It is confirmed, Antarctica is melting faster!

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.



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No deal on plastics.

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.

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Cleaning up Europe’s beaches.

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.

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Coastal erosion in Senegal.

One of the effects of climate change is that the sea is eroding more and more the land around the coast where cities are located. In Saint-Louis, a city in Senegal, the effects of the sea battering the coast are very visible. People’s houses are crumbling in some areas, but nowhere more evidently than in the poor areas of Saint-Louis.

In this poor area where 80,000 people live coastal erosion is an immediate threat and this threat has increased in the past decade. The stretch of land that they live on is barely 600 feet wide in some places. People in the area have had to be re-settled elsewhere and more than 250 families have lost their homes to erosion. These people who are fishermen now are further away from the coast and they now have to pay for transportation to the ocean. People did receive a lump sum payment of 900 dollars but nothing else and few can move away from the area due to lack of money.

The government is paying a French company to build embankments that would shield houses from the ocean swell. Giant five-ton bags filled with rocks are put for two miles along the coast but this is only a short-term solution.

Other solutions exist, such as plating mangroves and pine trees to halt erosion and reclaim land. A new sea wall and resanding beaches area are also proposals that have been made. As always, money will be needed to fund these long-term projects. The French government has made a grant of 18 million dollars to further study the problem.

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Drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

Called Australia’s answer to the Galapagos, the Great Australian Bight as it is called is a stretch of pristine ocean facing the Antarctic home to teeming fisheries. A new industry is now appearing on the horizon; the oil industry.

The Norwegian oil giant Statoil plans to drill in the Bight as the area is considered the last great remaining natural gas reserve. People now fear that this area will be damaged from a spill and that the marine world will be damaged. Several industries depend on a pristine coastline.

The coast around the Bight is one that has seen jobs disappear as it is a struggling post-industrial area. New jobs in the area would therefore be important. Local politicians support drilling but the support is far from unanimous. After all, the fishing and tourism industry is worth more than 1 billion dollars.

Should an accident like the Deepwater Horizon blow-out occur it would damage the coastline along a wide stretch. Furthermore, the equipment to contain a blow-out by capping the flow of oil is in Singapore and it would require 35 days to put in place.

All the people opposed to drilling look naturally at worst-case scenarios and these are horrifying. From tuna to oysters, the marine life could be decimated by a spill. People are naturally wondering if it is worth it.

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The White House kills a NASA program.

The White House has secretly killed a NASA program that was destined to monitor carbon dioxide gases and methane gases in the atmosphere. These two gases contribute to global warming.

NASA has said that a lack of funding was the reason for the demise of the program and that in the last budget that was adopted the funding for the program was not there.

Analysts have said that without a monitoring system there was no way of knowing if a country can respect the Paris Accords in combating global change. Naturally as the Trump administration has pulled out of the agreement, why spend money on something that is not needed anymore….

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Methane emissions to double from northern lakes.

It seems that freshwater lakes in the northern hemisphere could see the methane that they emit double in the next fifty years. Methane as a gas is 25 times more warmer than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It appears that when cattail plants decay and fall in the water they trigger a major increase in the amount of methane that is produced. Microbes in the sediment at the bottom of lakes produce the gas but how much is produced varies from lake to lake.

When tests were made on cattails and conifers the cattails produced over 400 times the level of methane produced by the conifers. It seems that coniferous and deciduous trees prevent the production of methane gas.

It is possible that as the number of cattails colonizing northern lakes in the future increase and double this would elevate the production of methane by 73% between 2014 and 2070. This new method of methane production was underestimated in the past in climate models. Scientists will now be able to incorporate these new measurements into future models of global warming and will better be able to predict what the future climate will look like.

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