Category Archives: Oceans

Food shocks increase as world warms

Heat extremes harm harvests. So do floods, drought and high winds. Climate change spurs food shocks that threaten the supper table.

LONDON, 1 February, 2019 − More than ever, the world’s ways of keeping hunger at bay are taking a pounding as food shocks become more frequent. Potatoes are being baked in heat waves. Corn is being parched by drought. Fruit is being bitten by frost.

And a long-term study suggests that for the world’s farmers and graziers, fishing crews and fish farmers, things will get worse as the world warms. Australian and US scientists report in the journal Nature Sustainability that they examined the incidence of what they call “food shocks” across 134 nations over a period of 53 years.

They found that some regions and some kinds of farming have suffered worse than others; that food production is vulnerable to volatile climate and weather changes; and that the dangers are increasing with time.

The researchers looked at cases of dramatic crop failure, harvest loss and fishing fleet failures between 1961 and 2013, as recorded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and other sources, and then mapped shock frequency and co-occurrence.

In their database of 741 available time-series of food production, they found 226 cases of food shock: dramatic interruption of supply.

Hunger increases

Agriculture and livestock emerged as slightly more vulnerable to shock than fisheries and aquaculture. South Asia suffered most from crop damage or loss; the Caribbean for livestock, and Eastern Europe for fisheries; some of these regions were hard hit in more than one sector.

“The frequency of shocks has increased across all sectors at a global scale,” the authors report. “Increasing shock frequency is a food security concern in itself. Conflict-related shocks across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East since 2010, combined with adverse climate conditions, are responsible for the first uptick in global hunger in recent times.”

More than half of all shocks to food production were climate-related, and drought was the biggest factor. Extreme weather accounted for a quarter of shocks to livestock, and disease outbreaks another 10%, but the biggest single factor for pastoral farmers arose from geopolitical conflict and other crises.

Fisheries seemed better protected, and the worst shocks to fish landings could be traced to overfishing. Disruption to fish farming – a relatively new form of food production – has grown at a faster rate and to a higher level than in any other sector.

Climate scientists and agricultural researchers have been warning for years that food security is at hazard from global warming and climate change, both driven by profligate human use of fossil fuels and unthinking destruction of forests and natural grasslands and wetlands.

“While the number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the long-term trend shows they are happening more often”

Heat extremes can harm cereal yields almost anywhere, but Africa and South-east Asia are particularly at risk from changes in precipitation patterns.

The latest study is a reminder that, in some ways, the future has already arrived: the forewarned rise in climate extremes such as flood, heat and drought can be detected in the annual harvest tally around the globe.

And although a high percentage of the food supply damage can be linked to social conflict or political stress, climate change seems increasingly to be a factor in civil and international violence.

A new study for the UN security council – co-incidentally released on the same day – confirms the picture. Hunger and conflict are in a persistent and deadly partnership that threatens millions.

Mass famine

The number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the Nature Sustainability authors say. That is because factors such as social conflict and climate change can in synergy create a number of shocks across different sectors at different times. At least 22 of the 134 nations experienced shocks in many sectors over the same five-year time period.

In some cases, these shocks ended with more than just empty shelves. The collapse of the Soviet Union late in the last century removed some economic support from North Korea: subsequent floods precipitated a famine that killed 200,000 people.

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, and the subsequent Gulf War, devastated agricultural land and cost Kuwait’s commercial fishermen their livelihoods. Drought in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 decimated cereal yields, pastoralists lost fodder for their cattle and animal disease incidence soared.

“While the number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the long-term trend shows they are happening more often,” said Richard Cottrell of the University of Tasmania, who led the study.

“Globalised trade and the dependence of many countries on food imports mean that food shocks are a global problem, and the international community faces a significant challenge to build resilience.” − Climate News Network

Heat extremes harm harvests. So do floods, drought and high winds. Climate change spurs food shocks that threaten the supper table.

LONDON, 1 February, 2019 − More than ever, the world’s ways of keeping hunger at bay are taking a pounding as food shocks become more frequent. Potatoes are being baked in heat waves. Corn is being parched by drought. Fruit is being bitten by frost.

And a long-term study suggests that for the world’s farmers and graziers, fishing crews and fish farmers, things will get worse as the world warms. Australian and US scientists report in the journal Nature Sustainability that they examined the incidence of what they call “food shocks” across 134 nations over a period of 53 years.

They found that some regions and some kinds of farming have suffered worse than others; that food production is vulnerable to volatile climate and weather changes; and that the dangers are increasing with time.

The researchers looked at cases of dramatic crop failure, harvest loss and fishing fleet failures between 1961 and 2013, as recorded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and other sources, and then mapped shock frequency and co-occurrence.

In their database of 741 available time-series of food production, they found 226 cases of food shock: dramatic interruption of supply.

Hunger increases

Agriculture and livestock emerged as slightly more vulnerable to shock than fisheries and aquaculture. South Asia suffered most from crop damage or loss; the Caribbean for livestock, and Eastern Europe for fisheries; some of these regions were hard hit in more than one sector.

“The frequency of shocks has increased across all sectors at a global scale,” the authors report. “Increasing shock frequency is a food security concern in itself. Conflict-related shocks across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East since 2010, combined with adverse climate conditions, are responsible for the first uptick in global hunger in recent times.”

More than half of all shocks to food production were climate-related, and drought was the biggest factor. Extreme weather accounted for a quarter of shocks to livestock, and disease outbreaks another 10%, but the biggest single factor for pastoral farmers arose from geopolitical conflict and other crises.

Fisheries seemed better protected, and the worst shocks to fish landings could be traced to overfishing. Disruption to fish farming – a relatively new form of food production – has grown at a faster rate and to a higher level than in any other sector.

Climate scientists and agricultural researchers have been warning for years that food security is at hazard from global warming and climate change, both driven by profligate human use of fossil fuels and unthinking destruction of forests and natural grasslands and wetlands.

“While the number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the long-term trend shows they are happening more often”

Heat extremes can harm cereal yields almost anywhere, but Africa and South-east Asia are particularly at risk from changes in precipitation patterns.

The latest study is a reminder that, in some ways, the future has already arrived: the forewarned rise in climate extremes such as flood, heat and drought can be detected in the annual harvest tally around the globe.

And although a high percentage of the food supply damage can be linked to social conflict or political stress, climate change seems increasingly to be a factor in civil and international violence.

A new study for the UN security council – co-incidentally released on the same day – confirms the picture. Hunger and conflict are in a persistent and deadly partnership that threatens millions.

Mass famine

The number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the Nature Sustainability authors say. That is because factors such as social conflict and climate change can in synergy create a number of shocks across different sectors at different times. At least 22 of the 134 nations experienced shocks in many sectors over the same five-year time period.

In some cases, these shocks ended with more than just empty shelves. The collapse of the Soviet Union late in the last century removed some economic support from North Korea: subsequent floods precipitated a famine that killed 200,000 people.

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, and the subsequent Gulf War, devastated agricultural land and cost Kuwait’s commercial fishermen their livelihoods. Drought in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 decimated cereal yields, pastoralists lost fodder for their cattle and animal disease incidence soared.

“While the number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the long-term trend shows they are happening more often,” said Richard Cottrell of the University of Tasmania, who led the study.

“Globalised trade and the dependence of many countries on food imports mean that food shocks are a global problem, and the international community faces a significant challenge to build resilience.” − Climate News Network

Ocean waves pack bigger and stronger punch

The ocean waves are now hitting harder than ever. As the world warms, they gain in energy, impact and height.

LONDON, 23 January, 2019 – As the world’s seas warm, the ocean waves are starting to pack more power. Spanish scientists monitoring the tropical Atlantic report that the waves today contain more energy than they did 70 years ago. Sea surface temperatures influence wind patterns, and the payoff is a wave with more impact.

What this means for marine creatures, mariners, meteorologists and the mayors of seaside cities is not yet certain. But it does mean that wave energy could join carbon dioxide atmospheric ratios, global sea level rise and global air temperatures as yet one more metric of overall global warming and climate change.

And Chinese scientists who have been calculating the heat absorbed by the oceans over the last 30 years have confirmed that in 2018 ocean temperatures reached record levels. Before that, 2017 was the hottest oceanic year ever, followed by 2015, 2016 and 2014. Once again, the implications are uncertain: sea levels will rise with ocean temperatures.

“The new data … serve as an additional warning to both the government and the general public that we are experiencing inevitable global warming”

Researchers from the University of Cantabria in Santander, Spain report in the journal Nature Communications that waves have been growing in height in recent decades, and satellite studies confirmed a change of about 1% every four years from 1985 to 2008.

But their research focused on changes in wave energy, important because of the effect wave behaviour has on estuaries, shoals, beaches, dunes, headlands, harbours and sea defences. They examined data from 1948 to 2017 to trace a small but measurable increase in wave energy with the decades.

“For the first time, we have identified a global signal of the effect of global warming in wave climate,” said Borja Reguero, of Cantabria’s environmental hydraulics institute, who is also at the University of California Santa Cruz.

“In fact, wave power has increased globally by 0.4% per year since 1948, and this increase is correlated with the increasing sea surface temperatures, both globally and by ocean regions.”

A hundred million Hiroshimas

Chinese and US researchers recently calculated the heat absorbed by the oceans as ever higher ratios of greenhouse gases – the product of fossil fuel combustion and other human action – are added to the planet’s atmosphere.

Members of the same team report in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences that between 2017 and 2018 alone, the oceans must have absorbed an extra quantity of heat equivalent to 388 times the total electricity generation in China, and – to choose another and more vivid unit of measurement – around 100 million times the heat released by the atomic bomb that in August 1945 destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

“The new data, together with a rich body of literature, serve as an additional warning to both the government and the general public that we are experiencing inevitable global warming,” said Lijing Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the lead author of the report.

“The ocean and global warming have already taken place and caused serious damage and losses to both the economy and society.” – Climate News Network

The ocean waves are now hitting harder than ever. As the world warms, they gain in energy, impact and height.

LONDON, 23 January, 2019 – As the world’s seas warm, the ocean waves are starting to pack more power. Spanish scientists monitoring the tropical Atlantic report that the waves today contain more energy than they did 70 years ago. Sea surface temperatures influence wind patterns, and the payoff is a wave with more impact.

What this means for marine creatures, mariners, meteorologists and the mayors of seaside cities is not yet certain. But it does mean that wave energy could join carbon dioxide atmospheric ratios, global sea level rise and global air temperatures as yet one more metric of overall global warming and climate change.

And Chinese scientists who have been calculating the heat absorbed by the oceans over the last 30 years have confirmed that in 2018 ocean temperatures reached record levels. Before that, 2017 was the hottest oceanic year ever, followed by 2015, 2016 and 2014. Once again, the implications are uncertain: sea levels will rise with ocean temperatures.

“The new data … serve as an additional warning to both the government and the general public that we are experiencing inevitable global warming”

Researchers from the University of Cantabria in Santander, Spain report in the journal Nature Communications that waves have been growing in height in recent decades, and satellite studies confirmed a change of about 1% every four years from 1985 to 2008.

But their research focused on changes in wave energy, important because of the effect wave behaviour has on estuaries, shoals, beaches, dunes, headlands, harbours and sea defences. They examined data from 1948 to 2017 to trace a small but measurable increase in wave energy with the decades.

“For the first time, we have identified a global signal of the effect of global warming in wave climate,” said Borja Reguero, of Cantabria’s environmental hydraulics institute, who is also at the University of California Santa Cruz.

“In fact, wave power has increased globally by 0.4% per year since 1948, and this increase is correlated with the increasing sea surface temperatures, both globally and by ocean regions.”

A hundred million Hiroshimas

Chinese and US researchers recently calculated the heat absorbed by the oceans as ever higher ratios of greenhouse gases – the product of fossil fuel combustion and other human action – are added to the planet’s atmosphere.

Members of the same team report in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences that between 2017 and 2018 alone, the oceans must have absorbed an extra quantity of heat equivalent to 388 times the total electricity generation in China, and – to choose another and more vivid unit of measurement – around 100 million times the heat released by the atomic bomb that in August 1945 destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

“The new data, together with a rich body of literature, serve as an additional warning to both the government and the general public that we are experiencing inevitable global warming,” said Lijing Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the lead author of the report.

“The ocean and global warming have already taken place and caused serious damage and losses to both the economy and society.” – Climate News Network

Warming may mean sea levels 30 cms higher

Warmer oceans mean higher tides, bigger storm surges and heavier rainstorms. With ocean temperatures rising ever faster, sea levels 30 cms higher are possible by 2100.

LONDON, 14 January, 2019 − The world’s oceans are warming increasingly fast. The planet could face sea levels 30 cms higher in 80 years.

While 2018 was probably only the fourth warmest year for global surface temperatures, it is likely to have been the hottest year ever for the oceans. The previous such year was 2017, and before that 2016.

And if global warming follows the pattern predicted by computer simulations, then at present rates the extra temperature of the oceans will cause a thermal expansion – warm water is always less dense than cold water – by 30 centimetres by the end of the century.

That is 30cms of sea level rise on top of all the extra rising sea water delivered by melting ice caps and glaciers on the world’s continents.

“The need to slow or stop the rates of climate change and prepare for the expected impacts is increasingly evident”

The planet is 71% ocean and the clear blue water absorbs an estimated 93% of all the excess heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by humans as they burn fossil fuels to power the global economy.

And a quartet of scientists from China and the US calculate that if the world goes on burning fossil fuels under the notorious business-as-usual scenario, then by the end of the century the top 2,000 metres of the high seas will have warmed by 0.78°C, causing 30cms of sea level rise simply by ocean expansion.

These warmer waters, inevitably, will in turn and less directly accelerate the already increasingly rapid melting of Greenland’s glaciers and surface ice, and eat away at the floating ice shelves that for the moment slow the great glaciers of the Antarctic continent.

Warmer sea waters are linked to the propagation of hurricanes, typhoons or tropical cyclones; to ever heavier and more devastating rainstorms; and to prolonged droughts, heat waves and forest fires.

Oceans are indicator

“If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans. Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought,” said Zeke Hausfather, of the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the study in the journal Science.

“While 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record on the surface, it will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that. The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface.”

The research is based on readings from Project Argo, a fleet of nearly 4,000 floating robots that periodically dive to 2,000 metres depth to measure ocean temperatures, chemistry, salinity and so on. The latest predictions are backed up by other recent studies.

One has calculated the heat that must have been absorbed by the oceans over the last 150 years. Another has already confirmed the latest study’s other conclusion, that the so-called “hiatus” in global warming never really happened: the heat not registered in global average air temperatures was taken up by the oceans.

Heat uptake continues

Ocean temperatures matter to climate calculations. What happens to air temperatures can be affected briefly by any number of natural cycles. An El Niño event may make one year conspicuously warmer than the next; a sequence of explosive volcanic eruptions may darken the skies and, for a year or so, lower the global temperatures. But the vast body of water that defines the blue planet is largely impervious to brief surface changes.

And, the researchers calculate, it will go on absorbing heat. By 2100, once again under the business-as-usual scenario, the five great oceans could between them have warmed by a total of 2,020 zettajoules: a joule is a basic unit of energy, and one zettajoule adds up to a billion trillion joules.

“This level of warming,” the scientists say, “would have major impacts on ocean ecosystems and sea level rise through thermal expansion.” They identify, they say, a clear need to go on trying to refine climate models and to improve their observations of ocean change.

“In addition, the need to slow or stop the rates of climate change and prepare for the expected impacts is increasingly evident.” − Climate News Network

Warmer oceans mean higher tides, bigger storm surges and heavier rainstorms. With ocean temperatures rising ever faster, sea levels 30 cms higher are possible by 2100.

LONDON, 14 January, 2019 − The world’s oceans are warming increasingly fast. The planet could face sea levels 30 cms higher in 80 years.

While 2018 was probably only the fourth warmest year for global surface temperatures, it is likely to have been the hottest year ever for the oceans. The previous such year was 2017, and before that 2016.

And if global warming follows the pattern predicted by computer simulations, then at present rates the extra temperature of the oceans will cause a thermal expansion – warm water is always less dense than cold water – by 30 centimetres by the end of the century.

That is 30cms of sea level rise on top of all the extra rising sea water delivered by melting ice caps and glaciers on the world’s continents.

“The need to slow or stop the rates of climate change and prepare for the expected impacts is increasingly evident”

The planet is 71% ocean and the clear blue water absorbs an estimated 93% of all the excess heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by humans as they burn fossil fuels to power the global economy.

And a quartet of scientists from China and the US calculate that if the world goes on burning fossil fuels under the notorious business-as-usual scenario, then by the end of the century the top 2,000 metres of the high seas will have warmed by 0.78°C, causing 30cms of sea level rise simply by ocean expansion.

These warmer waters, inevitably, will in turn and less directly accelerate the already increasingly rapid melting of Greenland’s glaciers and surface ice, and eat away at the floating ice shelves that for the moment slow the great glaciers of the Antarctic continent.

Warmer sea waters are linked to the propagation of hurricanes, typhoons or tropical cyclones; to ever heavier and more devastating rainstorms; and to prolonged droughts, heat waves and forest fires.

Oceans are indicator

“If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans. Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought,” said Zeke Hausfather, of the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the study in the journal Science.

“While 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record on the surface, it will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that. The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface.”

The research is based on readings from Project Argo, a fleet of nearly 4,000 floating robots that periodically dive to 2,000 metres depth to measure ocean temperatures, chemistry, salinity and so on. The latest predictions are backed up by other recent studies.

One has calculated the heat that must have been absorbed by the oceans over the last 150 years. Another has already confirmed the latest study’s other conclusion, that the so-called “hiatus” in global warming never really happened: the heat not registered in global average air temperatures was taken up by the oceans.

Heat uptake continues

Ocean temperatures matter to climate calculations. What happens to air temperatures can be affected briefly by any number of natural cycles. An El Niño event may make one year conspicuously warmer than the next; a sequence of explosive volcanic eruptions may darken the skies and, for a year or so, lower the global temperatures. But the vast body of water that defines the blue planet is largely impervious to brief surface changes.

And, the researchers calculate, it will go on absorbing heat. By 2100, once again under the business-as-usual scenario, the five great oceans could between them have warmed by a total of 2,020 zettajoules: a joule is a basic unit of energy, and one zettajoule adds up to a billion trillion joules.

“This level of warming,” the scientists say, “would have major impacts on ocean ecosystems and sea level rise through thermal expansion.” They identify, they say, a clear need to go on trying to refine climate models and to improve their observations of ocean change.

“In addition, the need to slow or stop the rates of climate change and prepare for the expected impacts is increasingly evident.” − Climate News Network

Ocean warming speeds vary with depth

The world’s oceans are a vast reservoir of heat, a slow register of natural climate change − and ocean warming speeds differ widely.

LONDON, 10 January, 2019 − Climate scientists who have found a new way to chart temperature change in the world’s seas over time say ocean warming speeds are much slower in deep water than on the surface.

Planet Earth is mostly ocean. Human-linked changes have started to raise global temperatures to what could be alarming levels and, as the thermometer rises, so will sea levels. So detailed understanding of temperature and ocean is vital. But two separate studies confirm that the connection is far from simple.

One study of the Atlantic confirms that in the last 150 years, the oceans have taken up 90% of the excess energy released by the combustion of fossil fuels to drive human economic growth and power − and to fuel potentially-catastrophic global warming and runaway climate change.

But what the oceans will actually do with that colossal burst of heat has yet to be fully explored. And a separate examination of the deep history of the Pacific Ocean confirms that change may be inexorable, but it is also very slow: the deeper parts of the Pacific are still registering the onset of the so-called “Little Ice Age” several centuries ago.

“These waters are so old and haven’t been near the surface in so long, they still ‘remember’ what was going on hundreds of years ago”

Both studies are reminders that oceanography is still a relatively new science and researchers still have a lot to learn about the fine detail of the ways in which temperature, atmosphere and ocean interact to affect climate over the world’s continents.

But repeated research has confirmed that the oceans are warming in response to human-triggered changes on land, that this warming presents several different kinds of hazard  to marine life, and that there is a link between overall ocean temperatures and the behaviour of the ocean’s currents, a link that plays out in dramatic shifts in regional climates.

So the rewards for a more precise understanding are considerable. But understanding starts with accurate and comprehensive data, and systematic measurement of ocean temperatures began only with the voyage of the British research ship HMS Challenger in 1871.

So Laure Zanna, a physicist at the University of Oxford and her colleagues, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they deployed sophisticated mathematical techniques to calculate the heat uptake of the oceans and the way the blue planet has responded since 1871.

Huge heat uptake

Altogether, in the last 150 years, the deep waters have absorbed 436 zettajoules: a joule is the unit of energy required to deliver one watt for one second and a zettajoule is a number followed by 21 zeroes. This is an enormous amount of heat, roughly 1,000 times the energy consumed by 7 billion humans in the course of a year.

The researchers’ results so far show that roughly half the observed warming of the last 60 years – and the associated sea level rise – is linked to changes in ocean circulation. They were able to reconstruct two considerable bouts of warming, over the years 1920 to 1945 and between 1990 and 2015. What they have yet to do is sort out what this means for the behaviour of the oceans over the decades to come.

“The technique is only applicable to tracers like man-made carbon that are passively transported by ocean circulation,” Professor Zanna said. “However, heat does not behave in this manner as it affects circulation by changing the density of seawater. We were pleasantly surprised by how well the approach works. It opens up an exciting new way to study ocean warming in addition to using direct measurements.”

What the research also underlines is that the oceans have a long memory: so extensive and so deep are the five oceans that the surface waters may respond to 20th century greenhouse gas emissions while the deepest trenches contain water that last warmed more than 1,000 years ago in the reign of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor.

Still adjusting

US oceanographers report in the journal Science that they matched predictions from computer models and modern data and ancient evidence with readings from the Challenger expedition to show that two kilometres under the waves, the Pacific Ocean is still adjusting to cooling that began with the onset of the Little Ice Age centuries ago.

Such studies count as basic research: as a way of testing techniques and establishing ground rules from which more discovery could follow. They also offer new ways to understand oceans as registers of climate change over long intervals.

“These waters are so old and haven’t been near the surface in so long, they still ‘remember’ what was going on hundreds of years ago when Europe experienced some of its coldest winters in history,” said Jake Gebbie, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

“The close correspondence between prediction and observed trends gave us confidence that this is a real phenomenon.” − Climate News Network

The world’s oceans are a vast reservoir of heat, a slow register of natural climate change − and ocean warming speeds differ widely.

LONDON, 10 January, 2019 − Climate scientists who have found a new way to chart temperature change in the world’s seas over time say ocean warming speeds are much slower in deep water than on the surface.

Planet Earth is mostly ocean. Human-linked changes have started to raise global temperatures to what could be alarming levels and, as the thermometer rises, so will sea levels. So detailed understanding of temperature and ocean is vital. But two separate studies confirm that the connection is far from simple.

One study of the Atlantic confirms that in the last 150 years, the oceans have taken up 90% of the excess energy released by the combustion of fossil fuels to drive human economic growth and power − and to fuel potentially-catastrophic global warming and runaway climate change.

But what the oceans will actually do with that colossal burst of heat has yet to be fully explored. And a separate examination of the deep history of the Pacific Ocean confirms that change may be inexorable, but it is also very slow: the deeper parts of the Pacific are still registering the onset of the so-called “Little Ice Age” several centuries ago.

“These waters are so old and haven’t been near the surface in so long, they still ‘remember’ what was going on hundreds of years ago”

Both studies are reminders that oceanography is still a relatively new science and researchers still have a lot to learn about the fine detail of the ways in which temperature, atmosphere and ocean interact to affect climate over the world’s continents.

But repeated research has confirmed that the oceans are warming in response to human-triggered changes on land, that this warming presents several different kinds of hazard  to marine life, and that there is a link between overall ocean temperatures and the behaviour of the ocean’s currents, a link that plays out in dramatic shifts in regional climates.

So the rewards for a more precise understanding are considerable. But understanding starts with accurate and comprehensive data, and systematic measurement of ocean temperatures began only with the voyage of the British research ship HMS Challenger in 1871.

So Laure Zanna, a physicist at the University of Oxford and her colleagues, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they deployed sophisticated mathematical techniques to calculate the heat uptake of the oceans and the way the blue planet has responded since 1871.

Huge heat uptake

Altogether, in the last 150 years, the deep waters have absorbed 436 zettajoules: a joule is the unit of energy required to deliver one watt for one second and a zettajoule is a number followed by 21 zeroes. This is an enormous amount of heat, roughly 1,000 times the energy consumed by 7 billion humans in the course of a year.

The researchers’ results so far show that roughly half the observed warming of the last 60 years – and the associated sea level rise – is linked to changes in ocean circulation. They were able to reconstruct two considerable bouts of warming, over the years 1920 to 1945 and between 1990 and 2015. What they have yet to do is sort out what this means for the behaviour of the oceans over the decades to come.

“The technique is only applicable to tracers like man-made carbon that are passively transported by ocean circulation,” Professor Zanna said. “However, heat does not behave in this manner as it affects circulation by changing the density of seawater. We were pleasantly surprised by how well the approach works. It opens up an exciting new way to study ocean warming in addition to using direct measurements.”

What the research also underlines is that the oceans have a long memory: so extensive and so deep are the five oceans that the surface waters may respond to 20th century greenhouse gas emissions while the deepest trenches contain water that last warmed more than 1,000 years ago in the reign of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor.

Still adjusting

US oceanographers report in the journal Science that they matched predictions from computer models and modern data and ancient evidence with readings from the Challenger expedition to show that two kilometres under the waves, the Pacific Ocean is still adjusting to cooling that began with the onset of the Little Ice Age centuries ago.

Such studies count as basic research: as a way of testing techniques and establishing ground rules from which more discovery could follow. They also offer new ways to understand oceans as registers of climate change over long intervals.

“These waters are so old and haven’t been near the surface in so long, they still ‘remember’ what was going on hundreds of years ago when Europe experienced some of its coldest winters in history,” said Jake Gebbie, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

“The close correspondence between prediction and observed trends gave us confidence that this is a real phenomenon.” − Climate News Network

Human horde leaves little room for nature

Our species’ planetary advance has been inexorable. The human horde means under a quarter of the world’s land surface now counts as wilderness.

LONDON, 8 November, 2018 – Only 23% of the planet’s habitable terrestrial surface now remains as undisturbed wilderness, thanks to the spread of the human horde.

A century ago, as the human population explosion began, 85% of the world was undisturbed living space for all the other species. Yet between 1993 and 2009 – in the years that followed hard on the first global summit to consider the state of the planetary environment – an aggregation of areas of wilderness larger than India was delivered over to human exploitation, scientists warn in the journal Nature.

“These results are nothing short of a horror story for the planet’s last wild places,” said James Watson, a scientist at the University of Queensland and with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“The loss of wilderness must be treated in the same way we treat extinction. There is no reversing, once the first cut enters. The decision is forever.”

Ocean impact

Professor Watson and colleagues argued in August that humans had in some way poisoned, polluted, exploited or disturbed almost all the planet’s oceans: only 13% could now be classified as undisturbed.

Now he and others have addressed the state of the wild terrestrial soils and rocks. Take Antarctica – essentially uninhabited, and with no terrestrial wildlife – out of the equation, and the scale of planetary devastation becomes more stark: humans have now left their mark on 77% of the world’s living space.

And the remaining wilderness is unevenly distributed: just 20 nations hold or govern 94% of the remaining marine and terrestrial wilderness areas. Russia, Canada, Australia, the US and Brazil host 70% of these unspoiled spaces.

Professor Watson and many others have repeatedly argued that humankind continues to put the world’s wildlife at risk. A new study by the World Wide Fund for Nature highlights the scale of destruction, but repeated surveys by teams of researchers on all continents have pointed up the same danger.

The combination of human intrusion into the wilderness and the spectre of climate change is a disaster for the 10 million or so species, most of them as yet unidentified, with which humans share the planet.

“These results are nothing short of a horror story for the planet’s last wild places”

“A century ago, only 15% of the Earth’s surface was used by humans to grow crops and raise livestock,” Professor Watson said.

“Today, more than 77% of land – excluding Antarctica – and 87% of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities. It might be hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India – a staggering 3.3 million square kilometres – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures.

“And in the ocean, the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are almost completely confined to the polar regions.” – Climate News Network

Our species’ planetary advance has been inexorable. The human horde means under a quarter of the world’s land surface now counts as wilderness.

LONDON, 8 November, 2018 – Only 23% of the planet’s habitable terrestrial surface now remains as undisturbed wilderness, thanks to the spread of the human horde.

A century ago, as the human population explosion began, 85% of the world was undisturbed living space for all the other species. Yet between 1993 and 2009 – in the years that followed hard on the first global summit to consider the state of the planetary environment – an aggregation of areas of wilderness larger than India was delivered over to human exploitation, scientists warn in the journal Nature.

“These results are nothing short of a horror story for the planet’s last wild places,” said James Watson, a scientist at the University of Queensland and with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“The loss of wilderness must be treated in the same way we treat extinction. There is no reversing, once the first cut enters. The decision is forever.”

Ocean impact

Professor Watson and colleagues argued in August that humans had in some way poisoned, polluted, exploited or disturbed almost all the planet’s oceans: only 13% could now be classified as undisturbed.

Now he and others have addressed the state of the wild terrestrial soils and rocks. Take Antarctica – essentially uninhabited, and with no terrestrial wildlife – out of the equation, and the scale of planetary devastation becomes more stark: humans have now left their mark on 77% of the world’s living space.

And the remaining wilderness is unevenly distributed: just 20 nations hold or govern 94% of the remaining marine and terrestrial wilderness areas. Russia, Canada, Australia, the US and Brazil host 70% of these unspoiled spaces.

Professor Watson and many others have repeatedly argued that humankind continues to put the world’s wildlife at risk. A new study by the World Wide Fund for Nature highlights the scale of destruction, but repeated surveys by teams of researchers on all continents have pointed up the same danger.

The combination of human intrusion into the wilderness and the spectre of climate change is a disaster for the 10 million or so species, most of them as yet unidentified, with which humans share the planet.

“These results are nothing short of a horror story for the planet’s last wild places”

“A century ago, only 15% of the Earth’s surface was used by humans to grow crops and raise livestock,” Professor Watson said.

“Today, more than 77% of land – excluding Antarctica – and 87% of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities. It might be hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India – a staggering 3.3 million square kilometres – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures.

“And in the ocean, the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are almost completely confined to the polar regions.” – Climate News Network

Ocean warming may be faster than thought

Science knows that ocean warming is occurring. A big challenge now is to work out how quickly the temperature is rising.

LONDON, 7 November, 2018 – The seas are getting hotter – and researchers have thought again about just how much faster ocean warming is happening. They believe that in the last 25 years the oceans have absorbed at least 60% more heat than previous global estimates by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had considered.

And they calculate this heat as the equivalent to 150 times the annual human electricity generation in any one year.

“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet (10m) deep,” said Laure Resplandy, a researcher at the Princeton Environment Institute in the US. “Our data show that it would have warmed by 6.5°C every decade since 1991. In comparison, the estimate of the last IPCC assessment report would correspond to a warming of only 4°C every decade.”

The oceans cover 70% of the Blue Planet, but take up about 90% of all the excess energy produced as the Earth warms. If scientists can put a precise figure to this energy, then they can make more precise guesses about the surface warming to come, as humans continue to burn fossil fuels, release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and drive up the planetary thermometer.

“There will have to be an even more drastic shutdown of fossil fuel investment and an even faster switch to renewable sources of energy”

At the academic level, this is the search for a factor known to climate researchers as climate sensitivity: the way the world responds to ever-increasing ratios of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

At the human level, this plays out as ever-greater extremes of heat, drought and rainfall, with ever-higher risks of catastrophic storm or flood, or harvest failure, and ever-higher tallies of human suffering.

Comprehensive global measurements of ocean temperature date only from 2007 and the network of robot sensors that deliver continuous data about the top half of the ocean basins.

Dr Resplandy and her colleagues report in the journal Nature that they used a sophisticated approach based on very high-precision measurements of levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air.

Gases released

Both gases are soluble, and the oceans are becoming more acidic as the seas absorb ever-greater levels of carbon dioxide. But as seas warm, they also become less able to hold their dissolved gases, and release them into the atmosphere.

This simple consequence of atmospheric physics meant that the researchers could use what they call “atmospheric potential oxygen” to arrive at a new way of measuring the heat the oceans must have absorbed over time.

They used the standard unit of energy: the joule. Their new budget for heat absorbed each year between 1991 and 2016 is 13 zettajoules. That is a digit followed by 21 zeroes, the kind of magnitude astronomers tend to use.

That the oceans are warming is no surprise: this has been obvious from the crudest comparison of old naval data with modern surface checks, and for years some researchers argued that ever-higher ocean temperatures could account for the so-called slowdown in global warming in the first dozen years of this century.

Challenging achievement

The new finding counts first as an academic achievement: there is now a more precise thermometer reading, and new calculations can begin.

One of the researchers, Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said: “The result significantly increases the confidence we can place in estimates of ocean warming and therefore help reduce uncertainty in the climate sensitivity, particularly closing off the possibility of very low climate sensitivity.”

But the result also suggests that internationally agreed attempts to hold planetary warming to a maximum of just 2°C – and the world has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century – become more challenging.

It means that there will have to be an even more drastic shutdown of fossil fuel investment and an even faster switch to renewable sources of energy such as sun and wind power. – Climate News Network

Science knows that ocean warming is occurring. A big challenge now is to work out how quickly the temperature is rising.

LONDON, 7 November, 2018 – The seas are getting hotter – and researchers have thought again about just how much faster ocean warming is happening. They believe that in the last 25 years the oceans have absorbed at least 60% more heat than previous global estimates by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had considered.

And they calculate this heat as the equivalent to 150 times the annual human electricity generation in any one year.

“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet (10m) deep,” said Laure Resplandy, a researcher at the Princeton Environment Institute in the US. “Our data show that it would have warmed by 6.5°C every decade since 1991. In comparison, the estimate of the last IPCC assessment report would correspond to a warming of only 4°C every decade.”

The oceans cover 70% of the Blue Planet, but take up about 90% of all the excess energy produced as the Earth warms. If scientists can put a precise figure to this energy, then they can make more precise guesses about the surface warming to come, as humans continue to burn fossil fuels, release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and drive up the planetary thermometer.

“There will have to be an even more drastic shutdown of fossil fuel investment and an even faster switch to renewable sources of energy”

At the academic level, this is the search for a factor known to climate researchers as climate sensitivity: the way the world responds to ever-increasing ratios of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

At the human level, this plays out as ever-greater extremes of heat, drought and rainfall, with ever-higher risks of catastrophic storm or flood, or harvest failure, and ever-higher tallies of human suffering.

Comprehensive global measurements of ocean temperature date only from 2007 and the network of robot sensors that deliver continuous data about the top half of the ocean basins.

Dr Resplandy and her colleagues report in the journal Nature that they used a sophisticated approach based on very high-precision measurements of levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air.

Gases released

Both gases are soluble, and the oceans are becoming more acidic as the seas absorb ever-greater levels of carbon dioxide. But as seas warm, they also become less able to hold their dissolved gases, and release them into the atmosphere.

This simple consequence of atmospheric physics meant that the researchers could use what they call “atmospheric potential oxygen” to arrive at a new way of measuring the heat the oceans must have absorbed over time.

They used the standard unit of energy: the joule. Their new budget for heat absorbed each year between 1991 and 2016 is 13 zettajoules. That is a digit followed by 21 zeroes, the kind of magnitude astronomers tend to use.

That the oceans are warming is no surprise: this has been obvious from the crudest comparison of old naval data with modern surface checks, and for years some researchers argued that ever-higher ocean temperatures could account for the so-called slowdown in global warming in the first dozen years of this century.

Challenging achievement

The new finding counts first as an academic achievement: there is now a more precise thermometer reading, and new calculations can begin.

One of the researchers, Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said: “The result significantly increases the confidence we can place in estimates of ocean warming and therefore help reduce uncertainty in the climate sensitivity, particularly closing off the possibility of very low climate sensitivity.”

But the result also suggests that internationally agreed attempts to hold planetary warming to a maximum of just 2°C – and the world has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century – become more challenging.

It means that there will have to be an even more drastic shutdown of fossil fuel investment and an even faster switch to renewable sources of energy such as sun and wind power. – Climate News Network

How Bangladesh can tackle rising seas

Salt levels in the coastal soils of Bangladesh will grow with the rising seas, putting two-fifths of its farmland at risk. Can farmers stay put?

LONDON, 29 October, 2018 − By 2140, rising seas are likely to be inundating the coastal lands (that are right now home to 1.3 billion people worldwide) in Bangladesh. Much of it is a vast estuarine silt bed fed by one of the world’s great river systems; the country is among those most vulnerable to sea level rise.

But, says a new study, many of the nation’s 165 million inhabitants may not be forced to become climate refugees.

As salty water seeps into the fertile muds and sands of the estuary of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system, farmers could lose up to a fifth of their crop revenue each year.

An estimated 200,000 farmers may have to move inland. But the lucky ones with money to make the change may compensate by switching from rice cultivation to aquaculture, according to a new socio-economic study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The most vulnerable people will be the least resilient in the face of climate change, because they have limited resources to adapt”

“Unfortunately, this is likely to be most challenging for those farming families who have the fewest resources to begin with”, said Joyce Chen of the University of Ohio.

“My concern is that the most vulnerable people will be the least resilient in the face of climate change, because they have limited resources to adapt their farming practices or move longer distances in search of other employment.”

Bangladesh was once, notoriously, dismissed as a “basket case” by the US statesman Henry Kissinger. The low-lying terrain has always been vulnerable to the sea: in 1970, a storm surge propelled by a cyclone drove 10 metres of water over its lowlands, claiming an estimated 500,000 lives. In 1991, a six metre-high storm surge killed 138,000 and destroyed 10 million homes.

Global threat

Melting ice caps and expanding oceans threaten coasts everywhere: an estimated 13 million US citizens could be driven from their homes to count as climate refugees. But the spectre of sea level rise driven by profligate human combustion of fossil fuels puts Bangladesh in the front line of the challenge of climate change.

Dr Chen and a research colleague assembled as much data as they could about populations, incomes, soil geography and changing climate to try to guess what rising sea levels and ever-higher soil salinity will do to the nation over the next 120 years. Their calculations found 40% of the country’s croplands at risk, with coastal residents already experiencing frequent flooding.

But many of these had found ways to adapt: rice might not flourish in saline soil, but those who had made the big switch from crops to shrimp and fish farms had actually created more employment.

Accordingly, Dr Chen and her fellow researcher report that internal migration is likely to increase by at least 25%, as many are displaced by rising tides. But migration to other countries could actually fall by 66% because the supply of new work in labour-intensive fish farms could keep the locals at home.

Persistent risk

The coastal landscape will remain vulnerable to potentially devastating cyclones and storm surges, and this will be made worse by soil subsidence of from 10 to 18 mm a year.

Dr Chen sees her research as a test case for adaptation to climate change: other nations should take note. “The Bangladesh study offers interesting insights for governments of countries facing similar imminent threats of sea level rise,” she said.

“As internal migration patterns are expected to shift in countries vulnerable to sea level rise, ministries of planning may benefit from developing economic strategies that integrate and even leverage the expected additional number of workers coming from vulnerable areas.”

But, she warns, climate change will continue to create climate migrants. “Additional financial support from the international community may be necessary to foster resettlement programmes.” − Climate News Network

Salt levels in the coastal soils of Bangladesh will grow with the rising seas, putting two-fifths of its farmland at risk. Can farmers stay put?

LONDON, 29 October, 2018 − By 2140, rising seas are likely to be inundating the coastal lands (that are right now home to 1.3 billion people worldwide) in Bangladesh. Much of it is a vast estuarine silt bed fed by one of the world’s great river systems; the country is among those most vulnerable to sea level rise.

But, says a new study, many of the nation’s 165 million inhabitants may not be forced to become climate refugees.

As salty water seeps into the fertile muds and sands of the estuary of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system, farmers could lose up to a fifth of their crop revenue each year.

An estimated 200,000 farmers may have to move inland. But the lucky ones with money to make the change may compensate by switching from rice cultivation to aquaculture, according to a new socio-economic study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The most vulnerable people will be the least resilient in the face of climate change, because they have limited resources to adapt”

“Unfortunately, this is likely to be most challenging for those farming families who have the fewest resources to begin with”, said Joyce Chen of the University of Ohio.

“My concern is that the most vulnerable people will be the least resilient in the face of climate change, because they have limited resources to adapt their farming practices or move longer distances in search of other employment.”

Bangladesh was once, notoriously, dismissed as a “basket case” by the US statesman Henry Kissinger. The low-lying terrain has always been vulnerable to the sea: in 1970, a storm surge propelled by a cyclone drove 10 metres of water over its lowlands, claiming an estimated 500,000 lives. In 1991, a six metre-high storm surge killed 138,000 and destroyed 10 million homes.

Global threat

Melting ice caps and expanding oceans threaten coasts everywhere: an estimated 13 million US citizens could be driven from their homes to count as climate refugees. But the spectre of sea level rise driven by profligate human combustion of fossil fuels puts Bangladesh in the front line of the challenge of climate change.

Dr Chen and a research colleague assembled as much data as they could about populations, incomes, soil geography and changing climate to try to guess what rising sea levels and ever-higher soil salinity will do to the nation over the next 120 years. Their calculations found 40% of the country’s croplands at risk, with coastal residents already experiencing frequent flooding.

But many of these had found ways to adapt: rice might not flourish in saline soil, but those who had made the big switch from crops to shrimp and fish farms had actually created more employment.

Accordingly, Dr Chen and her fellow researcher report that internal migration is likely to increase by at least 25%, as many are displaced by rising tides. But migration to other countries could actually fall by 66% because the supply of new work in labour-intensive fish farms could keep the locals at home.

Persistent risk

The coastal landscape will remain vulnerable to potentially devastating cyclones and storm surges, and this will be made worse by soil subsidence of from 10 to 18 mm a year.

Dr Chen sees her research as a test case for adaptation to climate change: other nations should take note. “The Bangladesh study offers interesting insights for governments of countries facing similar imminent threats of sea level rise,” she said.

“As internal migration patterns are expected to shift in countries vulnerable to sea level rise, ministries of planning may benefit from developing economic strategies that integrate and even leverage the expected additional number of workers coming from vulnerable areas.”

But, she warns, climate change will continue to create climate migrants. “Additional financial support from the international community may be necessary to foster resettlement programmes.” − Climate News Network

Climate change causes Canada’s oxygen loss

Scientists say climate change is causing oxygen loss in the cold waters of eastern Canada, imperilling the Greenland halibut and the Atlantic cod.

LONDON, 24 September, 2018 – Oceanographers have identified an act of slow suffocation, as oxygen loss grows near one of the world’s richest fishing grounds, and are linking the change to human-triggered global warming.

They have measured a dramatic drop in levels of dissolved oxygen deep in the Gulf of St Lawrence, in eastern Canada, and they link this increasing strangulation to shifts – connected to climate change driven by ever higher ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as a consequence of the profligate burning of coal, oil and natural gas – in the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current.

As carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels have risen in the past 100 years, the Gulf Stream has shifted northward, and the Labrador Current has weakened. As a consequence, according to new research in Nature Climate Change, more warm, salty and oxygen-depleted water from the Gulf Stream is getting into one of the world’s great waterways.

Lower oxygen levels have already affected the Atlantic wolffish, the researchers say. And the change is a threat to the Atlantic cod, and the Greenland halibut: two of the world’s most prized commercial catches.

“The oxygen decline in this region was already reported, but what was not explored before was the underlying cause”

“Observations in the very inner Gulf of St Lawrence show a dramatic oxygen decline, which is reaching hypoxic conditions, meaning it can’t fully support marine life,” said Mariona Claret, of the University of Washington, who led the study.

“The oxygen decline in this region was already reported, but what was not explored before was the underlying cause.”

Researchers have warned for years that warmer waters mean lower levels of dissolved oxygen, and therefore ever greater risk of “dead zones” in the world’s oceans. There has been evidence that rates of oxygen depletion are higher than expected and direct evidence that fish may be voting with their fins, by migrating northwards as the oceans heat up.

Canadian fishery authorities have been measuring the salinity and temperature in the St Lawrence seaway since 1920, and oxygen levels since 1960. The latest study finds that the changes there have been more than twice the average change of 2% measured for the Atlantic and the oceans as a whole.

Current falters

An intricate, detailed computer simulation of the gulf and the seaway shows that the Labrador Current, which brings cold, oxygen-rich water southwards, has faltered, and the Gulf Stream – already warm and less oxygenated – has gained in ground.

The study also links shifts off coastal Canada to the bigger picture of an alarming decline in a marine monster called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which plays a powerful role in the climate of the North Atlantic.

The scientists speculate – their word – on the possibility that the lower oxygen levels in one watery corner of Canada “may ultimately influence the oxygen variability of the open North Atlantic.”

More alarmingly, they warn that their computer simulation may be delivering a very conservative picture, and that future oxygen declines in the Gulf may be “significantly larger.” – Climate News Network

Scientists say climate change is causing oxygen loss in the cold waters of eastern Canada, imperilling the Greenland halibut and the Atlantic cod.

LONDON, 24 September, 2018 – Oceanographers have identified an act of slow suffocation, as oxygen loss grows near one of the world’s richest fishing grounds, and are linking the change to human-triggered global warming.

They have measured a dramatic drop in levels of dissolved oxygen deep in the Gulf of St Lawrence, in eastern Canada, and they link this increasing strangulation to shifts – connected to climate change driven by ever higher ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as a consequence of the profligate burning of coal, oil and natural gas – in the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current.

As carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels have risen in the past 100 years, the Gulf Stream has shifted northward, and the Labrador Current has weakened. As a consequence, according to new research in Nature Climate Change, more warm, salty and oxygen-depleted water from the Gulf Stream is getting into one of the world’s great waterways.

Lower oxygen levels have already affected the Atlantic wolffish, the researchers say. And the change is a threat to the Atlantic cod, and the Greenland halibut: two of the world’s most prized commercial catches.

“The oxygen decline in this region was already reported, but what was not explored before was the underlying cause”

“Observations in the very inner Gulf of St Lawrence show a dramatic oxygen decline, which is reaching hypoxic conditions, meaning it can’t fully support marine life,” said Mariona Claret, of the University of Washington, who led the study.

“The oxygen decline in this region was already reported, but what was not explored before was the underlying cause.”

Researchers have warned for years that warmer waters mean lower levels of dissolved oxygen, and therefore ever greater risk of “dead zones” in the world’s oceans. There has been evidence that rates of oxygen depletion are higher than expected and direct evidence that fish may be voting with their fins, by migrating northwards as the oceans heat up.

Canadian fishery authorities have been measuring the salinity and temperature in the St Lawrence seaway since 1920, and oxygen levels since 1960. The latest study finds that the changes there have been more than twice the average change of 2% measured for the Atlantic and the oceans as a whole.

Current falters

An intricate, detailed computer simulation of the gulf and the seaway shows that the Labrador Current, which brings cold, oxygen-rich water southwards, has faltered, and the Gulf Stream – already warm and less oxygenated – has gained in ground.

The study also links shifts off coastal Canada to the bigger picture of an alarming decline in a marine monster called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which plays a powerful role in the climate of the North Atlantic.

The scientists speculate – their word – on the possibility that the lower oxygen levels in one watery corner of Canada “may ultimately influence the oxygen variability of the open North Atlantic.”

More alarmingly, they warn that their computer simulation may be delivering a very conservative picture, and that future oxygen declines in the Gulf may be “significantly larger.” – Climate News Network

Tax havens threaten oceans and rainforests

Most of the foreign money funding ocean plunder and the felling of the Amazon forest comes through tax havens, researchers say.

LONDON, 14 August, 2018 – Tax havens have provided more than two-thirds of the foreign capital known to be linked to Amazon deforestation and pirate fishing, a new study says.

The researchers say 70% of known vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are or have been flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction. On average, they report, 68% of all investigated foreign capital (US$18.4bn of a total $26.9bn) which went to sectors associated with Amazon  deforestation between 2000 and 2011 was transferred through tax havens.

The report is the work of a team of researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme (GEDB), who say it is the first study to show how tax havens are linked to economic sectors with the potential to cause serious global environmental damage.

They say the release of the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers exposed how multinationals, politicians and the rich use offshore tax havens to conceal their wealth and money flows, and to reduce their exposure to tax. Accepting that the term “tax haven” is contested, their report uses a definition proposed in a report prepared for the US Congress.

The study’s lead author, Victor Galaz, deputy director of the SRC, says: “Our analysis shows that the use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one. While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself, financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyse how financial flows affect economic activities on the ground, and their environmental impacts.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, is part of an on-going research project, Earth System Finance: New perspectives on financial markets and sustainability, led by GEDB and the Stockholm Resilience Centre in collaboration with Future Earth.

Systematic approach

The researchers say most previous analyses of the environmental impacts of tax havens are the work of investigative journalists focusing on a few locations. The new study, in contrast, takes a more systematic approach to analyse how the havens influence the sustainability of the ocean and the Amazon rainforest, two examples of the global environmental commons.

The Amazon forest is critical for stabilising the Earth’s climate system, and the oceans provide protein and income for millions of people worldwide, particularly in low-income food-deficit countries.

“The absence of a more systemic view is not surprising considering the chronic lack of data resulting from the financial opaqueness created by the use of these jurisdictions,” says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB’s executive director.

The study says lack of transparency hides how tax havens are linked to the degradation of environmental commons that are crucial for both people and planet at global scales.

“The use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one”

It includes the first calculation of the foreign capital that flows into the beef and soya sectors operating in the Brazilian Amazon, both linked to deforestation.

The Cayman Islands proved to be the largest governmental source of transfers for foreign capital to both sectors. Well-known as a tax haven, the Islands provide three benefits to investors: legal efficiency, tax minimisation, and secrecy.

The study also includes a systematic analysis of tax havens’ role in global IUU fishing. With 70% of the vessels found to carry out or support IUU fishing, and for which flag information is available, flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction now or in the past, Belize and Panama are frequently mentioned.

Many of these tax havens are also so-called flags of convenience states, countries with limited monitoring and enforcement capacity that do not penalise vessels sailing under their flag even if they are identified as operating in violation of international law.

Dual identities

This combination of tax havens and flags of convenience allows companies to operate fishing vessels with dual identities, one used for legal and the other for illegal fishing.

“The global nature of fisheries value chains, complex ownership structures and limited governance capacities of many coastal nations, make the sector susceptible to the use of tax havens,” says co-author Henrik Österblom, SRC  deputy science director.

Among issues which the researchers suggest should be central to future research and to the governance of tax havens is the loss of tax revenue the havens cause. This, they argue, should be seen as an indirect subsidy to economic activities which damage the global commons, and organisations like UN Environment should assess the environmental costs involved.

And they argue that the international community should view tax evasion and aggressive tax planning as not only a socio-political problem, but also an environmental one. Putting tax havens on the global sustainability agenda, they say, is key to protecting the environment and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. – Climate News Network

Most of the foreign money funding ocean plunder and the felling of the Amazon forest comes through tax havens, researchers say.

LONDON, 14 August, 2018 – Tax havens have provided more than two-thirds of the foreign capital known to be linked to Amazon deforestation and pirate fishing, a new study says.

The researchers say 70% of known vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are or have been flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction. On average, they report, 68% of all investigated foreign capital (US$18.4bn of a total $26.9bn) which went to sectors associated with Amazon  deforestation between 2000 and 2011 was transferred through tax havens.

The report is the work of a team of researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme (GEDB), who say it is the first study to show how tax havens are linked to economic sectors with the potential to cause serious global environmental damage.

They say the release of the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers exposed how multinationals, politicians and the rich use offshore tax havens to conceal their wealth and money flows, and to reduce their exposure to tax. Accepting that the term “tax haven” is contested, their report uses a definition proposed in a report prepared for the US Congress.

The study’s lead author, Victor Galaz, deputy director of the SRC, says: “Our analysis shows that the use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one. While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself, financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyse how financial flows affect economic activities on the ground, and their environmental impacts.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, is part of an on-going research project, Earth System Finance: New perspectives on financial markets and sustainability, led by GEDB and the Stockholm Resilience Centre in collaboration with Future Earth.

Systematic approach

The researchers say most previous analyses of the environmental impacts of tax havens are the work of investigative journalists focusing on a few locations. The new study, in contrast, takes a more systematic approach to analyse how the havens influence the sustainability of the ocean and the Amazon rainforest, two examples of the global environmental commons.

The Amazon forest is critical for stabilising the Earth’s climate system, and the oceans provide protein and income for millions of people worldwide, particularly in low-income food-deficit countries.

“The absence of a more systemic view is not surprising considering the chronic lack of data resulting from the financial opaqueness created by the use of these jurisdictions,” says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB’s executive director.

The study says lack of transparency hides how tax havens are linked to the degradation of environmental commons that are crucial for both people and planet at global scales.

“The use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one”

It includes the first calculation of the foreign capital that flows into the beef and soya sectors operating in the Brazilian Amazon, both linked to deforestation.

The Cayman Islands proved to be the largest governmental source of transfers for foreign capital to both sectors. Well-known as a tax haven, the Islands provide three benefits to investors: legal efficiency, tax minimisation, and secrecy.

The study also includes a systematic analysis of tax havens’ role in global IUU fishing. With 70% of the vessels found to carry out or support IUU fishing, and for which flag information is available, flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction now or in the past, Belize and Panama are frequently mentioned.

Many of these tax havens are also so-called flags of convenience states, countries with limited monitoring and enforcement capacity that do not penalise vessels sailing under their flag even if they are identified as operating in violation of international law.

Dual identities

This combination of tax havens and flags of convenience allows companies to operate fishing vessels with dual identities, one used for legal and the other for illegal fishing.

“The global nature of fisheries value chains, complex ownership structures and limited governance capacities of many coastal nations, make the sector susceptible to the use of tax havens,” says co-author Henrik Österblom, SRC  deputy science director.

Among issues which the researchers suggest should be central to future research and to the governance of tax havens is the loss of tax revenue the havens cause. This, they argue, should be seen as an indirect subsidy to economic activities which damage the global commons, and organisations like UN Environment should assess the environmental costs involved.

And they argue that the international community should view tax evasion and aggressive tax planning as not only a socio-political problem, but also an environmental one. Putting tax havens on the global sustainability agenda, they say, is key to protecting the environment and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. – Climate News Network

Human activity leaves diminished oceans

Humankind has already disturbed or degraded six-sevenths of the blue planet, with diminished oceans the result. And that is before the impact of climate change.

LONDON, 3 August, 2018 – Humans huddle on a small part of the Earth’s surface, but our activity on the rest will leave our descendants only diminished oceans. Thanks to us, the wilderness of the world’s wide seas has shrunk drastically.

Earth is a waterworld: 70% of it is swept by ocean. And 87% of this waterworld has been to some degree fouled, polluted, poisoned or impoverished by the actions of one almost entirely terrestrial mammal. That is, according to a new survey, only 13% of the high seas can now be considered true wilderness.

Terrestrial life is smeared thinly. It is concentrated almost entirely in an altitude bounded by tree roots and canopy. But all the ocean is habitable, from the tidal shallows to the abyssal plain. It is home to the greatest mountain chain on the planet and to the deepest chasms, and in all it makes up 99% of the living space on Earth.

Researchers who looked at 16 different kinds of watery realm and tested them for 15 different kinds of human impact – among them commercial shipping, sediment and fertiliser run-off, and overfishing – report in the journal Current Biology that humans had left their mark almost everywhere.

“We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” said Kendall Jones, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia, and also of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Huge extent

“The ocean is immense, covering over 70% of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.”

The surviving watery wilderness is estimated at an area of 54 million square kilometres. Although this is seemingly an enormous tract – think of the land areas of Russia, China, Canada, the US and Australia rolled up together – it is still less than a seventh part of the sea surface.

Most of this “untouched” ocean is concentrated in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and around the more remote Pacific islands. Hardly any marine wilderness survives along the continental coastlines.

The study comes only weeks after a survey of land conservation areas – once again, led by researchers from the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society – found that even those stretches of mountain, savannah, forest and wetland formally recognized by governments as nature reserves or conservation zones were in many cases significantly disturbed or degraded by human intrusion.

The plight of the high seas has been disturbing marine scientists and oceanographers for some time. They have repeatedly warned that human-driven climate change is affecting ocean temperatures and compromising the health of the ecosystems on which, for instance, commercial fisheries depend.

“Pristine wilderness areas hold massive levels of biodiversity and endemic species and are some of the last places on earth where big populations of apex predators are still found”

Human actions have created “dead zones” and great tracts of toxic algal growths fed by nutrients from the land. Plastic waste has been found almost everywhere, and changes in water chemistry threaten many species at all depths.

But the Queensland study looks only at those measurable human impacts that are not connected with climate change: the implicit message is that acidification, sea level rise, and ocean temperature increase, all of them driven by profligate human combustion of fossil fuels, will ultimately affect even those areas of ocean defined as surviving wilderness.

Research of this nature is inevitably a matter of meticulous accounting: scientists comb through huge numbers of studies, and identify the data on which they can rely, and then find ways to test their hypothesis. This involved, for instance, checking the range and distribution of more than 21,000 marine species, and separately considering submarine kelp forests, coastal reefs, warm and temperate zones, the deep ocean and the polar waters.

Little protection

The researchers found that more than 8% of the wilderness was in the warm Indo-Pacific and that only 5% of the remaining marine wilderness enjoyed any formal governmental or international protection.

“Pristine wilderness areas hold massive levels of biodiversity and endemic species and are some of the last places on earth where big populations of apex predators are still found,” Kendall Jones said.

“This means the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before.

“Thanks to a warming climate, even some places that were once safe due to year-round ice cover can now be fished.” – Climate News Network

Humankind has already disturbed or degraded six-sevenths of the blue planet, with diminished oceans the result. And that is before the impact of climate change.

LONDON, 3 August, 2018 – Humans huddle on a small part of the Earth’s surface, but our activity on the rest will leave our descendants only diminished oceans. Thanks to us, the wilderness of the world’s wide seas has shrunk drastically.

Earth is a waterworld: 70% of it is swept by ocean. And 87% of this waterworld has been to some degree fouled, polluted, poisoned or impoverished by the actions of one almost entirely terrestrial mammal. That is, according to a new survey, only 13% of the high seas can now be considered true wilderness.

Terrestrial life is smeared thinly. It is concentrated almost entirely in an altitude bounded by tree roots and canopy. But all the ocean is habitable, from the tidal shallows to the abyssal plain. It is home to the greatest mountain chain on the planet and to the deepest chasms, and in all it makes up 99% of the living space on Earth.

Researchers who looked at 16 different kinds of watery realm and tested them for 15 different kinds of human impact – among them commercial shipping, sediment and fertiliser run-off, and overfishing – report in the journal Current Biology that humans had left their mark almost everywhere.

“We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” said Kendall Jones, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia, and also of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Huge extent

“The ocean is immense, covering over 70% of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.”

The surviving watery wilderness is estimated at an area of 54 million square kilometres. Although this is seemingly an enormous tract – think of the land areas of Russia, China, Canada, the US and Australia rolled up together – it is still less than a seventh part of the sea surface.

Most of this “untouched” ocean is concentrated in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and around the more remote Pacific islands. Hardly any marine wilderness survives along the continental coastlines.

The study comes only weeks after a survey of land conservation areas – once again, led by researchers from the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society – found that even those stretches of mountain, savannah, forest and wetland formally recognized by governments as nature reserves or conservation zones were in many cases significantly disturbed or degraded by human intrusion.

The plight of the high seas has been disturbing marine scientists and oceanographers for some time. They have repeatedly warned that human-driven climate change is affecting ocean temperatures and compromising the health of the ecosystems on which, for instance, commercial fisheries depend.

“Pristine wilderness areas hold massive levels of biodiversity and endemic species and are some of the last places on earth where big populations of apex predators are still found”

Human actions have created “dead zones” and great tracts of toxic algal growths fed by nutrients from the land. Plastic waste has been found almost everywhere, and changes in water chemistry threaten many species at all depths.

But the Queensland study looks only at those measurable human impacts that are not connected with climate change: the implicit message is that acidification, sea level rise, and ocean temperature increase, all of them driven by profligate human combustion of fossil fuels, will ultimately affect even those areas of ocean defined as surviving wilderness.

Research of this nature is inevitably a matter of meticulous accounting: scientists comb through huge numbers of studies, and identify the data on which they can rely, and then find ways to test their hypothesis. This involved, for instance, checking the range and distribution of more than 21,000 marine species, and separately considering submarine kelp forests, coastal reefs, warm and temperate zones, the deep ocean and the polar waters.

Little protection

The researchers found that more than 8% of the wilderness was in the warm Indo-Pacific and that only 5% of the remaining marine wilderness enjoyed any formal governmental or international protection.

“Pristine wilderness areas hold massive levels of biodiversity and endemic species and are some of the last places on earth where big populations of apex predators are still found,” Kendall Jones said.

“This means the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before.

“Thanks to a warming climate, even some places that were once safe due to year-round ice cover can now be fished.” – Climate News Network