Friday, June 29, 2012

Arctic sea-ice levels at record low for June

Scientists say that the latest observations suggest that Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to shrink and thin.

Sea ice in the Arctic has melted faster this year than ever recorded before, according to the US government's National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC).

Satellite observations show the extent of the floating ice that melts and refreezes every year was 318,000 square miles less last week than the same day period in 2007, the year of record low extent, and the lowest observed at this time of year since records began in 1979. Separate observations by University of Washington researchers suggest that the volume of Arctic sea ice is also the smallest ever calculated for this time of year.

Scientists cautioned that it is still early in the "melt season", but said that the latest observations suggest that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to shrink and thin and the pattern of record annual melts seen since 2000 is now well established. Last year saw the second greatest sea ice melt on record, 36% below the average minimum from 1979-2000.

"Recent ice loss rates have been 100,000 to 150,000 square kilometres (38,600 to 57,900 square miles) per day, which is more than double the climatological rate. While the extent is at a record low for the date, it is still early in the melt season. Changing weather patterns throughout the summer will affect the exact trajectory of the sea ice extent through the rest of the melt season," said a spokesman for the NSIDC.

The increased melting is believed to be a result of climate change. Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the global average over the past half century. More


Monday, June 25, 2012

Significant Sea-Level Rise in a Two-Degree Warmer World

ScienceDaily (June 24, 2012) — Sea levels around the world can be expected to rise by several metres in coming centuries, if global warming carries on. Even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, global-mean sea level could continue to rise, reaching between 1.5 and 4 metres above present-day levels by the year 2300, with the best estimate being at 2.7 metres, according to a study just published in Nature Climate Change. However, emissions reductions that allow warming to drop below 1.5 degrees Celsius could limit the rise strongly.

The study is the first to give a comprehensive projection for this long perspective, based on observed sea-level rise over the past millennium, as well as on scenarios for future greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Sea-level rise is a hard to quantify, yet critical risk of climate change," says Michiel Schaeffer of Climate Analytics and Wageningen University, lead author of the study. "Due to the long time it takes for the world's ice and water masses to react to global warming, our emissions today determine sea levels for centuries to come."

Limiting global warming could considerably reduce sea-level rise

While the findings suggest that even at relatively low levels of global warming the world will have to face significant sea-level rise, the study also demonstrates the benefits of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and subsequent temperature reductions could halve sea-level rise by 2300, compared to a 2-degree scenario. If temperatures are allowed to rise by 3 degrees, the expected sea-level rise could range between 2 and 5 metres, with the best estimate being at 3.5 metres.

The potential impacts are significant. "As an example, for New York City it has been shown that one metre of sea level rise could raise the frequency of severe flooding from once per century to once every three years," says Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, co-author of the study. Also, low lying deltaic countries like Bangladesh and many small island states are likely to be severely affected.

Sea-level rise rate defines the time for adaptation

The scientists further assessed the rate of sea-level rise. The warmer the climate gets, the faster the sea level climbs. "Coastal communities have less time to adapt if sea-levels rise faster," Rahmstorf says.

"In our projections, a constant level of 2-degree warming will sustain rates of sea-level rise twice as high as observed today, until well after 2300," adds Schaeffer, "but much deeper emission reductions seem able to achieve a strong slow-down, or even a stabilization of sea level over that time frame." More


Thursday, June 21, 2012

UNWTO: Tourism is a development opportunity for Small Island States

International tourism is one of the principal economic activities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). A new UNWTO report launched on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20), confirms tourism as an essential source of job opportunities, livelihood, foreign exchange and inclusive growth for these countries.

“Tourism offers one of the most promising options for the economic growth and development of small island nations if planned and managed according to the principles of sustainability,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Tourism has been, for example, an important contributor in enabling the Maldives and Cape Verde to graduate from the status of Least Developed Country.”

The report, Challenges and Opportunities for Tourism in Small Island Developing States, finds that while SIDS often struggle to compete in the global economy, their natural and cultural resources give them a strong competitive advantage in the tourism marketplace.

* The number of international tourists visiting SIDS has increased by over 12 million in the last decade, to reach 41 million in 2011.
* The annual revenue generated by international tourism in SIDS exceeds US$ 38 billion.
* For some island nations tourism accounts for over 40% of GDP.
* Tourism accounts for 75% or more of exports of services for 15 SIDS, and over 50% in 13 others.

The Report calls upon the international community to continue supporting the SIDS because of their particular vulnerable situation and highlights the need to address key issues such as leakages, conservation, air connectivity and climate change if tourism is to effectively contribute to the sustainable development of SIDS. More


Friday, June 8, 2012

Heaping Urban Trash May be More Serious than Climate Change

Heaping urban trash may be an even more daunting global phenomenon than climate change, the World Bank warned in a recent report. What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management reveals that by 2025, city dwellers could produce as much as 2.2 billion tonnes of solid waste a year, up 70% than the1.3 billion tonnes currently generated.

More waste is generated in cities than rural areas because more packaging is used and less is recycled, and because people living in rural areas are less likely to have a consumption-driven lifestyle. But getting a handle on the problem, particularly in developing countries, requires a strong social contract between the municipality and community, according to the report – a serious challenge in parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

City dwellers will produce 1.42 kg of trash per day by 2025

By 2025, 4.3 billion living in cities throughout the planet will generate about 1.42 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste, which will create a huge environmental and financial burden for the local governments tasked with managing it.

Untreated solid waste emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and chemicals from plastic and other packaging leach into waterways. The World Bank sites untreated waste as one of the major causes of pollution in developing countries that are ill-equipped to handle mounting waste.

Global management of solid waste could cost as much as $375 billion each year, according to the report’s authors, who add that this is a “relatively silent problem that is growing daily.”

We’ve seen children running through toxic trash piles in the souqs of Tunis and we have watched families eat their lunch in so-called green spaces in Cairo, surrounded by coke cans, koshari packaging and other waste.

A major wake up call

While many people have grown blind to the problem, the World Bank urges policymakers to consider the report as a major wake up call. More

World Bank Report: What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Evidence of Impending Tipping Point for Earth

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012) — A group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

"It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point," warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. "The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations."

The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidents of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where. More