Archive for the 'drought' Category

Nov 05 2007

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL

Too much news. Too few penguins. We are buried here at Penguin Central. News reports. Photographs. No wonder humans abandon non-profits for the private sector.
Penguin 8 has barely seen the outdoors. Penguin 4 has a back ache and a stiff neck.

It is not only emotionally exhausting to be reading about the effects of climate change everywhere in the world, but physically exhausting as well to be gathering the information.
We haven’t seen the television program called “Heroes” but we would like to thank one of its heroes or heroines, Hayden Panettiere for her brave action on behalf on our close friends, the dolphins and whales.


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Hayden Panettierre

Tim Nudd and Bryan Alexander report in People magazine:

This week a video surfaced from Britain’s Sky News of the actress and six other activists paddling on surfboards out into a cove in the town of Taiji in southwestern Japan, in an attempt to interfere with a dolphin hunt there …

The protesters were intercepted on Tuesday by fishermen on a boat who told them to leave and prodded them with a pole. They were eventually forced back to shore, unable to prevent the hunt. The video shows Panettiere breaking down in tears as she describes what happened. “This baby stuck its head out and kind of looked as us, and the thought that the baby is no longer with us is very difficult,” she said …

“The world and the environment are evolving and that means we must change our ways as human beings as well … The dolphins and whales in our ocean are a part of a larger eco-system that prevents the killing off of other marine life. By destroying these animals and not allowing our future generations to enjoy their beauty, we are causing our own selves damage. I always felt the need to speak on behalf of these helpless creatures who can not defend themselves.”



Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


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Chinese coal workers – AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel



Speaking of morality. Former Senator John Edwards put the issue of the climate crisis in perspective:

“This is the great moral test of our generation. Are we actually going to leave this planet and America better for our children than we found it?” Edwards said at an environmental rally in New Orleans.

“Why have we not addressed the issue of climate change and global warming?” Edwards said. “I’ll tell you why, no question about it: oil companies, gas companies, power companies and the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. We have to have a president who will stand up to these people.”



Coal is a good place to start when we think about the challenges facing us.

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China pollution – Photo: Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News



Michael Casey offers this interesting report from Taiyuan, China:

It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm.

It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in the Willamette River in the western U.S. state of Oregon. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States …

Cheap and abundant, coal has become the fuel of choice in much of the world, powering economic booms in China and India that have lifted millions of people out of poverty. Worldwide demand is projected to rise by about 60 percent through 2030 to 6.9 billion tons a year, most of it going to electrical power plants.

But the growth of coal-burning is also contributing to global warming, and is linked to environmental and health issues ranging from acid rain to asthma. Air pollution kills more than 2 million people prematurely, according to the World Health Organization.

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Indian woman carries water jug across Osman Sagar Lake – Photo AFP



Some of the most pressing problems you humans are facing. How does climate war sound? Well, there’s a sad analysis in a recent report, “A Climate of Conflict.” Robin McKie, the science editor of the UK Observer writes:

A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.

Much of Africa, Asia and South America will suffer outbreaks of war and social disruption as climate change erodes land, raises seas, melts glaciers and increases storms, it concludes. Even Europe is at risk.

‘Climate change will compound the propensity for violent conflict, which in turn will leave communities poorer and less able to cope with the consequences of climate change,’ the report states.

The worst threats involve nations lacking resources and stability to deal with global warming, added the agency’s secretary-general, Dan Smith. ‘Holland will be affected by rising sea levels, but no one expects war or strife,’ he told The Observer. ‘It has the resources and political structure to act effectively. But other countries that suffer loss of land and water and be buffeted by increasingly fierce storms will have no effective government to ensure corrective measures are taken. People will form defensive groups and battles will break out.’

Consider Peru, said Smith. Its fresh water comes mostly from glacier meltwater. But by 2015 nearly all Peru’s glaciers will have been removed by global warming and its 27 million people will nearly all lack fresh water. If Peru took action now, it could offset the impending crisis, he added. But the country has little experience of effective democracy, suffers occasional outbreaks of insurgency, and has border disputes with Chile and Ecuador. The result is likely to be ‘chaos, conflict and mass migration’.



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Australian Drought affects Lake Eucumbene – Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images



Already drought is taking its toll on Australian farmers. Leigh Dayton writes “Climate fears paint bleak future” for the Australian News:

CRAIG Harsant is coping. But the Queensland farmer confesses it’s been tough making a living in his bone-dry corner of Australia, and he worries some of his neighbours may be feeling the bite of the black dog of depression. “But blokes are not keen on talking about that sort of thing,” he says …

Little wonder Harsant is “not surprised” by findings of a report released this week by Research Australia (RA), a national non-profit alliance of health and medical research organisations.

It warns of skyrocketing rates of depression in rural communities if, as predicted, climate change triggers ever more extreme events, from drought to fire to flood. “Assuming climate change is real, you can imagine life on the land would become harder,” says Harsant. “You can imagine health issues like depression would follow suit.”



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Wivenhoe Dam, Brisbane, AU Photo: Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

Some facts from Reuters about the Australian drought:

Australia had its driest September this year since records began in 1900.
The eastern state of New South Wales is 78.6 percent in drought.
The southern state of Victoria has declared 100 percent of farmland in drought.
Australia is the second-largest wheat, canola and beef exporter in the world and the largest barley exporter.
Drought cut the 2006/07 wheat crop to 9.8 million tonnes from 25.0 million tonnes the year before. Forecasts for the current wheat crop are 15 million tonnes or less, down from 26 million tonnes earlier this year before the drought hit.
The number of Australian farms has declined by 25 percent over the last 20 years to 129,934, due to falling commodity prices, mechanisation, technology and a strong trend of younger people moving to cities. About 99 percent of farms are family-owned.
Average farm income dropped to A$26,000 in the year to June 30, 2007, its lowest level in over 30 years, because of drought. A total of 77 percent of farms operated at a loss in 2006/07.
Average farm debt rose to A$412,700 at June 30, 2007, from A$357,380 the year before, bureau figures show. Farmers say debt has now risen into the millions for many.





Back to Laigh Dayton’s report:

Climate experts have long argued that climate change is real. But it’s only recently that their medical colleagues have begun considering the implications planetary warming holds for the health of people living on a changing globe, claims epidemiologist Tony McMichael. “Climate change doesn’t exist in isolation,” said McMichael, the head of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at Canberra’s Australian National University and lead author of the Research Australia report. “Increasingly, the risk it poses to human well-being and health is now being seen as part of the policy discussion agenda.”




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Sep 17 2007

PEOPLE ARE PENGUINS TOO

For those of you I haven’t met, I am Penguin7. I’m off to the right on the photo up top. We received a lot of mail about No Penguin Retreat. Some of you humans think we’re a bit hysterical; some of you are very supportive. As for Anthony P. from Trenton, New Jersey – language, language, language. It’s all very well for you to think Global Warming is a hoax but just maybe we have a different perspective when it comes to this issue.

Anyway, some of us spent some time thinking about the inevitable species gap. There is a difference in the way we experience the effects of the climate crisis. But make no mistake about it, it may be the polar bears today, us penguins tomorrow, but sooner or later it will be your turn.

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The Pacific Island State of Nukulaelae Tuvalu – Seen From Space



This is the tiny island chain of Tuvalu. I think the people living on Tuvalu may understand the challenges of the climate crisis a little bit better than most humans. Their land may disappear in the near future. They are intimately connected to the issue of the melting ice. As the ocean rises, their island home comes closer and closer to extinction.

The people of Tuvalu are canaries in the mine. They are human bellwethers. And they have something to say to us all:

The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two metres on average above sea-level and one study predicted at the current rate the ocean is rising could disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.

“We keep thinking that the time will never come. The alternative is to turn ourselves into fish and live under water,” Tuvalu Deputy Prime Tavau Teii told Reuters in the South Korean capital where he was attending a conference on the environment.

“All countries must make an effort to reduce their emissions before it is too late for countries like Tuvalu,” he said, calling the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to man-made climate change.

Right this minute Tuvalu is experiencing the damaging effects of global warming: the warming ocean is damaging it coral reefs and affecting the fish supply. The rising seawater is infiltrating Tuvalu’s fresh water supply. The spring tides get higher each year and erode the coastline. And the warming ocean is spurring most ferocious cyclones.

Tavau Teii continues:

“We’ll try and maintain our own way of living on the island as long as we can. If the time comes we should leave the islands, there is no other choice but to leave.”

Teii said his government had received indications from New Zealand it was prepared to take in people from the islands. About 2,000 of its population already live there.

But Australia, the other major economy in the region, had only given vague commitments.

“Australia was very reluctant to make a commitment even though they have been approached in a diplomatic way.”

Maybe Anthony is saying, “well what do you expect living on a small island in the middle of the ocean?”

Well what about the people living in some of the driest land on Earth? Has global warming affected them? Yes, one of the impacts of global warming is to bring about more desertification.

Global warming brought about by increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere is expected to increase the variability of weather conditions and extreme events. Many dryland areas face increasingly low and erratic rainfalls, coupled with soil erosion by wind and the drying up of water resources through increased regional temperatures. Deforestation can also reduce rainfall in certain areas, increasing the threat of desertification. It is not yet possible, using computer models, to identify with an acceptable degree of reliability those parts of the Earth where desertification will occur. Existing drylands, which cover over 40% of the total land area of the world, most significantly in Africa and Asia, will probably be most at risk to climate change. These areas already experience low rainfall, and any that falls is usually in the form of short, erratic, high-intensity storms. In addition such areas also suffer from land degradation due to over-cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices.

The direct physical consequences of desertification may include an increased frequency of sand and dust storms and increased flooding due to inadequate drainage or poor irrigation practices. This can contribute to the removal of topsoil and vital soil nutrients needed for food production, and bring about a loss of vegetation cover which would otherwise have assisted with the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for plant photosynthesis. Desertification can also initiate regional shifts in climate which may enhance climate changes due to greenhouse gas emissions.

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Man Passes Mural of Drought, Melbourne Australia – William West/AFP



Drought in Australia has profound consequences:

The story of Australia’s worst dry spell in a thousand years continues to astound. Last year we learned, “One farmer takes his life every four days.” This year over half of Australia’s agricultural land is in a declared drought.

DROUGHT will become a redundant term as Australia plans for a permanently drier future, according to the nation’s urban water industries chief….

“The urban water industry has decided the inflows of the past will never return,” Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said. “We are trying to avoid the term ‘drought’ and saying this is the new reality.”

For you in the United States, a recent study in April in the journal Science “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest.”

An extraordinary number of you humans live in drylands.

Home to a third of the human population in 2000, drylands occupy nearly half of Earth’s land area. Across the world, desertification affects the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on the benefits that dryland ecosystems can provide.

In drylands, water scarcity limits the production of crops, forage, wood, and other services ecosystems provide to humans. Drylands are therefore highly vulnerable to increases in human pressures and climatic variability, especially sub-Saharan and Central Asian drylands.

Some 10 to 20% of drylands are already degraded, and ongoing desertification threatens the world’s poorest populations and the prospects of poverty reduction. Therefore, desertification is one of the greatest environmental challenges today and a major barrier to meeting basic human needs in drylands.

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Dunes in Douza, Tunisia – Fehti Belaid/AFP

All this sand is making me very nervous. And extremely thirsty. Not to mention very depressed.

Whether it’s too much sand or not enough ice, or too much water, we are all becoming bellwethers.

People are penguins too.

Have a good day, Anthony, wherever you are.
Penguin7





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