July 27, 2015
(impacts Top Quote)E.O. Wilson
(earth at Night)
Global Environment Reaches Dangerous CrossroadsFebruary 16, 2001, World Watch Institute
Worldwatch Institute has released State of the World 2001. A loss of political momentum on environmental issues has coincided with signs of accelerated ecological decline; for example, the breakdown of global climate talks. The Arctic ice cap has already thinned by 42%, and 27% of the world's coral reefs have been lost. Natural disasters, due mostly to environmental degradation, have cost the world $608 billion over the last decade - as much as in the preceeding 40 years combined. Climate models show the Earth's temperature rising by as much as 6 degrees above the 1990 level by 2100. The impacts would be acute water shortages, declining food production, and the spread of deadly diseases like malaria and dengue fever. Due to population growth, people have had to settle in flood-prone valleys and on unstable hillsides, where deforestation and climate change have increased their vulnerability to disasters such as Hurricane Mitch. More clean, renewable energy is needed. For example, Iceland is pioneering an effort to harness geothermal and hydropower to produce hydrogen fuel for automobiles and fishing boats. And three oil companies are moving "beyond petroleum" to alternative energy investments. There needs to be stronger enforcement of treaties, and for increased North-South cooperation` with the help of environmentally and economically influential E9 countries: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Japan, South Africa, and the European Union, together which account for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. alone uses more than one third of the world's transport energy. While on the good side, global production of CFCs dropped by 85% between 1986 and 1997, on the other hand, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 100,000 underground storage tanks in the United States are leaking and that nearly 60% of wells sampled in agricultural areas in the US in the 1990s contained synthetic pesticides. World meat consumption has climbed from 44 million tons in 1950 to 217 million tons in 1999, an increase of nearly fivefold. This growth is roughly double that of population growth, and raised meat intake per person has increased worldwide from 17 kilograms in 1950 to 36 kilograms in 1999.
New Analysis of World's Ecosystems Reveals Widespread DeclineENN
A pioneering analysis of the world's ecosystems reveals a widespread decline in the condition of the world's ecosystems due to increasing resource demands. The analsysis, by the World Resources Institute (WRI) warns that if the decline continues it could have devastating implications for human development and the welfare of all species. The analysis examined coastal, forest, grassland, and freshwater and agricultural ecosystems. The health of the each ecosystem was measured, as based on its ability to produce the goods and services that the world currently relies on. These goods/services include production of food, provision of pure and sufficient water, storage of atmospheric carbon, maintenance of biodiversity and provision of recreation and tourism opportunities. The analysis shows that there are considerable signs that the capacity of Earth's ecosystems to produce many of the goods and services we depend on is rapidly declining. To make matters worse, as our ecosystems decline, we are also racing against time since scientists lack baseline knowledge needed to properly determine the conditions of such systems.
What Estate Will Our Century Leave?MSNBC.com
Will our great- grandchildren inherit a desiccated husk of a once shimmering planet, and curse us for a legacy of droughts, plagues,storms and hardscrabble moonscapes? The four-fold increase in humans and the advent of the consumer society - have made the end of the millennium a cusp of history. Affluent consumers in Hong Kong want exotic fish and presto! Poachers in the Philippines destroy vital reefs to meet that demand. In 1998 the Yangtze floods, which resulted in damage of 3,000 dead and $80 billion, were exaggerated by deforestation of the watershed. Millions of workers in China and Russia are plagued with pollution-related ailments. U.S. policy makers seem to be negotiating with nature and debate how much warming might be averted for how much economic pain. In a Scripps Howard poll in 1998, 61% of those questioned agreed: global warming is happening. New threats: the release of synthetic estrogens, compounds that appear in everything from plastics to pesticides, is messing up the endocrine systems of innumerable species, including humans.
Impacts for the New MilleniumJanuary 22, 1999, World Watch Institute
World energy needs are projected to double in the next several decades, but no credible geologist foresees a doubling of world oil production, which is projected to peak within the next few decades.
* While protein demands are projected to also double in the century ahead, no respected marine biologist expects the oceanic fish catch, which has plateaued over the last decade, to double. The world's oceans are being pushed beyond the breaking point, due to a lethal combination of pollution and over-exploitation. Eleven of the 15 most important oceanic fisheries and 70 percent of the major fish species are now fully or over-exploited, according to experts. And more than half the world's coral reefs are now sick or dying.
* Growing stress can also be seen in the world's woodlands, where the clearing of tropical forests has contributed recently to unprecedented fires across large areas of Southeast Asia, the Amazon, and Central America. In Indonesia alone, 1,100 airline flights were canceled, and billions of dollars of income were lost.
* Environmental deterioration is taking a growing toll on a wide range of living organisms. Of the 242,000 plant species surveyed by the World Conservation Union in 1997, some 33,000, or 14 percent, are threatened with extinction-mainly as a result of massive land clearing for housing, roads, and industries. This mass extinction is projected to disrupt nature's ability to provide essential ecosystem services, ranging from pollination to flood control.
* The atmosphere is also under assault. The billions of tons of carbon that have been released since the Industrial Revolution have pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to their highest level in 160,000 years-a level that continues to rise each year. As scientists predicted, temperatures are rising along with the concentration of carbon dioxide. The latest jump in 1998 left the global temperature at its highest level since record-keeping began in the mid-19th century. Higher temperatures are projected to threaten food supplies in the next century, while more severe storms cause economic damage, and rising seas inundate coastal cities.
Letter to the editor I'm a veteran of the Sea of Cortes. Since childhood I admired the sunsets, the advance of the tides and the prodigious life contained in its bosom. I walked on the deserted beaches sown with an infinite variety of shells while the sea birds executed graceful evolutions in an immaculate blue sky. With only one line thrown I could catch a fish for my lunch. Everything seemed so natural!. One day, everything started to change....
Seven out of 10 commercial fish species are fully or overexploited. The
Scientists call it Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). But we may as well think of it as the heartbeat of the world ocean system. And when that heartbeat begins to slow down, we'd best sit up and start paying attention:
Near Greenland in the North Atlantic, salty, dense, ocean water issuing from the tropics along the Gulf Stream begins to cool. The heavier water, burdened with salt, sinks to the bottom in the North Atlantic. This drives a massive ocean conveyer belt, driving less oxygen rich bottom waters to the surface where they can be reinvigorated. It also drives this ocean revitalizing train of currents through every major corner of the world ocean.
However, scientists have been warning policymakers for 30 years that this salt and heat driven (thermohaline) circulation could be disrupted, reducing oxygen levels throughout the whole ocean system, and greatly reducing the oceans' ability to support life and shifting one step closer to the nightmare ocean state called a Canfield Ocean.
This disruption could be caused by warmer, salty water cooling and sinking in the North Atlantic. And any disruption of the overturning process in the North Atlantic basically kills off a life-giving circulation to the entire world ocean system.
The good news is the world’s oceans have not experienced the extinctions that have occurred on land. But as ecologist Douglas McCauley explains in a Yale Environment 360 interview, marine life now face numerous threats even more serious than overfishing.February 18, 2015, Yale Environment 360 By: Fen Montaigne
A group of marine experts published a study in the journal Science which drew conclusions that were both heartening and disturbing: While ocean ecosystems are still largely intact, the marine world is facing unprecedented disturbance, including acidification from the absorption of greenhouse gases and widespread habitat destruction from deep-sea mining, oil and gas drilling, development, and aquaculture.
Lead author Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, noted that, while there was a sixth mass extinction that's been happening, the sixth mass extinction is not underway in the oceans. However the bad news is that there were a lot of data suggesting that we're in a really important transition zone and we seem to be on the verge of transitioning from an era in which harvesting and fishing of marine resources has been the main driver of impoverishing biological diversity to one in which massive habitat change and, `global chemical warfare' (acidification) may be waged on the oceans.
"If you hunt individuals intensely that's going to have negative impacts, but if you go through and actually ravage the homes of these animals, it's going to be a lot harder to recover and the impacts are going to be more profound," he said.
"Look at the way we are impacting coral reef cover, the way that fish farming is eating up mangrove forest, the amount of factory building that we are doing in the oceans for energy production. Seabed mining can only be described as a gold rush that's underway under the ocean now."
"Let's keep our eyes on this emerging rising tide of industrialization in the oceans."
"There are just so many more of us on the planet that have so much higher energy and resource needs, and that we have to start reaching into the oceans for things that we require in our everyday lives."
We just need to be smarter about how to industrialize the ocean and put industry in the right places. "If we need to develop a section of the oceans that turns out to have really bad impacts for wildlife, we need to do remediation somewhere else."
"There are millions and millions of dollars that are being invested to build technological capacity to mine minerals, and they are talking about doing this in the deepest parts of the oceans. And the numbers involved are a bit scary -- a million square kilometers that have been staked out in this marine gold rush"
"There are two major changes that are happening in the oceans as a result of climate change - changing temperature and acidification.""We need to keep climate change and climate change effects on the oceans -- and what this means for wildlife -- at the top of our agenda."
Some of the "corals are beginning to show the capacity for resiliency to cope with some of these temperature increases.". "So what we need to do is basically slow down the rate of the advance of climate change."
"We need more parks and protected areas in the ocean. It's something that we need to very actively tell our policy makers to do."
"The processes of engaging and slowing marine defaunation is made triply hard because large parts of the oceans have no owners. But there is a growing awareness that we need to build international alliances to think about marine wildlife issues."
Rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing global temperatures to rise, which is leading to the melting of the polar ice caps, which in turn has resulted in rising sea levels and a host of ecological issues.
On the fish counters of Barcelona's central market, thousands of sea creatures making up dozens of species are on display. But by the end of this century, many of these animals may be history due to man's reckless abuse of the planet. The oceans are taking up the greenhouse gases that we dump into the air, which turns the waters deadly to its inhabitants.
Many species on the market's fish counters are also on one or more European "at-risk" lists: under threat because of overfishing or changes in the chain of foods that supply them, or from the bigger threat of the changing ocean biogeochemistry. Bivalves such as clams, oysters and mussels use calcium carbonate to make their shells. However, in as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone.
Other sea creatures with shells don't make their shells the same way but the acidification appears to harm the working of the gills and change the behavior of the crustaceans when they are very young.
This acidification is the fastest change in the ocean's chemistry in 300 million years, according to scientists.
A significant amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the burning of carbon fuels. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, lowering the pH level and increasing its acidity. "In preindustrial times the ocean's pH was 8.2. It has already gone down to 8.1," says Carles Pelejero, a scientist working in Barcelona. "Depending on what we do, it will reach an average of 7.8 or 7.7 by 2100. It hasn't been that low for 55 million years."
The ocean is a key food supply for more than 3 billion of us.
Along the coasts and out in the deep, huge "dead zones" have been multiplying. They are the emptiest places on the planet, where there's little oxygen and sometimes no life at all, almost entirely restricted to some unicellular organisms like bacteria. Vast blooms of algae-organisms that thrive in more acid (and less alkaline) seawater and are fed by pollution-have already rendered parts of the Baltic Sea pretty much dead. A third of the marine life in that sea, which once fed all of Northern Europe,
What worries Pelejero most is the rapidity of today's changes. The same shifts that happened over the course of a few thousand years during the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) are now due to happen over just a few centuries, counting from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of fossil fuels.
One ray of hope is that the Obama administration announced a series of measures aimed to conserve the ocean as a key food supply. These included more ocean sanctuaries to curtail overfishing, and new funds to research ocean biochemistry, including acidification.
Marine fish provide 15% of all animal protein consumed by humans. Under this intense pressure global fisheries are collapsing.
A 2009 assessment found that 80% of fish stocks are either fully exploited, overexploited, or have collapsed. 90% of the world's large predatory fish are in decline. Of the 21 marine species known to have been driven extinct in the past 300 years, 16 disappeared since 1972 .
A catch reduction of 20 - 50% is needed to make global fisheries sustainable, but the demand for fish is expected to increase by 35 million tons by 2030 due to increased consumption and a "rapidly increasing human population."
In addition to overfishing impacts from commercial fishing, coral reefs -- anchors of biodiversity that support thousands of fish species and as many as a million species overall -- are often damaged or destroyed by trawlers and dredging.
The global fish crisis has become so severe, scientists and wildlife managers are breaking the human population taboo, calling not only for reduced consumption and better regulation, but for alleviation of poverty and "stabilization of the world's human population" .
In a study published in the latest issue of Paleoceanography, the scientists estimate that ocean acidity increased by about 100% in a few thousand years or more, and stayed that way for the next 70,000 years. In this radically changed environment, some creatures died out while others adapted and evolved. The study is the first to use the chemical composition of fossils to reconstruct surface ocean acidity at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of intense warming on land and throughout the oceans due to high CO2.
The oceans have absorbed about a third of the carbon humans have pumped into the air since industrialization, helping to keep earth's thermostat lower than it would be otherwise. But that uptake of carbon has come at a price. Chemical reactions caused by that excess CO2 have made seawater grow more acidic, depleting it of the carbonate ions that corals, mollusks and calcifying plankton need to build their shells and skeletons.
Biodiversity: The Fragile WebFebruary 1999, National Geographic News
Sixty five million years ago, say geologists, a meteorite made cataclysmic contact with Earth. It was the beginning of the end of the dinosaurs, Earth's last great extinction. The next great extinction will be more fizzle than fireworks. In fact, it's already begun. Biodiversity, the very variety of life, is under attack. Paving and populating, consuming and polluting, humans are causing More is at stake than simply the spice of life. Each species takes its
The tropics cover around 40% of the world's surface. A 400-plus page report on the tropics, compiled by 12 institutions, found incredible population growth, rising economic importance, clashes over land-use, imperiled biodiversity, and worsening impacts of climate change.
The tropics are home to about 40% of the world's population, but house 55% of children under five. Within 40 years, it is expected that more than half the world's population will be in the tropics and a staggering 67% of its young children. According to the report, the region is expected to add another 3 billion people (or 42% of the world's population today) by the end of the century.
"Because most of the world's children will live in the Tropics by 2050, we must rethink the world's priorities on aid, development, research and education," author Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor and President of James Cook University said. For example, it is estimated that around 467 million people in the tropics lived in slums as of 2001, representing 46% of the region's urban population.
A booming population means increased demand for food, water, and other natural resources internally, even while many of these resources are already exported abroad to temperate regions.
Tropical economies are growing 20% more rapidly than in temperate regions, yet the tropics is still home to two-thirds of the world's population living in extreme poverty.
There is also good news according to the report: "The prevalence of undernourishment in the tropics has declined by one-third over the past two decades." And life expectancy is on the rise while maternal and child mortality has been slashed. Such changes could.
Unfortunately people in the tropics face especially challenging diseases rarely found in temperate regions such as dengue fever and malaria. And local people and indigenous groups are struggling to maintain control over their traditional lands as corporations -- often foreign -- seek out more land to grow crops, raise livestock, or extract commodities such as timber, fossil fuels, and minerals. Land-grabbing, as it is known, has become a significant political issue in places like Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Kenya, and Cameroon.
At the same time, conservationists and environmentalists are fighting to preserve rainforests, coral reefs, and other vital ecosystems from destruction. Approximately 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and more than 95% of its mangrove and coral reef-based biodiversity are in the tropics.
America's Vanishing BiodiversityAugust 21, 2001, USGS
"In seven states once covered with native grasslands, less than 1% of the native tall grass prairie habitat remains," said USGS director Dr. Charles "Chip" Groat. "Losses are due to agriculture, grazing, urbanization and mineral extraction. The result is that native grassland bird species have shown more consistent, widespread and steeper declines than any other group of North American birds."
In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, old growth forest logging has led to alarming declines in a number of birds and plants. At least 83% of the region's old growth Douglas fir forests have been destroyed, along with 75% of the coastal rain forests in Washington state. In California, 85% of the state's old growth redwoods have been cut down.
Almost 60% of California fish species have gone extinct or are "on the road to extinction if present trends continue," the report states. More than half of the state's frog species are endangered or threatened.
Californians have also eliminated 91% of the state's wetlands and 99 percent of grasslands. One in five of the state's 342 land bird species are listed as endangered by the state or federal governments.
"Status and Trends of the Nation's Biological Resources"
July 12, 1999, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
U.S.: Alien species: A Slow Motion Explosion1999,
According to a report by the federal government, exotic weeds, pests and
50% of the world's flora and fauna could be on a path to extinction
Population Matters has released a report entitled More People, Less Food by London School of Economics and Political Science graduate student Diandian Chen in which the author analyzes the perverse impact of population growth in England during the past 20 years on housing, food production and amenity land.
In 1994, the population of England was approximately 48 million, of whom about 250,000 were "statutory homeless". If the population had been stabilized at that point, then only approximately 5,200 hectares of land would have been required to house all of these people and they could have been housed in two years on land used for commercial purposes that was changed to residential use in 1994 and 1995. Conversion of undeveloped or agricultural land would not have been required.
In practice, because of rapid population growth since then the housing shortage has worsened; about 26,400 hectares of farmland and 3,600 hectares of undeveloped land have been converted for residential use; approximately £63 million (US $95.5 million) worth of annual food production has been lost; homelessness has remained acute; house price inflation caused by demand exceeding supply has continued; and food self-sufficiency has been further reduced.
Looking ahead to 2050, by which time the Office of National Statistics of the United Kingdom projects that the population of the country will have increased by between seven and 46 more Manchesters, local authorities anticipate that more than 700,000 houses will be built in the countryside, including almost 200,000 in undeveloped or agricultural land.
"When England is already the most overcrowded country in Europe, our houses are already the smallest, and our polls show that 80 per cent of us would prefer a smaller population than we have now, this is a truly pathetic situation," said Population Matters Chair Roger Martin. "This shows what happens when the national debate is all about increasing supply in our small island and totally ignores any idea of reducing demand, whether for housing, energy, water or anything else. Until we have a clear national objective of stabilizing our numbers and then frankly reducing them, all of our efforts will be to catch up with population growth while congestion, overload and quality of life steadily worsen."
State of the Environment - North Carolina's Most Urgent Environmental ChallengeDecember 16, 2005, Charlotte Observer
If projections from scientific experts are remotely accurate, North Carolina is in for significant change within our lifetimes related to global climate change. One estimate says 770 square miles of the coast could submerge. Air quality may worsen as temperatures rise, and the health of citizens could decline. Some will die of heat stroke. Environmental Defense, among others, has suggested a series of strategies to limit the harmful impact and prepare its residents to make some money off the changes. This year, air quality drops out of the top 10 problems because there were fewer bad air days, because controls on smokestack pollution have begun to take effect. Each of these assessments is subjective, not scientific. Summers have been getting drier, while falls have been getting wetter. As a consequence, North Carolinians have less water available than they did 100 years ago and a future with insufficient water in some areas as the state continues its dramatic urbanization. Raleigh has problems with one of its key reservoirs. Falls Lake which has been below normal level, forcing Raleigh to think about asking for a transfer from Kerr Lake. Concord and Kannapolis have sought to drain 38 million gallons a day from the Catawba River. Storm runoff, nutrients and sediment remain a top concern. Development is overwhelming the ability to keep pollution out of water supplies but the state is losing the war to protect water quality and the environment in North Carolina and America. Rapid growth and inappropriate development has been near the top of the list for 10 years. Residential growth consumes farmland, green space and forests, putting new strains on air quality and water quality. But sprawling low-density development and quality-of-life concerns could interfere with future prosperity. Growth and development has threatened places where no one ever imagined. A growth surge in coastal counties has caused problems and the land use planning program for the coast is totally broken. The very people who depend on waterfront availability for their economic survival can no longer afford that access. How North Carolina will meet its energy needs at an affordable cost will dominate debate affecting the environment. Utilities are interested in building more nuclear plants and pressure grows for the state to rescind its opposition to offshore natural gas exploration. While some fish stocks have made recoveries in N.C. waters, others have declined in alarming ways. River herring have become so depleted that catches failed to reach a quota limit. Oysters, bay scallops and blue crabs are species of "concern" because of low catches. Population growth has increased the amount of garbage going into landfills while the state might begin importing garbage in landfills proposed for sparsely populated areas an environmental threat. The state continues to search for solutions to large-scale hog farm waste. Thousands bought up the shoreline and built out-of-scale mansions to replace the fish camps and clapboard cottages. The loss of natural areas to upscale residential developments has changed what North Carolinians see from our windows. Litter accumulates along our highways, costing the state millions in collection costs and providing volunteers with more work than they can keep up with. Utility poles and wires mar the viewscape. Environmental concerns fail to consider long-term implications and doesn't recognize the interdependence of conservation and development. North Carolina has more than 17 million acres of forests and large stands of trees in national and state forests, parks and wildlife reserves. But the huge stands of hardwoods and regal longleaf pines are now a small fraction of what they once were. In a state where development has gobbled up 100,000 acres of forested lands and natural areas per year, recent legislation may make it harder for local governments to preserve land at a time the state's population continues to grow and consume more natural areas.