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EXPLAINER: What are the key climate themes at Davos?

EXPLAINER: What are the key climate themes at Davos?


While the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine will be focuses of the World Economic Forum’s gathering of business and government leaders, so too will climate change. It’s captured the world’s attention in unignorable and devastating ways.


The acceleration of rising temperatures, the ferocity and costliness of major weather events, and the impact, particularly on people in developing countries, have pushed the issue from one of science to something that touches every aspect of life, including (or, perhaps especially) business and economics.

Of the roughly 270 panels Monday through Thursday, one-third are about climate change or its direct effects. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and Alok Sharma, president of last year’s international climate conference COP26, are among the climate leaders expected in the Swiss resort town of Davos.

At the forum’s first in-person gathering in two years, the climate panels are as varied as the issue. They range from combating “eco-anxiety” to helping debt-ridden countries finance a renewable transition. Here’s a look at some broader themes that are likely to emerge:

ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE

Workers set the stage prior to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Sunday, May 22, 2022. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Several panels will wrestle with an approach to investing that considers the environment and other key factors. Known by the acronym ESG, it’s become a force, with trillions of dollars invested in companies that meet certain criteria.

When it comes to climate change, ESG can be important. For individual investors all the way up to firms and government agencies that analyze how companies operate, disclosures and public declarations are paramount. They can be the basis of evaluating a company’s emissions, environmental impact and financial risks tied to climate change.

They are also controversial and raise questions: Should certain declarations be mandatory? Should they be standardized and regulated, and by whom? Or has the ESG movement already gone too far, ultimately hindering investment and doing little to rein in greenhouse gas emissions?

Viewpoints sometimes fall along political lines. In the U.S., many Republicans call them “woke,” while many on the left, particularly environmentalists and campaigners, argue that ramping up reporting and transparency could lead to real change.

Many managers of some of the world’s largest mutual funds have argued ESG is essential to evaluate risk. Just last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the approach had “been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.”

ENERGY TRANSITION AND ‘NET ZERO’

People walk in front of the congress center where the World Economic Forum take will place, on the eve of the event in Davos, Switzerland, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2022. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is taking place in Davos from May. 22 until May. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The world’s top climate scientists have warned that significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions this decade is necessary to minimize warming and avoid the most devastating effects to the planet. That will require major changes in how business is done, from the way products are produced to how they are transported.

Several panels will look at areas where businesses have successfully transitioned much of their energy portfolio to renewables, the role of finance and government to incentivize or mandate changes, and strategies to keep businesses accountable. Despite heightened consciousness and pledges by businesses, emissions are going up worldwide.

“Moving climate debate from ambition to delivery” is a title of one panel that sums up the enormous challenge.

Sessions will look at sectors, like decarbonizing shipping and aviation, renewable transition plans and the challenges of achieving them in countries like China and India. There will be discussion of strategies to ensure major shifts are inclusive and consider people in historically marginalized countries, which are feeling some of the most intense effects of climate change.

An important current through all the discussions will be identifying what “net zero” is — and isn’t — when looking at pledges from companies and countries. Moving away from fossil fuels like coal and oil to renewables like solar and wind can reduce emissions and get a company closer to goals of taking an equal amount of emissions out of the atmosphere as it puts in.

But a transition to renewables often makes up only a small part of company plans. Many rely on balancing their carbon footprint by investing in forest restoration or other projects. While better than nothing, experts note that depending on carbon offsets doesn’t represent a shift in business practices.


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Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark. Image credit: UN.

DENMARK WANTS TO BUILD TWO ENERGY ISLANDS TO SUPPLY MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY TO EUROPE


They would serve as a hub for offshore wind farms along the coast.

CLEAN ENERGY MET A RECORD-BREAKING 38 PERCENT OF GLOBAL POWER DEMAND IN 2021


50 countries now generate more than 10% of power from wind and solar sources.


WAR IN UKRAINE AND THE FUTURE OF ENERGY

Russia’s war in Ukraine will loom large at the conference. When it comes to climate change, the conflict raises two central questions: How should countries respond to energy shocks from reducing or being cut off from Russian oil and gas? And will the war hasten the transition to renewable energies or help fossil fuel companies maintain the status quo?

Since the war began, there has been no shortage of businesses, environmentalists and political leaders trying to influence the answers to those questions, which will carry over to Davos.

“Energy Security and the European Green Deal” is one panel where participants are expected to argue that the way forward is away from fossil fuels. But European countries, some of which are heavily reliant on Russia for energy, also are scrambling to find other sources of natural gas and oil to meet short-term needs.

While no sessions explicitly make the case for a doubling down on reliance on fossil fuels or expanding extraction or exploration, if the last few months are any guide, those points of view will certainly be present.

Source:

Peter Prengaman via Associated Press



Heinz tomato ketchup will soon come in paper bottles to help the environment

Heinz tomato ketchup will soon come in paper bottles to help the environment


Whether it’s accompanying chips or slathered on a burger, ketchup is our trusted companion as BBQ season approaches.


But it seems the popular condiment might have a new look very soon.

That’s because Heinz plans to roll out completely renewable paper bottles, to help the environment.

The new bottles will be made with wood pulp and will be available alongside the current glass and plastic options.

And the good news is that these paper bottles will not affect the taste of the ketchup.

The new containers will be made in partnership with Pulpex – which also created a paper bottle for whisky brand Jonnie Walker – and are part of Heinz’s long-term plan to make all of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.


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Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods

SCIENTISTS CREATED BIODEGRADABLE FOOD PACKAGING THAT WILL ELIMINATE HARMFUL BACTERIA BUILD-UP IN FOODS


Recently, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US have developed bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging that addresses two major concerns of the food industry today – food waste and eco-friendliness.

The traditional Starbucks disposable cup.

STARBUCKS IS PLANNING TO PHASE OUT ITS ICONIC CUPS


“Our cup is ubiquitous, and we love that,” said Michael Kobori, Starbucks chief sustainability officer. “But it is also this ubiquitous symbol of a throwaway society.”


It’s worth pointing out that Heinz already uses 30% recycled plastic and recyclable caps – and the company aim to have zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Kraft Heinz CEO, Miguel Patricio, said: ‘Packaging waste is an industry-wide challenge that we must all do our part to address.

‘That is why we are committed to taking steps to explore sustainable packaging solutions across our brands at Kraft Heinz, offering consumers more choices.

‘This new HEINZ bottle is one example of how we are applying creativity and innovation to explore new ways to provide consumers with the products they know and love while also thinking sustainably.’

Source:

Lizzie Thomson at Metro



Lake Michigan, Lake Huron lost 20 trillion gallons of water over last 2 years

Lake Michigan, Lake Huron lost 20 trillion gallons of water over last 2 years


The Great Lakes have been receding from record high water levels over the past few years. The amount of water that has left the Great Lakes is staggering.


Each Great Lake peaked in a different year, and each of the Great Lakes’ water levels have fallen from there.

Lake Superior peaked 14 inches higher than the current water level. The record high on Lake Superior was in 2019. In three years, Lake Superior has lost 7.7 trillion gallons of water.

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron act as one lake because of the large area of free-flowing water at the Straits of Mackinac. Lakes Michigan and Huron are 8 inches lower than this time last year and a full 25 inches from the record high water level in 2020. So in just two years, Lakes Michigan and Huron hold 20 trillion less gallons of water. Bear in mind the globe uses approximately 10 trillion gallons of water in one year. Now you know why the Great Lakes are called the world’s largest freshwater system. The Great Lakes could literally produce enough water yearly for the entire world.

2022 – North Beach park in Ferrysburg on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Lake Michigan and Huron are at the lowest water levels since 2017. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

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Figure showing the average sea surface salinity of the world' s seas and oceans during the period 2011-2018. Credit: ICM-CSIC.

GLOBAL WARMING ACCELERATES THE WATER CYCLE, WITH RELEVANT CLIMATIC CONSEQUENCES


Researchers at the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC) in Barcelona have found that global warming is accelerating the water cycle, which could have significant consequences on the global climate system, according to an article published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

Streams and rivers cut through the Greenland ice sheet, pouring water into the Arctic Ocean. (Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENLAND LOST ENOUGH ICE IN LAST 2 DECADES TO COVER ENTIRE US IN 1.5 FEET OF WATER


The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, and the toll on Greenland‘s massive ice sheet is becoming achingly clear.


Lake Erie is only one inch lower than this time last year, but 17 inches off its record high water level in 2020. This lowering of the water level represents 2.89 trillion gallons of water.

Lake Ontario has been the Great Lake with the most ups and downs in recent years. Lake Ontario went through its record high water mark in 2017. Since then, its level is lower by 24 inches. Lake Ontario is now 3.12 trillion gallons less water than back in the record high year of 2017.

In all, this adds up to the entire Great Lakes system having lost 33.7 trillion gallons over the past few years.

Source:

Mark Torregrossa at MLive



Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium sign €135 billion offshore wind pact

Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium sign €135 billion offshore wind pact


Heads of government from the North Sea countries met in the Danish town of Esbjerg on Wednesday (18 May) to sign a cooperation agreement on offshore wind development and green hydrogen. They will target at least 65 GW by 2030 and 150 GW by 2050.


In a joint declaration, the North Sea countries state their intention of becoming the “Green Power Plant of Europe”.

The North Sea’s reliable winds, shallow waters, and proximity to industrial centres that are big consumers of electricity, makes it a perfect fit for the installation of offshore wind farms.

“Today’s agreement by the energy ministers is an important milestone in cross-border cooperation. It is the basis for the first real European power plants that also generate electricity from renewable energies,” explained Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck.

“Together with our partner countries, we can expand offshore wind energy in the North Sea region even faster and more efficiently and tap new potential for green hydrogen,” he said, adding that this would “further reduce our dependence on gas imports.”

The agreement aims for a tenfold increase in offshore wind power capacity in the region, with total investments from the private sector expected to reach €135 billion. In the end, this figure could be even higher, as the European Commission estimated a total of €800 billion in offshore energy investment was necessary to reach the EU’s 2050 target.

“Using the wind, using the North Sea has a long tradition in our countries,” stated Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is former mayor of Hamburg, a North Sea shipping hub.

Offshore wind no longer rely on subsidies and are getting “cheaper and cheaper,” he added, saying that now is the “time for industrialisation”.

The ability to build these projects without public support makes them particularly attractive to policymakers. “I’m so happy that some of these wind farms are now being developed without public money being involved,” highlighted Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister.

“We are writing European history!” tweeted Brian Vad Mathiesen, a renewable energy researcher at Denmark’s Aalborg University. The agreement, he added, will provide power for more than 200 million households.

At the same time, the four countries want to intensify cooperation in the production of “green” hydrogen from renewable electricity, with plans to expand related infrastructure in the region.

Green hydrogen, a rare premium commodity, is highly coveted by steelmakers looking to produce carbon-neutral steel. “There is a real boom in demand for green hydrogen in industry,” said Habeck’s economy and climate ministry on Tuesday (17 May). 

The North Sea wind farms should play a major role in supplying sufficient hydrogen, policymakers says.

“By harvesting the abundant offshore wind resources of the North Sea, we can also pave the way for the hydrogen economy. Offshore wind power frequently generates more electricity than is needed,” wrote Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and Danish Energy Minister Dan Jørgensen in an op-ed for EURACTIV.


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America's billion-dollar Crescent Dunes spans acres of Nevada desertGetty

RENEWABLE POWER IS SET TO BREAK ANOTHER GLOBAL RECORD IN 2022 DESPITE HIGHER COSTS AND SUPPLY CHAIN BOTTLENECKS


New capacity for generating electricity from solar, wind and other renewables increased to a record level worldwide in 2021 and will grow further this year as governments increasingly seek to take advantage of renewables’ energy security and climate benefits, according to the International Energy Agency.

Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark. Image credit: UN.

DENMARK WANTS TO BUILD TWO ENERGY ISLANDS TO SUPPLY MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY TO EUROPE


They would serve as a hub for offshore wind farms along the coast.


Speeding up the renewable rollout

The four countries also highlighted the importance of “speeding up” permitting procedures at EU level, in line with the European Commission’s ‘REPowerEU’ plan presented yesterday.

To accelerate deployment, the EU executive wants to make permitting procedures simpler, with new wind and solar projects being declared a matter of “overriding public interest”, and ‘go-to’ areas introduced at the national level in zones with low environmental risk.

With Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium throwing their weight behind faster permitting, the North Sea looks like an ideal candidate to become the EU’s first “go-to” zone for renewables.

“Nowadays we have permitting times between six and nine years,” explained Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the meeting in Esbjerg. In “go-to” areas, those would be shortened to one year.

“This would be one here, in Denmark” and it would be “of utmost importance to the industry,” she added.

Source:

Nikolaus J. Kurmayer via Euractiv



Pollution is still responsible for around 1 in every 6 deaths worldwide, say scientists

Pollution is still responsible for around 1 in every 6 deaths worldwide, say scientists


Around 9 million people a year are dying from worsening air pollution and toxic lead poisoning, according to scientists.


The staggering death count has continued since 2015, despite modest progress in some countries, a new study finds.

In fact, the data on global mortality and pollution levels indicates a 7 per cent increase in these avoidable deaths from 2015 to 2019, driven by expanding industries, fossil fuels and urbanisation.

“We’re sitting in the stew pot and slowly burning,” said Richard Fuller, study co-author and head of the global nonprofit Pure Earth. But unlike climate change, malaria, or HIV, “we haven’t given [environmental pollution] much focus.”

An earlier version of the work published in 2017 also estimated the death toll from pollution at roughly 9 million per year — or about one of every six deaths worldwide — and the cost to the global economy at up to $4.6 trillion (€4.4 trillion) per year.

That puts pollution on par with smoking in terms of global deaths. COVID-19, by comparison, has killed about 6.7 million people globally since the pandemic began.

For their most recent study, published in the online journal Lancet Planetary Health, the authors analysed 2019 data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study by the University of Washington that assesses overall pollution exposure and calculates mortality risk.

The new analysis looks more specifically at the causes of pollution – separating traditional contaminants such as indoor smoke or sewage from more modern pollutants, like industrial air pollution and toxic chemicals

African countries are the most impacted by polluted indoor air and water

A man sells plantain chips near a bus with smoke seen from its exhaust at a bus park in Abuja, Nigeria.Afolabi Sotunde/REUTERS

Deaths from traditional pollutants are declining globally, but they remain a major problem in African nations.

Tainted water, soil and dirty indoor air put Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger as the three countries with the most pollution-related deaths, according to data adjusted for population.

State programmes to cut indoor air pollution and improvements in sanitation have helped to curb death tolls in some places. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, these efforts caused related deaths to drop by two-thirds between 2000 and 2019.

Meanwhile, the Indian government in 2016 began offering to replace wood-burning stoves with gas stove connections.

What are the new pollutants to watch out for?

Deaths caused by exposure to modern pollutants are “just skyrocketing”, says co-author Rachael Kupka, executive director of the New York-based Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

Fossil fuel emissions, heavy metals, agrochemicals and other pollutants have risen by 66 per cent since 2000.

When it comes to outdoor air pollution, some major capital cities have seen some success, including in Bangkok, China, and Mexico City, the authors said.

But in smaller cities, pollution levels continue to climb.

Residents fill water containers and wash clothes from municipal water pipes alongside a polluted water channel at a slum in Kolkata, India.RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI/REUTERS

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A garbage collector gathering recyclable plastic at the Ban Tarn landfill site in the Thai province of Chiang Mai.

UN AGREES TO CREATE WORLD’S FIRST-EVER PLASTICS POLLUTION TREATY IN A BLOW TO BIG OIL


The United Nations approved a landmark agreement to create the world’s first-ever global plastic pollution treaty on Wednesday, describing it as the most significant environmental deal since the 2015 Paris climate accord.

SCIENTISTS FIND THERE ARE 70% FEWER POLLINATORS, DUE TO AIR POLLUTION


Air pollution significantly reduces pollination by confusing butterflies and bees, lessening their ability to sniff out crops and wildflowers


Bulgaria has the highest number of pollution-related deaths in Europe

The study offered a list of the 10 countries most affected by pollution-related deaths, based on their findings on mortality adjusted for population. One European country made the list.

In full, they are:

  • 10. Burkina Faso
  • 9. Bulgaria
  • 8. Lesotho
  • 7. North Korea
  • 6. South Africa
  • 5. Somalia
  • 4. Solomon Islands
  • 3. Niger
  • 2. Central African Republic
  • 1. Chad

Source:

Lottie Limb at euronews.green



World’s oceans at most acidic level in 26,000 years, climate report warns

World’s oceans at most acidic level in 26,000 years, climate report warns


The world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels on record last year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, as United Nations officials warned that war in Ukraine threatened global climate commitments.


Oceans saw the most striking extremes as the WMO detailed a range of turmoil wrought by climate change in its annual “State of the Global Climate” report. It said melting ice sheets had helped push sea levels to new heights in 2021.

“Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement.

The report follows the latest U.N. climate assessment, which warned that humanity must drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions or face increasingly catastrophic changes to the world’s climate. read more

Taalas told reporters there was scant airtime for climate challenges as other crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, grabbed headlines.

Selwin Hart, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on climate action, criticised countries reneging on climate commitments due to the conflict, which has pushed up energy prices and prompted European nations to seek to replace Russia as an energy supplier.


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Scientists have found what could be a 'secret weapon' in the battle against climate change

SCIENTISTS HAVE DISCOVERED A MICROSCOPIC OCEAN PREDATOR WITH A TASTE FOR CARBON


The single-celled microbe, which is capable of photosynthesis as well as hunting and eating prey, could be “a secret weapon in battle against climate change”.

HAWAIIAN CORALS SHOW SURPRISING RESILIENCE TO WARMING OCEANS FROM CLIMATE CHANGE


A long-term study of Hawaiian coral species provides a surprisingly optimistic view of how they might survive warmer and more acidic oceans resulting from climate change.


DANGEROUS INCREASE

“We are … seeing many choices being made by many major economies which, quite frankly, have the potential to lock in a high-carbon, high-polluting future and will place our climate goals at risk,” Hart told reporters.

On Tuesday, global equity index giant MSCI warned that the world faces a dangerous increase in greenhouse gases if Russian gas is replaced with coal. read more

The WMO report said levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere in 2021 surpassed previous records.

Globally, the average temperature last year was 1.11 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average – as the world edges closer to the 1.5C threshold beyond which the effects of warming are expected to become drastic. read more

“It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” Taalas said.

Oceans bear much of the brunt of the warming and emissions. The bodies of water absorb around 90% of the Earth’s accumulated heat and 23% of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activity.

The ocean has warmed markedly faster in the last 20 years, hitting a new high in 2021, and is expected to become even warmer, the report said. That change would likely take centuries or millennia to reverse, it noted.

The ocean is also now its most acidic in at least 26,000 years as it absorbs and reacts with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Sea level has risen 4.5 cm (1.8 inches) in the last decade, with the annual increase from 2013 to 2021 more than double what it was from 1993 to 2002.

The WMO also listed individual extreme heatwaves, wildfires, floods and other climate-linked disasters around the world, noting reports of more than $100 billion in damages.

Source:

Jake Spring at Reuters



Beyond flora and fauna: Why it’s time to include fungi in global conservation goals

Beyond flora and fauna: Why it’s time to include fungi in global conservation goals


It’s no secret that Earth’s biodiversity is at risk. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 26% of all mammals, 14% of birds and 41% of amphibians are currently threatened worldwide, mainly due to human impacts such as climate change and development.


Other forms of life are also under pressure, but they are harder to count and assess. Some scientists have warned of mass insect die-offs, although others say the case hasn’t been proved. And then there are fungi – microbes that often go unnoticed, with an estimated 2 million to 4 million species. Fewer than 150,000 fungi have received formal scientific descriptions and classifications.

If you enjoy bread, wine or soy sauce, or have taken penicillin or immunosuppressant drugs, thank fungi, which make all of these products possible. Except for baker’s yeast and button mushrooms, most fungi remain overlooked and thrive hidden in the dark and damp. But scientists agree that they are valuable organisms worth protecting.

As mycologists whose biodiversity work includes studying fungi that interact with millipedes, plantsmosquitoes and true bugs, we have devoted our careers to understanding the critical roles fungi play. These relationships can be beneficial, harmful or neutral for the fungus’s partner organism. But it’s not an overstatement to say that without fungi breaking down dead matter and recycling its nutrients, life on Earth would be unrecognizable.

A mature gall, extruding gelatinous tendrils of spores, produced by Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae on an eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana).

Healthy ecosystems need fungi

The amazing biological fungal kingdom includes everything from bracket fungimolds and yeasts to mushrooms and more. Fungi are not plants, although they’re usually stocked near fresh produce in grocery stores. In fact, they’re more closely related to animals.

But fungi have some unique features that set them apart. They grow by budding or as long, often branching, threadlike tubes. To reproduce, fungi typically form spores, a stage for spreading and dormancy. Rather than taking food into their bodies to eat, fungi release enzymes onto their food to break it down and then absorb sugars that are released. The fungal kingdom is very diverse, so many fungi break the mold.

Fungi play essential ecological roles worldwide. Some have been forming critical partnerships with plant roots for hundreds of millions of years. Others break down dead plants and animals and return key nutrients to the soil so other life forms can use them.

Fungi are among the few organisms that can degrade lignin, a main component of wood that gives plants their rigidity. Without fungi, our forests would be littered with huge piles of woody debris.

Still other fungi form unique mutualistic partnerships with insects. Flavodon ambrosius, a white rot decay fungus, not only serves as the primary source of nutrition for certain fungus-farming ambrosia beetles, but it also quickly out-competes other wood-colonizing fungi, which allows these beetles to build large, multigenerational communities. Similarly, leaf-cutter ants raise Leucoagaricus gongylophorus as food by gathering dead plant matter in their nests to feed their fungus partner.

Leaf-cutter ants and fungi have a complex symbiotic relationship that has existed for millions of years.

A mostly unknown kingdom

We can only partially appreciate the benefits fungi provide, since scientists have a narrow and very incomplete view of the fungal kingdom. Imagine trying to assemble a 4-million-piece jigsaw puzzle with only 3% to 5% of the pieces. Mycologists struggle to formally describe Earth’s fungal biodiversity while simultaneously assessing various species’ conservation status and tracking losses.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species currently includes 551 fungi, compared to 58,343 plants and 12,100 insects. About 60% of these listed fungal species are gilled mushrooms or lichenized fungi, which represent a very narrow sampling of the fungal kingdom.

The Bridgeoporus nobilissimus fungus, commonly known as noble polypore, is native to the Pacific Northwest, where it can reach sizes of up to 290 pounds (130 kilograms). It is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Chael Thomas, CC BY-ND

Asked what a fungus looks like, the average person will probably imagine a mushroom, which is partly correct. Mushrooms are “fruiting bodies,” or reproductive structures, that only certain fungi produce. But a majority of fungi don’t produce fruiting bodies that are visible to the eye, or any at all, so these “microfungi” go largely overlooked.

Many people see fungi as frightening or disgusting. Today, although positive interest in fungi is growing, species that cause diseases – such as chytrid fungus in amphibians and white-nose syndrome in bats – still receive more attention than fungi playing essential, beneficial roles in the environment.

Protecting our fungal future

Even with limited knowledge about the status of fungi, there is increasing evidence that climate change threatens them as much as it threatens plants, animals and other microbes. Pollution, drought, fire and other disturbances all are contributing to losses of precious fungi.

This isn’t just true on land. Recent studies of aquatic fungi, which play all kinds of important roles in rivers, lakes and oceans, have raised concerns that little is being done to conserve them.

It is hard to motivate people to care about something they do not know about or understand. And it’s difficult to establish effective conservation programs for organisms that are mysterious even to scientists. But people who care about fungi are trying. In addition to the IUCN Fungal Conservation Committee, which coordinates global fungal conservation initiatives, various nongovernment organizations and nonprofits advocate for fungi.

Over the past two years, we have seen a surge of public interest in all things fungal, from home grow kits and cultivation courses to increased enrollment in local mycological societies. We hope this newfound acceptance can benefit fungi, their habitats and people who study and steward them. One measure of success would be for people to ask not just whether a mushroom is poisonous or edible, but also whether it needs protection.


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Tiny threads of fungi known as fungal mycelium wrap around or bore into the roots of plants and exchange nutrients. (Yoshihiro Kobae)

SCIENTISTS ARE MAPPING THE WORLD’S UNDERGROUND FUNGI NETWORK TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE


‘You can think of fungal networks as kind of the coral reefs of the soil,’ says biologist Toby Kiers

The blue milk cap mushroom is a rich source of protein. laerke_lyhne , CC BY-SA

HOW A HUMBLE MUSHROOM COULD SAVE FORESTS AND FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE


The conversion of forests to agricultural land is happening at a mind-boggling speed. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at around 10 million hectares every year.


Australian naturalist Steve Axford photographs fungi in Australia’s rainforests, helping scientists document previously unknown species.

Delegations from most of the world’s countries will meet in China this fall for a major conference on protecting biodiversity. Their goal is to set international benchmarks for conserving life on Earth for years to come. Mycologists want the plan to include mushroomsyeasts and molds.

Anyone who takes their curiosity outdoors can use community science platforms, such as iNaturalist, to report their observations of fungi and learn more. Joining a mycology club is a great way to learn how to find and harvest fungi responsibly, without overpicking or damaging their habitats.

Fungi are forming important networks and partnerships all around us in the environment, moving resources and information in all directions between soil, water and other living things. To us, they exemplify the power of connection and cooperation – valuable traits in this precarious phase of life on Earth.

Source:

Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Patricia Kaishian at The Conversation



Earth’s Atmospheric CO2 Hasn’t Been This High In Millions of Years

Earth’s Atmospheric CO2 Hasn’t Been This High In Millions of Years


“Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race.”


Climate scientists and concerned citizens are sounding the alarm as daily, weekly, and monthly records for atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to be shattered while the fossil fuel-powered capitalist economic system responsible for skyrocketing greenhouse gas pollution plows ahead.

New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the weekly average CO² concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached 421.13 parts per million (ppm) from May 8 to May 14—the highest in recorded history and up from 418.34 ppm one year ago and 397.38 ppm one decade ago.

“We simply do not know a planet like this,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus said Monday. “We are in a climate emergency.”

According to NOAA, the daily average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa hit 422.04 ppm on May 14, just slightly below the agency’s all-time record of 422.06 ppm observed on April 26. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, meanwhile, measured 421.68 ppm of CO² at Mauna Loa on May 13, which they consider the daily record as of Monday.

Those record-breaking daily and weekly measurements came after the monthly average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa surpassed 420 ppm for the first time in human history, with NOAA observing 420.23 ppm in April compared with Scripps at 420.02 ppm.

Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at NOAA, recently told Axios that “it is likely May will be higher still.”

“The window to act on climate change is closing,” American Clean Power warned recently on social media. “Accelerating the transition to clean energy will help reduce emissions and secure a healthier future for all.”

Twenty years ago, the highest monthly average CO² concentration was 375.93 ppm, according to NOAA. In 1958, the first year scientists began collecting data at Mauna Loa, it was 317.51 ppm.

Climate scientist James Hansen, who alerted congressional lawmakers to the life-threatening dangers of the climate crisis in 1988, has long called for reducing atmospheric CO² to below 350 ppm, and there is now a scientific consensus that the livability of the planet decreases beyond such a concentration.

Nevertheless, the annual rate of increase in CO² levels over the past six decades is now roughly 100 times faster than earlier increases that occurred naturally thousands of years ago.


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“These are large emissions, and we see quite a lot of them on the global scale, much more than we had expected.”

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“The world effectively has made no serious progress compared to what is required,” Tans said earlier this month. “We really need to focus on decreasing emissions and we haven’t had much success globally because the rate of increase of CO² remains as high as it has been in the last decade.”

“CO² has a longevity of hundreds to thousands of years,” he noted, “so we are really making a very long-term climate commitment.”

Speaking with the Financial Times recently, Tans added that “we are going in the wrong direction, at maximum speed.”

California-based activist Joe Sanberg put it even more bluntly last week.

“It’s shocking that we’re staring down the barrel of the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced and we still haven’t passed a Green New Deal,” Sanberg tweeted. “Time is running out. Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race.”

Source:

Kenny Stancil at Common Dreams



Heavy rain boosts Ivory Coast cocoa mid-crop, but raises fears of mould

Heavy rain boosts Ivory Coast cocoa mid-crop, but raises fears of mould


Heavy rain in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions last week will spur growth of the April-to-September mid-crop but could cause mouldy beans, farmers said on Monday.


Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is in its rainy season which runs from April to mid-November.

Farmers across the country said the mid-crop harvest was picking up, with lots of beans leaving plantations.

However, heavy rain and overcast weather in the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, and in the southern region of Agboville are making it difficult to properly dry the beans, farmers said.

“Drying time is becoming very long. There is a risk of having mouldy beans in our deliveries in the coming weeks,” said Jean Bouadou, who farms near Soubre, where 67.8 millimetres (mm) of rain fell last week, 35.3 mm above the five-year average.


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INSECT DECLINE COULD MASSIVELY INCREASE FOOD BILLS, WARN SCIENTISTS


The number of flying insects has declined by nearly 60 per cent in less than 20 years, an alarming new survey has found.

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SCIENTISTS CREATED BIODEGRADABLE FOOD PACKAGING THAT WILL ELIMINATE HARMFUL BACTERIA BUILD-UP IN FOODS


Recently, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US have developed bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging that addresses two major concerns of the food industry today – food waste and eco-friendliness.


In the eastern region of Abengourou and the southern region of Divo, where rains were also well above the average, farmers said growing conditions were excellent and they expected a plentiful mid-crop harvest.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, where rains were above average, and in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, where rains were below average, farmers said trees looked good, with many large ripening pods.

“If it continues to rain, the mid-crop will not end abruptly,” said Moustapha Sanon, who farms near Daloa, where 28.4 mm of rain fell last week, 5.4 mm above the average.

Average temperatures ranged from 27 to 30.5 degrees Celsius last week.

Source:

Loucoumane Coulibaly via Reuters



Scientists find a forest growing inside a giant newly discovered sinkhole in China

Scientists find a forest growing inside a giant newly discovered sinkhole in China


The bottom of the giant pit harbors an ancient forest that may be populated by new species of animals.


A team of cave explorers and speleologists have discovered a giant cluster of karst sinkholes in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. According to the team, which includes scientists from China, the UK, and France, 19 new sinkholes have been discovered, among them an unbelievable giant sinkhole with lush vegetation and even trees growing inside, their canopies extending towards the light above.

The giant sinkhole, located near Ping’e village in Leye County, is nearly 190 meters (630 feet) deep and extends hundreds of meters in length and width — enough to engulf a Manhattan block, skyscrapers and all.

In Mandarin, these enormous holes in the ground are known as “tiankeng,” or “heavenly pits”. In this case, the name really is very fitting as scientists found a veritable hidden Garden of Eden after they rappelled to the bottom. Here, they found a well-preserved ancient forest, with some trees as tall as 40 meters (130 feet). It is very likely there are many species of plants and animals to be found there, though it is too early to tell.

A similar giant sinkhole discovered in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in 2019. The new giant sinkhole described in this article is not pictured here. Credit: Xinhua.

One thing’s for sure: biologists are going to have a field day in this sinkhole — that’s if they’re fit enough to brave the arduous journey to the very bottom. The original team of explorers who made the discovery in May abseiled down more than 100 meters (330 meters) and trekked several hours to reach the pit’s bottom.


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This stunning new ecosystem is part of a series of sinkholes that are interconnected through an underground river and cave system, making them the largest cluster ever found south of the Tropic of Cancer, according to Zhang Yuanhai, a member of the team organized by the Institute of Karst Geology of China Geological Survey.

In total, there are 30 sinkholes in Leye County alone, which would be staggering were it not for the region’s geology and topography, world-famous for its karst formations. Karst refers to any land made up of limestone, also known as chalk or calcium carbonate, which is a soft rock that dissolves in water.

Karst topography is perfect for forming sinkholes, and it’s easy to see why. As rainwater seeps into the soft rock, it picks up carbon dioxide becoming slightly acidic, slowly eroding it away. Over time, if enough cracks and small tunnels form into the bedrock, the roof can collapse, opening up a sinkhole ranging in size from a few meters to gargantuan proportions as seen recently in China.

According to Yuanhai, there are three big caves in the wall of the newly found sinkhole, which are presumed to be the remains from the early development of the sinkhole. As such, these recent discoveries could help scientists better understand how sinkholes form in the first place.

“Some of the sinkholes are formed at a plateau 1,000 meters above sea level, and the others as a chain developed along underground rivers. The founding will be of significance for the theory of sinkholes evolution,” said Jiang Zhongcheng, head of the institute.

Source:

Tibi Puiu at ZME Science