Pascal Gunsch

Global issues

ARTICLE 1

Climate change link to lizard extinction
jClimate change could wipe out 20% of the world’s lizard species by 2080, according to a global-scale study.
An international team of scientists also found that rising temperatures had already driven 12% of Mexico’s lizard populations to extinction.
Based on this discovery, the team was able to make global predictions using an “extinction model”.
They conclude, in an article in Science journal, that “lizards have already crossed a threshold for extinctions”.
Although the grim prediction for 2080 could change if humans are able to slow global climate warming, the scientists say that a sharp decline in their numbers had already begun and would continue for decades.
The large research team was led by Barry Sinervo from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, US.
He said: “We are actually seeing lowland species moving upward in elevation, slowly driving upland species extinct, and if the upland species can’t evolve fast enough then they’re going to continue to go extinct.”
Lizards, the researchers say, are far more susceptible to climate-warming extinction than previously thought. Many species live right at the edge of their “thermal limits”.
Rising temperatures, they explained, leave lizards unable to spend sufficient time foraging for food, as they have to rest and regulate their body temperature.
A group of biologists including Dr Raymond Huey from the University of Washington in Seattle wrote an accompanying article in Science explaining the significance of the research.
Dr Huey and his colleagues said the predictions were “disturbing”.
But they pointed out that follow-up surveys were needed to confirm the results.
“Lizard populations rise and fall over time and failure to detect individuals during short surveys may indicate transient rarity rather than extinction,” they wrote.
But their article went on to say that the research team had shown that “climate-forced extinctions were not only in the future” but were “happening now”.
— Victoria Gill, bbc.co.uk/news, Friday 14 May 2010

Everyone knows the climate is changing. But only few have considered its impacts on biodiversity. Especially ectotherms, who regulate their body temperature using the temperature of their environment, are at great risk. If the environment gets warmer, ectotherms such as lizards, have to rest longer. The lizards can catch less prey and will eventually die of starvation. In fact, the lizards’ extinction is not something that will happen, but an event that is taking place at the moment.
It is of vital importance that people realise that the climate change is more than just warming of the Earth. The ‘change’ part doesn’t only refer to the ‘climate’, but also to the Earth’s biodiversity. Not only lizards, but all ectotherms are affected by changes in the temperature. The worst part is that most food chains start with ectotherms, such as fish and insects. The animals that eat these animals, will have to change too to stay in line with their prey. In this way, entire food chains change, or, even worse, collapse.
I think everybody is fascinated by the diversity of life, but contrary no one seems to care for it. I think that we, as humans, should really be ashamed of the fact that we tend to believe that we stand above nature. We are literally devastating the nature from which we were once created. I think that if everybody has to realise that nature, evolution and time only work in one direction: forward. There is no way of going back in time, taking an extinct animal and bring it back to existence. If something happened, there is no way to turn back.
There will come a time that the current climate change is really noticeable, but by then, we will be too late. There still is time to reduce our emissions and other actions which affect the environment. But it will only work if people know why it is so important to spare the environment.

ARTICLE 2

How will climate change impact on fresh water security?
lFresh water is crucial to human society – not just for drinking, but also for farming, washing and many other activities. It is expected to become increasingly scarce in the future, and this is partly due to climate change.
Understanding the problem of fresh water scarcity begins by considering the distribution of water on the planet. Approximately 98% of our water is salty and only 2% is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has several effects on these proportions on a global scale. The main one is that warming causes polar ice to melt into the sea, which turns fresh water into sea water, although this has little direct effect on water supply.
Another effect of warming is to increase the amount of water that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn can lead to more and heavier rainfall when the air cools. Although more rainfall can add to fresh water resources, heavier rainfall leads to more rapid movement of water from the atmosphere back to the oceans, reducing our ability to store and use it. Warmer air also means that snowfall is replaced by rainfall and evaporation rates tend to increase. Yet another impact of higher temperatures is the melting of inland glaciers. This will increase water supply to rivers and lakes in the short to medium term, but this will cease once these glaciers have melted. In the sub-tropics, climate change is likely to lead to reduced rainfall in what are already dry regions. The overall effect is an intensification of the water cycle that causes more extreme floods and droughts globally.
When planning future water supplies, however, the global picture is less important than the effect of warming on fresh water availability in individual regions and in individual seasons. This is a much more complicated thing to predict than global trends. The IPCC technical report on climate change and water concludes that, despite global increases in rainfall, many dry regions including the Mediterranean and southern Africa will suffer badly from reduced rainfall and increased evaporation. As a result, the IPCC special report on climate change adaptation estimates that around one billion people in dry regions may face increasing water scarcity.
However, the degree to which this will happen cannot be predicted with confidence by current models. In many regions different models cannot even agree on whether the climate will become wetter or drier. For example, a recent study of future flows in the River Thames at Kingston shows a possible 11% increase over the next 80 years relative to the last 60 years. However, under an identical emissions scenario, the same report shows an alternative projection of a 7% decrease in flows.
Especially little is known about future declines in regional groundwater resources because of lack of research on this topic, even though around 50% of global domestic water supply comes from groundwater. Although scientists are making progress in reducing uncertainty about fresh water scarcity, these kinds of unknowns mean that water supply strategies must be adaptable so that they can be effective under different scenarios.
The direct impact of climate change is not the only reason to be concerned about future fresh water scarcity – a fact highlighted by a recent United Nations Environment Programme report. The increasing global population means more demand for agriculture, greater use of water for irrigation and more water pollution. In parallel, rising affluence in some countries means a larger number of people living water-intensive lifestyles, including watering of gardens, cleaning cars and using washing machines and dishwashers. Rapidly developing economies also result in more industry and in many cases this comes without modern technology for water saving and pollution control. Therefore concerns about climate change must be viewed alongside management of pollution and demand for water.
The most common solution to increasing demand, and a way of insuring against possible climate change impacts, is the engineered redistribution of freshwater over space and time: reservoirs to store it, pipelines to transfer it, and desalination to recover freshwater from the oceans. Efforts are also being made to increase water saving, reuse and recycling, and in the UK there is currently major investment into education and water-saving technology by the government and water industry.
Continued investment in education and research will be essential to providing the knowledge, skills and technology needed to combat fresh water scarcity in the future.
— Grantham Institute, Imperial College London and Duncan Clark, guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 November 2012

Of all the water the water on our planet, only 2% is fresh water. Due to the current climate change, 2/3 of all fresh water, stored in the polar caps, will disappear and flow into the salty ocean. Another ‘side-effect’ of global warming is that the atmosphere gets a greater storage capacity for water. When the atmosphere can hold more water, rainfall will intensify, water will flow more rapidly to the ocean, glaciers will melt faster and an overall exaggeration of the water cycle will be the result. This is not a desirable situation, especially not when water supply is already a major problem faced by many countries.
Water is a major part of our life, not only because we need it as a nutrient, but also because we would like to do the dishes, use the washing-machine, take a shower and wash our cars from time to time. Scarcer water supplies won’t only afflict those who are in desperate need of clean water, it will have a great impact on the western world too.
Huge amounts of water could be saved if we didn’t consume as much water as we do now. However, the number of industrialised ‘western’ countries is increasing and there is an increasing demand for water. The only way to save our water supplies is by reducing global warming, but this is far from achievable on short term. Continuous efforts and education to show people the counter side of our lifestyle, is the only way to change our behaviour and save our water supplies.

ARTICLE 3

‘Climate change is taking place before our eyes’ – the weather of 2012
Review of 2012 – environment: shrinking Arctic sea ice, record temperatures, flooding, droughts, hurricane Sandy and super-typhoon Bopha; the year abnormal weather became normal
When in September the Arctic sea ice that freezes and melts each year shrank to its lowest extent ever recorded and then contracted a further 500,000 sq km, the small world of ice scientists was shocked. This was unprecedented, yet there was nothing unusual about the meteorological conditions in the Arctic in 2012, no vast storms to break up the ice, or heatwave to hasten the retreat. Only widespread warming of the atmosphere could have been responsible for less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer, the scientists concluded.
It was, said the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), just one of dozens of major physical events in 2012 that convinced many people that the extremes have become normal.
The most dramatic event was possibly hurricane Sandy, which swept through the Caribbean and up the east coast of the United States, leaving hundreds dead and thousands without power or shelter. But just a few weeks later it was possibly surpassed in strength by super-typhoon Bopha, which roared across Mindanao in the Philippines killing at least 900 people and leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
Typhoons aren’t unusual in the Philippines or the US, but both of these were well outside their normal timescale and location.
Officially, said the WMO, the first 10 months of 2012 were the ninth-warmest since records began in the mid-19th century, with early months cooled by a La Niña weather event in the Pacific. In addition, 2012 broke the record for carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.
Governments saw records tumble almost every season. According to Nasa, it’s now been 28 years since the globe experienced temperatures cooler than the 1951-1980 average. Globally, 10 of the 11 hottest years have now been in the last 11 years.
The US was on course to experience by far its hottest year on record. Nearly 15,000 new daily heat records were set and Europe had its warmest spring ever recorded.
Heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes battered vulnerable countries. “The danger signs are all around. One-third of the world’s population lives in countries with moderate to high water stress; land degradation affects 1.5 billion people. Ice caps are showing unprecedented melting, permafrost is thawing, sea levels are rising. The abnormal is now the new normal,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
Former US vice-president Al Gore backed this up: “Every night on the news now, practically, is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.”
“Far-reaching changes [are] taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” said Michel Jarraud, head of the Geneva-based WMO.
“Natural cooling events such as La Niña do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities,” he added.
But the climate sceptics hit back, saying hysteria was fuelling fears of nonexistent manmade climate change. “The promoters … have essentially declared that manmade climate change will cause many bad weather events to happen. And since bad weather events always happen, there is no shortage of ‘proof’ of their predictions,” said Marc Morano of Climate Depot.
“They can always claim every bad weather event as evidence of their correctness. There is no way anyone can falsify the global warming claims now because any weather event that happens ‘proves’ their case, despite the fact that the current weather is neither historically unprecedented, nor unusual,” he added.
Nevertheless, the US government’s official drought monitor showed nearly two-thirds of the continental US (65.5%) to be in unprecedented “moderate to exceptional drought” by 25 September. Severe drought conditions hit Russia and Siberia during June and July.
In China, Yunnan and south-western Sichuan provinces experienced severe drought during winter and spring. Northern Brazil witnessed the worst drought in 50 years, and the April–October precipitation total in Australia was 31% below normal.
Many parts of western Africa and the Sahel, including Niger and Chad, suffered serious flooding between July and September because of a very active monsoon. Exceptional floods hit Nigeria and parts of southern China experienced their heaviest rainfall in the last 32 years. Devastating monsoon floods hit Pakistan during September.
Only the number of cyclones worldwide was around normal. But, said the WMO, there was some evidence that they were more intense.
— John Vidal, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 December 2012

Something really bad is happening to the climate: ice caps shrank, the Sahel experienced flash floodings, Australia, China, Russia and the US were hit by extreme droughts, and hurricanes and typhones such as Sandy and Bopha killed hundreds of people. The major cause of these changes seems to be global warming.
Unless we act soon, the future of our climate might grow worse. We are continually filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, which keep the earth warmed, as if it were a greenhouse. The greenhouse effect itself isn’t the problem, the greenhouse gasses that enhance it are. There’s only one way to stop greenhouse gas emissions, and that is stopping the emission of greenhouse gasses. This is, however, easier said than done.
One of the major problems is that people want to change the situation, but just don’t know how. It is clear that you reduce greenhouse gas emissions when you don’t drive on fossil fuels, but no one would stop driving to save the environment. The government should get involved with thinking of other ways to get the citizens involved in saving the climate. Simple changes, such as switching of the lights when you don’t need them, all make a difference, and if everyone did so, the effects would be noticeable.
In my opinion, the government should also help with making durable energy more accessible to the public. Solar panels, for example, are a great source of energy. However, they are quite expensive and if the government doesn’t promote people buying the likes, durable energy won’t be used much now, nor in the future.

ARTICLE 4

Afghan, Taliban Leaders to Meet in Paris
ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan peace negotiators and leaders are set to meet with the Taliban and other rebel groups in France on Thursday to discuss ways to end the conflict in Afghanistan as NATO troops prepare to withdraw in 2014.
France is hosting the Afghan conference — only days after completing its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The meeting will be at an undisclosed location near Paris, and media coverage is not permitted.
This will be the first time that officials of the Taliban rebel movement, members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and senior leaders from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance will sit across a table from one another to discuss their country’s future.
The Peace Council, established in September 2010 by President Hamid Karzai, is attempting to open talks with Taliban insurgents to persuade them to end the violence and join the political reconciliation process.
Fugitive Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami group, which is fighting NATO-led coalition forces alongside the Taliban, is attending this week’s meeting in France. Its delegation is led by Ghairat Baheer, Hikmatyar’s son-in-law.
Baheer says his group and the Taliban have agreed to take part in the two-day discussions because they admire the French government for withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan.
“We believe that in the presence of the foreign troops in Afghanistan, there would not be any peaceful solution to the [Afghan] conflict. So this meeting is of great significance. It is taking place in a very critical and important time, and we are trying to exploit that situation, he said. “This is an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned negotiation. The French are only facilitators. They are not participating in our discussions, and I hope something positive will come out of it.”
Beheer says the United States is not involved in the meeting, which is organized by the Foundation for Strategic Research, a French think tank.
Taliban officials say there would only be speeches at the event, and that no political commitments or peace negotiations will take place with representatives of the Afghan Peace Council.
Speaking to reporters in Kabul on Tuesday, Mr. Karzai reiterated his support for the Afghan dialogue.
The Afghan president said his country has “a desire for peace and every real and right initiative,” whether it is from the United Nations or Afghan elders, whom he says, have been welcomed and supported by his government.
Support for political reconciliation has grown in the country because, Afghan leaders say, the nation is tired of fighting. Afghan activists say it is possible to reconcile with the Taliban without compromising on basic women’s and human rights.
Afghan peace activist Nargis Nehan says there are parliamentarians and members of the government who were against women’s rights and used violence to claim power during the country’s civil war in the 1990s.
“We have managed to reconcile with them, and today we see some of them as our ministers, as our parliamentarians. Of course, many of them have not been brought to justice; we are not happy about them. But we believe that if we have reconciliation and political settlement together with justice, we will be able to actually reconcile with them [i.e., the Taliban] and bring them on board,” Nehan said.
The Taliban imposed strict Islamic law in Afghanistan until they were routed by a U.S.-led invasion 11 years ago.
— Ayaz Gul, voanews.com, Tuesday 19 December 2012

France is hosting a conference where, after 11 years of war, the Taliban rebels and members of the Afghan government will finally negotiate for peace. No one is able to say an exact number, but estimates of causalities of this war are in thousands. Afghanistan is tired of fighting, and as UN troops are withdrawing, peace has to be negotiated.
I think it is good that both parties (Taliban and the Afghan government) sit across the table to sort it all out. After all, it turned out that fighting a war wasn’t quite as effective as they initially thought. The best way of solving a conflict is to talk about it. On the other hand, the Taliban has done terrible things and it has violated human rights. Not only did they oppress women, they also trafficked them to sell them as sex slaves. The Taliban murdered a lot of innocent people with their terrorist attacks and massacres too. I do not think that these violations can be left unpunished. On the other hand, what result will punishment give? Probably more war and hatred, which is something that has to be prevented. So, how strange it might seem, I believe that the best way of solving this problem is by giving the Taliban a second chance. Of course there would be conditions, which will ensure they do not violate human rights again. Let’s just hope this decade-lasting conflict will end soon and peacefully.

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