Newsdesk – November 4

Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish Parliament. Credit: Anders Hellberg Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

(Opinion) A Scary Year for Climate Change.  Scientists’ warnings about climate change have intensified over the past 12 months. Will world leaders finally listen? Again and again, the same message, 16-year old Greta Thunberg tweeted recently. “Listen to the scientists, listen to the scientists. Listen to the scientists!” The scientist have been warning us about severe global impacts from climate change for more than three decades. With the release of a special report from the United Nations’ global climate science authority last October (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we have been warned about the potential impacts of a rise in global temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius and more. The report provided a “breakthrough” moment in public consciousness and press coverage, with countless soundbites, headlines, and images warning of a “12-year” deadline to head off “climate change catastrophe. Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth. Just as the disastrous future impacts of climate change were coming into clearer focus, we also received sobering news about the present. Last December, the Global Carbon Project projected that carbon dioxide emissions worldwide reached an all-time high in 2018. In addition, a severe mid-summer Arctic heat wave contributed to historic melting of the Greenland ice sheet, with 12.5 billion tons of ice melting into the ocean on a single day — the biggest single-day volume loss on record. In April, a NASA-funded study of the Greenland ice sheet found the mass loss of ice discharged into the ocean from glaciers on the world’s largest island had increased six-fold since the 1980s. In May, a landmark U.N. biodiversity report provided another stark statistic: One million animal and plant species on Earth are threatened with extinction, and rates of extinction are “accelerating.” The upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference — the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the U.N. climate treaty — will once again put pressure on delegates from nearly 200 nations to deliver concrete action on promises made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Will the world leaders at COP25 be listening, and what will they do? – Scientific American

  • Scotland restores its peatlands to keep carbon in the ground – Made For Minds
  • I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out – The New York Times
  • How to die a good, green death – Crosscut
  • Long-distance electric buses are coming to the U.S – Fast Company
  • Meet the Teens Suing Canada to Stop a Pipeline – The Thyee 
  • New Lawsuit Alleges Ben & Jerry’s Deceives Consumers About Farming Practices – VPR
  • China’s first Fridays for Future sees teen planting trees – Made For MInds
A worker sorts plastic bottles for recycling in Dong Xiao Kou village, on the outskirts of Beijing. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

We know plastic bottles are choking our planet. So why are companies still selling them? More than 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world per minute, 2017 report says. The American Beverage Association announced on Tuesday that the world’s leading beverage companies — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper — are investing $100 million to reduce the use of new plastic and improve plastic bottle recycling across the globe. Plastic packaging is scattered in every corner of our planet. It’s been found in the Arctic and the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean, the Mariana Trench.  And while Canada is looking to ban some single-use plastics, such as bags, straws and cutlery, one of the most significant contributors to the problem remains beverage bottles. Our love affair with the plastic bottle started in the 1970s.   Before that starting in 1929, there were glass bottle deposit programs in communities across the U.S.  Once you returned your bottle, you received money back, which served as an incentive to reuse. DuPont engineer Nathaniel Wyeth developed PET (polyethylene terephthalate), stronger type of plastic, which he patented in 1973. The soft drink industry loved it.  It weighed less than glass, so it was cheaper to ship, and it didn’t run the risk of breaking. Sara Wingstrand, new plastics economy project manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a U.K.-based environmental charity, says plastic bottles present the same problem as the rest of the plastic packaging system: There is no value in keeping them in circulation.  And since the vast majority of plastic bottles don’t find their way into recycling bins, they just keep piling up. Creating a deposit system for plastic bottles could be one of the solutions, provided the financial incentive is enough to motivate people to return their bottles. In Latin America, Coca-Cola Brazil invested roughly $425 million US in a returnable plastic bottle program. The consumer pays an indirect deposit (a fee built into the price) when buying the drink and then gets a discount on their next purchase when the bottle is returned. The bottles are then cleaned and reused – CBC

Deforestation in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Carbon emissions from loss of intact tropical forest a ‘ticking time bomb’. Between 2000 and 2013,  about 7 percent of the world’s intact tropical forests were destroyed, leading not just to direct carbon emissions but also “hidden” emissions from logging, fragmentation and wildlife loss. There were 1.36 billion acres of intact tropical forests in 2013, an area half the size of the U.S. The lead author Sean Maxwell from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland, Australia published the research, in which he expresses an urgent need to safeguard intact tropical forests since they play an indispensable role in stabilizing the climate. Though intact forests (free of large-scale human interference observable by satellites) constitute only about 20 percent of all tropical forests, they lock away as much as 40 percent of above-the-ground carbon stored in tropical forests. The researchers assessed that the loss of 7.2 percent of intact tropical forests between 2000 and 2013 will result in long-term carbon footprint six times greater than earlier estimates had suggested. The earlier estimates failed to capture the impacts of degradation due to selective logging, forest edge effects, and wildlife loss. Tom Evans, another study co-author from the Wildlife Conservation Society says that relatively undisturbed forests serve as refuges for biodiversity, protect watersheds, influence regional climates, and even safeguard human health, because the risk of disease transmission increases when forests are opened up. At least 35 percent of the intact forests studied are home to and protected by indigenous peoples, who face a precarious future themselves. The ability of indigenous communities to protect their lands and the forests is constantly challenged in the face of a hostile government in Brazil, which has recently captured international attention – Mongabay