The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — An environmentalist billionaire who has pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars targeting Republicans who reject climate change announced Friday that he is now creating a fund to help victims of extreme weather disasters, starting with wildfires in the American West.
Tom Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, launched the Climate Disaster Relief Fund that will draw on the couple’s personal profits from investments in Kinder Morgan, one of the largest energy companies in North America.
Climate change leads to warming temperatures, drought and insect outbreaks, which exacerbate costly wildfires, Steyer said in a statement.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our generation,” he said. “We can no longer afford to wait to address this very real threat.”
News that the catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is already underway, like other big reports about the southernmost continent, spur chatter and questions about what’s really happening at the bottom of the world.
Here, Live Science explains the reality behind some common misconceptions about big changes in Antarctica.
MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s famous wandering gray wolf, dubbed OR-7, may have found the mate he has trekked thousands of miles looking for, wildlife authorities said Monday. It’s likely the pair spawned pups, and if confirmed, the rare predators would be the first breeding pair of wolves in the Oregon’s Cascade Range since the early 1900s.
Officials said cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades captured several images of what appears to be a female wolf in the same area where OR-7’s GPS collar shows he has been living.
BONN, Germany (Reuters) – Rising sea levels have washed the remains of at least 26 Japanese World War Two soldiers from their graves on a low-lying Pacific archipelago, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands said on Friday.
“There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves. It’s that serious,” Tony de Brum told reporters on the sidelines of U.N. climate change talks in Germany.
Putting the blame on climate change, which threatens the existence of the islands that are only 2 meters (6 ft) above sea level at their highest, de Brum said: “Even the dead are affected.”
Twenty-six skeletons have been found on Santo Island after high tides battered the archipelago from February to April, he said, adding that more may be found. Unexploded bombs and other military equipment have also washed up in recent months.
Some 56 million years ago, a massive pulse of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere sent global temperatures soaring. In the oceans, carbonate sediments dissolved, some organisms went extinct and others evolved. Scientists have long suspected that ocean acidification caused the crisis — similar to today, as humanmade CO2 combines with seawater to change its chemistry. Now, for the first time, scientists have quantified the extent of surface acidification from those ancient days, and the news is not good: the oceans are on track to acidify at least as much as they did then, only at a much faster rate.
As the developing world continues to develop, standards of living and access to technology increases. Unfortunately, as personal computers, laptops and mobile phones become increasingly common so the problem of recycling and disposal of such devices when they become technologically obsolete rises too, according to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management. Neelu Jain of the PEC University of Technology, in Chandigarh and Pamela Chawla of the Surya World, Surya World Technical Campus in Punjab, India, have estimated the potential number of obsolete desktop and notebook computers and the quantity of various toxic components that will be generated from these devices over the next ten to fifteen years in India. They suggest that it will take three decades at the current rate of penetration before there is one computer per capita across the nation. However, there will be higher-end users who have more than one device and given a population of almost 1.3 billion, this conservative rate of growth means a lot of computers to be disposed of in that time.
As such, their research suggests that there will be 126 million desktop computers and 900 million notebook computers that will be past their life expectancy by the year 2025. They suggest that computer recycling capacity will need to be able to cope with more than a billion PCs by 2020.
Fish and aquatic life living in the high seas are more valuable as a carbon sink than as food and should be better protected, according to research from the University of British Columbia. The study found fish and aquatic life remove 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, a service valued at about $148 billion US. This dwarfs the $16 billion US paid for 10 million tonnes of fish caught on the high seas annually.
“Countries around the world are struggling to find cost effective ways to reduce their carbon emissions,” says Rashid Sumaila, director of the UBC Fisheries Economics Research Unit. “We’ve found that the high seas are a natural system that is doing a good job of it for free.”
Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate the entire population of purple ochre sea stars. Prior to this, Oregon had been the only part of the West Coast that had been largely spared this devastating disease.
The ochre sea star, which is the species most heavily affected by the disease in the intertidal zone, may be headed toward localized extinction in Oregon, according to researchers at Oregon State University who have been monitoring the outbreak. As a “keystone” predator, its loss could disrupt the entire marine intertidal ecosystem.
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