By Georgina Woods
[Editor's note: In case you missed it, as Australia is suffering from the hottest day on record, yesterday the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its monthly State of the Climate report, which showed 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S. Media Matters for America released a report yesterday showing that even with 2012 being the hottest year on record in the continental U.S., climate coverage from mainstream media remained minimal.]
Australia has suffered through its hottest day on record, and more heat waves are forecast. If we want to spare our children worse to come, we need to stop creating greenhouse pollution.
Photo: Bureau or Meteorology
"A few minutes later, an image arrived which was really—it's still quite upsetting to see the image - it's all of our five children underneath the jetty huddled up to neck-deep sea water which is cold, we've swam the day before and it was cold,” said Bonnie Walker, of Dunalley, Tasmania, while describing how her children and parents spent three hours in the water to survive the bushfire that destroyed their home.
“Heatwaves, fires, floods and southern Australian droughts are all expected to become more frequent and more intense in the coming decades. Snow and frost are very likely to become rarer or less intense events. Locally and regionally, the greatest impacts will be felt through changes in water availability and sea level, and extreme weather events,” according to the publication Climate Change: Science and Solution s for Australia.
Sometimes, you make a decision at the moment of a crisis that determines your fate. Sometimes, crises are short-lived and you can get underwater, get to high ground, lock yourself in a cellar, ride out the worst.
Climate change isn’t like that. The lead times for cause and effect are much longer and more lingering. The decisions we’ve made, worldwide, for the last two decades are costing lives and livelihoods right now, as the effects of climate change intensify. In some countries, this may mean more severe cold weather, in Australia, we get an intensification of our floods, heatwaves and fire.
Global warming, brought by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, is changing the climate. It is increasing global temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. It is increasing the probability of extreme fire weather days in Australia, like the ones we’ve experienced around the country this week and in Tasmania last week.1
Over the coming decades, climate change will continue this trend resulting in greater numbers of extremely hot days and intense heatwaves. On the current climate change trajectory, the number of days over 35°C each year is likely to rise substantially in all major cities by the end of the century. For example, in Darwin they could rise from the current 11 to more than 300 days each year.2
Under a scenario of unmitigated climate change the annual number of temperature related deaths could increase from an estimated 5,800 in 1990 to 7,900 in 2050 and 17,200 in 2100.3
When it comes to climate change, we won’t be able to hide from the flames. Action we take this year won’t change the conditions we experience next summer. But if we take action to stop dumping greenhouse pollution in the sky, it might just change the summer our kids have in 2030.
Our hearts are too full of compassion and worry about our country men and women fighting fires right now to outline how Australia can save the summer of 2030.
For now, we’re crouching in the cool and waiting for the storm to pass. But, when it’s over and we’re counting the cost, we hope very much that you will join us in fighting to keep the heat down for our little ones.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Georgina Woods is a climate campaigner at Greenpeace Australia.
1Climate Commission Secretariat (2011) The Critical Decade: Climate science, risks and responses. Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) ISBN: 978-1-921299-50-6 (pdf)
2CSIRO and BOM (2007) Climate change in Australia: technical report 2007. CSIRO. ISBN 9781921232947 (PDF)
3 Bambrick, H., Dear, K., Woodruff, R., Hanigan, I., and McMichael, A. (2008). The Impacts of Climate Change on Three Health Outcomes: Temperature-Related Mortality and Hospitalisations, Salmonellosis and Other Bacterial Gastroenteritis, and Population at Risk From Dengue. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.