We’re all concentrating on saving rainforests: but will they survive?

Rainforests are essential for many different things. At the moment, we (as the human race) are concerned about rainforests for their capacity to store carbon – thereby reducing the amount in the atmosphere and therefore the threat of carbon dioxide causing the greenhouse effect.

Here, you can see what happens to land that is deforested. It is not good for the rainforest that survives either

The problem is, that even without cutting any more rainforests down, we have already changed the weather dramatically. If rainforests are cut down there may then not be enough rain to sustain regrowth. One example is the Amazon, where it is predicted that half its rainfall is caused by the forest itself.

In the Amazon, Congo and even south-east Asia, there are already worrying signs in particularly highly deforested areas, that the rainforest weather is drying, turning the forest into a more savannah like area.

What is clear, is that a fragmented rainforest is deeply threatened. We need large blocks of unbroken rainforest if the planet is to survive in a form that we will continue be good for the human race to continue to thrive within. Of course, this is also essential for the many planet services that the human race requires to keep going.

Of course, this is not a reason to be allowed to cut down the fragments, it is a reason to not create the fragments in the first place. What is important to realize, is that many of the activities that the rainforest is being cut down for, will not work without the rain that the forest creates.

Just food for thought

0.1% chance of hitting our 1.5° according to study. Time to give up and get ready for the horrific world to come?

After a great deal of negotiating, back in 2015 more than 200 countries signed up to targets that aim to restrict world warming to an average of 1.5°. Despite the decades between scientists positing that humans are warming the planet and this point, this is the easy part.

“Get the countries of the world to agree what is happening, and agree that we do not want to allow it to continue, so we had better do something about it”.

After this, we need the countries of the world to not only meet the targets that they set, but to exceed them and be willing to rachet up these targets until the reductions will be enough to keep warming to 1.5°.

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Forests appear to reduce the planets temperatures by half a degree – we cant afford to loose this

In a time when half a degree more or less warming, might be the difference between tens of millions of people becoming climate refugees, and hundreds of millions (or even billions), the idea that without our forests the planet would be at least half a degree warmer, should give us even more incentive to protect the forests that remain.

Rainforests are fantastic places and now it is clear that we need them to keep the planet cool copyright Freebie photography
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Can the red sea teach us how to save the worlds corals?

The coral itself is actually usually quite a dull colour, the brilliant colours of coral reefs come from the algae that lives within its coral tissue. These algae’s are called Zooxanthellae and in return for their home, the algae supply most of the corals nutrients.

The problem, is that these algae are very sensitive to temperature changes, and so if the sea remains unusually warm or cold for more than a few days, the algae leaves the corals and this is called a bleaching. This bleaching has occurred more and more recently in the last few years.

As a result of this, it is feared, that up to 90% of the corals worldwide will be lost by 2050.

This is where the red sea corals become so interesting.

The red sea coral reef looks the same as any other reef, but it appears that there is a difference, that might be the key to saving reefs around the world

Just 2 years ago, researchers found some corals in the Gulf of Aqaba, a trench between Israel, Jordan and Egypt which could withstand higher temperatures for longer. Just 1 degree above normal, sustained for a week can be enough to cause bleaching. If the temperature does not fall quickly, the corals will die. Yet here, corals have been seen to survive temperature rises above 7 degrees. It is thought that these corals have developed these abilities because they regularly suffer large temperature changes.

If they can identify corals that have this ability, and translocate them into new reefs, they will cross-breed. As the heat resistant corals are heat resistant, they are likely to survive far longer and therefore be able to pass on their heat resistant trait into the whole reef.

Given the rapidly warming planet, we only have about 30 years to act. Apart from their own intrinsic value, coral reefs are also worth roughly $600,000 per square kilometre each year, through protecting coastlines, increased tourism, medication and a whole lot more effects.

This is a fantastic possible save for the worlds reefs, time will tell if it works.

At the moment the world’s current maximum temperature rise would make life impossible for 1 billion people on the planet

At 35 degrees Celsius the human body can no longer regulated temperature effectively. Indeed even healthy people sitting in the shade at this temperature turn to last not much more than 6 hours.

If we have 4 degrees of global warming, half of the population on earth will fall into the dangerous category of extreme heat.

Currently, Brazil India and Ethiopia are the hardest hit by extreme heat, but at 4 degrees Celsius, this will increase dramatically impact in large parts of Europe as well as lots of other parts of the developed world.

The scary statistic is that even if we hit 2 degrees of warming, this will still put more than 1 billion under this horrific heat condition.

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Cop 26: successes and failures

There is much to be pleased about with how the cop26 conference went, unfortunately we are still not at a point where the promises made are going to meet the targets we know we need to hit. It seems that at least for now, the Climate change deniers have now been banned from the room – climate change ‘realists’ who basically claim nothing can be done and it is nothing to do with humans, are unfortunately still being listened to in some places.

Cop 26 brought together many of the world leaders

It is now recognised that while 2 degrees Celsius has been listed as a maximum increase target for some time, warming of this quantity will leave the world in a very poor place.

This is why for a long period, when these gatherings have occurred, the aim has been to reduce carbon emissions by enough to hit 1.5 degrees Celsius rise.

All of the current promises would get us to 1.8 degrees Celsius rise. Now it is encouraging to be that close, however clearly we have not succeeded yet.

There are other significant issues. Most countries promise to phase out the use of coal for electricity generation. This is because it is widely recognised that energy generation from coal is one of the most polluting. Unfortunately China, India, the US and Australia failed to join in this pledge. It should be remembered that Climate change is expected to cause the biggest financial burden on India US and Brazil, so it should be a self preservation move for these countries to help, but as yet this does not seem to be happening.

It should be noted that these countries do not deny the science they nearly aren’t willing to engage in a sensible solution.

Methane emissions in the USA are a significant and rising problem, yet the companies deny the issue

Methane emissions are 80 times more warming that carbon dioxide. They do not stay in the atmosphere for ever, but in the short term, they could still cause the human race an enormous task which could quickly become unmanageable. Methane (natural gas) is often found in the same place as oil yet, bizarrely, extractors are generally after one or the other. By making rules on methane capture, significant quantities can be stopped from escaping into the atmosphere, never mind the fact that this methane can then be sold, greatly increasing income.

According to a recent NASA study, methane is responsible for about 25% of the global warming that has occurred since the industrial revolution.

Under Obama the central American government tightened rules on methane extraction in an attempt to deal with this issue. The larger companies engaged with the new rules, but unfortunately the smaller companies which are responsible for much of the fracking that occurs complained and the EPA under Trumps oversight (Trump had installed many fossil fuel executives into its ranks) reversed these cuts.

The industry claimed that there was not much leakage and that the problem was under control. Unfortunately this was a lie. At the same time that they were claiming tiny leaks publicly, privately they were admitting to a huge problem.

So far, these lies which are going to cost the world population have not been punished at all. What is worse, we wouldn’t know about the behaviour were it not for a secret recording made of a member of the independent petroleum association. According to the recording Ron Ness president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council told the meeting “We’re just flaring a tremendous amount of gas. This pesky natural gas. The value if it is very minimal”. A few months later, the same organisation had a lawyer state that it is not in their interests to let even a molecule of gas escape.

Yet this requires us to be fools. The most long lasting view of an oil rig is with a flame blowing out, burning off excess gas.

We need to make pollution the expensive option. If venting is the cheapest way to work, lets tax it to such an extreme level that it is worth their while to catch the waste. Of course the best way to end this practice is for the producers to go out of business. While we are moving in that direction at a reasonable speed, it is perhaps too slow for the survival of the way of life that we humans have got used to over the last few millenia. If we continue as we are, the climate we will leave for out children will not be as pleasant.

Global warming is happening, and even with the cuts promised, we are likely to see significant sea level rises: what is this likely to cost

It is an unfortunate fact, all over the world, that people have chosen to live near the sea. There are many reasons for this, but the basic fact is that this is often the most productive land.

The problem now, though, is that all these peoples lives are liable to change. This is because small rises in sea levels could make them homeless. As much as 1 billion people live at low enough elevation to make this a threat.

Countries like Bangladesh are very flat, and it is estimated that as many as 20 million people within Bangladesh would become homeless by 2050 under current trends (this assumes that we meet our carbon cut targets. There would be many others that would be lost.

Forgetting the hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, there are famous buildings and places which should underline this issue in the west as well.

Buckingham palace would be under water up to the first floor if we fail to act. A temperature rise of 1.5 degrees C would merely bring the water level to the front door. Many other famous buildings such as the pentagon, the tower of London and Tokyo tower in Japan would all be lost.

This is all a long winded way of stating, that even with the dramatic cuts the world is hoping to make over the next few decades, many people on earth are still likely to loose their lives have their lives changed dramatically, in most cases for the worse.

Only 10% of the $17 trillion spent on Covid recovery went toward projects that would cut carbon emissions and restore nature

There is a constant complaint from vested interests, that the price of greening the world economy is just too high. Of course, when the world-wide economy needs a boost, these concerns go out of the window (until the emergency is over, then even these costs might be used to argue against saving the planet).

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