“Dramatic Decline” Warning for Plants and Animals

A study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that a rise in global temperature greater than 2 degrees Celsius will significantly impact biodiversity. Specifically, half of current habitat ranges would be lost for 34 percent of animal species and 57 percent of plants. The models used were run under the assumption that no significant efforts were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

These losses were projected to occur if 2100 global temperatures reach 4 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels; however, the researchers noted that biodiversity losses could be significantly reduced if efforts were made to curb greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius.

Source: BBC

Climate Change: How a Warming World Is a Threat to Our Food Supplies

A raft of new studies point to growing signs that global food insecurity and agricultural disruptions from climate change will rise in severity in the coming decades, fueling increased political destabilization. Examples include recent work out of the Center for American Progress indicating that a combination of food shortages and other environmental conditions were major factors in igniting the Arab Spring uprisings that swept through the Middle East in 2010 and 2011. Also, the recent draft U.S. National Climate Assessment, released in January, reports that increasing incidents of extreme heat, severe drought, and heavy rains could have dramatic effects on staple crops across the United States beyond 2050, at which point California’s central valley is expected to have lost 10 to 30 percent of yields in sunflowers, wheat, tomato, rice, cotton, and maize.

All recent research indicates the worst impacts will be suffered by the poorest populations and those living in tropical regions. Child malnutrition is predicted to increase by 20 percent by 2050. A new study for US Aid anticipates that most of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand will see 4 to 6 degree Celsius temperature rises and an increase in the number of malnourished children by 9 to 11 million by 2050. Other studies by the International Food Policy Research Institute suggest crop yields across sub-Saharan Africa could decline 5 to 22 percent by 2050, further stressing already impoverished populations.

Source: The Observer

Federal Plan Aims to Help Wildlife Adapt to Climate Change

After working closely with state and tribal officials, the Obama administration recently unveiled  the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. The plan aims to help wildlife adapt to the threats of climate change by taking a holistic approach to adaptation, rather than focusing on specific species. Strategies center on the creation of wildlife corridors and restoration of native habitats.

The plan recognizes that climate change is already impacting wildlife, as some species experience declining populations, altered migration routes, and increased risk of disease. The strategy does not focus on the causes of climate change, but rather addresses how best to move forward.

Source: Los Angeles Times

EPA Finds a Majority of U.S. Waterways Bad for Aquatic Life

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2008-2009 National Rivers and Stream Assessment, released last week, concludes that over half of the nation’s river and stream miles are in poor condition. Data was gathered from approximately 2,000 sites across the country. Of the waterways sampled, 27 percent show high levels of nitrogen and 40 percent show excessive amounts of phosphorus. Elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorous can lead to algae blooms, which reduce water quality, limit food sources and habitats, and decrease oxygen levels in the water.

Stream and river impairment are predominantly caused by decreased vegetative cover and increased development. In addition to greater amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, these factors also contribute to increased flooding, erosion, and pollution. Also of concern are high bacteria levels in 9 percent of waterways and fish with unsafe levels of mercury in 13,000 miles of the nation’s rivers.

Source: Latinos Post

Melt May Explain Antarctica’s Sea Ice Expansion

A recent scientific study in the journal Nature Geoscience found that climate change is expanding Antarctica’s sea ice due to cold, freshwater plumes accumulating in the top layer of the ocean. This discovery explains the paradoxical phenomenon scientists have been observing since 1985: though sea ice in the Arctic has been shrinking, Antarctic sea ice has shown a small 1.9 percent expansion. This “negative feedback” effect is expected to continue.

Other possible explanations include climate change-induced wind shifts blowing ice away from the coast and melt water-driven effects. Notably, the Nature Geoscience study indicates that cold, freshwater plumes may result in reduced snow fall in Antarctica.

Source: BBC

Hotter, Wetter Climate Slashes Labor Capacity by 10%, Study Shows

A recent NOAA study found that, in the face of a warming climate, heat stress-related labor capacity losses will likely double by 2050. The study used existing military and industrial guidelines for heat stress against climate projections for heat and humidity. Notably, over the past six decades, labor capacity was reduced by 10 percent.

Co-author of the study Ronald Stouffer noted that we can expect “heat stress that’s unlike anything experienced today.” Northern Europe and the U.S. West Coast are two regions expected to be affected the most by hot and humid climate.

Source: The Guardian

Gray: Plan Would Make District “Healthiest, Greenest and Most Livable” City

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s vision to make the District the nation’s most sustainable and livable city came into better focus last week with the release of a new plan laying out a blueprint for a greener future. The Sustainable D.C. plan, as it is known, was developed over the past nine months by the D.C. Department of the Environment and the Office of Planning and sets a variety of ambitious goals for the city, including reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and energy use by 50 percent by 2032, while increasing to 50 percent the proportion of commuters using public transportation.

Harnessing nearby wind farms to power the District’s government offices and encouraging residents to grow their own produce, as well as planting 8,600 trees annually, are among the many steps outlined in the plan. Other new policies would include aggressively enforcing a ban on “idling vehicle engines” and raising rates at some parking meters. Gray has also said that over the next year he’ll spend $4.5 million to create 10 mini neighborhood parks out of existing parking spaces, create new community gardens, and explore the potential to retrofit city-owned buildings with green or solar roofs.

Source: Washington Post

Report Finds Bay Contaminants Widespread, Severe in Spots

Nearly three-fourths of the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters are “fully or partially impaired” by toxic chemicals, according to a recent federal report posted to the website of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program. With regard to fish contamination, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls are the primary culprits cited, forcing limits on how many fish can be eaten in some places. The report also notes that other more widely dispersed contaminants, such as the agricultural herbicide atrazine, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products, pose disputed or unknown threats to wildlife and people. For example, since 2000, concerns regarding intersex conditions in fish have risen.

According to Robert Lawrence, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the current lack of information about pesticide usage results in dangerous data gaps, and more needs to be known about what, when, and where pesticides are being used. Last week, the Maryland Environmental Health Network released its own report, the Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Progress Report, explaining that children and pregnant mothers are especially vulnerable to even tiny doses of pesticides and other chemicals. The group is also calling for state action to increase data collection and research into the use and health impacts of pesticides and other chemicals.

Source: Baltimore Sun

Almost Half of the World’s Food Thrown Away, Report Finds

According to a new report from the United Kingdom’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), between 30 percent and 50 percent, or 1.2 to 2 billion metric tonnes, of food produced in the world is wasted, never making it onto a plate. Given predictions by the United Nations that there could be an additional three billion people to feed by the end of the century, further straining already stressed global resources, the IMechE is calling for urgent action to reduce this waste.

The IMechE blames the startling statistics on a variety of factors, including unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free deals, Western consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food, as well as “poor engineering and agricultural practices,” inadequate infrastructure, and poor storage facilities. The report also found a similarly alarming waste of corresponding water resources, with about 550 billion cubic meters of water wasted on crops that never reach the consumer.  It’s anticipated that demand for water in food production could grow to between 2.5 and 3.5 times the current total volume of freshwater consumed by humans.

Source: The Guardian

U.S. Climate Change Coverage Declined in 2012 Even as Year Set Major Record

Though 2012 was the warmest year on record for the U.S., according to The Daily Climate, news outlets in 2012 published the smallest number of climate change-related stories since 2009. Notably, in 2009 climate change was discussed for over an hour on Sunday news talk shows. In 2012, though climate change was discussed longer than in 2010 and 2011, Sunday news talk shows spent a total of eight or fewer minutes on the topic.

Worldwide climate coverage decreased in total by 2 percent since 2011. Interestingly, stories discussing the links among sea level rise, extreme and unusual weather, and climate change were at an “all-time high.” In addition to the overall decrease in climate-change-specific media attention, many activists voiced the same concerns during the 2012 presidential election, charging the national debates with “climate silence.”

Source: Huff Post Green

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