Australia sea surface temperature anomalies March 2016

By John Upton
28 April 2016

(Climate Central) – Warm ocean waters that sucked the color and vigor from sweeping stretches of the world’s greatest expanse of corals last month were driven by climate change, according to a new analysis by scientists, who are warning of worse impacts ahead.

Climate change made it 175 times more likely that the surface waters of the Coral Sea, which off the Queensland coastline is home to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, would reach the record-breaking temperatures last month that bleached reefs, modeling analysis showed.

The scientists found March Coral Sea temperatures are likely to be 1.8°F (1°C) warmer now than before humans polluted the atmosphere. Temperatures recorded by the Australian government last month were slightly higher than that, in part because of a fierce El Niño.

“We’ve had evidence before” that “human-induced climate change is behind the increase in severity and frequency of bleaching events,” said David Kline, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography coral reef scientist who wasn’t involved with the new analysis. “But this is the smoking gun.”

The new findings suggest similar temperatures will become commonplace by the 2030s, potentially destroying the reef and the tourism and fishing industries that rely on it. The reef’s tourism sector employs 64,000 people.

“There may still be corals, but it’ll look like a very sad reef,” Kline said. “There will probably be a few weedy species that can handle these nasty conditions, but we’ll lose a lot of the biodiversity.”

The warm Coral Sea waters have fueled the worst mass coral bleaching ever recorded on the World Heritage-listed reefs, which are withering from warming and acidifying waters, coral-eating pests and agricultural pollution. […]

“Because this is happening now, we wanted to do this quickly and get it in the public sphere,” said Andrew King, one of two University of Melbourne researchers who worked on the analysis. University of Queensland and University of New South Wales researchers also contributed. “We will write up a paper after this.”

By the 2030s, the modeling showed this year’s coral bleaching temperatures could become average and after that they may start to seem cool.

“These kinds of temperatures in the future will become normal,” King said. “They’re high for the current period, but by the 2030s it’s going to be about average.” [more]

Climate Change is ‘Devastating’ The Great Barrier Reef


image

By Andrew King, David Karoly, Mitchell Black, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick
28 April 2016

(The Conversation) – The worst bleaching event on record has affected corals across the Great Barrier Reef in the last few months. As of the end of March, a whopping 93% of the reef has experienced bleaching. This event has led scientists and high-profile figures such as Sir David Attenborough to call for urgent action to protect the reef from annihilation.

There is indisputable evidence that climate change is harming the reef. Yet, so far, no one has assessed how much climate change might be contributing to bleaching events such as the one we have just witnessed.

Unusually warm sea surface temperatures are strongly associated with bleaching. Because climate models can simulate these warm sea surface temperatures, we can investigate how climate change is altering extreme warm conditions across the region.

We examined the Coral Sea region (shown above) to look at how climate change is altering sea surface temperatures in an area that is experiencing recurring coral bleaching. This area has recorded a big increase in temperatures over the past century, with March 2016 being the warmest on record.

To find out how climate change is changing the likelihood of coral bleaching, we can look at how warming has affected the likelihood of extremely hot March sea temperature records. To do so, we use climate model simulations with and without human influences included.

If we see more very hot March months in simulations with a human influence, then we can say that climate change is having an effect, and we can attribute that change to the human impact on the climate.

This method is similar to analyses we have done for land regions, such as our investigations of recent Australian weather extremes.

We found that climate change has dramatically increased the likelihood of very hot March months like that of 2016 in the Coral Sea. We estimate that there is at least a 175 times increase in likelihood of hot March months because of the human influence on the climate. [more]

Great Barrier Reef bleaching would be almost impossible without climate change

Five-year rolling average of annual productivity growth in the U.S., 1950-2015. Productivity growth is slowing: Americans' output per hour of work is growing more slowly than it has since the early 1980s. Graphic: The New York Times

[cf. U.K. parliamentary group warns that global fossil fuels could peak in less than 10 years]

By Neil Irwin
28 April 2016

(The New York Times) – More than 151 million Americans count themselves employed, a number that has risen sharply in the last few years. The question is this: What are they doing all day?

Because whatever it is, it barely seems to be registering in economic output. The number of hours Americans worked rose 1.9 percent in the year ended in March. New data released Thursday showed that gross domestic product in the first quarter was up 1.9 percent over the previous year. Despite constant advances in software, equipment and management practices to try to make corporate America more efficient, actual economic output is merely moving in lock step with the number of hours people put in, rather than rising as it has throughout modern history.

We could chalk that up to a statistical blip if it were a single year; productivity data are notoriously volatile. But this has been going on for some time. From 2011 through 2015, the government’s official labor productivity measure shows only 0.4 percent annual growth in output per hour of work. That’s the lowest for a five-year span since the 1977-to-1982 period, and far below the 2.3 percent average since the 1950s.

The rise and fall of UK labour productivity growth, 1900-2010. Graphic: Jackson and Webster, 2016 /  All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth

Productivity is one of the most important yet least understood areas of economics. Over long periods, it is the only pathway toward higher levels of prosperity; the reason an American worker makes much more today than a century ago is that each hour of labor produces much more in goods and services. Put bluntly, if the kind of productivity growth implied by the new data published Thursday were to persist indefinitely, your grandchildren would be no richer than you.

But it is also really hard to measure, particularly for service firms. (How productive were employees at Facebook, or your local bank, last quarter? Have fun trying to figure it out.)

And even with years of hindsight, economists are never quite sure why productivity rises or falls. During the 2008 recession, labor productivity soared. Was this because employers laid off their least productive workers first? Because everybody worked harder, fearful for their jobs? Or was it a measurement problem as government statistics-takers struggled to capture fast-moving changes in the economy? We don’t know for sure. (Here’s one analysis that emphasizes the first explanation.) [more]

Why Is Productivity So Weak? Three Theories

Deoxgenation due to climate change is already detectable in some parts of the ocean. New research from NCAR finds that it will likely become widespread between 2030 and 2040. Other parts of the ocean, shown in gray, will not have detectable loss of oxygen due to climate change even by 2100. Graphic: Matthew Long / NCAR

[cf. Graph of the Day: Simulated catastrophic decline of plankton in warming oceans]

By Chris Mooney
28 April 2016

(Washington Post) – In the long list of troubling climate change scenarios, there’s one that gets relatively little attention, but definitely has enormous potential consequences.

It goes like this:

The oceans are getting warmer — they are, after all, where 90 percent of global warming actually ends up. And when they warm up they expand, because that’s what warm water does. This raises our sea levels, but it also has another effect — it reduces the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water. That’s simply physics: Warmer water contains less oxygen.

But it’s worse: If surface water is warmer, it doesn’t mix down as much into the ocean depths any longer. It’s less dense, and so less capable of doing that. That means that oxygen that enters the ocean in its upper layers — either through exchange with the atmosphere, or because it is generated by tiny photosynthesizing microorganisms, called phytoplankton, that hang out up there — won’t mix down into the deep as often.

“What’s happening is, there’s a physical mechanism that impedes the delivery of surface waters into the interior,” said Matthew Long, an oceanographer with the National Center for Atmospheric Research who is lead author of a troubling new study on what scientists call the “deoxygenation” of the oceans. The work appeared in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, co-authored with Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington and Taka Ito of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The problem is that marine life needs oxygen. If there’s less of it, that could expand the number of areas sometimes called “oxygen minimum zones” where plants, fish, and other organisms would struggle to survive.

Now, in the new study, Long and his colleagues have found that some parts of the ocean are already likely showing an oxygen deficiency, due to the effects of global warming. And by around the year 2030, their model suggests, the human role in driving widespread ocean oxygen loss will be even more apparent if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked.

“Its fairly widespread detection….is basically evident in the 2030s to 2040s decade,” Long said. […]

“There is a lot of variability in ocean oxygen, and it is a detection problem,” Long said, “but this inexorable force of human-induced warming will clearly result in widespread ocean deoxygenation in the future.” [more]

Global warming could deplete the oceans’ oxygen – with severe consequences


ABSTRACT: Anthropogenically forced trends in oceanic dissolved oxygen are evaluated in Earth system models in the context of natural variability. A large ensemble of a single Earth system model is used to clearly identify the forced component of change in interior oxygen distributions and to evaluate the magnitude of this signal relative to noise generated by internal climate variability. The time of emergence of forced trends is quantified on the basis of anomalies in oxygen concentrations and trends. We find that the forced signal should already be evident in the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins; widespread detection of forced deoxygenation is possible by 2030–2040. In addition to considering spatially discrete metrics of detection, we evaluate the similarity of the spatial structures associated with natural variability and the forced trend. Outside of the subtropics, these patterns are not wholly distinct on the isopycnal surfaces considered, and therefore, this approach does not provide significantly advanced detection. Our results clearly demonstrate the strong impact of natural climate variability on interior oxygen distributions, providing an important context for interpreting observations.

Finding forced trends in oceanic oxygen

28 April 2016 (Sea Shepherd Global) – Plastic pollution is recognized as a massive, global environmental issue, responsible for the deaths of over a million marine animals each year.

It is a danger to all marine life including birds, sharks, turtles, and marine mammals, causing injury and death through drowning, entanglement, or starvation following ingestion. It is also a danger to human life.

On Earth Day, 22 April 2016, Sea Shepherd Global teamed-up with Shanghai-based creative agency, Fred & Farid, to shine a spotlight on the massive issue of plastic pollution in our oceans.

Fred & Farid and Sea Shepherd have produced a short film that captures the reactions of swimmers at a public pool that has been filled with plastic pollution.

“Faced with the option of swimming in a pool full of plastic pollution, most people would choose not to enter the water. However, this is not an option extended to the many marine creatures who are forced to live in this kind of pollution everyday,” said Sea Shepherd Global CEO, Captain Alex Cornelissen.

On Earth Day, 22 April 2016, Sea Shepherd Global filled the George Hermant swimming pool with plastic debris to shine a spotlight on the massive issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. Photo: Sea Shepherd Global

“We hope that this video inspires discussion and public debate about the global problem of plastic pollution. Pressure must be placed on governments and corporations to introduce policy changes to stem the tide of this on-going disaster, and to shift their focus to more environmentally sustainable businesses practices, globally,” he concluded.

Sea Shepherd Global would like to thank Fred & Farid Shanghai and Paris, the Mayor of the 19th arrondissement of Paris, George Hermant swimming pool and its manager Mr Phongeon.

Sea Shepherd Did to a Swimming Pool What Humans Do to the Oceans

Dolphin stranded on Fourchon Beach, Louisiana following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, May 2011. Photo: Gulf Restoration Network

By Brady Dennis
26 April 2016

(Washington Post) – Six years on, scientists are continuing to tally the ecological harms caused by the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest glimpse at the ongoing environmental effects of the disaster came in a new report [pdf] by the conservation and advocacy group Oceana, which compiled the findings of a broad range of studies — primarily from the past two years — examining the aftermath of the spill. The report makes clear that the reach of the disaster, which ranks as one of the costliest environmental catastrophes ever, continues to grow.

  • Years after the spill, scientists detected hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon spill in 90 percent of pelican eggs tested in Minnesota — more than 1,000 miles away — where many birds that winter in the Gulf of Mexico spend their summers. In addition, the chemical dispersant used to break up oil in the wake of the spill was found in about 80 percent of the eggs. Researchers say that exposing bird eggs to oil can cause birth defects and premature deaths in offspring. Scientists are continuing to study the problem.
  • Endangered sea turtles that had migrated to the Gulf from West Africa, South America and elsewhere died as a result of the spill, underscoring the global ripple effects of the disaster. About 75 percent of the sea turtles that died after the Deepwater Horizon spill were Kemp’s ridley sea turtles — among the smallest and most endangered species in the world. Scientists have estimated that four times as many Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010, about 65,000, than in the year before the oil spill. [more]

Six years later, we’re still learning how badly the BP spill damaged the environment


Memorial on Grand Isle, Louisiana for crew members killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, April 2015. Photo: Julie Dermansky

WASHINGTON, 14 April 2016 (Oceana) – Today, Oceana released a new report titled Time for Action: Six Years After Deepwater Horizon that highlights the long-term impacts of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, which began six years ago next week. In the report, Oceana reviews the most recently published research that documents the damage from the oil spill to the Gulf of Mexico’s marine wildlife, habitats and communities.

While scientists are still working to understand the scale of the devastation to wildlife, fisheries and human health, Oceana marine scientist Dr. Ingrid Biedron says that we are already starting to see the long-term impacts of the spill.

“The significant die-off of whales and dolphins that began in 2010 continues today,” said Biedron. “Increased mortality rates and diminished reproductive success can have long-term effects on marine mammal populations impacted by the spill. But instead of learning from the disaster, Congress has done virtually nothing to reduce the risk of another spill in U.S. waters.”

The report’s key findings include:

  • Mortality rates for common bottlenose dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana were 8 percent higher and their reproductive success was 63 percent lower compared to other dolphin populations.
  • An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 birds died as a result of the spill.
  • Harmful oil and/or oil dispersant chemicals were found in about 80 percent of pelican eggs that were laid in Minnesota, more than 1,000 miles from the Gulf, where most of these birds spend winters.
  • Oil exposure caused heart failure in juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tunas, reduced swimming ability in juvenile mahi-mahi and caused gill tissue damage in killifish.
  • The oil plume caused bleaching and tissue loss in deep-water coral reefs over an area three times larger than Manhattan.
  • Endangered sea turtles that had migrated to the Gulf from Mexico, South America and West Africa died in the spill, demonstrating the global scale of impacts.
  • The 50,000 people involved in the spill cleanup were exposed to chemicals that severely damage lung tissue.
  • Cleanup workers and their spouses reported increased depression and domestic disputes.
  • Even Gulf residents indirectly affected by the spill suffered from increased anxiety and depression.
  • It can take a decade or more for oil spill victims to recover from the physical and psychological effects of an oil disaster.
  • The impact of the oil spill on fisheries could total $8.7 billion by 2020, including the loss of 22,000 jobs.
  • 10 million user-days of beach, fishing, and boating activity were lost.

“Six years later, the lesson from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is clear: offshore drilling is not safe for marine ecosystems, the economy or human health,” said Biedron. “We know that opening new areas to offshore drilling poses unacceptable risks. We should not be expanding offshore drilling in U.S. waters or using disruptive technologies like seismic airgun blasting that can disrupt marine life to search for oil and gas. Instead of expanding our dependence on risky offshore drilling, we should rapidly develop clean energy solutions like offshore wind.” [more]

Contact: Dustin Cranor: dcranor@Oceana.org 954.348.1314

New Oceana Report Highlights Long-Term Impacts of Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster

Forecast of global flood and drought effects due to El Niño for April-June 2016. Graphic: OCHA

26 April 2016 (UN) – With 60 million people across the world affected by droughts, floods and other extreme weather events triggered by El Niño, the top United Nations relief official today called on the international community to act now to address urgent humanitarian needs and support building communities’ resilience to future shocks.

“I am here to sound the alarm. Again. We must act today to help people whose entire way of life and survival is threatened,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in Geneva during a conference on responding to El Niño.

“We are here today to make a global call for support and action. Sixty million people already require our urgent assistance today, tonight, tomorrow. Together we can avert the crisis from worsening. But the longer we wait, the longer and more costly our response will need to be,” continued Mr. O’Brien, underscoring that inaction also risked undermining decades of investments to development.

As a reminder, and to put that into perspective, he recalled that the El Niño of 1997-98 killed around 21,000 people and caused damage to infrastructure worth $36 billion.

“In this crisis we are not held back by political barriers, violent attacks or major access challenges. We must respond quickly to immediate, life-threatening needs, but we must also help people to become more self-reliant, and build individual and community capacity to respond to future shocks,” he stressed.

According to the UN, the current El Niño is one of the strongest on record affecting an estimated 60 million people including some of the most vulnerable in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific.

The impact of El Niño-induced droughts is picking up in late 2016 and early 2017, and the situation could become even worse if a La Niña event – which often follows an El Niño – strikes towards the end of this year.

“El Niño has already severely affected the health and food security of so many families and communities across the world. I am deeply worried about rising acute malnutrition among children under five and the increase in water- and vector-borne diseases. People urgently need food, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as health services,” Mr. O’Brien added.

Over the past months, UN agencies, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other relief partners have stepped up El Niño-related preparedness and response work. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicated that response plans have been completed in 13 countries, requesting some $3.6 billion to meet critical needs for food and agricultural support, as well as nutrition, health and emergency water and sanitation needs.

But OCHA says the funding gap for the combined global El Niño-related response stands at over $2.2 billion. As some countries have not yet finalized their humanitarian response plans, this figure is expected to rise.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator, Izumi Nakamitsu, said it is critical to invest now to help ensure vulnerable communities can cope better with the next El Niño or other crises.

“This shows again the importance of humanitarian and development agencies working together to support national and local governments during crises, to identify the risks for future disasters and build resilience. We can predict most crises, which gives us an opportunity to invest in prevention, preparedness and disaster risk reduction to reduce or end humanitarian need,” Ms. Nakamitsu said.

Mr. O’Brien added that the World Humanitarian Summit, to be convened by the UN Secretary-General in Istanbul in a month’s time, on 23 and 24 May, provides a critical opportunity for the international community to change the way it manages climatic risks, including future El Niño and La Niña events.

‘Worst case scenarios’ could become reality without more funding for El Niño response – UN relief chief


26 April 2016 (UN) – With millions of people across the world affected by droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events triggered by El Niño, the international community must act now to address urgent humanitarian needs and support building communities’ resilience to future shocks, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

The current El Niño is one of the strongest on record affecting an estimated 60 million people including some of the most vulnerable in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific. The impact of El Niño-induced droughts is picking in late 2016 and early 2017. The situation could become even worse if a La Niña event - which often follows an El Niño – strikes towards the end of this year.

“We must act today to help people whose entire way of life and survival is threatened,” Mr. O’Brien said during a conference in Geneva today. “El Niño has already severely affected the health and food security of so many families and communities across the world. I am deeply worried about rising acute malnutrition among children under five and the increase in water- and vector-borne diseases. People urgently need food, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as health services,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Over the past months, governments, UN, NGOs, and other humanitarian partners have stepped up El Niño-related preparedness and response work. Response plans have been completed in 13 countries, requesting some US$3.6 billion to meet critical needs for food and agricultural support, as well as nutrition, health, and emergency water and sanitation needs. But the funding gap for the combined global El Niño-related response stands at over $2.2 billion. As some countries have not yet finalized their humanitarian response plans, this figure is expected to rise.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator, Izumi Nakamitsu, said it was critical to invest now to help ensure vulnerable communities can cope better with the next El Niño or other crises.

“This shows again the importance of humanitarian and development agencies working together to support national and local governments during crises, to identify the risks for future disasters and build resilience. We can predict most crises, which gives us an opportunity to invest in prevention, preparedness and disaster risk reduction to reduce or end humanitarian need,” Ms Nakamitsu said.

Care International Secretary General and CEO, Dr. Wolfgang Jamann, said: “We need both the resources to respond now – and NGOs both local and international can respond at huge scale if provided with the funding we need – and the political will to break this cycle whereby early warning does not result in early response, despite the clear human and financial advantages of doing so”.

$2.2 billion funding gap for El Niño "alarming", says UN Humanitarian Chief

Park Manager Erik Mararv (right) was injured in a shootout with elephant poachers on 23 April 2016 in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rangers Richard Sungudikpio Ndingba, Rigobert Anigobe Bagale, and Dieudonné Tsago Matikuli all died following the gunfight. Photo: Garamba National Park

By Sara Malm
25 April 2016

(Daily Mail) – A Swedish park manager was among five rangers shot by elephant poachers during a fatal firefight which claimed three lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Garamba wildlife park.

Poachers entered the UNESCO world heritage site on Saturday, killing one ranger at the scene and injuring four, two of whom later died as a result of their injuries.

The fatal shootout followed  months of increased poaching in Garamba, during which 43 elephants have been killed, the park's management said.

Rangers Richard Sungudikpio Ndingba, Rigobert Anigobe Bagale, and Dieudonné Tsago Matikuli were killed in the firefight, while park manager Erik Mararv, 30, and ranger Kenisa Adrobiago are in hospital.

One of the rangers was found dead near the site of the Saturday attack,  African Parks officials said.

U.S. forces in the area evacuated the others, but two of them died of their injuries a day later at a military base in neighbouring Central African Republic, the organisation added. […]

'We are devastated by this latest loss. Rangers put their lives on the line each and every day, and are under real siege in Garamba protecting elephants from heavily incentivized and militarized poaching gangs who threaten the very survival of humans and wildlife alike' African Parks chief executive Peter Fearnhead said in a statement. [more]

Elephant poachers shoot and kill three rangers and wound Swedish park manager at UNESCO world heritage site in Congo


24 April 2016 (African Parks) – Five members from African Parks, including four rangers and the Park Manager, sustained injuries in a shootout with elephant poachers yesterday on April 23rd, 2016 in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).    

It is with sincere regret that we inform you that three of the Rangers, Richard Sungudikpio Ndingba, Rigobert Anigobe Bagale, and Dieudonné Tsago Matikuli have since died. Ranger Dieudonné Kanisa Adrupiako and Park Manager Erik Mararv who both sustained gunshot wounds are now in stable condition.  

Besides Dieudonné Tsago Matikuli whose body was recovered this morning, the other three Rangers and the Park Manager were evacuated by AFRICOM yesterday and flown to a US military base in Nzara, South Sudan. Two of the three Rangers were in critical condition and were stabilized prior to being transferred to a UN military hospital in Bria, Central African Republic (CAR). Tragically however, Rigobert Anigobe Bagale and Richard Sungudikpio Ndingba died there today.   

“We are devastated by this latest loss. Rangers put their lives on the line each and every day, and are under real siege in Garamba protecting elephants from heavily incentivized and militarized poaching gangs who threaten the very survival of humans and wildlife alike” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. “Our heartfelt condolences are with the surviving family members of the rangers we have lost. We are extremely grateful to the support we have received from AFRICOM who provided for the timely evacuations and for the assistance of SANGARIS in CAR. We are doing everything possible to provide for all these men and their families during this very difficult time.”  

African Parks is fortunate to have in place a Personal Accident Policy that in the event of death or an accident covers that employee and their family members in the amount of six times their annual salary, in addition to any funds raised through campaigns and generous donors.   

Elephants numbered around 22,000 in the late 1970’s but today a fraction of their population remains. This is ground zero in the elephant poaching crisis, where elephants are slaughtered for their ivory tusks to be sold illegally by local and regional criminal networks. In 2015, Garamba tragically lost five ICCN guards and three members of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) who were killed by heavily-armed elephant poachers in three separate incidents.  

African Parks has been managing Garamba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 2005 in partnership with the Institut Congolais pour La Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the DRC’s official wildlife authority. The park, which is 4,900km2 and is part of the larger Garamba Complex of 12,500km2, is the last stronghold for elephants and giraffe in all of Congo.

If you wish to help support African Parks during this time, please donate here: https://www.african-parks.org/donate

To help the rangers specifically, please reference “Ranger Fund” in the message section of the donate page.

Contact African Parks: info@african-parks.org
Phone: US: +1 646 568 1276 // South Africa +27 11 465 0050 // Netherlands: +31 343 565 019

Three killed and two wounded by elephant poachers in Garamba National Park, DRC

Gold mining activity led to more forest clearing in Peru in the first few months of 2016. Data from Planet Labs, SERNANP. Photo: MAAP

By Morgan Erickson-Davis
22 April 2016

(mongabay.com) – The quest for gold has been stripping rainforest from around rivers in the Amazon Basin, with not even protected areas immune from mining. The situation has gotten so out of hand that the Peruvian government launched an intervention in January, destroying a slew of mining equipment and more than a thousand gallons of fuel in the southern part of the country in effort to stamp out production. But recent satellite and aerial data show this hasn’t had the intended effect, with a big recent uptick in mining-related deforestation along the Upper Malinowski River inside Tambopata National Reserve.

Artisanal gold mining is big in the Amazon. In southern Peru’s Madre de Dios Department alone, researchers estimate 30,000 miners are actively trying to glean bits of precious metal from river sediment. To separate the ore, miners commonly use mercury, a heavy metal that gloms gold particles together into a larger, more extractable mass. After it’s used, the mercury often escapes into the air or water, where it can accumulate neurotoxic levels downstream and up the food chain.

Since November 2015, a major gold mining camp has been established within Tambopata National Reserve's buffer zone in Peru. Data from WorldView-2 de Digital Globe (NextView). Photo: MAAP

Forests are also being affected by gold mining, as trees are felled to make way for prospecting and extraction. The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), a joint venture of the Amazon Conservation Association and ACCA-Conservación Amazónica, has been tracking the forest impacts of one particular gold mining surge as it edged closer and closer – and finally into – Tambopata National Reserve.

The MAAP team’s most recent report finds a big surge in mining activity along the Upper Malinowski River, which borders the reserve. Since September 2015, 130 hectares of forest has been lost, according to the report. This forest lost was particularly severe in February and March. Perhaps not surprisingly, the price of gold also surged in February, and is currently standing higher than it has been in over a year. [more]

Gold mining ramps up, pushes deeper into Peruvian reserve

Yemenis walk through a drought-affected dam on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen. Sana a city is running out of water and many relief agencies feel that it could become the first capital city in the world to run out of a viable water supply. Photo: Yahya Arhab / EPA

By Nathan Halverson
11 April 2016 

(Reveal) – Secret conversations between American diplomats show how a growing water crisis in the Middle East destabilized the region, helping spark civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and how those water shortages are spreading to the United States.

Classified U.S. cables reviewed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting show a mounting concern by global political and business leaders that water shortages could spark unrest across the world, with dire consequences.

Many of the cables read like diary entries from an apocalyptic sci-fi novel.

“Water shortages have led desperate people to take desperate measures with equally desperate consequences,” according to a 2009 cable sent by U.S. Ambassador Stephen Seche in Yemen as water riots erupted across the country.

On Sept. 22 of that year, Seche sent a stark message to the U.S. State Department in Washington relaying the details of a conversation with Yemen’s minister of water, who “described Yemen’s water shortage as the ‘biggest threat to social stability in the near future.’ He noted that 70 percent of unofficial roadblocks stood up by angry citizens are due to water shortages, which are increasingly a cause of violent conflict.”

Seche soon cabled again, stating that 14 of the country’s 16 aquifers had run dry. At the time, Yemen wasn’t getting much news coverage, and there was little public mention that the country’s groundwater was running out.

These communications, along with similar cables sent from Syria, now seem eerily prescient, given the violent meltdowns in both countries that resulted in a flood of refugees to Europe.

Groundwater, which comes from deeply buried aquifers, supplies the bulk of freshwater in many regions, including Syria, Yemen and drought-plagued California. It is essential for agricultural production, especially in arid regions with little rainwater. When wells run dry, farmers are forced to fallow fields, and some people get hungry, thirsty and often very angry.

The classified diplomatic cables, made public years ago by Wikileaks, now are providing fresh perspective on how water shortages have helped push Syria and Yemen into civil war, and prompted the king of neighboring Saudi Arabia to direct his country’s food companies to scour the globe for farmland. Since then, concerns about the world’s freshwater supplies have only accelerated. […]

“Nestle thinks one-third of the world’s population will be affected by fresh water scarcity by 2025, with the situation only becoming more dire thereafter and potentially catastrophic by 2050,” according to a 24 March 2009, cable. “Problems will be severest in the Middle East, northern India, northern China, and the western United States.” [more]

We’re running out of water, and the world’s powers are very worried


21 April 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced today the appointment of 10 Heads of State and Government, as well as two Special Advisors, to the High-Level Panel on Water.

The panel, which was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, aims to mobilize effective action to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), which focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, at a time of unprecedented challenges.

The newly appointed panel members are:

  • Ameenah Gurib, President of Mauritius (Co-Chair)
  • Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico (Co-Chair)
  • Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia
  • Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh
  • János Áder, President of Hungary
  • Abdullah Ensour, Prime Minister of Jordan
  • Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
  • Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
  • Macky Sall, President of Senegal
  • Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan
  • Han Seung-soo, Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea (Special Advisor)
  • Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of State for the Environment of Peru (Special Advisor)
“Ensuring water and sanitation for all is crucial for reducing poverty and achieving other Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Ban in a statement issued by his spokesperson, through which he urged all partners to mobilize behind SDG 6 with political, financial and technological support.

Today, more than 2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation and at least 663 million do not have access to safe drinking water. Poor sanitation, water, and hygiene lead to about 675,000 premature deaths annually, and estimated annual economic losses of up to seven per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in some countries.

Floods and droughts already impose huge social and economic costs globally, and climate variability will make water extremes worse. If the world continues on its current path, projections suggest that the world may face a 40 per cent shortfall in water availability by 2030. The consequences of such stress are local, transboundary and global in todays interconnected world.

The panel will provide the leadership required to tackle these challenges and champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and providing improved access to clean water and sanitation.

“Growing cities and populations, as well as a changing climate, are placing unprecedented pressures on our water resources,” said Mr. Kim. “Addressing this challenge, and ensuring that we can provide clean water and sanitation for all, requires the kind of global action, strong leadership and commitment shown by the members of the High Level Panel on Water.”

UN and World Bank chiefs announce members of joint high-level panel on water

 

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