threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Five new islands discovered as the Arctic ice melts

A Russian naval expedition has discovered five Arctic islands as climate change melts glaciers and reveals landforms previously hidden under ice.

Ranging in size from 900 to 54,500 square metres, the five tiny islands are located in the cove of Vize off the northeastern shore of Novaya Zemlya, which divides the Barents and Kara seas in the Arctic ocean, a defence ministry statement said.

A student Marina Migunova first spotted the islands in 2016 while analysing satellite imagery for her final coursework at a naval university. But new geographic points are added to maps and other navigational documents only after specialists visit them and perform a topographic survey, the defence ministry said.
The islands were previously concealed under the Nansen glacier, also known as the Vylka, which is part of Europe’s largest ice cap covering much of Novaya Zemlya’s northern island.

Arctic islands

The retreat of Arctic ice amid rising air and ocean temperatures has been unveiling unknown landforms. In 2015-18, the hydrographic service observed more than 30 islands, capes and bays near Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land for the first time through satellite monitoring. More are expected to be found.

A US study last year concluded that the ice loss by glaciers on Franz Josef Land had doubled between 2011 and 2015.

Melting ice has increasingly stranded polar bears on land, contributing to incidents like the “polar bear invasion” of a military town on Novaya Zemlya this year.

Coastal erosion is also speeding up as permafrost soil thaws and summertime wave action increases.

President Vladimir Putin said at an Arctic conference in April that Russian data showed the region was warming not two but four times faster than the rest of the world.

In response, his country has been expanding its presence in the Arctic, opening military bases and building nuclear icebreakers to promote shipping along the northern sea route.



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Major climate change study warns that Britain will experience the worst flooding in Europe

A report in The Independent by Phoebe Weston has been summarized on msn.com:

Researchers from 24 European countries have provided the clearest evidence yet that climate change is affecting the severity of floods. The study also shows clear regional variations – in northwestern Europe, floods are becoming more severe but will be less destructive in southeastern Europe.

North England and southern Scotland will be the areas worst affected, with an 11 per cent increase in river flood levels per decade, according to the research by 50 scientists from 35 research institutions.

Birmingham floods

This is because in central and northwestern Europe, increased levels of precipitation are making soils wetter meaning they are unable to absorb excess water, according to the paper published in Nature.

In southern Europe, the risk of flooding is falling because climate change is causing precipitation to fall while higher temperatures are drying out soils, meaning they can absorb more water. Some areas will see as much as a 23 per cent decline in the magnitude of flood events per decade.

In the Mediterranean, small river floods may become larger due to more frequent thunderstorms and deforestation, according to scientists who looked at river flow data from 3,738 locations.

“For a long time, it has been assumed that climate change is having an impact on the magnitude of flood waters because a warmer atmosphere can store more water. However, this is not the only effect – things are more complicated,” said lead researcher Professor Gunter Bloschl from the Vienna University of Technology.

“Processes differ across Europe – but the regional patterns all correspond well with predicted climate change impacts. This shows us that we are already in the midst of climate change,” he said.

Annual damage from flooding costs an estimated $100bn (£80bn) of damage every year. This is expected to rise due to increased economic growth and urbanisation.

“This timely study adds to a growing body of evidence that shows that flood magnitude has increased in the UK over the last five decades, particularly in parts of northern and western Britain,” said Jamie Hannaford from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

“We show this is part of a continent-wide pattern of changes in flooding, which is in line with what we may expect in a warming world.

“This highlights the importance of long-term hydrological monitoring and the benefits of data sharing and collaboration at a European scale in order to better understand the mechanisms behind observed changes in flooding.”

Researchers say these findings should be included in flood management strategies.

“Regardless of the necessary efforts of climate change mitigation, we will see the effects of these changes in the next decades. Flood management must adapt to these new realities,” said Professor Bloschl.

See also:

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/britain-flooding-climate-change-study-europe-a9082471.html



 


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Climate change affects the German economy

This blog is taken from:

https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/the-shape-of-things-to-come-climate-change-affects-the-german-economy/

with acknowledgements and thanks to a colleague who runs the political clean up website.



In 2018, one of the longest dry spells on record left part of the Rhine in Germany at record low levels for months, forcing freighters to reduce their cargo or stop using the river altogether. Some inland ports lay idle and it is estimated that millions of tons of goods had to be transported by rail or road, raising costs significantly – twice or three times as much by rail and around five times as much by road, according to Handelsblatt Today.

The Rhine is vitally important to life and commerce in the region. Roughly 80% of the 223 million tons of cargo transported by ship in Germany each year travels the Rhine, which links the country’s industrial heartland to Belgium, the Netherlands and the North Sea. Parts of the Danube and the Elbe – Germany’s other major rivers – were also drying up.

The slump in the river’s water levels dented Germany’s economic growth by 0.4% in the final quarter of 2018 and by 0.3% in the preceding three months, according to estimates from JPMorgan economist Greg Fuzesi in January. Fuzesi said at the time he anticipated a 0.55% contribution to GDP in the first quarter of this year as the river’s water levels normalize. At least 0.7 percentage points had been shaved off economic growth last year, adding to a series of shocks that almost tipped the nation into a recession.

Problems included:

  • Ships carrying the large and heavy components of a wind farm could no longer reach Kubler’s Mannheim terminal.
  • Because they cannot be carried on rail, or for more than a couple of miles on roads, Kübler’s storage area at its terminal lay empty.
  • This stopped the building of the wind farm.
  • A trade group in Germany put farmers’ losses at several billion dollars.
  • The German chemical giant BASF had to decrease production at one of its plants because the Rhine, whose water it uses to cool production, was too low.
  • Gas stations in the region that relied on tankers to deliver from refineries in the Netherlands ran out of fuel.
  • About half of Germany’s river ferries stopped running, according to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration
  • River cruise ships had to transport their passengers by bus for parts of their journey.
  • Thousands of fish in the Swiss section of the river died because of the heat and low oxygen levels.
  • In November, natural gas prices increased 13% throughout Europe as coal barges could not reach coal-powered plants.
  • The world’s largest chemical company BASF, which operates the world’s largest integrated chemical plant on the western bank of the Rhine, said the overall cost of 2018 dry season was $285 million.
  • Steel maker ThyssenKrupp could not receive raw materials to one of its mills in Duisburg, forcing the company to delay its shipments to customers including automotive giant Volkswagen.
  • Contargo, which usually moves approximately 50,000 containers a month on around 40 barges, was forced to reduce its operations to three barges. Its statement noted the situation had become so extreme that barges could no longer navigate the Middle Rhine without danger.
  • Tourism was among the hardest hit sectors since the river is frequently used by boats cruising up and down the Rhine to visit castles, vineyards and other sights.

De Hoop

The wreck of De Hoop, a Dutch freighter that sank after an explosion in 1895 and is normally submerged, lay exposed on the Rhine’s banks – and wild tomatoes grew in the Rhine riverbed in Bonn.

In January and February this year, Rhine barge operators introduced a low water surcharge on exports and imports, as – we noted – did Montreal shipping companies, when, due to the lower water level of the St Lawrence river, ships had a limited loading capacity and fewer containers could be loaded on board,.

Bloomberg reported that water levels at many Rhineland locations were now back to normal for the time of year and barges that handle hundreds of fuel shipments up and down the river each year were able to reach all destinations fully loaded — something they had not been able to do for months, according to Rotterdam-based broker Riverlake Barging.

BASF’s CEO Martin Brudermueller is calling for new locks and dams to be built to keep the river navigable in dry season. The shipping lane could be made deeper, but that would take years, if not decades, and would cost millions.

“Our research shows an increase in instability,” said Hagen Koch, who studies rivers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The extremes are going to happen more often.” The Rhine’s flow relies not just on annual rainfall, but also on enormous long-term reserves of water in the Alps. Melting snow and glaciers, as well as Lake Constance, feed the upper parts of the river, but with climate change, those reserves are lower. There are reasons to believe such weather will become more frequent with a warming climate.

Sources include:

https://theloadstar.com/port-of-rotterdam-expansion-sparks-call-for-urgent-expansion-of-rhine-freight-corridor/

https://www.handelsblatt.com/today/companies/low-water-dwindling-rhine-paralyzes-shipping-transport/23695020.html?ticket=ST-4247374-9jmn5gssgio4lWFhMoFL-ap6

https://theloadstar.com/barge-operators-hit-new-charges-rhine-water-levels-sink-new-lows/

https://theloadstar.com/shippers-face-surcharges-boxes-barge-summer-heat-hits-rhine-water-level/

https://www.dailysabah.com/economy/2019/01/19/decreasing-water-levels-significantly-affect-europes-main-waterway-rhine

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/world/europe/rhine-drought-water-level.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-13/finally-some-good-news-for-german-growth-as-river-rhine-refills

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-23/germany-s-dried-up-rivers-cut-growth-but-the-rebound-is-coming

https://www.embassyfreight.co.uk/news/montreal-low-water-surcharge-lws/



 


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Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand by Stephen Pittam

Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand

An article by Stephen Pittam on the “Rethinking Poverty” website:

In April I attended Ariadne’s annual meeting in Belfast. Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of over 600 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights. Participants enjoyed the special hospitality that Belfast always offers its visiting guests, including a tour of the peacelines and murals. And what could serve better to frame the final plenary for this event, which focused on Human Rights in a Changing Climate, than the climate change mural on the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast. It sums up perfectly the reason why the climate justice movement and the social justice movement are so intricately intertwined. The world’s poorest are the most vulnerable to extreme weather and other climate events and have the least resources to cope with the impact. The image of who will suffer most as a result of climate change could equally apply to the domestic agenda in the UK.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been in the forefront of work on climate change and social justice in the UK. Its 2014 overview of the field reviewed more than 70 studies and was a really useful document. It would be great if five years later it could be updated, but sadly the programme has ended.

Climate change affects the poorest in the UK most

Take transport for instance. The review highlighted the inequitable distribution of carbon emissions. The wealthiest 10 per cent of households in the UK were responsible for 10 times more carbon emissions from international aviation than the lowest, and 7-8 times more from personal transport. And yet little consideration has been given to how responsibility for emissions might inform responsibility for mitigation responses. The government’s overall domestic sustainable energy policies were forecast to produce a situation by 2020 where the richest 10 per cent of households might see an average reduction of 12 per cent in their energy bills while the poorest 10 per cent are expected to see a reduction of only 7 per cent.

The review describes multiple ways in which lower income and vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by climate change and associated policies to address the crisis. But it also goes on to indicate that it is possible to achieve carbon reduction targets in a socially just way and that concrete examples of adaptation and mitigation practice are beginning to emerge at the local level, which also address social justice questions. This mirrors the experience of the Global Greengrants Fund, one of the sponsors of the final plenary at the Ariadne event, whose work has shown that local communities whose lives are most affected often come up with the best solutions to environmental harm and social injustice. The two themes are closely interconnected.

How can the UK meet its emissions targets?

Spurred on by the amazing activists of Extinction Rebellion, the school students’ strikes, and the initiatives of dozens of towns and cities across the UK, the UK government has now declared a climate emergency. In an attempt to create a positive legacy, Theresa May has recently pledged to introduce a legally binding target forcing the UK to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many will argue that this is too little too late, but the gulf between the rhetoric and reality feels huge at the moment given that the government is not even on track to meet its current significantly more modest targets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It will take a radical change in policy and practice to get there, but it is possible to envision a different world. The last meeting of the UK-based Environmental Funders Network focused on the changes needed. Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Laura Sandys introduced the new IPPR Environmental Justice Commission (of which they are the co-chairs) which aims to infuse the debate on climate change with hope and to confront the climate crisis with policies that promote social and economic justice.

Enter the Green New Deal

This initiative talks about the green transition, and has in many ways been inspired by the thinking which emerged in 2008 through the Green New Deal Group of which Caroline Lucas is a member. The Group’s 2008 report was, in my opinion, the best piece of analysis that came out of the financial crisis of that time. It proposed a labour-intensive green infrastructure programme which would tackle the crisis of climate change and help mitigate the effects of the huge economic downturn which the Group correctly predicted. It talked about rebuilding a sense of hope and creating economic security for all, while fully protecting the environment.

Sadly, once the immediate threat of economic collapse had receded, the country moved to the right and new Keynesian ideas were replaced with monetarist policies. We moved into the era of austerity – a policy of choice rather than necessity, which has led to further damage to the environment and fuelled the further rise of inequality and poverty.

Now, support for the Green New Deal is growing once more as the scale of the climate crisis has broken through into public consciousness. The idea, developed in the UK, has been exported to the USA where the name resonates so closely with Roosevelt’s original New Deal. There, it is championed by the charismatic, youngest-ever member of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The increased profile has resulted in the idea being imported back to the UK, where it was formally launched at the House of Commons on 1 April, into an environment that is far more worrying than in 2008 but potentially more favourable to receiving it.

Colin Hines, the primary author of the 2008 Green New Deal pamphlet, has described what a Social and Green New Deal would involve. It would mean rejecting austerity and instead massively increasing employment in face-to-face caring and a countrywide green infrastructure programme. The latter would involve making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient, and tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, properly insulated new homes. Local public transport would be rebuilt, the road and rail systems properly maintained, and a major shift to electric vehicles instigated. A more sustainable localised food and agricultural system would be developed. This approach is labour-intensive, takes place in every locality, and consists of work that is difficult to automate.

How would it be paid for? By an increase in government spending, fairer taxes and encouraging saving in what Hines has described as ‘climate war bonds’. And in the event of a further looming economic crisis? A massive Green Quantitative Easing (GQE) programme. After the last crash US$10 trillion was injected into the global economy, but not into job-generating investments. The result was inflated stock and property values for the already well off. The Governor of the Bank of England has hinted that some kind of GQE programme might be possible as a way of addressing climate change.

Integrating social justice in climate change policy

The JRF report concluded that it is not just a moral imperative to integrate social justice in climate change policy. Without this, achieving resilience and mitigation targets will be much harder because the transformation of our society that is needed cannot be achieved without the political and social acceptance that results from fairer policies. Furthermore, developing socially just responses to climate change, in terms of both adaptation and mitigation, is an opportunity to put in place governance, systems and infrastructure that will create a more resilient and fairer society. As Caroline Lucas concludes in a Guardian opinion piece published on 27 March, we need:

‘an unprecedented mobilisation of resources invested to prevent climate breakdown, reverse inequality, and heal our communities. It demands major structural changes in our approach to the ecosystem, coupled with a radical transformation of the finance sector and the economy, to deliver both social justice and a liveable planet.’

Rethinking poverty cannot be separated from the biggest issue of our time – addressing climate change. Successfully addressing climate change, though, will inevitably lead to a fairer, more equal society.

Stephen Pittam is a board member of Global Greengrants Fund and chair of Global Greengrants UK.


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French farmers affected by climate change and droughts

A report in the Financial Times includes stories from French farmers in the Loire valley who are being put out of business by climate change.  This summer’s heatwave has been devastating to them.

https://www.ft.com/content/164e75da-b9d3-11e9-96bd-8e884d3ea203?accessToken=zwAAAWyzic-okc8WTnXaudMR6dOWvY6ITT6iAw.MEUCIQCm2mJLhtC-gCdDCfi1hfeh4SFFbMbvJXWn7nnpHtLWFgIgMmQVWAnov1Mq0KqmXSkAJSi6DklRl-tmVNHeqvjwI6E&sharetype=gift?token=1f943f7b-8e69-4e5c-9dda-53bb41e83b9f

One of the farmers, Clément Traineau, described the stunted growth of corn, due to the drought, which means that his harvest will be only half of what it should be, so that there will not be enough to feed his cattle during the winter. Beef prices have also been stagnant due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the latest IPCC report calling on people to eat less meat.  One farmer has been forced to sell a quarter of his cows to make ends meet.

Frenchcattle

Intense storms on August 6th brought some relief to the drought but they also caused flooding and mudslides.

Farmers in the Loire valley are now trying to diversify their income, investing in wind farms and solar panels (on top of the cow sheds).  They are also generating power by burning methane from cow dung.

M. Traineau is quoted as saying:
“We farmers are in the front line of climate change as victims, and — in the media — as the guilty ones for producing meat. But people forget we can also be a means of fighting global warming. Meadows and pastures have a substantial capacity for storing carbon.”



 


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Australian PM waters down Pacific Islands declaration on climate change

The 50th meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum met in Tuvalu on 13th – 16th August 2019.  During the meetings a declaration was produced on the climate change crisis. Australian PM, Scott Morrison, and his parliament had been working to dilute the language in the declaration; they succeeded in removing the word “crisis”, as well as removing all but one reference to coal.  Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, said that it looked as if Pacific leaders would not be successful in getting the language of “climate change crisis” into the declaration, with the words “climate change reality” being substituted.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, middle, watered down a climate crisis resolution this week at the Pacific Islands Forum.

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, (centre) at the Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific leaders have been strident in their calls for urgent action on the climate crisis at the forum in Tuvalu, one of the countries most at risk due to climate change. It is affected by rising temperatures as well as rising sea levels, erosion, tide inundations and salinity in the water table that makes growing food very difficult. Many on the islands believe their country will be submerged within their lifetimes, forcing them to leave.

On Monday, the Fijian prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, called for Australia “to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change”, saying coal posed an “existential threat” to Pacific islands.

“Watered-down climate language has real consequences,” said Bainimarama, “like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds.”

After a joint press conference, Enele Sopoaga said he had told the Australian prime minister during the retreat: “You are concerned about saving your economies, your situation in Australia, I’m concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu and likewise other leaders of small island countries.”

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was similarly critical of the declaration’s stymied content.

It was reported that the Prime Minister of Tonga had cried at the retreat while talking about two young women who had presented to leaders on Monday about the impacts of the climate crisis in Tonga.

Further information about the plight of many Pacific Island groups can be found in another blog on this site entitled: “The effects of rising sea levels on island nations”.



Tuvalu’s plight:

2Tuvalu

Climate change on Tuvalu

From: http://klima-tuvalu.no/tuvalu-and-climate-change/the-consequences-of-climate-change-on-tuvalu/

The nine islands of Tuvalu are located in the middle of the Pacific. Funafuti, the main island and capital, is at 1000 km North of Fiji. Tuvalu became, notably thanks to the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the international symbol of the consequences of climate change. Sea-level rise, one of the most known consequences, is a major threat for Tuvalu, considering that this country’s highest point is 4,5 meters over sea-level (whereas most of the land is way below that point). The consequences of climate change will have and already have considerable impacts on these islands.

In the National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPA), the government of Tuvalu has identified seven main and immediate threats for the livelihoods of Tuvaluans. These seven adverse effects are presented here:

Coastal: Following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea-level has already risen by 20 centimetres between 1870 and nowadays. Considering the low-lying position of Tuvalu, this trend is going to dangerously affect the islands. The objective of the government is to increase the resilience of coastal areas and settlement to climate change.

Agricultural: Due to sea-level rise, the ground of Tuvalu is prone to increasing salinization, threatening the habitats of some plants, such as pulaka and coconut trees. Considering that Pulaka traditionally is the staple food in Tuvalu, the adaptation strategy is to introduce salt-tolerant pulaka.

Water: The islands of Tuvalu have progressively lost their fresh groundwater resources, not only due to sea-level rise, but also because of human pollution. In consequence, Tuvaluans only rely on rainwater storage to meet their needs. However, the seasons on Tuvalu are getting irregular and difficult to forecast, leading to droughts and water shortage. In order to ameliorate this situation, the adaptation plan recommends improved and increased water collection and water conservation techniques.

Health: Vectors breeding grounds will have an increasing availability in the next years and decades because of higher tides, inundations and tropical cyclones. The increased availability will exacerbate the exposure of the Tuvaluans to water borne diseases and will increase the epidemic potential of the islands.

Fisheries: Climate change, heating the ocean water, impacts the corals and consequently the marine fauna. The biodiversity of the ocean, and also, in the case of Tuvalu, of the atolls will decrease. In order to prevent this irreparable lost of species due to heat, fragile ecosystems have to be protected.

Fisheries: The biodiversity of the atoll and particularly in the shallower water in the lagoon, will not be the only affected by the impacts of the rising surface water temperature. The rising temperatures will also considerably reduce the shellfish and available fish resources. Considering that the Tuvaluans, on average, eat 500 grams of fish per capita every day, a reduction of the resource will have a disastrous impact of the livelihoods and, thus, also on development.

Disaster: Tuvalu has been increasingly exposed to tropical storms and cyclones since 1990.  Between 1970 and 1990, only three tropical storms, hurricanes or cyclones struck Tuvalu. However, between 1990 and 2005, the islands experienced thirteen similar meteorological events. In order to ease the impacts of the population, the country will have to implement disaster alerts and response systems.

These different threats that Tuvalu is or will be experiencing in the next years or decades are similar to all Small Island Developing States.



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Successful petition to save the endangered Sumatran elephants

I received an email today from the Rainforest Action Network.  They have been campaigning to stop a palm oil company from destroying the habitat of the rare Sumatran elephants. I signed their petition, as did many others and include their email in its entirety, together with photographs.  Well done!

In honor of this week’s “World Elephant Day,”
we’ve got some GREAT news to share with you!

I’m SO HAPPY to share some great news with you! We’ve really got something to celebrate after “World Elephant Day!” We’re so proud to announce the protection and connection of the rainforest bridge Sumatran elephants use to migrate between important parts of their habitat, their home.

You see, this elephant migration route ran smack dab through a palm oil company’s operation in the northeast lowland rainforests of the Leuser Ecosystem. Actually, reverse that, a palm oil company’s operation ran right through the migration corridors elephants have used to move around their rainforests for generations.

Thanks to your petitions, strong negotiating by our campaign team, and powerful media exposés, Mopoli Raya (said palm oil company) was put on the “No Buy” list by many of the Snack Food 20, including Nestlé and Unilever, and by the biggest palm oil traders sourcing from the Leuser. And once Mopoli Raya was cut out from the global market for long enough, it decided to start doing the right thing. Naturally 😉

So now I have the good fortune of sharing with you that Mopoli Raya has committed to protect the remaining three-and-a-half thousand acres of forests within its operations. The protection of these forests will maintain the connectivity of thousands of acres of surrounding rainforests in this critical elephant corridor. Thank you for everything you’ve done to help make this happen!

Long live the elephants, long may they roam,

 

Gemma Tillack
Forest Policy Director
Rainforest Action Network