Saturday January 18, 2020

World’s Forests ‘in Emergency Room’, Researchers Warns Planet’s Health at Stake

It was the fourth highest annual decline since records began in 2001, according to new data from Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite imagery and remote sensing to monitor tree cover losses from Brazil to Ghana

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FILE - Downed trees are seen from the air on Tyndall Air Force Base in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael near Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 12, 2018. VOA

The world lost 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tropical tree cover last year, the equivalent of 30 soccer pitches a minute, researchers said Thursday, warning the planet’s health was at stake.

It was the fourth highest annual decline since records began in 2001, according to new data from Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite imagery and remote sensing to monitor tree cover losses from Brazil to Ghana.

“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room,” said Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI), which led the research. “It’s death by a thousand cuts — the health of the planet is at stake and Band-Aid responses are not enough.”

Seymour said the data represented “heartbreaking losses in real places,” with indigenous communities most vulnerable to losing their homes and livelihoods through deforestation.

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“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room,” said Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI), which led the research. Pixabay

Climate implications

The loss of huge swathes of forest around the world also has major implications for climate change as they absorb a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally.

“Forests are our greatest defense against climate change and biodiversity loss, but deforestation is getting worse,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK. “Bold action is needed to tackle this global crisis including restoring lost forests. But unless we stop them being destroyed in the first place, we’re just chasing our tail.”

The study found much of the loss occurred in primary rainforest — mature trees that absorb more carbon and are harder to replace. The rate of destruction in 2018 was lower than in the two previous years. It peaked in 2016 when about 17 million hectares of tropical forest were lost partly because of rampant forest fires, according to the WRI.

The study highlighted new deforestation hotspots, particularly in Africa, where illegal mining, small-scale forest clearing and the expansion of cocoa farms led to an increase in tree loss in countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

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The loss of huge swathes of forest around the world also has major implications for climate change as they absorb a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally. Pixabay

Bright spot: Indonesia

Indonesia was a rare bright spot, with primary forest loss slowing for two years running, after the government imposed a moratorium on forest-clearing.

Indonesia has the world’s third largest total area of tropical forest and is also the biggest producer of palm oil. Environmentalists blame much of the forest destruction on land clearance for oil-palm plantations. We hope that this is a sign that our policies so far are having an effect,” said Belinda Margono, a director at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

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Last year, leading philanthropists pledged a $459 million commitment to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a Global Climate Action Summit in California. But experts said more needed to be done.

“Deforestation causes more climate pollution than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive of Mighty Earth, a global environmental campaign organization. “It’s vital that we protect the forests that we still have.” (VOA)

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Study Says, World’s Oceans Were Warmest in 2019

Humans can work to reverse their effect on the climate, but the ocean will take longer to respond than atmospheric and land environments

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The researchers used a relatively new method of analysis to account for potentially sparse data and time discrepancies in instruments that were previously used to measure warmth in oceans, especially from the ocean surface to 2,000 metres deep. Pixabay

The world’s oceans were the warmest in 2019 than any other time in the recorded human history — especially between the surface and a depth of 2,000 metres, an international team of 14 scientists from 11 institutes has revealed, with a warning that global ocean temperature is not only increasing but speeding up.

The past 10 years were the warmest on record for global ocean temperatures, with the past five years holding the highest record, said the authors in the study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences — with a call to action for humans to reverse climate change.

2019 broke the previous records set in prior years for global warming, and the effects are already appearing in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels and harm to ocean animals.

According to the study, the 2019 ocean temperature is about 0.075 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average. To reach this temperature, the ocean would have taken in 228,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (228 Sextillion) Joules of heat.

“That’s a lot of zeros indeed. To make it easier to understand, I did a calculation. The Hiroshima atom-bomb exploded with an energy of about 63,000,000,000,000 Joules. The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions,” elaborated Lijing Cheng, lead paper author at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

“This measured ocean warming is irrefutable and is further proof of global warming. There are no reasonable alternatives aside from the human emissions of heat trapping gases to explain this heating,” Cheng added.

The researchers used a relatively new method of analysis to account for potentially sparse data and time discrepancies in instruments that were previously used to measure ocean warmth, especially from the ocean surface to 2,000 metres deep.

The newly available data allowed the researchers to examine warmth trends dating back to the 1950s.

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The world’s oceans were the warmest in 2019 than any other time in the recorded human history — especially between the surface and a depth of 2,000 metres, an international team of 14 scientists from 11 institutes has revealed, with a warning that global ocean temperature is not only increasing but speeding up. Pixabay

They found that over the past six decades, the more recent warming was over 450 per cent that of the earlier warming, reflecting a major increase in the rate of global climate change.

“It is critical to understand how fast things are changing,” said John Abraham, co-author and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas in the US.

“The key to answering this question is in the oceans — that’s where the vast majority of heat ends up. If you want to understand global warming, you have to measure ocean warming.”

Humans can work to reverse their effect on the climate, but the ocean will take longer to respond than atmospheric and land environments.

Since 1970, more than 90 per cent of global warming heat went into the ocean, while less than 4 per cent of the heat warmed the atmosphere and land where humans live.

“Even with that small fraction affecting the atmosphere and land, the global heating has led to an increase in catastrophic fires in the Amazon, California and Australia in 2019, and we’re seeing that continue into 2020,” Cheng said.

The global ocean warming has caused marine heat waves in Tasman Sea and other regions.

One such marine heat wave in the North Pacific, dubbed “the blob,” was first detected in 2013 and continued through 2015.

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2019 broke the previous records set in prior years for global warming, and the effects are already appearing in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels and harm to animals in Oceans. Pixabay

Kevin Trenberth, co-author and distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, said that a hot spot in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017 spawned Hurricane Harvey, which led to 82 deaths and caused about $108 billion in damages.

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“The price we pay is the reduction of ocean-dissolved oxygen, the harmed marine lives, strengthening storms and reduced fisheries and ocean-related economies,” Cheng said. (IANS)