Category Archives: climate change

Climate change efforts woefully inadequate, says Guyana president


GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA):  Addressing leaders at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Fourteenth Conference in Poland, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo warned that there is the risk that the passionate commitment exhibited by some, which has resulted in some progress being made towards a climate solution in recent years, can mask the fact that the efforts of the international community remain woefully inadequate to the task the world is facing.

The President on Thursday addressed the forum alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon as he stressed the need for urgent action to be taken by the leaders to avert an already looming climate catastrophe.

“I decided to come to this conference because I believe that we urgently need to change this situation. In reaching this decision, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. I was my country’s Minister of Finance when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, and I paid very little attention to it. I failed to see that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but one which cuts to the core of social and economic progress elsewhere,” he told the forum.

Jagdeo believes the issue therefore demands first order political commitment and indicated his intention to continue pressing the case that the new climate change agreement to come into effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires, must create meaningful incentives to address deforestation.

The Guyanese leader is also fearful that moves to address climate change are losing momentum as a result of the world economic crisis.

“There is a real danger that the current necessary action to stabilize the world’s economy will divert attention away from the even bigger crisis that climate change presents and unlike the economic crisis which originated in this case from a lack of transparency and a failure of regulation and which may be corrected by anti-cynical fiscal stimulus packages, climate change is not a phenomenon which will work its way through an economic cycle,” President Jagdeo emphasized.

The President further warned that lack of action will make things irreversibly worse, cause more human suffering and will be even more expensive to solve in the longer term, as he added that understanding what needs to be done is the easier part.

“We know that we need to agree a sufficiently ambitious global target, where global emissions are at least 50 percent less in 2050 than they were in 1990 and we know that this means creating market or other funding mechanisms that generate new capital flows of the order of many hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The harder part is building and sustaining the political context needed to make it possible for national leaders to achieve these goals,” he said.

Moving to United States President-elect Barack Obama’s strong commitment to deep cuts in carbon emissions, the Guyanese Leader stated that even as this is welcomed, the leaders need to remain vigilant and ensure that other countries do not back-pedal on their existing commitments.

“There is an understandable but ultimately damaging dialogue audible in many countries today where some politicians are saying that citizens cannot be expected to support action to combat climate change during an unprecedented economic crisis when they are losing their jobs and their cost of living is rising. The failure of nerve that this represents will drive away those that are starting to invest in climate solutions, and postpone progress for too long,” he emphasized.

Jagdeo opined that though some may baulk at the scale of financial resources required and that resources on this scale are unachievable, if there is political will to stimulate resource flows is there, money will be found. In this light, he compared this to the quickly raised $7 trillion to deal with the financial crisis.

“We have frequently heard the justification in countries across the world that banks and other financial institutions needed to be bailed out because they were ‘too big to fail’, well, the climate change challenge is far bigger still although this is perhaps not as immediately apparent, and the same logic must apply.”

He therefore, advised the leaders that to build public support for the tough action needed, they should break the false debate which suggests that countries can either act on climate change or progress their national development. President Jagdeo believes that both must be aligned

“For countries like mine, this means creating low deforestation economies where remuneration for forest carbon services under a properly REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is sufficient in scale to out-complete the other legitimate economic forces which drive deforestation,” he added.

The Guyanese Leader then used the opportunity to point out that the world economy values the commodities which can be sold by high deforestation economic activities while on the other hand does not value low deforestation economic development. Correcting this, he said, is the only way to reduce deforestation.

To support his point, the Head of State urged that:

Those negotiating around a REDD mechanism recognize that all forest countries share the same goal and that focus should continue to be placed on the ‘big picture’ instead of negotiators becoming obsessed with minute methodological and process issues. In this case he noted that all countries need to work together since if REDD mechanisms exclude any significant group of countries, REDD will fail.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which have advocated that forestry should not be part of a global deal as its inclusion will flood the carbon market, and enable Annex 1 countries to avoid taking the tough choices needed to reduce their emissions at the scale required should recognize that the overall global emission reduction commitments must be deep enough. If they are, it was noted that there will then be room in market mechanisms to effectively address deforestation, whilst at the same time ensure that badly needed capital flows go to some of the poorest countries in the world.

Others who have suggested that remuneration for carbon services should not flow to forest countries because there is a risk of corruption and mis-use of funds were asked by the President to take care that they do not jump to patronizing conclusions that all poor countries are corrupt.

“We must also mobilize our people to ensure that they are involved in determining how new carbon resources which flow to our countries might be invested-for example-in Guyana’s case, we expect that this will mean investment in health, education, clean energy and adaptation investment that will cost several times our GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Representatives from approximately 190 countries are taking part in the two-week conference in Poznan, Poland to discuss the way forward on climate change in light of the upcoming new deal on the issue which will need to be established following the expiration of the current Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, during the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged developed rich countries to take the lead and offer financial resources and technological aid to developing countries and emerging economies. He warned that there may be backsliding by some of the countries in the fight against climate change with the financial crisis now facing the world.

Others who have been lobbying for serious action to be taken on the issue over the years, including former US Presidential candidate and Environmental advocate Al Gore also urged the leaders to take urgent action on the issue.

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Climate change risk for endangered animals


A major study of ancient DNA has produced a grim outlook for endangered animals as a result of climate change.

Adelaide-based scientist Professor Alan Cooper is the head of the Australian Ancient DNA Centre, and will present his findings to the University of Adelaide today.

He says the study has helped identify the process and consequences of extinction.

Professor Cooper says his research conducted on bisons, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats produced worrying evidence suggesting climate change tens of thousands of years ago was largely responsible for their extinction.

“Our current idea is that humans were the cause of all the megafauna extinctions, is things like large mammoths and lions and ground-sloths, well humans might have killed the last members, but it looks climate change is the thing that did all the damage in the first place,” he said.

Africa threat

Professor Cooper says many scientists already fear that large animals in Africa such as great apes, elephants and rhinoceroses will be extinct within 20 or 30 years.

He says he hopes his study brings about more awareness of the aftermath of climate change.

“What I really want to do is use that sort of research to identify what happens in the process of extinction,” he said.

“What are the signs, so we can start measuring what we’ve got around us today and try to determine what’s at greatest risk of being extinct and in particular what the consequences of that are.”

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Shark species face extinction amid overfishing and appetite for fins


Nine more species of shark are to be added to the endangered list as scientists warn that oceans are being emptied of the fish by overfishing and finning.

The scalloped hammerhead shark, which has declined by 99% over the past 30 years in some parts of the world, is particularly vulnerable and will be declared globally endangered on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) list.

“Sharks are definitely at the top of the list for marine fishes that could go extinct in our lifetimes,” said Julia Baum of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and a member of IUCN shark specialist group. “If we carry on the way that we are, we’re looking at a really high risk of extinction for some of these shark species within the next few decades.”

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston yesterday, Baum said that in addition to the scalloped hammerhead, other shark species that will be added to the revised IUCN endangered list later this year are the smooth hammerhead, shortfin mako, common thresher, big-eye thresher, silky, tiger, bull and dusky. There are already 126 species of shark on the IUCN’s list.

“The perception has been that really wide-ranging species can’t become endangered because if they are threatened in one area, surely they’ll be fine in another area,” said Baum. “But fisheries now cover all corners of the earth and they’re intense enough that these species are being threatened everywhere.”

Recent studies have shown that all shark populations in the north-west Atlantic Ocean have declined by an average of 50% since the early 1970s.

Shark numbers can become depleted very quickly because they take a long time to mature – 16 years in the case of a scalloped hammerhead. Their fins are highly prized in China and can fetch up to £140 a kilogram. Until recently the eating of shark fin was a delicacy restricted to the rich in China, said Baum, but as the country’s middle class has grown in the past 25 years, so has the market for shark fins.

Excessive fishing has caused a 90% decline in shark populations across the world’s oceans and up to 99% along the US east coast, which are some of the best-managed waters in the world, according to Baum.

The decline in predators such as sharks can have devastating consequences for the local marine ecology.

In a case study published last year, Baum found that a major decline in the numbers of predatory sharks in the north Atlantic after 2000 had allowed populations of the sharks’ prey, cownose rays, to explode. The rays in turn decimated the bay scallop populations around North Carolina. “There was a fishery for bay scallops in North Carolina that lasted over a century uninterrupted and it was closed down in 2004 because of cownose rays.”

Fishing for sharks in international waters is unrestricted, but Baum supports a recent UN resolution calling for immediate limits on catching sharks and a ban on shark finning.

Sonja Fordham, of the Shark Alliance, a coalition of 50 scientific and conservation groups, said: “People think these wide-ranging, fast sharks are resilient to fishing; however, this shows this is not the case. Concerned citizens can really help by making their fisheries ministers aware that they support conservation measures such as catch limits.”

Some conservation efforts for sharks will focus on newly identified hotspots where sharks congregate during migrations. Peter Klimley of the University of California, Davis, found that scalloped hammerhead sharks migrate along fixed “superhighways” in the oceans, speeding between a series of “stepping stone” sites near coastal islands ranging from Mexico to Ecuador.

“Hammerhead sharks are not evenly dispersed throughout the seas, but concentrated at seamounts and offshore islands,” he said. “Hence, enforcing reserves around these areas will go far in protecting these species and will provide the public with places for viewing sharks in their habitat.”

One site between Hawaii and Mexico attracts so many sharks it has become known among scientists as “the white shark cafe”, Klimley says.

“We started calling it the cafe because that is where you might go to have a snack or maybe just to ‘see and be seen’. We are not sure which,” said Salvador Jorgensen, a researcher at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station.

“Once they leave the cafe they return year after year to the same exact spot along the coast, just as you might return to a favourite fishing hole.”

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Christmas Island crab colony faces extinction

CHRISTMAS Island’s world-famous red crabs are facing extinction, along with many other unique species, according to an authority on the island’s environment.

Dr Laurie Corbett said billions of tiny ants that could kill a crab in two hours had halved the crab population over the past 10 to 15 years and could, within a few years, threaten the species with extinction.

Wildlife-watchers and documentary makers from around the world are due on Christmas Island shortly to observe the annual migration of the crabs to the ocean from the island’s rainforests.

Dr Corbett said the catastrophic decline in crab numbers on the island, from an estimated 120,000 in the 1990s to 50,000-60,000 today, was caused by the spread of yellow crazy ants, an introduced species that most probably arrived on the island decades ago on imported timber products.

“Crazy ants spray formic acid when the crabs disturb them. This acid initially blinds the crabs, then within a couple of hours they will begin foaming at the mouth and then die within 48 hours,” he said.

“The ants then eat the dead crab.”

Dr Corbett said that if crab numbers fell below 40,000, the colony could become unviable and face extinction.

Christmas Island is the only place in the world where the crabs are found.

Aerial and ground baiting programs carried out by the National Parks Authority since 2002 have failed to stop a population explosion of ants, which Dr Corbett said had formed super colonies.

“Super colonies have ant populations of more than 1000 ants a square metre,” he said.

“Once the ants reach these sorts of densities, they are almost impossible to eradicate.

“The problem with poisoning the ants is that it not only kills the ants, it does unknown harm to other species and, so far, it hasn’t stopped the spread and growth of the ant colonies.”

Dr Corbett said many other unique native animals, including the Christmas Island frigatebird and Abbot’s booby bird, were also threatened with extinction from competition and by falling prey to more than 20 introduced species. These ranged from feral cats and chickens to giant African snails.

Dwindling numbers of native species could also dash hopes of an eco-tourism industry for the island after the inevitable closure of its only industry, phosphate mining.

Christmas Island Phosphate, which operates the mine, is locked in a legal battle with the Federal Government over an application to extend its mining lease and the life of the mine.

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Extinctions Coincide With Hotter Temperatures

Chief Engineer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Whenever the world’s tropical seas warm several degrees, Earth has experienced mass extinctions over millions of years, according to a first-of-its-kind statistical study of fossil records.

And scientists fear it may be about to happen again – but in a matter of several decades, not tens of millions of years.

Four of the five major extinctions over 520 million years of Earth history have been linked to warmer tropical seas, something that indicates a warmer world overall, according to the new study published.

“ We found that over the fossil record as a whole, the higher the temperatures have been, the higher the extinctions have been,” said University of York ecologist Peter Mayhew, the co-author of the peer-reviewed research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal.

Earth is on track to hit that same level of extinction-connected warming in about 100 years, unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, according to top scientists.

In the British study, Mayhew and his colleagues looked at temperatures in 10 million-year chunks because fossil records aren’t that precise in time measurements. They then compared those to the number of species, the number of species families, and overall biodiversity. They found more biodiversity with lower temperatures and more species dying with higher temperatures.

The researchers examined tropical sea temperatures – the only ones that can be determined from fossil records and go back hundreds of millions of years. They indicate a natural 60 million-year climate cycle that moves from a warmer “greenhouse” to a cooler “icehouse.” The Earth is warming from its current colder period.

Every time the tropical sea temperatures were about 7 degrees warmer than they are now and stayed that way for millions of enough years, there was a die-off. How fast extinctions happen varies in length.

The study linked mass extinctions with higher temperatures, but did not try to establish a cause-and-effect. For example, the most recent mass extinction, the one 65 million years ago that included the die-off of dinosaurs, probably was caused by an asteroid collision as scientists theorize and Mayhew agrees.

But extinctions were likely happening anyway as temperatures were increasing, Mayhew said. Massive volcanic activity, which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, have also been blamed for the dinosaur extinction.

The author of the second study, which focuses on carbon dioxide, said he does see a cause-and-effect between warmer seas and extinctions.

Peter Ward, a University of Washington biology and paleontology professor, said natural increases in carbon dioxide warmed the air and ocean. The warmer water had less oxygen and spawned more microbes, which in turn spewed toxic hydrogen sulfide into the air and water, killing species.

Ward examined 13 major and minor extinctions in the past and found a common link: rising carbon dioxide levels in the air and falling oxygen levels.

Mayhew also found increasing carbon dioxide levels in the air coinciding with die-offs, but concluded that temperatures better predicted biodiversity.

Those higher temperatures that coincided with mass extinctions are about the same level forecast for a century from now if the world continues its growing emissions of greenhouse gases, according to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change.

In April, the same climate panel of thousands of scientists warned that “20 to 30 percent of animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction” if temperatures increase by about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

“ Since we’re already seeing threshold changes in ecosystems with the relatively small amount of climate change already taking place, one could expect there’s going to be severe transformations,” said biologist Thomas Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington.

University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, who studies how existing species are changing with global warming but wasn’t part of either team, said she was “blown away” by the Mayhew study and called it “very convincing.”

“ This will give scant comfort to anyone who says that the world has often been warmer than recently so we’re just going back to a better world,” Pennsylvania State University geological
sciences professor Richard Alley said.

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Toads may [become] extinct in 10 years in UK areas due to infection

China View

BEIJING, Nov. 28 (Xinhuanet) — Scientists predict that Britain’s toad population could face extinction in some areas within 10 years due to an infectious fungal disease Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, media reported Wednesday.

The big unknown is just how long the fungus, which lives on the skin of host amphibians, can survive on its own in water. Scientists fear it may be a very long time.

“We start to see dramatic effects if the chytrid (fungus) lives for longer than seven weeks outside the host,” said Mat Fisher of Imperial College in UK.

“We strongly suspect that it can live for longer because of the devastating effect it has had elsewhere, and the new mathematical models show that this would be very bad news for toads in this country.”

If the fungus is able to live outside the host for a year, there would be a severe decline in the overall population of the European common toad (Bufo bufo) in Britain and, in some places, extinction in 10 years.

The disease has already destroyed entire amphibian populations in Central and South America, and Australia, and is a growing problem in some parts of Europe. Scientists have linked its spread to global warming.

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Environment Experts Warn Against Human Extinction

The Post OnlineKini Nsom & Leocadia Bongben

Environment experts have warned of a possibility of human extinction if nothing is done to contain the unprecedented environmental changes, stating that it takes sustainable development to reverse the tides.

This is the main preoccupation of the report known as Global Environment Outlook 4, Geo4, that assesses the current state of the world atmosphere, land, water, biodiversity.It equally describes the changes in the last two decades, highlighting the progress made in tackling some of the world’s environmental problems.

The report conducted by close to 400 experts within a period of five years is the fourth edition from the Nairobi-based United Nations Environmental Programme that was launched by the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Systems, Sophie de Caen, and the Minister of the Environment and Nature Protection, Hele Pierre, in Yaounde last week-end.

The 10-chapter report warns that the apparent progress in finding solutions to straightforward problems such as air and water pollution, should not defer from  persistent problems on which solutions are emerging that include climate change, deterioration of and the extinction of species.

According to the report, “there are no major issues raised in our common future for which the foreseeable trends are favourable”. There are, therefore, serious indications that humanity’s survival is threatened.

The report identifies as enormous the challenges with greenhouse emissions hinged on the two-degree Celsius increase in global mean temperatures above pre-industrial levels. There are equally indications that climate impacts are becoming more severe with threats of major damage irreversible.

In order to curb the situation, the need for reduction commitment is demanded more on the developed countries while for the emission reductions in less developed countries should be between 60-80 percent by 2050.

Against this backdrop, the experts emphasise the need for urgent action and not in any way a move to present a gloomy and dark picture.Chapter I of the report focuses on environment for development, Chapter II on the atmosphere, III on land , IV on water, V on biodiversity, VI on regional perspectives, VII vulnerability of people and environment while VIII is dedicated to inter-linkages: governance for sustainability.

Chapter IX projects into the future with four major trends: government have to deal with markets, policy, security and sustainability and Chapter X is devoted to placing the environment at the core of decision making with a major for action.

Sophie de Caen highlighted issues such as the projections made in the report, lessons learnt and conclusion amongst others. She said the essential thing about the report is that more than 2 million people die prematurely due to out and indoor pollution and that unsustainable land uses and climate change are driving land degradation, with poor people suffering disproportionately the effects of land degradation.

Reacting to the conclusions of the report, she said the environmental and development challenges as well as policy challenges warned against in 1987 still exist, adding that the benefit of early action outweighs costs.

Hele Pierre, for his part, identified environmental friendly actions in Africa with political reforms in the creation of institutions such as the Programme of Action for the Environment, PAE, in NEPAD.

He, however, regretted that changes in environmental governance geared towards sustainable development are taking place at a snail pace. He lamented that development strategies most often ignore the need to preserve the ecosystems as a major pillar of durable development.   

The Minister underscored the relevance of Geo4 to Cameroon in the information on major developments on the implementation of international convention as well as good practices to be encouraged.

He equally appreciated the reference points on the information decision makers have to take into consideration for the environment to effectively contribute to development.Prior to the launching experts, Dr. Martin Zen-Nlo, Assistant Resident Representative of UN Environment Programme, Angel Luh-Sy, Information Officer for the African Regional Bureau in Kenya, and Dr. Samuel Ayonghe provided journalists with background information on the report and environmental issue generally.

Roger Alain Taakam provided guidelines of environmental reporting and possible themes reporters can exploit for their reports.

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