Top 5 ISO Standards for eco-conscious travellers

More than 1.4 billion tourists went somewhere last year, and that number is due to grow by 3-4 % by the end of 20191), making tourism one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.

That’s great for the tourism industry, but it also puts pressure on our planet’s resources. Well managed tourism, however, can help preserve the natural and cultural highlights of any destination, and make a positive impact on the community. Below are just a few of the many ISO standards that can help.

Read entire post Top 5 Standards for eco-conscious travellers | Clare Naden |

How science-fiction help readers understand climate change

It’s the year 2140 and two kids ride their skimboards in the heart of Manhattan, near the point where Sixth Avenue meets Broadway. If you are familiar with this junction you would know it is far from the US’ current coastline.

But in Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel New York 2140, Manhattan is flooded after unabated climate change causes the sea level to rise by 50ft (15.25m). The amphibian city is now a SuperVenice, a grid of canals populated by vaporettos where characters must learn how to deal with a world both familiar and unrecognisable to us. Mid-Manhattan skimboading is all too possible in this future.

Robinson’s 2017 climate-fiction novel belongs to a growing cadre of works about drowned nations, wind farm utopias or scarred metropolises decades into the future. As diplomats draft the rulebook for the global response to the climate crisis and engineers race to produce better solar panels, writers have found their role, too: telling what Robinson calls “the story of the next century”. In doing that, they might be helping readers across the world comprehend the situation in which we currently find ourselves.

Read entire article How science-fiction help readers understand climate change | Diego Arguedas Ortiz | BBC

Resilient Animals – How Climate Change affects animals

Indeed, scientists were astonished to see that in November, a time when the region enters its coldest period, sea ice retreated in the Arctic.

A similar phenomenon was noted in 2013 when a chunk of sea ice as large as Denmark was removed from the Arctic at a time when sea ice is usually growing. It is therefore no surprise that the Earth’s surface temperatures in 2016 were the highest temperatures ever recorded.

The impacts of global warming and climate change are becoming increasingly clear, but they not only impact our natural environment. They have impacts on all its inhabitants, both fauna and flora. Our biodiversity is affected by changes in climate and other extreme events. At the same time, climate change also worsens other threats like habitat destruction, overexploitation, and disease.

The impacts of climate change on species are clearly illustrated by looking at the cases of the following species, prioritised on the basis of the detrimental effect climate change is having on them.

Read entire article How Climate Change Affects Animals | GreenThumble

Good resilience planning involves more than building barriers

This year’s theme for UN World Cities Day – building sustainable and resilient cities – holds enormous potential for urban areas across the globe. Visceral reminders of our generation’s greatest challenge are becoming more and more frequent; Hurricane Michael earlier this month being the most recent example.

Recent climate studies indicate we may soon hit a dire tipping point in global warming, with far-reaching implications for our communities.

The concept of urban resilience is gaining in popularity, though the hard work still lies ahead. Funding models are varied in their scope and projected outcomes, best practices are emerging and evolving, and measurable results are still being determined. Coordination on how to prepare communities for the next storm or shock will be key.

Whereas the conventional appeal is for higher walls, thicker concrete, and bigger barriers, it is essential to question the de facto response of creating an impenetrable line of defense. A resilience approach instead seeks to address the underlying challenges, designing systems that allow quick recovery back to normalcy following a shock – whether that’s a swift restoration of utility services or getting an assembly line back online.

> Read entire article Good Resilience Planning Involves More Than Building Barriers – It’s About Making Connections | John Malueg and Gary Sorge | 100 Resilient Cities

Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’

Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5 degrees C says the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C.

Keeping to the preferred target of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will mean “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

It will be hugely expensive – but the window of opportunity remains open.

After three years of research and a week of haggling between scientists and government officials at a meeting in South Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C.

> Watch video Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’ | BBC

Climate change: ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that there is a risk of Earth entering “Hothouse Earth” conditions where the climate in the long term will stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures and sea level 10-60 m higher than today.

Researchers believe we could soon cross a threshold leading to boiling hot temperatures and towering seas in the centuries to come.

Even if countries succeed in meeting their CO2 targets, we could still lurch on to this “irreversible pathway”.

> Read entire article Climate change: ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed Matt McGrath | BBC

Climate Change Could Lead to Major Crop Failures in World’s Biggest Corn Regions

Climate change will increase the risk of simultaneous crop failures across the world’s biggest corn-growing regions and lead to less of the nutritionally critical vegetables that health experts say people aren’t getting enough of already, scientists warn.

Two new studies published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences look at different aspects of the global food supply but arrive at similarly worrisome conclusions that reiterate the prospects of food shocks and malnutrition with unchecked global warming.

While developing tropical countries would likely be hardest hit, the destabilizing financial effects could reach all corners of the globe, the authors say.

> Read entire article Climate Change Could Lead to Major Crop Failures in World’s Biggest Corn Regions | Inside Climate News Georgina Gustin

How soon will peak oil demand arrive?

Predictions vary by decades, but most agree it is coming, with major implications.

In the first decade of the 2000s, there was growing concern about so-called “Peak Oil,” based on a theory developed by Shell oil engineer M. King Hubbert, who in the 1940s predicted that output of oil in the lower 48 states in the US would peak in the 1970s, a projection that turned out to be spot on 30 years later – for a time.

Others jumped on the concept to predict a top for global oil output, with many in the 1990s saying that world oil production would peak about 2008. That turned out not to be true, as fracking and other unconventional techniques greatly added to oil output, pushing prices way down.

Now, rather than concerns about Peak Oil supply sending prices way up, as we saw for a while in 2008, now the oil patch is more focused on Peak Demand – the point at which world consumption of oil reaches its inevitable peak.

In 2015, oil’s share of world energy consumption increased modestly for the first time since 1999, driven by dramatically falling prices.

A combination of more efficient car engines, a trend towards electric vehicles, rising using of solar and wind power and more have many convince Peak Demand is near – with a huge impact on society, the supply chain, the global warming discussion and more.

The Wall Street Journal reports that forecasts for peak oil demand diverge by decades. For example, the Paris-based International Energy Agency predicts that demand will grow, though slowly, past 2040. Meanwhile, the two biggest US oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Chevron, say peak demand isn’t in sight, while some big European producers predict that a peak could emerge as soon as 2025 or 2030.

Of note is the fact that the consumption of oil in developed economies has been declining for many years. covers that report each year, noting last year BP’s analysis showed that oil’s share of world energy consumption in 2015 increased modestly for the first time since 1999, driven by dramatically falling prices.

Source: Green Supply Chain

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Methane seeps out as Arctic permafrost starts to resemble Swiss cheese

Measurements over Canada’s Mackenzie River Basin suggest that thawing permafrost is starting to free greenhouse gases long trapped in oil and gas deposits.

Global warming may be unleashing new sources of heat-trapping methane from layers of oil and gas that have been buried deep beneath Arctic permafrost for millennia. As the Earth’s frozen crust thaws, some of that gas appears to be finding new paths to the surface through permafrost that’s starting to resemble Swiss cheese in some areas, scientists said.

In a study released yesterday, the scientists used aerial sampling of the atmosphere to locate methane sources from permafrost along a 10,000 square-kilometer swath of the Mackenzie River Delta in northwestern Canada, an area known to have oil and gas desposits.

Deeply thawed pockets of permafrost, the research suggests, are releasing 17% of all the methane measured in the region, even though the emissions hotspots only make up 1% of the surface area, the scientists found.

In parts of northern Canada’s Mackenzie River Delta, seen here by satellite, scientists are finding high levels of methane near deeply thawed pockets of permafrost.

In those areas, the peak concentrations of methane emissions were found to be 13 times higher than levels usually caused by bacterial decomposition—a well-known source of methane emissions from permafrost—which suggests the methane is likely also coming from geological sources, seeping up along faults and cracks in the permafrost, and from beneath lakes.

The findings suggest that global warming will “increase emissions of geologic methane that is currently still trapped under thick, continuous permafrost, as new emission pathways open due to thawing permafrost,” the authors wrote in the journal Scientific Reports. Along with triggering bacterial decomposition in permafrost soils, global warming can also trigger stronger emissions of methane from fossil gas, contributing to the carbon-climate feedback loop, they concluded.

Source: Inside Climate News

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There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth’s climate warms.

What would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed. This exposed the reindeer corpse and released infectious anthrax into nearby water and soil, and then into the food supply. More than 2,000 reindeer grazing nearby became infected, which then led to the small number of human cases.

The fear is that this will not be an isolated case.

NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years.

As the Earth warms, more permafrost will melt. Under normal circumstances, superficial permafrost layers about 50cm deep melt every summer. But now global warming is gradually exposing older permafrost layers.

Frozen permafrost soil is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time, perhaps as long as a million years. That means melting ice could potentially open a Pandora’s box of diseases.

The temperature in the Arctic Circle is rising quickly, about three times faster than in the rest of the world. As the ice and permafrost melt, other infectious agents may be released.

People and animals have been buried in permafrost for centuries, so it is conceivable that other infectious agents could be unleashed. For instance, scientists have discovered fragments of RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia.

In a 2011 study, Boris Revich and Marina Podolnaya wrote: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th Centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

For instance, in the 1890s there was a major epidemic of smallpox in Siberia. One town lost up to 40% of its population. Their bodies were buried under the upper layer of permafrost on the banks of the Kolyma River. 120 years later, Kolyma’s floodwaters have started eroding the banks, and the melting of the permafrost has speeded up this erosion process.

Certainly it is not the first time that bacteria frozen in ice have come back to life.

Source: BBC

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Is there a way to tackle air pollution?

The search for solutions to the threat of polluted air is generating ideas that range from the modest to the radical to the bizarre.

A London primary school may issue face-masks to its pupils. The council in Cornwall may take the extreme step of moving people out of houses beside the busiest roads.

Four major cities – Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid – plan to ban all diesels by 2025. Stuttgart, in Germany, has already decided to block all but the most modern diesels on polluted days. In India’s capital, Delhi, often choked with dangerous air, a jet engine may be deployed in an experimental and desperate attempt to create an updraft to disperse dirty air.

RELATED: Climate Disclosure Project’s report shows progress on emissions but says it’s not enough

The World Health Organization calculates that as many as 92% of the world’s population are exposed to dirty air – but that disguises the fact that many different forms of pollution are involved.

A man walks in a public park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi
In India’s capital, Delhi, often choked with dangerous air, a jet engine may be deployed in an experimental and desperate attempt to create an updraft to disperse dirty air.

For the rural poor, it is fumes from cooking on wood or dung indoors.

For shanty-dwellers in booming mega-cities, it is a combination of traffic exhaust, soot and construction dust.

In developed countries, it can be a mix of exhaust gas from vehicles and ammonia carried on the wind from the spraying of industrial-scale farms.

In European cities, where people have been encouraged to buy fuel-efficient diesels to help reduce carbon emissions, the hazard is from the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide and tiny specks of pollution known as particulates.

The first step is to understand exactly where the air is polluted and precisely how individuals are affected – and the results can be extremely revealing.

Source: BBC