Great Barrier Reef Authority Warns That Climate Action Is Needed Urgently
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The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.
The position statement issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is unequivocal in its stance that the climate crisis threatens the world-renown reef. It reads:
"Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Only the strongest and fastest possible actions to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change on the Reef. Further impacts can be minimized by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible and fast-tracking actions to build Reef resilience."
Rising sea temperatures triggered by the climate crisis have decimated large swaths of the 1,400-mile reef, a UN World Heritage site that suffered back-to-back marine heat waves that triggered extensive coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017, as Agence France-Presse reported.
Despite the coral bleaching in the reef and the extensive drought and heat waves Australia has suffered, the country has set new emissions records for four straight years, as EcoWatch reported last week.
Experts say that trend shows no signs of slowing since the recently re-elected government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison will open up mines for the coal and liquefied natural gas industry.
Morrison and his government have refused to adopt emission reduction targets in line with the Paris climate agreement as part of its formal energy policy and experts doubt the country will honor its commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, according to Agence France-Presse.
The Marine Park Authority acknowledged that human-induced climate change has set the coral reef on a bad trajectory that cannot be stopped, but hopefully contained. "Further loss of coral is inevitable and can be minimized by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible," the position statement reads.
The paper also highlighted how extensive bleaching will be if the world fails to meet the Paris climate targets to keep atmospheric temperatures from rising 2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"Of particular concern are projections that the reef could be affected by bleaching events twice per decade by about 2035 and annually by about 2044 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate," the authority said.
"If bleaching becomes more frequent and more intense, there will not be enough time for reefs to recover and persist as coral-dominated systems in their current form."
The position statement called for immediate and urgent action to set forth policies that will limit the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It warned that a drastic reduction in carbon pollution is critical or reef-dependent activities such as tourism and fishing will suffer steep declines, according to the Guardian.
Environmental groups cheered the report and noted that a report from Morrison's own government agency should prompt him to address the climate crisis.
"The prime minister, a former managing director of Tourism Australia, knows how critical the reef is to the tourism industry and to Australia's international reputation," said Imogen Zethoven, the strategic director at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, as the Guardian reported. "As the caretaker for the reef and a daily witness to its decline, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is crying out for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
She added that the government's grant of over $400 million to the Great Barrier Reef foundation would be "wasted unless the Morrison government takes radical action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to save our greatest natural icon and the jobs it supports."
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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