More and more scientists are starting to realize that the planet is in a downward spiral. And now we have confirmation that nature’s ecosystems are collapsing from a new study. It seems that more than 40% of insect species are declining and that a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster that that of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Scientists knew that mammals were on the decline and larger animals as well as they are easier to study. But insects are more varied and abundant animals and they are essential for ecosystems to function properly. They are after all food for other bigger animals as well as being pollinators and recyclers.
There had been indications in the past of the collapse of insects but now this new review indicates that it is in fact global. The main reason for this decline is the heavy use of pesticides, with urbanization and climate change factors as well. The loss of insects must be stopped if the planet’s ecosystem is to survive and us as well, for we depend on insects also.
It has been established that the annual rate of decline is 2.5% . If one projects this over 50 years only half is left and in a hundred no insects would be left. This is all quite shocking.
Naturally the first to suffer will be the birds as well as amphibians and fish that eat insects. With less insects they will surely decline and one will see a cascading effect. Already in Puerto Rico a study has revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over the past 35 years.
In this new analysis of the best 73 studies done on insect decline it was butterflies and moths that were the worst hit. On farmed land in England there was a fall of 58% of them. In Oklahoma in the United States half of the bumblebee species found in 1949 were found in 2013, a 50% decline.
It is clear that it was the introduction of new classes of pesticides that have accelerated the rates of decline seen presently in insects. These new pesticides create more damage as they are routinely used and they persist longer in the soil, sterilizing it. Even nature reserves have been affected.
The solution is simple; we must change the way we produce food, starting with being more green. Organic farms usually have more insects and the pesticides used in the past had not affected insects as the new class of pesticides do. Also true is the fact that climate change is responsible for the loss of insects. In the tropics where industrial agriculture is not often present it is the rising temperatures that are the culprits in the decline of insects. Another man-made problem. Therefore it is up to us the solve these man-made problems.
China is a very important player in dealing with climate change. It is important what it does at home but as well what it does abroad. As far as coal is concerned, it is simply not doing enough to help in solving the problem of curbing methane emissions.
The Chinese government had mandated its industries to reduce its methane emissions but it failed in that respect. As coal is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel it matters if in China the regulations are not met. Furthermore, coal accounts for 40% of the electricity generated globally and it is even higher in China.
China has abundant coal resources and employs more than four million workers in that sector. If China cannot diminish its reliance on coal then averting a global catastrophe will be impossible.
It is clear that satellite data shows that between 2010 and 2015 the reductions that were planned did not occur, and in fact, methane emissions increased by 1.2 million tons per year during the five year period.
What is worse is that China’s global coal operations are as important as at home. The coal sector is building and financing coal-fired power plants in 17 countries. Since 2002 China has added 40% of the world’s coal capacity in just 16 years, a huge increase. It is clear that China is talking big about cleaning up the environment but when one looks closely it still looks like business as usual, with concern for the environment taking the backseat to economic gains. We will all pay the price for this.
A new study of the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica has discovered an enormous water-filled cavity inside the glacier that was created by warm-water currents eating away at it. This glacier is responsible for 4% of the world’s rising sea levels.
It was only a few years ago that the cavity was found when airplanes using radar over the surface discovered it. The radar will penetrate deeply the glacier and show anything that would be new. Still, much of the area underneath glaciers ice sheets are a mystery.
The size and the hollows in the ice of the cavity are important as they will be used for future models that will predict how fast glaciers are melting and will melt in the future. The gigantic cavity is found at the junction between grounded and floating ice.
New satellite images have shown that the glaciers in North America are melting four times faster than in the previous ten years. Changes in the jet-stream will also have an effect on climate change.
Because the jet streams have shifted more snow is now falling in the north-western United States and less in south-western Canada. The jet streams have shifted because of global warming. It is still uncertain how much of this melting is due to humans affecting the climate.
Naturally with glaciers shrinking there will be adverse effects on nearby river systems when rainfall is low. Millions of people could be affected in some parts of the world as they could lose their primary water supply.
Other changes of this melting could mean more problems adapting by the fishes as the water temperature would change. As well, sediments coming from melting glaciers could fall to the bottom of riverbeds making them overflow during heavy rains.
A new study has concluded that the world’s permafrost is getting warmer and that it was in Siberia that the biggest rise has occurred. In Siberia the frozen soil temperatures have risen three times more than anywhere else.
With this warming of the permafrost more greenhouses gases are being released into the atmosphere and therefore will contribute to climate change.
As the thawing permafrost contains organic material they can contribute to climate change in a significant way. The only solution is naturally to reduce our greenhouse emissions so that the permafrost does not melt to a high degree. Unfortunately it seems that we are going in the other direction..
The increased thawing of the permafrost will also affect buildings and roads in Northern areas, with increased costs to reduce the problem and contain it.
New research has found that the seas have absorbed 90% of the climate change energy in the past 150 years. Because of this extra amount of energy sea level have risen and this has also enabled hurricanes and typhoons to be more intense.
Rising sea levels are endangering millions of people who live in coastal cities. This increased heat is also expanding the water in the oceans as well as well as provoking melting in Greenland.
Not all the seas have warmed up everywhere at the same level. In the Atlantic only half the rise seen since 1971 was due to the increased heat transported by ocean currents. More studies will be needed to see if there is much variation in the different levels of heating in the various seas. It is possible that some seas will warm up more than others. Already indications are that cold frigid waters such as those found in the Arctic areas will be much warmer than elsewhere.
According to a new survey coastal development and sea level rise are causing the decline of tidal flats along the world’s coastlines. From 1984 to 2016 it seems that there was a decline of 16%.
Tidal flats are important as they act as a buffer to storms and sea level rise and they also provide a habitat for many species such as migratory birds and fish nurseries. These tidal flats can be mud flats, sand flats or rocky reef platforms. Fully 50% of these tidal flats can be found in just eight countries, of which the United States and Canada are part of.
It happens often that airports, aquaculture and other infrastructure are built over these tidal flats, further contributing to the decline. Less sediment flow from rivers can also contribute to less sediments being deposited as tidal flats. Damming rivers will often reduce the flow of sediments to rivers.
These tidal flats were hard to observe in the past due to the fact that they are often submerged but with the use of satellite imagery they can now be better documented. The hope is that just as deforestation was better understood once people saw the images the demise of tidal flats will also be now be on the radar as the information is freely available for all to see.