North American Trees Dying Twice as Fast

sugar-pine-dying-from-bark-beetle-attack-in-yosemite-national-parkimage-courtesy-of-jerry-franklinBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 22 (IPS)

Our trees are dying. Throughout the western United States, cherished and protected forests are dying twice as fast as they did 20 years ago because of climate change, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science.

Fire did not kill these trees, nor did some massive insect outbreak. The trees in this wide-ranging study were “undisturbed stands of old growth forests”, said Jerry Franklin, a professor of forest resources at the University of Washington and one of 11 co-authors of the report.

“The data in this study is from our most stable, resilient stands of trees,” Franklin told IPS.

What this means is that the United States’ best forests are getting thinner.

It is like a town where the birth rate is stable but the mortality rate for all ages doubled over the past two decades. “If that was happening in your hometown you’d become very concerned,” said Nate Stephenson, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

This dramatic increase of in tree mortality applies to all kinds, sizes, ages and locations of trees. In the Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia, the rate of tree death in older coniferous forests doubled in 17 years. In California, doubling mortality rates took a little longer at 25 years. For interior states it took 29 years. Continue reading

Science Articles on Acid Oceans and Coral Reefs

Series of my science articles documenting how global warming is transforming the Oceans and threatening Coral Reefs

No Safe Havens in Increasingly Acid Oceans

Oil, gas and coal are contaminating the world’s oceans from top to bottom, threatening the lives of more than 800 million people, a new study warns Tuesday.

“It took a year to analyse and synthesise all of the studies on the impacts of climate change on ocean species,” Camilo Mora, an ecologist at University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu and lead author, told IPS.

“We are seeing greater changes, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated.” — Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford

Plankton Death To Come with Acid Oceans and Sunlight

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.

Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.

In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.

“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light,” says Ulf Riebesell of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.


Deep CO2 Cuts May Be Last Hope for Acid Oceans

(Report from the World Oceans Conference in Indonesia, May 2009)

Ocean acidification offers the clearest evidence of dangers of climate change.

And yet the indisputable fact that burning fossil fuels is slowly turning the oceans into an acid bath has been largely ignored by industrialised countries and their climate treaty negotiators, concluded delegates from 76 countries at the World Oceans Conference in Manado, Indonesia.

Oceans Passing Critical CO2 Threshold

An apparent rapid upswing in ocean acidity in recent years is wiping out coastal species like mussels, a new study has found.

“We’re seeing dramatic changes,” said Timothy Wootton of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, lead author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows increases in ocean acidity that are more than 10 times faster than any prediction.

Say Goodbye to Coral Reefs

GIJON, Spain, May 22 (IPS) – The one-two punch of climate change that is warming ocean temperatures and increasing acidification is making the oceans uninhabitable for corals and other marine species, researchers said at a scientific symposium in Spain.


Lose Corals and We Will be Fighting for Our Own Survival

“There would be no white sands on the beaches of Cancún without the Mesoamerican reef,” Professor Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, a marine ecophysiologist working at the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Tierramérica.

Cutting CO2 Could Save Dying Corals

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 12 (IPS) – The rapid decline of coral reefs around the world offers a potent warning that entire ecosystems can collapse due to human activities, although there is hope for reefs if immediate action is taken, coral experts agreed at the conclusion of a five-day international meeting Friday.severely-degraded-reef-flat-at-kelso-reef-great-barrier-reef-australiaimage-c2a9-cathie-page-very-sml2

A Third of Corals Face Extinction

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 10 (IPS) – One third of reef-building corals already face extinction because of climate change, the first-ever global assessment has found.

Life Support Needed For Coral Reefs

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 8 (IPS) – Coral reefs need to be put on “life support” if they are to survive climate change, but their ultimate survival is dependant on major reductions in fossil fuel emissions, say experts.

“We’re Running the Risk of Unstoppable Climate Change” — Oceanographer

“I’m afraid it is going to take a major catastrophe in the developed world…” Chris Reid.

Oceans are the Heart and Blood of the Earth — But are They Healthy?

If continents are the Earth’s sturdy bones and the atmosphere its thin skin, then the oceans are its heart, circulatory system and blood. And despite the crucial role played by the oceans in the health of the planet, and to our own health and well-being, there is little monitoring of ocean health.

Acid Oceans to ‘Dissolve’ Coral Reefs in 30 years

Coral reefs face certain extinction in a few decades unless there are unprecedented reductions in carbon emissions, leading Australian scientists warn.


I was the only North American journalist to go and cover this important conference in Nagoya. People donated enough to help with travel costs so I could write about 10 articles that reached more than 200 million people. Scroll down and look for the COP 10 logo to find those articles.

I’m an independent journalist based in Canada who supports his family and the public interest writing articles about important social & environmental issues. This is now only possible with your support: see How Community Supported Journalism Works. Contributions can be made safely via PayPal or check/cheque. Thank you/Merci. — Stephen

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Polar Bears and the Arctic Meltdown

polar-bear-snout-wwwfirstpeopleus-smlA warm Arctic six-pack of 2008 science articles on how global warming is transforming the Arctic:

1. Arctic Ice Gone in 5 Years – First Time in One Million Years — “We’re going to see huge changes in the Arctic ecosystem”

2. Burning Down Our HouseThe roof of our house is on fire while the leaders of our family sit comfortably in the living room below preoccupied with “political realities”.

3. Things Happen Much Faster in the Arctic — “Things are happening much faster in the Arctic. I think it will be summer ice-free by 2015,” said David Barber, an Arctic climatologist at the University of Manitoba.

4. Arctic Is the Canary in the Coalmine — The Arctic is “ground zero” for climate change, with temperatures rising far faster than anywhere else on the planet.

5. Arctic Meltdown Signals Long-Term Trend — Soaring temperatures have led to the collapse of several huge ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic over the past few weeks.

6. Arctic Oil and Gas Rush Alarms Scientists — As greenhouse gas pollution destroys Arctic ecosystems, countries like Canada are spending millions not to halt the destruction but to exploit it.ceberg-in-glacier-strait-nunavut-canada-image-credit-sandy-briggs

Oh yeah, and about those polar bears:

Polar Bears Go Hungry as Icy Habitat Melts Away — The iconic animal of the frozen north, the polar bear, is starving to death because climate change is melting the Arctic Ocean sea ice.

Oil vs Polar Bears in Alaska — A coalition of environmental groups sued the George W. Bush administration Monday for delaying a decision to protect polar bears threatened with extinction

Polar Bears’ Future Bleak in Melting Arctic — “Without taking serious and urgent action to stabilize the climate, there is no future for polar bears” says Andrew Derocher, Chair of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Polar Bear Specialist Group.

Paris Hilton vs Global Warming

Global warming (climate change) is the most pressing issue humanity has EVER faced.

And yet mainstream media devote nearly all of their time and attention to Paris Hiltonesque celebrity culture, Iraq or some other conflict zone and any political controversy no matter how trivial.

Sure there is a bit of ‘green’ coverage but it is thin, inconsistent and rarely examines the roots of this growing global crisis.

This chart from a University of Oxford study shows how world-wide media coverage of global warming has DECLINED in the 2008 even as the science is clear that its affects are coming faster (happening right now) and with much bigger impacts than expected. news-coverage-gw-oxford

Fortunately there are some alternative news media working extremely hard to cover the truly important issues that are shaping our future and our children’s future. What most people may not realize is that precious few of these alternative media can afford pay journalists and writers a living wage.

Here’s what you can do:


1. Spread the word. Circulate these stories to everyone on your email list — and ask them to pass them on.

2. Write a letter. Contact Canadian and US media outlets asking them to use stories published by media outlets like IPS.

[Remarkably while 200 million people read IPS stories in the newspapers and magazines published in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa but they are rarely published in North America.]

3. Become a supporter. Financial support is important if this work is to continue. Here is a safe and convenient way via PayPal or Credit Card:

Or contact Stephen

Burning Down Our House

chilee28094the-fury-of-chaiten-volcano-nat-geoAnalysis by Stephen Leahy

QUEBEC CITY, Canada, Dec 15 (IPS)

The roof of our house is on fire while the leaders of our family sit comfortably in the living room below preoccupied with “political realities”.

That was essentially the message from 1,000 scientists from around the world along with northern indigenous leaders gathered in Quebec City for the International Arctic Change conference that concluded last weekend.

“Climate change and its impacts are accelerating at unexpected rates with global consequences,” delegates warned in a statement.

Presenting data from hundreds of studies and research projects detailing the Arctic region’s rapid meltdown and cascading ecological impacts, participants urged governments to take “immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

By happy coincidence, 190 governments were meeting at the same time in Poznan, Poland to do just that: reach an agreement on how much to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Except that they decided to do nothing. Continue reading