Hawaii coral reefs now protected under $2 million insurance policy


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Grace Smith | December 23, 2022

The Nature Conservancy took out a $2 million insurance policy at the end of November for Hawaii’s coral reefs. The policy provides funding for the repair and restoration of coral reefs after hurricane or storm damage. 

This insurance policy is the first policy for reefs in the United States. The first reef insurance policy in the world was in 2019 after hurricane damage in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Since then, different partners have been working with TNC to build a larger and more impactful insurance program.

“In Hawai‘i, we are rooted in the environment; the health of our coastlines and communities is directly tied to the health of the coral reefs surrounding our islands,” Ulalia Woodside Lee, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy, Hawai‘i and Palmyra said. “By investing in nature, our insurance and finance partners are demonstrating its value as a critical natural, cultural and economic resource.”

Coral reefs are an important natural asset for Hawaii and its people and culture. Reefs provide coastal flood protection for people and property worth more than $836 million and $1.2 billion through tourism. But coral reefs are under serious threat because of climate change, which is heightening and increasing natural disasters like tropical storms and hurricanes.

“Managing natural resources is a costly endeavor, and more investment is always needed,” Brian Nielson, Administrator, Division of Aquatic Resources, State of Hawaiʻi Division of Land and Natural Resources said. “It is a step forward in coral reef conservation and will provide vital funding to repair reefs when it is urgently needed.”

Major world glaciers to disappear by 2050


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Grace Smith | December 1, 2022

Some of the world’s most major and famous glaciers will disappear after melting by 2050, according to a U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization report. These major glaciers include the Dolomites in Italy, the Yosemite and Yellowstone parks in the U.S., and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

UNESCO observes and studies 18, 600 glaciers around the world, and said by 2050, a third of them will be gone because of climate change. By 2100, 50 percent of all World Heritage Site glaciers — well-known, large, and highly visible glaciers around the world — will have fully melted. Half of the world’s population relies on water from glaciers for domestic, agricultural, and power use.

“This report is a call to action. Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions levels can save glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

Keeping the global temperature increase at 1.3 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial levels, could save the other two-thirds of the World Heritage Site glaciers. Since 1970, the global temperature rise has been 1.7 degrees Celsius per century. But, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, global temperatures are likely to increase by about 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and two to four degrees Celsius by 2100.

Hundreds of thousands of tons of bacteria are released from melting glaciers


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Grace Smith | November 18, 2022

Hundreds of thousands of tons of bacteria are being released annually into the air through melting glaciers in the northern latitudes, a study in the Communications Earth & Environment reported. Glaciers melting because of global warming could cause a release of 650,000 tons of carbon a year for the next 80 years in the northern hemisphere. 

Scientists from the journal collected data from eight glaciers across Europe and North America and found that tens of thousands of microbes are in each milliliter of water. This data helped the researchers to estimate that the bacteria being swept through streams and water would be 650,000 tons of carbon a year. 

“We are seeing the glaciers die before our eyes, affecting the microbes that are there, with implications for us locally and globally,” Dr. Arwyn Edwards, a member of the study team told The Guardian. “The mass of microbes released is vast even with moderate warming.”

Edwards said the researchers don’t have enough data to determine the threat of the organisms, but they will continue conducting data to assess the risk of each microbe.

Carbon emissions have risen since pandemic


Pollution
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Elyse Gabor | November 16, 2022

As 2022 comes to an end, record high amounts of carbon dioxide emissions remain. According to a report, the Earth has less than 10 years to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. In 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed by about 200 countries. Although cuts in emissions production have been made, it is not enough to prevent global warming. The Global Carbon Project and its’ scientists estimate that global warming will rise one and a half degrees Celsius.  

A climate modeler at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and author of the study, Pierre Friedlingstein, said, “This is more evidence that time is running out.” Other climate organizations have concluded similar results from their studies. According to Friedlingstein and his team, if carbon dioxide stays the same, in nine years, the planet will likely rise one and a half degrees.  

Just this year, around 40.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide have been put into the atmosphere, similar to the number of levels in 2019. Due to the pandemic causing a slower pace of life, emission levels lowered, but since have risen.  

Climate change is threatening ‘the things America values most’


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Grace Smith | November 11, 2022

The U.S. must slow down the use of greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the risk of the threatening of water supplies and and public health throughout the nation, per a federal government release on Monday.

“The things Americans value most are at risk,” the National Climate Assessment authors wrote in the draft, that contained 1,695 pages. “Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.”

Over the past 50 years, America has warmed 68 percent faster than the rest of the world as a whole. Climate change disasters, such as wildfires, have caused communties around the nation to be displaced. If current conditions continue, the report says millions more Americans could be displaced from their homes. 

In addition, climate change has impacted infrastructure and the economy. On average, the U.S. has experienced eight $1 billion disasters each year for four decades, but has seen a large increase over the past five years with 18 catastrophes. 

The authors of the report offered fast solutions to taking America off the track of destruction it is on, such as increasing public transit, quickening low-carbon technologies, improving agricultural management, and incentivizing renewable energy options such as vehicles.

‘We’re on a highway to climate hell,” U.N. Secretary-General says at COP27


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Grace Smith | November 8, 2022

United Nations secretary general António Guterres warned the world at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference on Nov. 7 that the world is headed to a “highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” The COP27 Summit began on Sunday, Nov. 6, and world speakers addressed climate issues and gave speeches in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

The climate conversations are the 27th of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. convention. Over 44,000 gov. Representatives, business groups, and civil society groups are registered to attend the conference.

Guterres’ speech about the state of the world’s climate began after talking about a release of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) data on Sunday stating that the world has most likely witnessed the warmest eight years on record. According to the data, the rate of sea-level rise has doubled since 1993, and the past two-and-a-half-years have accounted for 10 percent of sea-level rise in the past 30 years.

“The greater the warming, the worse the impacts. We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now that the lower 1.5°C of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas. “All too often, those least responsible for climate change suffer most – as we have seen with the terrible flooding in Pakistan and deadly, long-running drought in the Horn of Africa. But even well-prepared societies this year have been ravaged by extremes – as seen by the protracted heatwaves and drought in large parts of Europe and southern China.” 

At this year’s COP27 summit, “funding arrangements” for vulnerable countries are on the agenda. Guterres spoke Monday strongly urging attendees at the summit to help vulnerable countries like Pakistan. An estimate between $290 billion to $580 billion is required for countries per year by 2030.

Global warming will cause famous glaciers to melt


Yosemite
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Elyse Gabor | November 7, 2022

According to UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, nearly a third of glaciers are predicted to disappear by 2050. These glaciers include Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Yellowstone’s Yosemite, and Italy’s Dolomites. The cause of the disappearances is linked to rising temperatures caused by global warming.  

The loss of these glaciers will majorly impact the landscape of these areas, often focal points for tourists. To combat the losses, UNESCO says that policies should be made surrounding these glaciers to help reduce natural disasters and risks caused by their disappearances. According to Tales Carvalho, lead author of the report, “As glacier lakes fill up, they can burst and can cause catastrophic floods downstream.” 

Each year, around 58 billion tons of ice melt off the glaciers and cause sea levels to rise. Carvalho says the best way to save the glaciers would be to lessen carbon emissions. 

Across 50 of its World Heritage sites, UNESCO monitors 18,600 glaciers. Out of these sites, a third of them are set to disappear. However, the remaining glaciers can be saved if temperatures stay controlled.

Europe’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average


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Grace Smith | November 4, 2022

Temperatures in Europe have increased more than twice the global average rate in the last 30 years, per a report by the World Meteorological Organization. From 1991 to 2021, Europe increased an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius every decade. Earth has warmed 0.18 degrees Celsius per decade since 1981. 

Europe’s summer months this year brought record-breaking high temperatures and hot days, reaching 0.4 degrees Celsius above last year. In addition, the results of continuous warming in Europe melted about 38 feet of the Alpine glaciers and continue melting Greenland’s ice sheets, raising the sea level. 

“Europe presents a live picture of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from impacts of extreme weather events,” WMO secretary-general, Prof Petteri Taalas, said. “This year, like 2021, large parts of Europe have been affected by extensive heatwaves and drought, fueling wildfires. In 2021, exceptional floods caused death and devastation.”

Reasons why Europe is warming more than other areas of the world include high land mass in Europe, as well as the Arctic and high northern latitudes which are the fasted global warming regions. To decrease climate change effects, the European Union decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 31 percent since 1990 and aims to decrease them by 55 percent by 2030.

Current climate plans are not enough to avoid disastrous climate change, UN says


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Grace Smith | October 28, 2022

The world’s governments haven’t dedicated enough attention or promise to bypass the catastrophic climate change effects, the United Nations said in a released report on Oct. 26. This puts the world on course for a 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures by the end of the century. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that CO2 emissions need to be cut by 43 percent by 2030, but existing climate plans demonstrate a 10.6 percent increase instead.

“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. “But the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world,” Stiell warned.

Cutting methane emissions — the second largest contributor to climate change — would be the quickest and most effective way to alter the fast pace of global warming. Methane emissions have an 80 times more significant warming effect than carbon dioxide over 20 years.

Stiell suggested an urgent call for global leaders to seal the gap between where emissions are leaning toward and where science displays levels should be, calling for nations to be focused on a few key aspects: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance.

Tonga volcano eruption may take temporary toll on climate


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Grace Smith | September 27, 2022

A volcanic eruption occurred underwater in the Pacific Ocean in January. The huge eruption near produced a global shock so extensive it sprayed a large amount of water vapor into the stratosphere – enough to fill over 58,000 Olympic swimming pools. This spew of water vapor may cause a short-term upsurge in global warming.  

The eruption on Jan. 15 of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano in the island nation of Tonga destroyed 90 percent of the uninhabited island of Hunga Tonga Ha’apai after sparking a Tsunami. The eruption also assembled an ash plume half the size of France. Because the volcano was 500 feet below water, molten rock and seawater combined, and the water vapor reached an altitude of 35 miles. 

The amount of water vapor spewing into the upper atmosphere was at least 55 million tons, which may temporarily cause more depletion in the ozone layer, which protects the world from harmful rays from the sun. 

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and leader of a study examining Tonga volcano effects. Above-ground volcanos don’t release as much water and instead release sulfur dioxide, causing a cooling effect. But, the underwater volcano created a warming effect because of the amount of water vapor spewed into the stratosphere.