What Are We Doing To the Planet? #10

The following articles about our impact on the planet caught my attention this week:

I began this series of posts after I read Capt. Charles Moore’s terrifying expose in “Plastic Ocean“.  Unfortunately, the latest study shows that things are getting worse not better since he published his book about plastic pollution on the high seas:

Some eight million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, and the amount of the debris is likely to increase greatly over the next decade unless nations take strong measures to dispose of their trash responsibly, new research suggests … Jenna Jambeck, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia and lead author of the study, said the amount of plastic that entered the oceans in the year measured, 2010, might be as little as 4.8 million metric tons or as much as 12.7 million. The paper’s middle figure of eight million, she said, is the equivalent of “five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world”

Climate change has brought about a huge increase in the loss of sea ice — some 19,500 square miles of ice each year — and the loss continues to increase:

Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last three decades, according to the stark findings of a new NASA study. As a whole, the planet has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers) since 1979, the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year. However, the rate of sea ice loss has recently doubled to now reach an alarming rate of nearly 20,000 square miles …

“One of the reasons people care about sea ice decreases is that sea ice is highly reflective whereas the liquid ocean is very absorptive,” [Claire] Parkinson [author of the study and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md] said. “So when the area of sea ice coverage is reduced, there is a smaller sea ice area reflecting the sun’s radiation back to space. This means more retention of the sun’s radiation within the Earth system and further heating.”

Climate change is even having significant effects the remotest parts of Ecuador:

A study of three remote lakes in Ecuador led by Queen’s University researchers has revealed the vulnerability of tropical high mountain lakes to global climate change — the first study of its kind to show this. The data explains how the lakes are changing due to the water warming as the result of climate change. The results could have far-reaching consequences for Andean water resources as the lakes provide 60 per cent of the drinking water for Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador.

“Andean societies are amongst the most vulnerable when it comes to the impact of climate change,” says Dr. [Neal] Michelutti [lead author and a senior research scientist at Queen’s University’s Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL)]. “Warming in the Andes is occurring at a rate nearly twice the global average and it’s already impacting water resources as shown in this research. These changes are also a sign of bigger changes that are coming.”

Finally, closer to home, fracking is threatening US harvests:

An estimated $1.2bn (£790m) in maize, soy and wheat crops may be at risk in US states where competition with industrial water users, especially fracking, is high … MSCI ESG Research has shown that for regional crops like cotton and sugar beet, the percentage of exposed acreage is up to six times higher as key growing areas such as North Dakota, Texas and California are experiencing water-intensive oil and gas booms.

As if we needed any more reasons to stop fracking!

 

Previous What Are We Doing? posts

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