A desolate Center Street running right through the middle of downtown Megargel, 19 January 2014. All of the buildings are now vacant and crumbling. The tiny town of Megargel, about two hours northwest of Fort Worth, has been living under the threat of running out of water for nearly the last year but it is also simply trying to survive. Megargel consolidated its school district with nearby Olney ISD in 2006 and faces reduced hours to its post office. Photo: Star Telegram

By Bill Hanna
19 January 2014  

MEGARGEL – When Debbie Wells purchased the Megargel High School campus in 2009, she didn’t realize she was becoming the caretaker for so much of the town’s history.

Still inside the school that opened in 1927 are desks, yearbooks and old photos of students. Near the front entrance, the Megargel school board’s last agenda is still posted from June 2006; it includes the item to consolidate with the Olney school district.

Next door, the gymnasium that opened in 1950 still has its scoreboard and a few basketballs strewn across the dusty hardwood court. Outside, the goal posts to the old six-man football field are in still place, surrounded by weeds.

“It was like there was a fire drill and everybody left and never came back,” said Wells who lives with her family in the former agriculture building behind the school.

For Megargel, population 203 — on Texas 114, about 110 miles northwest of Fort Worth — the former high school campus may be the most visible sign of a town fading away, but it’s far from the only one.

Downtown is virtually empty, littered with crumbling and abandoned buildings and outdated gas stations. Many houses are vacant and of the town’s 200 water meters, only 130 are active.

And like many small Texas towns hit by the prolonged drought, Megargel is struggling with its water supply.

Since last March, Megargel has been in Stage 3 water restrictions, which includes a ban on outdoor watering. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality considers it to have a 90-day supply of water but city officials say the town lake, the sole of source of water, has held steady in recent months.

Town officials have had discussions with Baylor Water Supply Corp in Seymour about building an emergency water line to supply the town in case its lake runs dry.

Even if the water situation improves, city leaders worry about the town’s survival.

“Unless something changes I can’t see any reason it won’t completely disappear,” said Jerry Goodwin, who has been a city councilman since 2009. “We’ve talked about it and most of the people are like me, they just don’t see anything that could keep us going for very much longer.” [more]

Tiny North Texas town struggles to survive

Index of climate-change risk preparation across countries (above) and poverty risk at $1.25 line in 2030 (below). Poor and marginalized households tend to be less resilient and face greater difficulties in absorbing and recovering from disaster impacts. Recurrent events also lead to compounding losses for many households, leading them to organize livelihoods in such a way that their overall risks are reduced in the face of uncertainty, even if it means a reduction in income and an increase in poverty. Graphic: World Bank

18 November 2013 (World Bank) – Disasters trap people into poverty, as indicated by the evidence from many countries. For example, following the 2011 drought, poverty levels in Djibouti returned to levels above those in 2002, indicating a loss of almost 10 years of development gains. Studies from rural Ethiopia and Andhra Pradesh, India, indicate that drought is the most important factor in keeping people poor. China lists natural disasters among the eight key pressures undermining its progress in poverty reduction. And in Afghanistan, drought in the 1990s was identified as contributing to worsening food security and poverty a decade later (République de Djibouti 2011; Shepherd, et al. 2013; White 2004).

Poor and marginalized households tend to be less resilient and face greater difficulties in absorbing and recovering from disaster impacts. Recurrent events also lead to compounding losses for many households, leading them to organize livelihoods in such a way that their overall risks are reduced in the face of uncertainty, even if it means a reduction in income and an increase in poverty (UNISDR 2009b). This is typically the case for farmers who hedge their risks against uncertain weather by planting well after the early rains, or by using less productive but more resilient varieties. To maintain basic food consumption, poor households may sell their limited remaining productive assets after disasters, often their only source of savings; others, however, may lower their food consumption. Both coping mechanisms can have long-term implications for human development, by affecting nutrition and children’s access to education and health (World Bank and GFDRR 2013).

Due to limited opportunities and resources, the poor frequently accept higher levels of risk relative to their income, and live and/or work in informal settlements located in high-risk areas. In Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Mexico City and São Paulo, those living in informal settlements are the most vulnerable to climate and disaster risks (World Bank 2011a). Overall, approximately 72% of Africa’s urban population lives in informal settlements, where investment in drainage infrastructure that can reduce flood risk is often lacking, and existing infrastructure is inadequately maintained (UNISDR 2009b). As a consequence, poor households must not only rebuild their assets after a disaster, but often bear the costs of reconstruction of public and social infrastructure, such as community schools, health clinics or local roads damaged by recurrent events. An example of this is in eastern and western Madagascar, where a single cyclone season can cause losses and damages to individual households equivalent to 10–30% of the average annual GDP per capita (Government of Madagascar 2008).

Among the poor, disabled, elderly, orphans, widows and other vulnerable and marginalized groups are more likely to be affected by weather-related events. In many cases, women are more affected than men due to their lower mobility and cultural sensitivities that may prevent them from seeking livelihood opportunities away from high-risk areas, or to use shelters during extreme events. As a result, for example, some 91% of fatalities in Bangladesh after Cyclone Gorky were women (World Bank 2012c).

Climate change could affect poverty targets directly, as well as indirectly, by curbing economic growth. Recent modeling studies indicate relatively modest impacts on global poverty— about 10 million additional poor under climate change scenarios by 2055, assuming steady annual economic growth of 2.2 percent (Skoufias 2012). However, Dell, et al. (2009) suggest that economic growth is also sensitive to temperature rises, which could, therefore, significantly increase the number of poor. Data from 134 countries, for example, indicated that temperature rises of 1°C were associated with a statistically significant reduction of about 9 percentage points in per capita GDP. A more recent study by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) also indicates significant numbers of poor living in hazard-prone countries by 2030 (Shepherd, et al. 2013). These global studies also suggest that an immediate reduction of greenhouse gases would only have a significant impact on poverty beyond 2100. This is due to the longevity of many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and inertia in the climate system (IPCC 2013, World Bank 2012d), underscoring the urgent need to implement resilience—or adaptation—measures targeted towards the poor.

Weather-Related Loss & Damage Rising as Climate Warms

Convoy in the Southern Ocean: positioning of the Sea Shepherd fleet surrounding the Japanese whaling fleet, 25 January 2014. Photo: Tim Watters / Sea Shepherd

25 January 2014 (SSCS) – The Japanese whaling fleet has abandoned its plans to out-run the Sea Shepherd Fleet, with its factory vessel, the Nisshin Maru, slowing down to 12 knots after a 36 hour chase at full speed.

At approximately 1300 AEDT today, the Nisshin Maru, flanked by the harpoon vessels, Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 2, reduced its speed and changed course for due west. The Sea Shepherd Fleet now surrounds the whale poachers, with The Bob Barker six nautical miles ahead of the whalers, The Steve Irwin six nautical miles to the eastern side of the poachers, and The Sam Simon approaching from the south.

Captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “The Nisshin Maru has resigned itself as unable to outrun the determination of the Sea Shepherd Fleet. We will shadow them wherever they try to run and if they attempt to kill any more whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Sea Shepherd ships are in position to stand fast.”

The Japanese whaling fleet had been trying to out run the Sea Shepherd Fleet since Friday 24th January at 2050 AEDT, when The Bob Barker located the Nisshin Maru, effectively suspending whale poaching operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Captain of The Steve Irwin, Sid Chakravarty, said, "For the past 36 hours, the Sea Shepherd ships have led the Nisshin Maru and her flotilla of harpoon ships 600 miles away from the whaling grounds. We had promised to find the poachers again and chase them out of the sanctuary and we have achieved that. We remain relentless; thwarting every attempt and outmaneuvering every move that the whaling fleet makes."

Japanese Whalers Running Out of Steam

By Andrew Darby  
25 January 2014

(Sydney Morning Herald) – The Japanese whaling fleet is said to be on the run again in the Antarctic after being found by activists who followed up a tip from the Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.

The factory ship Nisshin Maru was re-located in the Ross Sea, far south-east of Australia, by the Sea Shepherd activists after it gave them the slip earlier in January.

Following the first Australian Customs aerial monitoring flight of the fleet, on 14 January, Mr Hunt said the aircraft located Nisshin Maru over 1,000 nautical miles away from the Australian Search and Rescue Zone.

"From this, Sea Shepherd was able to deduce the location of the whaling fleet," the activists said in a statement.

They finally chased down Nisshin Maru by following a trail of butchered whale parts in the water, according to Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker.

"After the weather cleared, on Friday we saw a piece of whale blubber in the water and knew that we were close," Mr Hammarstedt told Fairfax Media. "We followed it up for 10 hours and there it was.

"I am about 13 nautical miles behind them with the Bob Barker, and the Steve Irwin is about 12 nautical miles in front of them," Mr Hammartsetd said on Saturday.

"We have them boxed in. We seem to be quite steady with them, matching speed. There really should be no way of them getting away from us." [more]

Whaling fleet found after Hunt tip

The doom of the biosphere accelerated as expected in 2013: global warming dished up record floods, storms, drought, and wildfires; poachers slaughtered endangered wildlife with impunity; the logging industry razed whole forest ecosystems inexorably; the fishing industry stripped the oceans of biomass. The usual.

What surprised Desdemona was a startling shift in public attitudes about climate change. At the beginning of 2013, public concern about the destruction of the environment had dropped to its lowest level in two decades; 3 in 8 Americans believed global warming is a hoax. Slate listed the 10 things Americans care about more than the environment.

Environmental concerns among citizens around the world have been falling since 2009 and in 2013 reached twenty-year lows, according to a multi-country GlobeScan poll. The chart shows average findings across the 12 countries for which tracking data is available since 1992. 6,774 citizens across these 12 countries were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone on this question between 3 July 2012 and 3 September 2012. Graphic: GlobeScan

In July 2013, U.S. public opinion showed signs of a turnaround, with a League of Conservation Voters poll finding voters under 35 taking antiscience forces to task, with 37% describing climate change deniers as "ignorant", 29% as "out of touch" and 7% simply as "crazy". After nearly complete silence on climate change during the 2012 election, President Obama began talking about it openly.

By November 2013, an overwhelming majority of Americans accepted that global is real and caused by humans.

Percentage of Americans who believe past global warming has been caused by humans, 2013. Graphic: Stanford Geospatial Center / Jon Krosnick

Paradoxically, even as public opinion moved, officials began shutting down scientific monitoring of crucial environmental data. Following misguided austerity plans, or out of actual industry-backed malice, governments began actively eliminating the ability to monitor the rapidly changing climate.

The Harper government in Canada, captured by fossil fuel interests, was caught spying on environmental activists, and pulled out of the UN convention to combat drought and desertification. Harper began an extraordinary program of knowledge destruction by muzzling government scientists and  defunding Canada’s world-class fishery, ocean, and environmental libraries.

Meanwhile, Alberta experienced its worst floods in history, and PM Harper said, without irony, “I never imagined you could have a flood of this magnitude in this part of the country”.

Down Under, the Abbott government  in Australia, also captured by the fossil fuel industry, dissolved the national Climate Council, which was forced to seek crowd-sourced funding. Abbott abandoned Australia’s carbon emissions reduction target range, even as Australia flood coverage rose to unaffordable levels and Australia was re-rated on international reinsurance markets after another summer of flooding and extreme weather.

In the U.S., the famous long-term Scripps CO2 and O2 monitoring project that publishes the “Keeling Curve” was forced to issue pleas for crowdsourced funds. The U.S. faces the likelihood of a "catastrophic" reduction in weather and climate data from the loss of polar-orbiting satellites starting in 2016. U.S. newspapers eliminated reporters on the environment beat.

How does the fossil fuel industry get destructive, antiscience policies enacted? 2013 was the year we discovered in detail how the climate change countermovement (CCCM) operates. CCCM organizations have an annual income of $900 million and the money is distributed through a network of shadow front groups, to hide sources like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

Total foundation funding distribution to U.S. climate change countermovement organizations, 2003-2010. Graphic: Brulle, 2013

It’s long been Desdemona’s fear that as the climate destabilizes, people won’t confront the catastrophe head-on, but instead will bury their heads deeper in the sand; in the case of some big governments, this fear seems to have been realized.

Check out Desdemona’s doomiest posts of previous years:

  • 2013 doomiest graphs and images 
  • 2012 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
  • 2011 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
  • 2010 doomiest graphs, images, and stories

    January 2013

    The sun glows through smoke haze at Lake Repulse, 80km north-west of Hobart. Tasmania suffered its most severe fire day in years on 4 January 2013, with a record 41.8 degrees in Hobart, the highest temperature since 1881. Kim Foale / Sydney Morning Herald

    Hundreds flee in Tasmania as wildfires spread across Australia – Hobart records highest temperature since 1881 – ‘This has been an extraordinary day’

    5 January 2013 (Sydney Morning Herald) – Tasmania suffered its most severe fire day in years, with a record 41.8 degrees in Hobart, the highest temperature since 1881. Higher temperatures were observed ahead of the fire front in Dunalley.

    Tasmania's chief fire officer, Mike Brown, said conditions reached the catastrophic level several times during the afternoon, and 100 crews were battling about 25 fires in the state.

    Over 100 missing in Tasmania as ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions sweep Australia – ‘Perhaps the worst fire danger the state has ever faced’ 

    6 January 2012 (BBC) – The BBC's Nick Bryant, in Sydney, says large swathes of south-east Australia are suffering from the worst fire conditions since the Black Saturday disaster almost four years ago, when 173 people in rural Victoria lost their lives.

    He says there has been a combination of a record-breaking heatwave, high winds, and drought, with Tasmania by far the worst hit.

    Carcinogen levels soar in Canada’s tar sand lakes

    9 January 2013 (New Scientist) – John Smol of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and colleagues analysed sediment cores from six lakes up to 90 kilometres north-west of Athabasca. They found that concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), well-known carcinogens, are between 2.5 and 23 times higher in the top layers of sediment than in layers laid down in 1960, at least 20 years before tar sand extraction began.

    Ant study deepens concern about plastic additives – ‘Phthlates are everywhere in the atmosphere’

    7 January 2013 (The New York Times) – About five years ago, Alain Lenoir, a researcher at François Rabelais University in Tours, France, was studying the biochemical process by which ants differentiate between friends and foes.

    In new study, published in Science of the Total Environment, an academic journal, Dr. Lenoir confirmed what he had already come to fear.

    All of the ants that he and his team studied were contaminated with phthalates, regardless of where the insects originated. For example, the chemical made up as much as 0.59 percent of the substances on the cuticles of ants that had just been collected in a field near Tours.

    Extinction looms as Indonesia opens forests for logging – ‘We’ll see the extinction of all the charismatic species in 10 to 20 years’

    15 January 2013 (Sydney Morning Herald) – Some of the richest and most biodiverse forests in Indonesia will soon be opened up for commercial exploitation under a plan drafted by the new government of Aceh.

    Conservationist Mike Griffiths says, ''If this happens, we'll see the extinction of all the charismatic species in 10 to 20 years. The rhinos will be heading towards extinction in six months, the elephants will last perhaps 15 years, the tigers maybe 20. The orangutans will go quite quickly because they live in the lowlands,'' he said. ''It's very sad.''

    February 2013

    Collapse of New England cod fishery forces historic fishing cuts in catch rates – ‘We’re doomed, as they say’

    31 January 2013 (CNN) – Gloucester, like many coastal towns, faces the largest cuts ever to the region's commercial fishing industry. An advisory council voted to slash cod catch rates by 77% in the Gulf of Maine, a region roughly the size of Indiana that extends from Cape Cod up through Nova Scotia.

    The council also voted to cut 55% of cod catch rates in Georges Bank, an expansive area near Cape Cod, which was named by a 17th century British explorer after discovering an abundance of the ground fish.

    Smog causes surge in heart deaths: study – ‘We found that for every 10 microgrammes per cubic meter in PM2.5, there was a 20-percent increase in the death rate’

    20 February 2013 (AFP) – Exposure to higher levels of fine particulates – the airborne pollution that is an emerging problem in many Asian cities – causes a sharp rise in deaths from heart attacks.

    Fine particulates are mainly generated by burning coal and oil for power stations, and petrol and diesel for transport.

    Variations in total water storage from normal, in millimeters, in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, as measured by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, from January 2003 through December 2009. Graphic: NASA / UC Irvine/ NCAR

    NASA satellites find alarming freshwater losses in Middle East, totaling 144 cubic kilometers in 7 years – ‘If it’s not replenished, eventually it will be gone’

    15 February 2013 (JPL) – A new study using data from a pair of gravity-measuring NASA satellites finds that large parts of the arid Middle East region lost freshwater reserves rapidly during the past decade.

    Scientists found during a seven-year period beginning in 2003 that parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs.

    China admits pollution-linked ‘cancer villages’ – ‘Poisonous and harmful chemical materials have brought about many water and atmosphere emergencies’

    22 February 2013 (AFP) – China's environment ministry has acknowledged the existence of "cancer villages", after years of assertions by academics and domestic media that polluted areas experience higher rates of the disease.

    Media reports about "cancer villages" emerged as early as 1998. Official sources such as government websites and television stations have altogether reported 241 such locations, a US-based geography professor said in a 2010 study.

    The total reached 459 if accounts from "unofficial" sites such as online portals were included, University of Central Missouri academic Lee Liu said in the US-based journal Environment.

    The villages tended to be near major rivers, where people have congregated for generations but which also tended to attract industrial parks seeking easy access to water.

    March 2013

    Shark kills number 100 million annually, research says – ‘They are not reproducing fast enough to keep up with the rate we are pulling them out of the ocean’

    1 March 2013 (BBC) – The most accurate assessment to date of the impact of commercial fishing on sharks suggests around 100 million are being killed each year.

    The researchers say that this rate of exploitation is far too high, especially for a species which reproduces later in life.

    The major factor driving the trade is the ongoing demand for shark fins for soup in Chinese communities.

    Researchers admit that establishing the true level of global shark fishing is extremely difficult, as the quality of the data is poor. Many sharks that are caught have their fins removed at sea with the body dumped overboard. These fish are often not included in official reports.

    Monarch butterfly population in Mexico drops to record low – Now only one-fifteenth as many butterflies as there were in 1997

    13 March 2013 (AP) – The amount of Monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico dropped 59 percent this year, falling to the lowest level since comparable record-keeping began 20 years ago, scientists reported Wednesday.

    It was the third straight year of declines for the orange-and-black butterflies that migrate from the United States and Canada to spend the winter in mountaintop fir forests in central Mexico. Six of the last seven years have shown drops, and there are now only one-fifteenth as many butterflies as there were in 1997.

    The decline now marks a statistical long-term trend and can no longer be seen as a combination of yearly or seasonal events, the experts said.

    Reefs devoured by tiny plants as oceans warm and acidify – ‘If we think of the reef as a scaffold, it’s now being taken apart faster than it can re-build’

    20 March 2013 (Practical Fishkeeping) – A study has found that, weakened by microscopic borers, the world’s coral reefs will erode more rapidly as the oceans warm and acidify.

    "Our research shows that when seawater is both acidic and warm – which is predicted to happen under future climate scenarios – coral reefs could be made more fragile by microborers, such as algae, blue-green algae and fungi that inhabit reefs and bore tiny holes in it that undermine the strength of the coral skeleton," says Associate Professor Sophie Dove of CoECRS and UQ.

    "So if we look into the future, not only do corals have less material with which to build their reefs, but the old, dead parts that support them are eroded much faster," says Dr Dove.

    April 2013

    Shanghai in January. Researchers said the toll from China’s pollution meant the loss of 25 million healthy years in 2010. Photo: Aly Song / Reuters

    Air pollution linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China

    1 April 2013 (The New York Times) – Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide.

    Figured another way, the researchers said, China’s toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population.

    Dead dolphins and shrimp with no eyes found after BP clean-up – Chemicals used to disperse Gulf of Mexico spill blamed for marine deaths and human illness

    14 April 2013 (The Independent) – Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP's Deepwater Horizon spill.

    Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013. More than 650 dolphins have been found beached in the oil spill area since the disaster began, which is more than four times the historical average. Sea turtles were also affected, with more than 1,700 found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012 – the last date for which information is available. On average, the number stranded annually in the region is 240.

    Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences has found sea life in the Gulf with lesions and deformities that it believes may be linked to the use of dispersants. These include shrimp with no eyes and crabs with no eyes or without claws.

    ‘Skull is removed, brains eaten alive’: Like the drug trade, wildlife trafficking is big business in Asia

    19 April 2013 (Sydney Morning Herald) – Bears are kept alive in restaurants waiting for customers to order bear paw soup, a delicacy at $300 a bowl. Chefs cut off each paw one at a time, leaving the animal alive, slowly bleeding to death, to ensure the meat remains fresh for the next order.

    Macaque monkeys are yet another culinary delicacy, served either screaming or drugged, strapped beneath the table with a hole for their head to poke through.

    Their skull is then removed and their brains eaten alive.

    Workers hang dried fish onto poles at a processing facility on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on 25 December 2012. Photo: Lang Lang

    China vastly under-reports global fish catch – ‘We’re looking at decimation in the next decade’

    30 April 2013 (The Atlantic) – China is dramatically under-reporting what it's taking from the world's seas. The average it told the UN Food and Agriculture Organization over the last decade was 368,000 tons each year. A recent European Parliament report puts that number at 4.6 million tons -- some 12.5 times more than what China reported.

    The black market for manta rays that has encouraged rampant plundering may soon threaten the country's tourism -- one of its main industries -- since its mantas are a major diving attraction. One of Mozambique top diving areas, Inhambane, has one of the world's biggest manta populations. And in the last 10 years, the manta's numbers there have thinned by 87 percent, say scientists.

    "We're looking at decimation in the next decade or decade-and-a-half. Manta rays are in big trouble along the coastline," Andrea Marshall, director of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, told the Guardian. "If current trends continue, I don't give this population more than a few generations."

    May 2013

    World’s most widely used insecticide is devastating dragonflies, snails, and other water-based species

    1 May 2013 (The Guardian) – Imidacloprid, the world's most widely used insecticide, is devastating dragonflies, snails, and other water-based species, a groundbreaking Dutch study has revealed.

    The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, found that 70% less invertebrate species were found in water polluted with the insecticide compared to clean water. There were also far fewer individuals of each species in the polluted water. "This is the first study to show this happens in the field," van der Sluijs said. As well as killing mayflies, midges, and molluscs, the pollution could have a knock-on effect on birds such as swallows that rely on flying insects for food, he added.

    The research combined results from wildlife and water pollution surveys at 700 sites across the Netherlands conducted between 1998 and 2009. It found a very strong correlation between high levels of imidacloprid pollution and low numbers of invertebrates. In water exceeding the Dutch national pollution limit, just 17 species were found on average, whereas 52 species were found in cleaner water.

    Belief in biblical end-times stifling climate change action in U.S. – ‘The Earth will end only when God declares it to be over’

    1 May 2013 (The Raw Story) – The United States has failed to take action to mitigate climate change thanks in part to the large number of religious Americans who believe the world has a set expiration date.

    “[T]he fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them,” researchers David C. Barker and David H. Bearce wrote in their study, which was published in the June issue of Political Science Quarterly.

    Arctic Ocean ‘acidifying rapidly’ – ‘Even if we stop emissions now, acidification will last tens of thousands of years. It is a very big experiment.’

    6 May 2013 (BBC) – The Arctic seas are being made rapidly more acidic by carbon-dioxide emissions, according to a new report.

    The researchers say the Nordic Seas are acidifying over a wide range of depths - most quickly in surface waters and more slowly in deep waters.

    This is being made worse, he said, by organic carbon running off the land – a secondary effect of regional warming.

    “Continued rapid change is a certainty,” said Richard Bellerby from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research.

    “We have already passed critical thresholds. Even if we stop emissions now, acidification will last tens of thousands of years. It is a very big experiment.”

    Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into Section 35, a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons  to the surface every minute. 'That's prime land,' he said not long ago. 'I've raised 294 bushels of corn per acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.' Now, he said, 'it's over.' Photo: Matthew Staver / The New York Times

    Vast stretches of Texas and Kansas farmland over the High Plains Aquifer no longer support irrigation – Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains

    19 May 2013 (The New York Times) – Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers.

    And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains.

    This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis — decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.

    Global majority faces water shortages ‘within two generations’ – 4.5 billion people already live within 50km of an impaired water resource – ‘These are self-inflicted wounds’

    24 May 2013 (The Guardian) – The majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will live with severe pressure on fresh water within the space of two generations as climate change, pollution and over-use of resources take their toll, 500 scientists have warned.

    The world's water systems would soon reach a tipping point that "could trigger irreversible change with potentially catastrophic consequences", more than 500 water experts warned on Friday as they called on governments to start conserving the vital resource. They said it was wrong to see fresh water as an endlessly renewable resource because, in many cases, people are pumping out water from underground sources at such a rate that it will not be restored within several lifetimes.

    June 2013

    Autism tied to air pollution, brain-wiring disconnection

    17 June 2013 (Bloomberg) – Researchers seeking the roots of autism have linked the disorder to chemicals in air pollution and, in a separate study, found that language difficulties of the disorder may be due to a disconnect in brain wiring.

    Researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of diesel particulates or mercury were twice as likely to have an autistic child compared with peers in low-pollution areas. The findings, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, are from the largest U.S. study to examine the ties between air pollution and autism.

    Following days of heavy rainfall in central Europe, the town hall in Grimma, Germany, was turned into a virtual island as water from the River Mulde flooded the town center, 6 June 2013. Photo: Jens Wolf / European Pressphoto Agency

    Record floods in central Europe continue to create havoc – Hungary PM Viktor Orban says ‘It is now clear that we are facing the worst floods of all time’

    8 June 2013 (AP) – About 120,000 emergency personnel including firefighters and soldiers were on duty Saturday, working aggressively to contain the most dramatic floods in Germany in a decade. Thousands of residents were still unable to return to their homes, and bridges and streets were impassable in many regions of eastern and southern Germany.

    In Hungary, around 2,000 residents of the town of Gyorujfalu northwest of the capital of Budapest were evacuated because authorities were afraid the levees wouldn’t withstand the pressure of the Danube’s waters.

    “It is now clear that we are facing the worst floods of all time,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a statement after spending the night in a military barracks in the deluged western city of Gyor.

    "It is now certain that we must face the largest-ever flood on the Danube, so we must be prepared for the worst," Orban said in the western city of Gyor, on the Danube.

    At least 19 people have died over the past week, and experts say the economic damage in Germany alone could top €11 billion ($14.59 billion).

    Up to half of all birds threatened by climate change – ‘The magnitude of the conservation program we need to put in place is mind-boggling’

    13 June 2013 (New Scientist) – Between a quarter and a half of all birds, along with around a third of amphibians and a quarter of corals, are highly vulnerable to climate change. These findings have emerged from the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impact of global warming on life. Its results have led some researchers to warn of the need for unprecedented conservation efforts if we don't cut our emissions.

    Among birds, 24 to 50 per cent of species are highly vulnerable, according to the team's most optimistic and pessimistic forecasts, as are 22 to 44 per cent of amphibians and 15 to 32 per cent of corals. The figures are similar to those obtained in a 2004 study by Chris Thomas of the University of York in the UK, which estimated that 15 to 37 per cent of species will be "committed to extinction" by 2050 due to climate change (Nature, doi.org/c34wgp). "These are high percentages," says Thomas.

    Growth in crop yields inadequate to feed the world by 2050 – ‘The world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands’

    20 June 2013 (The Guardian) – If the world is to grow enough food for the projected global population in 2050, agricultural productivity will have to rise by at least 60%, and may need to more than double, according to researchers who have studied global crop yields.

    They say that productivity is not rising fast enough at present to meet the likely demands on agriculture.

    Deepak Ray, who led the new research, said that some countries were faring far worse than others. For instance, in Guatemala, the productivity of the maize agriculture is declining, while the population is growing.

    There is also a danger that large swathes of pristine land — including forests — could be cleared for agriculture to compensate for the slow growth in yields, with potentially damaging effects on the climate and on ecosystems.

    Canada bees dying by the millions – ‘I think it’s criminal what is happening’

    19 June 2013 (The Post) - Local beekeepers are finding millions of their bees dead just after corn was planted here in the last few weeks. Dave Schuit, who has a honey operation in Elmwood, lost 600 hives, a total of 37 million bees.

    “Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” Schuit said. He and many others, including the European Union, are pointing the finger at a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc. used in planting corn and some other crops. The European Union just recently voted to ban these insecticides for two years, beginning December 1, 2013, to be able to study how it relates to the large bee kill they are experiencing there also.

    July 2013

    Catchment runoff entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, north of Mossman. Photo: Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

    Great Barrier Reef condition declined from moderate to poor in 2011 – ‘Extreme weather events significantly impacted the overall condition of the marine environment’

    10 July 2013 (The Guardian) – An alarming set of reports on the condition of the Great Barrier Reef published on Wednesday say its overall condition in 2011 declined from moderate to poor, and highlights that reef-wide coral cover has declined by 50% since 1985.

    The series of reports blame part of the reef's poor health in 2011 on extreme weather conditions including tropical cyclone Yasi, and high rainfall which resulted in "higher than average discharge" from a number of river catchments runoffs.

    China’s reliance on coal reduces life expectancy by 5.5 years, says study – High levels of air pollution will cause 500 million people to lose an aggregate 2.5 billion years from their lives

    8 July 2013 (The Guardian) – Air pollution causes people in northern China to live an average of 5.5 years shorter than their southern counterparts, according to a study released on Monday which claims to show in unprecedented detail the link between air pollution and life expectancy.

    High levels of air pollution in northern China – much of it caused by an over-reliance on burning coal for heat – will cause 500 million people to lose an aggregate 2.5 billion years from their lives, the authors predict in the study, published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    China’s rural pollution causing crop failure – ‘Nothing comes from these plants. They look alive, but they’re actually dead inside.’

    27 July 2013 (The Wall Street Journal) – In Dapu, a rain-drenched rural outpost in the heart of China's grain basket, a farmer grows crops that she wouldn't dare to eat.

    A state-backed chemicals factory next to her farm dumps wastewater directly into the local irrigation pond, she says, and turns it a florescent blue reminiscent of antifreeze. After walking around in the rice paddies, some farmers here have developed unexplained blisters on their feet.

    "Nothing comes from these plants," says the farmer, pointing past the irrigation pond to a handful of stunted rice shoots. She grows the rice, which can't be sold because of its low quality, only in order to qualify for payments made by the factory owners to compensate for polluting the area. But the amount is only a fraction of what she used to earn when the land was healthy, she says. The plants look alive, "but they're actually dead inside."

    August 2013

    A child cooks shrimp and an egg in a frying pan heated by a manhole cover on a hot summer day on 31 July 2013 in Jinan, China. It has been so hot that eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard burst into flames in the worst heat wave in at least 140 years. Photo: China Daily / AP

    China endures worst heat wave in at least 140 years, weather emergency declared, dozens killed across 40 cities and counties

    1 August 2013 (AP) - It's been so hot in China that folks are grilling shrimp on manhole covers, eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard has mysteriously caught fire by itself.

    The heat wave -- the worst in at least 140 years in some parts -- has left dozens of people dead and pushed thermometers above 104 degrees F in at least 40 cities and counties, mostly in the south and east. Authorities for the first time have declared the heat a "level 2" weather emergency -- a label normally invoked for typhoons and flooding.

    Texas fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry, and people thirsty – ‘When the water is gone. That’s it. We’re gone.’

    11 August 2013 (The Guardian) – Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry's outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

    "The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes," said Beverly McGuire, blinking back tears. "I went: 'dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind."

    Japan breaks national heat record, China heat wave continues – ‘Statistically it is almost certain that many thousands must have perished as the result of the heat over the past month’

    12 August 2013 (wunderground.com) – An all-time national heat record was set in Japan today (August 12th) when the temperature peaked at 41.0°C (105.8°F) at the Ekawasaki site in Shimanto (part of Kochi Prefecture). The previous record of 40.9°C (105.6°F) was recorded at Tajima and Kumagaya on August 16, 2007. Tokyo endured its warmest daily minimum on August 11th with a low of 30.4°C (86.7°F). This was the 2nd warmest minimum on record for Japan following a minimum of 30.8°C (87.4°F) at Itoigawa on August 22, 1990.

    How many have died as a result of the Chinese heat wave?

    Virtually every possible heat statistic has been broken for most sites in eastern China (as well as central and southern Japan, and South Korea). I cannot think of any other heat event that has affected so many people for so long (including those that plagued the U.S. in the mid 1930s, Russia in 2010, and Western Europe in August 2003). Obviously, the Chinese authorities are keeping the fatalities from this ongoing event under wraps. The European heat wave of 2003 killed over 72,000 people, the Russian heat wave of 2010 killed over 55,000, and in the U.S historical record, we know that many thousands also succumbed to the heat waves of the mid-1930s and in 1995 in the Midwest. The dense population of cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Changsha (these three metropolitan areas accounting for 50 million people) and the fact that many if not most have no air-conditioning and are also unofficial immigrants from rural areas (meaning that if they died in the heat wave, their deaths would not be reported as local urban fatalities) leads one to the conclusion that a major catastrophe must be taking place.

    Record flooding affects more than 2 million in NE China – Heilong River sees worst floods in history

    27 August 2013 (Xinhua) – Floods and heavy rains have caused the death of at least 20 people and adversely affected more than 2.2 million in northeast China's Jilin Province, local authorities said.

    Persistent rain has brought chaos to 56 county-level regions of the province, forcing 239,000 people to be evacuated, according to the provincial civil affairs department.

    At least 585,000 hectares of crops have been damaged, some 12,000 rooms destroyed, with another 146,000 damaged, leading to direct economic losses of over 10 billion yuan (1.7 billion U.S. dollars).

    Video: Namibians face starvation in worst drought in a generation – Elephants and other desperate wildlife gather around remaining puddles and faucets in human camps

    12 August 2013 (SAPA) – UNICEF said the drought in this arid corner of southwest Africa is said to be the worst in three decades and that families are selling assets such as livestock, have less to eat and are migrating to cities to find work.

    “An estimated 778 000 Namibians, a third of the population, are either severely or moderately food insecure,” UNICEF said in an online report on Wednesday.

    “It has now been established that climate change is here to stay and humanity must find ways and means of mitigating its effect,” Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba said in May as he declared a state of emergency as a result of the drought. He said crop production in some areas was expected to decrease by about 50 percent below average because of the lack of rain.

    Outside Purros, a hamlet graced by giant sand dunes in the midst of a mountainous Martian landscape, a river has been reduced to a narrow stream. Desert elephants, oryx, baboons, and springbok gather around a few puddles of water along with skinny livestock, seeking relief in the heat of the day.

    Hot spots recorded by NASA's FIRMS Web Fire Mapper between 22-29 August 2013. Nearly 500 fires are burning across the Indonesian island of Sumatra, raising fears that choking air pollution could return to Singapore and Malaysia. The fires, set to clear land for agriculture, are concentrated in Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra provinces. Like the fires that charred the region two months ago, much of the burning is taking place on peat soils, making them difficult to extinguish. Graphic: NASA

    500 fires rage across Sumatra as companies destroy rainforest and peatlands for agriculture

    29 August 2013 (mongabay.com) – Nearly 500 fires are burning across the Indonesian island of Sumatra, raising fears that choking air pollution could return to Singapore and Malaysia.

    The fires, set to clear land for agriculture, are concentrated in Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra provinces. Like the fires that charred the region two months ago, much of the burning is taking place on peat soils, making them difficult to extinguish.

    However, unlike the June fires, which triggered severe air pollution warnings in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, wind is limiting the "haze" to Sumatra. The worst air pollution is presently in Riau and North Sumatra, with levels registering as "hazardous" in several cities.

    The fires are likely to burn through the end of the dry season, which typically runs through late October.

    September 2013

    Mammals vanish entirely from forest fragments after 25 years – ‘It was like ecological Armageddon. Nobody imagined we’d see such catastrophic local extinctions.’

    26 September 2013 (mongabay.com) – As tropical forests worldwide are increasingly cut into smaller and smaller fragments, mammal extinctions may not be far behind, according to a new study in Science. Tracking native smalls mammals in Chiew Larn Reservoir, Thailand for over 25 years, scientists found a stunning and rapid decline in mammal populations, until most forests were almost completely emptied of native mammals.

    In the late 1980s a hydroelectric project flooded 162 square kilometers of tropical forest in Thailand, creating—literally—small forest islands of varying sizes, allowing scientists to track how quickly small mammals vanished from 16 differently-sized forests. In fragments covering less than ten hectares, native mammals vanished almost entirely within just five years. Mammals survived longer in larger fragments, but not by much: within 25 years, mammals were almost wholly lost in fragments between 10-56 hectares. The scientists found no similar decline on the mainland.

    Flooding is costliest disaster ever in Mexico at $5.7 billion – At least 3 percent of farmland destroyed

    27 September 2013 (Reuters) – Severe flooding that hit Mexico this month is likely to knock off about 0.1 percentage point from growth in 2013, with reconstruction efforts in the final quarter helping to dampen the impact, Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said.

    Mexico's insurers' association said the damage from floods sparked by tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid could top 75 billion Mexican pesos ($5.7 billion), the highest cost ever from a national disaster in the country.

    Veterinarians work with a South African rhino mutilated by poachers, September 2013. With just three months left in 2013, the number of rhinos killed is more than 500 and appears almost certain to top 2012's death toll of 668. Photo: Sky News

    Rhino poaching deaths set for record high in 2013 – Veterinarians race to save mutilated animals with horns and parts of their faces ripped away by poachers

    20 September 2013 (Sky News) – One man doing his fair share is veterinarian Dr William Fowlds who is the founder of Rhino Lifeline and managed to persuade the South African bank Investec to help financially support his efforts.

    Dr Fowlds was the first vet on the scene when three rhinos were attacked by poachers 18 months ago on the Kariega Game Reserve. One was so badly mutilated, he died hours later.

    But somehow Dr Fowlds' prompt work managed to bring the other two back from the brink.

    The rangers were traumatised by the sight of these animals with their horns and part of their faces ripped off by the poachers.

    They were lying motionless, heavily tranquilised by the thieves. Dr Fowlds set about injecting them with antibiotics, pain-killers and vitamins and tidied their wounds.

    They were named Thandi and Themba and the vet team worked frantically to save the two of them. But 24 days later, Themba was found drowned in a waterhole.

    Internal injuries were to blame. The vet team was distraught. Dr Fowlds was determined he wasn't going to lose Thandi too.

    He performed procedure after procedure on the animal, even performing pioneering skin graft operations on the rhino, snipping skin away from behind her ear and growing it over the bloody hole where the horn had been.

    October 2013

    Health of oceans declining fast, ‘at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history’

    3 October 2013 (BBC News) – The health of the world’s oceans is deteriorating even faster than had previously been thought, a report says.

    A review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), warns that the oceans are facing multiple threats.

    They are being heated by climate change, turned slowly less alkaline by absorbing CO2, and suffering from overfishing and pollution.

    The report warns that dead zones formed by fertiliser run-off are a problem.

    It says conditions are ripe for the sort of mass extinction event that has afflicted the oceans in the past.

    The ocean is broken – ‘We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head.’

    18 October 2013 (Newcastle Herald) – It was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.

    What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.

    The birds were missing because the fish were missing.

    In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

    "After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead," said Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen.

    Study links low birthweight to air pollution and traffic – For every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic metre in exposure during pregnancy, risk of low birthweight rises by 18 percent

    14 October 2013 (The Guardian) – Babies born to mothers who live in areas with air pollution and dense traffic are more likely to have a low birthweight and smaller head circumference, according to a large European study.

    The researchers, who included a team from the UK, found that babies were smaller even in areas with relatively low levels of air pollution, well below the limits considered acceptable in European Union guidance.

    For every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic metre in exposure to fine particulate matter during pregnancy, the risk of low birthweight in the baby rose by 18%.

    Lionfish infestation in Atlantic Ocean a growing epidemic – ‘The lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face’

    19 October 2013  (CNN) – The clear waters around Bermuda are as picturesque as you can imagine, and the brilliantly colored fish swimming around are like something from a crayon box. But a serious problem lurks behind the beautiful facade: the lionfish.

    Lionfish are not native to the Atlantic Ocean. The venomous, fast reproducing fish are aggressive eaters and will consume anything and everything, gorging so much they are actually getting liver disease. With no known predators -- except human beings -- they can wipe out 90% of a reef.

    While the problem is only beginning to escalate, many in the marine preservation field are already concerned for the marine life that surrounds the lionfish.

    Ecologist James Morris with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science said that the lionfish has brought a "big change in biodiversity," and it is what he called "the most abundant top-level predator on some coral reefs (in the Atlantic)."

    November 2013

    The Alpha Coal project in central Queensland. Green groups are threatening legal action action to prevent the nearby Kevin's Corner mine, which would be the largest in Australia, from going ahead. Photo: Andrew Quilty / AAP

    Largest coal mine in Australia approved, will use more than nine billion liters of water per year – ‘It’s bordering on hypocrisy, really’

    3 November 2013 (AAP) – The federal government has approved a massive coal mining project in central Queensland that will be the largest in the country.

    Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the 37,380 hectare Kevin's Corner project on Friday.

    The mine, to be operated by a joint India-Australia consortium, GVK-Hancock, is the first to be approved since the introduction of a new water trigger rule by the previous federal government.

    Greenpeace claims Kevin's Corner will use more than nine billion litres of water a year and the Lock the Gate Alliance says more information on its impact on Galilee Basin groundwater is needed.

    Water science experts urged Mr Hunt to reject any mining proposals that would adversely impact water supplies.

    They said mining and coal seam gas extraction could damage aquifers, rivers, and water catchments.

    The deadliest known outbreak of a measles-like virus in bottlenose dolphins has killed a record number of the marine mammals along the U.S. Atlantic coast in 2013. Photo: WTKR 

    Record number of dolphins dying off U.S. East Coast in ‘measles’ outbreak – Recovery teams ‘overwhelmed’ as hundreds of the animals wash up on beaches

    8 November 2013 (Al Jazeera) – The deadliest known outbreak of a measles-like virus in bottlenose dolphins has killed a record number of the marine mammals along the U.S. Atlantic coast in recent months, officials said Friday.

    A total of 753 bottlenose dolphins have washed up from New York to Florida from July 1 until Nov. 3, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    The figure represents a 10-fold increase in the number of dolphins that would typically turn up dead along East Coast beaches, said Teri Rowles, program coordinator of the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

    While NOAA hasn’t determined a cause for the deaths, other scientists have speculated that mass die-offs like this one are becoming increasingly common as climate change causes water to warm, and human-produced pollution weakens dolphins’ immune systems.

    Deadliest tropical cyclone in Somalia’s history kills at least 100

    11 November 2013 (Reuters) – At least 100 people were killed when a tropical cyclone hit Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region at the weekend, the government said on Monday, declaring a state of emergency and appealing for international aid.

    The government said hundreds of people were missing after the storm made landfall on Saturday.

    "Houses and livestock were swept into the ocean by the floods," President Abdirahman Mohamud Farole told reporters in the capital Garowe.

    The government said preliminary information showed more than 100,000 livestock were lost and fishing boats swept away, endangering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

    "I have buried 10 members of my family, the icy storm and rain killed more than a hundred people here," elder Hussein Abdullahi, 57, told Reuters from Eyl.

    "I have never witnessed such fatal cold. Some people were blown away and others died after their houses collapsed on them. Some people, and the animals they were looking after, are still missing," he said.

    Soldiers zip up body bags after families have identified their relatives who perished during Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, central Philippines, 13 November 2013. Photo: Edgar Su / Reuters

    Philippines typhoon survivors desperate for clean water – ‘Forgotten’ survivors tell of hunt for food – Grounded barge spills 1.2 million liters of oil into bay

    16 November 2013 (Los Angeles Times) – In a hilltop cemetery, a truck stacked high with body bags backed up to a yawning trench. With no time for ceremony, police and firefighters wearing facemasks and plastic gloves unloaded the bags Saturday and placed them in a communal grave.

    A week after one of the strongest typhoons on record swept through the central Philippines, bodies still lie in the streets of Tacloban, the hardest-hit city. Other corpses remain buried under towering piles of rubble.

    The smell was overpowering. A firefighter leaned over and retched.

    “Hard time,” commented a police officer, barely able to complete a sentence as he stepped to one side to catch his breath. “So many.”

    Global boom in coal plants: Nearly 1,200 coal-burning plants are on the drawing boards

    22 November 2013 (InsideClimate News) – In a stern address to the World Coal Association on the sidelines of the summit, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN's Climate Change Secretariat, made several demands of industry: leave "most existing reserves in the ground," shut down the dirtiest coal-fired facilities and use carbon capture and storage (CCS) on "new plants, even the most efficient."

    Her bottom line is that world's "carbon budget is half spent" at a time when the global expansion of coal is wiping out gains from clean energy. "The coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you can no longer afford to ignore," Figueres said.

    Mass starvation of Australia sea birds as 25,000 wash up dead on Sunshine Coast – Up to five million birds may have died, unable to find baitfish to eat

    28 November 2013 (Sunshine Coast Daily) – Lindsay Dines has been watching dead mutton birds wash in at Teewah for more than a month. The avid fisherman and environmentalist has deep concerns about the numbers dying.

    "I'm told that a month ago a count was done by someone - 25,000 between Noosa North Shore and Caloundra,'' he said.

    "And there are media reports of dead birds extending from Bundaberg to southern coast of Victoria, plus Tasmania and the New Zealand's west coast - in abnormally large numbers and along all beaches creating great concern in communities all along the coast.

    "All birds tested by vets were found to be emaciated and starving.''

    Given the range of the death and numbers being reported, Mr Dines fears as many as five million birds may have died.

    December 2013

    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.’

    3 December 2013 (BDN) – 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 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.

    “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.”

    Catastrophic collapse of wildlife in Sahara Desert – Conservationists warn of looming extinctions including cheetahs and gazelles – Four species of large mammals already extinct

    3 December 2013 (WCS) – 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.

    Brain tissue after being attacked by Naegleria fowleri, also called 'the brain-eating amoeba'. When the amoeba infects the brain or spinal cord, it can cause meningitis. The amoeba is moving north as the climate warms. Photo: George R. Healy / CDC

    Deadly brain-eating amoeba moving north as climate warms

    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 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.

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  • Measles outbreaks (purple) worldwide and whooping cough (green) in the U.S., 2008-2014, thanks in part to the anti-vaccination movement. Graphic: Council on Foreign Relations

    By Michael Hiltzik
    20 January 2014

    (Los Angeles Times) – Aaron Carroll today offers a graphic depiction of the toll of the anti-vaccination movement. (H/t: Kevin Drum.) It comes from a Council on Foreign Relations interactive map of "vaccine-preventable outbreaks" worldwide 2008-2014.

    A couple of manifestations stand out. One is the prevalence of measles in Europe -- especially Britain -- and the U.S. Measles is endemic in the underdeveloped world because of the unavailability of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

    But in the developed world it's an artifact of the anti-vaccination movement, which has associated the vaccine with autism. That connection, promoted by the discredited British physician Andrew Wakefield and the starlet Jenny McCarthy, has been thoroughly debunked. But its effects live on, as the map shows.

    Vaccine panic also plays a role in the shocking incidence in the U.S. of whooping cough, also beatable by a common vaccine. Researchers have pointed to the effect of "non-medical exemptions" from legally required whooping cough immunizations -- those premised on personal beliefs rather than medical reasons -- as a factor in a 2010 outbreak of whooping cough in California.

    ALSO: The seamy history of the vaccine-autism "link"

    These manifestations underscore the folly and irresponsibility of giving credence to anti-vaccination  fanatics, as Katie Couric did on her network daytime TV show in December. We examined the ethics of that ratings stunt here and here. [more]

    The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic

    An entire family of Pantropical Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata) was obliterated on 24 January 2014 in the killing cove at Taiji, Japan. Despite worldwide media attention on Taiji, the dolphin killers continue to hunt, kidnap, and slaughter dolphins. Photo: Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians

    24 January 2014 (Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians) – Pantropical Spotted Dolphins January 24, 2014

    An entire family of Pantropical Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata) was obliterated this morning in the killing cove. Despite worldwide media attention on Taiji, the dolphin killers continue to hunt, kidnap and murder dolphins.

    The killing is not limited to just one species. After decimating a bottlenose pod over the weekend and a Striped dolphin pod yesterday, they kidnapped 6 captive and brutally slaughtered 40-45 Pantropical Spotted dolphins today.

    11 killing boats herded the pod toward the killing cove in less than 3 hours. The Spotted dolphin pod was found far south of Taiji, and was driven for miles.

    Exhausted and panicked, the dolphins clung together and adults were seen protecting their young calves. It was a heart breaking visual for those of us documenting the process.

    Once the pod was pushed under the tarps, thrashing could be heard as babies were ripped from their family and tossed into the transport skiff. Four dolphins were taken for the first transfer to the Taiji harbor holding pens. The skiff returned filled with bloody water from the injured dolphins.

    More thrashing echoed above the cove as the slaughter began and 2 more dolphins were taken prisoner and transferred out from the cove to the harbor holding pens. The thrashing continued over 10-15 minutes as the pod was pithed one by one and left to eventually die in the shallow water.

    An eerie silence and a crimson colored cove indicated that the mass murder had ended. The loud “thumps” we heard were the bodies being hurled into the skiffs for transport to the butcher house. Two skiffs were piled high with dead bodies and of course covered and hidden with tarps, because Taiji is so proud of the their culture and tradition.

    Our Live Stream footage is archived at http://livestream.seashepherd.org/See More — at Taiji Japan.

    An entire family of Pantropical Spotted dolphins was obliterated this morning in the killing cove


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