Friday, August 11, 2017

No problem!

Discussions of our impact on the environment are not new.  We discovered early on that we could poison the air in our cities.  We discovered spikes in the rate of cancers and a long list of respiratory problems associated with pollution. We found long-term health problems from factory products that invaded every community, even every home.  Asbestos and lead paint are the ones that most people remember.  Lead contamination of the water supply has resurfaced recently as a health problem for one city.  Air pollution is still with us.

Pumping fluids out of the ground can have an impact.  Still a relatively complex discussion, but ongoing.  Update 04/2018: Jakarta, the world's fastest sinking city ...

My personal favorite, we've discovered that about 93% of the excess heat in our environment since 1970 got absorbed by the ocean.  The ocean is now beginning to change, and the changes will persist for centuries.  The currents that bring us our stable climate will move, the biologics that feed us will change, the reefs that support and defend us will change.  It's happening rather quickly compared to such changes in the past.

Suggesting that human activity has nothing to do with what we see ... I'm always surprised when I hear that premise.  Human impact, virtually insignificant in 1700, is now the single most significant impact element within our global systems.

  • Humans annually absorb 42% of the Earth’s terrestrial net primary productivity, 30% of its marine net primary productivity, and 50% of its fresh water.*
  • Now, 40% of the planet’s land is devoted to human food production, up from 7% in 1700.*
  • Fifty percent of the planet’s land has been transformed for human use.*
*Vitousek, P. M., H. A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco, and J. M. Melillo. 1997. Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems. Science 277 (5325): 494–499; Pimm, S. L. 2001. The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth. McGraw-Hill, NY; The Guardian. 2005. Earth is All Out of New Farmland. December 7, 2005.

  • Equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster fifty times over, continuing oil spillage in the Gulf of Guinea has cost millions their livelihood, their communities, and their water.  It's been going on, the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez every year, for fifty years.  If it ever stops, recovery will take centuries.
  • Pelagics (tuna and the like) are now at risk from pollution and rampant illegal overfishing.  Total adult biomass summed across all monitored pelagic populations has declined globally by 52.2% from 1954 to 2006.  Regions like the Gulf of Guinea have seen 90% decline in marine populations bringing malnutrition and starvation among indigenous fishing communities.*
* Maria José Juan-Jordá, Iago Mosqueirad, Andrew B. Cooperf, Juan Freirea, and Nicholas K. Dulvyc, Grupo de Recursos Marinos y Pesquerías, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de A Coruña, 15009 A Coruña, Spain; Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada; Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, United Kingdom; European Commission, Joint Research Center, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen/Maritime Affairs Unit; School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada - Global population trajectories of tunas and their relatives

You might appreciate the recent U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM - CLIMATE SCIENCE SPECIAL REPORT (CSSR) (Draft).   It's a good summary of recent research.

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