It also shows that if no change is done to reduce global emissions then 800 million will be affected but if emissions are reduced then the number falls to 375 million people. In either case, poor people will suffer even more than now.
We are habituated to read horror stories about third-world countries and how the environment is always last on the list of importance. But in Pakistan, things are changing, with officials now realizing the importance of trees. The forest cover in Pakistan is 5.2% of the total territory, well short of the 12% that is recommended by the United Nations.
To fight deforestation millions of trees have been planted in the north-east of Pakistan. More than 900,000 eucalyptus trees have also been planted in that area. These trees also control erosion and limit the effects of flooding. These eucalyptus trees will be cut in a few years time, enriching the people in the area before more are planted again. If in some areas Pakistan is becoming green again in others it is more dire. The river Sindh has seen 60% of its forests near the river disappear in 60 years, a consequence of logging and aridity..
What is more interesting is that the federal government and the provincial governments are challenging each other in making Pakistan more green. A welcome change in a country where people vote usually for more infrastructures than more trees.
Climate change will create winners and losers, and sometimes the same people will experience this change, going from boom to bust in a generation. For example, the lobstermen that fish in the Gulf of Maine.
In the early 80’s the Gulf was warming up because of climate change with the result that fishermen in those areas saw their catch of lobsters increase fivefold. Last year, the lobster landings decreased by 22 million pounds and scientists as well as fishermen now worry that the waters are beginning to be too warm for the lobsters.
Of course climate change was not the only reason for the increase in catches of lobsters. There was over fishing of predators like cod and the lobstermen’s own conservation efforts as well helped.
In this century the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99% of the world’s oceans, driven by climate change. By 2050, this warming trend could cut the lobster population by 62% according to scientists. Naturally this has lobstermen feeling anxious about the future.
With the warming of the Gulf of Maine the lobsters have shifted northeast, in the direction of the Canadian waters. Not only are the lobsters moving but they are now thriving in deeper waters as the coastal waters continue to heat up.
Only the conservation measures initiated by the lobstermen can perhaps ensure that some lobsters will continue to survive in the Gulf. These measures could save the industry from a sharp decline in the future. Some lobstermen are also trying to diversify by branching out into oyster farming as a complement. Still, there will be less and less lobsters to fish as the waters continue to warm up. Canadian lobstermen will be the ultimate beneficiaries of climate change in these waters at the expense of American lobstermen.
A new study published recently in the journal Nature shows that indeed Antarctica is melting at a faster rate than previously thought. Bad news for coastal areas as the rate of melt has doubled since 2012. With a faster rate of melt one can expect that this will contribute 6 inches to the sea level rise by 2100, at the upper level of what had been previously estimated by various panels. This means that instead of Brooklyn being flooded once a year it would now be flooded 20 times a year. A real nuisance to the people living there I would assume.
Of course not only Antarctica is melting. Greenland is melting as well as it has lost an estimated 1 trillion tons of ice between 2011 and 2014. With oceans warming and their waters expanding this means that the sea levels will also rise.
With better satellites in orbit observing the polar regions we now can be very sure about things like rates of melting in such areas. The idea that as the climate warms this will increase precipitation and that this would also mean more ice at the poles was disproved by the new studies.
With the Trump administration advocating cuts to Earth observation programs we risk missing out on future details about rates of melt in the polar area and so endangering communities who live along the various coasts worldwide.
The recent G7 meetings ended in disaster, and it was especially bad as far as the struggle to eliminate plastics from the oceans is concerned. The United States as well as Japan refused to ratify an engagement on that issue while Canada and most European countries agreed to sign a new charter against pollution from plastics.
The new charter would attempt to recycle 100% of all plastics by 2030 as well as developing alternatives to the use of plastics. By recycling more less plastics would be found in rivers as well as in the oceans.
It seems that the United States objected to putting numbers in this charter. In other words, it was the same old thing from the Americans. Still, the trend is clear, countries know that we have a problem with plastics and something must be done, sooner rather than later. Hopefully Americans as well as the Japanese will come around to face the facts. Japan especially should sign the charter eventually as they consume large quantities of products from the sea and would be impacted if less fish is captured.
The European Commission has proposed to clean up the beaches and waterways of the union. The measures would reduce or alter the consumption and production of the top ten plastic items that are usually found on beaches and in waterways.
Already several European countries have begun to reduce waste from plastics. It is a popular measure as more than 85% of people polled wanted the European Union to enforce strong measures.
Among proposed measures would be the banning of single-use plastics, the further development of deposit-refund systems and the member states would aim to collect for recycling 90% of all plastic bottles by 2025.
Naturally one can expect a backlash from the various producers of plastics. Most are vocal opponents of bans and insist that voluntary initiatives are enough. But anyone who has seen the large patches of plastics in the oceans knows that we need regulations to eliminate the problem, not wishful thinking.