News Article | April 17, 2017
Computers are playing spot the difference in the Serengeti. An image-recognition algorithm that can identify different species could make it easier to track animals in the wild. Using a database of 3.2 million photos taken by hidden camera traps in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Jeff Clune at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and his colleagues trained the deep-learning system to distinguish between 48 animal species, such as elephants, giraffes and gazelles. In tests, it correctly identified the species present in an image 92 per cent of the time. Camera traps automatically take pictures of passing animals when triggered by heat and motion. This produces thousands or millions of photographs for ecologists to study, but people usually have to go through and label what each picture shows by hand, says Ali Swanson, who worked on the project while at the University of Oxford. If an algorithm could categorise at least some of the images, it could save a lot of time. In 2010, Swanson set up 225 camera traps in the Serengeti, inviting an army of 70,000 online volunteers to help label the images. When Clune heard about this, he saw a perfect opportunity for deep learning – so he and Swanson arranged to team up on the project. “Right now in AI and deep learning, one of the hardest things to come by is a very good, large labelled dataset,” says Clune. His team started by teaching a neural network to recognise whether an image contained an animal, which 75 per cent of the Serengeti images lack. The researchers then trained it to differentiate between species. The system is much better at identifying the most common animals in the data set, such as wildebeest, says Clune. It has trouble with more rare species like the zorilla, a type of polecat that only appears in the images a few dozen times. Clune says the system could be used to classify most of the photographs and researchers could work on any it wasn’t sure about. It could then be further trained on these hand-labelled images to get better at recognising rarer species. The team also plans to test whether the system can identify animal behaviour in images. “This is very exciting,” says Chris Carbone at the Zoological Society of London. Automatic species recognition could help us learn more about the distribution of species and get a better idea of the impact humans are having on them, he says. An ideal system would provide live tracking information about animals as they pass traps, says Swanson. But the challenge would be transmitting the data from the device in real time for the system to analyse, rather than the current method of using an SD card to store the data on the device until a researcher comes along to collect it. One difficulty is that hyenas and elephants have a habit of damaging the cameras, which are thus kept in heavy-duty plastic cases with no space for an antenna that can transmit data. “And if you do put an antenna on a camera, it won’t last very long at all,” says Swanson. “Something will come along and chew it off pretty quick.”
News Article | May 4, 2017
The sounds of the natural world are being overwhelmed by the blare of human activity, even in protected wildlife areas, new research has revealed. The racket is not only harming people’s enjoyment of natural havens, which are known to have significant benefits for both physical and mental health, but it is also affecting wildlife, with animals less able to escape predators and birds less able to find mates. Scientists used over one million hours of sound recordings from 492 locations in protected areas in the US to calculate that in about two-thirds of places, the noise pollution from human activities was double the background sound levels. A fifth of the protected areas suffered human noise levels that were 10 times background levels, the researchers found. “Next time you go for a walk in the woods, pay attention to the sounds you hear – the flow of a river, wind through the trees, singing birds, bugling elk. These acoustic resources are just as magnificent as visual ones, and deserve our protection,” said Rachel Buxton, at Colorado State University and who led the study published in the journal Science on Thursday. “They make us feel good and are important for our physical and emotional wellbeing,” she said. “We actually have research that shows that natural sounds improve our mood, increase our memory retention and restore our senses.” Animals use noise for many essential functions, such as dodging predators, finding food and mates and maintaining relationships in social groups, Buxton said: “So not being able to hear these sounds has serious consequences.” The impact of noise can cascade across entire ecosystems, she said, even leading to effects on plants as the wildlife that interact with them changes. “Although plants can’t hear, many animals that disperse seeds or pollinate flowers can hear, and are known to be affected by noise,” said Buxton, adding that plant grazers could also become more abundant if noise drives their predators away. The researchers identified the key causes of noise pollution as roads and air traffic, settlements and the extractive industries, such as forestry, fracking and mining. With a tenfold increase in background noise, as found in a fifth of the protected areas, natural sounds that would have been detectable 100m away can only be heard when 10m away. In the areas defined as wilderness, which are meant to entirely to be “untrammeled by man”, according to US law, 12% still experienced a doubling of background noise due to human activities. The problem of noise also seriously affected the habitat of endangered species, such as the San Marcos salamander and San Bernardino kangaroo rat. The researchers note that protected area laws in the US do not include measures to monitor or manage noise pollution from human activities: “This is a conspicuous missed opportunity, as techniques to manage noise pollution are readily available.” Such techniques, already in place in some protected areas, include providing shuttle services to cut back on visitor traffic and confining noise into specific corridors by aligning flight patterns over roads. There have also been moves to cut the noise from motor boats and snowmobiles in Yellowstone national park and to reduce aircraft flyovers over the Grand Canyon. The new research on noise pollution in natural areas is much needed, said Noelle Kumpel, policy programme manager at the Zoological Society of London: “It is a hidden impact that we don’t really think about. We, as humans, value and appreciate peace and quiet and wildlife reacts in the same way. Noise levels are important to that level of enjoyment and what we humans and animals get from nature.” Kumpel said there was evidence of human-related noise harming wildlife around the world, from oil drilling driving elephants away in Uganda to underwater noise causing mass strandings of whales in the Canary Islands. She said a balance needs to be found between ensuring human impacts are limited in the wildest areas and allowing people to experience the joys of nature.
News Article | April 8, 2017
The saiga antelope makes a strange pin-up for the conservation world. With its odd bulbous nose and spindly legs, it is an unlovely looking creature – particularly when compared with wildlife favourites such as the polar bear or panda. But the survival of Saiga tatarica tatarica is important, for it gives hope to biologists and activists who are trying to protect Earth’s other endangered species from the impact of rising populations, climate change and increasing pollution. Once widespread on the steppe lands of the former Soviet Union, the saiga has suffered two major population crashes in recent years and survived both – thanks to the endeavours of conservationists. It is a story that will be highlighted at a specially arranged wildlife meeting, the Conservation Optimism Summit, to be held at Dulwich College, London, this month and at sister events in cities around the world, including Cambridge, Washington and Hong Kong. The meetings have been organised to highlight recent successes in saving threatened creatures and to use these examples to encourage future efforts to halt extinctions of other species. According to the summit’s organisers, there still are reasons to be cheerful when it comes to conservation, although they also acknowledge that the world’s wildlife remains in a desperate state thanks to swelling numbers of humans, climate change and spreading agriculture, which is destroying natural habitats. A recent report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London indicated that these factors have caused global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles to decline by 58% since 1970, and that average annual decreases have now reached 2%, with no sign yet that this rate will slow down. “It is certainly true that biodiversity across the planet is plummeting but we have to ask what the situation would look like if there were no protected areas, if there was no Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and no anti-poaching patrols in Africa,” said Mike Hoffman, of Zoological Society of LondonZSL, one of the summit’s organisers. “The answer is straightforward: it would be a lot worse. The trouble is that the public usually only hears the bad news. Successes get forgotten. As a result, people think there is nothing they can do about wildlife extinctions and that is not true. If it was not for conservation the world would be in a much worse state than it is at present.” This point is backed by EJ Milner-Gulland, professor of biodiversity at Oxford University, who first developed the idea of the Conservation Optimism Summit. “We have got to change our ways and celebrate our successes if we are going to protect endangered creatures. If we are too gloomy about saving wildlife, young people will think there is nothing they can do and that would be tragic – and wrong.” The troubled tale of the saiga antelope provided a crucial example of the successes that could be achieved, she said. Twenty-five years ago there were more than a million saiga – which grow to about 4ft in length –grazing over vast areas of steppe lands. However, after the Soviet Union’s breakup, authority and policing collapsed in many of its former states, and local economies disintegrated, while saiga horn became increasingly popular as a traditional medicine in nearby China. The result was a wave of uncontrolled hunting and poaching that caused the saiga’s population to crash. By 2000, there were fewer than 50,000. A creature that was once ecologically stable was suddenly hurtling towards extinction. “I saw it happen in front of my eyes,” said Milner-Gulland, a world expert on the species. “It was a complete disaster. This was a species that no one knew about or cared about and it was heading for extinction. It could have made us utterly despaired. But it didn’t. My colleagues and I decided something should be done.” Conservationists lobbied to have the species labelled as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and major NGOs started to pour money into projects to save the saiga. UN conservation rules were enacted and the governments of former Soviet states began to take protective measures. Large areas of Kazakhstan were marked as conservation zones. Slowly saiga numbers recovered until there were around 300,000 by 2014 – when the next disaster struck. A mysterious bacterium swept through herds that year and in a few weeks more than 200,000 saiga had died. “It could have been the final blow. However, this time we had a network of people who cared about the saiga,” said Milner-Gulland. “We had sources of funding. We had governments who were committed to saving the saiga. As a result, we have already halted that recent drop in saiga numbers and expect we will soon be able to bring them back up again.” The saga of the saiga’s survival is important, for it shows that although the saving of species is hard, relentless work, it can nevertheless be effective. “The crucial point about any conservation project is that you never stop. You never give up,” said Richard Young, head of Conservation Science at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. “It can take 30 years of sustained effort before you turn things round but it can be done.” Young pointed to the success of the Durrell trust and other conservation groups in saving the echo parakeet. By the 1980s, only a dozen of these vividly plumed birds – which are unique to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean – were left in the wild. Once widespread across the island, Mauritius’s echo parakeet population had been devastated by the destruction of the dense forests in which it lived and the introduction of feral predators that included the mongoose. The echo was heading for extinction until an urgent rescue programme was launched. “Conservationists dealt with the invasive predators, they erected carefully designed nest boxes to protect the echo, launched captive breeding and release programmes, and provided food when the birds faced starvation,” Young told the Observer. “They kept that up for decades. It was an incredible effort but it was worth it. There are now hundreds of echo parakeets in Mauritius. When you go for a walk in a forest there you can see these stunning, vocal birds everywhere you go. They are a fantastic symbol of what is possible in conservation.” The echo parakeet’s story is not widely known outside conservation circles. By contrast, the giant panda remains one of the best known of all the planet’s threatened species and has been adopted as the official symbol of WWF. It is also a conservation success story as was demonstrated last September when it was officially moved off the red list of “endangered species” and put on the “vulnerable species” list after it had been brought back from near extinction by determined conservation work by the Chinese government. Spreading agriculture had seriously depleted the panda’s bamboo food source and so protected reserves were established. As a result, by 2014 the giant panda’s population had risen by 17% in a decade to reach 1,864 animals in the wild. Last week, the Chinese authorities announced they now planned to go even further and would combine existing reserves into a single giant panda preserve that would be three times the size of America’s Yellowstone national park. “It will be a haven for biodiversity and provide protection for the whole ecological system,” said Hou Rong, director of the Chengdu research base for giant panda breeding. Other successes have been achieved with simpler approaches. Consider the issue of ghost fishing, which occurs when fishing nets are lost or dumped at sea. The old net gets snagged on a reef or a wreck and traps fish that die and in turn attract scavengers which get caught in the same net. Tens of thousands of turtles, seals and other marine creatures are believed to perish this way every year. Worse, a ghost net can continue to wreak destruction for decades and they are now considered to be among the greatest killers in our oceans. One of the worst areas for ghost fishing is the Philippines where, in 2012, Interface, a manufacturer of commercial carpet tiles, set up a remarkable project in collaboration with the ZSL called Net-Works. Local people are encouraged to gather their old nets before they are discarded and to sell them, through Net-Works, so that they can be recycled into yarn to make carpet tiles. In several areas, the scheme has brought about significant reductions in the number of ghost nets and made money for local people. “We’ve cleaned up a major source of pollution and helped local communities make a modest income from conservation activities,” said Nicholas Hill, one of the founders of Net-Works. Now the project has expanded to the shores of Lake Ossa, in Cameroon. Nets dumped there have trapped and killed the lake’s young manatees. Their removal, and subsequent sale as a source of carpet tiles, has again boosted local conservation activities and helped protect the manatee. A similar tale is provided by Kirsten Forsberg, whose Planeta Océano organisation began work in 2012 to try to save the giant manta ray, which was being dangerously overfished in the Pacific Ocean off South America. Although mantas can measure more than three metres in length, they mainly eat microscopic organisms. “Ecuador had legal protection but there was none for Peruvian waters and the mantas were migrating into these, where they were being caught and consumed locally,” Forsberg told the Observer last week. For a creature that typically produces a single pup every five years or so, this depletion was serious and was causing numbers to plummet. Forsberg and colleagues began collaborating with fishermen, schools and communities and began pressing the government to ban all manta fishing. At the end of 2015 they succeeded and a ban was imposed for Peruvian waters. Last year, Forsberg was made a Rolex laureate for this work and plans to use her prize money to help local fishermen diversify into tourist trips for divers wanting to see manta rays. “Manta ray watching is a tourist industry that is now worth millions of dollars a year,” she said. “It’s a perfect substitution.” Closer to home, conservationists point to their success in saving the large blue butterfly in Britain, where it became extinct in 1979 but which has been reintroduced from reserves in the rest of Europe and is now established in parts of south-west England. Similarly, in several Middle Eastern nations the Arabian oryx, which was wiped out in the wild in the 1970s, has been successfully reintroduced using animals bred in zoos and private preserves. Conservationists are planning to follow up this success with a programme aimed at establishing a population in Chad of a sister species, the scimitar horned oryx, which is extinct in the wild. Such success stories and ambitious plans are worth keeping in mind for the planet still faces an avalanche of threatened extinctions over the coming decades. Indeed, humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that scientists last year recommended that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared. We are dumping plastics in the oceans, draining wetlands, melting ice caps and destroying forests. Everywhere you turn, the world is being changed by humans and the consequences for wildlife are grim. Fish, mammals and reptiles are being pushed towards extinction. And while conservationists can claim successes, there is still a vast amount that needs to be done. “The real question is: if conservation works, why are things continuing to get worse?” asked Hoffman. “There are two alternative explanations. One is that we are doing the wrong thing. The second is that we are doing the right thing, but we are not doing enough of it. All the evidence suggests that the latter is the right one. When we tackle a conservation problem we tend to get it right. Our approaches may not always be perfect and may need improvement in efficiencies, but the real point is that we are simply not doing enough. We know what to do but we are under-resourced and understaffed.” One recent paper suggested that it would cost around $80bn to achieve a significant improvement in the state of the world’s wildlife. “That sounds a lot but it is only 20% of what the world spends on soft drinks,” said Hoffman. It remains to be seen how long the world will wait before it realises what it is losing and begins to stump up funding on that level. It may never do so, of course. In the meantime, calls for conservation action mount. One particularly exciting prospect is offered by the Tasmanian devil, a carnivorous marsupial only found in the wild on the Australian island. “Since the 1990s, its population has been devastated by a facial tumour that has spread through the species and threatened its viability in the wild,” said Hoffman. “However, about a month ago there was a breakthrough where scientists demonstrated Tasmanian devils could be treated so that their immune systems could start to fight the cancer. It would require major interventions – capturing and treating animals – to do the trick but it is a very hopeful development.” Conservationists’ success in saving the saiga is a reminder of what can be achieved, though there also is a final twist. The antelope has a Mongolian subspecies that until recently had a population of around 12,000. However, scientists discovered a few months ago that thousands of Saiga tatarica mongolica have recently been killed by a viral infection known as goat plague, which has spread to the Mongolian saiga from domestic goats and sheep. “We are expecting the mortality rate to be up to 80% of the whole population,” said Milner-Gulland. “In fact, all of Mongolia’s unique fauna is at risk, including the Mongolian gazelle and goitred gazelle and also carnivores that hunt them, like snow leopards. The disease is also likely to spread through Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries over the next few years, putting other saiga populations at risk.” A straightforward but expensive solution is available, however. “There is an effective vaccine that could halt the disease in livestock but it would be an expensive and logistically difficult operation,” said Milner-Gulland. “The Mongolian government is now considering how best to control the outbreak and conservation organisations like WWF and the Saiga Conservation Alliance are mounting a response. And of course, we have had success in the past. So there is hope.”
News Article | April 19, 2017
A few years ago at a bar in Reno, graduate student John Zablocki was talking about his research on the rediscovery of lost species—those presumed to have gone extinct only to turn up again alive and well—when a stranger chimed in. “What about the Lord Howe Island stick insect?” he suggested, recalling the widely reported 2001 rediscovery of that species on an island in Australia. Recalling the celebrated line from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, the stranger added: “Life, uh, finds a way.” This is the tantalizing thing—when a species thought to be lost comes back, in effect, from the dead, Zablocki says. It hints at rebirth in an era otherwise dominated by headlines about climate change and mass extinction. Scientists even refer to these rediscovered organisms as “Lazarus species,” after the man said in the New Testament story to be raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. But finding lost species does not take a miracle, according to Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), a small Texas-based nonprofit. The GWC is now launching an ambitious “Search for Lost Species” initiative to rediscover 1,200 species in 160 countries that have not been seen in at least 10 years. The first expeditions will launch this fall in pursuit of the 25 “most wanted” species, says GWC herpetologist Robin Moore, who is leading the effort. Among the top 25: a pink-headed duck last seen in 1949 in India, a tree-climbing freshwater crab last observed in 1955 in the West African forests of Guinea and the world’s largest bee (with a wingspan of 2.5 inches) last sighted in 1981 in Indonesia.* “For many of these forgotten species,” Moore says, “this is likely their last chance to be saved from extinction.” The plan is to work with international partners to put scientists in the field, with an initial fund-raising goal of $500,000. That’s not much—just $20,000 each for the 25 “most wanted” species, which have been missing in action for a collective 1,500 years. But Moore is optimistic, he says, because of his past experience leading a 2010 “Search for Lost Frogs” initiative. That effort, a collaboration between the GWC and Conservational International, rediscovered only one of its “top 10” species in its first six months but found a total of 15 species over its first year as a result of 33 expeditions. In one case in Borneo, local researchers made repeated expeditions over eight months before eventually finding the missing frog higher up the mountain than it had ever been seen. “Some species,” Moore says, “just require persistence.” To improve the odds of success, the plan for the new initiative is to put researchers in the field in places where recent evidence suggests a lost species may persist. For instance, the long-beaked echidna, a spiny, egg-laying mammal, is known from only a single specimen collected in 1961 by a Dutch researcher in Indonesia’s Papua Province. But a 2007 expedition in the Cyclops Mountains there led by the Zoological Society of London spotted burrows, tracks and the sort of holes echidnas dig for worms. Local hunters have also reported sightings of the elusive creature. “We have been in touch with an Indonesian conservation group about setting up an array of camera traps in the area over a longer period,” Moore says, “to see if we can get a photograph.” Other technologies could also make rediscoveries more likely. Sequencing the DNA in a body of water, a technique called environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling, can reveal the presence of certain fish or amphibians. Likewise, sequencing blood from mosquitoes or leeches, known as invertebrate DNA (iDNA) sampling, can reveal which species they have been feeding on. New mapping technologies can also combine high-resolution images from Google Earth with species data to identify an animal’s likely habitat more precisely. Even without modern technology, finding lost species has been a common occurrence. A 2011 study in Trends in Ecology & Evolution documented 351 such rediscoveries over the previous 122 years—an average of about three a year. These include such sensational cases as the 1938 finding of a living coelacanth, a fish that was presumed to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs; the 1966 discovery of Australia’s mountain pygmy possum, previously known only from bones found in a cave; and the 1951 rediscovery of the cahow, or Bermuda petrel, then thought to have been extinct since the 1620s. In northern Australia a research team not connected to the GWC initiative is currently undertaking fieldwork with the equally sensational goal of rediscovering the thylacine, or “Tasmanian tiger,” which has been presumed extinct for the past 80 years. James Cook University ecologist Sandra Abell, who is leading the effort, rates the likelihood of success as “low” but “not impossible.” Even so, Richard Dawkins excitedly tweeted, “Can it be true? … Has Thylacinus been seen alive? And in mainland Australia not Tasmania? I so want it to be true.” The reality of such rediscoveries, says John Zablocki, a biologist at The Nature Conservancy who is not involved with the GWC effort, is that wildlife biology suffers from “a gap in knowledge” about the behaviors and whereabouts of most species. “Our survey capacity is just so limited. Even here,” he says, of properties The Conservancy owns in the Mojave Desert, “we may have an ‘extinct’ vole” that is actually just missing. Zablocki (of the Reno bar conversation) wrote his master’s thesis, “The Return of the Living Dead,” on rediscoveries. The thesis recommended exactly the sort of focused rediscovery effort now being undertaken by the GWC, partly for the potential to engage the public in what amounts to a wildlife detective story. “It’s still kind of tantalizing that we just don’t know what's out there, even with our remote-sensing technology and DNA analysis,” Zablocki says, “and it does give us hope. Conservation is so fraught with doom-and-gloom stories that the opportunity to get things right a second time is also important. The flip side is that it can give people the sense that species can come back from extinction or that the extinction risk isn’t as serious as it really is,” he notes. Both Zablocki and Moore argue, however, the excitement about rediscoveries tends to motivate conservation efforts. For instance, after researchers discovered a remnant population of 24 Lord Howe Island stick insects dwelling under a single bush on an island cliff face, conservationists launched a major captive-breeding program. As a result, the Melbourne Zoo hatched 16,000 eggs in 2016 and established insurance populations of the species at three other zoos. The rediscovery also helped motivate a program to eradicate species-killing invasive rats from the island group. Rediscovery, says Moore, is “a very powerful motivator. The risk of always telling people how bad things are with the environment is that we instill despair. We’re trying to instill that glimmer of hope, to remind people that there is still a lot worth fighting for, and that the world is a wild and mysterious place.” *Editor's Note (4/21/17): This sentence was edited after posting. The original misstated the country where the pink-headed duck was last spotted.
News Article | February 14, 2017
A group of scimitar-horned oryx, an antelope declared extinct in the wild, have been reintroduced to their original home on the edge of the Sahara desert. Fourteen captive-bred animals were released in a remote area of Chad and joined a first group reintroduced in August 2016, conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said. Scimitar-horned oryx were once widespread across the southern Sahara, but were driven to extinction during extended civil unrest in the region in the 1980s and 1990s and officially declared extinct in the wild in 2000. A breeding programme in captivity, established in the United Arab Emirates and involving zoos around the world including ZSL’s Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, has kept the species alive. Efforts by the government of Chad and Abu Dhabi’s environment agency, backed by organisations including ZSL, to restore the oryx to its former habitat in a vast nature reserve has seen the first group of 21 animals thrive. The project has already celebrated the first birth of a scimitar-horned oryx in the wild for more than 20 years, conservationists said. The 14 newly released animals – six males and eight females–- have been fitted with GPS collars to track their movements around the reserve, which is approximately the size of Scotland. So far, they have been grazing close to the release site and are expected to move further into the reserve in the coming weeks. ZSL conservationist Tim Wacher, who has worked on scimitar-horned oryx projects since 1985, said the reintroduction was the result of decades of work between the Chad government, international organisations and communities in the Sahara. “It’s been a privilege to play a part in returning this iconic species to its original homeland,” he said. “Releasing these animals back into their native arid grassland landscape after two decades of absence was an emotional moment for all involved. “The birth of the first calf has also been hugely encouraging, as mother and baby both appear to be doing well. “We have high hopes that one day in the not-too-distant future, herds of scimitar-horned oryx will once again be a common sight across their huge protected reserve and hopefully beyond.” As part of efforts to conserve the species, two female oryx from Whipsnade Zoo were transferred to Abu Dhabi in 2014, to contribute to a “world herd” whose descendants will be part of the reintroduction programme.
News Article | January 7, 2017
Scientific understanding of the role of humans in influencing and altering the global climate has been evolving for over a century. That understanding is now extremely advanced, combining hundreds of years of observations of many different climatic variables, millions of years of paleoclimatic evidence of past natural climatic variations, extended application of fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes, and the most sophisticated computer modeling ever conducted. There is no longer any reasonable doubt that humans are altering the climate, that those changes will grow in scope and severity in the future, and that the economic, ecological, and human health consequences will be severe. While remaining scientific uncertainties are still being studied and analyzed, the state of the science has for several decades been sufficient to support implementing local, national, and global policies to address growing climate risks. This is the conclusion of scientific studies, syntheses, and reports to policymakers extending back decades. Because of the strength of the science, and the depth of the consensus about climate change, the scientific community has worked hard to clearly and consistently present the state of understanding to the public and policymakers to help them make informed decisions. The scientific community does this in various ways. Individual scientists speak out, presenting scientific results to journalists and the public. Scientists and scientific organizations prepare, debate, and publish scientific statements and declarations based on their expertise and concerns. And national scientific organizations, especially the formal “Academies of Sciences,” prepare regular reports on climate issues that are syntheses of all relevant climate science and knowledge. The number and scope of these statements is truly impressive. Not a single major scientific organization or national academy of science on earth denies that the climate is changing, that humans are responsible, and that some form of action should be taken to address the risks to people and the planet. This consensus is not to be taken lightly. Indeed, this consensus is an extraordinarily powerful result given the contentious nature of science and the acclaim that accrues to scientists who find compelling evidence that overthrows an existing paradigm (as Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, Wegener, and others did in their fields). In a peculiar twist, some have tried to argue that acceptance of the strength of the evidence and the massive consensus in the geoscience community about human-caused climate change is simply “argument from consensus” or “argument from authority” – a classic potential “logical fallacy.” Indeed, the mere fact that nearly 100 percent of climate and geoscience professions believe humans are changing the climate does not guarantee that the belief is correct. But arguing that something is false simply because there is a strong consensus for it is an even worse logical fallacy, especially when the consensus is based on deep, extensive, and constantly tested scientific evidence. In fact, this false argument has a name: the Galileo Gambit. It is used by those who deny well-established scientific principles such as the theory of climate change as follows: Because Galileo was mocked and criticized for his views by a majority, but later shown to be right, current minority views that are mocked and criticized must also be right. The obvious flaw in the Galileo Gambit is that being criticized for one’s views does not correlate with being right – especially when the criticism is based on scientific evidence. Galileo was right because the scientific evidence supported him, not because he was mocked and criticized. The late professor Carl Sagan addressed this use of the Galileo Gambit in a humorous way when he noted: These statements and declarations about climate change by the world’s leading scientific organizations represent the most compelling summary of the state of knowledge and concern about the global geophysical changes now underway, and they provide the foundation and rationale for actions now being debated and implemented around the world. The world ignores them at its peril. Here, based on information available as of early January 2017, is a synthesis, listing, and links for these public positions and declarations. These statements are summarized below for more than 140 of the planet’s national academies and top scientific health, geosciences, biological, chemical, physical, agricultural, and engineering organizations. Each statement is archived online as noted in the links. Abbreviated sections of statements only are presented, but readers should consult the full statements for context and content. Also, scientific organizations and committees periodically update, revise, edit, and re-issue position statements. Please send me any corrections, updates, additions, and changes. The AAN is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ Rising global temperatures are causing major physical, chemical, and ecological changes in the planet. There is wide consensus among scientific organizations and climatologists that these broad effects, known as “climate change,” are the result of contemporary human activity. Climate change poses threats to human health, safety, and security, and children are uniquely vulnerable to these threats… The social foundations of children’s mental and physical health are threatened by the specter of far-reaching effects of unchecked climate change, including community and global instability, mass migrations, and increased conflict. Given this knowledge, failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children… Pediatricians have a uniquely valuable role to play in the societal response to this global challenge… [The AAP is also a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/] The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now. [The AAAS has also signed onto more recent letters on climate from an array of scientific organizations, including the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] There is widespread scientific agreement that the world’s climate is changing and that the weight of evidence demonstrates that anthropogenic factors have and will continue to contribute significantly to global warming and climate change. It is anticipated that continuing changes to the climate will have serious negative impacts on public, animal and ecosystem health due to extreme weather events, changing disease transmission dynamics, emerging and re-emerging diseases, and alterations to habitat and ecological systems that are essential to wildlife conservation. Furthermore, there is increasing recognition of the inter-relationships of human, domestic animal, wildlife, and ecosystem health as illustrated by the fact the majority of recent emerging diseases have a wildlife origin. Consequently, there is a critical need to improve capacity to identify, prevent, and respond to climate-related threats. The following statements present the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV) position on climate change, wildlife diseases, and wildlife health…. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) notes that human impacts on the climate system include increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is significantly contributing to the warming of the global climate. The climate system is complex, however, making it difficult to predict detailed outcomes of human-induced change: there is as yet no definitive theory for translating greenhouse gas emissions into forecasts of regional weather, hydrology, or response of the biosphere. As the AGU points out, our ability to predict global climate change, and to forecast its regional impacts, depends directly on improved models and observations. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) joins the AGU in calling for peer-reviewed climate research to inform climate-related policy decisions, and, as well, to provide a basis for mitigating the harmful effects of global change and to help communities adapt and become resilient to extreme climatic events. In endorsing the “Human Impacts on Climate” statement, the AAS recognizes the collective expertise of the AGU in scientific subfields central to assessing and understanding global change, and acknowledges the strength of agreement among our AGU colleagues that the global climate is changing and human activities are contributing to that change. Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s climate system is changing in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and absorbing aerosol particles. (IPCC, 2007) Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems. (NRC, 2010a) The potential threats are serious and actions are required to mitigate climate change risks and to adapt to deleterious climate change impacts that probably cannot be avoided. (NRC, 2010b, c) This statement reviews key probable climate change impacts and recommends actions required to mitigate or adapt to current and anticipated consequences. …comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem. This sober conclusion has been recently reconfirmed by an in-depth set of studies focused on “America’s Climate Choices” (ACC) conducted by the U.S. National Academies (NRC, 2010a, b, c, d). The ACC studies, performed by independent and highly respected teams of scientists, engineers, and other skilled professionals, reached the same general conclusions that were published in the latest comprehensive assessment conducted by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007)… The range of observed and potential climate change impacts identified by the ACC assessment include a warmer climate with more extreme weather events, significant sea level rise, more constrained fresh water sources, deterioration or loss of key land and marine ecosystems, and reduced food resources— many of which may pose serious public health threats. (NRC, 2010a) The effects of an unmitigated rate of climate change on key Earth system components, ecological systems, and human society over the next 50 years are likely to be severe and possibly irreversible on century time scales… [The ACS has also signed onto more recent letters on climate from an array of scientific organizations, including the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] THAT: The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) accept the position that global warming and climate change is occurring, that there is potential for abrupt climate change, and that human practices that increase greenhouse gases exacerbate the problem, and that the public health consequences may be severe. THAT: The ACPM staff and appropriate committees continue to explore opportunities to address this matter, including sessions at Preventive Medicine conferences and the development of a policy position statement as well as other modes of communicating this issue to the ACPM membership. [The ACPM is also a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/] Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes. Human activities are changing Earth’s climate. At the global level, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat‐trapping greenhouse gases have increased sharply since the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuel burning dominates this increase. Human‐caused increases in greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed global average surface warming of roughly 0.8°C (1.5°F) over the past 140 years. Because natural processes cannot quickly remove some of these gases (notably carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, our past, present, and future emissions will influence the climate system for millennia. Extensive, independent observations confirm the reality of global warming. These observations show large‐scale increases in air and sea temperatures, sea level, and atmospheric water vapor; they document decreases in the extent of mountain glaciers, snow cover, permafrost, and Arctic sea ice. These changes are broadly consistent with long understood physics and predictions of how the climate system is expected to respond to human‐caused increases in greenhouse gases. The changes are inconsistent with explanations of climate change that rely on known natural influences… [The AGU has also signed onto more recent letters on climate from an array of scientific organizations, including the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] [The AIBS is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] The Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics has endorsed a position statement on climate change adopted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Council in December 2003. AGU is one of ten Member Societies of the American Institute of Physics. The statement follows: Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century. Human impacts on the climate system include increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and their substitutes, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.), air pollution, increasing concentrations of airborne particles, and land alteration. A particular concern is that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide may be rising faster than at any time in Earth’s history, except possibly following rare events like impacts from large extraterrestrial objects… The ALA is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. Spates of injuries are resulting from more intense ice storms and snowstorms. Scientific evidence shows that the world’s climate is changing and that the results have public health consequences. The American Medical Association is working to ensure that physicians and others in health care understand the rise in climate-related illnesses and injuries so they can prepare and respond to them. The Association also is promoting environmentally responsible practices that would reduce waste and energy consumption. Amicus Brief filed before the Supreme Court in support of the Clean Power Plan. Failure to uphold the Clean Power Plan would undermine [the] EPA’s ability to carry out its legal obligation to regulate carbon emissions that endanger human health and would negatively impact the health of current and future generations. Carbon emissions are a significant driver of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and consequently harm human health. Direct impacts from the changing climate include health-related illness, declining air quality and increased respiratory and cardiovascular illness. Changes in climate also facilitate the migration of mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue fever, malaria and most recently the Zika Virus. “In surveys conducted by three separate U.S. medical professional societies,” the brief said, “a significant majority of surveyed physicians concurred that climate change is occurring … is having a direct impact on the health of their patients, and that physicians anticipate even greater climate-driven adverse human health impacts in the future.” [This statement is considered in force until August 2017 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date.] …Warming of the climate system now is unequivocal, according to many different kinds of evidence. Observations show increases in globally averaged air and ocean temperatures, as well as widespread melting of snow and ice and rising globally averaged sea level. Surface temperature data for Earth as a whole, including readings over both land and ocean, show an increase of about 0.8°C (1.4°F) over the period 1901-2010 and about 0.5°C (0.9°F) over the period 1979–2010 (the era for which satellite-based temperature data are routinely available). Due to natural variability, not every year is warmer than the preceding year globally. Nevertheless, all of the 10 warmest years in the global temperature records up to 2011 have occurred since 1997, with 2005 and 2010 being the warmest two years in more than a century of global records. The warming trend is greatest in northern high latitudes and over land. In the U.S., most of the observed warming has occurred in the West and in Alaska; for the nation as a whole, there have been twice as many record daily high temperatures as record daily low temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century… There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing warming will increase risks and stresses to human societies, economies, ecosystems, and wildlife through the 21st century and beyond, making it imperative that society respond to a changing climate. To inform decisions on adaptation and mitigation, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the global climate system and our ability to project future climate through continued and improved monitoring and research. This is especially true for smaller (seasonal and regional) scales and weather and climate extremes, and for important hydroclimatic variables such as precipitation and water availability… Technological, economic, and policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of future impacts of climate change. Science-based decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. National and international policy discussions should include consideration of the best ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. Mitigation will reduce the amount of future climate change and the risk of impacts that are potentially large and dangerous. At the same time, some continued climate change is inevitable, and policy responses should include adaptation to climate change. Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life. [The AIBS is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue and poses the risk of significant environmental, social and economic disruptions around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on global climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century. Although the magnitudes of future effects are uncertain, human influences on the climate are growing. The potential consequences of climate change are great and the actions taken over the next few decades will determine human influences on the climate for centuries. As summarized in the 2013 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there continues to be significant progress in climate science. In particular, the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more compelling than ever. Nevertheless, as recognized by Working Group 1 of the IPCC, scientific challenges remain in our abilities to observe, interpret, and project climate changes. To better inform societal choices, the APS urges sustained research in climate science. The APS reiterates its 2007 call to support actions that will reduce the emissions, and ultimately the concentration, of greenhouse gases as well as increase the resilience of society to a changing climate, and to support research on technologies that could reduce the climate impact of human activities. … The APA is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ [This policy builds upon and replaces existing policies 20078 (Addressing the Urgent Threat of Global Climate Change to Public Health and the Environment) and 9510 (Global Climate Change)] Public Health Opportunities to Address the Health Effects of Climate Change Climate change poses major threats to human health, human and animal populations, ecological stability, and human social, financial, and political stability and well-being. Observed health impacts of climate change include increased heat-related morbidity and mortality, expanded ranges and frequency of infectious disease outbreaks, malnutrition, trauma, violence and political conflict, mental health issues, and loss of community and social connections. Certain populations will experience disproportionate negative effects, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, marginalized groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, outdoor workers, those with chronic diseases, and those in economically disadvantaged communities. Climate change poses significant ethical challenges as well as challenges to global and health equity. The economic risks of inaction may be significant, yet many strategies to combat climate change offer near- and long-term co-benefits to health, producing cost savings that could offset implementation costs. At present, there are major political barriers to adopting strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Recognizing the urgency of the issue and importance of the public health role, APHA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others have developed resources and tools to help support public health engagement. APHA calls for individual, community, national, and global action to address the health risks posed by climate change. The public health community has critical roles to play, including advocating for action, especially among policymakers; engaging in health prevention and preparedness efforts; conducting surveillance and research on climate change and health; and educating public health professionals. [The APHA is also a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/] [The APHA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] Letter to EOS of the Council of the AQA The available scientific evidence clearly shows that the Earth on average is becoming warmer… Few credible scientists now doubt that humans have influenced the documented rise of global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. The first government led U.S. Climate Change Science Program synthesis and assessment report supports the growing body of evidence that warming of the atmosphere, especially over the past 50 years, is directly impacted by human activity. In 2003, the ASM issued a policy report in which they recommend “reducing net anthropogenic CO emissions to the atmosphere” and “minimizing anthropogenic disturbances of” atmospheric gases: “Carbon dioxide concentrations were relatively stable for the past 10,000 years but then began to increase rapidly about 150 years ago… as a result of fossil fuel consumption and land use change. Of course, changes in atmospheric composition are but one component of global change, which also includes disturbances in the physical and chemical conditions of the oceans and land surface. Although global change has been a natural process throughout Earth’s history, humans are responsible for substantially accelerating present-day changes. These changes may adversely affect human health and the biosphere on which we depend. Outbreaks of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, hantavirus infections, dengue fever, bubonic plague, and cholera, have been linked to climate change.” A comprehensive body of scientific evidence indicates beyond reasonable doubt that global climate change is now occurring and that its manifestations threaten the stability of societies as well as natural and managed ecosystems. Increases in ambient temperatures and changes in related processes are directly linked to rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere. The potential related impacts of climate change on the ability of agricultural systems, which include soil and water resources, to provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel, and maintenance of ecosystem services (e.g., water supply and habitat for crop landraces, wild relatives, and pollinators) as well as the integrity of the environment, are major concerns. Around the world and in the United States (US), agriculture—which is comprised of field, vegetable, and tree crops, as well as livestock production—constitutes a major land use which influences global ecosystems. Globally, crop production occupies approximately 1.8 Billion (B) hectares out of a total terrestrial land surface of about 13.5 B hectares. In addition, animal production utilizes grasslands, rangelands, and savannas, which altogether cover about a quarter of the Earth’s land. Even in 2010, agriculture remains the most basic and common human occupation on the planet and a major contributor to human well-being. Changes in climate are already affecting the sustainability of agricultural systems and disrupting production. [The May 2011 statement was also signed by the Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America.] [The ASoA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] There is strong evidence that the climate is changing and will continue to change. Climate scientists project that there will be substantial increases in temperature with related increases in atmospheric water vapor and increases in extreme precipitation amounts and intensities in most geographic regions as a result of climate change. However, while there is clear evidence of a changing climate, understanding the significance of climate change at the temporal and spatial scales as it relates to engineering practice is more difficult. There is an increasing demand for engineers to address future climate change into project design criteria; however, current practices and rules governing such practices do not adequately address concerns associated with climate change… Climate change poses a potentially serious impact on worldwide water resources, energy production and use, agriculture, forestry, coastal development and resources, flood control and public infrastructure… The ASIH is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The ASN is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf [The ASPB is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] Adopted by the ASA Board of Directors The American Statistical Association (ASA) recently convened a workshop of leading atmospheric scientists and statisticians involved in climate change research. The goal of this workshop was to identify a consensus on the role of statistical science in current assessments of global warming and its impacts. Of particular interest to this workshop was the recently published Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), endorsed by more than 100 governments and drawing on the expertise of a large portion of the climate science community. Through a series of meetings spanning several years, IPCC drew in leading experts and assessed the relevant literature in the geosciences and related disciplines as it relates to climate change. The Fourth Assessment Report finds that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising mean sea level. … Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. … Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes, and wind patterns. [The ASA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] After people, water is our most critical and strategic natural resource, yet the U.S. lack a national strategy for water resources management. In addition, Americans are the world’s largest water consumers. Threats of an aging infrastructure, climate change and population growth are so significant that the nation can no longer afford to postpone action. It’s imperative that a focused effort be articulated and initiated to create and demonstrate strategies to sustain U.S. water resources. The country’s future growth and prosperity depend on it. The ATS is also a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The ASLO is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The ATBC is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The AERC is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The AAFA is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ There is broad scientific consensus that coral reefs are heavily affected by the activities of man and there are significant global influences that can make reefs more vulnerable such as global warming… It is highly likely that coral bleaching has been exacerbated by global warming. There is almost total consensus among experts that the earth’s climate is changing as a result of the build-up of greenhouse gases. The IPCC (involving over 3,000 of the world’s experts) has come out with clear conclusions as to the reality of this phenomenon. One does not have to look further than the collective academy of scientists worldwide to see the string (of) statements on this worrying change to the earth’s atmosphere… Given the observed damage caused by a temperature increase of ~1°C above pre-industrial levels, we urge all possible actions to keep future warming below the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement. The following proposed initiatives will act to reduce the severity of climate-inflicted damage on reefs, helping to avoid total ecological collapse. The ACRS strongly supports the following proposed actions… The AIP supports a reduction of the green house gas emissions that are leading to increased global temperatures, and encourages research that works towards this goal… Research in Australia and overseas shows that an increase in global temperature will adversely affect the Earth’s climate patterns. The melting of the polar ice caps, combined with thermal expansion, will lead to rises in sea levels that may impact adversely on our coastal cities. The impact of these changes on biodiversity will fundamentally change the ecology of Earth… Human health is ultimately dependent on the health of the planet and its ecosystem. The AMA recognises the latest findings regarding the science of climate change, the role of humans, past observations and future projections. The consequences of climate change have serious direct and indirect, observed and projected health impacts both globally and in Australia. There is inequity in the distribution of these health impacts both within and between countries, with some groups being particularly vulnerable. In recognition of these issues surrounding climate change and health, the AMA believes that: Global climate has changed substantially. Global climate change and global warming are real and observable… Human influence has been detected in the warming of the atmosphere and the ocean globally, and in Australia. It is now certain that the human activities that have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contribute significantly to observed warming. Further it is extremely likely that these human activities are responsible for most of the observed global warming since 1950. The warming associated with increases in greenhouse gases originating from human activity is called the enhanced greenhouse effect…. Our climate is very likely to continue to change as a result of human activity. Global temperature increases are already set to continue until at least the middle of this century even if emissions were reduced to zero. The magnitude of warming and related changes can be limited depending on the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases ultimately emitted as a result of human activities; future climate scenarios depend critically on future changes in emissions… BioQUEST is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The BSA is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf We, the members of the Board of Trustees of CFCAS and Canadian climate science leaders from the public and academic sectors in Canada, concur with The Joint Science Academies statement that “climate change is real” and note that the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment concluded that Arctic temperatures have risen at almost twice the rate of the rest of the world over the past few decades. Furthermore, we endorse the assessment of climate science undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its conclusion that “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” There is now increasing unambiguous evidence of a changing climate in Canada and around the world… There is an increasing urgency to act on the threat of climate change. Significant steps are needed to stop the growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations by reducing emissions. Since mitigation measures will become effective only after many years, adaptive strategies as well are of great importance and need to begin now…. …Since the industrial revolution of the early 19th century, human activities have also markedly influenced the climate. This well-documented human-induced change is large and very rapid in comparison to past changes in the Earth’s climate… Even if the human-induced emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere were to cease today, past emissions have committed the world to long-term changes in climate. Carbon dioxide emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels will remain in the atmosphere for centuries to millennia, and the slow ocean response to atmospheric warming will cause the climate change to persist even longer. Further CO2 emissions will lead to greater human-induced change in proportion to total cumulative emissions. Meaningful interventions to mitigate climate change require a reduction in emissions. To avoid societally, economically, and ecologically disruptive changes to the Earth’s climate, we will have little choice but to leave much of the unextracted fossil fuel carbon in the ground… The urgent challenges for the global community, and Canadians in particular, are to learn how to adapt to the climate changes to which we are already committed and to develop effective and just responses to avoid further damaging climate change impacts for both present and future generations. The COL is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf A comprehensive body of scientific evidence indicates beyond reasonable doubt that global climate change is now occurring and that its manifestations threaten the stability of societies as well as natural and managed ecosystems. Increases in ambient temperatures and changes in related processes are directly linked to rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere. The potential related impacts of climate change on the ability of agricultural systems, which include soil and water resources, to provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel, and maintenance of ecosystem services (e.g., water supply and habitat for crop landraces, wild relatives, and pollinators) as well as the integrity of the environment, are major concerns. Around the world and in the United States (US), agriculture—which is comprised of field, vegetable, and tree crops, as well as livestock production—constitutes a major land use which influences global ecosystems. Globally, crop production occupies approximately 1.8 Billion (B) hectares out of a total terrestrial land surface of about 13.5 B hectares. In addition, animal production utilizes grasslands, rangelands, and savannas, which altogether cover about a quarter of the Earth’s land. Even in 2010, agriculture remains the most basic and common human occupation on the planet and a major contributor to human well-being. Changes in climate are already affecting the sustainability of agricultural systems and disrupting production. [The May 2011 Statement was also signed by the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America.] [The CSSA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] Ecosystems are already responding to climate change. Continued warming—some of which is now unavoidable—may impair the ability of many such systems to provide critical resources and services like food, clean water, and carbon sequestration. Buffering against the impacts of climate change will require new strategies to both mitigate the extent of change and adapt to changes that are inevitable. The sooner such strategies are deployed, the more effective they will be in reducing irreversible damage. Ecosystems can be managed to limit and adapt to both the near- and long-term impacts of climate change. Strategies that focus on restoring and maintaining natural ecosystem function (reducing deforestation, for example) are the most prudent; strategies that drastically alter ecosystems may have significant and unpredictable impacts… The Earth is warming— average global temperatures have increased by 0.74°C (1.3°F) in the past 100 years. The scientific community agrees that catastrophic and possibly irreversible environmental change will occur if average global temperatures rise an additional 2°C (3.6°F). Warming to date has already had significant impacts on the Earth and its ecosystems, including increased droughts, rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers, and changes in the distribution and seasonal activities of many species… Most warming seen since the mid 1900s is very likely due to greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Global emissions have risen rapidly since pre-industrial times, increasing 70% between 1970 and 2004 alone… Even if greenhouse gas emissions stop immediately, global temperatures will continue to rise at least for the next 100 years. Depending on the extent and effectiveness of climate change mitigation strategies, global temperatures could rise 1-6°C (2-10°F) by the end of the 21st century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Swift and significant emissions reductions will be vital in minimizing the impacts of warming… [The ESA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] Engineers Australia accepts the comprehensive scientific basis regarding climate change, the influence of anthropogenic global warming, and that climate change can have very serious community consequences. Engineers are uniquely placed to provide both mitigation and adaptation solutions for this serious global problem, as well as address future advances in climate change science. This Climate Change Policy Statement has been developed to enable organisational governance on the problem, and provide support for members in the discipline and practice of the engineering profession. Building upon a long history of Engineers Australia policy development, and as the largest technically informed professional body in Australia, Engineers Australia advocates that Engineers must act proactively to address climate change as an ecological, social and economic risk… The ESA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf Human activity is most likely responsible for climate warming. Most of the climatic warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Documented long-term climate changes include changes in Arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones. The above development potentially has dramatic consequences for mankind’s future… The EFG recognizes the work of the IPCC and other organizations, and subscribes to the major findings that climate change is happening, is predominantly caused by anthropogenic emissions of CO2, and poses a significant threat to human civilization. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions come from fossil carbon sources, such as coal, oil, natural gas, limestone and carbonate rocks. Thriving and developing economies currently depend on these resources. Since geologists play a crucial role in their exploration and exploitation, we feel praised by the increasing welfare, but also implicated by the carbon curse. It is clear that major efforts are necessary to quickly and strongly reduce CO2 emissions. The EFG strongly advocates renewable and sustainable energy production, including geothermal energy, as well as the need for increasing energy efficiency. Impacts of ocean acidification may be just as dramatic as those of global warming (resulting from anthropogenic activities on top of natural variability) and the combination of both are likely to exacerbate consequences, resulting in potentially profound changes throughout marine ecosystems and in the services that they provide to humankind… Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the release of carbon dioxide (CO ) from our industrial and agricultural activities has resulted in atmospheric CO concentrations that have increased from approximately 280 to 385 parts per million (ppm). The atmospheric concentration of CO is now higher than experienced on Earth for at least the last 800,000 years (direct ice core evidence) and probably the last 25 million years, and is expected to continue to rise at an increasing rate, leading to significant temperature increases in the atmosphere and ocean in the coming decades… Ocean acidification is already occurring today and will continue to intensify, closely tracking atmospheric CO2 increase. Given the potential threat to marine ecosystems and its ensuing impact on human society and economy, especially as it acts in conjunction with anthropogenic global warming, there is an urgent need for immediate action. This rather new recognition that, in addition to the impact of CO as a greenhouse gas on global climate change, OA is a direct consequence of the absorption of anthropogenic CO emissions, will hopefully help to set in motion an even more stringent CO mitigation policy worldwide. The only solutions to avoid excessive OA are a long-term mitigation strategy to limit future release of CO to the atmosphere and/or enhance removal of excess CO from the atmosphere. The emission of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, among which carbon dioxide is the main contributor, has amplified the natural greenhouse effect and led to global warming. The main contribution stems from burning fossil fuels. A further increase will have decisive effects on life on earth. An energy cycle with the lowest possible CO2 emission is called for wherever possible to combat climate change. The forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (Paris, December 2015) will be held with the objective of achieving a binding and global agreement on climate-related policy from all nations of the world. This conference, seeking to protect the climate, will be a great opportunity to find solutions in the human quest for sustainable energy as a global endeavour. The Energy Group of the European Physical Society (EPS) welcomes the energy policy of the European Union (EU) to promote renewable energies for electricity generation, together with energy efficiency measures. This policy needs to be implemented by taking into account the necessary investments and the impact on the economical position of the EU in the world. Since the direct impact of any EU energy policy on world CO2 emissions is rather limited, the best strategy is to take the lead in mitigating climate change and in developing an energy policy that offers an attractive and economically viable model with reduced CO2 emissions and lower energy dependence… The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that climate change is a serious global threat which requires an urgent global response, and that climate change is driven by human activity… Enough is now known to make climate change the challenge of the 21st century, and the research community is poised to address this challenge… There is now convincing evidence that since the industrial revolution, human activities, resulting in increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases have become a major agent of climate change. These greenhouse gases affect the global climate by retaining heat in the troposphere, thus raising the average temperature of the planet and altering global atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns. While on-going national and international actions to curtail and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are essential, the levels of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere, and their impact, are likely to persist for several decades. On-going and increased efforts to mitigate climate change through reduction in greenhouse gases are therefore crucial… The European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) supports the Article (2) agreement on climate change of the Declaration of the ‘2015 Budapest World Science Forum on the enabling power of science’ urges such a universal agreement aiming at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and reducing the amount of airborne particles. The ESSC encourages countries to reduce their emissions in order to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, which could lead to disastrous consequences. Such consequences, albeit from natural evolution, are witnessed in other objects of our Solar System. Global climate change is real and measurable. Since the start of the 20th century, the global mean surface temperature of the Earth has increased by more than 0.7°C and the rate of warming has been largest in the last 30 years… Key vulnerabilities arising from climate change include water resources, food supply, health, coastal settlements, biodiversity and some key ecosystems such as coral reefs and alpine regions. As the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases, impacts become more severe and widespread. To reduce the global net economic, environmental and social losses in the face of these impacts, the policy objective must remain squarely focused on returning greenhouse gas concentrations to near pre-industrial levels through the reduction of emissions… The spatial and temporal fingerprint of warming can be traced to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, which are a direct result of burning fossil fuels, broad-scale deforestation and other human activity. Decades of scientific research have shown that climate can change from both natural and anthropogenic causes. The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2011), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) that global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been for many thousands of years. Human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) are the dominant cause of the rapid warming since the middle 1900s (IPCC, 2013). If the upward trend in greenhouse-gas concentrations continues, the projected global climate change by the end of the twenty-first century will result in significant impacts on humans and other species. The tangible effects of climate change are already occurring. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a combination of adaptation to the changes that are likely to occur and global reductions of CO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources… [The GSA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] The HCWH is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The HCCC is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ Human activities have increased the concentration of these atmospheric greenhouse gases, and although the changes are relatively small, the equilibrium maintained by the atmosphere is delicate, and so the effect of these changes is significant. The world’s most important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. … Professional engineers commonly deal with risk, and frequently have to make judgments based on incomplete data. The available evidence suggests very strongly that human activities have already begun to make significant changes to the earth’s climate, and that the longterm risk of delaying action is greater than the cost of avoiding/minimising the risk. Scientific evidence is overwhelming that current energy trends are unsustainable. Immediate action is required to effect change in the timeframe needed to address significant ecological, human health and development, and energy security needs. Aggressive changes in policy are thus needed to accelerate the deployment of superior technologies. With a combination of such policies at the local, national, and international level, it should be possible—both technically and economically—to elevate the living conditions of most of humanity, while simultaneously addressing the risks posed by climate change and other forms of energy-related environmental degradation and reducing the geopolitical tensions and economic vulnerabilities generated by existing patterns of dependence on predominantly fossil-fuel resources… The Study Panel believes that, given the dire prospect of climate change, the following three recommendations should be acted upon without delay and simultaneously: Taking into account the three urgent recommendations above, another recommendation stands out by itself as a moral and social imperative and should be pursued with all means available While the Earth’s climate has changed many times during the planet’s history because of natural factors, including volcanic eruptions and changes in the Earth’s orbit, never before have we observed the present rapid rise in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO ). Human activities resulting from the industrial revolution have changed the chemical composition of the atmosphere…. Deforestation is now the second largest contributor to global warming, after the burning of fossil fuels. These human activities have significantly increased the concentration of “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere… As the Earth’s climate warms, we are seeing many changes: stronger, more destructive hurricanes; heavier rainfall; more disastrous flooding; more areas of the world experiencing severe drought; and more heat waves. As reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), most of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to human-produced emission of greenhouse gases and this warming will continue unabated if present anthropogenic emissions continue or, worse, expand without control. CAETS, therefore, endorses the many recent calls to decrease and control greenhouse gas emissions to an acceptable level as quickly as possible. There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and, indirectly, from increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes in many physical and biological systems. It is very likely that most of the observed increase in global temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is due to human-induced increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (IPCC 2007). Human activities are now causing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide, methane, tropospheric ozone, and nitrous oxide – to rise well above pre-industrial levels. Carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 ppm in 1750 to over 380 ppm today, higher than any previous levels in at least the past 650,000 years. Increases in greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise; the Earth’s surface warmed by approximately 0.6°C over the twentieth century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has forecast that average global surface temperatures will continue to increase, reaching between 1.1°C and 6.4°C above 1990 levels, by 2100. The uncertainties about the amount of global warming we face in coming decades can be reduced through further scientific research. Part of this research must be better documenting and understanding past climate change. Research on Earth’s climate in the recent geologic past provides insights into ways in which climate can change in the future. It also provides data that contribute to the testing and improvement of the computer models that are used to predict future climate change. Reduce the causes of climate change The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. A lack of full scientific certainty about some aspects of climate change is not a reason for delaying an immediate response that will, at a reasonable cost, prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions. Action taken now to reduce significantly the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lessen the magnitude and rate of climate change. Fossil fuels, which are responsible for most of carbon dioxide emissions produced by human activities, provide valuable resources for many nations and will provide 85% of the world energy demand over the next 25 years (IEA 2004). Minimizing the amount of this carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere presents a huge challenge but must be a global priority. The advances in scientific understanding of the Earth system generated by collaborative international, regional, and national observations and research programs; and The comprehensive and widely accepted and endorsed scientific assessments carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and regional and national bodies, which have firmly established, on the basis of scientific evidence, that human activities are the primary cause of recent climate change; Continuing reliance on combustion of fossil fuels as the world’s primary source of energy will lead to much higher atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which will, in turn, cause significant increases in surface temperature, sea level, ocean acidification, and their related consequences to the environment and society; Stabilization of climate to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, as called for in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will require significant cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions during the 21st century; and Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change can be made more effective by reducing uncertainties regarding feedbacks and the associated mechanisms; Nations collectively to begin to reduce sharply global atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosols, with the goal of urgently halting their accumulation in the atmosphere and holding atmospheric levels at their lowest practicable value; National and international agencies to adequately support comprehensive observation and research programs that can clarify the urgency and extent of needed mitigation and promote adaptation to the consequences of climate change; Resource managers, planners, and leaders of public and private organizations to incorporate information on ongoing and projected changes in climate and its ramifications into their decision-making, with goals of limiting emissions, reducing the negative consequences of climate change, and enhancing adaptation, public well-being, safety, and economic vitality; and Organizations around the world to join with IUGG and its member Associations to encourage scientists to communicate freely and widely with public and private decision-makers about the consequences and risks of on-going climate change and actions that can be taken to limit climate change and promote adaptation; and To act with its member Associations to develop and implement an integrated communication and outreach plan to increase public understanding of the nature and implications of human-induced impacts on the Earth system, with the aim of reducing detrimental consequences. The LMS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change The NACCHO is a signatory to the April 2016 declaration: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) recognizes: (1) that Earth’s climate is changing, (2) that present warming trends are largely the result of human activities, and (3) that teaching climate change science is a fundamental and integral part of earth science education. The core mission of NAGT is to “foster improvement in the teaching of the earth sciences at all levels of formal and informal instruction, to emphasize the cultural significance of the earth sciences and to disseminate knowledge in this field to the general public.” The National Science Education Standards call for a populace that understands how scientific knowledge is both generated and verified, and how complex interactions between human activities and the environment can impact the Earth system. Climate is clearly an integral part of the Earth system connecting the physical, chemical and biological components and playing an essential role in how the Earth’s environment interacts with human culture and societal development. Thus, climate change science is an essential part of Earth Science education and is fundamental to the mission set forth by NAGT. In recognition of these imperatives, NAGT strongly supports and will work to promote education in the science of climate change, the causes and effects of current global warming, and the immediate need for policies and actions that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The NAHN is a signatory to the April 2016 declaration: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The NAML is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The NEHA is a signatory to the April 2016 declaration: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The NMA is a signatory to the April 2016 declaration: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ Many national science academies have published formal statements and declarations acknowledging the state of climate science, the fact that climate is changing, the compelling evidence that humans are responsible, and the need to debate and implement strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. A few examples of joint academy statements are listed here. Following the release of the third in the ongoing series of international reviews of climate science conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang (IPCC), seventeen national science academies issued a joint statement, entitled “The Science of Climate Change,” acknowledging the IPCC study to be the scientific consensus on climate change science. The statement was signed by: Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, French Academy of Sciences, German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, Indian National Science Academy, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Turkish Academy of Sciences, and Royal Society (UK). Eleven national science academies, including all of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, signed a statement that the scientific understanding of climate change was sufficiently strong to justify prompt action. The statement explicitly endorsed the IPCC consensus and stated: “…there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001). This warming has already led to changes in the Earth’s climate.” The statement was signed by the science academies of: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 2007, seventeen national academies issued a joint declaration reconfirming previous statements and strengthening language based on new research from the fourth assessment report of the IPCC, including the following: “It is unequivocal that the climate is changing, and it is very likely that this is predominantly caused by the increasing human interference with the atmosphere. These changes will transform the environmental conditions on Earth unless counter-measures are taken.” The thirteen signatories were the national science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 2007, the Network of African Science Academies submitted a joint “statement on sustainability, energy efficiency, and climate change:” “A consensus, based on current evidence, now exists within the global scientific community that human activities are the main source of climate change and that the burning of fossil fuels is largely responsible for driving this change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached this conclusion with “90 percent certainty” in its Fourth Assessment issued earlier this year. The IPCC should be congratulated for the contribution it has made to public understanding of the nexus that exists between energy, climate and sustainability.” The thirteen signatories were the science academies of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, as well as the African Academy of Sciences. In 2008, the thirteen signers of the 2007 joint academies declaration issued a statement reiterating previous statements and reaffirming “that climate change is happening and that anthropogenic warming is influencing many physical and biological systems.” Among other actions, the declaration urges all nations to “(t)ake appropriate economic and policy measures to accelerate transition to a low carbon society and to encourage and effect changes in individual and national behaviour.” The thirteen signatories were the national science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In May 2009, thirteen national academies issued a joint statement that said among other things: “The IPCC 2007 Fourth Assessment of climate change science concluded that large reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases, principally CO2, are needed soon to slow the increase of atmospheric concentrations, and avoid reaching unacceptable levels. However, climate change is happening even faster than previously estimated; global CO2 emissions since 2000 have been higher than even the highest predictions, Arctic sea ice has been melting at rates much faster than predicted, and the rise in the sea level has become more rapid. Feedbacks in the climate system might lead to much more rapid climate changes. The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.” The thirteen signatories were the national science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition to the statement signed in 2001 by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, the Academie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres & des Beaux-arts de Belgique (the French language academy in Belgium) issued a formal statement: In July 2015, the Royal Society and member organizations issued a joint “U.K. Science Communiqué on Climate Change.” In part, that statement reads: “The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that the climate is warming and that human activity is largely responsible for this change through emissions of greenhouse gases. Governments will meet in Paris in November and December this year to negotiate a legally binding and universal agreement on tackling climate change. Any international policy response to climate change must be rooted in the latest scientific evidence. This indicates that if we are to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming in this century to 2°C relative to the pre-industrial period, we must transition to a zero-carbon world by early in the second half of the century. To achieve this transition, governments should demonstrate leadership by recognising the risks climate change poses, embracing appropriate policy and technological responses, and seizing the opportunities of low-carbon and climate-resilient growth.” It was signed by: The Academy of Medical Sciences (UK), The Academy of Social Sciences (UK), The British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The British Ecological Society, The Geological Society (UK), The Challenger Society for Marine Sciences, The Institution of Civil Engineers (UK), The Institution of Chemical Engineers, The Institution of Environmental Sciences, The Institute of Physics, The Learned Society of Wales, London Mathematical Society, Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Economic Society, Royal Geographic Society, Royal Meteorological Society, Royal Society, Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Society for General Microbiology, Wellcome Trust, Zoological Society of London Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems. The compelling case for these conclusions is provided in Advancing the Science of Climate Change, part of a congressionally requested suite of studies known as America’s Climate Choices. While noting that there is always more to learn and that the scientific process is never closed, the book shows that hypotheses about climate change are supported by multiple lines of evidence and have stood firm in the face of serious debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations. [The U.S. National Academies of Sciences have also signed a long series of statements with other national academies around the world in support of the state-of-the-science.] The NSCA is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf Acid rain, toxic air pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions are a major threat to human health and welfare, as well as plant and animal life. Based on recognized adequate research of the causes and effects of the various forms of air pollution, the federal government should establish environmentally and economically sound standards for the reduction and control of these emissions. The OBFS is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The PHI is a signatory to the April 2016 declaration: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The RAS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The RES is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The RGS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unequivocal in its conclusion that climate change is happening and that humans are contributing significantly to these changes. The evidence, from not just one source but a number of different measurements, is now far greater and the tools we have to model climate change contain much more of our scientific knowledge within them. The world’s best climate scientists are telling us it’s time to do something about it. Carbon Dioxide is such an important greenhouse gas because there is an increasing amount of it in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and it stays in the atmosphere for such a long time; a hundred years or so. The changes we are seeing now in our climate are the result of emissions since industrialisation and we have already set in motion the next 50 years of global warming – what we do from now on will determine how worse it will get. The RMS is also a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The RS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sea-level rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes. The evidence is clear. We strongly support the introduction of policies to significantly reduce UK and global greenhouse gas emissions, as we feel that the consequences of climate change will be severe. We believe that biologists have a crucial role to play in developing innovative biotechnologies to generate more efficient and environmentally sustainable biofuels, and to capture and store greenhouse gases from power stations and the atmosphere. It is important for the government to continue to consult scientists, to review policy, and to encourage new technologies so as to ensure the best possible strategies are used to combat this complex issue. We are in favour of reducing energy demands, in particular by improvements in public transport and domestic appliances. As some degree of climate change is inevitable, we encourage the development of adaptation strategies to reduce the effects of global warming on our environment. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus worldwide, and a broad political consensus, that greenhouse gas emissions are affecting global climate, and that measures are needed to reduce these emissions significantly so as to limit the extent of climate change. The term ‘climate change’ is used predominantly to refer to global warming and its consequences, and this policy briefing will address these issues. Although long-term fluctuations in global temperature occur due to various factors such as solar activity, there is scientific agreement that the rapid global warming that has occurred in recent years is mostly anthropogenic, i.e. due to human activity. The absorption and emission of solar radiation by greenhouse gases causes the atmosphere to warm. Human activities such as fossil fuel consumption and deforestation have elevated atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide significantly since pre-industrial times. The RSB is also a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The RSC is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The RSE is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. Global surface temperatures have warmed, on average, by around one degree Celsius since the late 19th century. Much of the warming, especially since the 1950s, is very likely a result of increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, resulting from human activity. The Northern Hemisphere have warmed much faster than the global average, while the southern oceans south of New Zealand latitudes have warmed more slowly. Generally, continental regions have warmed more than the ocean surface at the same latitudes. Global sea levels have risen around 19 cm since the start of the 20th century, and are almost certain to rise at a faster rate in future. Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level will continue to rise. Relatively small changes in average climate can have a big effect on the frequency of occurrence or likelihood of extreme events. How the future plays out depends critically on the emissions of greenhouses gases that enter the atmosphere over coming decades. New Zealand is being affected by climate change and impacts are set to increase in magnitude and extent over time. Floods, storms, droughts and fires will become more frequent unless significant action is taken to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases, which are changing the climate. Even small changes in average climate conditions are likely to lead to large changes in the frequency of occurrence of extreme events. Our societies are not designed to cope with such rapid changes. The SGM is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The SIAM is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The SMB is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The SSAR is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The Society of American Foresters (SAF) believes that climate change policies and actions should recognize the role that forests play in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through 1) the substitution of wood products for nonrenewable building materials, 2) forest biomass substitution for fossil fuel-based energy sources, 3) reducing wildfire and other disturbance emissions, and 4) avoided land-use change. SAF also believes that sustainably managed forests can reduce GHG concentrations by sequestering atmospheric carbon in trees and soil, and by storing carbon in wood products made from the harvested trees. Finally, climate change policies can invest in sustainable forest management to achieve these benefits, and respond to the challenges and opportunities that a changing climate poses for forests. Of the many ways to reduce GHG emissions and atmospheric particulate pollution, the most familiar are increasing energy efficiency and conservation, and using renewable energy sources as a substitution for fossil fuels. Equally important is using forests to address climate change. Forests play an essential role controlling GHG emissions and atmospheric GHGs, while simultaneously providing essential environmental and social benefits, including clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and forest products that, in turn, store carbon. Finally, changes in long-term patterns of temperature and precipitation have the potential to dramatically affect forests nationwide through a variety of changes to growth and mortality (USDA Forest Service 2012). Many such changes are already evident, such as longer growing and wildfire seasons, increased incidence of pest and disease, and climate-related mortality of specific species (Westerling et al. 2006). These changes have been associated with increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs in the atmosphere. Successfully achieving the benefits forests can provide for addressing climate change will therefore require explicit and long-term policies and investment in managing these changes, as well as helping private landowners and public agencies understand the technologies and practices that can be used to respond to changing climate conditions… The SoN is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf The SSB is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf A comprehensive body of scientific evidence indicates beyond reasonable doubt that global climate change is now occurring and that its manifestations threaten the stability of societies as well as natural and managed ecosystems. Increases in ambient temperatures and changes in related processes are directly linked to rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere. The potential related impacts of climate change on the ability of agricultural systems, which include soil and water resources, to provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel, and maintenance of ecosystem services (e.g., water supply and habitat for crop landraces, wild relatives, and pollinators) as well as the integrity of the environment, are major concerns. Around the world and in the United States (US), agriculture—which is comprised of field, vegetable, and tree crops, as well as livestock production—constitutes a major land use which influences global ecosystems. Globally, crop production occupies approximately 1.8 Billion (B) hectares out of a total terrestrial land surface of about 13.5 B hectares. In addition, animal production utilizes grasslands, rangelands, and savannas, which altogether cover about a quarter of the Earth’s land. Even in 2010, agriculture remains the most basic and common human occupation on the planet and a major contributor to human well-being. Changes in climate are already affecting the sustainability of agricultural systems and disrupting production. [The May 2011 Statement was also signed by the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America.] [The SSSA is also a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf] The AMS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The AoSS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The BAHSS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The BES is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The CSMS is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The last century has seen a rapidly growing global population and much more intensive use of resources, leading to greatly increased emissions of gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, from the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal), and from agriculture, cement production and deforestation. Evidence from the geological record is consistent with the physics that shows that adding large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere warms the world and may lead to: higher sea levels and flooding of low-lying coasts; greatly changed patterns of rainfall; increased acidity of the oceans; and decreased oxygen levels in seawater… There is now widespread concern that the Earth’s climate will warm further, not only because of the lingering effects of the added carbon already in the system, but also because of further additions as human population continues to grow… [The GS is also a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF] The IoP is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The ICE is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The ICE is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The IES is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF The LSoW is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF Human activities over the past 100 years have caused significant changes in the earth’s climatic conditions, resulting in severe alterations in regional temperature and precipitation patterns that are expected to continue and become amplified over the next 100 years or more. Although climates have varied since the earth was formed, few scientists question the role of humans in exacerbating recent climate change through the increase in emissions of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor). Human activities contributing to climate warming include the burning of fossil fuels, slash and burn agriculture, methane production from animal husbandry practices, and land-use changes. The critical issue is no longer “whether” climate change is occurring, but rather how to address its effects on wildlife and wildlife- habitats… The TFAA is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The USCHA is a signatory to the April 2016 statement: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/climate-change/declaration-on-climate-change.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ The UCAR is a signatory to the June 28, 2016 letter to the U.S. Congress: https://www.eurekalert.org/images/2016climateletter6-28-16.pdf Wellcome is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF Now that the world has negotiated the Paris agreement to mitigate GHGs and pursue adaptation to the changing climate, the focus must now turn towards implementation to turn the words into action. The world’s engineers are a human resource that must be tapped to contribute to this implementation. All countries use engineers to deliver services that provide the quality of life that society enjoys, in particular, potable water, sanitation, shelter, buildings, roads, bridges, power, energy and other types of infrastructure. There are opportunities to achieve GHG reduction as well as improving the climate resilience of this infrastructure through design, construction and operation all of which require the expertise and experience of engineers. Engineers are problem-solvers and seek to develop feasible solutions that are cost-effective and sustainable. Engineers serve the public interest and offer objective, unbiased review and advice. Having their expertise to evaluate the technical feasibility and economic viability of proposals to reduce GHGs and to adapt to climate change impacts should be pursued. Engineers input and action is required to implement solutions at country and local levels. The international organization known as the World Federation of Engineering Organizations consist of members of national engineering organizations from over 90 developing and developed countries representing more than 20 million engineers. The WFEO offers to facilitate contact and engagement with these organizations to identify subject matter experts that will contribute their time and expertise as members of the engineering profession. The expertise of the world’s engineers is needed to help successfully implement the Paris agreement. We encourage all countries to engage their engineers in this effort. The WFEO is prepared to assist in this effort. The WFEO consists of national members representing more than 85 countries as well as 10 regional engineering organizations. These members collectively engage with more than 20 million engineers worldwide who are committed to serve the public interest through Codes of Practice and a Code of Ethics that emphasize professional practice in sustainable development, environmental stewardship and climate change. WFEO, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) are co-organizing partners of the UN Major Group on Scientific and Technological Communities, one of the nine major groups of civil society recognized by the United Nations. Engineers acknowledge that climate change is underway and that sustained efforts must be undertaken to address this worldwide challenge to society, our quality of life and prosperity. Urgent actions are required and the engineering profession is prepared to do its part towards implementing cost-effective, feasible and sustainable solutions working in partnership with stakeholders. Noting the conclusions of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other climatologists that anthropogenic greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change, have substantially increased in atmospheric concentration beyond natural processes and have increased by 28 percent since the industrial revolution….Realizing that subsequent health effects from such perturbations in the climate system would likely include an increase in: heat-related mortality and morbidity; vector-borne infectious diseases,… water-borne diseases…(and) malnutrition from threatened agriculture….the World Federation of Public Health Associations…recommends precautionary primary preventive measures to avert climate change, including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and preservation of greenhouse gas sinks through appropriate energy and land use policies, in view of the scale of potential health impacts… Over the last 50 years, human activities – particularly the burning of fossil fuels – have released sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap additional heat in the lower atmosphere and affect the global climate. In the last 130 years, the world has warmed by approximately 0.85oC. Each of the last 3 decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850. Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and precipitation patterns are changing. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent… Many policies and individual choices have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce major health co-benefits. For example, cleaner energy systems, and promoting the safe use of public transportation and active movement – such as cycling or walking as alternatives to using private vehicles – could reduce carbon emissions, and cut the burden of household air pollution, which causes some 4.3 million deaths per year, and ambient air pollution, which causes about 3 million deaths every year. In 2015, the WHO Executive Board endorsed a new work plan on climate change and health. This includes: Partnerships: to coordinate with partner agencies within the UN system, and ensure that health is properly represented in the climate change agenda. Awareness raising: to provide and disseminate information on the threats that climate change presents to human health, and opportunities to promote health while cutting carbon emissions. Science and evidence: to coordinate reviews of the scientific evidence on the links between climate change and health, and develop a global research agenda. Support for implementation of the public health response to climate change: to assist countries to build capacity to reduce health vulnerability to climate change, and promote health while reducing carbon emissions. Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Health professionals have a duty of care to current and future generations. You are on the front line in protecting people from climate impacts – from more heat-waves and other extreme weather events; from outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue and cholera; from the effects of malnutrition; as well as treating people that are affected by cancer, respiratory, cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases caused by environmental pollution. Already the hottest year on record, 2015 will see nations attempt to reach a global agreement to address climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) in Paris in December. This may be the most important health agreement of the century: an opportunity not only to reduce climate change and its consequences, but to promote actions that can yield large and immediate health benefits, and reduce costs to health systems and communities… Since the beginning of the 20th century, scientists have been observing a change in the climate that cannot be attributed solely to natural influences. This change has occurred faster than any other climate change in Earth’s history and will have consequences for future generations. Scientists agree that this climate change is anthropogenic (human-induced). It is principally attributable to the increase of certain heat absorbing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere since the industrial revolution. The ever-increasing amount of these gases has directly lead to more heat being retained in the atmosphere and thus to increasing global average surface temperatures. The partners in the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) compile reliable scientific data and information on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and its natural and anthropogenic change. This helps to improve the understanding of interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. The World Meteorological Organization has published a detailed analysis of the global climate 2011-2015 – the hottest five-year period on record – and the increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts. The record temperatures were accompanied by rising sea levels and declines in Arctic sea-ice extent, continental glaciers and northern hemisphere snow cover. All these climate change indicators confirmed the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide reached the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere for the first time in 2015, according to the WMO report which was submitted to U.N. climate change conference. The Zoological Society is a signatory to the July 21, 2015 UK science communiqué on climate change. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2015/21-07-15-climate-communique.PDF [Edited, compiled by Dr. Peter Gleick. Please send any corrections, additions, updates…]
News Article | January 14, 2016
The UK’s last pod of killer whales is doomed to extinction, with new research revealing western European waters as a global hotspot for the lingering legacy of toxic PCB pollution. The persistent chemicals, used in electrical equipment but banned in the 1980s, are still leaking into the oceans and were also found in extremely high levels in European dolphins, whose populations are in decline. The new research analysed levels of PCBs, which are known to harm breeding success and immune systems, in the blubber of more than 1,000 dolphins and killer whales over the last 20 years. The levels found “greatly exceed concentrations at which severe toxic effects are known to occur,” the scientists found. “The levels are really high, probably the highest in the world right now,” said Paul Jepson, at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who led the new study. “These are global PCB hotspots.” Killer whales were present in the North Sea until the 1960s, when PCB pollution peaked, and in the Mediterranean until the 1980s. But the UK’s last resident pod off north-west Scotland, which was reduced to just eight members last week when a female named Lulu died, has not produced a calf in the 19 years it has been studied. “This group will go extinct unfortunately,” said Jepson. When that will happen is uncertain as killer whales live for around 50 years - sometimes 90 years - and the ages of the pod are not well known. Migratory killer whales may continue to visit UK waters. Jepson said there was “a very high extinction risk” for other killer whale pods in western Europe, such as the group of 36 that feeds on tuna in the straits of Gibraltar: “Without further measures, these chemicals will continue to suppress populations of orcas and other dolphin species for many decades to come.” The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows a link between PCB levels and falling numbers of killer whales and dolphins, but not a direct connection. Jepson said: “This is not definitive proof of cause and effect, but it is very consistent [with the evidence].” PCB levels are a particularly acute problem for killer whales and dolphins because they are at the top of the food chain and long-living. The toxins are first eaten by filter feeders on the sea floor, like bivalve molluscs, then by larger creatures like crabs, and then fish - meaning the PCBs accumulate all the way up the food chain, with killer whales and dolphins getting the largest doses. One striking finding for the killer whales, bottle-nosed and striped dolphins and harbour porpoises studied was that the PCB levels in the females were as high as the males. This is unusual, because PCBs are stored in fat and the female dolphins normally get rid of PCBs in the high-fat milk with which they feed their calves. “A female can offload 90% or more of her body burden of PCBs to her calf through the milk during the long lactation period, just at the time the new calf is very vulnerable,” said Jepson. The high levels of PCBs found in the females indicates they are not reproducing, he said: “It is a chemical marker of reproductive failure.” One population of bottle-nosed dolphins off Portugal, which has been studied for 40 years, has produced no offspring for over a decade. Direct evidence of foetal death and abortion is common in postmortems of harbour porpoises. PCBs were banned in banned in the UK in 1981 and across the European Union in 1987 and levels in the seas then declined. But the PCBs found in the marine mammals stopped falling from about 2000, indicating that some PCBs are still steadily leaking into the environment. Most of the 300,000 tonnes of PCBs produced in Europe is thought to still be on land and much has yet to be properly disposed of, said Jepson: “There is a lot more PCB to work its way through the system.” Leakage from unlined landfill sites is one source of PCBs and chemicals that have already entered the sea and been buried in sediment is being released again by dredging of navigation channels. “They are designed not to break down with heat or chemical attack,” said Jepson. “It is very hard to destroy them.” Safe burial or very high temperature incineration are the main ways to deal with PCBs. “Our research underlines the critical need for global policymakers to act quickly and decisively to tackle the lingering toxic legacy of PCBs, before it’s too late for some of our most iconic and important marine predators,” said Robin Law, also at ZSL. Nicola Hodgins, head of science and research at conservation charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: “The magnitude of the situation for marine mammals [revealed by the research] is incredibly worrying. Many thought that just because PCB’s were banned many years ago that the problem would go away.” She said, unlike whaling and getting trapped in fishing nets, PCBs were a “silent killer” and affected entire populations, not just individuals. She said disturbances of the sea-bed, by dredging or drilling, was a particular danger. “Bringing back up huge amounts of PCBs could be disastrous for marine mammals.”
News Article | February 16, 2017
University of Wyoming researchers took a big step toward solving the mystery of the decline of hirola, a rare African antelope, conducting wildlife research in one of the most formidable environments -- the border region of eastern Kenya and southern Somalia. "In spite of a long history of coexistence between hirola and local people, we think overgrazing, loss of elephants from poaching and lack of fires have taken away food supplies for hirola -- a large antelope that specializes on grass," says Abdullahi Hussein Ali, a UW second-year Ph.D. ecology student at the time of his research. "Unlike efforts to 'green' the desert in many areas, it is the encroachment of shrubs into grasslands that is impacting hirola." Ali, now a postdoctoral associate at Utah State University, was lead author of a paper, titled "Resource Selection and Landscape Change Reveal Mechanism Suppressing Population Recovery for the World's Most Endangered Antelope" that appeared in the Feb. 15 (today) issue of the Journal of Applied Ecology. The publication is a bimonthly journal of the British Ecological Society that publishes high-impact papers on the interface between ecological science and the management of biological resources. The article first appeared in the journal's online edition Feb. 3. Jacob Goheen, a UW associate professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, was a co-author of the paper. Between 2012-15, the researchers used GPS collars to track more than 50 hirola from seven herds, and found that the antelope prefer grassland habitats. Using a time series of satellite imagery, the authors showed a 250 percent increase in tree cover since the mid-1980s in the hirola's native range. This "tree encroachment" occurred at the expense of grassland habitats. Ali and his group also looked at dozens of kill sites made by lions, cheetahs and other predators of hirola. These kill sites were found in open areas -- the very areas where hirola typically spend their time foraging on grasses -- and not forested areas. The researchers concluded that habitat was the major reason why hirola have declined and remain rare for the past 40 years. Hirola numbers dwindled to fewer than 500 by the mid-1980s, and their populations have remained precariously low since. The reasons for their low numbers have puzzled wildlife biologists and conservationists. The Abdallah and Abduwaq -- Somali clans that live alongside hirola -- treat hirola as near-mythical beasts, indicators of good grass. "Fortunately, solutions for hirola recovery are at hand, and it all starts with people," Ali says. "Because hirola are indicators of healthy rangelands, local communities welcome them. We are working with these communities to find solutions that benefit hirola, other wildlife and people." Goheen, Ali's former Ph.D. supervisor at UW, commends his former student for his persistence. "Hirola don't live anywhere that's convenient for outsiders to work," Goheen explains. "This region has seldom been visited by western scientists due, in part, to political uncertainty. The fact that Ali pulled off this study under such challenging conditions is just what the hirola will need if they are to survive -- a friend in hard times." These challenges haven't stopped Ali, who is forging ahead with hirola projection and community engagement. In the second year of his Ph.D., Ali founded the Hirola Conservation Programme and is currently its director. Through this organization, Ali and his team are active in restoring grasslands throughout eastern Kenya through elephant conservation, clearing of trees and grass reseeding -- solutions that will provide benefits to both people and wildlife. The study was supported through generous contributions from many institutions, including UW's Biodiversity Institute, the British Ecological Society, the Saint Louis Zoo, UW Department of Zoology and Physiology, and the Zoological Society of London. For more information, email Ali at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Goheen at email@example.com.
News Article | October 5, 2016
Want to hear a sad story? You could read this article of mine about the first mammal lost to climate change. Or this one about how there are only 60 vaquita left on the planet. Or here’s my piece on how forest elephants are being decimated even as scientists debate if they are worthy of being called a distinct species. As an environmental journalist, I sometimes feel it’s my job to simply document the decline of life on planet Earth. The word ‘depressing’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. For many of us – myself included some days – the desperate state of our environment leaves us numb with sadness and, frankly, lost in hopelessness. We don’t act, because we don’t know what to do; we don’t act, because there’s only so much negativity we can swallow before we throw up our hands and go back to playing Pokemon Go. Without any dose of hope, we feel ourselves succumbing to despair. There may be a cure coming, however. As I write this, there is a small but growing movement within conservation to bring back a little optimism, a little hope, a little wonder into what has become a decidedly bleak calling. This week, the Zoological Society of London and Oxford University announced a Conservation Optimism Summit for 2017 in London, culminating in a big Earth Day public celebration focused on the world’s youth. For the first time, the summit will see conservationists from around the world gather to discuss how to change the culture of despair in conservation and share upbeat stories about what’s working from the Philippines to Belize to the hedgeros of the UK. The concern that conservation, and environmentalism for that matter, has become drowned in a culture of negativity has been simmering for awhile now. A paper in 2010 identified a “culture of hopelessness” in conservation biology, which the authors feared would make it harder for conservation to succeed. They argued eloquently that a glass-half-empty outlook would make it difficult to attract young peopleto conservation careers. They also warned that the constant drip-drip-drip of despair would only succeed in bringing in people who already have a negative view of the world, creating a feedback loop of despairism. The call for more optimism in conservation is underpinned by psychology: it turns out if something sounds hopeless, or too big to turn around, most people will just shrug their shoulders and go on with their lives. Apathy is often the result of gloomy messaging. This has been extensively studied in regards to climate change, but next year’s summit will be the first time it’s addressed for conservation in such a formal and public setting. If conservationists aren’t able to turn around the narrative, they fear they will continue to lose public interest, support, and, in the long run, the battle to preserve life on Earth. But it will be a delicate dance to inject optimism without undercutting the fact that biodiversity and bioabundance around the world are in deep trouble. It’s not an exaggeration to say we’ve mucked up our world. The climate is rapidly warming while our oceans are being emptied and acidified. We are still cutting down forests as if they have no value beyond chopsticks and office paper, while many of the world’s habitats have simply been silenced by over-hunting, indiscriminate trapping, and relentless killing. Meanwhile, there are 7-plus billion Homo sapiens – and we all require food, clothing and shelter, not to mention cars, air conditioners and smart phones. All this means we are facing the prospect of a mass extinction not seen since the comet that took out the dinosaurs. But there are other stories in conservation. Without the passion of generations of conservationists, we would very likely live in a world today without bison, rhinos, big cats or whales. There would be few, if any, bald eagles left. There would be zero California condors. Elephants might only be in zoos. There would never have been any Prezwalski’s horses or Kihansi spray toads to re-release back into the wild. Without hard-working conservationists, we would live in a world lacking national parks and other protected areas. Imagine that: how many more species would be extinct? How many more wildernesses would have been razed? The fact that around 15% of our land has been set aside as protected or indigenous areas is something worthy of unbridled celebration. Part of what makes optimism in conservation so challenging is the global trend of decline in wildlife, but it’s also that success stories are often decades, if not generations, in the making. The people who first started caring for the last dozen European Bison could only have faith that their efforts could one day lead to a population of some 3,000 free-roaming individuals in nine countries. The Greenpeace activists who passionately fought for the end of whaling could only dream of humpback whales rebounding to a population 80,000-strong. Species can bounce back, even sometimes from stunningly small populations. But it has to be given a chance and it takes time. Lots of time. Something human beings, so focused on the short-term, have a hard time grasping. We already know that conservation works. In fact it works really well. We just need a lot more of it – and we need faith in the long term instead of listening only to naysayers who say ‘we’re all screwed.’ Journalists like myself are hardly blameless for the largely negative portrayal of conservation today. On the one hand, we know that bad news often gets more attention – i.e., eyeballs – than happy stories. And journalism today is measured by clicks. But even more so, journalists are trained to point out what’s wrong in world. That’s our job: to uncover things that aren’t working and put them in front of the public. Journalists are not trained to fix problems – believe me – but to communicate them to those who could do something about them. But covering environmental stories, especially those with global impact, only exacerbates our journalistic penchant for focusing on the dire. The stakes of issues like climate change and ocean acidification are so high that it’s almost impossible to write about them without sounding apocalyptic. Moreover, let’s be honest, environmental issues rarely show up on your Facebook or Twitter trending feeds, which means environmental journalists struggle to find ways to get people to notice. If I could drop celebrity names into every headline, I would: Vaquita almost extinct, proclaim Beyonce, Brad Pitt and Darth Vader. In lieu of such desperation, I have to constantly ask myself: okay how do I get the public to notice this issue? And believe me I’ve tried many strategies: from oh-my-god-this-is-bad, to look-how-cute-this-animal-is, to isn’t-nature-freaking-awesome?, to seriously-wake-up-people! But here’s my pledge to you: over the next 12 months I promise to amp up my coverage of what’s working in conservation, to find some little-reported stories of comeback species. This doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the bad stories by any means, but I’ll try to achieve a better balance on this blog. After all, conservation is ultimately an act of hope. It’s a belief that actions taken today will bear fruit long in the future and that people, one day, will grow a little wiser. It’s the faith that billions of humans could, one day, cohabitate a planet with multitudes of wild tigers, flocks of orange-bellied parrots and herds of forest elephants. But we won’t get there without hope. • This article was amended on 6 October 2016 to correct the location of the 2017 Conservation Optimism Summit.
News Article | January 12, 2017
A newly recognized primate that lives in eastern Myanmar and southwestern China has been named after Star Wars' Luke Skywalker. The scientists who discovered the animal decided to choose the name Skywalker hoolock gibbon not just because of their love for Jedis and the make-believe world created by George Lucas. The scientific name of the Skywalker hoolock is hoolock tianxing. In Chinese, tianxing translates to "Heaven's movement," or "skywalker," which reflects the behavior and movement of the gibbons in the treetops where they live. The Chinese traditionally view the animals as almost mystical beings. "Skywalker refers to the distinctive gibbon behavior of moving rapidly through the forest canopy, and it also refers to the ancient Chinese belief that gibbons were highly venerated and almost mystical beings that were above other mortal animals," said Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London. "However, it doesn't hurt that this name also relates to an icon of modern popular culture." Hoolocks are a sub-type of gibbon that lives across much of Asia. Researchers estimate that fewer than 200 of skywalker hoolock gibbons live in China. Some of these gibbons live in Myanmar but the population size there is currently unknown. The researchers warn that the animals are at risk of extinction. Turvey said that the low number of remaining animals along with the threats that they face from habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, and hunting means that they need to be classified as an endangered species. Turvey and colleagues have been studying the primates since 2008. The researchers were already aware of two species of hoolock gibbons that live in the mountain forests, but by studying the gibbons in the wild and captivity for years and based on observations of the animals' genetic characteristics, teeth, and coat patterns, the researchers recommended that a third species of these apes be recognized. "Hoolocks distributed to the east of the Irrawaddy Nmai Hka Rivers, which were previously assigned to H. leuconedys, are morphologically and genetically distinct from those to the west of the river, and should be recognized as a new species, the Gaoligong hoolock gibbon or skywalker hoolock gibbon (H. tianxing sp. nov.)," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal American Journal of Primatology, which was published in November 2016. The characteristics of the jedi ape that make them different from other gibbons are the shape of the eyebrows and the color of the eye rings. While all hoolock gibbons are characterized by white eyebrows, the brows of the skywalker hoolock gibbon are downturned. The songs that the animals use to bond with other gibbons and to mark out their territory are also characterized by an unusual ring. Male skywalkers are likewise characterized by black or brown tufts. Actor Mark Hamill, who portrays Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, was proud to hear about the "Simian Skywalker" and "Jungle Jedi" when he learned about the name of the new ape species and expressed his delight on Twitter. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.