News Article | February 22, 2017
Coca-Cola has announced it supports testing a deposit return service for drinks cans and bottles, in a major coup for environment and anti-waste campaigners. Executives told an event in Edinburgh on Tuesday evening they agreed with campaigners who were pressing the Scottish government to set up a bottle-return pilot scheme to cut waste and pollution and boost recycling. They told the event, organised by Holyrood magazine, that the company had been examining the merits of a bottle and can deposit scheme, where consumers pay a small surcharge of about 10p per item, which is repaid when an empty can or bottle is returned to a retailer. The company, the world’s largest soft drinks manufacturer, had previously resisted a deposit return scheme, which is used in countries such as Canada, Sweden, Australia and Norway. It had claimed in 2015 it did not reduce packaging use or improve recyclability. But in a clear switch in policy, which mirrors its attempts to cut high sugar content in its products, a Coca-Cola executive told the event in Edinburgh its thinking had changed, in part because of experience in other countries. “The time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are under way,” he said. The announcement was hailed as a “landmark moment” by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS), which is coordinating a lobbying campaign with other groups and businesses, including WWF and the Marine Conservation Society. The Scottish parliament’s environment committee has set up a subgroup to examine the proposal, adding to pressure on Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, to agree to a pilot scheme. John Mayhew, APRS’s chief executive, said it was an extremely significant moment given Coca-Cola’s position as the world’s largest soft drinks manufacturer. A poll by Survation for the APRS this month found that nearly 79% of Scots supported a return scheme, while only 8.5% opposed it. “The momentum is now with the campaign,” Mayhew said. “The crucial next step is for ministers to design a system that works well for the public, for local authorities, and for small Scottish businesses, including retailers as well as producers. We know it can be done, and we will continue to argue for a deposit system which takes account of their needs.” Political parties in Wales have also floated a deposit return scheme, with a suggested deposit of 10p a bottle. The Marine Conservation Society has said up to 17% of the rubbish found on beaches is drinks containers. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the company’s polling had found majority support for a deposit return scheme across the UK. It said 63% of consumers backed the proposal and 51% of those polled believed it would increase their recycling. The company said it had made significant progress on sustainability: its bottles and cans were 100% recyclable; packages were lighter and the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles would increase from 25% to 40% by 2020. Even so, it accepted it needed to do more and had begun a substantial review of its sustainability strategies. “We are focused on our packaging, the role of our brands and the ways we can collaborate with others to improve recycling rates and reduce litter. “Our sustainable packaging review is ongoing, but it’s already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit return scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are under way. “From our experience elsewhere in Europe, we know that deposit schemes can work if they are developed as part of an overall strategy on the circular economy, in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. We are open to exploring any well-thought-through initiative that has the potential to increase recycling and reduce litter.” Richard Lochhead, the previous Scottish environment secretary, said he backed the scheme and believed Coca-Cola’s change of heart would influence other drinks manufacturers and the Scottish government to support the proposal. “This injects momentum and credibility into the debate in Scotland. We can lead the UK on this issue and this helps brings the introduction of such a transformative policy a big step closer,” he said.
News Article | February 24, 2017
The Great Barrier Reef faces an “elevated and imminent risk” of more widespread coral bleaching this year, the reef authority has warned the Queensland government. An alert from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says more of the reef is showing built-up heat stress than this time last year, just before its worst-ever bleaching event killed off a quarter of all coral. The authority is “concerned that a significant bleaching event may occur again this year”, when sea surface temperatures are also warmer than 12 months ago, the government briefing titled “2017 Coral Bleaching Event” says. It says the authority is “receiving increasing reports of coral bleaching and disease from many parts” of the reef, including offshore Mackay, far south of the worst sections of bleaching in 2016. A new report to the UN’s world heritage committee by the Great Barrier Reef independent review group (IRG) has criticised Australia’s lack of planning in dealing with the effects of climate change on the reef. The review says mass bleaching has already crippled for decades a key goal of Australia’s 2050 reef conservation plan, having “substantially diminished the outstanding universal values” of the reef world heritage area. It says: “unprecedented severe bleaching and mortality of corals in 2016 in the Great Barrier Reef is a game changer”. “Given the severity of the damage and the slow trajectory of recovery, the overarching vision of the 2050 Plan, to ensure the Great Barrier Reef continues to improve on its [outstanding universal values] every decade between now and 2050, is no longer attainable for at least the next two decades,” it says. The report also says Australia’s emission reduction targets are “not commensurate with a fair contribution to the reduced global carbon budget” needed to meet Paris agreement targets and protect coral reefs worldwide. It specifically criticises Australia’s support for new coal mines in Queensland that “pose a serious threat to the [world heritage area]”. Also on Friday, state and territory governments signed a joint statement calling on the Turnbull government to lift its urgency in cutting carbon emissions to meet Australia’s climate commitments. The communiqué was released before the Queensland environment and Great Barrier Reef minister, Steven Miles, was due to take state and territory counterparts to view damaged coral off Cairns. It calls on the Turnbull government to use its review of Australia’s climate change policy to entrench a “bipartisan approach … which provides business, investors and society with certainty over Australia’s transition to a net zero emissions economy” by 2050. “We acknowledge the urgency of the need for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and where possible to adapt to the impacts of climate change,” it says. It calls for “urgent and effective integration of energy and climate policy”, amid a continuing political brawl over the cost and reliability of switching power grids to renewable energy. Miles said the meeting, which the federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, declined to attend, involved a “very useful discussion about collaborating together to encourage stronger national action”. “Today I’ll show them why that work is so important. We are going to see the direct result of climate change in our reef waters,” he said. The alert from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which is conducting underwater surveys of reefs between Townsville and Cairns, notes that the reef is under “repeated stress” through an “unusually warm winter and a second warm summer” after last year’s bleaching event. This has led to “more heat stress accumulated in more areas than at this time last year”, compounding the effects of sea surface temperatures also warmer than last year. “This accumulated stress means that many corals are likely to be more vulnerable than usual to the effects of elevated temperatures,” it says. Footage released this week by the production company Biopixel shows newly bleached corals at popular dive spots off Cairns. Richard Fitzpatrick, an Emmy-award winning cinematographer and marine biologist, says in the footage: “At the moment, we have no idea how severe or widespread this current coral bleaching event is going to be. “The causes of coral bleaching is simply climate change,” he says, before appealing to viewers, including those on “the other side of the planet”, to help end the reliance on fossil fuels “to help protect a living icon”. Images of newly bleached corals were taken by divers near Palm Island, off Townsville, last week. Frydenberg told the ABC climate change was the reef’s greatest threat and the government was “concerned about heat stress on the reef but we are making real progress”. He said the implementation of measures worth more than $2bn towards the Reef 2050 Plan by the federal and Queensland government had already been “very successful”, with 30 of 105 measures completed. Frydenberg said Adani’s Carmichael mine, which would open up the Galilee Basin, was “300km inland and what we have done internationally and domestically to tackle climate change is significant”. The IRG said the government was “considering a $1bn subsidised loan” for a new rail line to open up the Galilee Basin to coal mines “that will add substantially to global greenhouse gas emissions”. “Despite the severe threat to the Great Barrier Reef of increased shipping, dredging and carbon emissions, Australia is still strongly supportive of developing the world’s largest new coal mines in the Galilee Basin,” it said. It also said the federal government had “underestimated” a funding shortfall of $143m to $408m to meet its Reef 2050 Plan actions. Up to a third of 103 actions flagged as “‘on track or underway’ are really just starting, or are seriously under-resourced”, it said. WWF-Australia’s head of oceans, Richard Leck, said: “These independent experts have given UNESCO a far more accurate assessment of progress than the rose-coloured-glasses version released by the Australian and Queensland governments late last year.” The reef campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Imogen Zethoven, said the independent review was a “warning shot” for a reef “on a knife edge”. “Failure to act now will spell disaster for our reef. Scientists warn that we have four years left to have a 66% chance of keeping global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C,” she said. “This is a critical threshold for the survival of the Great Barrier Reef and all the world’s reefs. The solutions are clear: we must ensure no new coal mines and we must urgently cut carbon pollution.”
News Article | February 17, 2017
In 2010 the mining industry’s $22m campaign against Kevin Rudd’s resources tax helped bring down a prime minister. For years it has spent huge sums on donations and advertising and lobbying to exert enormous political influence. But the deep-pocketed miners really don’t like it when those with different views find the cash and the smarts to wield some clout. The latest squeal came this week in an appearance by the Minerals Council of Australia before the joint standing committee on electoral donations, which seems likely to reach a bipartisan consensus on banning foreign donations to political parties and other organisations that might influence the outcome of elections – including associated entities (like unions or fundraising foundations) and activist groups like GetUp. While a ban on foreign donations is, in my view, a good idea, and broader reform of political donation laws is screamingly necessary if politics is to be saved from itself, the MCA seemed mostly intent on using the process to maximise the impact of any changes on environmental groups campaigning against new coalmines. In its submission the MCA listed the declared political expenditure of Greenpeace, the Climate Institute, WWF-Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation in 2015-16 (just under $582,000 combined) and compared it with the MCA’s own political expenditure for the same period ($789,706). This conveniently omitted another $2.48m in political expenditure declared by ACA Low Emissions Technology (an associated company which grew from the coal industry’s fund for researching “clean coal” but which can now be used for “promoting the use of coal both within Australia and overseas and promoting the economic and social benefits of the coal industry”.) Then again, the appearance wasn’t really focused on self reflection about the political impact of the miners’ own lobbying efforts. They argued environmental groups should have to disclose their donors, including foreign donors, and should categorise much more of what they do as “political expenditure” that has to be declared to the Australian Electoral Commission. I generally agree on the first point. Emails leaked last year showed foreign donors were bankrolling the campaign to prevent the development of the Adani coalmine. It would be far better for such arrangements to be transparent. The arguments also highlight the complexity of defining which organisations should be hit by a ban, or new disclosure rules, and in relation to what proportion of their operations. Any ban has to extend further than the parties themselves otherwise foreign donations will be channelled through the equivalent of the US political action committees. But most of the Mineral Council’s biggest members are multinationals, listed on Australian and overseas stock exchanges. Could their membership fees or fighting fund donations be used for the MCA’s political campaigns if foreign donations were banned? Should their individual contributions be revealed? What about campaigns like the one a few years back by Peabody, then the world’s largest private-sector coal company, which teamed with the global PR firm Burson-Marsteller to produce a website and social media push targeting China, the US and Australia, called “Advanced Energy for Life”, with the stated aim of “educating and mobilising world leaders, multinational organisations, a wide range of institutions and stakeholders and the general public to end the crisis of global energy poverty” (by supporting the greater use of coal, of course). Some environmental groups are also global entities. But most say their foreign donations are tiny – in the case of ACF less than 1% of income over the past 10 years, and similarly small for GetUp, which voluntarily declares all its revenue and income anyway. And not everything the miners or the greenies do is designed to influence the outcome of elections, so how far do we go with any bans or new transparency requirements? And who would be caught by increased requirements for disclosure? The Institute of Public Affairs runs campaigns that are obviously political but doesn’t disclose its funders. The Australia Institute doesn’t make its donors public either. What about donations from the foreign-owned Adani itself? But the miners appeared only worried about the greenies, having already helped convince a separate inquiry to recommend that conservation groups should have limits placed on the amount of advocacy work they can do (as opposed to on the ground “environmental remediation”) if they want to receive tax-deductible status. “The MCA is not questioning the right of environmental groups to pursue objectives or to raise money for this purpose,” the council says in its submission to the current inquiry, but adds “no organisation should be allowed to pursue an undeclared political campaign with undisclosed foreign donations.” The political battle over the legitimacy of the coal industry is fierce, and the miners have, of late, been trying to stage a fight back – this week launching the sequel to their somewhat mocked “Little Black Rock” campaign promoting high efficiency coal-fired generation plants – TV ads, a website and a social media campaign under the new slogan “Making the Future Possible”. It makes a whole range of debatable claims, including that the International Energy Agency forecasts Australia’s coal exports to grow by 18% out to 2040, which is true, but only under the scenario where the world does nothing more about climate change and warms by at least three degrees. That kind of fact checking is all part of a proper public debate, where, despite the miners’ best efforts, the idea that coal really isn’t part of the long-term future appears to be winning. It would be a terrible shame if electoral laws were used in a desperate attempt hobble that argument, and an even bigger shame if attempting it did anything to undermine a bipartisan effort to clean up politics.
News Article | February 13, 2017
There is so much being done to help stop elephants being wiped out in the wild. We’ve identified more than 50 campaigns and organisations around the world, from well-known charities like the World Wide Fund for Nature to grassroots groups like Elephanatics in Canada and Laos-based ElefantAsia. If you think we’ve missed anyone or anything, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll update the list with your suggestions. Please note, however: presence on this list does not constitute an endorsement. Organisations take differing approaches to elephant conservation, and even the most secure-looking can run into financial difficulties. As a conscientious giver it is your responsibility to make sure your contribution will be used wisely. Set up petitions, organise marches, lobby politicians or just spread the word: there are a number of ways in which you can campaign and really make an impact. There are many inspiring grassroots groups that do amazing work; why not join one of these, or set up your own if there’s none in your country? In the UK, Action for Elephants has organised marches and talks to highlight the importance of banning the ivory trade. This grassroots group also campaigns against keeping elephants in captivity. Even though 179 countries have signed up to Cites, the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the illegal trade in wild animals remains a multibillion-dollar industry. The Bloody Ivory campaign aims to put pressure on Cites to do more to prevent poaching and ivory trafficking. Its online petition to tackle the black market in ivory has 56,000 signatures (and counting) and will be presented at the next Cites meeting in 2019. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Elephanatics aims to raise awareness of the poaching crisis and ensure the long-term survival of elephants through education, conservation and fun activities like the annual global march for elephants and rhinos. Inspired by her childhood in Africa, Joyce Poole has been studying elephant behaviour and communication for more than 30 years. She has a particular interest in how poaching and habitat destruction affects herds’ social dynamics. Through ElephantVoices, which she founded in 2002, Poole campaigns for elephants and promotes research and conservation projects, while providing others with the resources they need to do the same. Conducting the first pan-African aerial survey of elephant populations in 40 years and covering 345,000 square miles across 18 countries, this ambitious project set out to count and map Africa’s savannah elephants. The final report, published last year, showed a 30% fall in numbers over the last seven years. While the census itself is complete, the organisation is now using its database to help governments, scientists and NGOs manage and protect elephant populations. Committed to bringing an end to animal poaching and trafficking, IFAW campaigns for the bolstering of wildlife trade policy with supranational organisations such as the UN and the EU, while helping to train customs agents and wildlife rangers. It also investigates online crime. This offshoot of WildAid – one of the largest conservation groups working to eliminate demand for wildlife products such as elephant ivory and rhino horn – is responsible for the #JoinTheHerd campaign. Showing your support is as easy as uploading a photo of yourself – which the website then stitches to one of an elephant – and sharing the resultant image on social media, with the #JoinTheHerd hashtag. This non-profit aims to fight ivory trafficking on every front, training rangers, supplying sniffer dogs, working to make ivory less prestigious … Responsible for the #SaveElephants social media campaign, it also provides plenty of highly shareable pictures for your own activities. Named after the 96 animals killed for their ivory every day in Africa, this offshoot of the Wildlife Conservation Society works to highlight the plight of elephants and supports organisations caring for them around the world. Campaigns include Origami for Elephants (“create your own customised digital origami elephant”) and the #ElephantYogaChallenge (“You can help save elephants with yoga”). Putting pressure on politicians both at home and overseas is a powerful way to effect change. Save the Asian Elephant provides template letters and contact details for top-ranking officials, including the British prime minister, Theresa May, and India’s minister for tourism, Dr Mahesh Sharma, which you can use to urge them to follow through on their promises to protect Asian elephants. A grassroots organisation dedicated to raising awareness about the ivory trade and the fate of elephants across Africa. It offers a space to share knowledge, lobby government and join marches. Founded by two zoology students from the University of Exeter, this little organisation focuses on producing short films that target a wildlife crime or human-wildlife conflict issue. These are then shown to affected communities through a bicycle-powered cinema. In Malawi, Stop Wildlife Crime, Protect Malawi’s Wildlife, about elephants and the illegal ivory trade, was shown to more than 14,000 people. This World Wide Fund for Nature initiative is focused on ending Thailand’s ivory trade – once the world’s second largest – and has already enjoyed much success. In 2015, its efforts helped the Thai government to pass new regulations, while last year’s Ivory-Free Thailand campaign enlisted the help of local celebrities to discourage consumers from buying or accepting gifts of ivory. Launched by the World Elephant Society, which creates and distributes educational information about elephant conservation, World Elephant Day (12 August) asks elephant-lovers the world over to share their appreciation of these endangered animals. Youth 4 African Wildlife works with young people in the hope that they’ll become global conservation ambassadors. It offers conservation internships for people from all over the world, and also raises awareness through community outreach in the greater Kruger National Park area in South Africa. If you want to help elephants and have time to spare, these organisations want to hear from you. Some offer hybrid travel and volunteering experiences that will let you interact with elephants in their own habitat. Others need assistance with campaigns or administration. As always, make sure you understand their aims and approaches before signing up. Set in the lush countryside of Thailand’s northern Mae Chaem district, this sanctuary serves as a retirement community for some of the country’s 4,000-plus registered captive elephants, which have endured long lives of hard graft and exploitation, predominantly within the tourism and logging industries. Tasks for volunteers range from feeding and bathing the animals to teaching English to local children. With stays at the charity’s Cambodian elephant sanctuary lasting anywhere between one and four weeks, a good level of fitness is a must, as volunteers are expected to spend much of their time hiking through the Mondulkiri province’s mountainous terrain. Activities include observing the elephants in their natural habitat and planting seedlings to counteract deforestation. Elephants in Lagos are traditionally used in logging and worked to the point of exhaustion. The Conservation Center is home to the country’s first elephant hospital dedicated to victims of logging accidents, and has an elephant breeding programme. Reliant on donations and fees from volunteers, the centre invites visitors to learn about elephants and the importance of conservation in their natural environment. A useful starting point for any well-intentioned volunteer who doesn’t quite know where to start. There are dozens of opportunities across Africa and Asia to choose from, including data collection and research projects in Thailand, community outreach and wildlife education programmes in South Africa, and hands-on caretaking roles in a Sri Lankan elephant sanctuary. Human-animal conflict is one of the greatest threats to some of the world’s most at-risk elephant populations. The Great Projects links volunteers to conservation efforts in Asia and Africa; these include protecting the Namibian desert elephants – whose slowly recovering numbers were as low as 300 in the 1990s – by working with the local farmers, who frequently come into violent contact with the animals. Dedicated to protecting the Asian elephant, Save the Elephant Foundation provides a safe home for rescued elephants in its Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai, Thailand. It invites volunteers and visitors to spend time with the animals, feeding, bathing and giving them care and affection in their natural habitat. One of the largest human-elephant conflict resolution projects in the world, this scheme run by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society sees volunteers muck in across a wide variety of tasks. Daily activities might include observing elephant herds, identifying game trails, developing a dialogue with local communities, or maintaining the scenically situated base camp in north-western Sri Lanka. Giving money may seem the easiest way to help a cause you believe in. But deciding which organisation to donate to can be a daunting task. Some will use the money across their programmes, while others will let you back specific projects. Be sure to check that the organisation is legitimate and fits your objectives. Study its website, check its credentials and search the web to learn about its reputation and status. In addition to government regulators, these organisations provide advice for charitable giving: Charity Navigator, GuideStar, Charity Watch and GreatNonprofits. The rangers who risk their lives to prevent wildlife poaching and trafficking make little money and often spend months at a time away from their families. A guaranteed 100% of donations to this WWF-run initiative fund the equipment and infrastructure they need to do their jobs effectively and safely. For more than 30 years Born Free has been working to keep wildlife in the wild. You can support its work by (symbolically) adopting either orphaned Asian elephant calf Jubilee, or African elephant Emily Kate, who now has a calf of her own. The welcome pack includes a cuddly toy and personalised adoption certificate. Since its creation three years ago, this joint initiative between Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network has channelled donations to the areas where elephant populations are collapsing the quickest, and the projects on the ground best placed to do something about it. Its celebrity-backed anti-ivory campaign in China played a vital role in changing policy in the country. With donations funding information-gathering operations and deep-cover field investigations, the EAL adopts an intelligence-led approach to uncovering and disrupting the criminal networks behind poaching and ivory trafficking. As well as using specialist investigators to infiltrate the criminal organisations profiting from the exploitation of wildlife, the EIA runs evidence-backed campaigns to advocate for meaningful policy change at a governmental level. Investigations typically cost between £10,000 and £20,000 and rely on donations from the public. Rather than paying into a pot that the charity will redistribute as it sees fit, this foundation allows donors to choose a specific programme and guarantees that 100% of their donation will reach their intended recipients. There are more than 20 research and conservation projects to choose from, including the Mounted Horse Patrol Anti-Poaching Unit for Mount Kenya. As well as its own investigative and policy work, the IFAW partners with media organisations around the world to raise awareness of the illegal ivory trade and the destruction it causes. Donations help to fund future media campaigns and awareness-raising projects. From elephants and tigers to chameleons and carnivorous plants, this research project run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature is aiming to gauge the health of the world’s biodiversity by assessing 160,000 species by 2020. It’s almost halfway there. Donations will support this ongoing research as well as supporting on-the-ground conservation projects. Elephants and tigers play vital roles in the ecosystem, and JTEF aims to raise awareness of their importance. It has several programmes to support conservation work, and reduce Japanese demand for wildlife products. It’s not just elephants and other wildlife that are at the mercy of the poachers’ weapons: more than 1,000 park rangers are estimated to have been killed in the past decade simply for standing in their way. This Australian-run foundation seeks to “protect nature’s protectors” by providing training and vital anti-poaching equipment, while also offering financial support to the families of those killed in the line of duty. Wild Philanthropy supports at-risk ecosystems and communities in Africa through grants to NGOs that are involved in managing protected areas. It also provides secured loans to local eco-tourist businesses.. As an all-volunteer organisation, the WAF uses every penny donated to help secure the longevity of animals and the delicate ecosystems that they inhabit. To show your support for elephants specifically – rather than the plethora of protected species ranging from fireflies to fish – you can symbolically adopt one for $35 (£28) a year. When elephants come into contact with farmland, they can wreak havoc and destroy livelihoods by eating or crushing crops. Many farmers respond by setting out poison or taking other extreme measures. World Animal Protection works with communities to come up with simple and sustainable solutions that allow humans and elephants to coexist, such as the introduction of chilli fences in Mikumi National Park in Tanzania. Most poaching takes place after dark, when rangers aren’t around. This initiative from the Lindbergh Foundation runs drone operations at night in collaboration with local rangers. With thermal imaging sensors, it can locate wildlife as well as poachers, and position rangers before an incident takes place. In two years of testing in a park in South Africa that had been losing 18 rhinos a week, not one animal was lost. Air Shepherd has now conducted around 5,000 missions, across South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Stepping in where local governments are unwilling or unable to act, African Parks manages 10 national parks in seven countries, taking complete responsibility for the day-to-day management and preservation of 6 million hectares of protected land. Already employing 600 rangers – the largest counter-poaching force on the continent – it aims to increase its conservation operation by 2020 to 20 parks and more than 10m hectares. The communities who share their land with elephants are best placed to conserve their natural heritage, but they often lack the means to do so. The African Wildlife Foundation recruits, trains and equips wildlife scouts from these areas, providing employment opportunities to local people and creating a large and effective poaching deterrent in the process. Renowned wildlife researcher and conservationist Cynthia Moss has been studying elephants in the Amboseli National Park, straddling the Kenya-Tanzania border, since the early 1970s. She founded the Amboseli Trust for Elephants after seeing elephant populations in Kenya plummet by an estimated 85%. As well as groundbreaking scientific research, the trust conducts extensive community outreach programmes with the local Maasai community. One such scheme compensates anyone who has lost livestock to elephants, which has more than halved the number of animals speared and killed in retribution. Policing the 2m acres of elephant habitat in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro region of east Africa takes courage and dedication, with wildlife rangers spending weeks in remote outposts, putting their lives at risk every day. The Big Life Foundation employs hundreds of Maasai rangers, providing them with field units, vehicles, tracker dogs and aerial surveillance. You can support their efforts by joining the Ranger Club with a one-off or monthly donation. An elephant calf depends on its mother’s milk for the first two years of its life. So when one becomes orphaned – often because its mother has fallen foul of ivory poachers – the calf’s life hangs in the balance. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fosters, feeds and rears these orphaned calves, eventually reintroducing them to the wild in the Tsavo East National Park. To date, 150 calves have been saved in this way. A research-based organisation that began life as Save the Elephants – South Africa, Elephants Alive! has been monitoring one of South Africa’s largest continuous elephant populations for over 20 years. It believes that extensive knowledge of elephants’ movements and needs is vital to ensure their long-term survival. An offshoot of the Wildland Conservation Trust, this non-profit organisation works with Maasai communities in Kenya to help elephants and other wildlife. On the banks of the Zambezi river, where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe share a border, lies the town of Kazungula, from where Elephants Without Borders (EWB) runs its transnational conservation operation. African elephants regularly cross these international boundaries, leaving them at the mercy of changeable policy and conservation laws. Using state-of-the-art monitoring technology, EWB tracks their movements and works with the local authorities to create safe migratory corridors through which the elephants can move freely. In Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, elephant and other wildlife populations are at risk from bone-dry summers as well as from humans. In 2005, a particularly devastating drought saw scores of animals lose their lives. On the back of this disaster, Friends of Hwange was formed to pump water from underground sources, providing waterholes even in the most extreme conditions. Zambia sits at the heart of southern Africa, surrounded by four countries identified by Cites as centres of ivory poaching and trafficking. The Game Rangers International Wildlife Crime Prevention Project works with conservation organisations and law enforcement to end the illegal wildlife trade in and through Zambia. Malawi is one of the poorest, and fastest-growing, countries in the world, which is putting its natural habitat under severe strain. In 2008 the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust launched its first project, the Wildlife Centre, as a sanctuary for rescued animals and an education centre. The NGO now works across the country in rescues, advocacy and conservation education. Based in Tanzania, PAMS Foundation works in conservation to benefit both wildlife and the community. Its initiatives include training dogs to detect ivory being smuggled at borders, and supporting the Tanzanian government to undertake anti-poaching efforts. The elephants of northern Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve are some of the best studied in the world, thanks to the work of Save the Elephants. The charity’s main research centre is located in Samburu, from where it once pioneered the GPS tracking of elephant populations, and continues to try to understand ecosystems from an elephant’s perspective. Donations go towards various research and protection projects, from anti-poaching aerial surveillance to better understanding the herds’ migratory movements. Poaching is the immediate threat. But there is another, perhaps even more serious threat to Africa’s elephants: the loss of their habitat as economies grow and land competition surges. Space for Giants is pioneering efforts in Kenya, Gabon, and Uganda to lessen human-elephant conflict with specially-designed electrified fences, and spends a lot of time working with local communities explaining why fences help. This Japanese-Kenyan NGO is best known for its “No Ivory Generation” campaign, aimed at changing Japanese consumers’ attitudes to ivory. Tusk has invested about £30m in 60 conservation projects across Africa since its founding in 1990. Education and sustainable development are at the heart of its approach to conservation, working with local schools and rural communities to promote happy cohabitation between at-risk wildlife and the ever-expanding human population. The group behind the Ninety-Six Elephants campaign (see the campaign, lobby and educate section above) has a presence in 15 of the 37 African elephant range sites, from the savannahs of east Africa to the Gulf of Guinea. Donations help WCS’ efforts to stop the degradation of elephant habitats and prevent wildlife crime by providing rangers with essential technological and intelligence-gathering resources. A US Fish and Wildlife Service initiative financed by a mixture of government contributions and public donations, the fund awards grants to a variety of conservation and animal welfare projects. Recent beneficiaries include a scheme to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Nepal; counter-poaching operations in Thailand; and veterinary training to improve the care of captive elephants in Indonesia. As an all-volunteer organisation, the AES uses 100% of donations to fund numerous and diverse programmes everywhere from India to Vietnam. These range from English as a Second Language classes so that mahouts can develop their careers, to meeting the veterinary and housing needs of retired working elephants. ElefantAsia promotes alternative, cruelty-free careers for the elephants and mahouts that have traditionally served the logging industry in Laos and other parts of south-east Asia. The Laos-based non-profit also providing veterinary care in the form of mobile clinics and an elephant hospital in Sayaboury province. By making a one-off donation or sponsoring an elephant – generally a pregnant female, a mother with a baby, or an elderly or injured animal – donors can support the ECC’s efforts to rescue elephants from the Lao logging industry and re-home them in 106 hectares of protected forest. Rather than impose western ideas of how to run conservation projects, Elephant Family empowers local experts to develop their own solutions to protect Asian elephants in India, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia. Soraida Salwala founded Friends of the Asian Elephant’s first elephant hospital in Thailand in 1993. Since then, more than 4,000 elephants have received medical treatment in her facility. In their spare time, a group of young people based in Gudalur work in nature conservation in the Nilgiri region of south India. Part of their work involves research into how people and elephants can coexist peacefully. The next generation of conservationists could be the key to ensuring elephants’ long-term survival. Through its educational programmes, Think Elephants International is keeping the subject alive in classrooms both at home in the US and in Thailand, with ambitions to spread the word far beyond. Formed almost 20 years ago in response to the threats to wildlife in India. With 150 employees, the group is dedicated to nature conservation through a wide range of projects. For example, it has supported anti-poaching training for more than 15,000 people working with wildlife. You can make a real difference to conservation efforts by becoming a citizen scientist. You don’t need a PhD to help track elephant populations. Run by the University of Cape Town, the MammalMAP project asks travellers and citizen scientists to share their photos of African wildlife, along with information about the date and location that the photograph was taken. In so doing, you will be helping to build a valuable picture of the mammal population and how it is changing. This Android app, created by ElephantVoices, allows users to upload sightings and observations of Mara elephants to help the conservation charity with its research and campaign work. A must-download for locals and visitors to Maasai Mara. A fun, simple and interactive way to conduct valuable scientific research from anywhere in the world. Snapshot Serengeti asks citizen scientists to help classify the animals caught on some of the hundreds of camera traps dotted throughout the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. You will be shown a photo and provided with a user-friendly and searchable list of native animals. Get clicking to help researchers better understand the park’s animal populations. You don’t have to travel all the way to Mozambique to be part of the Gorongosa National Park’s conservation team. Simply review webcam and camera trap footage to help identify the movements of the park’s animal populations. Whether you would rather bake cakes or trek across Kenya, your hard work can raise money (and awareness) for elephant conservation. Just make sure you obey local regulations. Described by National Geographic as one of the “most authentic, most innovative … and most sustainable tours” out there, this annual nine-day expedition involves trekking across the Kenyan countryside, encountering wildlife and the people responsible for its conservation along the way. Participants are asked to raise upwards of $1,000 (£800), which goes towards preventing the slaughter of the region’s elephants. Simply select an elephant-focused charity or conservation project from the website’s vast database, and within a couple of minutes you can set up your own fundraising page. Crowdrise promises that at least 97% of the proceeds will go to your chosen cause. Alternatively (or additionally), you can sponsor and support others in their fundraising efforts. Functioning in much the same way as its crowd-funding cousin Crowdrise, JustGiving provides users with a simple way to share news of their fundraising campaigns with friends and family and to collect sponsorship. Whether you want to run the London Marathon, climb Mount Kilimanjaro or hold a bake sale in the name of elephant conservation, Tusk’s team can support your fundraising endeavours, be that by helping you get a place at an event, or by providing you with useful tips and ideas. An anti-poaching initiative, Veterans 4 Wildlife sends skilled veterans – and volunteers – to support rangers across Africa. Often poverty is the cause of poaching, so this organisation does a lot of community-based work, such as building schools and creating jobs. Provides all the tools and tips you need to create a successful fundraising campaign. Download flyers, posters and pictures direct from the website, or draw inspiration from other fundraising efforts. It’s easy to become so fascinated by elephants that you overlook ways in which you are harming them. Here are some of the things you should not do if you want to prevent exploitation and abuse.
News Article | February 7, 2017
Climate change is already wrecking some of Britain’s most significant sites, from Wordsworth’s gardens in Cumbria to the white cliffs on England’s south coast, according to a new report. Floods and erosion are damaging historic places, while warmer temperatures are seeing salmon vanishing from famous rivers and birds no longer visiting important wetlands. The report was produced by climate experts at Leeds University and the Climate Coalition, a group of 130 organisations including the RSPB, National Trust, WWF and the Women’s Institute. “Climate change often seems like a distant existential threat [but] this report shows it is already impacting upon some of our most treasured and special places around the UK,” said Prof Piers Forster of Leeds University. “It is clear our winters are generally getting warmer and wetter, storms are increasing in intensity and rainfall is becoming heavier. Climate change is not only coming home – it has arrived,” Forster said. It is also already affecting everyday places such as churches, sports grounds, farms and beaches, he said. Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth, where the romantic poet William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and learned his love of nature, was seriously damaged by two recent flooding events linked to a changing climate. In November 2009, torrential rain caused £500,000 of damage, sweeping away gates and walls that had survived since the 1690s. Floods inundated the site again during Storm Desmond in December 2015. “When I saw the damage the floods had caused in 2009 I was shocked and it took almost three years to repair the garden,” said the house’s head gardener, Amanda Thackeray. “Then after all that hard work to see the devastation from flooding in 2015 was very upsetting.” A century-long record shows the UK is experiencing more intense heavy rainfall during winter. Researchers can also use climate models to reveal the influence of global warming on some extreme events and have found the UK’s record December rainfall in 2015 was made 50-75% more likely by climate change. Another study found Storm Desmond was 40% more likely to have occurred because of the human activities that release greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels. Birling Gap is part of the world famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on England’s south coast and over the last 50 years, about 67cm of cliff is eroded each year. But during the winter storms of 2013-2014, the equivalent of seven years of erosion occurred in just two months. “The succession of storms provided a stark warning that coastal ‘defence’ as the only response to managing coastal change looks increasingly less plausible,” said Phil Dyke, coastal adviser at the National Trust. “We must learn how to adapt.” Existing buildings at Birling Gap are being lost and new buildings will be designed to be easier to move back as the cliff disappears. Scientists know that climate change is driving up sea levels and increasing the likelihood of more intense storms, meaning the rate of erosion is likely to rise. Rising temperatures are also affecting wildlife, including in the famous salmon rivers, the Wye and Usk, where otters and kingfishers also live. December is peak spawning time for salmon in Wales, but recent winters have been exceptionally warm. “After eliminating other potential causes such as disease and lack of adults, we have come to the conclusion that the exceptionally high water temperatures of November and December 2016 are the reason for the disastrous salmon fry numbers this year,” said Simon Evans, chief executive of the Wye & Usk Foundation. 2015 was little better, with young salmon found at just 17 sites out of 142, when they usually would be expected at 108 areas. Research has shown salmon populations across the Wye catchment fell by 50% from 1985-2004, despite cuts in water pollution. But stream temperatures have risen by up to 1C in that time, leaving researchers to conclude that climate change is a key factor in plummeting salmon numbers. Slimbridge wetlands in Gloucestershire is one of the UK’s most important bird sites, hosting 200 species from all over the world, but is also seeing changes as the climate warms. Numbers of migratory white-fronted geese have fallen by 98% in the last 30 years due to warmer weather further north. Geoff Hilton, at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said the shrinking flocks could have knock-on effects on the wetland habitat: “These are quite big changes ecologically. If you suddenly lose thousands of geese from a wetland, there are bound to be big effects on that wetland.” Warmer conditions have also meant water primrose, an alien invader to the UK, has grown aggressively in wide, dense mats and is seriously damaging native plants and fish. However, warmer winters have seen little egret numbers visiting Slimbridge increasing from just eight in the 1990s to 30 in 2013. Other sites being ruined by climate change, according to the new report, include a famous riverside pub on Manchester’s river Irwell, the Mark Addy, which has not re-opened after the 2015 winter floods and the historic clubhouse at Corbridge cricket club in Northumberland, now demolished after the same floods. The report also warns that the 5,000-year-old neolithic village at Skara Brae on Orkney, revealed after a great storm in 1850 stripped away grass and sand, could be destroyed in future as violent storms become more common.
News Article | February 16, 2017
SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bumble Bee Seafoods, North America’s premium seafood company, has introduced several new flavors to its Prime Fillet® line, Seasoned Tuna Pouches, and Snack on the Run! kits. New flavor varieties provide consumers with delicious ways to eat more seafood following the FDA’s recently announced seafood advice for pregnant and nursing women, and families. The advice encourages moms and moms-to-be to eat two to three servings of fish per week from the “best choices” list. Bumble Bee makes it even easier for families to get their recommended servings with bold new flavors of high-quality, premium tuna that can be enjoyed at home or on the go. “Consumers are looking for nutritious, affordable meal solutions to fill their pantries,” said Dave Melbourne, Bumble Bee senior vice president, consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility. “Bumble Bee’s new flavor varieties offer simple, delicious ways to incorporate more seafood into you and your family’s diet.” While fish can sometimes be intimidating to prepare, canned and pouched seafood is immediately ready to be added to any meal. As a leader in health and wellness, Bumble Bee offers a wide variety of high-quality, affordable shelf-stable seafood products, giving consumers even more ways to get their recommended servings of fish each week. New flavor additions include: To learn more, or to purchase your favorite Bumble Bee products, visit www.BumbleBee.com. Bumble Bee Foods, LLC, headquartered in San Diego, is North America’s largest branded shelf-stable seafood company, offering a full line of canned and pouched tuna, salmon, sardine and specialty protein products marketed in the U.S. under leading brands including Bumble Bee®, Brunswick®, Snow’s®, Wild Selections® and Beach Cliff®, and in Canada under the Clover Leaf® brand. The company also produces premium fresh frozen seafood under the Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ line. Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ seafood is cleaned, cut and fresh frozen within hours, then chef prepared with high-quality all natural ingredients. Bumble Bee's mission is to provide healthy and nutritious products and meal solutions that are sourced sustainably. The company actively promotes the responsible stewardship of global fisheries resources and is a founding member of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) — a global partnership of scientists, tuna processors and WWF, the global conservation organization. For more information on Bumble Bee Seafoods, visit www.BumbleBee.com. Join fans of Bumble Bee and healthy living at www.facebook.com/BumbleBeeSeafoods and follow us on Twitter @BumbleBeeFoods, Pinterest www.pinterest.com/BumbleBeeFoods and Instagram @BumbleBeeFoods.
News Article | February 15, 2017
As the Arctic slipped into the half-darkness of autumn last year, it seemed to enter the Twilight Zone. In the span of a few months, all manner of strange things happened. The cap of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean started to shrink when it should have been growing. Temperatures at the North Pole soared more than 20 °C above normal at times. And polar bears prowling the shorelines of Hudson Bay had a record number of run-ins with people while waiting for the water to freeze over. It was a stark illustration of just how quickly climate change is reshaping the far north. And if last autumn was bizarre, it's the summers that have really got scientists worried. As early as 2030, researchers say, the Arctic Ocean could lose essentially all of its ice during the warmest months of the year — a radical transformation that would upend Arctic ecosystems and disrupt many northern communities. Change will spill beyond the region, too. An increasingly blue Arctic Ocean could amplify warming trends and even scramble weather patterns around the globe. “It’s not just that we’re talking about polar bears or seals,” says Julienne Stroeve, a sea-ice researcher at University College London. “We all are ice-dependent species.” With the prospect of ice-free Arctic summers on the horizon, scientists are striving to understand how residents of the north will fare, which animals face the biggest risks and whether nations could save them by protecting small icy refuges. But as some researchers look even further into the future, they see reasons to preserve hope. If society ever manages to reverse the surge in greenhouse-gas concentrations — as some suspect it ultimately will — then the same physics that makes it easy for Arctic sea ice to melt rapidly may also allow it to regrow, says Stephanie Pfirman, a sea-ice researcher at Barnard College in New York City. She and other scientists say that it’s time to look beyond the Arctic’s decline and start thinking about what it would take to restore sea ice. That raises controversial questions about how quickly summer ice could return and whether it could regrow fast enough to spare Arctic species. Could nations even cool the climate quickly through geoengineering, to reverse the most drastic changes up north? Pfirman and her colleagues published a paper1 last year designed to kick-start a broader conversation about how countries might plan for the regrowth of ice, and whether they would welcome it. Only by considering all the possibilities for the far future can the world stay one step ahead of the ever-changing Arctic, say scientists. “We’ve committed to the Arctic of the next generation,” Pfirman says. “What comes next?” Pfirman remembers the first time she realized just how fast the Arctic was unravelling. It was September 2007, and she was preparing to give a talk. She went online to download the latest sea-ice maps and discovered something disturbing: the extent of Arctic ice had shrunk past the record minimum and was still dropping. “Oh, no! It’s happening,” she thought. Although Pfirman and others knew that Arctic sea ice was shrinking, they hadn’t expected to see such extreme ice losses until the middle of the twenty-first century. “It was a wake-up call that we had basically run out of time,” she says. In theory, there’s still a chance that the world could prevent the total loss of summer sea ice. Global climate models suggest that about 3 million square kilometres — roughly half of the minimum summer coverage in recent decades — could survive if countries fulfil their commitments to the newly ratified Paris climate agreement, which limits global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. But sea-ice researchers aren’t counting on that. Models have consistently underestimated ice losses in the past, causing scientists to worry that the declines in the next few decades will outpace projections2. And given the limited commitments that countries have made so far to address climate change, many researchers suspect the world will overshoot the 2 °C target, all but guaranteeing essentially ice-free summers (winter ice is projected to persist for much longer). In the best-case scenario, the Arctic is in for a 4–5 °C temperature rise, thanks to processes that amplify warming at high latitudes, says James Overland, an oceanographer at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, Washington. “We really don’t have any clue about how disruptive that’s going to be.” The Arctic’s 4 million residents — including 400,000 indigenous people — will feel the most direct effects of ice loss. Entire coastal communities, such as many in Alaska, will be forced to relocate as permafrost melts and shorelines crumble without sea ice to buffer them from violent storms, according to a 2013 report3 by the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. Residents in Greenland will find it hard to travel on sea ice, and reindeer herders in Siberia could struggle to feed their animals. At the same time, new economic opportunities will beckon as open water allows greater access to fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits, and other sources of revenue. People living at mid-latitudes may not be immune, either. Emerging research4 suggests that open water in the Arctic might have helped to amplify weather events, such as cold snaps in the United States, Europe and Asia in recent winters. Indeed, the impacts could reach around the globe. That’s because sea ice helps to cool the planet by reflecting sunlight and preventing the Arctic Ocean from absorbing heat. Keeping local air and water temperatures low, in turn, limits melting of the Greenland ice sheet and permafrost. With summer ice gone, Greenland’s glaciers could contribute more to sea-level rise, and permafrost could release its stores of greenhouse gases such as methane. Such is the vast influence of Arctic ice. “It is really the tail that wags the dog of global climate,” says Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Arctic ecosystems will take the biggest hit. In 2007, for example, biologists in Alaska noticed something odd: vast numbers of walruses had clambered ashore on the coast of the Chukchi Sea. From above, it looked like the Woodstock music festival — with tusks — as thousands of plump pinnipeds crowded swathes of ice-free shoreline. Normally, walruses rest atop sea ice while foraging on the shallow sea floor. But that year, and almost every year since, sea-ice retreat made that impossible by late summer. Pacific walruses have adapted by hauling out on land, but scientists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service worry that their numbers will continue to decline. Here and across the region, the effects of Arctic thawing will ripple through ecosystems. In the ocean, photosynthetic plankton that thrive in open water will replace algae that grow on ice. Some models5 suggest that biological productivity in a seasonally ice-free Arctic could increase by up to 70% by 2100, which could boost revenue from Arctic fisheries even more. (To prevent a seafood gold rush, five Arctic nations have agreed to refrain from unregulated fishing in international waters for now.) Many whales already seem to be benefiting from the bounty of food, says Sue Moore, an Arctic mammal specialist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. But the changing Arctic will pose a challenge for species whose life cycles are intimately linked to sea ice, such as walruses and Arctic seals — as well as polar bears, which don’t have much to eat on land. Research6 suggests that many will starve if the ice-free season gets too long in much of the Arctic. “Basically, you can write off most of the southern populations,” says Andrew Derocher, a biologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Such findings spurred the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list polar bears as threatened in 2008. Ice-dependent ecosystems may survive for longest along the rugged north shores of Greenland and Canada, where models suggest that about half a million square kilometres of summer sea ice will linger after the rest of the Arctic opens up (see ‘Going, going …’). Wind patterns cause ice to pile up there, and the thickness of the ice — along with the high latitude — helps prevent it from melting. “The Siberian coastlines are the ice factory, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is the ice graveyard,” says Robert Newton, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. Groups such as the wildlife charity WWF have proposed protecting this ‘last ice area’ as a World Heritage Site in the hope that it will serve as a life preserver for many Arctic species. Last December, Canada announced that it would at least consider setting the area aside for conservation, and indigenous groups have expressed interest in helping to manage it. (Before he left office, then-US president Barack Obama joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in pledging to protect 17% of the countries’ Arctic lands and 10% of marine areas by 2020.) But the last ice area has limitations as an Arctic Noah’s ark. Some species don’t live in the region, and those that do are there in only small numbers. Derocher estimates that there are less than 2,000 polar bears in that last ice area today — a fraction of the total Arctic population of roughly 25,000. How many bears will live there in the future depends on how the ecosystem evolves with warming. The area may also be more vulnerable than global climate models suggest. Bruno Tremblay, a sea-ice researcher at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and David Huard, an independent climate consultant based in Quebec, Canada, studied the fate of the refuge with a high-resolution sea-ice and ocean model that better represented the narrow channels between the islands of the Canadian archipelago. In a report7 commissioned by the WWF, they found that ice might actually be able to sneak between the islands and flow south to latitudes where it would melt. According to the model, Tremblay says, “even the last ice area gets flushed out much more efficiently”. If the future of the Arctic seems dire, there is one source of optimism: summer sea ice will return whenever the planet cools down again. “It’s not this irreversible process,” Stroeve says. “You could bring it back even if you lose it all.” Unlike land-based ice sheets, which wax and wane over millennia and lag behind climate changes by similar spans, sea ice will regrow as soon as summer temperatures get cold enough. But identifying the exact threshold at which sea ice will return is tricky, says Dirk Notz, a sea-ice researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany. On the basis of model projections, researchers suggest that the threshold hovers around 450 parts per million (p.p.m.) — some 50 p.p.m. higher than today. But greenhouse-gas concentrations are not the only factor that affects ice regrowth; it also depends on how long the region has been ice-free in summer, which determines how much heat can build up in the Arctic Ocean. Notz and his colleagues studied the interplay between greenhouse gases and ocean temperature with a global climate model8. They increased CO from pre-industrial concentrations of 280 p.p.m. to 1,100 p.p.m. — a bit more than the 1,000 p.p.m. projected by 2100 if no major action is taken to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they left it at those levels for millennia. This obliterated both winter and summer sea ice, and allowed the ocean to warm up. The researchers then reduced CO concentrations to levels at which summer ice should have returned, but it did not regrow until the ocean had a chance to cool off, which took centuries. By contrast, if the Arctic experiences ice-free summers for a relatively short time before greenhouse gases drop, then models suggest ice would regrow much sooner. That could theoretically start to happen by the end of the century, assuming that nations take very aggressive steps to reduce carbon dioxide levels1, according to Newton, Pfirman and their colleagues. So even if society cannot forestall the loss of summer sea ice in coming decades, taking action to keep CO concentrations under control could still make it easier to regrow the ice cover later, Notz says. Given the stakes, some researchers have proposed global-scale geoengineering to cool the planet and, by extension, preserve or restore ice. Others argue that it might be possible to chill just the north, for instance by artificially whitening the Arctic Ocean with light-coloured floating particles to reflect sunlight. A study9 this year suggested installing wind-powered pumps to bring water to the surface in winter, where it would freeze, forming thicker ice. But many researchers hesitate to embrace geoengineering. And most agree that regional efforts would take tremendous effort and have limited benefits, given that Earth’s circulation systems could just bring more heat north to compensate. “It’s kind of like walking against a conveyor the wrong way,” Pfirman says. She and others agree that managing greenhouse gases — and local pollutants such as black carbon from shipping — is the only long-term solution. Returning to a world with summer sea ice could have big perks, such as restoring some of the climate services that the Arctic provides to the globe and stabilizing weather patterns. And in the region itself, restoring a white Arctic could offer relief to polar bears and other ice-dependent species, says Pfirman. These creatures might be able to weather a relatively short ice-free window, hunkered down in either the last ice area or other places set aside to preserve biodiversity. When the ice returned, they could spread out again to repopulate the Arctic. That has almost certainly happened during past climate changes. For instance, researchers think the Arctic may have experienced nearly ice-free summers during the last interglacial period, 130,000 years ago10. But, one thing is certain: getting back to a world with Arctic summer sea ice won’t be simple, politically or technically. Not everyone will embrace a return to an ice-covered Arctic, especially if it’s been blue for several generations. Companies and countries are already eyeing the opportunities for oil and gas exploration, mining, shipping, tourism and fishing in a region hungry for economic development. “In many communities, people are split,” Pfirman says. Some researchers also say that the idea of regrowing sea ice seems like wishful thinking, because it would require efforts well beyond what nations must do to meet the Paris agreement. Limiting warming to 2 °C will probably entail converting huge swathes of land into forest and using still-nascent technologies to suck billions of tonnes of CO out of the air. Lowering greenhouse-gas concentrations enough to regrow ice would demand even more. And if summer sea ice ever does come back, it’s hard to know how a remade Arctic would work, Derocher says. “There will be an ecosystem. It will function. It just may not look like the one we currently have.”
News Article | February 15, 2017
Hop over to Google.com, and you'll see a pair of enamored pangolins prepping for Valentine's Day this week. Press play, and you can help the cute scaly mammals fall in love. Perhaps you'll feel whimsical, or even a little happy. Consider this your dose of cold, hard reality: The pangolin — a nocturnal, cat-sized anteater — is rolling toward extinction. SEE ALSO: Giant rats could help fight wildlife smuggling in Africa Put another way, pangolins are "literally being eaten out of existence," according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Native to Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the termite-eating pangolins are thought to be the most trafficked animals in the world. Their meat is considered a luxury food in many cultures, and their scales are a common ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. All eight pangolin species are now threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Two species in particular are listed as critically endangered. Google launched its first pangolin game on Feb. 11 and will add new levels through Valentine's Day on Feb. 14. In the Google game, a red pangolin rolls across the landscape to find its blue partner. In real life, pangolins do roll up into balls, but they do so in order to protect themselves from predators; their scaly exteriors fight off gnashing fangs. This ball-rolling move also makes it easier for poachers to snatch pangolins in the wild. Wildlife experts estimate that more than 1 million pangolins have been illegally traded in the past decade, despite national and international efforts to crack down on poaching. But don't despair. Conservationists say there is still time to save the pangolin. A non-profit in Tanzania is turning rats into sniffing sleuths that can detect trafficked animal parts — including pangolin meat and scales — in shipments from Africa to Asia. In October, a treaty involving 180 countries and conservation groups signed an agreement to end all legal trade of pangolins and afford the eight species the top level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Google itself is involved in the effort to spare pangolins from extinction. The tech giant's philanthropic arm, Google.org, recently gave a grant to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which is using thermal imagery and other advanced technology to track poachers within pangolin habitats. WWF said Google approached the organization two weeks ago about its plans to feature pangolins for Valentine's Day. The Doodle game directs players to WWF's pangolin "adoption" kits, which aid conservation efforts. "It's a critical time to raise awareness for the pangolin. The outlook for them is bleak," Diane Quigley, WWF's senior director of digital platforms, said in an email. "We welcome Google's help in raising the visibility of this endangered creatures' plight."
News Article | February 21, 2017
Turtles on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef can’t seem to catch a break. After an outbreak of herpes and a mass stranding, many have now developed a puzzling eye disease. Researchers are investigating whether metal run-off from mining and agriculture is affecting the turtles’ immune systems and making them more susceptible to illness. The first sign of trouble was in 2010, when two-thirds of the green turtles surveyed in Brisk Bay in the central Great Barrier Reef had developed fibropapillomatosis. The condition, which is triggered by a turtle-specific herpes virus that has since affected other areas, too , caused tumours to grow on their eyes, shells, flippers, tails and internal organs. Then in 2012, more than 100 green turtles became stranded at the nearby Upstart Bay. Most washed up dead, but those that were still alive experienced seizures, uncontrolled head movements and other neurological symptoms. Now, many of Upstart Bay’s turtles have developed unexplained eye infections. The lesions are not fatal, but they cloud the animals’ vision, making it harder for them to find food and avoid predators. A survey conducted last year found that a quarter of green turtles in the area had eye infections. The results were released by WWF-Australia this week. Preliminary work by Mark Flint at the University of Florida in Tampa suggests the infections are bacterial. To try to get to the root of the problem, Alex Villa at the University of Queensland in Coopers Plains, Australia, and his colleagues have been analysing blood samples from Upstart Bay turtles. One of their most striking findings is that turtles there have between four and 25 times as much cobalt in their blood as is normal. Levels of antimony, molybdenum and manganese are also elevated, but not to the same extent. In small amounts, cobalt is an essential metal for animal and human health, but at high levels it can damage vital organs such as the brain and heart. Cobalt occurs naturally in soil and rock, and is washed into waterways by rain. But this process can be accelerated by farming and mining, says Jon Brodie at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. He is examining whether livestock grazing and mining in the area are leaking excess cobalt into the bay. It is still too early to know whether the high cobalt levels and spate of health issues are linked, says Flint. However, he says the metal may be placing pressure on the turtles’ immune systems and making them more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections. This idea is backed up by the finding that turtles with high cobalt levels tend to have higher levels of immune cells in their blood. Duan March at Southern Cross University in Coolangatta, Queensland, agrees. “It looks like those animals, or that environment, is stressed, and the ocular disease is most likely due to a secondary bacterial infection,” he says. The 2012 mass stranding may also be connected to cobalt contamination, says Villa. “Many metals are directly neurotoxic.” However, more evidence is needed, he says. “It would be tempting to point to the nearest mine and say ‘that’s the problem’, but the links between human activity and contaminant accumulation in wildlife are difficult to unravel,” Villa says. “At this stage, there’s still no smoking gun.”
News Article | February 22, 2017
The Highland Council in Scotland approved a “novel floating wind farm” demonstration project this week, to be built off the Northern Scottish coast near Thurso. Floating offshore wind farms have recently been garnering more attention, as wind turbine technology has evolved and the development of floating offshore wind technology has continued to become more stable. Floating offshore wind farms have the potential to be groundbreaking (waterbreaking?) for the offshore wind industry, as it mitigates the current limitations that water depths place on offshore wind farms. Current ‘traditional’ offshore wind farms must be built in waters up to a certain depth, beyond which it is just too difficult, too costly, and too dangerous to build. Floating offshore wind farms open up the possibility of installing offshore wind turbines much further out to sea, where the wind is more consistent and strong. Scotland’s Highland Council approved the Dounreay Trì floating offshore wind farm project this week, opening up the way for Marine Scotland to now complete its assessment and make a recommendation on the project to Scottish Ministers — by the 31st of March. While the demonstration project is necessarily small — two turbines totaling 10 megawatts — the project would still produce enough electricity to supply approximately 8,000 homes with clean electricity. Further, the demonstration project would go a long way toward proving the viability of floating offshore wind farms, specifically in the deeper waters off the North and West Coast of Scotland. “We are delighted that the Council has agreed with this project and hope that Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government can take a timely decision on it,” said Marcus Thor, Project Director for Dounreay Trì Limited, commenting on the Council’s decision. “This demonstration facility which will be built and operated in Scotland opens up the possibility for a significant increase in offshore wind generation and associated supply chain benefits in Scotland.” The news was immediately welcomed by Scottish wind energy trade groups. “This proposal still has a few planning process steps to go through,” said Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director. “However, successfully developing floating turbines could enable Scotland and other nations to secure even more clean power from offshore wind in the future. Whatever the outcome of these proposals, we will certainly need lots more conventional offshore wind in the future.” “Scotland is home to approximately 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resource and we are now starting to build out projects which will harness this potential,” said Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables. “We’re also at the forefront of innovation in this exciting sector and projects like this one are part of a new chapter for our renewable energy industry.” Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.