Monthly Archives: December 2017

Tree die-offs spreading in the American West.

New studies on how pine trees in the American West will survive offer dire projections on their survival as it seems that they will die at an increasing rate as the world becomes warmer. The ponderosa pine and pinyon forests will be more vulnerable.

These forests can withstand short droughts but warmer temperatures will stress them to the point where they will no longer survive the shorter droughts. A warmer planet will therefore mean an acceleration in mortality. This new study is significant as it examines multiple increases in temperature rather than a single increase.

According to the study warming temperatures will mean 9 or 10 additional forest die-offs per century. This is not sustainable in the long run. What is interesting is that the results of this study can be applied to many other types of forests around the world.

Even the famous sequoias, the largest tree in the world by its volume is no longer as tough as it used to be. With droughts, other species of trees nearby suck up stored water in the ground and render the sequoias more prone to dying. A small bit of good news from the study is that reducing carbon dioxide levels would help the situation greatly. Any reduction in warming gases would reduce tree die-off.

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The Arctic permafrost is thawing quicker!

A new study has found that the permafrost, a layer that usually never thaws is now thawing faster than ever in the Arctic. As well, sea ice is melting at its fastest pace for the past 1500 years. None of this is reassuring for humans. The climate is changing everywhere on the planet.

This new report says that the far northern regions are warming up twice as fast as the rest of the globe. The level of warming in modern times far exceeds anything that we have known in the past. With the permafrost thawing at a faster rate buildings constructed in those areas will make them vulnerable once the grounds begins to melt and shift.

The Arctic sea ice is also on a downward trend and the 2017 winter levels were the smallest recorded. In 1985 the sea ice was much older and thicker, at least 45% of it was old ice. Today 79% of the Arctic sea ice is only a year old and very thin. Those increases in carbon-dioxide in the air will affect as well the fish supply. More ice free seas will induce countries to fish more in the Arctic seas thereby depleting these resources faster. Change in sea ice can also affect the weather as the jet stream in the upper atmosphere can vary its trajectory, one reason perhaps for these recent California fires and those frigid temperatures in eastern North America in the past weeks.

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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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