7 December 2013 (OCHA) – According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), approximately 4 million people remain displaced as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, including 94,310 people living in 385 evacuation centres (ECs). The number of people living in evacuation centres has decreased, mostly due to the increased availability of shelter materials provided by aid organizations or from salvaging. The reopening of classes in schools that previously hosted ECs has also contributed to this decline. Many affected people have begun returning to their homes and are either rebuilding their houses or setting up makeshift shelters. Others are staying with friends and family in affected areas and in urban centres such as Cebu and Manila. DSWD has provided each departing IDP with a Family Assistance Card, making them eligible to receive assistance in the barangay where they had lived prior to the typhoon.
Response activities continue to expand. An initial tranche of 7,000 tons of rice is in-country and will be distributed to over 150,000 households in Samar and Leyte during December. So far, 4,340 tons of rice, 153 tons of high- energy biscuits and 1.2 tons of Plumpy’Doz (a specialized nutrition product) have been dispatched, sufficient to feed 3 million people. A fleet of 40 trucks has been contracted which will be managed from Tacloban, and available for all clusters to use for transportation of relief supplies across the affected areas in Eastern Visayas. Storage facilities for the humanitarian community have been augmented through a logistics hub set up in Palo, outside Tacloban, and seven mobile storage units.
Consultations with affected communities in Region VIII (Eastern Visayas) indicate that, beyond the basic needs of food, water and temporary shelter, the highest priority needs for adults are financial assistance, stable housing, including tools and materials, and livelihoods. The top priority needs for children and adolescents are additional food and education. Elderly men and women have also signaled a lack health programmes that address ageing and pre-existing conditions, as well as the need for culturally appropriate clothing. It is a priority for all groups to receive clothes, and telephones and radios as a means of receiving information.
In Eastern Visayas, different parts of the affected areas find themselves in different phases of the response. While Ormoc is transitioning to recovery, Tacloban is focusing on both humanitarian assistance and restoration of livelihoods. Guiuan continues to focus on core humanitarian needs. Extensive shelter gaps exist in Tacloban City and along the west coast of Leyte, while duplication and over-supply of shelter assistance is reported in certain locations along the east coast of Leyte. Emergency shelter is required in Bilaran Island where an estimated 23,000 households are yet to receive assistance. The Department of Health is concerned over the water quality in Tacloban, Ormoc and Guiuan, and an increase in acute diarrhoeal cases has been reported in many locations. Psychosocial and mental health support is needed as a number of suicide attempts have been reported. Specialized support is also required for traumatized children. There is a reported increase in the number of adolescents and minors migrating to Manila in search of employment.
In Central Visayas, while recovery and reconstruction have started in all affected municipalities, partners are addressing residual humanitarian needs, primarily in food, emergency health, WASH and shelter. Of the 12,000 people who arrived from Eastern Visayas following the typhoon, only 130 remain in two ECs in Cebu and Lapu-Lapu.
In Western Visayas, a joint Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) / Inter-Agency assessment identified food security and health concerns in remote mountain communities of southern Aklan, western Capiz and central Antique. Partners are currently identifying options for helicopter relief deliveries. In view of the oil spill in Estancia, Iloilo Province, and as requested by the Government of the Philippines, Japan has dispatched an oil cleaning expert team. [more]
By Mark Schleifstein
6 December 2013
(The Times-Picayune) – The extensive damage caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the ensuing cleanup efforts to natural resources along the shoreline and in deepwater habitats of the Gulf of Mexico were outlined for the first time Friday (Dec. 6) in a comprehensive environmental assessment.
The assessment, released by federal and state oil spill trustees, accompanies a plan for spending $627 million on 44 projects aimed at restoring some of the damage outlined in the report, or compensating the public for lost resources. That plan is the third batch of projects to be paid for with $1 billion set aside in 2011 by BP to build "early restoration" projects under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process required by the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
The release of the report and tentative approval of the projects were announced Friday by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the Jean Lafitte Historical National Park's Barataria Unit in Marrero on Friday morning.
The report cites studies showing continued problems with growing oysters in both Louisiana waters, where freshwater diversions designed to keep oil out of wetlands killed oyster beds, and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, which may be linked to toxic chemicals associated with the BP oil. It also recounts concerns about the deaths of hundreds of bottlenosed dolphins, thousands of sea turtles and migratory waterfowl -- plus potential reproductive problems for these species.
The report also outlines concerns about tiny organisms living in deep water in the Gulf, and the possible effects of their loss on commercial fisheries, while also raising questions about the future of deepwater coral reefs and bottom-loving organisms close to the site of the BP Macondo well 50 miles off Louisiana's coast.
The findings will come as no surprise to those following the effects of the 2010 disaster that resulted in as much as 4.2 million barrels of oil being released into the Gulf over five months, coating coastal beaches from east Texas to the Florida Panhandle and soaking into wetlands along hundreds of miles of Louisiana's coastline.
The report provides only a summary of most contamination concerns. And while both federal officials and BP have made so-called "metadata" -- individual sample collection records -- available during the past few months, more comprehensive reports explaining how the spill may have affected -- and may still be affecting -- wildlife are believed being kept under wraps by federal and state officials who are concerned that BP could walk away from their obligations. […]
The environmental report is the result of "hundreds of scientific assessment studies focused in areas ranging from deep sea sediments, through the water column, to the nearshore and shoreline," the study said. The research was conducted by scientists with state and federal agencies, academic institutions and BP. Ongoing investigations include many aspects of "the injury determination phase and the full extent and duration of impacts on the Gulf of Mexico resources and habitats," the report said.
Laboratory tests aimed at determining the potential effects of the BP oil spill have so far documented a variety of effects to wildlife, according to the report, including:
- Disruptions in growth, development and reproduction of organisms
- Tissue damage
- Altered cardiac development and function
- Disruptions to the immune system
- Biological and cellular alterations
- Changes in swimming ability and other behaviors that can adversely affect the ability to survive
Another important segment affected by both the oil and the ensuing cleanup, the report notes, are the reefs of eastern oysters, which serve as a valuable habitat resource by providing protection to wetlands and shelter to other wildlife, as well as have commercial value. Oyster eggs, sperm and larvae also were exposed to oil and dispersants, compounds that are toxic to oysters throughout their life cycle, the study said.
The problems with oysters have occurred well beyond the Louisiana waters, according to the report.
The study also pointed out that coastal marsh and mangrove vegetation, which act as a nursery ground for a variety of recreational and commercial finfish, shrimp and shellfish species, were harmed. That vegetation also is important to a variety of bird species -- including federally protected migratory and wintering waterfowl -- that use the wetlands for foraging, roosting and nesting.
Studies have found reduced live plant cover and total vegetation, with the effects more pronounced along marsh edges, the most environmentally productive part of the wetlands. The more serious the oiling, the greater the effects, the studies have found.
Researchers also are finding that the vegetation damage is mirrored by damage to animals living in the marsh, such as fewer Littorina snails, “a typicially abundant marsh organism that is an important source of prey."
In nearshore waters, toxins associated with the oil spill and cleanup were found in areas that are home to major Gulf commercial crab species, including blue crab, Gulf stone crab and stone crab, and the forage areas of the Gulf sturgeon, listed as threatened. Also threatened are plants that provide food and shelter for fish, shellfish and crustaceans, the report said.
The report also raised concerns about the 600 miles of beach habitat between eastern Texas and the Florida Panhandle, where several locations were oiled several times. “Oiling of beaches can have a variety of effects on the physical and biological communities of the beach and near shore habitats,” the report said. […]
“Preliminary … analysis suggests that tens of thousands of square miles of surface waters were affected by oiling and that hundreds of cubic miles of surface water may have contained petroleum at concentrations associated with mortality to sensitive aquatic organisms,” the report said. “This indicates that injuries to offshore water column organisms were widespread, both spatially and in terms of the diversity of organisms and life stages that were affected.” [more]
Regulators shut down Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery, say stock has ‘collapsed’ – ‘There are no small shrimp around right now. It doesn’t bode well for the future.’0 comments Posted by Jim at Saturday, December 07, 2013
By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
3 December 2013
PORTLAND, Maine – Northeastern regulators shut down the Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery for the first time in 35 years Tuesday afternoon, worried by reports of what researchers called a fully “collapsed” stock that could be driven to near extinction with any 2014 catch.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section, a subset of the multistate agency that oversees North Atlantic shrimp fisheries, met Tuesday in Portland to set guidelines for the coming season.
The 11-person section decided by consensus to wipe out the 2014 season, denying a 175-metric-ton catch limit recommended by its Northern Shrimp Advisory Board.
The panel made its decision against a backdrop of plummeting shrimp populations off the coast of Maine, according to researchers with the commission’s Northern Shrimp Technical Committee.
“The Northern Shrimp Technical Committee has considered the Gulf of Maine northern shrimp stock to have collapsed with very little hope for recovery in the near future,” Kelly Whitmore, chairwoman of the committee, told members of a section advisory panel Tuesday morning. “There are no small shrimp around right now. It doesn’t bode well for the future.”
The committee also urged regulators to shut down the shrimp fishery during the 2013 season, but the section instead allowed fishing to continue under a lower overall catch cap of 625 metric tons — or 1.4 million pounds.
That represented a 72 percent decrease from the allowable catch set for the previous year, and shrimpers ultimately caught only 307 metric tons, or about 677,000 pounds. That compares with more than 6,000 metric tons caught each year in 2011 and 2012. But 2013’s extremely limited catch did not provide enough relief for the shrimp stock to bounce back for the 2014 season, Whitmore said Tuesday.
Of the 307 metric tons of shrimp caught in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 2013, Maine shrimpers hauled in 268 metric tons. By a large margin, Maine shrimpers will be most affected by the section’s guidelines. With supply limited, the price shrimpers have received for their catch has ballooned from 54 cents per pound in 2010 to $1.81 per pound in 2013.
“There are very few, if any, shrimp left,” Whitmore told section members. “It just seems like we’ve reached the bottom. There’s probably no such thing as a ‘do no harm’ fishery at this point.”
In 1978, regulators declared a moratorium on shrimp fishing after annual catches of more than 11,000 metric tons dropped off to 400 metric tons in 1977. From 1979 until 1987, overall yearly catches steadily rebounded to more than 5,000 metric tons, and in 1996, reached 9,500 metric tons, the greatest amount in nearly a quarter-century.
But in recent years, the shrimp population in the Gulf of Maine experienced another precipitous decline, Whitmore said, and at least another year off from being fished is needed to give the species a chance to recuperate.
In addition to fishing, Whitmore acknowledged that warmer water temperatures — driving away the phytoplankton that shrimp eat and attracting more predators such as hake — in the gulf have contributed to the depletion of the shrimp stock.
“We do understand that fishing is not the only source of mortality and that’s not the only reason the stock is so low now,” she said.
“Until we see some recruitment coming into this fishery, every egg on every shrimp is very valuable to this fishery,” said Arnold Gamage, a commercial fisherman out of South Bristol who serves on the commission’s advisory panel. “I’m not willing to completely kill this fishery … for a few thousand dollars. It’s up to us sitting at this table to make decisions about the future of this fishery, not just this winter.”
But others in the shrimping industry and on the regulatory board Tuesday dismissed the technical committee’s ominous tone. Section board member William Adler of Green Harbor, Mass., called Whitmore’s report “all doom and gloom.”
Marshall Alexander, a member of the section advisory panel from Biddeford, said he believes the decreased shrimp stock is just a low point in a regular cycle.
“I have a real problem with shutting the industry right down, because of all the harm it does with such little benefit,” Alexander said. [more]
Rising temperatures challenge Salt Lake City’s water supply – Every degree Fahrenheit means an average decrease of 3.8 percent in annual water flow0 comments Posted by Jim at Saturday, December 07, 2013
1 November 2013 (CIRES) – In an example of the challenges water-strapped Western cities will face in a warming world, new research shows that every degree Fahrenheit of warming in the Salt Lake City region could mean a 1.8 to 6.5 percent drop in the annual flow of streams that provide water to the city.
By midcentury, warming Western temperatures may mean that some of the creeks and streams that help slake Salt Lake City’s thirst will dry up several weeks earlier in the summer and fall, according to the new paper, published today in the journal Earth Interactions. The findings may help regional planners make choices about long-term investments, including water storage and even land-protection policies.
“Many Western water suppliers are aware that climate change will have impacts, but they don’t have detailed information that can help them plan for the future,” said lead author Tim Bardsley, with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Because our research team included hydrologists, climate scientists and water utility experts, we could dig into the issues that mattered most to the operators responsible for making sure clean water flows through taps and sprinklers without interruption.”
Bardsley works for the CIRES Western Water Assessment, from the NOAA Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City. For the new paper, he worked closely with colleagues from the city’s water utility, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the University of Utah.
The team relied on climate model projections of temperature and precipitation in the area, historical data analysis and a detailed understanding of the region from which the city utility obtains water. The study also used NOAA streamflow forecasting models that provide information for Salt Lake City’s current water operations and management.
The picture that emerged was similar, in some ways, to previous research on the water in the Interior West: Warmer temperatures alone will cause more of the region’s precipitation to fall as rain than snow, leading to earlier runoff and less water in creeks and streams in the late summer and fall.
“Many snow-dependent regions follow a consistent pattern in responding to warming, but it’s important to drill down further to understand the sensitivity of watersheds that matter for individual water supply systems,” said NCAR’s Andy Wood, a co-author.
The specifics in the new analysis—which creeks are likely to be impacted most and soonest, how water sources on the nearby western flank of the Wasatch Mountains and the more distant eastern flank will fare—are critical to water managers with Salt Lake City.
“We are using the findings of this sensitivity analysis to better understand the range of impacts we might experience under climate change scenarios,” said co-author Laura Briefer, water resources manager at the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities. “This is the kind of tool we need to help us adapt to a changing climate, anticipate future changes and make sound water-resource decisions.”
“Water emanating from our local Wasatch Mountains is the lifeblood of the Salt Lake Valley, and is vulnerable to the projected changes in climate,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. “This study, along with other climate adaptation work Salt Lake City is doing, helps us plan to be a more resilient community in a time of climate change.”
Among the details in the new assessment:
- Temperatures are already rising in northern Utah, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, and continue to climb. Summer temperatures have increased especially steeply and are expected to continue to do so. Increasing temperatures during the summer irrigation season may increase water demand.
- Every increase in a degree Fahrenheit means an average decrease of 3.8 percent in annual water flow from watersheds used by Salt Lake City. This means less water available from Salt Lake City’s watersheds in the future.
- Lower-elevation streams are more sensitive to increasing temperatures, especially from May through September, and city water experts may need to rely on less-sensitive, higher-elevation sources in late summer, or more water storage.
- Models tell an uncertain story about total future precipitation in the region, primarily because Utah is on the boundary of the Southwest (projected to dry) and the U.S. northern tier states (projected to get wetter).
- Overall, models suggest increased winter flows, when water demand is lower, and decreased summer flows when water demand peaks.
- Annual precipitation would need to increase by about 10 percent to counteract the stream-drying effect of a 5-degree increase in temperature.
- A 5-degree temperature increase would also mean that peak water flow in the western Wasatch creeks would occur two to four weeks earlier in the summer than it does today. This earlier stream runoff will make it more difficult to meet water demand as the summer irrigation season progresses.
Authors of the new paper, “Planning for an Uncertain Future: Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment Toward Adaptation Planning for Public Water Supply,” are Tim Bardsley, CIRES Western Water Assessment; Andrew Wood, NCAR and formerly of NOAA’s Colorado Basin River Forecast Center; Mike Hobbins, NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, and formerly NOAA’s Colorado Basin River Forecast Center; Tracie Kirkham, Laura Briefer, and Jeff Niermeyer, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Steven Burian, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
11 November 2013 (NOAA/NCDC) – The Alaska statewide average temperature during October 2013 was 8.8°F above the 1971-2000 average marking its warmest October on record in the 95-year period of record. The previous record warm October occurred in 1925, when the temperature was 7.7°F above average. Locally, the Fairbanks average October temperature of 36.1°F was 11.9°F above normal. In addition to the above-average temperatures, many low elevation locations received much-below-average snowfall.
Arctic Ocean leaking methane at alarming rate –‘What we’re observing right now is much faster than what we anticipated and much faster than what was modeled’1 comments Posted by Jim at Saturday, December 07, 2013
By WESTON MORROW
29 November 2013
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner) – Ounce for ounce, methane has an effect on global warming more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it’s leaking from the Arctic Ocean at an alarming rate, according to new research by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Their article, which appeared Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, states that the Arctic Ocean is releasing methane at a rate more than twice what scientific models had previously anticipated.
Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov at the university’s International Arctic Research Center have spent more than a decade researching the Arctic’s greenhouse-gas emissions, along with scientists from Russia, Europe and the Lower 48.
Shakhova, the lead author of the most recent report, said the methane release rate likely is even greater than their paper describes.
“We decided to be as conservative as possible,” Shakhova said. “We’re actually talking the top of the iceberg.”
The researchers worked along the continental shelf off the northern coast of eastern Russia — the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is underlain by sub-sea permafrost.
Much like the now-submerged Beringia, the land bridge that once connected Alaska to Russia, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf was dry land until around 7,000 to 15,000 years ago, when it flooded and became part of the Arctic Ocean. During its time as dry land, the shelf developed a layer of permafrost that is now in danger of melting away and releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases.
Past studies in Alaska and other circumpolar regions have found that the boreal forests covering much of the world’s Arctic and sub-Arctic dry land contain more than 30 percent of the world’s stored carbon. This carbon is protected from atmospheric release in large part by the permafrost layer.
The submerged East Siberian Arctic Shelf contains much the same stored carbon as the dry-land tundra just to its south, but it also contains at least 17 teragrams of methane, the study states. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.
Those carbon stores are similarly protected by the layer of sub-sea permafrost, but that permafrost is on the brink of disappearing.
Core samples taken of the sub-sea permafrost by Shakhova and her peers showed temperatures near the freezing mark, around 30 to 32 degrees. Top and lower layers of sediment had already thawed.
Some climate modelers had previously suggested the sub-sea permafrost would not thaw for 5,000 to 7,000 years, but according to Shakhova’s team, data gathered from the actual shelf show the process is happening on a much more rapid time scale.
“What we’re observing right now is much faster than what we anticipated and much faster than what was modeled,” Shakhova said.
This revelation should be a cause for alarm, Shakhova said.
“Absolutely. We think so,” she said. “We should not only just worry. We should study.” [more]
ABSTRACT: Vast quantities of carbon are stored in shallow Arctic reservoirs, such as submarine and terrestrial permafrost. Submarine permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf started warming in the early Holocene, several thousand years ago. However, the present state of the permafrost in this region is uncertain. Here, we present data on the temperature of submarine permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf using measurements collected from a sediment core, together with sonar-derived observations of bubble flux and measurements of seawater methane levels taken from the same region. The temperature of the sediment core ranged from −1.8 to 0 °C. Although the surface layer exhibited the lowest temperatures, it was entirely unfrozen, owing to significant concentrations of salt. On the basis of the sonar data, we estimate that bubbles escaping the partially thawed permafrost inject 100–630 mg methane m−2 d−1 into the overlying water column. We further show that water-column methane levels had dropped significantly following the passage of two storms. We suggest that significant quantities of methane are escaping the East Siberian Shelf as a result of the degradation of submarine permafrost over thousands of years. We suggest that bubbles and storms facilitate the flux of this methane to the overlying ocean and atmosphere, respectively.
By Elizabeth Weise
4 December 2013
(USATODAY) – Bridget Bahneman lost her daughter to an illness that wasn't supposed to exist as far north as Minnesota. Seven-year-old Annie's brain was destroyed by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri that she was exposed to while swimming in a lake near their house.
The "brain-eating amoeba" lives in fresh water and proliferates when temperatures reach the 80s. It infects people by entering the nose and reaching the brain.
It can't be transmitted by drinking infected water, only when it is pushed far up into the nose, often but not always from diving or wake boarding, says Jeremy Lewis of Arlington, Texas. He and his wife, Julie, founded Kyle Cares Amoeba Awareness, a non-profit organization, after they lost their son Kyle to the disease in 2010.
The water in Minnesota had been too cold for Naegleria to thrive. But August 2010 was the third-warmest in Minneapolis since 1891. A summer heat wave unlike any Bahneman remembered warmed lakes and sent her husband and kids out swimming near their home in Stillwater, Minn.
Annie fell ill a week later. On Monday, she mentioned she felt a little sick. On Tuesday morning, she said she had a headache. Bahneman, a nurse-midwife, did a quick neurological check, and she seemed fine.
Tuesday evening, she was worse. "My husband sent me a text and said, 'Don't run any errands. I think you should come straight home from work. Annie's not well,'" she said.
Their oldest daughter had been running a high fever and vomiting all day. Her parents took her to urgent care, where she was diagnosed with strep throat.
Bahneman worried Annie had meningitis, but the doctors didn't think so. "They sent us home. I remember thinking, 'I need to bring her to the hospital,' but I didn't want to be an alarmist."
That night, Bahneman laid down next to her daughter, so she could wake her every 30 minutes to give her water. At 6 a.m., she got up to call work and say she couldn't come in.
"When I came back, I realized she was unconscious." They went immediately to Children's Saint Paul Pediatric Hospital. Annie was having seizures.
"Ten people went to work on her immediately," Bahneman says. They were finally able to stabilize Annie, and on Wednesday, she was taken to the intensive care unit.
Nothing the doctors did helped, and by the next day, Annie was experiencing visions and having seizures every half an hour. The infection control doctor at the hospital kept asking, "Have you been swimming in any lakes in the southern United States?" They hadn't.
Bahneman had taught her kids to sign when they were little. Annie's last communication was with her hands, because she couldn't talk. "She signed that she was in pain and for them to stop what they were doing."
Annie died on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010.
Bahneman and her husband, Chad, asked for an autopsy, and it was only then that they found out what had killed their firstborn.
The pathologist who performed the autopsy had trained in Texas. He had seen primary amebic meningoencephalitis (the disease caused by the amoeba) once early on in his career. "During the autopsy of her brain, he said, 'I think I know what this is,'" Bahneman says.
That created a second mystery. Naegleria had never been seen before that far north. The couple ended up on an hour-and-a-half-long conference call with state and national health experts. They asked the same question over and over: "Where were you swimming? Are you sure you never left the state? Are you sure you didn't travel?"
In November, when samples from the lake Annie had swum in came back, it was confirmed: There was Naegleria fowleri in the water. A second child got it in the same lake two years later and also died. [more]
Drowning Kiribati – ‘The ocean went back out in Hurricane Sandy, but one day it won’t. It will stay.’0 comments Posted by Jim at Saturday, December 07, 2013
By Jeffrey Goldberg
21 November 2013
(Bloomberg) – The spruce man with the trim mustache and the grim-faced bodyguard is dozing in his seat. A flight attendant leaves him a hot towel, and then another. The bodyguard, who wears the uniform of the Kiribati National Police—the shoulder patch depicts a yellow frigate bird flying clear of the rising sun—folds the towels carefully and places them on an armrest.
The Fiji Airways flight is moving north across the equator to Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. The passengers include a Japanese executive who represents important tuna interests, a Mormon luminary from Samoa and his prim wife, and an American dressed in the manner of an Iraq War contractor, on a mission to recover the remains of U.S. Marines killed in World War II. We are all impatient for the sleeping man, who is the president of Kiribati, to wake up. We each have business to transact with him.
But the president sleeps. His name is Anote Tong. He is famous—or, at the very least, as famous as anyone from Kiribati has ever been—for arguing that the industrialized nations of the world are murdering his country.
Kiribati is a flyspeck of a United Nations member state, a collection of 33 islands necklaced across the central Pacific. Thirty-two of the islands are low-lying atolls; the 33rd, called Banaba, is a raised coral island that long ago was strip-mined for its seabird-guano-derived phosphates. If scientists are correct, the ocean will swallow most of Kiribati before the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner than that. Water expands as it warms, and the oceans have lately received colossal quantities of melted ice. A recent study found that the oceans are absorbing heat 15 times faster than they have at any point during the past 10,000 years. Before the rising Pacific drowns these atolls, though, it will infiltrate, and irreversibly poison, their already inadequate supply of fresh water. The apocalypse could come even sooner for Kiribati if violent storms, of the sort that recently destroyed parts of the Philippines, strike its islands.
For all of these reasons, the 103,000 citizens of Kiribati may soon become refugees, perhaps the first mass movement of people fleeing the consequences of global warming rather than war or famine.
This is why Tong visits Fiji so frequently. He is searching for a place to move his people. The government of Kiribati (pronounced KIR-e-bass, the local variant of Gilbert, which is what these islands were called under British rule) recently bought 6,000 acres of land in Fiji for a reported $9.6 million, to the apparent consternation of Fiji’s military rulers. Fiji has expressed no interest in absorbing the I-Kiribati, as the country’s people are known. A former president of Zambia, in south-central Africa, once offered Kiribati’s people land in his country, but then he died. No one else so far has volunteered to organize a rescue. […]
I explain that I’m visiting Tarawa to understand the impact of climate change on his country.
He smiles. “Hurricane Sandy,” he says.
I attempt to protest, saying Kiribati’s future should be of global concern, whether or not it teaches broad lessons about the climate crisis. Tong, educated at the London School of Economics and universally thought to be the savviest of the Pacific island presidents, isn’t buying it. “You want to see what happens when the ocean comes in but doesn’t go out,” he says. “The ocean went back out in Hurricane Sandy, but one day it won’t. It will stay.” [more]
Catastrophic collapse of wildlife in Sahara Desert – Conservationists warn of looming extinctions including cheetahs and gazelles – Four species of large mammals already extinct0 comments Posted by Jim at Saturday, December 07, 2013
NEW YORK – A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society or London warns that the world’s largest tropical desert, the Sahara, has suffered a catastrophic collapse of its wildlife populations.
The study by more than 40 authors representing 28 scientific organizations assessed 14 desert species and found that a shocking half of those are regionally extinct or confined to one percent or less of their historical range. A chronic lack of studies across the region due to past and ongoing insecurity makes it difficult to be certain of the causes of these declines, although overhunting is likely to have played a role.
The Bubal hartebeest is extinct; the scimitar horned oryx is extinct in the wild; and the African wild dog and African lion have vanished from the Sahara. Other species have only fared slightly better: the dama gazelle and addax are gone from 99 percent of their range; the leopard from 97 percent, and the Saharan cheetah from 90. Only the Nubian ibex still inhabits most of its historical range, but even this species is classified as vulnerable due to numerous threats including widespread hunting.
The authors say that more conservation support and scientific attention needs to be paid to deserts noting that 2014 is the halfway point in the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification and the fourth year of the United Nations Decade for Biodiversity.
“The Sahara serves as an example of a wider historical neglect of deserts and the human communities who depend on them,” said the study’s lead author Sarah Durant of WCS and ZSL. “The scientific community can make an important contribution to conservation in deserts by establishing baseline information on biodiversity and developing new approaches to sustainable management of desert species and ecosystems.”
The authors note that some governments have recently made large commitments to protecting the Sahara: Niger has just established the massive 97,000 square kilometer (37,451 square miles) Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve, which harbors most of the world’s 200 or so remaining wild addax and one of a handful of surviving populations of dama gazelle and Saharan cheetah. There is also hope that the scimitar horned oryx may be reintroduced in the wild in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, with the support of the Chadian government.