ICYMI – eco news round up, 25 May 2019

Global sea level rise could be bigger than expected

The long-held view has been that the world’s seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100, yet scientists believes that they could now rise far more than predicted due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica. The new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure, which could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people. If emissions continue on the current trajectory, the world’s seas would be very likely to rise by between 62cm and 238cm by 2100.

“For 2100, the ice sheet contribution is very likely in the range of 7-178cm but once you add in glaciers and ice caps outside the ice sheets and thermal expansion of the seas, you tip well over two metres,” said lead author Prof. Jonathan Bamber from the University of Bristol.

According to the researchers, this scenario would have huge implications for the planet. They calculate that the world would lose an area of land equal to 1.79 million square kilometres – equivalent to the size of Libya. This would jeopardise important foods growing in these areas and make these places very difficult for people to live in. Major global cities, including London, New York and Shanghai would be under threat.

“To put this into perspective, the Syrian refugee crisis resulted in about a million refugees coming into Europe,” said Prof Bamber. “That is about 200 times smaller than the number of people who would be displaced in a 2m sea-level rise.”

Australian election could have global climate change impact

Brutal droughts, floods and wildfires were expected to make the environment a pivotal issue in Australia’s election last Saturday (May 18). Instead, victory for the Liberal party in Sydney could have global implications. Australia’s role as the world’s largest coal exporter gives the country outsized influence in the climate stakes. Burning coal is the single largest source of mankind’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and coal is more polluting than oil and gas.

Experts say the coalition government’s election victory makes it much more likely that the Adani project (a project to build a mega coal mine next to Adani) will go ahead, despite concerns about the environment. “It is probable that they will push for the final approvals to go through as quickly as possible,” Samantha Hepburn, an energy and resources law expert at Deakin University, told Agence France-Presse.

Although several climate-friendly candidates secured a place in parliament or gained ground on climate-sceptic ruling Liberals, these were not all in affluent urban areas. In one district nestled amid the Australian Alps and the Murray River, an independent ran and won on an environmentalist platform.

Within his own party, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will now have to navigate between climate deniers emboldened by victory and moderates. Marija Taflaga, a political scientist at the Australian National University, wrote in a recent commentary that Morrison “will need to address climate policy because business wants a price signal for carbon emissions.” Yet the former prime minister’s demand to voters to choose between “jobs or climate” looks set to loom over Australia’s politics well into the future.

Malaysia begins sending scrap back to developed nations

Malaysia, which has become a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, has begun to send non-recyclable plastic scrap back to the developed countries or origin, according to Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s minister of energy, technology, science, climate change and environment. Last year, Malaysia became the leading destination for plastic scrap after China banned imports of such waste. Since then, developed countries like Australia have been exporting waste to Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Dozens of recycling factories have cropped up in Malaysia, many without an operating licence, and residents have subsequently complained of environmental damage. Most of the scrap coming into the country is non-recyclable contaminated and low quality plastic from developed countries.

Now, Malaysia has begun sending back the waste to its country of origin. Last month, Ms Yeo threatened to send back the waste saying, “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world”. She posted images of illegal plastic shipments on her Facebook page along with international regulations on plastic waste. The process is now underway, with the first five containers of contaminated plastic waste that was smuggled into the country sent back to Spain, Ms Yeo said.

Coral damage, ecosystem loss tied to ‘Reef Grief’ in Australia

Scientists at James Cook University in Queensland are among the world’s foremost experts on the damaged coral and threatened biodiversity of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but their recent research focuses instead on people, measuring ‘Reef Grief’, the sorrow and mourning that come as people try to come to grips with the loss of treasured environments and the sense of identity attached to them. In a paper published this month in Sustainability Science, the James Cook researchers report their findings after conducting almost 4,000 surveys with an array of people invested in the reefs, including 1,870 local residents and another 1,804 tourists, all face-to-face.

“Results show that around half of residents, tourists and tourist operators surveyed, and almost one quarter of fishers, reports significant Reef Grief”, the researchers said. “It appears that people have already entered a period of grieving and mourning for the iconic landscape even though as much as 50 percent of the Great Barrier Reef is reportedly undamaged”.

The scientists urge more attention to ecological mourning, both as a shared communal experience and as a motivating factor to help drive environmental protection efforts and successful transition in the face of climate change.

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