Newsdesk – January 5

In this aerial view ice lies in a lake formed by meltwater from the Rhone glacier on August 19, 2019 near Obergoms, Switzerland. Credit: Sean Gallup Getty Images

These Are the Biggest Climate Questions for the New Decade. The 2010s brought major climate science advances, but researchers still want to pin down estimates of Arctic melt and sea-level rise. There are still big questions about the Arctic climate to resolve. Scientists know the Arctic is heating up at breakneck speed — but they’re still investigating all the reasons why.  Sea ice and snow help reflect sunlight away from the Earth. As they melt away, they allow more heat to reach the surface, warming the local climate and causing even more melting to occur. Sea-level rise is one of the most serious consequences of climate change, with the potential to displace millions of people in coastal areas around the world. At the moment, the world’s oceans are rising at an average rate of about 3 millimeters each year. It appears to be speeding up over time. That may not sound like much, but scientists are already documenting an increase in coastal flooding in many places around the world. And one of the biggest uncertainties about future sea-level rise is the behavior of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, both of which are pouring billions of tons of ice into the ocean each year. In recent years, scientists have discovered that warm ocean currents are helping to melt some glaciers from the bottom up, both in Greenland and particularly in parts of West Antarctica. Better understanding the relationship between oceans and ice is a key priority for glacier experts. It was once thought to be impossible, but scientists are now able to estimate the influence of global warming on individual events, like heat waves or hurricanes. Some organizations are working to develop sophisticated attribution services, similar to weather services, which would release analyses of extreme events as soon as they occur. Scientists are working to improve their predictions of future extreme events in a warming world – Scientific American

  • Be a More Sustainable Traveler – The New York Times
  • Environmental damage exacerbates Jakarta flooding amid record rainfall – Mongabay
  • 5 energy fights to watch in 2020 – E&E News
  • Moscow adopts 15-year grand plan for Northern Sea Route – The Barents Observer
  • Christian climate change scientist says crisis is ‘loading the dice against us’ – Global News
  • Years of drought threaten South Africa’s wildlife industry – Reuters
  • For these bears in the Ukraine, it’s too warm to hibernate – MNN
Anwen, a female koala, recovers from burns at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia, on November 29, 2019. Nathan Edwards/Getty Images

A staggering 500 million animals are estimated dead in Australia’s fires. Half a billion kangaroos, koalas, and others — killed?   As fires continue to rip through Australia, some devastating numbers are emerging: At least 24 people killed. More than 15.6 million acres torched.  Over 1,400 homes destroyed.  And, according to one biodiversity expert’s count, an estimated 480 million animals killed.  Many wild animals and farm animals have been killed directly by the flames. Other animals have not been burned alive but have faced death due to the destruction of their natural environment, which they rely on for food and shelter. It’s also worth noting that the 480 million estimate includes mammals, birds, and reptiles, but does not include insects, bats, or frogs. In 2007, Chris Dickman co-authored a report for the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) on how land-clearing affects Australian wildlife in the state of New South Wales (NSW). To calculate the impact, he and the other authors first mined previously published studies for estimates of mammal population density in NSW. Then they multiplied the density estimates by the areas of vegetation approved to be cleared.  Using this simple formula, Dickman can now calculate that approximately 480 million animals have been killed since the bushfires in NSW started in September.  You might be asking yourself:  Can’t animals just run away from a raging fire? Can’t birds just fly away? Certainly, large animals, like kangaroos or emus — many birds, of course — will be able to move away from the fire as it approaches,” Dickman told the BBC.  “It’s the less mobile species and the smaller ones that depend on the forest itself that are really in the firing line,” he added. Koalas are a good example. It is estimated that 8,000 of them have died from the fires. That’s almost one-third of all koalas in New South Wales – Vox

Indigenous women march, August 2019. (Credit: Apib Comunicação/flickr)

Remembering those lost this year who left their mark on our planet.  2019 saw the deaths of many notable people from environmental politics, science and advocacy.  Walter Munk, 101, “The Einstein of the Oceans” developed techniques for measuring ocean temperatures and sea level rise and helped lead the Scripps Institute of Oceanography to world-class status. The marine scientist was renowned for his passion for exploring waves, marine life, and the way Earth’s largest bodies of water affect the planet’s climate. He also analyzed the fallout of the hydrogen bomb and was among the first scientists to pull on scuba gear and go diving to study the oceans, according to the Union-Tribune.  Known as “The Grandfather of Climate Science,” Wally Broecker died on Monday, he was 87.  Broecker was a climate scientist who brought the term “global warming” into the public and scientific lexicon. A professor in the department of earth and environmental science at Columbia, he was among the early scientists who raised alarms about the drastic changes in the planet’s climate that humans could bring about over a relatively short period of time.  His 1975 paper “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” predicted the current rise in global temperatures as a result of increased carbon dioxide levels — and popularized the term “global warming” to describe the phenomenon.  William Ruckelshaus, also 87 was the first Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970.  The lifelong Republican Ruckelshaus helped write Indiana’s first air pollution laws as a state deputy attorney general in the 1960s, and was appointed the first head of the Environment Protection Agency by President Nixon in 1970.  As the first director of the EPA, Bill Ruckelshaus banned DDT from U.S. agriculture, went after steel and paper companies for water pollution, and told major cities to reduce the sewage they sent into water systems – The Daily Climate