Articles on the Climate Crisis

“The movement to take climate action has begun – but we have a long way to go”

“Young people, the UN and a growing number of leaders are mobilizing, but we need many others to take action, the UN secretary general writes”

Global emissions are increasing. Temperatures are rising. The consequences for oceans, forests, weather patterns, biodiversity, food production, water, jobs and, ultimately, lives, are already dire – and set to get much worse.

The science is undeniable. But in many places, people don’t need a chart or graph to understand the climate crisis. They can simply look out the window.

Climate chaos is playing out in real time from California to the Caribbean, and from Africa to the Arctic and beyond. Those who contributed least to the problem are suffering the most.

I have seen it with my own eyes from cyclone-battered Mozambique to the hurricane-devastated Bahamas to the rising seas of the South Pacific.”

Where Does All the Plastic Go?

The New Yorker:

very year, an estimated eight million metric tons of land-based plastic enters the world’s oceans. But when marine researchers have measured how much of this plastic is floating on the water’s surface, swirling in offshore gyres—most notably, the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California—they have only found quantities on the order of hundreds of thousands of tons, or roughly one per cent of all the plastic that has ever gone into the ocean. Part of the explanation for this is that all plastic eventually breaks down into microplastic, and, although this takes some polymers decades, others break down almost immediately, or enter the ocean as microplastic already (like the synthetic fibres that pill off your fleece jacket or yoga pants in the washing machine). Scientists have recently found tiny pieces of plastic falling with the rain in the high mountains, including France’s Pyrenees and the Colorado Rockies. British researchers collected amphipods (shrimplike crustaceans) from six of the world’s deepest ocean trenches and found that eighty per cent of them had microplastic in their digestive tracts. These kinds of plastic fibres and fragments are smaller than poppy seeds and “the perfect size to enter the bottom of the food web,” as Jennifer Brandon, an oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told me. “They have been shown to be eaten by mussels, by coral, by sea cucumbers, by barnacles, by lots of filter-feeding plankton.”

But what happens to all the marine macroplastic—big stuff, like buckets, toys, bottles, toothbrushes, flip-flops—before it breaks down? lots of junk gets eaten: it is likely that marine debris kills hundreds of thousands of sea birds, turtles, and marine mammals each year, though no one knows the exact number. In March, a Cuvier’s beaked whale, a species that can dive deeper and hold its breath longer than any other marine mammal, washed up dead in the Philippines with eighty-eight pounds of plastic in its body. In April, a sperm whale washed up dead in Italy with forty-eight pounds of plastic, as well as the remains of a fetus, in its body.

If you want to clean the coastal environment, you need to close the tap. The broader statement is that we need to do it all, which includes cleaning up plastic pollution in the environment, from garbage patches to the mountains.”

it seems that land is likely “storing a major fraction of the missing plastic debris.” A small fraction of the plastic is “possibly slowly circulating between coastal environments with repeated episodes of beaching, fouling”—the accumulation of living and nonliving things on the materials’ surface—“defouling and resurfacing.”

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Scientific America

By David Wallace-Wells

“An alarming book provokes a vision of a world that has solved the problems of global warming and war”

“Wallace-Wells limns doom with literary flair. But what makes him especially persuasive is that he came to the topic of climate change late, and reluctantly. He was never particularly green. He likes meat, doesn’t like camping. He cares much more about humanity than about “nature,” whatever that is. He was once skeptical of “the Environmental left,” but after delving into climate change a few years ago he got scared. “Alarmist” is a derogatory term, but Wallace-Wells embraces it. “I am alarmed,” he says, and we should be too. “It is worse, much worse, than you think.”

A floating device created to clean up plastic from the ocean is finally doing its job, organizers say

CNN:

“A huge trash-collecting system designed to clean up plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean is finally picking up plastic, its inventor announced Wednesday.

The Netherlands-based nonprofit the Ocean Cleanup says its latest prototype was able to capture and hold debris ranging in size from huge, abandoned fishing gear, known as “ghost nets,” to tiny microplastics as small as 1 millimeter.
“Today, I am very proud to share with you that we are now catching plastics,” Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat said at a news conference in Rotterdam.
The Ocean Cleanup system is a U-shaped barrier with a net-like skirt that hangs below the surface of the water. It moves with the current and collects faster moving plastics as they float by. Fish and other animals will be able to swim beneath it.
The new prototype added a parachute anchor to slow the system and increased the size of a cork line on top of the skirt to keep the plastic from washing over it.
It’s been deployed in “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” — a concentration of trash located between Hawaii and California that’s about double the size of Texas, or three times the size of France.
Ocean Cleanup plans to build a fleet of these devices, and predicts it will be able to reduce the size of the patch by half every five years.
Garbage patches are formed by rotating ocean currents called “gyres” that pull marine debris into one location, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Several of these patches exist in the world’s oceans.
There have been setbacks which Slat called “unscheduled learning opportunities,”
There are still some hurdles to overcome before they can scale up the system.
He said the final system will need to be able to survive for years in the difficult ocean conditions and be able to hold the plastic for months between pickups, in order for the plan to be financially viable.”

NYT:

Foresters began noticing the patches of dying pines and denuded oaks, and grew concerned. Warmer winters and drier summers had sent invasive insects and diseases marching northward, killing the trees.

If the dieback continued, some woodlands could become shrub land.

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate. Rhode Island is already seeing more heat and drought, shifting precipitation and the intensification of plagues such as the red pine scale, a nearly invisible insect carried by wind that can kill a tree in just a few years.

“We can’t keep waiting until we know everything.”

“In Rhode Island, the state’s largest water utility is experimenting with importing trees from hundreds of miles to the south to maintain forests that help purify water for 600,000 people. In Minnesota, a lumber businessman is trying to diversify the forest on his land with a “300-year plan” he hopes will benefit his grandchildren. And in five places around the country, the United States Forest Service is running a major experiment to answer a basic question: What’s the best way to actually help forests at risk?”

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