Whether we consider wild weather, unprecedented Arctic melting and global temperatures, or the Great Barrier Reef, the global environment is generating alarming news. Predictions of multi-metre sea level rises, the collapse of marine biodiversity and food chains, and global warming far beyond 2? are equally concerning. Is our system of global environmental law and governance adequate to this crisis?
Written by –
Anthony Burke, Associate Professor of International & Political Studies, UNSW Australia
And Stefanie Fishel, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama
Our short answer is “no”, but what should be done? We believe new international institutions and laws are needed, with one fundamental purpose: to give a voice to ecosystems and non-human forms of life.
We say this knowing that the current global system is inadequate to respond to many human crises, but with the conviction that environmental justice often overlaps with social justice.
It is tempting to believe that we can muddle through with the existing system, centred on the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity. But these are not integrated with each other, and are also kept separate from global economic and trade institutions like the World Trade Organisation, the G20 and the World Bank, and from global security institutions like the UN Security Council. The latter has never passed a resolution about the environment, despite growing warnings from military strategists of the potential for climate-catalysed conflict. [MORE]
Nero Fiddles while Rome Burns
Paris climate agreement comes into force
So far, 73 countries accounting for 56 per cent of emissions have ratified the agreement. This includes the world’s two largest emitters: China and the US. The agreement, reached last December, required ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global emissions to become operational. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol had identical entry-into-force conditions. Yet it took eight years for the protocol to move from adoption to entry into force.
Sounds Good – But it is not what it seems.
The more realistic explanation for the ratification landslide is less inspiring. The Paris Agreement is so weak in terms of legal obligations that countries have little reason not to ratify it. The legal obligations of the Paris Agreement are sparse and procedural. Countries are bound to submit increasingly stringent pledges every five years. Yet they are not obliged to achieve them.
What about Australia?
Australia has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement, but will likely do so. Then what?
Currently, Australia has made an intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. If Australia joins the Paris Agreement this would likely become our first pledge under the deal.
But existing modelling suggests we will significantly miss this target. In fact we will INCREASE our levels.
Climate Action Tracker estimates that Australia is instead on track to increase emissions above 27 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 (this equates to 61 per cent above 1990 levels).
They note: “Australia stands out as having the largest relative gap between current policy projections for 2030 and the INDC target.”
Grassroots Action Required
Ain’t it great that Australian politicians fiddle with your children’s future while wild storms and extreme weather destroy our homes and infrastructure. When will we have leaders with the courage and foresight to change the archaic mindset imprisoning our politicians. It will take a groundswell call for action by the people. Our elected representatives will not legislate restrictions that would see them jeopardize their grip on power.
Use social media – speak loud, speak often or the future will be far more destructive to Earth and life.
Shouting the HEADLINES –
10% WILDERNESS GONE IN TWO DECADES
Will not change a thing – how long will our remaining forests last? And what about the loss of creatures?
To change requires almost impossible passion and love for Earth with ways that manage human needs and greed, Alternatively we need a dream. A really good one to unite us. A dream of a place our children’s children could be. And a miracle.
Personally I was rather smitten by the creatures of the Galapagos being so friendly. Sharing life with them gave me a a vision of how Earth could be. A dream of Earth life with intimate and meaningful contact with the other creatures. Where the goal of life was not to acquire material and wealth, but to co-habitat on Earth in a sustainable way that fosters greater knowledge of life.
PHOTO: Wilderness is considered to be an area free from significant human disturbance such as urbanisation and agriculture.(Supplied: Liana Joseph)
Planet Earth has lost one tenth of its area of wilderness since 1993, equivalent to half of Australia in size, according to a new study.
- 3.3 million square kilometres of wilderness has been lost since 1993
- Wilderness supplies fresh water, food, medicine and reduces extreme weather
- A global agreement on protection of wilderness is required, researchers say
The loss, mainly in the Amazon and Central Africa, highlights the need for global agreements to protect remaining areas unaffected by human activities, researchers said.
“An area half the size of Australia has disappeared in just two decades. That’s a catastrophic loss of wilderness,” said Associate Professor James Watson, an ecologist from the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Food, medicines, fibre and water all come from the intact system and when you degrade it there’s plenty of evidence to show that you don’t get those ecosystem services.”
Dr Watson said wilderness areas support species with a high degree of genetic variation, helping them to be resilient to environmental change.
“They have the ability to buffer and adapt to change.”
Wilderness also helps regulate local climate — reducing extreme climatic events, he said.
He said there was no evidence that lost wilderness areas could be restored to their previous state.
“Once you lose them, you lose them … and that’s a tragedy because humans are putting their fingerprints everywhere and we’re losing that reference point for nature.”
St Matthews Island – Kind of a cute cartoon, if it wasn’t happening to us.
Going, going, g o n e…FOREVER
Jack and Jude are sure we’re destined to live in a world with only cats and dogs, and maybe parrots and budges too, but the other creatures, we’re not sure. Here’s a report from a top conservationist body that says the lovely and cute orange Bornean orangutan is on the verge of extinction, while the world’s biggest fish, that placid giant the whale shark, and a hammerhead shark species are endangered.
In an update to its Red List of Threatened Species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said growing human pressure was driving the three species ever closer to destruction. The decline of the orangutan has been brought to our attention before, and so far little has been done to turn around the orangutan’s fate. It’s the frightening news that the IUCN also warned that the slow-moving whale shark, a placid giant measuring up to 12.6 metres, has been placed on the “endangered” list that really sends shivers up our spines. The shark is fished for its meat, as well as its fins, which are used to make soup in some parts of Asia, but is also often caught by accident by fishermen casting nets for tuna. Can you Imagine, some humans kill this wonderful creature to make soup! Our values surely are misplaced.
The IUCN said unregulated fishing was also behind the fast-falling numbers of the winghead shark, a distinctive species of hammerhead shark, which had also been moved from “near threatened” to “endangered”.
This might sound “over the top,” to many, but if you agree that this continuous decline of species will continue until human activities wipe out all the wild creatures, leaving us to share Earth with only our pets then we plead with you to act. Speaking out to your legislators is the most direct. [Article here]
Forests of the sea slashed by marine heatwave
“We jumped into these waters we’ve been going to for the past 10 years expecting to see large kelp forests and it was just a desert, it was barren”
And the demise of these remarkable “forests of the sea” is likely permanent, researchers say in a study published today.
“Off the coast around Kalbarri to Geraldton, where these reefs used to be dominated by kelp forests, those forests have completely disappeared,” researcher Dr Scott Bennett, now based at the Spanish National Research Council, said.
- The ocean off Western Australia is warming twice as fast as the global average
- Since 2000, nearly 1000 square kilometres of kelp forest have been lost from the area
- These “forests of the sea” underpin tourism and fisheries worth $10 billion per year
“We thought we’d made a mistake and got the location wrong. We searched all day and we searched for weeks, but the kelp was gone. It is just heartbreaking to see such a complex, beautiful, vibrant ecosystem decimated.”
Global warming is threatening the species and places we love
Global warming – driven by the mining and burning of fossil fuels like coal – saw water temperatures on the Reef soar this summer. Across the whole reef 22% of coral bleached and died, and in far north Queensland 50% of coral was killed. [article here]
We’ve got the solutions to stop dangerous global warming.
We need to stop mining and burning fossil fuels like coal, and spending billions of dollars subsidising declining old-energy industries. We need to invest in our future – in clean renewable energy, like solar and wind.
It’s not time to say goodbye. This election, demand the policies that will save our Reef.
Pesky Rednecks – That’s Us
We are creatures of Earth – first, last and always. Our very being is part of her. Upon our death we remain with her. In a way, she’s our Creator. And unlike the gods some pray to, Earth is tangible. We can feel her, taste her, smell her. We admire her beauty, respect her power, and are amazed by her wonders. And yet we treat Earth with the disdain of cruel masters.
Read our creed and plea for assistance
Climate change driving species to the Earth’s poles faster than predicted
Warming temperatures are pushing land and sea creatures closer to the north and south poles and to cooler altitudes at rates faster than first predicted, scientists say.
Speaking at a meeting of scientists from 40 countries gathered in Hobart for a four-day conference, Professor Camille Parmesan from Plymouth University in the UK said around the world animals and plants were moving towards the Earth’s poles, and it is happening faster than scientists had originally predicted.
“For the species that we have really good data on where they’ve lived historically over the past 100 years, we’re seeing about half of those have actually moved where they live, which is an astonishing number given we’ve only had one degree centigrade warming,” she said.
What Jack and Jude say is “We’ve taken up a mooring in Tasmania because not only is a lovely natural island, it’ll soon have a climate better than the Gold Coast!”
On a more serious note – Nature, the animals who live their lives totally exposed to the elements know what’s happening to Earth and are shifting in order to continue to live. Can you imagine how upsetting that is to the balance of life. We humans are so full of ourselves, so arrogant with the belief that the creator made us to control the home of all creatures that we just don’t see how this failing is destroying Earth. Take your children to the forests, take them into the mountains, expose them to Nature, they’ll soon be making the rules and what we don’t need is more kids hiding away in corners chained to their Ipads.
Tasmania’s east coast is a global hotspot for marine species that are moving south. One of them is the long-spined sea urchin.
Associate Professor Gretta Pecl from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies said the species was becoming a pest.
“That’s a species that eats kelp and seagrass and other plant material and algal habitats and basically turns regions into rocky urchin barrens,” she said.
“[It] just denudes the area of all sorts of plant material and makes it not a very nice habitat for abalone, rock lobster and other fish species.”
What Harrison Ford says about climate change
At 73, well traveled, and obviously intelligent gauging by his insightful comments, Harrison Ford has succinctly said what all of us who love Earth and life have been thinking for a long time, he hopes world leaders can “finally do something” about climate change.” I like how he put our dilemma into context. Have a read….
We are natural born killers
our rubbish kills the smallest to the largest creature
Here again the data revealed in the 2014 report, Marine Pollution Bulletin, is sadly substantiated by the death of another magnificent creature. This massive beast had roamed the world’s ocean for many years giving birth or fathering many. The ingestion of trash documented in 56 percent of cetacean species, was found by Taiwanese marine biologists who discovered a mass of plastic bags and fishing net in the stomach of the dead whale.
The 15-metre mature sperm whale was spotted stranded off the southern town of Tongshi on October 15.
Coastguards and scientists returned it to the ocean but three days later it was found dead around 20 km away.
Marine biologists from a local university conducted an autopsy over the weekend and found a mass of plastic bags and fishing net enough to fill an excavator bucket. Professor Wang Chien-ping, head of the Whale Research Centre at National Cheng-Kung University, said the garbage was a major factor in the death.
The large amount of man-made garbage in the stomach could reduce its appetite and cause malnutrition. It was likely a critical cause of death,” he said.
The Society of Wilderness said the case highlighted the growing threat from ocean trash.
by Andrew Darby, SMH environment reporter
“There will be a species collapse from the top of the food chain down,” said Professor Ivan Nagelkerken said in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, drawing on the results of 632 experiments on the direction and magnitude of ecological change forced by greenhouse gases.
The work, with fellow University of Adelaide marine ecologist Sean Connell, is aimed at filling a knowledge gap on how climate change will more broadly affect the marine environment.
Professor Nagelkerken found that only the smallest plankton was likely to benefit from warmer waters. He said researchers were a little surprised to find much the same impacts when they modelled short-term stressors and longer-term ones.
“We didn’t expect that longer-term studies would show equally detrimental effects,” he said.
Ocean acidification meant secondary production of zooplankton and smaller fish would not follow plankton’s food gains. Instead warmer waters would raise these fishes’ metabolism, the rate at which they burn calories, and therefore increase their demand for food.
the costs of this mis-match would rise up the food chain, with much less food available for carnivores such as the tuna, sharks and gropers upon which industrial fishing relies, Associate Professor Nagelkerken said.
The analysis also showed that species limited to specific habitats, such as corals, oysters and mussels, would be able to deal only poorly with climate change.
“The future simplification of our oceans has profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade,” he said.
One way to help manage the problem was to limit other stressors on marine life.
“If we reduce over-fishing we can slow down the effects of climate change,” he said.
Queensland Cobia fish farm wins top show medal
ABC Rural By Michael Condon
Queensland aquaculture company Pacific Reef Fisheries has beaten a field of more than 5,650 entries from around Australia to win the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal. The President’s Medal is open to all agriculturally-based businesses in Australia and carries a prize of $10,000.
Pacific Reef Fisheries was nominated for its sashimi grade Pacific Reef North Queensland cobia.
The Pacific Reef cobia is a little known saltwater finfish, weighing about five to seven kilograms fully grown. It is a relatively new aquaculture species in Australia.
Pacific Reef Fisheries, based at Ayr in north Queensland, uses groundbreaking, innovative land-based seawater pond system fed by a constant flow of Coral Sea water. Man-made mangrove wetlands form part of a world-first water treatment technique used to clean the water leaving the farm.
Farmers urge Liberal Party to take strong action on climate change
Producers of beef cattle, dairy, grain, lambs and vegetables signed the open letter to the conference in Melbourne, urging the Federal Government to take a strong policy of emission cut to climate change talks in Paris this year. In an open letter to the Liberal Party ahead of this weekend’s national conference, a group of farmers say climate change is real and happening on their farms.
The letter says: “We as Aussie farmers call on the Liberal Party conference to reject the motion put by the regional and rural committee of the Liberal Party questioning the basis of climate science, and instead call for post-2020 targets to cut carbon pollution that are in line with scientists’ recommendations of at least 40 per cent by 2025, and at least 60 per cent by 2030 over 2000 pollution levels.”
We Are Killing Our Best Loved Marine Mammals
Marine Debris Deadly to Whales, Dolphins
Nature World News. By Jenna Iacurci.
You might think twice before tossing a piece of plastic into the garbage rather than a recycling bin when you hear how deadly marine debris, such as floating plastic, is to whales, dolphins and other sea creatures.
According to a 2014 report published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, ingestion of trash has been documented in
56 percent of cetacean species, with rates of ingestion as high as 31 percent in some populations. Bottlenose dolphins and various species of whales are also common victims of marine debris.
Their numbers are still increasing
Despite all efforts to control them, European Carp make up a staggering 90 percent of fish in the Murray Darling basin. Carp cause significant damage to aquatic plants and increase water turbidity, negatively impacting native aquatic fauna, habitat and ecosystems.
Nature isn’t always pretty. This brute was fine when it lived in a few streams. Now widespread throughout the world it devours everything, multiples voraciously, and undermines river banks. In plague proportions in Australia’s Murray River Basin, scientist hope they have a specie specific herpes that will destroy it. Meanwhile it has replaced 90% of all the other creatures, and who’s to know if the cure might not be worse than the brute were attacking.
Maybe if we farm these creatures in mud free habitats, they can replace the Bigeye Tuna that are rapidly racing to extinction……
Food for Thought, or is that Thought for Food
Pacific fishing multi-nation talks end in stalemate
A group of island nations including Samoa and Palau want the commission, which polices fishing in the region, to establish strict catch limits for bigeye tuna, one of the most sought after species for sushi restaurants in Asia, America and Europe.
However, despite reports indicating bigeye stocks were down to 16 per cent of their historic high, conservation measures appear to have been blocked by the so-called “distant water nations” from as far afield as Europe, China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
He just doesn’t get it!
PM wants Earth to be scorched by burning fossil fuels till end of century.
- China installed more renewable energy capacity than fossil fuels in 2013.
- USA also exploiting global shift to renewable energy, second to China for renewable.
- In the past year, Australian investment in renewables has dropped 70%.
While our two largest trading partners are ramping up renewable energy research and manufacture, Tony Abbott has brought in a 70% reduction in Australian development. He’s a dinosaur who wants Earth to be scorched by burning fossil fuels till the end of the century. He just doesn’t understand that changing emphasis to renewables would create a massive number of new jobs in addition to helping planet Earth and secure a future for our grandchildren. Crikey! Can’t imagine what another 86 years of burning coal for power will do to the CO2 levels – I can only imagine in his drive for export dollars, Abbott must think we’ll either bury the climate change gases, or we’ll find a miracle cure. Talk about bad risk management. Standing on the precipice of huge climate change, he’s willing to gamble our children future, when the alternative would develop a whole new industry.
The good news story globally is that China consolidated its position as the world’s renewable energy powerhouse in the past year with 2.6 million people employed in renewable energy jobs and renewables providing nearly one fifth of China’s annual electricity generation.
China installed more renewable energy capacity than fossil fuels in 2013. It also retired 77 gigawatts (GW) of coal power stations between 2006 and 2010 and aims to retire a further 20 GW by 2015.
Read the Report
The Climate Council has issued a report comparing Australia’s action on climate change to the rest of the world in regard to reducing emissions and renewable energy, including the actions taken by some of the world’s largest economies such as China, the US and EU.