We cannot plant our way out of climate change

Eucalyptus plantation and rainforest, approximately 50 miles north of Porto de Moz, Brazil.

Thomas Crowther was an ecologist whose work inspired many tree planting projects, the problem is that this is a more complex idea than it first seems, and more importantly, mass plantations do not help.

Forests take up vast quantities of carbon, but the whole ecosystem must benefit, otherwise while trees may get planted, they are likely to fall foul of pests, or similar.

One of the simple requirements, is to plant trees more like a rainforest would. We cannot plant monocultures of a single tree – this is simply the equivalent of rolling out a picnic rug for the specific pests which feed on the tree in question. Instead, we need hundreds of tree species in each acre. Amazingly, without this, the trees ability to do what we want and draw down carbon dioxide is severely limited, so will fail.

Interestingly, preserving remaining forests has a far bigger impact on carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere, so this is not only beneficial to the wildlife that lives there, it is also one of our most effective tools, to avoid climate change.

Think of all the primates, great apes and many other species that would be saved, if we just started to do what is best for ourselves.

Greenland is loosing 30 million tonnes of ice per year.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting

The Greenland icesheet is vast, which can bee seen from this image, which had to be taken from space to show the scale.

Greenland is in fact only slightly bigger than Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom together. Looking at it another way, it is the size of the DRC in Africa, or is 71% of the size of India, and 80% of this vast landscape is covered in ice. 

Now we realize the scale of the ice on Greenland, we need to recognize that it is melting. 0.17% of all water on earth is locked up in ice on Greenland. Now, while that does not sound much, remember that the Antarctic ice cap is also melting, though currently far slower, and this consists of 1.56% of global water. If all the ice on Greenland melted, is enough to raise global sea levels by 7 meters, which would be the end of countries like Bangladesh among quite a few more.

So, the Greenland Ice sheet is loosing 30 million tonnes of Ice every hour! How can we put that in perspective? Given that an Olympic swimming pool contains 2500 cubic meters of water, this is the same as 12,000 extra Olympic swimming pools of water in the worlds oceans ever hour or 10 extra swimming pools every 3 seconds. It is not going to run out of water, any time soon, given that it currently has over 2 million cubic kilometres on the island. Never-the-less, this quantity of water hour in, hour out (it is loosing 720 million tonnes of ice per day, or 3/4 of a cubic kilometre every single day.

This is 20% than even researchers had thought, and it is perhaps unsurprising that this vast amount of fresh water being deposited into the ocean every day is having an impact on things like currents – the North atlantic ocean current is the only reason that places like the UK have warmer climates than similar latitudes in Canada.

Greenland has lost 1 trillion tonnes of ice since 1985 since my birth – and this is just from glaciers. 

Global warming is happening, and it is happening now. This is not something that you need to be aware that your children will have to face, it is something that we will all have to face in the next few decades.

This shows us: global warming is not something that we avoid and just leave to our children, this is our problem too.

Birds of prey populations across Africa are collapsing

Why are these birds having population collapse?

  • Martial eagle
  • Bateleur eagle
  • Dark chanting goshawk

are all disappearing rapidly. Indeed, a study of 42 species, 90% had seen significant declines, with more than 2/3 (that is 28 species) showing evidence of becoming extinct.

Read more: Birds of prey populations across Africa are collapsing

The problem is that, this is not merely a case of the large raptors disappearing, and no longer being able to follow the circling vultures to find a kill. Instead, it has very serious consequences for human populations. The decline of the Indian vultures lead to a rise in rabies in the local human population in the early 1990s.

The African birds are very large, with some having the capability of hunting prey as large as jackals and antelopes. Encouragingly, this decline has been far less noticeable within reserves, and should we meet our target of setting aside 30% of land for conservation, it would allow more to thrive.

This has been worse in west Africa, where there are not enough protected areas, and those that exist do not have enough funding. In India, the lack of vultures has lead to an increase in the feral dog population, which has lead to an increase in rabies as these dogs bite humans that they interact with

Mountain goats are rapidly becoming nocturnal due to the heat: impacts?

Just bare in mind, with the video above, if you have problems with heights, the view when you start the video above will not be pleasant.

So, if you are a species who spends its days moving around on cliffs, which most species would spend their lives avoiding often even if the alternative choice is death, clearly it is extreme. 
The fact of the matter, is that heights are not the only threat that animals like mountain goats face when living in the mountains: Bears, wolves, eagles, and wolverines and even animals like snow leopards that live in the mountains, will get the majority of their calories from meat. Animals like mountain goats, along with various deer species, will be the mainstay of these predators in the mountains.

What is, unfortunately a fact, is that mountain goats do not fly. As such they need to be able to see the cliff, so as to be able to step carefully and not loose their footing. 

This means that goats cannot become nocturnal, as without enough light, they will fall to their deaths. As such mountain goats tend to be crepuscular – active in the early morning and late evening

 However, this move has already happened, so all that this move might do, is reduce the length of time that mountain goats can remain active, which is likely to lead to starvation amongst much of the wild population.

Should pest animals be put on the ‘pill’ rather than culling them?

One of the most noticeably colourful invasive species is the parakeet

Increasingly, scientists are coming up with simple ways to avoid wildlife pregnancies through medication in food. In the UK species needing this sort of thing include

These vary in the cost to the UK economy (as do the various invasive species elsewhere in the world). Below, you will find a list of many of these species in the UK, along with (where available) an estimate of the size of the population and the cost that they come with from the damage that they do. Click read more, to look at all of the different species we have talked about.

Read more: Should pest animals be put on the ‘pill’ rather than culling them?

  • Grey squirrels: Squirrels are estimated to cost £7 million in England and Wales just to forestry, the total is estimated at £14 million. The royal forestry society stated “Grey squirrel damage to trees in England and. Wales is estimated to cost £37m a year in lost timber value, reduced carbon capture, damage”. Likely a more complete figure. While the only successful elimination campaign was on Anglesey (9,597 grey squirrels were killed at a cost of £1,019,000) using natural forces, such as pine martens, many areas would just need time. They are found throughout mainland UK and many islands except areas like Anglesey and various islands, as well as areas where pine martens still live – their range includes much of Scotland and parts of Wales. Allowing the Pine marten to recover would greatly increase the number of no grey squirrels area – and various tests have shown that isolating populations can quickly depress them to near zero (despite being one of the most common places to see squirrels, city populations are only sustained by continual immigrants from the surrounding area. There are thought to be around 2.7 million grey squirrels.
  • wild boar: different to the Grey squirrel, the wild boar is native. It is true that most boar is not pure, and as such with the pig DNA breeds far faster, making its control harder. The countries population is thought to currently be 2600. Their presence of wild boar greatly improves the health of woodland, so we hope that they will not be exterminated, but rather allowed to spread to other woodlands (or indeed moved). It can be an issue for farmers, and there are needs to work on this, but their net effect is likely to be positive.
  • deer (both over-large native populations & introduced species). It is thought to be around 2 million deer in the UK, with around 600,000 born each year.
    • Red deer- 360,000 in UK, with most being in Scotland. Perhaps only 50 in Wales This has grown hugely over the last 100 years. Growth estimates 2.23% growth a year. NATIVE
    • Roe deer- 800,000 in UK, with around 70% in Scotland. Perhaps only 50 in Wales. Estimate is that the population is growing at around 2.3% a year NATIVE
    • Sika deer- 11,500, 9000 in Scotland and 2500 in England. They originated in Eastern Asia and were introduced in around 1860. NON-NATIVE- founding population originates from escapees from various deer parks around the UK (though I think it is easy to argue that deer parks should only contain native deer, in the UK
    • Fallow deer: around 100,000, thought to have hugely increased in last 20 years but increase per year is not forthcoming. NON-NATIVE -They originate in Asia, attempts to introduce them into places like Spain have often failed due to surviving populations of predators like wolves.
    • Muntjac deer: NON-NATIVE – Introduced to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in 1838, they started to escape shortly after. Current population is roughly 52,000, but with a growth rate, that has been measured between 1980-2009 at 12% per annum. Should this continue, it would only take 2 decades for the population to exceed 500,000
    • Chinese water deer: NON-NATIVE – there are just 3600 deer living in the UK, though this is thought to be growing each year. Alarmingly, this small number represents 10% of the global population. It is possible that these might represent a back-stop which could allow their reintroduction back into their native habitat. The population is thought to be growing.
  • Feral goats: thought to be the first animal farmed, as early as 5000BC, but it is thought to have been roaming the UK for around 10,000 years. The Snowdonia goat population is thought to have doubled to 500 in the last 5 years. Originally thought to be around 250 herds around the country, that has dropped to just 50. The current population is thought to be around 1500
  • Pigeons- Descended from native, via domestication: The wild animal is the Rock dove, the feral pigeon is a domesticated species which escaped. The feral pigeon is thought to be around 18 million. No serious effort has been made to eliminate them, though problem populations can be rapidly reduced by bird boxes for birds of prey like peregrine falcons.
  • Parakeets NON-NATIVE 32,000 in 2012 potentially twice that number by now. Various possible starts to the population include escapees from a film set of ‘The African Queen’ an aviary damaged by falling parts of a plane. However, once here their population rapidly grown. They have a very strong beak, which means that they are often able to create access points into buildings from incredibly small openings. Once inside they can cause electrical short circuits and more.
  • Wallabies: unknown population size, the peak district population is thought to be extinct, having not been seen in the wild since 2000.
  • Many, many more

Total damage from invasive animals, in the UK, is estimated at £5 billion over the last 40-50 years.

The problem of invasive species appears to be a problem around the world. Places like the Kruger national park in South Africa, while looking native, have 146 species alien species, and what will happen in the future.

The suggestion is, by stopping these species from being able to have young the population will disappear over time. Virtually every country on earth has invasive species, but we need to work on stopping these accidental or illegal introductions. There would have to be a range of different ways of to get the contraceptives into the animal, food which a red deer could consume would not be edible for a parakeet.

Oddly, one of the groups most at fault here, is so called animal rights groups. Regardless of where the species origin is, they are just set loose. This is foolish, as both the released animals, and the area into which they are released are likely to suffer horrifically – often through starvation, though the animal will often do much damage before they die. So called animal rights groups are foolish in the extreme if they think that this improves the life of any of the animals in question.

What is Trumps views on climate change, anyway, and where is the USA currently on its emissions reduction

Trumps beliefs on climate change, from quotes that he gave

Apologies for those who think that this is covered too much on this website – I to would like to just write on wildlife and the threats that they face. Unfortunately, virtually all habitats on earth are threatened by climate change, and as such, politics in the USA has to be of interest to us all. Should any Americans be reading this – welcome. If this is just confirming what you believe, please spread the word (for much of the rest of the world, while Trump has many, many qualities which should rule him out as president (and even more so as a republican candidate) on this website, we are only interested in policies which result in changes to wildlife and issues with climate change.

The emissions of the USA are currently 13.49% of global population as of 2023. While that does not sound too bad, remember on 4.23% of global population lives in the USA, so in other words, the USA carbon emissions are 3 times the global average (never mind how much they need to drop if we are to avoid the worst of global warming). To put that in perspective, currently Europe emits around 8% of global emissions, but with 9.23%, as a block it emits less than its current fair share of emissions. The EU has agreed to cut emissions by 90% by 2040, relative to 1990 levels, and has currently cut emissions by 30%. In the USA, Biden has set an aim of cutting emission by around 50% by 2030, below 2005 levels, and so far, they have cut around 20% so have a way to go.

Read more: What is Trumps views on climate change, anyway, and where is the USA currently on its emissions reduction

So, having laid out where they are, what does Trump think. Well, one thing to bare in mind, is that Trump is terrible in keeping his word. He says whatever occurs to him in the moment. However, what is clear is he has little to no regard for scientists, and believes that whatever occurs to him is probably right. He is also adamant that whatever cuts are made by the USA, must be made by countries like India, China and Brazil, despite their emerging economy status, or the vast historical emissions of the USA – currently, the USA has emitted roughly 25% of all historical emissions since 1750, while by contrast, China has emitted half of that.

Trumps first term in office, was characterized by a range of things, but they included, a heavy and sustained attempt to increase the extraction of fossil fuels, and it is estimated that should he be elected in November, the result will be a net gain of 4 billion extra tonnes of carbon as a result.

So what do we expect from a Trump presidency 2.0? The list is long, and mine will not include everything. Furthermore, given how willingly he breaks his word, it is impossible to know if he will do any of the things on this list, or indeed, if he would have the support in the other branches of government to even try. Still, this is what he is saying

  • Trump believing that climate change is a hoax: While many Republicans are belatedly coming around to the (now obvious) consensus, that not only are humans certainly the main cause of climate change, but also that we can therefore fix it, Trump is still claiming that climate change is a hoax (various reasons for this hoax include money for departments and bodies trying to deal with in and an attempt for China to take advantage after the USA cuts its emissions and they do not). He is also claiming, that even if he is wrong, the impacts will not be felt for 300 years – a bizarre statement, given the cost to the USA economy in 2023 alone (from worsening weather and similar, like bigger storms) is estimated at $92 billion though, when taking everything into account, this bill is likely to be many multiples higher. We are already facing the effects of climate change, as anyone who looks rationally at changing weather, rainfall and other effects can see after rather quickly . Apart from neither of these being good reasons, both China and USA are thought to be going to face costs that will rank highest, from impacts as a result of climate change. It should be noted, that those Republicans to face the horrific climate causing weather changes, are increasingly coming round to the obvious answer. As such, it is well within their own benefit that they do everything they can to limit its effect. This appears to be something that Trump is incapable of changing his view on, which in my mind should rule him out, but that is me. Unfortunately, given that many Republicans put the economy above climate change, this does not change their mind. It should also be noted, that while Trump does not like them, a majority of Republicans want both renewables and traditional power generation to continue – while this makes little sense (renewables are cheaper, more reliable and will not doom the planet) it suggests that Trump is extreme even in his own party (though this should make you wonder how he was chosen once again).
  • Economy: he was very eager to tout his economy and market, but neither did well. Even just comparing him to the other single term president in the recent era, his increas in GDP was less than half of HW Bush. Indeed, while many would claim you should ignore the drop at the end of his term as this was caused by Covid, but he made this far worse than it had to be. 75% of Americans prioritize the economy over the environment, the foolish result of this, is that they are storing up huge costs to the economy for their children’s generation – most generations try to leave the world in a better state for their children than they found it. In recent polls, 53% of republicans would prioritize climate change mitigation over economy – it is unclear how important this is, but if rational, this should make it impossible for Trump to get elected again (unfortunately it is unlikely to work out like this).

Market gains: He spent much time touting his economy on the basis of stock, but this too, he did not do well in, lying in the bottom half of these presidents.

Not investing in climate change mitigation and reduction is insane – the falls in GDP and the market and peoples standard of living will not be known for a long time, however, without other presidents rapidly correcting the mistakes of Trump, the cost of his decisions on the environment could run into the many Trillions.

  • Withdraw from the Paris climate agreement: now one of only 2 countries working together in this way. While Biden reversed this move when he started, Trump is adament that he will repeat the same move, should he return to the white house. While 1.5°C is likely passed, 2.0°C would be greatly threatened by his return to the presidency.
  • Replace the clean power act with Affordable clean energy: While this sounds similar, it is not, and does not do what is required for power generation. This is not only bad for the climate, but also bad for households, as solar and wind are now the cheapest power, and this is only increasing over time.
  • Attempt to freeze fuel efficiency standards, as well as preventing California from having higher ones: It is a fact that higher fuel efficiency does not only benefit the planet, but also consumers wallets. This is obvious – if your car drives 10 miles a litre rather than 8 miles a litre, it costs 20% less to fuel your car. Trumps argument was that this increasing fuel efficiency cost many billions and was passed on to consumers in higher costs. This is unlikely, given the competition in the market, but anyway, he tried to take these rules back beyond current averages in the fleet (which cost nothing to maintain). Over time, this may well be irrelevant, as the onward march of electric cars may eliminate petrol and diesel from the roads within the next decade or two anyway.
  • Eliminated and reversed the momentum on this issue that was built up in Obamas term
  • Drill, Drill, Drill: In line with much above, Trump has promised to allow as much fossil fuel extraction as is possible, should he get back into the white house. The fact of the matter is that USA oil demand is only falling, and is likely to do so, more and more rapidly. As with the foolishness of the UK government (agreeing to new oil field off the coast of Scotland), the majority of these assets will be stranded, long before the end of the period in which they could continue to be used.

This is a subject which I have written about before, but as I have said before, if I change one mind, it is worth it. While I do not believe that there are any benefits on the other side, few can seriously argue that in the long-term it would be wise to give Trump a second go at breaking the world.

Donald Trump is on the ballot once again. What threat does he pose? Is he of interest to the rest of the world?

Hand-over to Donald Trumps first term, could President Obamas vice president have to hand over the white house to the same person?

Some of us find politics fascinating, some do not, but you might quite reasonably ask why look at in on a wildlife and environment blog?

It is, unfortunately, a simple fact that not only is the USA still the biggest economy in the world, but it is the second biggest emitter. Currently the USA emits around 13.7% of the worlds carbon dioxide with a population of 4.23% of the world. In other words, the USA has a huge amount of cutting to do – if the USA cut its emissions by two thirds, then each individual would emit the worlds average amount of carbon dioxide, however, given the need to reach net zero as soon as possible, they have a long way to go.

Why is this relevent?

Last time, while Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement (it had no penalties, so pulling out did nothing) as well as encouraging drilling and deforestation and basically anything that would take us the wrong way in terms of climate change. Intentional? who knows, though it certainly went against many peoples interests, which only made Trump happier!

Currently 35% of Americans like trump, while 63% dislike him (an incredibly small percentage which has no opinion.

Currently, 47% of Americans support republicans, while 42% support democrats. That leaves 11% of Americans not in either camp. There is lots more analysis to be done on this, but what is clear, is that Donald Trump has a strong chance to return to the white house, and essentially the decision is largely in the hands of the people that do not support either major party.

So what would a second term contain?

  • More fossil fuel production?
  • Ignoring Scientists
  • Ignoring rules which are there to reduce warming gases in the atmosphere.

What is clear, is that if Trump gets back into the white house, it is virtually certain that we cannot avoid 1.5 degree warming, as it will delay everything for a further 4 years. The clearest move is that he will work to undo all positive environmental moves, enacted by Biden during his term.

This the world cannot afford, but over 95% of the planet gets no vote. Readers in the USA, it seems unnecessary to spell out why he should not be in a position of power. The damage he will do to the environment worries people around the globe. His move to overturn treaties is likely to harm the rest of the world, but what does USA citizens have to look forwards to?

  • Higher prices on all imports – because of his desire to have trade wars with the rest of the world.
  • He claims to have changed his mind on Obamacare – but it appears that this is simply because as it has unfolded, it has got popular. The fact of the matter is that if he could, he would have dismantled it in his first time. Can he be trusted to maintain it? I would not

He finished his term, desperately trying to tear down democracy in the USA. Can he be trusted? I would not, but clearly there is still many who would.

I think any country who does not ban a man who did everything legal and illegal to overturn a fair election, and does not bar him from office is mad. I find it hard to believe that even the USA would be foolish enough to re-elect him, but the same was thought last time. We are slowly building progress and agreement on climate change, please dont throw that out.

Worlds largest iceberg broke free in November, stuck on the ocean floor for over 30 years

Covering 1500 square miles, the iceberg grounded in 1986 on the ocean floor, but now it is free it is heading into the Southern ocean.

Carving like this, is quite natural. Unfortunately, though this is occurring far more often, and this is a sign of global warming.

It should be noted that as this was frozen sea water, it should not raise ocean levels, as the water was in the ocean before it froze and will return as it melts.

Wind-turbines on a track? cheaper even than other forms?

Above, is an interesting video done by one of the more popular youtubers in this space. It looks at a fascinating new idea about how we could harness the wind.

You might well ask, why do we need a new way? and that is a good question. The simple fact is that in the current model that we use with the standard wind turbine, they are reaching the biggest size that they can possibly be (there is a wind turbine in China, which is 50 storeys high). It is likely the simplest way to harness wind power at sea, but what about power for a single building or a small village? This new way of harnessing the wind has got Bill Gates attention with a cost of roughly 1/3. Being only 25m tall rather than the normal height, it could be placed in far more places, without reducing the power given. Furthermore, on this system, the whole of each blade actually helps pull around the track, rather than just the tip. It is true that these are early in their process, but why is this useful. Well with this idea, you could for instance put a track over a long terrace of houses, or even over a stretch of motorways. Furthermore, it is possible to put all of the parts of an 2.5mw turbine inside a single lorry.

Installation costs are Airloom energy $0.21  per watt installed, vs wind farm $1.25 per watt on standard wind turbines. Multiplying that up, Airloom would cost $210,000 per megawatt hour, while a windfarm would cost $1,250,000. Looking at it differently, if Airloom succeeds, you would be able to install almost 6megawatt hours of Airloom for every megawatt hour of normal wind turbine. It should be noted that in recent times, solar has overtaken wind as the cheapest form of electricity generation. This to reverse this gain for a very long time. 

 

 

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Orangutan killings in Borneo still likely common

There is a serious problem in Borneo, that appears to be largely flying under the radar.

A survey of villages found that 30% of villages had evidence of orangutan killiing in the last 5-10 years. This is despite a taboo on killing the species.

The number of Borneo Orangutans is falling, and it is thought that the wild population will have fallen below 100,000 in recent years.

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