An Egyptian vulture has been seen within the UK for the first time in over 150 years. The first thing to note, is that despite the name Egyptian vulture, these birds range stretches to northern France and southern Spain so this animal does not have to have to be 2000 miles from where they normally live. It is clear though that this bird is far from its normal areas to live.
The birds worldwide population is declining, so perhaps colonising the Scilly Isles could allow a local increase in the population and perhaps in a few decades could become a new stronghold?
After the Paris climate accord, there are large numbers of climate activists who are becoming increasingly frustrated.
The rich countries promised dramatic cuts to their emissions. These cuts will change the way the world works. However, as they are so far from business as normal, governments need to take a leading role in incentivising and requiring cuts (carrot and the stick).
In the UK, we did some good things, but they did not last. One example, is the green housing grant. This was ostensibly a program designed to get various trades people back to work by retrofitting buildings all over the country. The retrofit should in turn cut the carbon emissions of the house that they are used for, and therefore can help towards meeting our Paris climate accord. However, the program was closed a year earlier than was discussed, with the government claiming that it had succeeded in what it was there to do – namely boost the economy.
Dams are often talked about as a fantastic way to cut carbon emissions. Aside from the fact that many dams in the world are more like a battery (water is pumped up when electricity is cheap and then flows down when it is expensive creating electricity) dams built in rainforests have such a huge initial carbon footprint from the destruction of the rainforest that sat on the land that in some cases the carbon savings will never make up for the carbon loss.
I am not saying that dams are useless. Far from it. However, if your dam is there to cut carbon emissions, it is in the wrong place.
Brazil has gone into dams in a large way. Unfortunately, these are so poorly constructed that they are collapsing. This means that land downstream gets hit twice – firstly loosing most of their water supply as the dam fills and then again as they are deluged with months or years of water in one go. What is worse here, is that many dams here are holding back toxic mud, left over after mining work. As such even after the flood of water has gone down, much of the land it has touched will be less productive.
It is not an either or choice for countries like brazil. They aim to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, however 28-33% of that will come from non-hydropower sources (70%). Indeed in Brazil wind power is generating increasing amounts of their power. Indeed, in terms of installed wind power, Brazil now ranks just 8th in the world. Also given it is a country lying in the tropics, it gets a great deal of sun – there are currently 8.5GW of solar installed meeting 1.5% of Brazils needs. However 3.4GW were added just in 2020. It is therefore highly likely that assuming this acceleration continues perhaps 20% of Brazils electricity needs could come from solar by this date.
We need to cut our emissions dramatically in the next 10 years, however political pressure is often meaning that these efforts are going in the wrong direction.
China has stated that they will peak their emissions by 2030 and hit carbon neutrality by 2060. These targets are just about acceptable in terms of meeting the human races target of holding temperature raise to 1.5 degrees C.
The Trump administration gave permission for drilling in the Alaska Arctic refuge. This is a ruling that should never have been made.
Thankfully, as the Biden administration is aware that we live in the real world and that the world is warming, they recognise that as much oil needs to be left in the ground as possible. Furthermore, without the refuge, many species will be threatened with localized extinction.
Estimates are that there are 11 billion barrels of oil below the refuge – we cannot afford to release that much CO2 emissions, and the USA cannot meet its carbon reduction pledges if this oil is not left in the ground.
The arctic is warming 3 times faster than the rest of the planet. This is a common sense move, and should never have been made. Far more oil needs to be left in the ground. Many oil and gas companies face bankruptcy if fossil fuel cars and heating ends, however without it, the world is likely to become far more hostile – I do not wish to leave a world like that for my children and grand children.
Tigers are still found in small populations across large parts of Asia, and as such, many millions of people live in relatively close areas to places that protect the wild tiger. A poacher in Bangladesh has finally been caught, it is estimated that he is responsible for the deaths of 70 tigers. Given the current population is thought to be between 300 and 500 in the whole of Bangladesh, this poacher alone could greatly increase the risk of local extinction in the near term.
DNA analysis has shown that a grey whale first seen off the South West African coast, originated in a population off the eastern coast of Asia.
This grey whale in question was spotted off the coast of Namibia by scientists. Given where they are usually found, they wanted to check what was going on so took a DNA sample.
The sighting is exciting, as it suggests that grey whales collectively have memory of long unused breeding grounds, or are merely exploring beyond their current range.
Even more exciting, this male was found to likely come from the North pacific population, a highly endangered population with only 200 members.
Now while from this populations point of view, a female migrating the other way would have been more useful, it suggests that there is far more mixing across huge distances than was previously known.
Perhaps as the pressures of whaling fade into history, these animals will return. It is true that whaling is not yet being left in the past. Norway Iceland and Japan all still have small whaling industries. However, provided whaling is kept at this level, or reduces over time the vast majority of whales will be unaffected. It is important that whaling (even in these limited numbers) stays clear of certain species; for instance northern right whales still only number around 200 in the wild, so even hunting at the levels we will have could push this species to extinction.
Any decision on which species can be hunted must come down to science. It is irrelevant if a people have hunted a specific whale for centuries, if they would exterminate the rest of its species.
Whales should be allowed to recover to previous levels. They are also capable of sequestering carbon in large quantities, both from their dead bodies and waste. We need them to thrive – both for their benefit and for ours.