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Air Pollution Has Dropped by as Much as 60% in Major Cities Across the World Due to Lockdown

Image Credit: The Mind Unleashed

By Elias Marat |  The Mind Unleashed

As the globe continues to grapple with the inexorable spread of the coronavirus pandemic, air pollution has plunged to unprecedented new lows worldwide and especially in some of the most contaminated cities, new research has found.

On Earth Day, Swiss-based air quality technology company IQAir published a COVID-19 Air Quality Report that shows how air pollution levels in 10 major cities around the globe have fallen to as much as 60 percent due to government-mandated shutdowns of non-essential businesses and physical distancing measures meant to curb the novel coronavirus.

The study examined cities’ measurements before and after the COVID-19 outbreak of the harmful fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5. The particulate matter, which lodges deep into the lungs and passes into vital organs and the bloodstream, causes a number of serious risks to people’s health.

The report looked at London, Los Angeles, New Delhi, New York City, Madrid, Mumbai, Rome, São Paulo, Seoul, and Wuhan.

The research revealed a “drastic drop” in air pollution in almost every city facing lockdown compared to a year earlier, with the exception of Rome.

New Delhi experienced a 60 percent fall of PM2.5 from 2019 levels. The metropolis also experienced a sharp drop in hours during which the Indian capital experienced air pollution ratings of “unhealthy,” with the percentage of hours falling from 68 percent in 2019 to 17 percent during the 2020 lockdown. In Mumbai, air pollution dropped by 34 percent.

Seoul, South Korea, saw a 54 percent decrease from last year while soot levels in Wuhan, China, dropped by 44 percent.

Meanwhile, in São Paulo, Brazil, air pollution has dropped by 32 percent.

In sunny Los Angeles, California, which has long been associated with its clogged freeways and dense smog, Angelenos celebrated Earth Day with some of the best air quality the city has ever seen, according to IQAir. With far fewer cars on the road due to the city’s Safer-at-Home order and much-welcomed spring showers, the City of Angels’ fine particle pollution has dropped by 31 percent compared to last year and 51 percent compared to the previous four-year average.

 

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Researchers Find Undersea Evidence Of Rainforests In Antarctica

An illustration of the temperate rainforest that thrived in West Antarctica about 90 million years ago, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth. // J. McKay/Alfred-Wegener-Institut

By Anthony McLennan | Truth Theory

A research team has uncovered evidence in a West Antarctica seabed which implicates the existence of rainforests some 90 million years ago.

The Antarctica forests are thought to have been similar to those found today on New Zealand’s South Island.

From aboard a polar vessel, the researchers drilled into the Amundsen seafloor between February and March of 2017.

The information which were derived from the sediment core samples which were extracted in the vicinity of Pine Island and the Thwaites glaciers, were published in the Nature journal this week.

The specimens were estimated to be 90 million years old. That’s from the Cretaceous period and falls within the dinosaur age. Despite being found in the seafloor, there was clear evidence of land.

Pristine samples of forest soil, spores and well preserved root systems were uncovered by the UK and German scientists.

Included in the soil sample was pollen. The pollen is believed to have originated from what would be the closest flowering plants ever found near the South Pole.

A much warmer Antarctica climate

The sediment cores also revealed a lot about climate, temperature, rainfall and vegetation.

Professor Tina van de Flierdt, of the department of earth science and engineering at Imperial College London, said: “The preservation of this 90 million-year-old forest is exceptional, but even more surprising is the world it reveals.

“Even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expected.”

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Stanford Scientist Says Pollution Drop During Quarantine Saved Tens Of Thousands Of Lives

Image Credit: Waking Times

By John Vibes | Truth Theory

According to recent analysis by Stanford University scientist Marshall Burke, the nationwide quarantine in China saved tens of thousands of lives, but he bases his estimation on the reduction of pollution that came as a result of the lockdown, not on how many people could have potentially been saved from the virus.

Burke used data that was being collected by sensors that US scientists had in different Chinese cities which measured levels of PM2.5 in the air. PM2.5 is the tiny particulate matter which is considered the primary cause of death from air pollution.

According to Burke’s estimations, two months of pollution reduction on this level “likely has saved the lives of 4,000 kids under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China.”

 

“Even under these more conservative assumptions, the lives saved due to the pollution reductions are roughly 20x the number of lives that have been directly lost to the virus,” Burke wrote on G-Feed, a blog maintained by seven scientists working on Global Food, Environment and Economic Dynamics.

Burke recognized that his calculations only show one side of the picture, and says that his numbers do not factor in the potential negative consequences of the lockdown.

“But the calculation is perhaps a useful reminder of the often-hidden health consequences of the status quo, the substantial costs that our current way of doing things exacts on our health and livelihoods. More broadly, the fact that disruption of this magnitude could actually lead to some large (partial) benefits suggests that our normal way of doing things might need disrupting,” he said.

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Fish Are Visible In Venice Canals As Water Becomes Clearer Following Italy’s Lockdown

Image Credit: Waking Times

By Elias Marat | The Mind Unleashed

The continued outbreak of the coronavirus has been an enormously disruptive and tragic event, with massive humanitarian and economic repercussions for the entire world.

However, there have also been some surprising and not entirely unwelcome side effects.

Case in point: the canals of Venice, Italy, which are normally teeming with tourists all year round, with many flocking to the famous gondola boats that traverse the city’s iconic canals.

The Venetian canals are famously unclean. Filled with brackish water – a mixture of saltwater and fresh water – as well as a decidedly funky mixture of pollution, including human waste and boat chemicals, the canals typically appear clean only after the local government clears it of litter and other debris.

However, as Italy continues to be under a nationwide lockdown affecting some 60 million residents, locals in Venice are beginning to notice that the canals have become far clearer – so much so that people are being treated to the rare sight of little fish swimming through the now-transparent waters of the city’s 150 canals.

People have begun uploading images of the city’s canals to a Twitter account called Venezia Pulita (Clean Venice), expressing their sense of awe at the sudden return of wildlife to a city that has long struggled with pollution. Similar images have also been uploaded to Twitter.

In one post, user Marco Capovilla wrote:

“Incredible images of the Rio dei Ferali, behind San Marco square, usually murky. Nature takes back its spaces.”

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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, ‘Severe Water Shortages’ May Follow

Horseshoe Bend (seen above) is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River in Page, Arizona. didier.camus / Flickr / public domain

By Jordan Davidson | EcoWatch

Millions of people rely on the Colorado River, but the climate crisis is causing the river to dry up, putting many at risk of “severe water shortages,” according to new research, as The Guardian reported.

Longer periods of drought and rising temperatures have decreased the river’s annual flow by 20 percent compared to the last century. The researchers, who published their study in Science, say that global heating has caused mountain snowpacks that feed the river to disappear, which leads to increased evaporation, as The Washington Post reported.

“That’s the thing I found most fascinating about this study,” lead author Chris Milly of the U.S. Geological Survey said to KNAU. “As the snow cover dwindles due to warming, it’s reflecting less sunlight back to the atmosphere. So the basin’s absorbing more sunlight. That sunlight is powering evaporation out of the basin. Now when that evaporation—the water is taken out of the basin due to the evaporation, there’s less water flowing down the river to the 40 million people that are waiting for it.”

Snow and ice reflect sunlight back away from the Earth’s surface, a phenomenon known as the albedo effect. The loss of snow and ice means the Earth absorbs more heat.

Milly and his research partner, Krista A. Dunne, found that for every degree Celsius of warming, the river’s flow decreases 9.3 percent. Recent studies have confirmed that the river’s steady decreased flow since 2000 is due to rising temperatures. The decline has amounted to 1.5 billion tons of missing water, equal to the annual water consumption of 10 million Americans, as The Washington Post reported.

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Antarctica Breaks 69°F for the First Time on Record

Image Credit: Waking Times

By Olivia Rosane | EcoWatch

The Antarctic region just recorded a temperature higher than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time.

Brazilian scientists measured a temperature of 20.75 degrees Celsius (approximately 69.35 degrees Fahrenheit) on Seymour Island Feb. 9, one of the researchers told AFP Thursday.

“We’d never seen a temperature this high in Antarctica,” Brazilian scientist Carlos Schaefer told AFP.

The record was broken three days after the Antarctic continent recorded its highest temperature to date at a balmy 18.3 degrees Celsius (approximately 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit). That measure was taken at Argentina’s Esperanza station on the Antarctic peninsula that extends north towards South America.

The Brazilian reading was taken on one of the islands that extends off that peninsula, according to BBC News. It breaks the previous record for the entire Antarctic region, defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as all the land and ice south of 60 degrees. The previous record for the region of 19.8 degrees Celsius (approximately 67.6 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded in 1982 on Signy Island.

Schaefer was careful to point out that the temperature reading was not part of a larger study and so could not be used as evidence of a climate trend.

“We can’t use this to anticipate climatic changes in the future. It’s a data point,” he told AFP. “It’s simply a signal that something different is happening in that area.”

 

 

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New Bill Seeks to Commit US to Planting 3.3 Billion Trees Every Year

Image Credit: The Mind Unleashed

By Emma Fiala | Waking Times

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland would leaders addressed various ways to combat climate change and help the environment. It was there that U.S. President Donald Trump committed to the Trillion Trees initiative.

A bill is currently being drafted by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) that would set in stone the commitment to the planting of billions of trees annually. If the legislation passes, the U.S. will plant 3.3 billion trees each year over the next 30 years.

Westerman explained:

The pragmatic, proactive thing to do is to plant forests and manage them so that you’re actually pulling carbon out of the atmosphere.”

Trump said at Davos:

We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world.”

Over the last few years tree planting initiatives have increased across the world. From Ireland pledging to plant 440 million trees over the next 20 years to Ethiopia breaking the world record by planting 350 million trees in a mere 12 hours, Sikhs pledging to plant 1 million trees around the world in a few short months, and India planting 50 million trees in only 24 hours back in 2017, inhabitants of planet Earth are responding to the scientists who have urged the world to plant billions of trees in what they say is the fastest and cheapest way to reverse climate change.

Professor Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who led the research, told the Associated Press in July:

“This is by far—by thousands of times—the cheapest climate change solution.”

 

As previously reported by TMU, an area of trees roughly the size of the United States could scrub 205 billion metric tons of carbon emissions—out of the roughly 300 billion metric tons of carbon pollution spewed into the atmosphere over the past 25 years.

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A Call to Action as Planet’s Essential Groundwater is Being Rapidly Depleted

Digging for water in the Ewaso Ngiro river basin in central Kenya on April 4, 2017. (Photo: Climate Centre/Flickr/cc)

By Common Dreams staff | Common Dreams

Nearly 1,100 scientists, practitioners, and experts in groundwater and related fields from 92 countries have called on the governments and non-governmental organizations to “act now” to ensure global groundwater sustainability.

In their ‘Call To Action‘, the group said:

“Groundwater, the invisible water beneath our feet, represents 99% of Earth’s liquid fresh water, making it critical for supplying drinking water, ensuring food security, adapting to climate variability, supporting biodiversity, sustaining surface water bodies and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

  • Action Item 1: Put the spotlight on global groundwater sustainability by completing a UN World Water Development Report, planning a global groundwater summit and recognizing the global importance of groundwater in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2022.
  • Action item 2: Manage and govern groundwater sustainability from local to global scales by applying a guiding principle of groundwater sustainability by 2030.
  • Action item 3: Invest in groundwater governance and management by implementing groundwater sustainability plans for stressed aquifers by 2030.

Groundwater is the drinking water source for more than two billion people and provides more than 40% of the water for irrigated agriculture worldwide.

Groundwater use has impacted environmentally critical streamflow in more than 15% of streams globally and could impact the majority of streams by 2050.

Around 1.7 billion people live above aquifers (geologic formations that provide groundwater) that are stressed by overuse.

Poor groundwater quality disproportionately hits poor people with access to insecure drinking water sources – often unprotected shallow groundwater resources.

Abhijit Mukherjee, who is a part of the global scientist group and an Associate professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur told the Press Trust of India “we, in India, are abstracting the largest volume of groundwater in human history and are rapidly depleting a relatively non-renewable natural resource that is essential for our survival.”

Common Dreams has previously reported on a recent study that sheds light on how the climate crisis is a “time bomb” for the world’s groundwater reserves.

In contrast to surface water, groundwater is stored beneath the ground’s surface, held in porous rock, sand, and soil. That water seeps out, or “discharges,” into waterways. The groundwater is also replenished in what is called “recharge” when precipitation falls. As such, a balance is created. But events like drought or extreme downpours—features of a warming planet—have an impact on restoring that balance.

Assessing groundwater model results along with hydrologic data sets, the team of researchers behind the new study found very differing timescales for how groundwater is going to respond to climate change, with groundwater in wetter areas expected to experience a far shorter response time than reserves in more arid areas.

“Our research shows that groundwater systems take a lot longer to respond to climate change than surface water, with only half of the world’s groundwater flows responding fully within ‘human’ timescales of 100 years,” said lead author Mark Cuthbert of Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Water Research Institute in a statement.

While some regions could bounce back in less than 10 years, including parts of central Africa and the U.S. Midwest, other areas—including Australia, the Sahara region, and parts of the central U.S.—were shown to have response times of thousands of years.

“This means that in many parts of the world,” Cuthbert continued, “changes in groundwater flows due to climate change could have a very long legacy. This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the baseflow to rivers and wetlands a long time later.”

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Oil Companies Were Not Held Accountable for 10.8 Million Gallons of Oil Spilled in Gulf of Mexico

A massive oil spill threatened St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana on Sept. 18, 2005 when an oil tank was forced from its foundation by Hurricane Katrina’s massive storm surge. Bob McMillan / FEMA

By Jordan Davidson | EcoWatch

The devastation to lives and homes caused by Hurricane Katrina masked a massive crude oil spill that the hurricane caused by damaging rigs and storage tanks in the Gulf of Mexico. The damage was made worse a few weeks later when Hurricane Rita struck the area. The federal regulators that oversee oil and gas operation in the Gulf estimated that more than 400 pipelines and 100 drilling platforms were damaged, leading to 10.8 million gallons of crude oil spilling into the Gulf — the same amount as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Now, 14 years later, not one assessment of the damage to natural resources has been carried out. There is no plan to help restore impacted ecosystems. And not one of the 140 responsible parties has faced a fine or even a citation, according to an exclusive investigation by ProPublica, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate.

Instead of having to pay fines, the companies whose oil spilled into the water have actually been reimbursed $19 million from a federal trust for the oil they lost, claiming that the spills and damage were caused by an “unforeseeable act of God,” according to the review by ProPublica and its partners.

The Act of God defense holds a lot of weight in Louisiana. Adam Babich, former director of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, told the journalists at ProPublica and its partners that while the act of God defense does not usually release oil companies from liability, it does weaken arguments to hold them accountable.

“We don’t normally penalize [companies] for act of God events,” said Greg Langley of the Department of Environmental Quality to ProPublica, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate.”We just get right to remediation.”

The full scale of the damage may never be fully understood without a comprehensive review and assessment. Even a tiny amount of spilled crude oil has a devastating impact and damages coastline that protects inland areas from storms.

The oil that seeps into the marshes affects worms and snails, which are eaten by birds and fish. Marsh plants begin to die, which allows saltwater to eat away at the coastline. That allows the next storm to push further inland, according to Darryl Malek-Wiley, an organizer with the Sierra Club, who spoke to the ProPublica investigation.

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‘A Win for the Planet!’: Dutch Supreme Court Issues Landmark Ruling Mandating Climate Action

Supporters of a climate case in the Netherlands celebrated the Dutch Supreme Court’s ruling Friday. (Photo: Urgenda/Twitter)

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

Advocates for climate action celebrated Friday after the Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld a landmark ruling that found the Dutch government is obligated under international human rights law to more ambitiously reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive global heating.

The case was initially launched in 2013 by the nonprofit Urgenda Foundation on behalf of hundreds of Dutch citizens and has been repeatedly appealed.

“Today, at a moment when people around the world are in need of real hope that governments will act with urgency to address the climate crisis, the Dutch Supreme Court has delivered a groundbreaking decision that confirms that individual governments must do their fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” an Urgenda spokesperson said after the ruling.

The court ruled that the Dutch government must cut emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020 “because of the risk of a dangerous climate change that can also seriously affect the residents of the Netherlands in their right to life and well-being,” according to a translation from BuzzFeed News.

Tessa Kahn, co-director of the Climate Litigation Network, took to Twitter to highlight former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson’s reaction to the ruling:

The ruling is “a victory for the climate, for our planet, and for future generations,” declared Greenpeace International general counsel Jasper Teulings, who welcomed the news in a tweet. “Now let’s put this in action.”

Urgenda’s win “could inspire people worldwide to hold governments legally accountable for #ClimateChange,” the Greenpeace International account said on Twitter. “This puts all laggard governments on notice: act now or see you in court.”

Reporting on the news out of the Netherlands Friday, Forbes pointed out that “inspired by the success of Urgenda’s case, other organizations brought their representatives to court. Similar legal initiatives are taking place in several countries, including Belgium, Canada, Pakistan, and the United States.”

Meanwhile—as the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth Europe noted Friday—Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands is suing fossil fuel giant Royal Dutch Shell for its contributions to the global climate crisis.

https://twitter.com/foeeurope/status/1208057726284247040?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1208057726284247040&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2019%2F12%2F20%2Fwin-planet-dutch-supreme-court-issues-landmark-ruling-mandating-climate-action

This post has been updated to correct details related to a tweet from Friends of the Earth Europe.

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At UN Climate Conference U.S. Growers Defend Large-Scale Farming

Image Credit: Pexels

By Lauren Wolahan, Nexxus Media | EcoWatch

For the first time ever, the UN is building out a roadmap for curbing carbon pollution from agriculture. To take part in that process, a coalition of U.S. farmers traveled to the UN climate conference in Madrid, Spain this month to make the case for the role that large-scale farming operations, long criticized for their outsized emissions, can play in addressing climate change.

Often, conversations about agriculture feature calls for more small-scale, organic farming, the abolition of animal agriculture, and a shift away from farming row crops like corn and soy. The farmers at the meeting in Madrid, many of them political conservatives, aimed to challenge this view.

A.G. Kawamura, a third-generation fruit and vegetable grower and California’s former secretary of food and agriculture, responds to critics by asking, “Well, did you eat today?”

The debate about the environmental impact of agriculture harkens back to the 1950s, which gave rise to synthetic pesticides and fertilizer, genetically modified crops, and advanced machinery. These tools allowed farmers to produce more food than ever before, but they also did considerable damage.

The widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers killed insects and birds, as well as fish who lived downstream of farms. The focus on cash crops led many farmers to plant the same crop year after year, sapping the soil of needed nutrients. And the embrace of high-powered farming tools turned once-rich topsoil into lifeless dust.

In light of these facts, many in the environmental community have called for a radical overhaul of the agricultural system. Longtime farmers of row crops like corn and soy are pushing back. They say that, through smart farming practices, they can actually help curb pollution.

Many farmers, for instance, are using advanced technologies that help them to cut down on pollution by allowing them to apply chemicals only where they’re needed. But these technologies are only cost-effective on larger farms.

 

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Is Greta Thunberg a Time Traveler ‘Here to Save Us’ From Climate Emergency’? 120-Year-Old Photo Sparks Flood of Conspiracy Theories

Children operating a rocker at a gold mine on Dominion Creek, Yukon Territory in 1898. The young girl in the foreground looks eerily similar to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg—with the resemblance setting off a wave of good-natured conspiracy theories. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections)

By Common Dreams staff | Common Dreams

Is 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg a time traveler “here to save us” from the global climate emergency?

A photo was taken during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush in Yukon, Canada features a child that so closely resembles the world-renowned climate campaigner that some Twitter users initially dismissed it as a fake.

But the 120-year-old photo was sourced to the University of Washington’s Special Collections archive, leading many to jokingly conclude that Thunberg is a time traveler who arrived in 2019 to warn the world about the planetary climate crisis.

https://twitter.com/tesloan/status/1197513788972507136?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1197513788972507136&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2019%2F11%2F21%2Fgreta-thunberg-time-traveler-here-save-us-climate-emergency-120-year-old-photo

Thunberg, whose activism sparked a global youth-led climate movement, is currently sailing across the Atlantic after spending more than two months in the United States.

“We had to slow the boat down to avoid some really rough weather ahead, but now we’re back on track at full speed,” Thunberg tweeted Thursday. “Hopefully we will arrive in Lisbon, Portugal, sometime in early December.”

So we know what continent she’s headed to now. The only serious question left to consider is this: Will she arrive on time?

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Storms and Rising Seas Threaten Coastal Ecosystems — Here’s What We Can Do

Three Arch Bay, Laguna Beach, Southern California. Wikimedia Commons / D. Ramey Logan with Mike Jarvis / CC-BY 4.0

 

By Jeff Peterson | EcoWatch

A century from now, the U.S. coastline will look very different from how it looks today. In the coming decades our beaches, wetlands and estuaries along the shore will be lost or degraded by a one-two punch of more severe storms and rising seas. This combination will drive communities inland and force the relocation of critical infrastructure. The consequences for fish, wildlife and ecosystems could also be devastating.

We’re already getting a glimpse of how bad things can get.

The three major storms of 2017 — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused more than 3,000 deaths and some $275 billion in damages. The longer-term ecosystem impacts of major storms like these are harder to quantify, but no less important. These include shifting of beaches and dunes, saltwater intrusion to freshwater systems, ecosystems contaminated by polluted floodwaters, and damage to habitat, oyster beds and coral. Rising sea levels are steadily pushing storm damage farther inland.

The country has done surprisingly little to meet this daunting challenge. As I wrote in my book A New Coast: Strategies for Responding to Devastating Storms and Rising Seas, there are steps that need to be taken now to help protect coastal ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.

Measuring Loss

A first step toward better protecting beaches and coastal wetlands is to understand the risks they face from storms and rising seas.

Scientists predict that as the climate warms, coastal storms will become more intense and melting glaciers and ice sheets could push global sea level up four feet by 2100. Along the U.S. coast, the rise in sea level could be 15 to 25 percent higher due to land subsidence and ocean dynamics.

What will this mean for ecosystems? It’s hard to know exactly.

There is currently no national assessment of how ecosystems along the U.S. coast will change. What little we do know points to serious decline in the health of these resources.

For example, a study of the Gulf of Mexico region predicted these losses of coastal wetlands by 2060: 37 percent in Texas, 32 percent in Florida, and 26 percent in Alabama and Mississippi. A 2017 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that up to 31 percent of California beaches would be lost in the event of 3 feet of sea-level rise and 67 percent in the event of 6 feet.

As beaches and wetlands are inundated or migrate inland, some of the ecosystem services they provide will be lost. We are likely to see diminished abundance and diversity of fish and wildlife. Other benefits of coastal ecosystems that are at risk include protection from the impacts of storm surges, protection of water quality, mitigation of coastal erosion, and sequestration of carbon.

The effects of more severe storms and rising oceans on fish and wildlife are not well studied, but the Center for Biological Diversity (publisher of The Revelator) reported that 233 threatened and endangered species in 23 coastal states — roughly 1 out of 6 of the country’s protected species — are at risk from sea-level rise.

Manmade Threats

In addition to suffering damages from storms and gradual inundation by rising seas, coastal ecosystems may fall victim to human efforts to protect communities and infrastructure from these risks.

Built structures such as seawalls, damage beach systems and can prevent healthy functioning of marshes and wetlands. Living shorelines, which use natural materials such as plants, sand, or rock to stabilize the shoreline, are an improvement over conventional concrete seawalls but can have some of the same damaging impacts. Beach restoration projects can also harm the ecosystem of the beach as well as the sites from which sand is taken.

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China’s Coast Inundated in Plastic Pollution as Country Tries to Stop It From Entering Rivers

Image Credit: The Mind Unleashed

By Elias Marat  | The Mind Unleashed

As China increasingly makes efforts to prevent plastic waste from being dumped into its own rivers and mainland waterways, the amount of waste floating in its coastal waters has soared to unprecedented levels.

According to China’s environment ministry, over 200 million cubic meters of waste has been found floating off the coasts of the country—a 27 percent increase over the previous year and the highest level in at least a decade, reports Reuters.

As the country increasingly enjoys economic prosperity as a major manufacturing hub with a growing middle class, the country’s plastic pollution has skyrocketed.

Much of the waste has been dumped into the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas near the country’s east coast, where much of China’s industrial base is located, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

Huo Chuanlin, the deputy director of the ministry’s marine environment department, cast the blame on local authorities’ inattentiveness and lack of drive in tackling the growing problem. Huo said:

“At the moment, there are some clear problems with the work on the marine ecological environment, with some regions not showing a lot of awareness or paying sufficient attention, and lacking strong initiative and dedication.”

Despite the admission, Huo contended that the overall situation in China’s coastal waters was seeing improvement, including such issues as river wastewaters entering the sea. The official added that the fast-growing crisis of ocean pollution could hardly be blamed on China. He added:

“China is the biggest producer and exporter of plastic products, accounting for about 30 per cent of the world’s total, but that doesn’t mean China is a major marine plastic polluting country.”

In recent years, ocean biologists and conservationists have expressed alarm over the growing problem of plastics and microplastics inundating the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment, with plastic drink containers trapping and confining—and ultimately killing—marine wildlife.

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‘Grand African Savannah Green Up’: Major $85 Million Project Announced to Scale up Agroforestry in Africa

Forest landscape restoration in Ethiopia. CIFOR / Mokhamad Edliadi

By Erik Hoffner | EcoWatch

Amid a deluge of news during the U.N. Climate Summit last month, one major announcement went largely uncovered, yet is among the most important initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of climate change revealed during the events in New York City.

A group of NGOs announced there that they have joined forces in what they’re calling “the biggest land restoration project ever seen.” They reported securing funding from G9 Ark to implement the initial phase of their first initiative, an $85 million project dubbed the Grand African Savannah Green Up.

The Green Up project is envisioned as a massive scaling-up of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) — the encouragement of regeneration of trees and shrubs that sprout from stumps, roots and seeds found in degraded soils, such as those currently under agricultural production — and other complementary practices across a swath of Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

FMNR in action: a farmer removes side stems from resprouted Guiera senegalensis, the first step in encouraging a strong trunk. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry

Once established in farm fields, these woody plants improve soil fertility and moisture for crops planted in combination with them in a system known as agroforestry, which also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere while providing habitat for a diversity of creatures. FMNR made headlines several years ago when 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of Niger were reported to have been regreened via the practice.

The coalition, which calls itself the Global EverGreening Alliance, has a goal of capturing 20 billion tons of CO2 annually by 2050, a figure they say would offset the anticipated fossil fuel emissions during this period while cooling the atmosphere via projects across Africa, Latin America, and Southeast and South Asia. The coalition is made up of NGOs such as World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, World Agroforestry, CARE International, Justdiggit, World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Concern Worldwide, and others.