We begin with the first major downer of the day, via the Independent:
Earth could face sixth mass extinction within 100 years
The earth could face a mass extinction by the next century if species continue to disappear at the current rate, according to a report by the scientific journal Nature.
Despite conservation attempts by governments across the world to save endangered species, thousands of animal types continue to face extinction every year.
Nature found that 41 per cent of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction, the highest at risk group. A more modest, but still alarming, 26 per cent of mammal species and 13 per cent of bird species are also threatened.
And from the New York Times, the first of three headlines abut the same event:
Climate Deal Would Commit Every Nation to Limiting Emissions
Negotiators from around the globe reached a climate change agreement early Sunday that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions — yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impact of global warming.
The agreement reached by delegates from 196 countries establishes a framework for a climate change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year. While United Nations officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday and Saturday nights to early Sunday.
The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.
That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations’ 20 years of efforts to create a serious global warming deal. Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required developed countries to act but did not demand anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse gas polluters.
Next, via, a less affirmative headline from CBC News:
UN climate negotiators pass watered-down deal in Lima
- Wide range of options on the table for global deal at 2015 conference in Paris
Negotiators have reached a watered-down deal at U.N. talks in Peru that sets the stage for a global climate pact in Paris next year.
The Lima agreement was reached early Sunday after late-night wrangling between rich and poor countries.
About 190 nations agreed on the building blocks of a deal to combat climate change in 2015 amid warnings that far tougher action will be needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, the downer, via the Observer:
World set for climate disaster, say activists, as Lima talks falter
- Proposals too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels
Frustrated climate campaigners have claimed that the world was on course for an unsustainable four-degree rise in temperatures, as two weeks of negotiations for a climate change agreement headed for an unsatisfying conclusion.
The proposals, still under discussion on Saturday, a day after the talks were scheduled to end, were too weak to keep global warming to the agreed limit of two degrees above preindustrial levels, setting the world on course to a climate disaster, according to developing countries at the summit.
“We are on a path to three or four degrees with this outcome,” said Tasneem Essop, international climate strategist for WWF.
She said the final draft text, a five-page document put forward for approval on Saturday, offered little assurance of cutting emissions fast enough and deeply enough to curb warming. “We are really unhappy about the weakening of the text. This gives us no level of comfort that we will be able to close the emissions gap to get emissions to peak before 2020,” she said. Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, put it even more succinctly: “It sucks. It is taking us backwards.”
CBC News looks ahead:
Rising sea levels could make Florida residents ‘climate refugees’
- 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state every year
Florida’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change doesn’t seem at first blush to be a Canadian issue.
But every year, some 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state. What’s more, about half a million Canadians own property in Florida, much of it at risk from rising sea levels.
A lot of that property, particularly if it’s situated along one of the coveted stretches of Miami’s fabled beaches, could well be worthless and literally underwater in a few decades, says Harold Wanless, the chair of the department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami.
His word for the future of Miami and much south Florida? Doomed.
The “monster” in climate change, as Wanless sees it, is a warming ocean. Sea levels will rise because water expands as it gets warmer, and oceans are taking up vast amounts of heat produced by global warming.
And the Observer looks at one dry spell not attributed to climate change [or some day]:
American drought: California’s crisis
A storm has hit California, but that’s not going to end the ‘worst drought in a generation’ that is turning much of the centre of the state into a dust bowl. Chris McGreal reports on the drought bringing one of the richest states in America to its knees
Esidronio Arreola never gave much thought to the well that so reliably pumped water to his traditional clapboard house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. But one day in March, he opened the tap and all he got was air.
Through the searing summer heat, the Mexican immigrant to California’s Central Valley and his family endured a daily routine of collecting water in his pickup truck from an emergency communal tank, washing from buckets and struggling to keep their withering orchard alive while they waited for snow to return to the mountains and begin the cycle of replenishing the aquifer that provides water to almost all the homes in the region.
But as more of Arreola’s neighbours in East Porterville, a ramshackle, low-income town in sprawling Tulare County, reported their wells running dry, and state officials warned that the most severe drought in living memory may well extend into 2015 and beyond, he realised he might not have water for years to come.
So Arreola, who makes his living dealing in old fridges and washing machines from his garage, bit the bullet and borrowed the lion’s share of the $11,000 it cost to drill a new well four times as deep as his old one. In mid-November, seven months after the pipes went dry, water began flowing to his taps again. Arreola just doesn’t know for how long.
Another water problem, via Want China Times:
Yangtze water not a cure-all for Beijing’s thirst
Beijing is looking to water from the Yangtze river to ease its drought, but experts say the ambitious south-to-north water diversion project is not a cure-all for the capital’s thirst.
With Yangtze water piped in, Beijing will have 150 cubic meters per person, an increase of 50%, according to figures provided by the Beijing water authority.
It said the Chinese capital’s per capita water volume is currently 100 cubic meters, only 1.25% of the world’s average level.
Beijing needs at least 3.6 billion cubic meters of water a year to supply its 20 million residents and to keep local businesses running, but its own water supply was only 2.1 billion cubic meters annually in the past decade.
“The city is facing a severe water crisis,” said Xu Xinyi, a water conservancy specialist with Beijing Normal University. “It’s like five people stuffed into a room designed for two.”
Protest over anticipated water problems to come, via TheLocal.es:
Protesters strip off to oppose Repsol plans
Protesters plunged half-naked into the icy sea and unfurled banners Saturday to try to stop oil prospecting near Spain’s Canary Islands, a major tourist destination.
Ten boats from the archipelago took protesters eight nautical miles from where Spanish firm Repsol is exploring with a view to possibly drilling off the islands in the Atlantic ocean.
Protesters warn the oil and gas project is a threat to the environment and the tourist industry on which the Canary Islands rely.
They say drilling would raise the risk of an oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon disaster that struck at a BP oil prospect in the Gulf of Mexico in
And from Want China Times, another water protest:
Thousands take to street in Nicaragua to protest China canal deal
A massive demonstration rocked Nicaragua’s capital of Managua as protestors opposed to the construction of a US$50 billion Nicaragua Canal took to the streets on Wednesday. Protesters said the construction will damage local freshwater sources and the environment, reports Shanghai-based newspaper the Paper.
Some protesters held banners reading “Chinese gets out!” and “No canal.” The project, which is to begin construction on Dec. 22 and scheduled to be completed in 2019, will dwarf the neighboring Panama Canal. It will be 278 kilometers in length and pass through Central America’s largest lake.
Chinese-funded Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment won the bid for the project and the right to operate the canal and its facilities for 100 years. One protester said he does not want to see the lake being cut in half and the fact that a foreign company will operate the canal for a century means that not even his children will see benefits from the project.
From Want China Times yet again, China’s killer air:
Air pollution cause of high lung cancer rate in China: experts
China’s chronic air pollution is being named the key culprit behind the prevalence of lung cancer, with cases predicted to top 1 million by 2025, the highest worldwide, according to Chinese-language Economic Information.
Lung cancer has topped the list of cancers in China, passing liver cancer as the number of lung-cancer patients has doubled every 10-15 years in the past decades, according to statistics of the National Cancer Registration Center.
China now has 3.12 million new cancer cases a year and over 2 million Chinese people die of cancer annually. The number of lung-cancer patients has been increasing at an annual clip of 26.9% in recent years, with the disease’s mortality rate surging 465% over the past 30 years, which makes it the most lethal cancer, according to NCRC data.
From VOA Video, another report about the intersection of things inhaled and lung health:
Gold Miners Join Class Action Suit in South Africa Over Lung Disease
Five of South Africa’s largest gold mining companies recently announced they will create a working group to deal with the issue of occupational lung disease. This move comes as the sector faces what could be South Africa’s biggest-ever class action lawsuit. More than 25,000 miners are seeking compensation from gold mining companies, saying they failed to protect them from Silicosis, a debilitating and incurable lung disease. Emilie IOB reports from South Africa and neighboring Lesotho.
From JapanToday, amazing if confirmed:
Tohoku University team discovers blue light is effective at killing insects
And now in a report published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tohoku University have found a new use for blue LED. When used in the right frequency it can be an effective, safe, clean, and cheap way to kill insects. For the first time, they showed that visible light around the blue part of the spectrum is lethal to insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.
In the experiment, the team of Masatoshi Hori, Kazuki Shibuya, Mitsunari Sato, and Yoshino Sato gathered samples of three species of insects; fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), London Underground mosquito (Culex pipiens f. molestus), and confused flour beetles (Tribolium confusum). The names of these bugs are probably worthy of their own article, but we can’t get sidetracked now.
The team then hit these insects with different intensities of colored lights at different stages of their development from egg to adult. Interestingly, they found that wavelengths of light from ultraviolet (378 nanometers) to visible blue-green (508nm) killed off the bugs, whereas wavelengths of light in red and yellow had essentially no effect.
Even more interestingly, the wavelength of light did not directly correspond to its lethalness. For example, fruit flies dropped dead with under a 467nm far more efficiently than with any other longer or shorter wavelengths. Mosquitoes on the other hand were weaker to a more lavender 417nm wavelength light. When swapped, only a few fruit flies went down under 417nm, whereas mosquitoes barely flinched at the 467nm light.
And from CBC News, another grab for Arctic oil, gas, and minerals:
Denmark says Greenland subsea ridge gives it a claim to North Pole
- Denmark says scientific data shows Greenland’s continental shelf is connected to a ridge beneath the Arctic Ocean, giving Danes a claim to the North Pole and any potential energy resources beneath it.
Denmark will deliver a claim on Monday to a United Nations panel in New York that will eventually decide control of the area, which Russia and Canada are also coveting, Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said.
Lidegaard told the Associated Press he hopes the other nations that also have made claims in the Arctic will continue to keep to “the rules of the game.”
The United States, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark all have areas surrounding the North Pole, but only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in it before Denmark’s claim.