Archive for the 'children & climate crisis' Category

Sep 11 2007

NO PENGUIN RETREAT, NO SURRENDER

Let’s start with us. It’s kind of scary to read an article with a headline like: “Retreat of the Penguins.

It only gets worse: “These bellwethers of climate change face a grave future.” Thanks a lot, Leigh Dayton.

It’s hard enough being a penguin these days. Who in their right mind wants to be a bellwether. Isn’t that a bit like being a canary in a coalmine? You die and warn humans there’s a problem. How many canaries do you think really wanted to find themselves in a coalmine?

Leigh Dayton writes about the work of seabird ecologist Eric Woehler from the University of Tasmania. Woehler came to check us out on Heard Island. He compared our numbers with photographs taken by Frank Hurley in 1929.

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Eric Woehler – Casey Antarctic Base

“With a click of the shutter the University of Tasmania scientist captured the same view: rocks, coastline, ocean, penguins. It was the same, but different.

“In the late 1920s there were about 250 breeding pairs,” says Woehler. “But when I was there in 2000 the colony was less than 20 pairs and grass had grown around the edge of the colony.”

… like his US colleagues Susie Ellis, Dee Boersma and Elizabeth Skewgar, Woehler fears that the past and the present signal a worrisome future for the world’s 17 species of penguins.”

If you’re hoping for a happy ending, it doesn’t get any better. Dayton continues:

“They face serious population decreases throughout their range,” the team writes in Conservation Status of the World’s Penguins, a report that Ellis presented this week at the sixth International Penguin Conference, meeting in Hobart.

Going further, the researchers use words unusual in scientific discourse: “grim progression”, “disconcerting decrease” and dire. All up, Woehler and company conclude that unless scientists, governments, conservation groups and the public take immediate action to reverse the trend, penguin populations will plummet. Many species face extinction.

That’s more than a tragedy for the seabirds themselves, Woehler says. “Penguins are the bellwether of climate change. As birds they’re pretty much at the top of the food chain and act as two-footed bio-indicators of the health of the environment, marine and terrestrial,” he says.”

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Photo – C. Spencer van Gulick

You wake up in the morning and the first thing you read is “penguin populations will plummet.” And that you face “extinction.”

Pretty harsh! If you had to pick would you rather be a bellwether or a two-footed bio-indicator?

So how are some of our other friends faring?

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Polar bears, Beaufort Sea, Alaska – Susanne Miller

It turns out we’re in some chilling race to the end with the polar bears up north. Who will the climate crisis claim first? Us or them. Or maybe both at the same time?

I wonder if you were us, whether you’d be a bit more diplomatic. John Broder and Andrew Revlin pull no punches:

“Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by 2050, even under moderate projections for shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, government scientists reported on Friday.”

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Greenhouse gases – sounds so academic, doesn’t it.

This is the funny part:

“The finding is part of a yearlong review of the effects of climate and ice changes on polar bears to help determine whether they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists estimate the current polar bear population at 22,000.”

So the issue is, should you declare polar bears an endangered species before or after you kill them all? I guess it’s all about the paperwork.

It sounds like they might make it a bit longer than us:

“The scientists concluded that, while the bears were not likely to be driven to extinction, they would be largely relegated to the Arctic archipelago of Canada and spots off the northern Greenland coast, where summer sea ice tends to persist even in warm summers like this one, a shrinking that could be enough to reduce the bear population by two-thirds.

The bears would disappear entirely from Alaska, the study said.”

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Another article from the AP lays out what life will be like for the polar bears.

“The situation is dire for polar bears, said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, who wrote the petition seeking federal protection for the animals.

“They’re going to drown, they’re going to starve, they’re going to resort to cannibalism, they’re going to become extinct,” she said.

As ice recedes, many bears will get stuck on land in summer, where they have virtually no sustainable food source, Siegel said. Some will try and fail to swim to sea ice, she said.

Bears that stay on sea ice will find water beyond the continental shelf to be less productive, she said, and females trying to den on land in the fall will face a long swim.

“It’s absolutely horrifying from the polar bear perspective,” she said.”

Horrifying. That sounds right.

And since I’ve become a bellwether, let me ring the bell for you. If we go, you may not be far behind.

How about this:
Expert says climate change will spread global disease.

According to Alistair Woodward, a professor at the University of Auckland:

“Climate change will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on health with possibly one billion more people at risk from dengue fever within 80 years, an expert said Tuesday …

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Child with dengue fever, Allahabad India – Rajesh Kumarsingh AP

Giving examples in a speech, he said that in China’s Jiangsu province the winter freezing zone has moved northwards. The water snail that transmits schistosomiasis had also shifted northwards, putting perhaps 20 million people at risk of the parasitic disease also known as bilharziasis.

In France extreme heat in August 2003 led to about 25,000 deaths. In the WHO’s Western Pacific region, a heat wave in summer 1998 increased mortality in Shanghai threefold.

Globally, said Woodward, the largest effect would be under-nutrition. “There will be some winners and losers, but overall, climate change is expected to have a negative effect on food production.”

That’s it for me. I’m going off to take a nap. I am one very tired bellwether. And there’s lots of work to do. Mobilize that penguin power. For us at Penguins United, there’s no penguin retreat, no penguin surrender!





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Apr 23 2007

SAVE THE CHILDREN

First the penguins, the seals, and polar bears – and then the children. A British charity estimates that “up to 175 million children would be affected every year over the next decade by climate-related disasters like droughts, floods and storms. This, it said, was 50 million a year more than in the 10 years to 2005 … and millions more would be killed, forced from their homes or hit by hunger and disease.”

Why? “Scientists predict global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century, mainly due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport.”

And how about some more bad news from the British: “Britain’s Environment Agency said in another report on Friday that because of the time delay in the warming effects of carbon gases in the atmosphere, temperatures would continue to rise for the next 40 years regardless of emissions curbs.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSL0520888820070405

So what are people willing to do to save the children? It seems that in Canada 57% are willing to change a lightbulb, and 40% will take a shorter shower but only 19% of them were willing to cut their driving in half and only 17% were willing to take public transportation every day.
http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm/fuseaction/viewItem/itemID/15200

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photo courtesy pdphoto.org



No wonder some children in England have been having nightmares!

The British supermarket chain Somerfield sponsored a poll: “Half of children between the ages of seven and 11 are anxious about the effects of global warming and often lose sleep over it, according to a new report.

A survey of 1,150 youngsters found that one in four blamed politicians for the problems of climate change, while one in seven said their own parents were not doing enough to improve the environment.

The most feared consequences of global warming included poor health, the possible submergence of entire countries and the welfare of animals.”
http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=289422007


To the young people of Britain: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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