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Sea Change:
The Ecological Disaster That Nobody Sees

Jack and Jude have been witnessing this ecological disaster increase rapidly during our lifetime afloat upon the world’s oceans. Now experts warn that we are currently facing an extinction event in the oceans which may rival the “Great Death” of the Permian age 250 million years ago, when 95 percent of marine species died out due to a combination of warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat – all conditions that are rife today.

Within the past half century the oceans have been transformed from the planet’s most productive bioregion into arguably its most abused and critically endangered. That is the conclusion of a report issued earlier this summer by the Global Ocean Commission, a private think tank consisting of marine scientists, diplomats and business people, which makes policy recommendations to governments.

The report catalogues a grim laundry list of environmental ills. Commercial fish stocks worldwide are being overexploited and are close to collapse; coral reefs are dying due to ocean acidification – and may be gone by midcentury; vast dead zones are proliferating in the Baltic and the Gulf of Mexico caused by an influx of nitrogen and phosphorous from petroleum-based fertilizers; non-biodegradable plastic trash – everything from tiny micro-plastic beads to plastic bags and discarded fishing gear – is choking many coastal nurseries where fish spawn; and increased oil and gas drilling in deep waters is spewing pollution and posing the risk of catastrophic spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster which dumped an estimated 4.2 million barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico during a five-month period in 2010.

Yet these worrying trends have failed to spark public indignation. It may be a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.” [More]

 

New Population Projections Shatter Earlier Estimates 11 Billion by 2100

New UN population estimate

New UN population estimate

In a paper published Thursday in Science, demographers from several universities and the United Nations Population Division conclude that instead of leveling off in the second half of the 21st century, as the UN predicted less than a decade ago, the world’s population will continue to grow beyond 2100.

Jack and Jude say that this is by far the most disturbing report in all of the news. Our population generates all the wastes presently endangering Earth, it accounts for the immense decline in species, and our burgeoning need for resources is stripping the wild kingdom, replacing it with highways and larger cities. Tackling our population explosion is by far our greatest challenge ever.

Counting the Costs of Climate Change

SIX KEY FINDINGS

  1. Sea level has already risen and continues to rise due to climate change. Climate change exacerbates coastal flooding from a storm surge as the storm rides on higher sea levels.
  2. Australia is highly vulnerable to increasing coastal flooding because our cities, towns and critical infrastructure are mainly located on the coast. Australia’s infrastructure has been built for the climate of the 20th century and is unprepared for rising sea level.
  3. Coastal flooding is a sleeping giant. If the threat of sea level rise is ignored, the projected increases in economic damage caused by coastal flooding are massive.
  4. Rising sea levels pose risks for many of Australia’s species and iconic natural places, such as Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.
  5. Rising sea level is eroding the viability of coastal communities on islands in the Torres Strait and the Pacific, and in low-lying areas of Asia, increasing the likelihood of migration and resettlement.
  6. We need deep and urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this decade and beyond if we are to avoid the most serious risks from rising sea levels and coastal flooding.

Tuna Stocks on Brink of Disaster
states head of fishery management

Blue Fin Tuna off Australia

At Risk – Bluefin swim off Australia – Photo Kerstin Fritsches AAP

Professor Glenn Hurry said bluefin and bigeye tuna should no longer be harvested as stocks were dangerously depleted. He also warned “serious action” needed to be taken to reduce the yellowfin tuna catch.

Jack and Jude have fished the oceans of the world since 1974 and know first hand that our fish stocks have been severely depleted. “Quite simply there are too many mouths to feed,” says Jack. “Today we are far too advanced in technology for the fish to hid from our factory ships.”  Professor Hurry has warned an international agreement is urgently needed to avert disaster for the tuna industry.

“Yellowfin tuna’s down to about 38 per cent of its original spawning biomass,” said Professor Hurry. “Bigeye tuna’s down now to about 16 per cent…. in a well-managed fishery you’d actually stop fishing on that and begin to rebuild the stocks.”

Even More Dire

Professor Hurry said the situation for bluefin tuna was even more dire with the Pacific population at “3 or 4 per cent of its original spawning biomass.”

Human need, helped by human greed and the fact that we are not a cohesive unit with sensible regulations in place is decimating the wild kingdom is what Jack and Jude think. You can help. Talk to your children and explain why we are out of control for it is their future that is in jeopardy.

Algae Blooms Driven by Climate Change

A massive algae bloom in 2011 turned Lake Erie into pea soup. PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER ESSICK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that provoked last weekend’s tap water ban in Toledo, Ohio—where nearly half a million people were told not to use water for drinking, cooking, or bathing—is a preview of similar problems to come around the world, scientists say, thanks in part to climate change.

Northwest Ohio’s water ban was lifted Monday morning, but experts say harmful algal blooms that can turn tap water toxic and kill wildlife are becoming more common in coastal oceans and in freshwater across the United States and around the globe.

A toxic algae bloom killed record numbers of manatees in Florida early last year. Another bloom put a record number of marine mammals into California rehabilitation centers earlier this year. (See“Record Number of Seals and Sea Lions Rescued in California.”) They can also result in massive fish kills.

Beijing to ban coal use to curb pollution

Beijing will ban coal use in its six main districts by the end of 2020, state media cited the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau as saying, as the Chinese capital steps up efforts to combat air pollution.

Beijing and the surrounding area in China’s northeast is often wreathed in noxious smog, which has been cited as a factor in high rates of lung cancer.

Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan districts will all stop using coal and coal products and shut down coal-fired power plants and other coal facilities, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

In 2012, coal made up one-quarter of the city’s total energy consumption, Xinhua quoted official statistics as saying.

Fuel oil, petroleum coke, combustible waste and some biomass fuels will also be prohibited as part of the effort to fight pollution, Xinhua said.

Stories that deserve more media coverage in the USA

According to Christian Christensen,

Professor of Journalism, Stockholm University, Sweden.

  • Iraq: Since 2008, over 37,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq. That’s just over twelve 9/11 attacks, or the equivalent of 370,000 civilians dying in the US (Iraq’s population is 10 times smaller of that of the US).
  • Global warming/climate change: The US remains the home of more political climate change sceptics than any other country in the so-called “developed world”
  • Guantanamo: Many inmates, in violation of the US Constitution, remain incarcerated without charge, denied of their basic right of habeas corpus.
  • Military spending: In 2011, of the 14 leading countries in the world when it came to spending on national defense, the US was, of course, first with an offensive $711bn budget. Even more offensive, te fact that the 13 countries underneath the US spent $695bn on national defense…combined. And, this US budget did not include the estimated $6tn (that’s $6,000,000,000,000) the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will likely wind up costing the US taxpayers.

ScienceShot: Fire Is Blackening ‘Earth’s Lungs’

6 February 2014 3:00 pm

The vast expanses of rainforest that make up the Amazon Basin have been called the lungs of the planet, as they breathe in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Now, findings from biweekly airplane flights over the jungle show how a severe drought choked these lungs, constricting the uptake of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Worse, fires released tremendous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming.

ScienceShot: Fire Is Blackening ‘Earth’s Lungs’


Galilee Basin Coal

(UPDATED 03 FEBRUARY)

Not just one of the greatest ever environmental threats to Australia,

Its climate implications are global.

Advanced plans are in place to build nine mega mines in one region of Queensland, Australia. Located in the Galilee Basin, five of these projects would each be larger than any coal mine currently operating in the country. The Galilee Basin coal mines will produce more coal than Australia currently exports, equating to 700 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year. This is greater than the total emissions from the United Kingdom.

A very good report to read:

Cooking the Climate – Wrecking the Reef

by GreenPeace

Abbot Point Coal Port Approval -

A Death Sentence for Great Barrier Reef

Abbot Point coal port approval signals the Coalition government’s industrialization of one of the most beautiful and fragile ecosystems on Earth. A combination of four terminals will ship an additional 190 million tonnes of coal every year for decades to come. It means continuously loading coal onto 1500 ships inside the Great Barrier Reef every year. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has given the project approval to dump 3 million tonnes of dredging waste in the ocean. That’s equivalent to 150,000 dump trucks, lined up bumper to bumper from Brisbane to Melbourne, tipping waste into the ocean.

“Mining activities presented a greater threat to the reef than agriculture,”

says Research scientist Jon Brodie from the James Cook University.

”Farmers are going to be asked to save the reef when port authorities and climate change managers are doing nothing,” he said. ”It puts it all back on farmers.” Agricultural activity within the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, such as beef grazing and farming releases sediment, chemical and fertiliser run-off. This is discharged from rivers into the sea. However, Mr Brodie said the damage from the expansion of ports, including dredging sediments contaminated with heavy metals, could prove a greater threat to the health of the reef because – unlike run-off from agriculture – port development was occurring without any transparent and productive management of the risks. The area off Abbot Point, where 3-million cubic metres of seabed will be dredged and dumped as part of the expansion, is near marine habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass meadows that provide shelter and food for fish, turtles and dugongs. Cloudy water reduces the reach of sunlight that corals and seagrasses need for growth.

More Coal Ports Proposed

Coal export terminals are proposed from Gladstone to Cape York. In addition to Abbot Point, expansion of an existing coal terminals is under way at Hay Point and Brisbane Coal Terminal while new coal terminals are proposed at Cape York, Wiggins Island and Balaclava Island. Total coal tonnage is proposed to increase more than six-fold by the end of this decade.

“The Abbott Government has sacrificed the climate and the Great Barrier Reef for overseas mining companies with its approval today of the world’s largest coal port and another CSG plant in our Great Barrier Reef,” said Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

UPDATE 03 FEBRUARY

Great Barrier Reef to Become Sludge Repository

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—The Australian agency tasked with managing the Great Barrier Reef has authorized what amounts to an experiment opposed by many scientists: how the iconic ecosystem will respond to mountains of sludge dumped into the waters between the reef and the Australian mainland. On Friday, the federal Marine Park Authority paved the way for development of one of the world’s largest coal ports by approving the dumping of up to 3 million cubic meters of dredge spoils inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site.


China Chips Away at One-Child Policy

Greater demand for energy, resources, more pollution predicted.

BEIJING—China’s relaxation of its one-child policy, announced last week, is unlikely to spark a baby boom. But it may be a steppingstone to a bigger change that influences when the nation’s population peaks—a milestone with major ramifications for food security. Writes Yadan Ouyang of The Economist from Beijing. The government announced on 15 November that it will allow Chinese couples to have two children if one spouse is an only child. Exceptions to the one-child rule already exist for ethnic minorities, rural families without boys, and couples in which both parents are only children. But Chinese demographers have long called for wider changes, arguing that the decades-old policy has contributed to a series of social problems, such as the country’s aging population, gender imbalance, and labor shortages. Official statistics show that China’s fertility rate has dropped from 2.86 in 1982 to about 1.5 to 1.6 births per woman now. The new policy could affect millions of lives, but demographers and policymakers believe it won’t have a significant impact on China’s current demographic reality. The policy will allow up to 12 million women of reproductive age in China to have a second child, according to estimates by Wang Guangzhou, a demographer at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In a study published in the Chinese journal Sociological Studies in September 2012, Wang and his colleagues estimate that the new policy, if carried out nationwide in 2015, could lead to 1 million to 2 million additional births a year, on top of the 15 million births a year at present. The team also forecast that under the change, China’s total population would peak at 1.4 billion by 2029 and decline to 1.3 billion by 2050.


First Detailed Map of Global Forest Change

Between 2000 and 2012 Loss of 2.3 million square kilometers of established forest (888,000 sq. miles) Vs Gain of 800,000 square kilometers of new forest (309,000 sq. miles) .

map-global-forest-change-final_73495_600x450Nov. 14, 2013 — A University of Maryland-led, multi-organizational team has created the first high-resolution global map of forest extent, loss and gain. This resource greatly improves the ability to understand human and naturally-induced forest changes and the local to global implications of these changes on environmental, economic and other natural and societal systems, members of the team say.

In a new study, the team of 15 university, Google and government researchers reports a global loss of 2.3 million square kilometers (888,000 square miles) of forest between 2000 and 2012 and a gain of 800,000 square kilometers (309,000 square miles) of new forest. Their study, published online on November 14 in the journal Science, documents the new database, including a number of key findings on global forest change. For example, the tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2,101 square kilometers (811 square miles) per year. Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation during the last decade was more than offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola and elsewhere. Full Report Here

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Comments

Earth Now — 4 Comments

  1. Hey Jack and Jude,
    Great site!
    Why is it mostly people living on a boat/loving sailing that really see the problems of the world/environment/sea? In 1976 I stated in an assessment for my new job that the biggest problem was the growth of the population. 36 years later unfortunately I am still right.
    I only can hope that more and more people will see this and start thinking the other way.

  2. Thank you Pieter. One answer lies in the fact that sailors live surrounded by Nature and notice subtle changes. We use, and are affected by, Nature’s forces. Most of the first world live behind doors and look out windows as if the world was a painting. Alas, the trend in the youth is too isolated themselves further through headphones and devices. Let’s bring Nature’s wonder and adventure back into our lives.

  3. I know that we have all these problems but i mean yes we do think of stuff on how to prevent all this but why do people dont do anything to prevent it i mean only some do …. I’ve been going around peoples houses and some people dont care about whats going

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