Oceans and seas
(National Geographic): Ocean Levels Are Getting Higher—Can We Do Anything About It?
Council on Foreign Relations Global Governance Monitor: The Oceans
I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
— G.K. Chesterton
The Devolution of the Seas — The Consequences of Oceanic Destruction (Registration required)
(Foreign Affairs) Over the last 50 years — a mere blink in geologic time — humanity has come perilously close to reversing the almost miraculous biological abundance of the deep. Pollution, overfishing, the destruction of habitats, and climate change are emptying the oceans and enabling the lowest forms of life to regain their dominance. The oceanographer Jeremy Jackson calls it “the rise of slime”: the transformation of once complex oceanic ecosystems featuring intricate food webs with large animals into simplistic systems dominated by microbes, jellyfish, and disease. In effect, humans are eliminating the lions and tigers of the seas to make room for the cockroaches and rats.
The prospect of vanishing whales, polar bears, bluefin tuna, sea turtles, and wild coasts should be worrying enough on its own. But the disruption of entire ecosystems threatens our very survival, since it is the healthy functioning of these diverse systems that sustains life on earth. Destruction on this level will cost humans dearly in terms of food, jobs, health, and quality of life. It also violates the unspoken promise passed from one generation to the next of a better future.
November 2013 • www.fisheries.org
Jeffrey A. Hutchings and John R. Post
Gutting Canada’s Fisheries Act: No Fishery, No Fish Habitat Protection
(American Fisheries Society Vol 38 No 11) p. 497 and ff
Don’t Gut Fisheries Act, Plead 625 Scientists
Tories plan to stop protecting waterways with fish deemed to lack ‘economic, cultural or ecological value.’ By Andrew Nikiforuk, 24 Mar 2012, The Tyee.ca
Richard Branson and James Cameron want to save the high seas
In international waters, environmental rules are inconsistent, weak or absent. Obama can change that.
By Richard Branson and James Cameron
(LATimes|op-ed) We share a deep and abiding passion for and fascination with the ocean that has led us since childhood to wander the world under the waves. We also share an increasing concern that the health of the ocean is rapidly deteriorating under the strain of human pressure and neglect. The evidence is everywhere, from plastic waste at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean to flattened remains of deep ocean reefs hundreds of miles from land, bulldozed by bottom trawlers. No part of the ocean, no matter how deep or remote, is safe anymore.
At particular risk are international waters that lie beyond the jurisdiction of any country, known as the high seas. This vast realm constitutes two-thirds of the oceans and covers nearly half the planet’s surface, and harbors the largest remaining reservoir of unexplored biodiversity left on Earth. Yet these waters face escalating pressure from overfishing, deep seabed mining, ocean acidification, chemical and noise pollution, huge gyres of plastic waste, dead zones, ship traffic and destructive fishing tactics such as bottom trawling.
Like most commons, the high seas are poorly regulated. Environmental controls on mining, fishing, pollution and shipping are inconsistent, weak or altogether absent. There are no uniform requirements to assess and manage industrial activities, no mandate for modern, ecosystem-based management, and no mechanisms to create marine refuges where sea life can live undisturbed.
In the controlled waters of the United States and other nations, governments have set aside reserves for ocean life. In contrast, less than one-three-hundredth of 1% of the high seas has been protected. Scientists believe that such protected areas are essential for ocean health and global resilience in the face of increasing human pressures.
An important opportunity to begin responsibly managing half the planet lies before us. The United Nations will hold meetings this week to discuss the future of the high seas. Led by Brazil, the European Union, Argentina, Mexico, Monaco and others, a coalition of developed and developing nations has proposed an international agreement to modernize governance of the high seas.
The agreement would provide for high seas protected areas, and require countries proposing to engage in destructive activities to assess and manage their effects. It would also deal with the lack of any rules governing how revenue derived from developing genetic resources in international waters will be shared, an important bar to commercializing new products derived from international waters. Most important, such an agreement would begin to bring to the high seas modern management as practiced in the U.S. and elsewhere since the 1970s. Such an agreement has been discussed and debated for years at the United Nations. It is time to move beyond words to action and begin negotiations.
The United States has been the single most significant obstacle to a new high seas agreement, with the State Department citing potential opposition from members of Congress who are critics of the United Nations. Possible opposition from pharmaceutical, biotech and/or cosmetics companies involved in marine genetic research has also been mentioned, although no such opposition has surfaced in the more than six years these issues have been widely discussed.
We do not believe it makes sense to hold this hugely important ocean conservation initiative hostage to possible opposition in the Senate or unspecified potential concerns by unnamed interests. This is not leadership.
Spearheading negotiations on the conservation and management of the high seas could give the U.S. a big win on a global issue. It would level the playing field by making sure that activities on the high seas are subject to the same kinds of requirements routinely imposed on ocean industries in U.S. coastal waters. Such an agreement would also provide predictability and certainty to companies that take risks to develop commercial products from genetic resources sourced from marine areas beyond national jurisdiction.
How many chances does a president get to influence the future of half the planet for the benefit of all that live on it? That opportunity is here. We urge President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry to seize it, at this critical moment, by joining the call for a new agreement to protect the high seas.
Richard Branson is founder and chairman of Virgin Group. James Cameron is a film director, producer and deep-sea explorer.
EU seeks high seas protection
THE EU submitted a proposal to the UN on Tuesday to start an international process to conserve marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, in a move welcomed by Oceana.
“In light of the alarming state of the world’s oceans, Oceana highly values the EU’s commitment to conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction”, stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “However, this proposal should not remain a mere declaration of intent. Every country under the umbrella of United Nations, must take its share of the responsibility to protect the high seas, which cover some 64 % of the surface of our oceans and provide over 90% of its volume.”
The proposal … seeks to negotiate an international agreement under the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) focusing on conserving the high seas biodiversity. It follows the commitment reached at Rio+20 along with the already established commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The proposal’s adoption would establish a clear political mandate to move forward with the conservation of ecosystems in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including through the establishment of marine protected areas or standards for evaluating the impacts of human activities. This call echoes the French government’s recent demand to adopt a binding agreement as soon as possible (Paris Appeal for the High Sea).
World Oceans Day highlights need for ocean management
World Oceans Day was celebrated with the announcement of two World Economic Forum ocean-management initiatives designed to promote sustainability and life-cycle tracking of seafood, writes Greg Stone of Conservation International. The Huffington Post (6/7)
Deep sea ‘gold rush’ moves closer
(BBC) The prospect of a deep sea “gold rush” opening a controversial new frontier for mining on the ocean floor has moved a step closer.
The United Nations has published its first plan for managing the extraction of so-called “nodules” – small mineral-rich rocks – from the seabed.
A technical study was carried out by the UN’s International Seabed Authority – the body overseeing deep sea mining.
It says companies could apply for licences from as soon as 2016
Conservation experts have long warned that mining the seabed will be highly destructive and could have disastrous long-term consequences for marine life.
The ISA study itself recognizes that mining will cause “inevitable environmental damage”.
But the report comes amid what a spokesman describes as “an unprecedented surge” of interest from state-owned and private mining companies
Wind patterns are left in the ice pack that covers the Arctic Ocean north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska March 19, 2011. Picture taken March 19, 2011.
Photo: Lucas Jackson
Acidification: the latest unknown for stressed Arctic ecosystem
(Planet Ark) The Arctic ecosystem, already under pressure from record ice melts, faces another potential threat in the form of rapid acidification of the ocean, according to an international study published on Monday.
Acidification, blamed on the transformation of rising levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air into carbonic acid in the sea, makes it harder for shellfish and crabs to grow their shells, and might also impair fish reproduction, it said.
Cold water absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warm water, making the Arctic especially vulnerable. The report said the average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide was now about 30 percent higher than at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
“Arctic marine waters are experiencing widespread and rapid ocean acidification,” said the report by 60 experts for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, commissioned by the eight nations with Arctic territories.
The White House Convenes Scientists to Discuss the World’s New Ocean
(Atlantic Wire) Despite its straight-from-science-fiction premise, it’s real: A group of scientists meeting at the White House to discuss a brand-new ocean. Impending Arctic ice melt makes this just another day in the geopolitics of climate change.
Exploitation of high seas at crisis levels
A commission will analyze threats to international waters — areas more than 200 nautical miles offshore — before next year’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to improve governance of resource use. “Without ever making a conscious decision to do it, we are losing unseen habitats whose equals on land would include the giant redwood glades of North America, the baobabs of Madagascar and Amazon rainforest,” writes Callum Roberts, a marine biologist. The Observer (London) (2/9), The New York Times (tiered subscription model)/Green blog (2/11), The Observer (London) (2/9)
Sea level rise “to be far worse” than forecasts
Coastal areas around the world face a greater risk of storm surges and flooding than thought, as sea levels are rising 60% faster than predicted, according to a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Researchers said they had excluded causes for the rise in water levels unrelated to climate. The Guardian (London) (11/27), AlertNet/Reuters (11/28)
Ocean health the focus of Tasmania marine meeting
(Reuters video) Marine scientists from around the world have converged on tiny Maria Island, off the coast of Tasmania, Australia, for a workshop to share research on how human activity is affecting marine diversity around the world.
U.S.: Republicans Sink Law of the Sea Ratification for Now
(IPS) – Defying the wishes of both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Navy, Republican senators have effectively halted – for now – an effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to gain ratification of the 30-year-old Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).
The product of some 15 years of negotiations, LOST, which has been ratified by 161 countries and the European Union, sets rules governing most areas of ocean policy, including navigation and over- flight rights, exploitation of the seabed, conservation and research. … , a growing number of [Republicans] have argued that international treaties unduly constrain Washington’s freedom of action in the world and threaten its sovereignty.
Scientists Declare State of Emergency for World’s Coral Reefs
(IPS) Coral reef scientists urged local and national governments to take action to save the world’s coral reefs and said they’d be “on call 24/7″ to assist politicians and officials.
Without global action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greatly improve local protection, most of the world’s coral reefs will be devastated and the benefits they provide billions of people will be lost in the coming decades, scientists warned at the opening of 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Cairns, Australia … more than 2,500 marine scientists have signed a consensus statement to that effect
Protecting reefs locally may mean reducing fishing, preventing pollution, constraining coastal development and other measures that may be seen as politically risky or difficult. However, scientists stand ready to back up local and global efforts to save reefs.
“No Future We Want Without the Ocean We Need”
(IPS) – The entire focus of Expo 2012, which completes its three month run Aug. 21, is on the protection of the world’s maritime resources, including overfishing, chemical pollution and warming oceans.
And by accident or by design, the protection of the world’s oceans was one of the few key success stories to come out of the Rio+20 summit in its final plan of action titled “The Future We Want” adopted by world leaders last month.
Rising sea levels threaten islanders with displacement
(SciDev.Net) A significant rise in sea levels due to global warming could result in the loss of species and habitats in the coastal areas of more than a thousand islands in South-East Asia and the Pacific region, leading to the potential displacement of many millions of people, according to a study.
Some of the areas at risk — such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Thailand — are known biodiversity hotspots. Others, like Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, possess endemic species.
The study, Future climate change driven sea-level rise: secondary consequences from human displacement for island biodiversity, points out that some species, particularly those mammals that range widely within low-lying coastal zones or in hinterland regions, could be wiped out entirely. People are also likely to have to migrate from coastal areas to island interiors due to permanent flooding in littoral settlements.
Rising sea levels to hit California hard by 2100
(Planet Ark) Seas could rise higher along the California coastline this century than in other places in the world, increasing the risk of flooding and storm damage, dune erosion and wetland destruction, the U.S. National Research Council reported Friday.
The report looked at how much seas could rise by 2100 along the US West Coast, and found that the water off California’s coast from the Mexican border to Cape Mendocino could rise between 16.5 inches and 66 inches by century’s end, compared to what they were in 2000.
Ocean Advocates Find Silver Linings After Rio+20 Disappointment
Although agreement was not reached on policing international waters, some firm commitments were made in Brazil.
(National Geographic News) It is not all bad news, just discouraging to hear the French ambassador say that the will of 183 countries concerning developing a framework for governance of the high seas had come unglued owing to opposition from a small number of powerful countries.”
[National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia] Earle is referring to the United States, Russia, Canada, and Venezuela in particular, who, according to reports, moved to block specific rulemaking on environmental protections in international waters during late-night, closed-door negotiations earlier this week.
Earle said she believes the U.S. government is resistant to start negotiations on a new international oceans treaty, since there has been recent movement to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, an international agreement that went into effect in 1994 but counts the U.S. as one of a handful of holdout countries. The Law of the Sea Treaty does include some environmental guidelines, but not as many specific protections as Earle would like.
Sigourney Weaver: At Rio+20 Earth Summit, An Important Step Forward for the World’s Oceans
(OnEarth) Our oceans generate most of our oxygen, regulate our climate, and provide most of our population with sustenance. They are essential to all life on earth. Yet our oceans face a threat as dangerous as any Pandora faced: ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is an urgent and profound threat to our planet’s ocean life and to the coastal communities that depend upon healthy oceans for food and economic development opportunities. Without healthy populations of ocean fish, or vibrant reefs, many coastal communities could lose their primary food source or their most promising job opportunity. We cannot prosper unless the ocean prospers, too.
Despite the seriousness of this threat, too few people know about this issue. That is why I teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) to create the movie ACID TEST: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification. It is critical that more people become aware of, and urge their lawmakers to address, ocean acidification.
Furious Greenpeace moves to ‘war footing’ at Rio+20
Pace quickens at Rio summit, as NGO director responds to weakened oceans proposals with promise of civil disobedience
The Mystery of the Sinking South Pacific Islands
(Spiegel) Environmentalist organizations have used images from South Pacific islands to illustrate the disastrous effects of rising sea levels. But a group of French researchers has found that the problem is much more complicated: The islands are also being pulled under by shifting tectonic plates.
And on the other side of the world
Venice’s Eternal Battle against Water
(Spiegel) Slowly but surely, Venice is sinking. The city has battled the water ever since it was founded 1,600 years ago in a marshy lagoon. Now it’s working on a gigantic project to prevent the floods that threaten its future — but experts are divided over whether it will work.
Why small fish need attention on World Oceans Day
Sardines, herring and squid are vital to ocean ecosystems and human economies, but many of them are in danger of overharvesting, writes Ben Enticknap of Oceana. Some activists are hoping the Rio+20 conference will address oceans and marine protections. “This year’s Oceans Day theme is ‘Youth: The Next Wave for Change.’ The future of ocean conservation will soon be in their hands, but we must leave them something to work with,” Enticknap writes. The Oregonian (Portland) (6/8), SciDev.net (6/8)
New global partnership to protect world’s oceans
Law of the Sea faces resistance in U.S. Senate
Some conservative U.S. senators are seeking a postponement of any vote on the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea until after the November elections. The treaty requires a two-thirds approval in the Senate. The Washington Post/Fine Print blog (5/28)
Adapting to rising seas with amphibious homes
The effects of extreme weather, especially floods, are fueling leaps of imagination among architects the world over. Floating houses, prisons and greenhouses are already in place in the Netherlands, which has been managing water since the Middle Ages and has shared its expertise with Indonesia, China, Thailand, Dubai and the Maldives. Architectural Record/The Associated Press (free registration) (4/3)
Expo 2012 to Focus on Protecting World’s Marine Resources
(IPS) – The United Nations, which is hosting a major international summit on the global environment in Brazil in late June, points out that while the world’s oceans account for 70 percent of the earth’s surface, only one percent of this area is protected.
The growing degradation of the oceans, including overfishing, pollution and loss of biodiversity, will be high on the agenda of the Rio+20 … Touching on many related issues will be Expo 2012, scheduled to take place May 12 through Aug. 12 in South Korea’s coastal city of Yeosu, which will focus on the protection of the world’s oceans and coastlines.
The World Bank today christened the Global Partnership for Oceans, a new coalition aimed at raising $1.5 billion to double protected areas in the world’s oceans, and rebuild fish stocks, to help counteract overfishing, habitat loss and environmental degradation. “Send out the S-O-S: We need to Save Our Seas,” said World Bank President Robert Zoellick. The Guardian (London) (2/24), Al-Jazeera (2/24)
Island nations seek UN climate action
Leaders of island nations on Saturday pleaded with the United Nations to move more quickly to reduce carbon emissions worldwide in order to prevent flooding and damage from more severe storms in light of rising sea levels attributed to climate change. “Without international cooperation and concerted effort the impact of climate change will be devastating for all our nations,” Navinchandra Ramgoolam, prime minister of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, told the world body’s General Assembly.The Washington Post/The Associated Press (9/24)
UN Climate Body Struggling to Pinpoint Rising Sea Levels
(Spiegel) The United Nations’ forecast of how quickly global sea levels will rise this century is vital in determining how much money might be needed to combat the phenomenon. But predictions by researchers vary wildly, and the attempt to find consensus has become fractious.
When the next report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is issued in two years, it will include a forecast for how high the world’s oceans might rise by 2100. With 146 million people in the world currently living less than one meter above sea level, the forecast will be vital in determining how much money governments must spend on measures to protect people from the rising waters and to resettle those in the most acute danger.
World’s oceans face severe, rapid degeneration
The speed and rate of degeneration of the world’s oceans is far more severe than previously predicted and is comparable to five mass extinctions on geological record, according to a new report. The report cites the cumulative effects of climate change, seawater acidification, presence of pollutants and overfishing as driving the change, and warns the early stages of significant global extinction may already be under way. The Independent (London) (6/21)
Seas could rise up to 1.6 meters by 2100: study
(Reuters) – Quickening climate change in the Arctic including a thaw of Greenland’s ice could raise world sea levels by up to 1.6 meters by 2100, an international report showed on Tuesday.
Such a rise — above most past scientific estimates — would add to threats to coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands and cities from London to Shanghai. It would also, for instance, raise costs of building tsunami barriers in Japan.
“The past six years (until 2010) have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic,” according to the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which is backed by the eight-nation Arctic Council.
3 April 2010
Strange case of the disappearing islands
By Cleo Paskal
(New Zealand Herald) Because the convention [on the Law of the Sea] didn’t take environmental change in to account when it was drafted, it may end up creating new geopolitical hotspots. Some are trying to bypass this by finding bilateral or regional solutions.
As with Tuvalu, the Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives is composed entirely of low-lying coral atolls. Its president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been actively trying to secure a home for his citizens should evacuation prove necessary. One approach was land purchase. According to President Nasheed: “We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere. It’s an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome. After all, the Israelis [began by buying] land in Palestine.”
Another approach is to use the value of national sovereignty to “pay” for relocation. In that model, neighbouring India, for example, would take in the Maldivian immigrants in exchange for India being able to extend its national waters to include Maldivian waters.
The proceeds from this extended EEZ (fisheries rights, seabed mining, etc) could be used to resettle and set up a trust fund for Maldivian immigrants, along the lines of land claim settlements in Canada. Maldivians could also get preferential access to the waters for economic development and, should the islands ever re-emerge, resettlement could be possible. The advantage for India would be an orderly settlement of relatively wealthy immigrants, and an extension of its coastal security zone.
This model might also be applicable in the Pacific. For example, if as the scientists tell us, Tuvalu will eventually need to be evacuated, and New Zealand takes in the bulk of the refugees, that patch of ocean could be administered from New Zealand by and for the benefit of the immigrants, affording resettlement money and economic prospects associated with their old homeland for those who want it.
The administration could be done through a sort of combination government-in-exile and trust.
It is worth noting that the host country need not be New Zealand or Australia. Given the geostrategic importance of the region, a “bidding war” for the immigrants might ensue with countries such as China and Taiwan looking to take in the immigrants in exchange for increased access to the region.
25 March 2010
Rising Sea Levels Swallow Tiny Island, Settle 30-Year Dispute
New Moore Island is now completely submerged underwater. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s located in the Bay of Bengal and part of the Sundarbans (the largest block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world). It was also part of a 30 year dispute between India and Bangladesh; but at least that’s finally been resolved.
24 November 2009
Rising sea levels: A tale of two cities (Rotterdam and Maputo)
When people talk about the impact of rising sea levels, they often think of small island states that risk being submerged if global warming continues unchecked. But it’s not only those on low-lying islands who are in danger. Millions of people live by the sea – and are dependent on it for their livelihoods – and many of the world’s largest cities are on the coast. By 2050 the number of people living in delta cities is set to increase by as much as 70%, experts suggest, vastly increasing the number of those at risk.
Maldives cabinet makes a splash
(BBC) The government of the Maldives has held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the low-lying Indian Ocean nation.
President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.
Ministers spent half an hour on the sea bed, communicating with white boards and hand signals.
Sea changes could bring disaster to Nile Delta
Polar glacier melting is a direct threat to one of the most densely populated regions in the world: Egypt’s Nile Delta. Home to two-thirds of the nation’s growing population, the Nile is susceptible to flooding as much of its long coastline is at or below sea level. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared the Nile Delta among the places most vulnerable to a change in sea elevation because even a modest change in sea levels would displace millions. The Guardian (London) (8/21)
At Risk From Rising Seas, Tuvalu Seeks Clean Power
(Reuters/Planet Ark) Tuvalu and many other low-lying atolls in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean fear that rising sea levels could wipe them off the map. They want governments to agree a strong new U.N. deal in Copenhagen in December to slow climate change.
World’s largest ocean observatory takes shape
(University of Victoria) Canada is taking the world on a 25-year non-stop research expedition—into the deep ocean.
Led by the University of Victoria, NEPTUNE Canada pioneers a new generation of ocean observation systems that—using abundant power and the Internet—provide continuous, long-term monitoring of ocean processes and events, as they happen. Land-based researchers across Canada and around the world will use NEPTUNE Canada to conduct offshore and deep-sea experiments and receive real-time data without leaving their laboratories and offices.
Observations from NEPTUNE Canada will have wide-ranging policy applications in the areas of climate change, hazard mitigation (earthquakes and tsunamis), ocean pollution, port security and shipping, resource development, sovereignty and security, and ocean management. Its cutting-edge technologies are already generating commercialization and job creation opportunities.
NEPTUNE Canada is being developed through investments of more than $100 million from the Government of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, CANARIE, and the Government of British Columbia through the BC Knowledge Development Fund.
Melting Greenland ice sheets may threaten Northeast United States, Canada
BOULDER–Melting of the Greenland ice sheet this century may drive more water than previously thought toward the already threatened coastlines of New York, Boston, Halifax, and other cities in the northeastern United States and in Canada, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study finds that if Greenland’s ice melts at moderate to high rates, ocean circulation by 2100 may shift and cause sea levels off the northeast coast of North America to rise by about 12 to 20 inches (about 30 to 50 centimeters) more than in other coastal areas. The research builds on recent reports that have found that sea level rise associated with global warming could adversely affect North America, and its findings suggest that the situation is more threatening than previously believed.
As Alaska Glaciers Melt, It’s Land That’s Rising
(NYT) JUNEAU, Alaska — Global warming conjures images of rising seas that threaten coastal areas. But in Juneau, as almost nowhere else in the world, climate change is having the opposite effect: As the glaciers here melt, the land is rising, causing the sea to retreat.
Maldives considers plan to relocate residents of island
Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, has announced an unprecedented — even audacious — plan to try to relocate all 300,000 residents of the Maldives to a different nation. The plan would use tourism revenues to fund a sovereign wealth fund to secure the country’s future should it exist on its own territory or as a sovereign municipality within another area. The Maldives archipelago has an average elevation of 4 feet. New York Times (05/08)
A sinking feeling
Sea levels are rising twice as fast as had been thought
(The Economist print edition) SCIENCE and politics are inextricably linked. At a scientific conference on climate change held this week in Copenhagen, four environmental experts announced that sea levels appear to be rising almost twice as rapidly as had been forecast by the United Nations just two years ago. The warning is aimed at politicians who will meet in the same city in December to discuss the same subject and, perhaps, to thrash out an international agreement to counter it.
The reason for the rapid change in the predicted rise in sea levels is a rapid increase in the information available. In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change convened by the UN made its prediction that sea levels would rise by between 18cm and 59cm by 2100, a lack of knowledge about how the polar ice caps were behaving was behind much of the uncertainty. Since then they have been closely monitored, and the results are disturbing. Both the Greenland and the Antarctic caps have been melting at an accelerating rate. It is this melting ice that is raising sea levels much faster than had been expected. Indeed, scientists now reckon that sea levels will rise by between 50cm and 100cm by 2100, unless action is taken to curb climate change.
25 January 2009
Warming Trends Alter Conservation
Experts Think Old Paradigm of Fixed Boundaries Will Not Work as Sea Levels Rise
At the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (Photo at right by Andrea Bruce, Washington Post), sea-level rise threatens to drown the brackish marsh on which migrating shorebirds depend. In Northern California, the shrinking snowpack has reduced stream flows that sustain the delta smelt, a federally threatened fish species. Higher summer temperatures in northern Minnesota have depressed the birthrates of the area’s once-populous moose, and just 20 inhabit the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge that was designed in part to shelter them.
As climate change begins to transform the environment in the United States and overseas, policymakers and environmentalists are realizing that the old paradigm of setting aside tracts of land or sea to preserve species that might otherwise disappear is no longer sufficient. Experts are exploring new strategies, focusing on such steps as protecting migration corridors, collecting and transplanting seeds, making sanctuary boundaries flexible and managing forests in novel ways.
30 December 2008
A meltdown tinged with acid
(The Economist) EVEN if they do not live in the Maldives or Bangladesh, most people can appreciate the seriousness of rising sea levels. Much harder to grasp are most of the other consequences of global warming, and especially of the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
About a third of this CO2 ends up in the sea. Over geological time, virtually all the carbon released into the atmosphere has been taken out of it by living organisms and found its way into sediments, most of them in the sea (some has then gone into petroleum deposits). A vast amount of carbon is swilling about or sitting in the deep sea below 200 metres, where a biological pump pushes it round in such a way that any carbon atom entering the depths from the atmosphere will return to the surface every 500-1,200 years.
11 August 2008
Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean
…Ocean Warming and Acidification.
By Jeremy B. C. Jackson
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) Rising temperatures and falling pH are as ominous for the future of corals and coral reefs (6, 11, 56, 91) as for calcareous plankton (7). Warming has caused mass mortality of corals by coral bleaching that has increased in frequency and intensity over the past two to three decades. Reduction of pH reduces coral growth rates and skeletal density, and may eventually stop calcification entirely, so that corals lose their skeletons and resemble small colonial sea anemones (92). Regardless of whether or not the corals can survive under such circumstances, reef formation would be severely reduced or halted if acidification proceeded at current rates.
15 February 2008
Study Finds Humans’ Effect on Oceans Comprehensive
(Wa Post)Human activities are affecting every square mile of the world’s oceans, according to a study by a team of American, British and Canadian researchers who mapped the severity of the effects from pole to pole.
The analysis of 17 global data sets, led by Benjamin S. Halpern of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, Calif., details how humans are reshaping the seas through overfishing, air and water pollution, commercial shipping and other activities. The study, published online yesterday by the journal Science, examines those effects on nearly two dozen marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and continental shelves. Some marine ecosystems are under acute pressure, the scientists concluded, including sea mounts, mangrove swamps, sea grass and coral reefs. Almost half of all coral reefs, they wrote, “experience medium high to very high impact” from humans. Overall, rising ocean temperatures represent the biggest threat to marine ecosystems.
10 March 2006
Bering Sea Climate Is Shifting
Whales, walruses, seabirds and fish are struggling to survive the changing climate of the Bering Sea, their northern feeding grounds perhaps permanently disrupted by warmer temperatures and melting ice, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science.
By pulling together a broad range of observations and surveys, an international research team concluded that it is witnessing the transformation of an entire ecosystem in a region home to almost half of U.S. commercial fish production.
All in all, the researchers said, the Arctic climate of the northern Bering Sea is in full retreat, yielding to the sub-Arctic system of the south. The changes are profound and perhaps irreversible, even if cold weather eventually returns, the researchers said. …Overall, the Arctic is warming at twice the average global rate. …Consequently, the local sea ice melts three weeks earlier than in 1997, records of recent years show. Last year, Arctic ice retreated farther than in 25 years of satellite monitoring. …The researchers found that by 2002, Pacific gray whales were fleeing northward to feed in cooler currents, while pink salmon by the millions swarmed into warmer waters the whales had abandoned. Bottom-dwelling species, unable to adapt, were destroyed in large numbers. The broken shells of a vanished clam species carpeted the sea floor.
As sea ice diminished, breeding grounds for seals were disrupted and populations plummeted. Polar bears started to drown. Walruses, accustomed to diving in the shallows to feed along the sea bottom, found themselves adrift on broken ice floes in waters 6,500 feet deep. The animals starved.