Earth Crisis: Ocean Dead Zones and Soaring Climate Change


Forest Networking a Project of Forests.org, Inc.

http://forests.org/ -- Forest Conservation Portal
http://www.EnvironmentalSustainability.info/ -- Eco-Portal
http://www.ClimateArk.org/ -- Climate Change Portal
http://www.WaterConserve.info/ -- Water Conservation Portal

March 30, 2004
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Glen Barry, Forests.org

New reports indicate large portions of the ocean have become "dead zones" that are devoid of life; and that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have abruptly surged. This comes fast upon findings that the Amazon's composition is changing due to climate change, that the Australian Great Barrier Reef is dying, that the World Bank is funding industrial logging of the Congolese rainforest
( http://forests.org/action/africa/ ) and numerous other indicators that unconstrained industry, individual over-consumption, and government intransigence are pushing the Earth towards ecological and social collapse.

It remains an unanswered question whether democratic capitalism can address spiraling collapse of key global ecosystems, or feed the world's one billion chronically hungry. Global leaders are failing dramatically to provide the leadership necessary to address the myriad of interconnected issues that threaten the Earth and all its inhabitants. Survival of the Earth may well depend upon a peaceful Earth Revolution that overthrows the whole stinking, inequitable, unjust and unsustainable political and social order.

The sky is falling! What could threaten global security and prosperity more than dead oceans and forests, soaring and unpredictable temperatures, lack of potable water and billions of desperately poor people encircling a few bastions of ethically depauperate and militarized over-consumers? g.b.


Title: 'Dead zones' in world's oceans are growing, say alarmed UN scientists
Source: Copyright 2004, Independent (UK)
Date: March 30, 2004
Byline: Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor

It is as sinister a development as any in the list of things going wrong with the planet. Marine "dead zones" - oxygen-starved areas of the oceans that are devoid of fish - are one of the greatest environmental problems facing the world, UN scientists warned yesterday.

There are nearly 150 dead zones across the globe, they are increasing, and they pose as big a threat to fish stocks as over-fishing, the United Nations Environment Program (Unep) said in its Global Environment Outlook Year Book 2003, released at a meeting of environment ministers in Korea.

These lifeless areas of the sea are caused by an excess of nutrients, mainly nitrogen, that originate from heavy use of agricultural fertilizers, from vehicle and factory emissions and from human wastes.

They have doubled in number over the last decade, with some extending over 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles), about the size of Ireland, Unep said.

Dead zones have long afflicted the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay off the East Coast of America but they are now spreading to other bodies of water, such as the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Adriatic, the Gulf of Thailand and the Yellow Sea as other regions develop, Unep said. They are also appearing off South America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The nutrient run-off from farm fertilisers, sewage and industrial pollutants triggers blooms of microscopic algae known as phytoplankton. As the algae die and rot, they consume oxygen, suffocating all marine life.

"Humankind is engaged in a gigantic, global experiment as a result of inefficient and often overuse of fertilisers, the discharge of untreated sewage and the ever-rising emissions from vehicles and factories," said Klaus Toepfer, Unep's executive director.

"The nitrogen and phosphorous from these sources are being discharged into rivers and the coastal environment or being deposited from the atmosphere, triggering these alarming and sometimes irreversible effects. Unless urgent action is taken to tackle the sources of the problem, it is likely to escalate rapidly." Dead zones are especially dangerous to fisheries because they afflict coastal waters where many fish spawn and spend most of their lives before moving to deeper water, said Marion Cheatle, Unep's senior environmental affairs officer. "It hasn't been something well known by policy-makers," Ms Cheatle said. "But it's been getting noticeably worse."

The economic costs associated with dead zones is unknown, but predicted to be significant on a global scale. Unep is urging nations to co-operate in reducing the amount of nitrogen discharged into their coastal waters, by cutting back on fertiliser use or by planting more forests and grasslands along feeder rivers to soak up the excess nitrogen.

Title: Carbon dioxide levels blow sky high
Published on Sunday, March 28, 2004 by the lndependent/UK
Global Warming Spirals Upwards
by Geoffrey Lean

Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have jumped abruptly, raising fears that global warming may be accelerating out of control.

Measurements by US government scientists show that concentrations of the gas, the main cause of the climate exchange, rose by a record amount over the past 12 months. It is the third successive year in which they have increased sharply, marking an unprecedented triennial surge.

Scientists are at a loss to explain why the rapid rise has taken place, but fear that it could show the first signs that global warming is feeding on itself, with rising temperatures causing increases in carbon dioxide, which then go on to drive the thermometer even higher. That would be a deeply alarming development, suggesting that this self-reinforcing heating could spiral upwards beyond the reach of any attempts to combat it.

The development comes as official figures show that Britain's emissions of the gas soared by three per cent last year, twice as fast as the year before. The increase - caused by rising energy use and by burning less gas and more coal in power stations - jeopardizes the Government's target of reducing emissions by 19 per cent by 2010.

It also coincides with a new bid to break the log jam over the Kyoto treaty headed by Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary, who remains close to Tony Blair.

Mr Byers is co-chairing with US Republican Senator Olympia Snowe a new taskforce, run by the Institute of Public Policy Research and US and Australian think tanks, which is charged with devising proposals that could resolve the stalemate caused by President Bush's hostility to the treaty.

The carbon dioxide measurements have been taken from the 11,400ft summit of Hawaii's Mauna Loa, whose enormous dome makes it the most substantial mountain on earth, by scientists working for the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

They have been taking the readings from the peak - effectively breathalyzing the planet - for the past 46 years. It is an ideal site for the exercise, 2,000 miles from the nearest land and protected by freak climatic conditions from pollution from Hawaii, more than two miles below.

The latest measurements, taken a week ago, showed that carbon dioxide had reached about 379 parts per million (ppm), up from about 376ppm the year before, from 373ppm in 2002 and about 371ppm in 2001. These represent three of the four biggest increases on record (the other was in 1998), creating an unprecedented sequence. They add up to a 64 per cent rise over the average rate of growth over the past decade, of 1.8ppm a year.

The US scientists have yet to analyze the figures and stress that they could be just a remarkable blip. Professor Ralph Keeling - whose father Charles Keeling first set up the measurements from Mauna Loa - said:"We are moving into a warmer world".

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
Source: Copyright 2004, Independent (UK)
Date: March 30, 2004

Title: Rich Nations Gobbling Resources at an Unsustainable Rate
Source: Copyright&nbsp2004, Environment News Service
Date: March&nbsp30,&nbsp2004

OAKLAND, California, March 30, 2004 (ENS) – Excessive consumption by the world’s richest nations is making life even more difficult for the world’s least fortunate, according to a new report by Redefining Progress. The U.S. based research group says the wealthiest nations are depleting global resources at an unprecedented rate – with the United States leading the way – and are mortgaging the future at the expense of today’s children, the poor and the long term health of the planet.

The 2004 Footprint of Nations analyzes the ecological impact of more than 130 countries, demonstrating to what extent a nation can support its resource consumption with its available ecological capacity.

Redefining Progress's prior reports have focused on the dangers of overusing our natural resources and the effect on future generations. For the first time, this year's report documents the current impact of overconsumption on the world's most vulnerable populations.

"This measure speaks for those with the least power in today's world: children, the poor, the environment, and future generations," said Michel Gelobter, executive director of Redefining Progress. "These are groups with little or no voice in the political system or the economy, but whose resources are being compromised. When we ignore their plight, we undermine our collective future."

The report uses ecological footprint accounts to provide a measurable estimate of humanity’s pressure on global ecosystems – to determine an ecological footprint, the organization measures the biologically productive area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to supply space for infrastructure, and to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

The accounts are composed of six factors: energy use, grazing land, pastureland, fisheries, built land and forests.

Redefining Progress expresses ecological footprint in terms of global acres, with each global acre corresponding to one acre of biologically productive space with world average productivity.

Previous reports found that consumption exceeds the Earth’s biological capacity by some 15 to 20 percent – the 2004 update “indicates that the situation has remained fundamentally unchanged except for one notable exception in the case of the United States.”

“In 2000, the United States became the country with the largest per capita ecological footprint on the planet,” according to the report.
The U.S. footprint is 23.7 acres per capita – a sustainable footprint would be 4.6 acres.

The organization measures the global ecological footprint at 5.6 global acres per capita.

The United Arab Emirates ranks second with 22.2 acres per capita and Canada third with 21.1 acres.

Developing countries such as Bangladesh and Mozambique represent the other end of the scale – these nations have footprints of 1.3 acres per capita.

On a per capita basis the average footprint has declined by 1.2 acres over the past 20 years – largely because many areas of production have become more efficient - but this decrease is offset by population growth.

Even a developing nation with a small per capita footprint can have a very large overall footprint when its population grows rapidly.

These problems are compounded as wealthy nations continue to grow their economies by exploiting the resources and economic potential of their impoverished neighbors, the report finds.

Unsustainable consumption and population play a big part in the size of a nation's footprint - much of an industrialized nation's ecological impact is due to the use of fossil fuels. The report details that shifting to renewable energy can dramatically lessen a country's footprint.

Sustainable modes of production and consumption and attention to social equity can help decrease national footprints and improve quality of life around the world, according to the public policy organization.

For Additional Information:
(may become dated as article ages)

Redefining Progress has calculated ecological footprints for more than 130 countries and numerous regions as well as an increasing number of municipalities and businesses. Individuals can calculate their own footprint in seven languages at: http://www.myfootprint.org

Originally posted at: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2004/2004-03-30-10.asp


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