Global temperatures are on the rise again as 2016 has been marked as the hottest on record. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which published its annual assessment of the climate today, said the unusually warm weather has continued into 2017.
Global warming, experts say, is largely driven by human activity and the release of carbon dioxide emissions. But an El Niño weather pattern consisting of naturally warm weather in the equatorial Pacific region is also a contributor.
"Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory," World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson said in a release.
In the WMO's annual State of the Global Climate, it said that in the years since 2001, temperatures have been at least 0.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period. And those temperatures continue to be consistent with a warming trend of 0.1-0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, it added.
Furthermore, the 2015-16 El Niño weather events have only increased the warming, it continued, noting that global sea levels rose during the El Niño event, with 2016 levels hitting new highs. Meantime, global sea ice extent fell by more than 4 million square kilometers below the average November levels.
And CO2 levels hit the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per million in 2015. They are not expected to fall below that level for generations given the long-lasting nature of CO2, the report said. The result? Severe droughts that brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern African as well as Central America. Meantime, Hurricane Matthew, which blew through Haiti and up the Eastern seaboard last October, caused significant financial losses in the U.S.
"This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record—a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
"Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year," he added. "With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident."
This WMO report is getting released just after the Trump administration unveiled its proposed budget for the next fiscal year—one that would cut funding not just for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but also the climate initiatives established during the Obama years. President Trump has further issued an executive order that essentially said that his Department of Justice would cease to defend the Clean Power Plan in court.
"While the data show an ever increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand," Professor Robert Watson, a distinguished climate scientist at the UK's University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN's climate science panel, told the Guardian.
The newspaper previously said that the 2016 temperature data shows that temperatures levels have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius above the levels just seen before the industrial revolution. That's when the developed world began to deploy fossil-fuels on a large-scale basis. The rising temperatures, however, come "perilously close" to the 1.5 degree Celsius ceiling that the global community agreed to in December 2015.
"Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere," Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. told the Guardian. "In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilization, which thrives on stability."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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