UCI and Singapore researchers find source of 2015 Southeast Asia smoke cloud


Irvine, Calif. - Smoke from widespread fires in Indonesia in the summer and fall of 2015 hung heavily over major urban centers in Southeast Asia, causing adverse health effects for millions of people. The afflicted could not have known that the polluted air they were breathing contained carbon from plants that were alive during the Middle Ages.

During the prolonged conflagration, which was triggered by an El Nino-driven drought, scientists collected smoke particles on the campus of the National University of Singapore and sent the samples to their colleagues at the University of California, Irvine. UCI's researchers dated the isotopes of the particles' carbon atoms, finding them to have an average age of 800 years.

Combining this analysis with atmospheric modeling of the wind-driven movement of smoke plumes in fall 2015, the team sleuthed out the source of the harmful cloud: smoldering peat on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The findings were published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our research shows that almost all of the smoke emissions originated from the burning of Holocene-aged peat," said first author Elizabeth Wiggins, a postdoctoral research fellow at NASA's Langley Research Center who led the study as a Ph.D. candidate in Earth system science at UCI, graduating in 2018. "Although this peat has functioned as a massive terrestrial carbon storage reservoir over the last several thousand years, it is now a significant source of carbon to the atmosphere."

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Singapore, Netherlands ink environment and water management agreement

Junn Loh Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 18;

AMSTERDAM: Singapore and the Netherlands on Wednesday (Nov 21) signed an agreement to enhance cooperation on environmental and water management.

This is the first time the two countries are signing a memorandum of understanding in the area of both environment and water.

Apart from aiming to facilitate knowledge exchange and expertise in the area of water management, the deal will look to support industry efforts to develop technologies and capabilities in water production, including through joint implementation of demonstration projects between the private and public sectors.

It also focuses on enhancing capabilities in four areas: Integrated water resource management, circular economy, climate change, and pollution prevention and control.

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Indonesia: Rising environmental concern over plastic waste polluting Indonesian seas

Fardah Assegaf Antara 20 Nov 18;

Jakarta, (ANTARA News) - The carcass of a 9.5-meter-long sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) washed ashore the Kapota isle, Wakatobi District, Southeast Sulawesi, on November 19, 2018.

Researchers of the Wakatobi Fisheries and Maritime Community Academy were shocked to find 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in the whale`s stomach, including flip-flops and 115 drinking cups.

The giant mammal had ingested 750 grams of 115 plastic cups, 140 grams of 19 hard plastic, 150 grams of four plastic bottles, 260 grams of 25 plastic bags, six pieces of wood weighing 740 grams, two flip-flops of 270 grams, a 200-gram nylon sack, and over a thousand pieces of raffia string weighing 3,260 grams, Laode Ahyar, an official of the Wakatobi National Park, informed an Antara correspondent in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, on November 20, 2018.

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Surge in marine refuges brings world close to protected areas goal

Reserves cover more than five times area of US, says report, but enforcement is often poor
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 19 Nov 18;

A record surge in the creation of marine protected areas has taken the international community close to its goal of creating nature refuges on 17% of the world’s land and 10% of seas by 2020, according to a new UN report.

Protected regions now cover more than five times the territory of the US, but the authors said this good news was often undermined by poor enforcement. Some reserves are little more than “paper parks” with little value to nature conservation. At least one has been turned into an industrial zone.

More than 27m square kilometres of seas (7% of the total) and 20m sq km of land (15% of the total) now have protected status, according to the Protected Planet report, which was released on Sunday at the UN biodiversity conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

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Tharman: Collective leadership needed on sustainability

Chang Ai-Lien Straits Times 20 Nov 18;

The widespread adoption by the corporate sector of sustainable practices will not come automatically, or quickly enough, if this is left entirely to market forces, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam last night.

The companies that have moved beyond the rhetoric of sustainability, to actually alter business models and practices, are in the minority everywhere in the world, he pointed out.

There are two realities to contend with in virtually all economies, he said. One is short-termism - the trade-off between short-term returns, which drive many shareholder decisions, and long-term impact. The second is the trade-off between shareholder returns and those of all stakeholders in society.

"If we wait for markets to provide the incentives, we will lose a critical window of opportunity to address the looming challenges of climate change, depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity - all of which will threaten the next generation.

"This is why governments and regulatory bodies need to step in to implement policies that will incentivise sustainable practices; why all countries have to move together; and why there is a critical role for collective leadership through international and multilateral organisations."

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Indonesia: Dead whale had 115 plastic cups, 2 flip-flops in its stomach

Associated Press 20 Nov 18;

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A dead whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia had a large lump of plastic waste in its stomach, including drinking cups and flip-flops, a park official said Tuesday, causing concern among environmentalists and government officials in one of the world’s largest plastic polluting countries.

Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the rotting carcass of the 9.5-meter (31-foot) sperm whale late Monday near the park in Southeast Sulawesi province after receiving a report from environmentalists that villagers had surrounded the dead whale and were beginning to butcher the rotting carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said.

Santoso said researchers from wildlife conservation group WWF and the park’s conservation academy found about 5.9 kilograms (13 pounds) of plastic waste in the animal’s stomach containing 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic.

“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia.

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Indonesia: Flooding forces elephants to enter residential area

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 20 Nov 18;

Floods have forced a herd of 11 wild elephants to flee their natural habitat and enter plantation areas located near a residential compound in Tapung district, Kampar regency, Riau province.

The elephants had reportedly eaten and destroyed a cassava plantation, young oil palms and other plants before they went into hiding in the bushes located some 3 to 4 kilometers from the residential area.

The head of the Riau Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BBKSDA), Heru Sutmantoro, said the plantations were in what was originally the natural habitat of the wild elephants, which move from one place to another between Pekanbaru, Kampar and Siak.

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Best of our wild blogs: 20 Nov 18

[Short Film] Our Seas, Our Legacy: Episode 1 - Between the Tides
Psychedelic Nature

34th Singapore Bird Race with “Wings of Johor”
Singapore Bird Group

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NDP 2019 funpack to be more environmentally friendly: Ng Eng Hen

Channel NewsAsia 19 Nov 18;

SINGAPORE: Next year's National Day Parade (NDP) funpack will be more environmentally friendly, said Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen on Monday (Nov 19).

This was a written reply in response to Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng's question on what measures are being taken to reduce single-use plastics at NDP 2019, and whether the Ministry will consider providing only reusable items with minimal packaging in the NDP 2019 funpack.

The general direction for funpack items in 2019 are for them to be reusable "when available and cost-effective", said Dr Ng.

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Climate change represents major challenges, but also opportunities: Teo Chee Hean

Singapore will continue to improve its carbon efficiency through a range of measures, which includes further encouraging the use of public transport and building the next generation of super low-energy green buildings, said DPM Teo.
Chang Ai-Lien Straits Times 19 Nov 18;

SINGAPORE - Climate change brings about not just great challenges but also opportunities, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on Monday (Nov 19).

"Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our time," he said, noting that it requires a global solution, where governments, the private sector, civil society and private citizens work in unison.

But he stressed that climate change is not only about challenges and constraints; it also provides strong incentives for entrepreneurship, research and development, and creative problem-solving.

Singapore, in particular, is well-positioned to become a green growth hub and take advantage of new green growth opportunities, he said.

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Express train service on Cross Island Line off the table: Khaw Boon Wan

JANICE LIM Today Online 20 Nov 18;

SINGAPORE — An express MRT train service that would get commuters more quickly from one end of the future Cross Island Line (CRL) to the other will not materialise after all.

This is after the authorities projected that just less than 5 per cent of the rail line's users would see time savings of at least 15 minutes.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question by Mr Ong Teng Koon, Member of Parliament for Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also said on Monday (Nov 19) that the benefits of significant time savings do not outweigh the cost.

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Indonesia: Watch Rare Footage of the World’s Most Endangered Rhino

Joseph Hincks, Time Yahoo News 19 Nov 18;

Conservationists have released footage and photographs of the world’s rarest rhino, which counts fewer than 70 members among its population and is confined to a single national park in Indonesia.

While camera-trap images of the Javan rhino have occasionally surfaced, a WWF spokesperson says the photographs released Monday are only the third manually captured set ever published. They offer a rare glimpse of the critically endangered mammal wallowing in near-dusk light.

“Very few people have seen a Javan rhino in the wild,” says photographer Robin Moore, who snapped the images with a team from Global Wildlife Conservation and WWF-Indonesia last October. “Even some of the people who have been working on their conservation for decades have never seen one,” he says.

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