This week: Arctic record confirmed, along with a 12,000-year global temperature record. Climate disasters around the world, and a new swine flu with “pandemic potential” found? Read on for the top environmental stories of the week.
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1. Temperatures *did* hit an all-time high in the Arctic. And on the same day, it was confirmed that present-day global temperatures are at an all-time high too.
Last week, we reported that temperatures may have hit an all-time high. And this week, Russia’s state weather authority confirmed this. The heatwave still persists: temperatures in nearby towns are coming in at 40 to 45 degrees above normal. Zack Labe, an expert on Arctic climate, told CBS News that he’s more concerned about how the heat has persisted: “this tenacity is extraordinary, to say the least.” On the same day that these records were confirmed, a new study was published, suggesting that present-day global temperatures are the warmest they’ve been in the last 12,000 years. The scarier part? Possibly far longer.
Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, Dr. Michael Mann explained: “The ‘handle’ of the hockey stick just gets longer and longer with each new study”.
2. A swine flu in China is spreading to humans with “pandemic potential”.
Before you freak out or start pointing fingers at China: calm down and don’t be racist. Scientists are saying that they’ve identified a strain of H1N1 that’s rapidly spreading among pig farm workers. It does have pandemic potential, but Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, urged the public to remain calm. She added that our understanding “of what is a potential pandemic influenza strain is limited”. However, as with this coronavirus pandemic, it is a reminder that animal farming does increase our susceptibility to animal diseases. (Oh, and also: environmental destruction.)
Even as scientists make statements warning against pig farming in China, it’s perhaps useful to remember that the EU and the US are second and third in terms of top pork-producing farms globally.
3. House Democrats finally have a climate plan!
We know what you’re thinking: you mean they didn’t have a plan before? Yes, this is a landmark report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. In it, it talks about decarbonising the electricity sector, carbon taxes (with revenues funnelled to lower-income households) and acknowledges environmental racism (and including a list of policy proposals to alleviate the disproportionate burden that people of colour face). As Grist reports, these proposals are not going to become law this year, “but that’s not really the point. The 538-page plan is a message in a bottle to Democratic voters: Hang tight, your party has a climate plan.”
But as comprehensive as it might seem, the lack of a ban on fossil fuels has disappointed some…
4. Puerto Rico drought leaves 140,000 without running water.
The governor has declared a state of emergency because of the severe drought. Over 26% of the island, according to The Independent, is experiencing a severe drought, while another 60% is under a moderate drought. From tomorrow, nearly 140,000 citizens will have to go without water for 24 hours every other day. On top of the strict rationing of water usage. And this is despite the importance of handwashing and hygiene in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Unsurprisingly, this has to do with climate change. In fact, Puerto Rico is particularly vulnerable and is experiencing rising temperatures, rising sea levels, increasingly severe storms and hurricanes, and more.
And that’s not the only climate disaster this week…
5. Jakarta declares state of emergency over forest fires.
Indonesia’s third-largest province, Jakarta, just declared a state of emergency and is currently bracing itself for its annual fire season, CNA reports. Worryingly, the government has halved the budget for the team that identifies and puts out fires. Why? Because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace forests campaign in Indonesia, said that this could mean more dangerous fires and communities being left to fight them on their own. Importantly, Indonesia has some of the world’s most important tropical forests, and some remote peatland areas, that have not been restored from 2019, could be burned again. They’re also looking at possibly thicker haze compared to last year.
Slash-and-burn practices are blamed for the fires, but the story is not that simple.
1. UK: chances of 40°C days “rapidly increasing” because of the climate crisis. According to a new study, instead of reaching 40°C every 100-300 years, these temperatures can occur every 3.5 years if nothing is done to reduce emissions. “The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence,” said the lead author. Yikes.
2. Australia: over 30,000 people have called for a stop to oil and gas exploration in Western Australia. The federal government is considering selling off Ningaloo and Gnaraloo to the industry for potential offshore exploration and drilling. Environmentalists urged the government to signal to the industry that plans to encroach on the area must be scrapped. Ningaloo, specifically, is a world heritage site and is known for its annual whale shark migration, underground caves, and biodiversity.
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I’m sure you’ve all seen this shitfuckery but like me are still trying to believe it’s actually real. Our old mate Resource Minister @keithpittmp has carved up the ocean off Ningaloo and Gnaraloo and is trying to flog it off to his mates in the oil and gas industry. The Gnaraloo surf camp is an Australian legend. Ningaloo is a World Heritage area. If sold off, the area and it’s marine life – whale sharks, whales, sharks, thousands of species – will be subjected to seismic blasting, and the whole area put under risk of spills. And for what? Gas we don’t need, to be extracted by companies who don’t pay tax, to heat a planet that’s already burning. Public submissions close on Monday and I’ve got a link in my bio. Tell old mate Keithy what ya think of his idea to turn Ningaloo into an oil and gas field. There’s also a link to email Keithy directly here @protectningaloo