One week ago, I purchased the first asthma inhaler I’ve owned since the 8th grade. I’d shown up at my doctor’s office short of breath, and a lung function test promptly revealed that I was inhaling about one-fifth as much air as a healthy 24-year-old should be. “We’re expecting a lot of cases like you,” my doctor told me as he wrote my prescription. “It’s going to be a hell of a pollen season.”
And for that, you can blame the polar vortex—the extreme cold system that repeatedly hovered over much of the United States this year—along with the rest of this winter’s brutal weather. Those cold snaps helped spawn a spring allergy season so intense that it already has its own headline-ready nickname: the “pollen vortex.”
"The long winter, the particularly cold weather, it all pushed the pollen season back quite a bit," says Estelle Levetin, the chair of the biology department at the University of Tulsa. Individual flowering trees probably aren’t producing more pollen, Levetin says—but they’re all dumping their pollen at once, making this allergy season particularly difficult for people who are sensitive to more than one type of pollen.
The rapid decline of the world’s coral reefs appears to be accelerating, threatening to destroy huge swathes of marine life unless dramatic action is swiftly taken, a leading ocean scientist has warned.
Click on image above to enlarge graphic
About half of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed over the past 30 years, as climate change warms the sea and rising carbon emissions make it more acidic.
But the trend now looks to be accelerating, said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the scientist in charge of the ocean chapter of the forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Our oceans are in an unprecedented state of decline due to pollution, over-fishing and climate change. The state of the reefs is very poor and it is continuing to deteriorate,” said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, of the University of Queensland.
“This is an eco-system that has been around for tens of millions of years and we are wiping it out within a hundred. It’s quite incredible.”
In addition to working on the IPCC report, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg is leading by far the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the world’s coral reefs, the Catlin Seaview Survey (CSS). Its initial findings demonstrate that the reefs are getting “increasingly hammered” from all sides, he said.
“The coral reefs’ decline seems to be accelerating rather than decelerating, but I would add the caviat that the ultimate evidence will come in about five years time,” he added. That is because the CSS will be the first to provide a detailed worldwide picture of coral reefs, many of which have never been documented before. Only by comparing the result of this survey with the situation as it develops in the coming years can the true picture of the decline be known.
The forest we are used to looking at is not at all in equilibrium. Since the Ice Age, a number of plants have been ‘missing’ in Northern Europe, i.e. species that have not yet arrived. The same applies in many other parts of the world. Similarly, there is evidence that — even today — it often takes a very long time before plants follow when glaciers retreat, or the climate changes. In future, such disequilibrium will become the norm in the plant communities on Earth.
This has been demonstrated by a new synthesis carried out by two researchers at Aarhus University — Professor of Biology Jens-Christian Svenning and Assistant Professor Brody Sandel.
Professor Svenning explains: “In the climate debate, even researchers have had a tendency to overlook the fact that ecological dynamics can be slow. However, our forests take an extremely long time to adapt. For example, we still have a small amount of small-leaved lime in Denmark, which has held on since the warm period during the Bronze Age, i.e. about 3000 years. Perhaps it will now get another chance to spread when the summers once more get warmer. However, such expansion would take a long time, as lime is not a particularly fast-growing tree or particularly good at dispersing, even under optimum conditions. The climate will change considerably in the course of a single tree generation so we should not assume that the forest we’re looking at in a given place is suitable for the climate. Future climate will constantly shift, which will increasingly result in these strange situations of disequilibrium.”
The Great Wall of China was built over a millennium to ward off nomadic raiders. With Africa’s farmlands threatened by an enemy more pernicious than any Mongolian horde, Senegal is leading a 12-nation cooperative effort to erect a living defense system aptly named the Great Green Wall of Africa
The Sahara is currently the second largest desert in size, only smaller than Antarctica. However, unlike its frozen relative, the Sahara is actually expanding. The United Nations estimates that, by 2025, two thirds of Africa’s arable land will be covered in Saharan sand, vastly expanding the current 9 million square kilometers. Even if these predictions prove aggressive, the effects of farmland destruction on a continent already hard-pressed for food would be devastating on any level.
Coal plant, United Kingdom
No one knows for sure what caused the sudden increase in carbon 56 million years ago, but it was a natural cause. The current increase, which could be much faster, is of human origin. Oceans and forests absorb atmospheric CO2, but can not assume emission levels such as this coal plant in England.
we destroy everything.
The Earth could be closer than previously thought to the inner edge of the Sun’s habitable zone, according to a new study by planetary scientists in the US and France. The research also suggests that if our planet moved out of the habitable zone, it could lead to a “moist greenhouse” climate that could kick-start further drastic changes to the atmosphere.
A star’s habitable zone is the set of orbits within which a planet could have liquid water on its surface – and being within this zone is considered to be an important prerequisite for the development of life.
The current consensus is that the Sun’s habitable zone begins at about 0.95 astronomical units (AU), a comfortable distance from the Earth’s orbit at 1 AU. However, this latest work by James Kasting and colleagues at Penn State University, NASA and the University of Bordeaux suggests that that inner edge of the zone is much further out at 0.99 AU.
In a brewing scandal that should shock and trouble all of us, Exxon silenced us this week.
We put together a nationally crowdfunded PSA, promoted by thousands online who threw in a dollar or a click or both in favor of two simple ideas: we should be able to get the word out about the most pressing issue of our time, climate change, on television primetime; and we should be able to demand that our tax dollars stop being used to fund oil, gas, and coal.
We had already aired the ad, called Exxon Hates Your Children, to great acclaim in Denver, New York and Washington DC. But when we bought time in Exxon’s backyard, Houston, on the most pro-Oil network on televison, Fox News, something snapped – and Exxon decided to issue a cease and desist demand and threaten Comcast into not airing your PSA as scheduled.
Michael Moore, Chris Hedges on Challenging NDAA Indefinite Detention and the “Corporate Coup d’État”