The United States and China, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have announced they will formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement in a move campaigners immediately hailed as a significant advance in the battle against global warming.
Arctic sea ice this summer shrank to its second lowest level since scientists started to monitor it by satellite, with scientists saying it is another ominous signal of global warming. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said the sea ice reached its summer low point extending 4.14m sq km (1.6m sq miles). That’s behind only the mark set in 2012, 3.39m sq km.
Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study. The Guardian reports that researchers found a vast area the size of two Alaskas – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today, which experts said was a “shockingly bad” and “profoundly large number”. The Amazon accounted for nearly a third of the “catastrophic” loss, showing huge tracts of pristine rainforest are still being disrupted despite the Brazilian government slowing deforestation rates in recent years. A further 14% disappeared in central Africa, home to thousands of species including forest elephants and chimpanzees.
WE NEED TO SAVE THE ORANG UTAN. WE REALLY DO. The Bornean Orangutans are now officially classified as “critically endangered” – meaning they’re on the very brink of extinction. Greenpeace are campaigning to stop oil palm producers destroying their natural habitat and end deforestation. PLEASE SUPPORT THIS.
A coalition of 25 military and national security experts, including former advisers to Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, has warned that climate change poses a “significant risk to US national security and international security” that requires more attention from the US federal government. The prominent members of the US national security community warned that warming temperatures and rising seas will increasingly inundate military bases and fuel international conflict and mass migration, leading to “significant and direct risks to US military readiness, operations and strategy”. More here (Three Bipartisan Groups of Military and National Security Leaders Urge Robust New Course on Climate Change).
Unpublished field trials by pesticide manufacturers show their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels, leading to calls from senior scientists for the companies to end the secrecy which cloaks much of their research. The research, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency and obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request.
The UK will fail to meet its targets on renewable energy generation, with take-up of clean fuels for heating and transport falling badly behind aims, MPs have warned. The findings of the influential Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) show that ministers have little clear plan for meeting the 2020 target to meet 15% of UK energy needs from renewable sources. This includes a target to generate 30% of electricity from wind, solar and other low-carbon sources by the end of the decade, and to generate 12% of heating energy and 10% of transport fuels from clean sources by the same date. The UK is not legally bound to meet the heat target, which is advisory.
The soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming. The oceans have already sucked up an enormous amount of heat due to escalating greenhouse gas emissions, affecting marine species from microbes to whales, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report involving the work of 80 scientists from a dozen countries.
The UK’s new flood defence plans anticipate significantly higher extreme rainfall, after new research was published as part of the government’s National Flood Resilience review. The government, which had been criticised for not taking full account of the impact of climate change in driving up flood risk, will now plan for 20-30% more extreme downpours than before. The review, prompted by severe flooding in recent winters in towns and cities including Carlisle, Keswick, Kendal, Cockermouth, York, Manchester and Leeds, also found that 530 critical infrastructure sites, such as water and telecoms, are at serious risk from floods, each potentially affecting at least 10,000 people. Utility companies have pledged to have new protection in place by the end of the year. The government’s official climate change advisers recently warned that flooding could cause a cascade of emergencies by knocking out energy, transport, water and communications links. The review allocates £12.5m for more temporary defences, such as barriers and pumps, at strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the government said, four times more temporary barriers will be available. More here.
More bad news for bees: Beekeepers around the south-eastern US fear a new threat to their livelihood: a fine mist beaded with neurotoxin, sprayed from the sky by officials at war with mosquitos that carry the Zika virus. Miami fears Zika virus may hit $24bn tourism industry hard but earlier this week, South Carolina beekeepers found millions of dead honey bees carpeting their apiaries, killed by an insecticide. Video posted by a beekeeper to Facebook showed thousands of dead insects heaped around hives, while a few survivors struggled to move the bodies of fellow bees. “This is what’s left of Flowertown Bees,” a despondent keeper says in the video. Company co-owner Juanita Stanley told the Associated Press her farm looked “like it’s been nuked” and estimated 2.5 million bees were killed. In another Facebook post, South Carolina hobbyist Andrew Macke wrote that he had lost “thousands upon thousands of bees” and that the spraying had devastated his business. “Have we lost our mind,” he wrote, “spraying poison from the sky?”
Even more bad BEE news – please GIVE BEES A CHANCE: the Asian hornet’s long-feared arrival on the UK mainland has been confirmed, government scientists have said, with ecologists warning of dire consequences for honeybees if the species is not swiftly eliminated. The hornets eat honeybees and have become widespread in central and southern France, prompting warnings in recent years that they could arrive in the UK via potted plants from France. While not considered a threat to humans, the arrival of the hornets add to the woes of Britain’s honeybees, which are vital for pollination of many crops but have been suffering declines for decades.
The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories. In total, the UK government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands. A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area. And President Barack Obama will establish the first US national marine monument in the Atlantic, a move that’s designed to permanently protect nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains off the coast of New England. The White House said the designation will lead to a ban on commercial fishing, mining and drilling, though a seven-year exception will occur for the lobster and red crab industries. Also, recreational fishing will be allowed within the monument.
The government must implement a total ban on ivory sales in the UK, according to scores of politicians, conservationists, scientists and entertainment stars including William Hague, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking and Ricky Gervais. Ministers this week announced a ban on ivory younger than 70 years old, but stopped short of a total ban. The group have written to prime minister Theresa May “appealing to the government for a total ban on ivory sales”, which was a pledge made in both the 2010 and 2015 Conservative party manifestos. The Guardian says elephants are being slaughtered by poachers for their ivory in huge numbers and, while the international trade is illegal, critics say legal domestic trade allows illicit ivory to be passed off as antique and therefore legitimate. “The legal ivory trade in the UK feeds one of the largest markets for ivory in Europe,” write the group. “The closure of all ivory markets, both international and domestic, is critical for elephants’ survival.”
And finally – a loose coalition of more than 100 countries, including the US and European nations, is pushing for an early phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a powerful greenhouse gas that if left unchecked is set to add a potentially disastrous 0.5C to global temperatures by the end of the century. At a meeting in New York on Thursday, world leaders called for an “ambitious phase-down schedule” for HFCs, which are commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems, and pledged adaptation money for developing nations where HFC use is rapidly increasing.