(TMU) — Researchers have long warned of the dangers of climate change, which has seen ecological conditions degrade as weather patterns grow more unpredictable. And now, scientists are urging the world to plant billions of trees wherever possible as the cheapest and most effective way to handle the climate crisis.
According to the new study published in the journal Science, planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—approximately 25 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere—creating a vast natural means to trap and store the emissions in an affordable and politically non-controversial manner.
The researchers say the Earth has room for over 1 trillion additional trees that can be planted in abandoned lots, woodlands and parks across the globe as part of a new worldwide planting initiative that would remove a large portion of heat-trapping emissions from the atmosphere.
Professor Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who led the research, told the Associated Press:
“This is by far—by thousands of times—the cheapest climate change solution.”
Crowther also stressed the urgency of taking action, given the devastating effects and rapid progress of climate change, noting that tree planting would have a near-immediate impact, since trees remove carbon at an early age.
The ecologist said:
“It’s certainly a monumental challenge, which is exactly the scale of the problem of climate change.”
Crowther’s laboratory used Google Earth mapping and data from the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative to gain an accurate understanding of the current global tree count. The initiative relies on the efforts of ground-level volunteers, 1.2 million monitoring locations across the globe, satellite imagery, as well as tens of thousands of soil samples.
Today we launch a new platform for anyone to use to identify potential areas for #restoration around the world.
— Crowther Lab (@CrowtherLab) July 5, 2019
The information, paired with machine learning and artificial intelligence, allowed Crowther’s lab to identify a figure of three trillion trees on Earth—more than seven times the amount estimated by NASA.
It also gave Crowther’s team the ability to predict how many trees could feasibly be planted across the globe.
According to the study, an area of trees roughly the size of the United States could scrub 205 billion metric tons of carbon emissions—out of the roughly 300 billion metric tons of carbon pollution spewed into the atmosphere over the past 25 years.
The countries with the most available room for reforestation include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, and the United States. According to the study’s lead author, Jean-Francois Bastin, there is space for at least 1 trillion more trees, and potentially 1.5 trillion on top of the 3 trillion trees on the planet.
“Governments must now factor [tree restoration] into their national strategies.”
Unfortunately, not all governments appear willing to grow their forests. For example, Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch’s Program Director, told MintPress News that Brazil’s “Bolsonaro has overseen the most significant rollback of, and full-on assault on, human rights and environmental protection in Brazil since the fall of the country’s military dictatorship and the reinstallation of democracy in 1985.” The country has seen a sharp escalation in illegal logging and land theft since Bolsonaro came into power.
“Bolsonaro has overseen the most significant rollback, and full-on assault, on human rights and environmental protection in Brazil since the fall of the country’s military dictatorship.”
— MintPress News (@MintPressNews) July 2, 2019
Tropical areas could enjoy total tree cover, while others would have sparser coverage—effectively meaning that on average, around half the globe would be under tree canopy.
Researchers report in Science that Earth could support enough additional trees to cut #carbon levels in the atmosphere by nearly 25%, suggesting that forest restoration could be “the best #ClimateChange solution available.” ($) https://t.co/ecwMmuCyi2 pic.twitter.com/WeNdVXB40k
— Science Magazine (@ScienceMagazine) July 4, 2019
Crowther told the Guardian:
“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one.
What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”
The professor also stressed that it still remains crucial to halt deforestation and reverse greenhouse gas and carbon emissions to zero, if possible, while we still have the time. Crowther added:
“[Tree planting is] a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.”
But not all scientists are convinced by Crowther’s study. Martin Lukac, a professor from the University of Reading, remains skeptical, noting:
“Planting trees to soak up two-thirds of the entire anthropogenic [human-caused] carbon burden to date sounds too good to be true. Probably because it is.”
While Myles Allen, a professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, said:
“Yes, heroic reforestation can help, but it is time to stop suggesting there is a ‘nature-based solution’ to ongoing fossil fuel use. There isn’t. Sorry.”
Some groups have taken matters into their own hands, with or without supporting research. For example, as the Mind Unleashed previously reported, a Sikh initiative called The Million Tree Project aims to plant one million new trees throughout the world, with tens of thousands already having been planted.
More than 5,000 baby seals wash up on Namibia beach in unprecedented die-off
Thousands of dead seal pups have washed ashore on the coast of Namibia, raising grave concerns from conservationist groups.
Locals were in shock after an estimated 5,000 premature cape fur seal pups washed up along the coast of Pelican Point peninsula, turning the popular tourist destination known for its thriving schools of dolphins and seal colonies into a pup graveyard.
Cape fur seals are often referred to as the “dogs of the ocean,” owing to their playful nature and abundant energy. However, the seals are known to desert their young or suffer miscarriages when food supplies are scarce.
The unprecedented die-off of the 5,000 Cape fur seals is now being probed by the country’s fisheries ministry, reports Bloomberg.
Nearly all were born prematurely before quickly dying, according to marine biologist Naude Dreyer of Ocean Conservation Namibia.
“When the pregnant female feels she does not have enough reserves, she can abort,” he explained. “A few premature deaths is a natural event, but thousands of premature dead pups is extremely rare.”
Dreyer noticed the masses of dead seal pups while flying his drone over the Pelican Point seal colony on Oct. 5.
“This is the situation at Pelican Point, Namibia,” his non-profit group wrote in a Facebook post. “All the little red circles mark dead seal pups. A rough estimate brings the numbers to more than 5,000 at our seal colony alone. This is tragic, as it makes up a large portion of the new pup arrivals expected in late November.”
The seals are commonly found across the southern Atlantic coastlines of the African continent, spanning Namibia and South Africa to the southern tip of Angola.
“Normally cape fur seals would give birth from mid-November until early December,” Dr. Tess Gridley told Africa News. “That’s the height of pupping that we would normally expect but what has been happening this year is there has been an increase in abortions that was first seen starting in August and really sort of peaked just last week in October.”
However, female cape fur seals are increasingly appearing emaciated and starving, raising alarm among conservationists about the long-term health of the typically thriving seal population.
“There are about 1.7 million cape fur seals in total and about a million of those are actually in Namibia so in terms of the overall number of animals, they are quite resilient to these effects,” Gridley explained.
“But one issue that we do think might happen in the future is you will see a dip in reproduction potentially going forward particularly now for those animals that have unfortunately died,” she continued. “They are not going to be recruited into the population, so you might see a localized effect at the Pelican Point colony and also we are trying to monitor to see whether there is a wider scale impact that might affect other colonies as well.”
An absence of fish in the region and the spread of disease and toxins in the water are among the possible reasons behind the die-off.
“The seals look a bit thin and it could likely be caused by a lack of food,” Dreyer said. “Other seal colonies at other beaches look much better and they do not record the same amount of premature pups.”
The Amazon rainforest is coming dangerously close to permanently converting into dry savannah
(TMU) – A vast swathe of the Amazon is teetering on the brink of disaster and risks crossing the tipping point of transforming from a closed canopy rainforest teeming with life to an open savannah with few trees as climate conditions deprive the region of rainfall and effectively kill its unique ecosystem, scientists have warned.
Rainforests are extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in rainfall and moisture levels, and extended periods of drought and fire can be devastating in areas that rely on rain for sustenance. In the Amazon, such conditions would transform the lush rainforest into a semi-arid savannah-like mixture of woodland and grassland while also boosting the risk of fire.
While such dramatic changes to the Amazon were believed to be worst-case scenarios that could happen decades away, a team of Europe-based scientists warned on Monday that the tipping point is now dangerously close.
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications found that as much as 40 percent of the existing Amazon rainforest is already seeing so little rainfall that it could exist as a savannah-like environment, deprived of its canopy-like tree coverage and with far less biodiversity.
Researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Center used computer models and data analysis to stimulate the effect of continued climate change resulting from emissions from burning fossil fuels from now until the end of the century to find the results.
Rainforests typically create their own rainfall through water vapor, which then sustains and even extends the reach of tree levels.
However, when rain levels plummet, forest land also begins to fade away and degrade – resulting in a drier landscape that becomes more susceptible to the ravages of fire, drought, and ultimately, total deforestation.
The situation in the Amazon has only grown worse as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has stubbornly pushed forward the opening of the rainforest to economic development, unleashing a wave of human-caused fires meant to illegally clear one of the region so that it can be exploited by miners, cattle ranchers, loggers, and big agricultural interests.
This year’s fires in the Brazilian Amazon are the worst in a decade, marking a dizzying 60 percent rise in fire hotspots compared to last year’s infamous blazes.
The rainforest is so delicate that even the most subtle changes in climate conditions can have an outsized impact on the ecological balance of the environment, said the study’s lead author, Arie Staal.
“As forests grow and spread across a region, this affects rainfall,” he told The Guardian. “Forests create their own rain because leaves give off water vapor and this falls as rain further downwind. Rainfall means fewer fires leading to even more forests.”
However, the loss of large areas of rainforest mean a precipitous drop in rainfall levels across the region.
“Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem,” Staal said.
At that point, the rainforest crosses a threshold and converts into a savannah-type environment – a conversion that is difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.
“It is harder to return from the ‘trap’ caused by the feedback mechanism in which the open, grassy ecosystem is more flammable, and the fires, in turn, keep the ecosystem open,” Staal said.
Experts have warned that the Amazon rainforest is a crucial barrier to the catastrophic breakdown of global climate conditions. Without the Amazon rainforest, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could become out of control and drive global warming to intolerable levels while the change in rainfall patterns could impact the entire Western Hemisphere.
Tragically, the loss of rainforests like the Amazon would also entail the extermination of a huge portion of global species.
“We understand now that rainforests on all continents are very sensitive to global change and can rapidly lose their ability to adapt,” said study co-author Ingo Fetzer of the Stockholm Research Center. “Once gone, their recovery will take many decades to return to their original state. And given that rainforests host the majority of all global species, all this will be forever lost.”
Hurricane Sally brings massive destruction to Gulf Coast in “epic proportion flooding event”
(TMU) – While Hurricane Sally has weakened to a tropical storm, it has also unleashed massive destruction on the Gulf Coast at a steady, drawn-out rate while bringing “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding to the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama, reports the National Hurricane Center.
A bruising storm surge and torrential rain has already demolished infrastructure, knocking down a section of the Pensacola Bay Bridge – also known as the Three-Mile Bridge – and inundating the city’s downtown in about 3 feet of rain while flooding neighborhoods, homes, and businesses across the region.
— Chris Bruin (@TWCChrisBruin) September 16, 2020
Authorities are urgently warning residents to flee however they can as high water vehicles and boats conduct rescue efforts to help people escape their flooded homes.
“We believe that this is an epic proportion flooding event,” Escambia County Public Safety Director Jason Rogers told WEAR. “There is extremely high water, moving water that is very dangerous. We don’t believe that we have yet seen the worst of the flooding.”
— City of Gulf Breeze (@GulfBreezeCity) September 16, 2020
Sally, which managed to reach the level of a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 mph, downgrade to a tropical storm early Wednesday after it made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama.
However, the storm’s impact remains deadly as winds hit 70 mph as of Wednesday afternoon while the eye of the storm was roughly 30 miles west-northwest of Pensacola.
Authorities are warning about the ferocity of the storm, which is creeping north-northeast at an excruciatingly grueling pace of only 5 mph, ensuring thorough destruction across the region as it threatens to potentially produce almost three feet of rain in areas as well as seven-foot-high storm surges, ensuring floods across the region.
“We anticipate the evacuations could literally be in the thousands,” warned Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.
Upwards of half a million homes and businesses across Southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle had lost power as of Wednesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.
The National Weather Service declared a flash flood emergency for “severe threat to human life & catastrophic damage from a flash flood” The warning covers sections of coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, as well as Gulf Shores and Pensacola.
Emergency services have been deluged by 911 calls across Alabama and Florida all Wednesday, according to several local governments, but first-responders have struggled to rescue residents due to the treacherous conditions, according to Santa Rosa County Public Safety Director Brad Baker.
Boats across the area have been crushed or unmoored amid the raging storm, with some boats being slammed into tourist shops and restaurants along marinas. One dramatic photo shared on Instagram showed a loose boat siting in the flooded courtyard of an Orange Beach condominium building, while flooded streets are filling up with debris and downed tree limbs.
Sally’s landfall came 16 years to the day since Category 3 Hurricane Ivan slammed the same area.
Many residents, well aware of the dangers of such storms, have prepared by purchasing essential supplies and preparing their generators for bruising storm surges.
However, the intensity and trajectory of the slow-moving tropical storm is likely to have unpredictable results.
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