Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change is forcing conservationists to be more ambitious thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change is forcing conservationists to be more ambitious

Hexbyte Glen Cove

As climate change brings record droughts and floods, extended fire seasons continue to make headlines, and the role of humans in this terrible situation is now undisputed, institutional change has been slow and unsteady. In particular, conservationists have been wary of pointing to climate change as the biggest threat to biodiversity, given the many other threats that exist.

But the situation may now be changing. In the last 18 months, the IUCN Red List—which lists species’ extinction risk status—recorded a 52% increase in species listed as being threatened by climate change. Conservationists are being forced to consider whether their conventional approach of maintaining, not changing ecosystems, needs to be adapted to a changing world.

You may have heard of situations where threatened species are released back into areas they used to occupy in the wild. Examples include the restoration of rhinos in Africa and wolves in North America.

However, in our research, my colleagues and I showed that many failed reintroductions are taking place in regions where the climate isn’t suitable for the species being released.

This undermines attempts to protect species in their former habitats and is a warning that climate change is already restricting the habitat of threatened species.

In some cases, new habitats become available as the change in climate conditions allows species to survive in areas that were previously too cool. But unless they can populate these new habitats—an adjustment which is tricky for most—many threatened species will experience a reduction in their current range.

“Conservation translocation”, also known as assisted migration, assisted colonization and managed relocation, describes interventions that could be used to tackle climate change-driven species declines and extinctions.

Instead of leaving species to suffer in hotter and drier environments, we can try to expand their range by moving them to new habitats. This overcomes situations where species can’t move by themselves, such as plants whose seeds disperse only a few meters at a time, or birds who won’t leave the safety of their woodland home to seek new territory.

However, this approach remains controversial due to the perceived risks of moving species to ecosystems they’ve never experienced before. Risks include spreading diseases into new habitats, aggressive competition with resident species for prey or space, and the introduction of new predators.

An example of this last problem is that of the Tasmanian devils moved to Maria Island off the coast of Tasmania, to protect against a contagious cancer ripping through their population.

These predators found an easy supply of prey in the form of short-tailed shearwaters (also known as moonbirds) and little penguins, themselves species of concern. Both bird species have now been eradicated from Maria Island.

But translocations are a conservation option that we can’t just dismiss. A new paper on assisted migration from a team of international researchers calls for the risks of translocation to be balanced against the risks of doing nothing at all. Given the immediacy of the climate crisis, it is now the path of least risk that we must take.

The complex relationships between species are easily disrupted by new predators. Credit: Wikimedia, CC BY

Early days

There are only a handful of attempted assisted migrations undertaken specifically to reduce the negative effects of a warming world.

A good example is the western swamp turtle: Australia’s rarest reptile, thought to be extinct for a century but recently discovered near Perth. The turtle feeds in ephemeral pools that appear after seasonal rains, but droughts are shortening their feeding window by several weeks: with consequences for the species’ reproductive success.

For the western swamp turtle, translocations to cooler, wetter sites to the south of their current range offer the right type of habitat and enough food to survive ongoing droughts. These appear to be the safest long-term place for the turtles to thrive, and trial translocations are already reporting good results.

Time to act?

Plants are in a similar predicament. In a recent collection of papers in the Journal of Ecology, a group of Italian researchers estimated under pessimistic (but highly probable) scenarios that 90% of 188 threatened plant species may need assisted migration to cope with habitat loss.

A historical marker in Torreya State Park explains the history of the Torreya tree. Credit: Wikimedia, CC BY

But while researchers are using computer models to predict the future needs of threatened species, one group has decided that the time to act is now. The Florida torreya, the most endangered coniferous tree in the US, has been moved north by a group of citizens known as the Torreya Guardians. They exploited a loophole in US law that allows plant translocations on private land by the public but prevents federal conservation authorities from doing the same thing.

The species’ is extremely restricted but was much more widespread before the last global ice age. The Torreya Guardians argue that the specimens of Florida torreya growing across the US provide evidence that the can thrive beyond its current restrictions.

With new temperature records being set all the time—and melting ice, sea-level rise and historic droughts affecting the whole planet—it’s only a matter of time before -induced extinctions become a regular feature in the headlines.

It’s time for calls for better global policy on assisted migration to be heeded. We need guidance so that we, as a global community of concerned citizens and conservation scientists alike, can act decisively to protect the survival of .

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate change is forcing conservationists to be more ambitious (2021, July 19)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change to bring more intense storms across Europe thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change to bring more intense storms across Europe

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Climate change is driving a large increase in intense, slow-moving storms, a new study by Newcastle University and the Met Office has found.

Investigating how affects intense rainstorms across Europe, climate experts have shown there will be a significant future increase in the occurrence of slow-moving intense rainstorms. The scientists estimate that these slow-moving storms may be 14 times more frequent across land by the end of the century. It is these slow-moving storms that have the potential for very high precipitation accumulations, with devastating impacts, as we saw in Germany and Belgium.

Led by Dr. Abdullah Kahraman, of Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, the researchers used very detailed climate model simulations at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre. They found that slower storm movement acts to increase the amount of rainfall that accumulates locally, increasing the risk of flash floods across Europe beyond what has been expected based on previous studies.

Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the study results show that storms producing intense rain may move slower with climate change, increasing the duration of exposure to these extremes.

Dr. Abdullah Kahraman, who is also a visiting scientist at the Met Office, said: “With recent advances in supercomputer power, we now have pan-European climate simulations resolving the atmosphere in high detail as short-range weather forecasting models do. These models have grid spacing of approximately 2 km, which allows them to simulate systems much better, resulting in better representation of extremes.

“Using these state-of-the-art climate simulations, we have developed metrics to extract potential cases for , and a smaller, almost-stationary subset of these cases with the potential for high rainfall accumulations. These metrics provide a holistic view of the problem, and help us understand which factors of the atmosphere contribute to heavy rainfall changes.

“This is one of the first studies to explore changes in the speed of such heavy rainfall systems—an important aspect contributing to flood risk. Currently, we are also investigating other extreme weather types by examining the climate simulations data with a severe weather forecaster’s perspective.”

Professor Hayley Fowler, of Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, added: “Governments across the world have been too slow in reducing and global warming continues apace. This study suggests that changes to extreme storms will be significant and cause an increase in the frequency of devastating flooding across Europe. This, alongside the current floods in Europe, is the wake-up call we need to produce improved emergency warning and management systems, as well as implementing climate change safety factors into our infrastructure designs to make them more robust to these severe weather events.”

Professor Lizzie Kendon, Science Fellow at the Met Office and Professor at Bristol University, said: “This study shows that in addition to the intensification of rainfall with global warming, we can also expect a big increase in slow-moving storms which have the potential for high rainfall accumulations. This is very relevant to the recent flooding seen in Germany and Belgium, which highlights the devastating impacts of slow-moving storms.

“Our finding that slow-moving intense rainstorms could be 14 times more frequent by the end of the century under the high emissions RCP8.5 scenario, shows the serious impacts that we may expect across Europe if we do not curb our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The study findings are relevant to climate mitigation and adaptation policy in Europe, with specific implications for future flooding impacts, the design of infrastructure systems, and the management of water resources.

Currently, almost stationary intense rainstorms are uncommon in Europe and happen rarely over parts of the Mediterranean Sea. Accurate predictions of future changes in intense events are key to putting effective adaptation and mitigation plans in place to limit the adverse impacts of .

More information:
Abdullah Kahraman et al, Quasi‐Stationary Intense Rainstorms Spread Across Europe Under Climate Change, Geophysical Research Letters (2021). DOI: 10.1029/2020gl092361


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Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change is a threat to Africa's transport systems: What must be done thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change is a threat to Africa’s transport systems: What must be done

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Railway bridge over the river on the border with Tanzania. Credit: vladimirat/Shutterstock

Transportation infrastructure, such as roads and railway systems, is one of the sectors most threatened by climate change. Extreme weather events—such as flooding, sea level rises and storm surges—repeatedly wreak havoc on transport networks.

In Africa, extreme weather is a threat that can cause extensive structural damage. It can also accelerate the aging of infrastructure components. This can lead to considerable financial losses.

For instance, a recent report on Tanzania uncovered the vulnerability of the country’s transportation systems. Long stretches of road and rail networks are exposed to extreme flooding events, with growing exposure in the future.

The report estimated that worst-case disruptions to Tanzania’s multi-modal could cause losses of up to US$1.4 million per day. In addition, damage to these networks can disrupt the flow of goods and people, thereby lowering economic productivity.

This suggests that governments must ensure that transport infrastructure is developed with the ability to cope with current and future climatic shifts.

Fortunately an effective way to “-proof” transport infrastructure already exists within the planning machinery of governments. In our recent work, which investigated the Standard Gauge Rail in Tanzania, we show how and adaptation capabilities can be incorporated in environmental impact procedures.

Environmental impact assessment is a widespread environmental safeguard. It’s used by governments, donors and lending agencies when approving new development projects or major expansions to existing ones. The process can be used to identify climate risks and ensure that they are minimized through environmentally sound project design.

Transport infrastructure is vital to developing countries because efficient and reliable transport networks are critical for local and international trade. We hope that, with a changing climate, our findings offer useful lessons for policymakers, planners and developers.

Checking for risks

Environmental impact assessment is the essential process of identifying, predicting and evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed development action, both positive and negative. These are risks to the project, and risks to the natural environment from the project.

The assessment is meant to happen before major decisions are taken and commitments made. Developers, both private and public, often commission registered environmental experts to carry out the study.

Virtually every country has some form of legislation that requires an environmental impact assessment. These are carried out on certain development projects, particularly those likely to have significant effects on the environment. This often includes major transport infrastructure.

The study culminates in a set of observations and recommendations, which regulators and developers are meant to take on board. Legislation usually provides for followups on whether they were. In countries with strong institutional frameworks, violators often face fines, suspension of operations or even jail time.

Because the assessment has to be carried out for major projects, it offers an efficient and direct way to include adaptation measures.

Tanzania’s railway

This is what happened for Tanzania’s Standard Gauge Railway.

The railway, a US$14.2 billion investment by the Tanzanian government, is currently under construction. It’s part of the “central corridor” connecting Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It will also provide access to the Indian ocean. The government contracted a Turkish firm, Yapi Merkezi, to design and build the project’s first phase, traversing about 541km. Work started in 2017.

Because it is vulnerable to climate change—there are particular concerns over heavy floods and landslides—the environmental impact assessment has tried to prepare the project for potential climate risks.

The assessment was conducted by a multidisciplinary team under an international consulting firm, Environmental Resources Management. They carried out climate projections along the proposed route and outlined adaptation measures for the projected risks.

Recommendations included using heat-resistant asphalt, installing flood defence walls and using reinforced steel. They also proposed a monitoring plan which outlined key monitoring aspects, indicators, responsible parties and timing.

Climate change issues are not explicitly prescribed by Tanzanian environmental impact assessment law and regulations. The drive to carry out the assessment was a result of pressure from climate-sensitive international lenders. It remains to be seen if the recommendations are implemented throughout construction and following project phases.

Our study demonstrates the huge potential of environmental impact assessments to foster adaptation in transport projects. It makes sense. Most African countries lack the necessary resources to invest in stand-alone adaptation projects.

Roadblocks to remove

Even though integrating climate change adaptation into an is a simple step, it’s not being done.

This is due to several challenges including a lack of knowledge, awareness, technical and financial resources, and legislative support. Tanzania’s laws and regulations, for instance, do not specifically mandate the practice.

Moreover, developers seldom go beyond what the law requires. Because of factors such as costs or time constraints, they would naturally view such requirements as unwelcome. Additional project approval processes could lead to delays and increased costs for the developer.

Climate-proofing projects

To ensure projects are “climate-proofed” in future, several steps must be taken.

First, laws and regulations must be formalized so that climate change is included in the assessment process. These must be supported by technical guidelines and strategic planning.

Second, there’s a need to make substantial investments in building capacity and raising awareness at the institutional level. In addition, climate data must be available and communication between climate scientists and assessment practitioners should be strengthened.

Finally, our paper calls for adaptation aid providers, development partners and international lenders—such as the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and the IMF—to leverage their influence, for instance through funding procedures. This would add pressure to include climate change scenarios in the planning process.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate change is a threat to Africa’s transport systems: What must be done (2021, June 11)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic, war, climate change fuel food fears thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Pandemic, war, climate change fuel food fears

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Distribution of the number of people in the world in “crisis” (phase 3 on the international food security scale) or “worse” (phases 4 and 5)

The economic cost of the global pandemic as well as conflict and climate change are fueling food security fears that in 2020 reached their highest level in five years, according to a report published Wednesday.

Last year, 155 million people in 55 countries faced acute shortages—20 million more than in 2019, according to a report by the EU, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme, which see the problem as getting steadily worse.

“We must act together to prevent an additional deterioration of the situation,” FAO director general Qu Dongyu told a video-conference, describing the New Global Report on Food Crises as a call to “urgent humanitarian action”.

He added in a tweet: “We must address the root causes and make agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.”

Last year saw the Global Network Against Food Crises, which groups together the three international organisations, identify 28 million people in 28 countries as suffering emergency levels of acute hunger with DR Congo, Yemen and Afghanistan worst affected.

A further 133,000 people were judged to be living in the most severe, “catastrophic” phase of food insecurity in Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen.

Africa remains the continent worst hit by food shortages with 98 million people affected, or 63 percent of global cases—up from 54 percent in 2019.

“For 100 million people confronted by acute food crisis in 2020, the main cause was linked to conflicts and insecurity,” compared with 77 million in 2019, Dominique Burgeon, FAO emergencies director, told AFP.

Economic crisis was the prime reason for hunger for 40 million, compared with 24 million in 2019.

Burgeon said that “the pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities,” singling out Sudan, Zimbabwe and Haiti—the latter also hit by climate issues affecting the food security of some 15 million people.

With COVID restrictions still in place across much of the world, Burgeon said the coming year would be very difficult, exacerbating food security in already fragile economies.

He estimated at 142 million the number of people who would be affected in 40 of the worst-hit countries.

And with the on its way to hitting 8.5 billion by 2030, the report concluded that COVID-19 had underlined the need to make food distribution more equitable as the number of mouths to feed grows.

© 2021 AFP

Pandemic, war, climate change fuel food fears (2021, May 6)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove A climate in crisis calls for investment in direct air capture, news research finds thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove A climate in crisis calls for investment in direct air capture, news research finds

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

There is a growing consensus among scientists as well as national and local governments representing hundreds of millions of people, that humanity faces a climate crisis that demands a crisis response. New research from the University of California San Diego explores one possible mode of response: a massively funded program to deploy direct air capture (DAC) systems that remove CO2 directly from the ambient air and sequester it safely underground.

The findings reveal such a program could reverse the rise in well before 2100, but only with immediate and sustained investments from governments and firms to scale up the new technology.

Despite the enormous undertaking explored in the study, the research also reveals the need for governments, at the same time, to adopt policies that would achieve deep cuts in CO2 emissions. The scale of the effort needed just to achieve the Paris Agreement goals of holding average global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius is massive.

The study, published in Nature Communications, assesses how crisis-level government funding on direct air capture—on par with government spending on wars or pandemics—would lead to deployment of a fleet of DAC plants that would collectively remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

“DAC is substantially more expensive than many conventional mitigation measures, but costs could fall as firms gain experience with the technology,” said first-author Ryan Hanna, assistant research scientist at UC San Diego. “If that happens, politicians could turn to the technology in response to if conventional mitigation proves politically or economically difficult.”

Co-author David G. Victor, professor of industrial innovation at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, added that atmospheric CO2 concentrations are such that meeting climate goals requires not just preventing new emissions through extensive decarbonization of the energy system, but also finding ways to remove historical emissions already in the atmosphere.

“Current pledges to cut global emissions put us on track for about 3 degrees C of warming,” Victor said. “This reality calls for research and action around the politics of emergency response. In times of crisis, such as war or pandemics, many barriers to policy expenditure and implementation are eclipsed by the need to mobilize aggressively.”

Emergency deployment of direct air capture

The study calculates the funding, net CO2 removal, and climate impacts of a large and sustained program to deploy direct air capture technology.

The authors find that if an emergency direct air capture program were to commence in 2025 and receive investment of 1.2-1.9% of global GDP annually it would remove 2.2-2.3 gigatons of CO2 by the year 2050 and 13-20 gigatons of CO2 by 2075. Cumulatively, the program would remove 570-840 gigatons of CO2 from 2025-2100, which falls within the range of CO2 removals that IPCC scenarios suggest will be needed to meet Paris targets.

Even with such a massive program, the globe would see temperature rise of 2.4-2.5ºC in the year 2100 without further cuts in global emissions below current trajectories.

Exploring the reality of a fleet of CO2 scrubbers in the sky

According to the authors, DAC has attributes that could prove attractive to policymakers if political pressures continue to mount to act on , yet cutting emissions remains insurmountable.

“Policymakers might see value in the installation of a fleet of CO2 scrubbers: deployments would be highly controllable by the governments and firms that invest in them, their carbon removals are verifiable, and they do not threaten the economic competitiveness of existing industries,” said Hanna.

From the Civil War to Operation Warp Speed, the authors estimate the financial resources that might be available for emergency deployment of direct air capture—in excess of one trillion dollars per year—based on previous spending the U.S. has made in times of crisis.

The authors then built a bottom-up deployment model that constructs, operates and retires successive vintages of DAC scrubbers, given available funds and the rates at which direct air capture technologies might improve with time. They link the technological and economic modeling to climate models that calculate the effects of these deployments on atmospheric CO2 concentration level and global mean surface temperature.

With massive financial resources committed to DAC, the study finds that the ability of the DAC industry to scale up is the main factor limiting CO2 removal from the atmosphere. The authors point to the ongoing pandemic as an analog: even though the FDA has authorized use of coronavirus vaccines, there is still a huge logistical challenge to scaling up production, transporting, and distributing the new therapies quickly and efficiently to vast segments of the public.

Conventional mitigation is still needed, even with wartime spending combating climate change

“Crisis deployment of direct air capture, even at the extreme of what is technically feasible, is not a substitute for conventional mitigation,” the authors write.

Nevertheless, they note that the long-term vision for combating climate requires taking negative emissions seriously.

“For policymakers, one implication of this finding is the high value of near-term direct air capture deployments—even if societies today are not yet treating climate change as a crisis—because near term deployments enhance future scalability,” they write. “Rather than avoiding direct air capture deployments because of high near-term costs, the right policy approach is the opposite.”

Additionally, they note that such a large program would grow a new economic sector, producing a substantial number of new jobs.

The authors conclude it is time to extend research on systems to real-world conditions and constraints that accompany deployment—especially in the context of acute political pressures that will arise as climate change becomes viewed as a crisis.

More information:
Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20437-0

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