The Indonesian national park boasts some of the worlds best dive sites and spectacular marine life, but illegal angling and unsustainable tourism is threatening its Unesco status
It was the unusual thrashing on the water that caught their attention. As those onboard the dive boat in Indonesia’s Komodo national park described closer, it became clear it was a green turtle entangled in rubbish and thick angling net.
The divers managed to lift it out of the water, cut the blue bind from its shell and then set the turtle free, but dive operator Ed Statham says it is just one of the increasing and alarming signs the Unesco heritage site is fast being destroyed.
Each day Statham and his squad place barges illegally fishing inside the protected Coral Triangle area, atop some of the best dive sites in the world.
” It is not just fishing with lines and little boats, it is net fishing, anchoring on diving sites, obvious carcass lying around, shark finning. And it is happening on a bigger scale than it are applied to ,” explains Statham over the phone from Labuan Bajo.
” If things continue as they are now, Komodo is going to reach a tip-off phase in the next few years and we are not going to be able to recover .”
Judge dismisses claims by Polish government that logging was necessary to protect ancient forest from outbreak of bark beetles
The EU’s highest court has ruled that Poland’s logging of the ancient Bialowieza forest is illegal, potentially opening the door to multi-million euro fines.
At least 10, 000 trees have been felled in Bialowieza, one of Europe’s last parcels of primeval woodland, since the former Polish environment minister, Jan Szyzko tripled logging limits there in 2016.
Government claims that the forest was bringing protected from a spruce beetle outbreak were rejected by European court of justice magistrates, who said that Poland’s own forest management plans showed that logging posed a greater threat to Bialowieza’s integrity.
A minimum fine of EUR4. 3m, potentially rising to EUR1 00,000 a day, could now be levied against Poland if the tree fells continue.
James Thornton, the chief executive of the green statute firm ClientEarth, told:” This is a huge victory for all defenders of Bialowieza forest. Hundreds of people were heavily engaged in saving this unique, ancient woodland from unthinkable demolition .”
Biodiversity fears prompt emergency plan to use ferrets to round up the few rabbits left
It is not a pastime for which rabbits usually necessitate much encouragement. But a mystery depletion in numbers on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog has led to an emergency effort to coax the local population into breeding … well, like rabbits.
Ferrets are being used in order to chase the reluctant remaining animals out of their warrens and into the hands of conservationists, who are bringing them together, safe from the stress of predators, in the said he hoped that romance will blossom.
It is believed that the number of rabbits on Schiermonnikoog, or Grey Monk island, has been declining for the last three years, although conservationists are only running from the memory of the 947 people who live there.
The concern is that the unexplained reduction could have a negative effect on the biodiversity of Schiermonnikoog, a 9.9 -mile-long nature reserve off the northern coastline, which attracts 300,000 visitors a year.
The rabbits play a vital role in nibbling away at the invasive American black cherry, a variety of the woody plant Prunus serotina that get in the way of other species. Birds on the island are also known to use the rabbit warrens to lay eggs.
The breakthrough, spurred by the discovery of plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump, could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinkings bottles- by collision. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.
The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests presented they had unknowingly attained the molecule even better at breaking down the PET( polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles.” What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock ,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research.” It’s great and a real seeing .”
The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic- far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speed up the pace even further and become a viable large-scale process.
” What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic ,” told McGeehan.” It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment .”
About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest proportions, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood.” It is unbelievably resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific ,” said McGeehan.” It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well .”
However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be was transformed into opaque fibers for garb or carpets. The new enzyme indicates a route to recycle clear plastic bottles back into clear plastic bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic.
” You are always up against the fact that petroleum is inexpensive, so virgin PET is cheap ,” told McGeehan.” It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even to continue efforts to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these .”
The new research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, began by determining the exact structure of the enzyme produced by the Japanese bug. The team used the Diamond Light Source, near Oxford, UK, an intense beam of X-rays that is 10 bn hours brighter than the sun and can reveal individual atoms.
The structure of the enzyme looked very similar to one evolved by many bacteria to break down cutin, a natural polymer used as a protective coating by plants. But when the team manipulated the enzyme to investigate this connection, they accidentally improved its ability to eat PET.
” It is a modest improvement- 20% better- but that is not the point ,” said McGeehan.” It’s incredible because it am saying that the enzyme is not yet optimised. It devotes us scope to use all the technology being implemented in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme .”
Industrial enzymes are widely used in, for example, washing powders and biofuel production, They have been made to work up to 1,000 hours faster in a few years, the same timescale McGeehan envisages for the plastic-eating enzyme. A patent has been filed on the specific mutant enzyme by the Portsmouth researchers and those from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
One possible improvement being explored is to transplanting the mutant enzyme into an” extremophile bacteria” that they are able survive temperatures above 70 C, at which point PET changes from a glassy to a viscous state, stimulating it likely to degraded 10 -1 00 periods faster.
Other types of plastic could be broken down by bacteria currently evolving in the environment, McGeehan said:” People are now searching vigorously for those working .” PET sinks in seawater but some scientists have conjectured that plastic-eating glitches might one day be sprayed on the huge plastic garbage patches in the oceans to clean them up.
” I suppose[ the new research] is very exciting work, indicating there is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing trash problem ,” told Oliver Jones, a chemist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and not part of the research team.
” Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in big quantities by microorganisms ,” he said.” There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable.[ But] this is certainly a step in a positive direction .”
Prof Adisa Azapagic, at the University of Manchester in the UK, concurred the enzyme could be helpful but added:” A full life-cycle assessment would be needed to ensure the technology does not solve one environmental problem- trash- at the expense of others, including additional greenhouse gas emissions .”
* This article was revised on 17 April 2018 to make clear that PET becomes viscous above 70 C. Its melting point is above 250 C.
It never breaks down and goes away, say scientists struggling to understand the impact of widespread pollution
While heading down the Brisbane river, Jim Hinds once pulled aboard a drunken half-naked man only seconds from” going down for the last period “.
But on this day, like most other days for Hinds, it’s back to the horribly predictable as he launches his barge into the Nerang river on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Instantly you see it.
Decaying plastic bags hanging from the branches of mangroves like dripping flesh; slicks of plastic water bottles and food containers waiting ashore for the liberation of the next rising tide; the misnamed “disposable” plastic and styrofoam drinking beakers; and other plastic paraphernalia in the different stages of disintegration.
” Everyone knows littering’s wrong- that’s not a secret. But it’s just nonsensical ,” tells Jim. His son Patrick, 21, has jumped ashore to pick up a vinyl football ball and about a dozen soft drinks bottles.
Hinds works for Queensland environmental conservation group Healthy Land and Water. His chore is to travel the coastal waterways and pick up rubbish- he’ll often have one of his two sons with him. His father also used to do the job.
In recent years, he has been grabbing about 10,000 items a month.” Consistently we’re getting plastic bottles- there are so many of them ,” Jim says.
Warm current that has historically caused dramatic changes in climate is experiencing an unprecedented slowdown and may be less stable than supposed – with potentially severe consequences
The warm Atlantic current links between severe and abrupt changes in the climate in the past is now at its weakest in at least 1,600 years, new research presents. The findings, based on multiple lines of scientific proof, throw into question previous predictions that a catastrophic breakdown of the Gulf Stream would take centuries to occur.
Such a collapse would see western Europe suffer far more extreme wintertimes, sea levels rise fast on the eastern seaboard of the US and would disrupt vital tropical rainfalls. The new research shows the current is now 15% weaker than around 400 AD, an exceptionally large difference, and that human-caused global warming is a matter of at the least a significant part of the weakening.
The current, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation( Amoc ), carries warm water northwards towards the north pole. There it cools, becomes denser and sinks, and then flows back southwards. But global warming hampers the cooling of the water, while melting ice in the Arctic, particularly from Greenland, floods the area with less dense freshwater, weakening the Amoc current.
Scientists know that Amoc has slowed since 2004, when instruments were deployed at sea to measure it. But now two new studies have comprehensive ocean-based evidence that the weakening is unprecedented in at least 1,600 years, which is as far back as the new research stretches.
” Amoc is a really important part of the Earth’s climate system and it has played an important part in abrupt climate change in the past ,” said Dr David Thornalley, from University College London who led one of the new analyzes. He said current climate models do not replicate the observed slowdown, is recommended that Amoc is less stable that thought.
During the last ice age, some big changes in Amoc led to winter temperatures changing by 5-10C in as short a hour as one to three years, with major consequences for the weather over the land masses bordering the Atlantic.” The[ current] climate models don’t predict[ an Amoc shutdown] is going to happen in the future- the problem is how certain are we “its not” going to happen? It is one of these tip-off points that is relatively low likelihood, but high impact .”
The study by Thornalley and colleagues, published in Nature, utilized cores of sediments from a key site off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to examine Amoc over the last 1600 years. Larger grains of sediment reflect faster Amoc currents and vice versa.
They also employed the shells of tiny marine beings from sites across the Atlantic to measure a characteristic pattern of temperatures that indicate the strength of Amoc. When it weakens, a large area of ocean around Iceland cools, as less warm water is brought north, and the waters off the east coast of the US get warmer.
The second study, also published in Nature, also utilized the characteristic pattern of temperatures, but assessed this using thermometer data collected over the last 120 years or so.
Both surveys found that Amoc today is about 15% weaker than 1,600 years ago, but there were also differences in their conclusions. The first analyse determined significant Amoc weakening after the end of the little ice age in about 1850, the result of natural climate variability, with farther weakening caused afterward by global warming.
The second study suggests most of the weakening arrived later, and can be squarely blamed on the burning of fossil fuel. Further research is now being undertaken to understand the reasons for the differences.
However, it is already clear that human-caused climate change will continue to slow Amoc, with potentially severe consequences.” If we do not rapidly stop global warming, “were supposed to” expect a further long-term slowdown of the Atlantic overturning ,” told Alexander Robinson, at the University of Madrid, and one of the team that conducted the second study. He advised:” We are only beginning to understand the consequences of this unprecedented process- but they might be disruptive .”
A 2004 tragedy movie, The Day After Tomorrow, saw a rapid shutdown of Amoc and a devastate freeze. The basics of the social sciences were portrayed correctly, told Thornalley:” Plainly it was overstated- the changes happened in a few days or weeks and were much more extreme. But it is true that in the past this weakening of Amoc happened very rapidly and caused big changes .”
Landscape architect Kongjian Yu is building friends with water to mitigate extreme weather events in modern metropolises
How does a city cope with extreme weather? These days, urban planning that doesn’t factor in some sort of catastrophic weather event is like trying to build something in a fictional utopia. For Kongjian Yu, one of the world’s leading landscape architects, the answer to coping with extreme weather events actually lies in the past.
Yu is the founder and dean of the school of landscape architecture at Peking University, founding director of architectural firm Turenscape, and famous for being the person who is reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialised cities into standard bearers of green architecture.
Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea level, droughts, deluges and so-called ” once in a lifetime” cyclones. At 53, he is best known for his” sponge cities”, which use soft material and terraces to capture water which can then be extracted for employ, rather than the usual concrete and steel materials which do not absorb water.
European methods of designing cities involve drainage pipelines which cannot be dealt with monsoonal rain. But the Chinese government has now adopted sponge cities as an urban development and eco-city template.
Dana Nuccitelli: Let fossil fuel-funded think tanks make their suit, then ignore it
In 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant, which means that if it poses a threat to public health or welfare, the EPA must regulate it under the Clean Air Act. In 2009, the EPA completed its review of the climate science literature and correctly concluded in its Endangerment Findingthat carbon pollution poses these threats via climate change. That document provides the basis for all government climate policies, including the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Climate deniers have thus long had their sights set on revoking the Endangerment Finding.
That’s a tall order, since the scientific literature is crystal clear on this question. House Republican first tried to simply rewrite the Clean Air Act to country the greenhouse gases aren’t pollutants, but they failed to get nearly enough support to pass the existing legislation. Next they proposed setting up a’ Red Team’ of climate deniers to debate the mainstream climate science’ Blue Team .’ But Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly worried that having this prominent debate on the record would be a distraction and potentially expose the administration to litigation, so he killed the idea.
However, E& E News reports that Pruitt has a safer Scheme B: take public comments on petitions asking EPA to revisit the Endangerment Finding. This would appease the deniers by allowing them to officially making such a lawsuit, but the EPA wouldn’t be under any obligation to take action. It’s a fight Pruitt knows he would lose in court, because the science is not on the deniers’ side, so he would prefer to simply weaken the Clean Power Plan, eradicate as many other federal climate policies as possible, and delay all US climate action until the clock runs out on the Trump administration.
But atmospheric temperatures are just a small part of the global warming story. Surface temperatures have warmed about 0.35 degC during that time. 2014, 2015, and 2016 each broke the record, and 2017 was the hottest year on record at Earth’s surface without an El Nino event. Furthermore, the oceans have continued to break heat records and natural thermometers like melting ice and earlier seasons have also continued to show signs of rapid global warming.
And the petition didn’t even dispute the Endangerment Finding’s point that climate scientists understand the factors like the greenhouse effect that impact global temperatures. So their effort to refute this point failed on every possible level. Instead of successfully refuting the Endangerment Finding’s basis, they basically only denied the very existence of global warming once again.
The second and third counter-points are just as bad
And to refute the Endangerment Finding’s third phase, the petition was contended that climate models are inaccurate. To make this argument, the deniers relied on an error-riddled chart produced by John Christy, which was refuted by a peer-reviewed examine last year( which the petition neglects to mention ). And again, the chart merely considered atmospheric temperature estimations from satellite data; the petition ignored the remarkable accuracy of climate models in simulating global surface temperatures and other climate change patterns.
Underwater sea walls and artificial islands among projects urgently required to avoid devastation of global flooding, tell scientists
Scientists have outlined plans to build a series of mammoth engineering projects in Greenland and Antarctica to assist slow down the disintegration of the planet’s main glaciers. The controversial proposals include underwater walls, artificial islands and huge pumping stations that would channel cold water into the bases of glaciers to stop them from melting and sliding into the sea.
The researchers say the run- costing tens of billions of dollars a hour- is urgently needed to prevent polar glaciers melting and creating sea level. That would lead to major inundations of low-lying, densely populated areas, such as parts of Bangladesh, Japan and the Netherlands.
Flooding in these areas is likely to cost tens of trillions of dollars a year if global warming continues at its present rate, and vast sea-wall defences will need to be built to limit the devastation. Such expenses attain glacier engineering in polar regions a competitive alternative, according to the team, which is led by John Moore, professor of climate change at the University of Lapland.
” We think that geoengineering of glaciers could delay much of Greenland and Antarctica’s grounded ice from reaching the sea for centuries, buying time to address global warming ,” the scientists write in the current issue of Nature .” Geoengineering of glaciers has received little attention in publications. Most people assume that it is unfeasible and environmentally undesirable. We disagree .”
Ideas put forward by the group specifically target the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic because these will contribute more to sea rise this century than any other source, they say. Their proposals include 😛 TAGEND
* Building a 100 -metre high wall on the seabed across a 5km broad fjord at the end of the Jakobshavn glacier in western Greenland. This would reduce influxes of warming sea water which are eroding the glacier’s base ;P TAGEND
* Constructing artificial islands in front of glaciers in Antarctica in order to buttress them and limit their collapse as their ice melts due to global warming ;P TAGEND
* Circulating cooled brine underneath glaciers such as the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica- in order to prevent their bases from melting and sliding towards the sea.
In each case, the team- which includes scientists in Finland and the US- acknowledges that costs would be in the billions. Construction is also likely to cause considerable interruption. For example, constructing a dam across the Jakobshavn fjord could affect ecology, fisheries and tourism, and large numbers of employees would have to be shipped in to complete the project.
Similarly, constructing artificial islands in front of glaciers would entail importing about six cubic kilometres of material, a task that would be vastly difficult in stormy Antarctic waters. And drilling through ice that is kilometres thick to pump down cooled water would also stretch the capabilities of engineers.
However, the team insists that such projects should be carefully assessed now as the likely costs appear to be compatible with those of other major energy and civilian engineering works being planned across the globe. The issue is simple, they country: should we spend vast sums to wall off all the world’s coasts, or can we address the problem at its source?
” Potential risks, especially to local ecosystems, require careful analysis ,” they conclude.” In our view, however, the greatest hazard is doing nothing .”
Scientists find a strong link between high temperatures near the pole and remarkably heavy snowfall and frigid weather farther south.
The sort of severe wintertime weather that has rattled parts of the US and UK is becoming more common as the Arctic warms, with scientists detecting a strong link between high temperatures near the pole and remarkably heavy snowfall and frigid weather farther south.
A sharp increase in temperatures across the Arctic since the early 1990 s has coincided with an uptick in abnormally cold snaps in wintertime, especially in the eastern US, according to new research that analyzed temperature data regarding 1950 onwards.
Extreme cold wintertime weather is up to four times more likely when temperatures in the Arctic are unusually high, such studies saw. Researchers compared daily temperatures from across the Arctic region with something “ve called the” accumulated winter season severity indicator, which grades wintertime weather based on temperature, snow fall and snow depth, across 12 US cities.
” There’s a remarkably strong correlation between a warm Arctic and cold winter climate further south ,” told Judah Cohen, a climatologist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research.” It’s a complex narrative- global warming is contributing to milder temperatures but is also having unforeseen outcomes such as this .”
The Arctic has just experienced its toastiest winter on record, with parts of the region 20 C( 68 F) warmer than the long-term median, a situation scientists have variously described as “crazy,” ” weird ,” and” simply shocking “. The far north latitudes are warming around twice as quickly as the global average, decreasing glaciers and sea ice and imperiling beasts such as polar bears.
Two large wintertime blizzards lately swept the US east coast in less than a week, unloading up to three inches of snow per hour in places, resulting in several deaths, thousands of cancelled flights, closed schools and snarled traffic.
The cold front even reached Florida, contributing to a recent surge in manatee demises. So far this year, 166 of the marine mammals have been found dead off the state’s coast, with stress from the cold the leading cause of mortality.” Manatees may join polar bears as one of the first iconic victims of extinction in the wild from climate change ,” told Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
The US cyclones follow freezing gales from Siberia- dubbed the’ beast from the east‘- that battered parts of Europe, with the British army deployed to help liberate hundreds of stranded drivers on UK motorways.
” This wintertime is a great instance of what we can expect from climate change ,” said Cohen.” In the US we had the’ bomb tornado’ in January, followed by July-like warm weather in February that I’d ever seen before. And now we’ve had a procession of powerful wintertime blizzards and the animal from the east. It’s mind boggling .”
The research didn’t look at the reasons behind the trend of see-sawing temperatures between the Arctic and areas to the south but Cohen said it was consistent with the hypothesi that the polar vortex- which shot to public consciousness during a 2014 cold spell- is being disrupted as the earth heats up.
The polar vortex is a low pressure system that swirls around the polar region. Sometimes it can stray further south, bringing cold Arctic air with it. There is continuing speculation over potential impacts climate change is having but some scientists believe warming temperatures could be weakening the polar vortex’s flowing, allowing it to meander towards the equator.
This nuanced picture of the consequences of climate change has been derided by Donald Trump, with the president use Twitter to mockingly reference cold weather during almost everywinter in recentyears. In December, Trump tweeted that” perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming” amid plunging temperatures.
Scientists say this stance overlooks the complicated changes underway in the environment as the world warms due to human activity, by an average of around 1C over the past century. This temperature rise hasn’t been uniform across the globe and has fueled an array of conditions, from increased deluge risk in some areas to drought conditions and heatwaves in others.
Richard Alley, a resulting glacier and climate expert at Penn State who was not involved in Cohen’s research, said the study is “fascinating” and “important” but added the discrepancy between Arctic temperatures and wintertime weather elsewhere could have other drivers, such as a warm Gulf of Mexico feeding extra energy into cyclones along the US east coast.
” The broadest image is that we are indeed warming the world’s climate, mainly from carbon dioxide emissions release from fossil-fuel burning, and this will impact us and other living things ,” said Alley.
The Arctic’s role is ensure quite differently by some other scientists, however, who point out that occasional outbursts of cold weather haven’t altered the trend that winters in the US northeast have been getting warmer, especially since the 1970 s.
” There have always been cold outbreaks. The cold air has to go somewhere ,” said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
” The questions is whether the air bides put or gets loose. Some years it is contained, other years it breaks out. The question is where and what is the cause. This study reaffirms the relationship but not its cause. The Arctic likely plays a modest role in terms of feedbacks but it is unlikely it is a cause .”