Best of our wild blogs: 1 Mar 13

Gettin reacquainted
from Life's Indulgences

Question about Lorong Halus
from Water Quality in Singapore

Pockets of wild growth: Are they worth conserving?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Because the RIGHT environment is here: poster boy Marcus Chua on NUS banner, webpage and newspaper adverts
from Raffles Museum News

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Declining populations make peaceful neighbours: Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew Straits Times 1 Mar 13;

WHEN a nation's population is growing it is usually accompanied by a sense of optimism, which is then followed by a desire for expansion. This was the case in both Germany and Japan when World War II broke out.

In 1931 Japan's population was 64.5 million and occupied 145,882 square miles of land. (Its total fertility rate, or TFR, reached 4.1 by the late 1930s.) Japan cast its eye on Manchuria, seeing it as a source of limitless natural resources and as a buffer between itself and Russia, and invaded in September 1931.

China's population was 492.1 million and occupied an area of 3.7 million square miles. But it was not a united land, which made it weak. Japan carried out skirmishes against China during the ensuing years, but in the middle of 1937 the conflicts escalated into full-scale war.

By the end of October 1938 China's Kuomintang government had retreated south to Chungking, and by 1941 Japan had captured all of China's coastal cities and large tracts of the neighbouring countryside, as well as northern and southern French Indochina.

In July 1941 the US government issued an ultimatum to Japan: withdraw from Indochina or the United States would impose an oil embargo on Japan. Remember that in 1941 the US had a population of more than 130 million and a far more powerful industrial base than Japan had.

Nevertheless, on Dec 7, 1941 Japan took a huge gamble and without warning launched more than 350 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves from six aircraft carriers, attacking American naval vessels at Pearl Harbour. (Fortunately for the US its aircraft carriers were out at sea and escaped the surprise attack.) Japan simultaneously invaded the whole of South-east Asia in order to gain control of the Dutch East Indies' oil.

Inevitably, the US rebuilt its navy, and during the Battle of Midway in June 1942 sank most of those six Japanese aircraft carriers and their support vessels.

However, the Japanese proved to be intrepid fighters, willing to fight to the death rather than surrender. Japan's army became the most brutal and merciless in the world. The Battle of Iwo Jima was so ferocious that afterward the Americans estimated they would lose a million men if they attempted to take the Japanese mainland. Instead they dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki, which put paid to Japan's ambitions of empire in Asia.

A similar situation occurred in Germany. Its TFR in 1939 was 2.6. Among other things, Germany wanted lebensraum (living space) for its people. Hitler pushed east during WWII to annihilate the Slavic peoples in Ukraine and Russia so those lands could be populated with Germans. But he and his generals underestimated the endurance and valour of the Russian people, as well as the bitterly cold winter conditions under which they would be fighting. Consequently, they suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Russian armed forces.

What have we learnt?

BOTH Japan and Germany now have declining birth rates. Germany's TFR was 1.4 in 2012, or about eight births per thousand people; Japan's TFR has also dropped to 1.4. By 2060 it is estimated that Japan's current population of 128 million will have dropped to 87 million. Neither nation has the need nor the stomach to start another war.

One reason for the world's relative peace and stability today is that all developed countries have a TFR of less than 2.1. (Singapore's is 1.2.) Some fast-growing developing countries also have low TFRs; for instance, China's TFR for 2012 is estimated to be 1.6. Such countries no longer have a need to go searching for lebensraum.

But many developing countries have high TFRs, the largest of these being India, with its 2012 TFR estimated to be 2.6. This means more overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure, schools as well as medical and social services. Africa has even higher TFRs, with many of its countries between 4 and 7, far higher than the replacement rate of 2.1.

The world has suffered the consequences of expanding populations before. What looms on the horizon? And will we be prepared to confront it?

The writer is the former prime minister of Singapore. This article first appeared in the March edition of Forbes magazine.

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Humans have to re-learn how to live in harmony with earth: Balakrishnan

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said human beings will have to re-learn how to live in harmony with the earth.

He said humans have enjoyed a "free ride" for at least two to three centuries but that is coming to an end. This includes the days of continually extracting cheap, plentiful energy from the ground.

Dr Balakrishnan said a new balance will need to be found and this will encompass finding renewable resources of energy and more efficient ways of extracting materials.

He said: "We will have to learn to live in a way that does not pollute or threaten the existence of our neighbours, and even more importantly that of our future generations.

"So in other words, we will have to rediscover this balance, and the civilisations and the nations that discover this first will have a huge head start for the future."

Dr Balakrishnan said this is not only the responsible thing to do but also the right thing to do for the economy.

He was speaking at the Green Wave Environmental Care Competition on Thursday morning.

The competition, organised by Sembcorp Marine's Sembawang Shipyard, has promoted the green cause to about 10,000 students over the last 10 years.

One of the winning entries this year came from Woodlands Secondary School where the team found a way to recycle egg shells into paint.

- CNA/fa

Singapore can be a role model as a sustainable city: Balakrishnan
Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore does not have to sacrifice green spaces to be a beautiful and sustainable city, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

He added Singapore can become a role model for the world to achieve this.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to the media during his visit to the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre on Sunday morning to unveil a new lift for the centre.

He said high density living is the most sustainable and green way of life on the planet and which Singapore can take the lead.

He said: "The most amazing thing about Singapore is that almost half of our land is covered in green. But equally, you realise that this has been achieved because we have been able to go high-rise. Because so many of us live in apartments, and that also give the fantastic landscape, cityscape of Singapore and the bright lights at night.

"So the point I'm making is we have to stop thinking in terms of zero-sum games, that I can only have this or that and not go, but to actually exercise imagination and to make it even better."

On Sunday morning, Dr Balakrishnan, who is the adviser to the Bukit Timah Grassroots Organisations and the area's MP Sim Ann unveiled a new lift for the centre, which they hope will provide easy access for customers and stall holders with heavy goods.

Ms Ann said: "We do have a number of elderly residents and it is a mature estate and I think for them to climb up and down the stairs especially after having done their shopping is not very convenient. Some of them have also told me it is quite painful to do that, so I think with the lift, it improves the situation."

Dr Balakrishnan said the government has improved this food centre over the years based on feedback from patrons and stall holders and will continue to do so.

He added that Singapore will need many more of such places with an authentic identity of its own.

Dr Balakrishnan said hawker centres can be cosy and unique places within the high density urban environment Singapore is moving towards.

His vision of the city, he said, is to make most things, including school, eating places and work, within a walking range of up to 400 or 500 metres.

On the negative reactions from some Singaporeans towards the Population White Paper, Dr Balakrishnan said the high level of emotions is a good thing as it shows Singaporeans care deeply about the country.

He said: "Well, actually part of me is actually quite glad because it shows that the people loves Singapore, people care deeply about the future, care deeply about what happens to our identity our children our livelihood and to our senior citizens. So the level of emotions to me is a good thing. I would be far more worried if people say I don't care, so let's recognise and give credit to Singaporeans for that. That we all care and care very deeply."

He added: "At the end of the day, the government has to do the right thing for the long term good of our people but has to convince our people. If we cannot convince people, then these plans will not work."

- CNA/fa

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Dengue fever cases on the rise again

297 people infected last week; several strains of virus afflicting population
Salma Khalik Straits Times 1 Mar 13;

AFTER a short breathing space during the Chinese New Year, dengue fever cases are up again, with 297 people infected last week and another 162 since Sunday.

In the week beginning Feb 10, the number of people diagnosed with dengue fell to 247, from a high of 322 the previous week.

Dr Koh Hau Tek, medical director of the Parkway Shenton chain of clinics, said a possible reason for the fall in numbers that week could be foreign workers going home for the holiday season, as well as Singaporeans taking advantage of the four-day weekend break to travel.

Another reason, he said, could be "the belief that visits to medical facilities during the Lunar New Year period do not bode well for the new year".

So people who are not very sick might prefer to self-medicate.

A worrying trend that has emerged is that seven of the 24 active clusters are caused by Den-1 and Den-3 viral strains.

There are four dengue strains. Since 2007, the dominant strain has been Den-2, so the population might have little immunity against other strains.

Furthermore, someone who has been infected before, tends to be more sick when infected by a different strain.

Three of the four clusters in Hougang, totalling 79 people, are caused by the Den-3 virus. The biggest, with more than 60 people infected, is in Street 51, Street 52 and Avenue 6.

Den-1 is responsible for three other clusters with 12 people infected.

A spokesman for the National Environment Agency said: "NEA and members of the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force are stepping up inspections to search and destroy mosquito breeding in premises as well as outdoor areas in these estates."

While dengue is endemic in Singapore, it is unusual to have such a high number of infections at this time of the year, which is traditionally the low season.

The peak tends to be in the hotter months in the middle of the year. This year has been an exception, with the number of infections well above the epidemic level of 165 a week, for seven out of the eight weeks.

More than 2,000 people have been sick with dengue this year, compared to fewer than 600 over the same period last year.

Symptoms of dengue fever include a high fever, severe headache, joint and muscular ache and a red rash. In severe cases, the person could bleed from the nose and gums.

Anyone with such symptoms is encouraged to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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Malaysia: Declare emergency to stop decline of natural resources, Government urged

Isabella Lai The Star 1 Mar 13;

SUBANG JAYA: The Government must declare a National Defo­restation and Degradation Emer­gency and put in emergency measures to reverse the decline of the country’s natural resources, said Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M).

Its secretary-general Josie Fernandez said such action should first begin with a “time-bound action-oriented” review of state forest policies.

“We all agree that this is a situation of emergency.

“Environmen­­­tal issues must be at the forefront of the general election because our future generations will be severely affected if nothing is done,” she said at the National Conference on Envi­ronment: People, Forests, Sus­tainability here yesterday.

The seminar was organised by TI-M and 17 other coalition members.

They included the Malaysian Nature Society, Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia and Network of Orang Asli Villages in Peninsular Malaysia.

Stressing the need for greater public participation in creating sustainable development, Fernandez said national policies should be reformed with the aim of developing, conserving and managing resources.

The two-day seminar, she said, had discussed a range of environmental issues affecting communities throughout Malaysia, adding that the coalition would put forth a “manifesto” by the middle of this month to all political parties.

The environmental issues, she said, included the conversion of peat forests to oil palm plantations, widespread logging in forest reserves and forested areas and the invasion of orang asli settlements due to economic development plans.

“For those politicians who make green pledges and are elected to office, we will closely monitor them to see whether they fulfil their promises,” she said.

Fernandez said monitoring would also come in the form of a Key Performance Index system, under which “report cards” would be sent out to the constituencies where their local representatives had made promises.

The coalition, she said, had also come up with a list of recommendations, among which was to amend the National Land Code and State Forest Enactment to include mandatory public participation as well as reintroduce the National Forestry Council.

Fernandez pointed out that in 1992, Malaysia had made a commitment to maintain 50% forest cover.

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Asian Development Bank Pledges $4.5 Million to Help Conserve Borneo Forest

Jakarta Globe 27 Feb 13;

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing nearly $4.5 million to help conserve one of the world’s most critical but threatened forest areas in the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Heart of Borneo, covering about 22 million hectares, has some of the world’s most important equatorial forests which act as ‘lungs of the earth’ but it is under threat from illegal logging and other harmful activities like poaching,” said Pavit Ramachandran, an environment specialist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

An estimated 12 million local and indigenous people depend on the Heart of Borneo, the statement said, adding that each year, an estimated 1 million cubic meters of timber is smuggled out of the area, leaving destroyed forests, threatened biodiversity, lost livelihood opportunities and higher costs for forest rehabilitation. Conflicting laws and ambiguity over areas of responsibility for managing resources has left the region highly vulnerable.

The project will provide support to strengthen policies and institutions for improved sustainable forest and biodiversity management, and it will help raise the capacity of government agencies to develop sustainable livelihood opportunities, with measures such as pilot schemes for local communities to be paid for ecosystem services.

The project performance targets by 2016 include a 2 percent decrease in forest loss against a 2013 baseline, a 5 percent reduction in the incidence of wildlife poaching, and the enactment of a draft national policy and reform agenda for forest resource management.

The project will also undertake an in-depth study of supply chains related to mining, palm oil, rubber, and tourism, all of which are expanding and exacting an increasingly adverse toll on forest resources.

The project, which will be carried out by the Ministry of Forestry is expected to run from September 2013 to August 2016.

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Rhino horn - time to legalise the trade say researchers

Matt McGrath BBC News 28 Feb 13;

A group of environmental researchers says that legalising the trade in rhinoceros horn is necessary to save the animals.

Writing in Science journal, they argue that a global ban has failed to stem an "insatiable international demand".

The authors say the market could be met by humanely shaving the horns of live rhinos.

At present in South Africa, poachers are on average killing around two rhinos every day.

According to the lead author of the research Dr Duan Biggs from the University of Queensland, poaching is now out of control.

"The current situation is failing, the longer we wait to put in place a legal trade the more rhinos we lose," he told BBC News.

"It is an urgent issue, we must start the process of getting a legal trade evaluated and put in place soon."

At present it is estimated that there are around 20,000 white rhinos left with the majority in South Africa and Namibia. There are also an estimated 5,000 black rhinos still alive, but the western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011.
Shaving solution

Any trade in rhino horn is prohibited under the Convention on the international trade in endangered species (Cites). Delegates from 178 countries will meet in Bangkok next week to update the 40 year old treaty.

But according to the Science paper, the ban is actually boosting illegal poaching by constricting the supply of rhino horn and driving up the price. In 1993 a kilogramme sold for around $4,700 - In 2012 it was selling for $65,000 for the equivalent weight.

Attempts to restrict the trade by persuading consumers of Chinese medicine that rhino horn has no therapeutic effect have also failed.

In their report, the researchers argue that by humanely shaving the horns of live rhinos, enough material could be generated to meet global demand. Rhinos grow about 0.9kg of horn each year and the scientists say that the risks to the animals from horn "harvesting" are minimal.

The researchers advocate the setting up of a central selling organisation that could DNA fingerprint the shavings and control the market. Rhino horn would be legal, cheaper and easier to obtain they say.

But many wildlife campaigners fundamentally disagree.

"We don't support the idea of legalised trade at this time because we just don't think it is enforceable," says Dr Colman O'Criodain, a wildlife trade policy analyst with WWF.

"The markets where the trade would be directed, particularly Vietnam, we aren't satisfied that they have the enforcement regime in place that would prevent the laundering of wild rhino through this route."

"We don't think it would stop the poaching crisis, we think the legal trade could make it worse," he added.
Crocodile leads

But Dr Biggs and colleagues point to the experience with crocodiles as an example of how a legalised trading regime can work for the benefit of a threatened species.

"There has been a very successful legal trade for some time now which has more or less eradicated pressures on wild crocodile populations," he said.

"We have strong evidence that it works and the crocodile example shows it can work in low income countries and those without a strong governance structure."

The scientists say they don't like the idea of a legalised trade but believe it is the lesser of two evils. They also argue that because of the trade ban, conservation resources are being taken away from other actions and are being redirected to anti poaching.

"Essentially what is being created is a pseudo war with people some from the local communities who are involved in poaching," says Dr Biggs.

While no proposal to lift the ban is on the table at next week's Cites meeting in Bangkok, the South African government is said to be investigating the issue and says that discussions in the Thai capital will guide their position.

South Africa mulls legal rhino horn trade
(AFP) Google News 28 Feb 13;

CAPE TOWN — South Africa is exploring the legal trade of rhino horn to counter a poaching bloodbath that has surged despite tighter security controls, the environment minister said Thursday.

"We are investigating," minister Edna Molewa told AFP, saying cabinet had mandated the ministry to look into the matter.

The trade is banned internationally but it has been punted as a possible tool against the insatiable Asian demand for horn that is fuelling the slaughter.

So far this year, 128 rhinos have been lost after a record 668 animals were killed last year.

No proposal has been introduced by South Africa to lift the ban at next month's meeting of the UN wildlife trade regulator CITES in Bangkok.

But Molewa said the discussions at the meeting will help guide South Africa's position.

"The reality of the matter is rhino horn is being poached in South Africa right now," she told a media briefing.

"There's a moratorium on trade in South Africa but they still get it out of South Africa. So we are saying let's look at other mechanisms."

Rhino horn brought in about $60,000 (46,000 euro) per kilogramme, while a live animal cost just over half of that.

A study into rhino management had raised the unbanning of the trade and the commercial farming of rhinos, as a possibility.

With the world's biggest rhino population of around 20,500 animals, officials fear that the poaching kill-rate will one day outpace the number of baby rhinos being born.

"So far the mortality rate has not yet surpassed the maternity rate or the birth rate, but we are watching that," said Fundisile Mketani, a senior official in the department.

South Africa has beefed up security controls, including sending an unmanned drone and soldiers into the world famous Kruger National Park.

Saving rhinos from extinction
ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED)
Science Alert 1 Mar 13;

Four leading environmental scientists urged the international community to install a legal trade in rhino horn – in a last ditch effort to save the imperilled animals from extinction.

In an article in the international journal Science the scientists argued that a global ban on rhino products has failed, and death rates among the world’s remaining black and white rhinos are soaring due to illegal poaching to supply insatiable international demand.

“Current strategies have clearly failed to conserve these magnificent animals and the time has come for a highly regulated legal trade in horn”, says lead author Dr Duan Biggs of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and University of Queensland.

“As committed environmentalists we don’t like the idea of a legal trade any more than does the average member of the concerned public. But we can see that we need to do something radically different to conserve Africa’s rhino.”

The researchers said the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct in 2011. There are only 5000 Black Rhinos and 20,000 White Rhinos left, the vast majority of which are in South Africa and Namibia.

“Poaching in South Africa has, on average, more than doubled each year over the past 5 years. Skyrocketing poaching levels are driven by tremendous growth in the retail price of rhino horn, from around $4,700 per kilogram in 1993 to around $65,000 per kilogram in 2012,” they say.

“Rhino horn is now worth more than gold,” the scientists note. This growth is mainly attributed to soaring demand by affluent Asian consumers for Chinese medicines.

World trade in rhino horn is banned under the CITES Treaty - and this ban, by restricting supplies of horn, has only succeeded in generating huge rewards for an illegal high-tech poaching industry, equipped with helicopters and stun-darts, which is slaughtering rhinos at alarming rates.

Attempts to educate Chinese medicine consumers to stop using rhino horn have failed to reduce the growth in demand, they said.

The scientists argue that the entire world demand for horn could be met legally by humanely shaving the horns of live rhinos, and from animals which die of natural causes. Rhinos grow about 0.9 kg of horn each year, and the risks to the animal from today’s best-practice horn harvesting techniques are minimal. The legal trade in farmed crocodile skins is an example of an industry where legalisation has saved the species from being hunted to extinction.

Furthermore, if rhinos were being ‘farmed’ legally, more land would be set aside for them and this in turn would help to conserve other endangered savannah animals, as well as generating much-needed income for impoverished rural areas in southern Africa the researchers argue.

They advocate the creation of a Central Selling Organisation to supervise the legitimate harvest and sale of rhino horn globally. Buyers would be attracted to this organisation because its products will be legal, cheaper than horn on the black market, and safer and easier to obtain, they said, adding “horn sold through a Central Selling Organisation could be DNA-fingerprinted and traceable worldwide, enabling buyers, and regulators to differentiate between legal and illicit products.”

A legal trade in rhino horn was first proposed 20 years ago, but rejected as ‘premature’.

However, the time has now come for a legal trade in horn, says Dr Biggs. “There is a great opportunity to start serious discussions about establishing a legal trade in rhino horn at the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties (COP-16), which is to be held from 3-14 March this year, in Bangkok.”

“Legitimizing the market for horn may be morally repugnant to some, but it is probably the only sensible way to prevent extinction of Africa’s remaining rhinos,” the scientists conclude.

Their paper "Legal Trade of Africa’s Rhino Horns" by Duan Biggs, Franck Courchamp, Rowan Martin and Hugh Possingham, appears in the latest edition of the journal Science (March 1).

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Loss of wild pollinators serious threat to crop yields, study finds

Wild bees and other insects twice as effective as honeybees in producing seeds and fruit on crops
Damian Carrington The Guardian 28 Feb 13;

The decline of wild bees and other pollinators may be an even more alarming threat to crop yields than the loss of honeybees, a worldwide study suggests, revealing the irreplaceable contribution of wild insects to global food production.

Scientists studied the pollination of more than 40 crops in 600 fields across every populated continent and found wild pollinators were twice as effective as honeybees in producing seeds and fruit on crops including oilseed rape, coffee, onions, almonds, tomatoes and strawberries. Furthermore, trucking in managed honeybee hives did not replace wild pollination when that was lost, but only added to the pollination that took place.

"It was astonishing; the result was so consistent and clear," said Lucas Garibaldi, at the National University in Río Negro, Argentina, who led the 46-strong scientific team. "We know wild insects are declining so we need to start focusing on them. Without such changes, the ongoing loss is destined to compromise agricultural yields worldwide."

Pollination is needed for about three-quarters of global food crops. The decline of honeybee colonies due to disease and pesticides has prompted serious concern. Jason Tylianakis, at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, described them as "the species charged with protecting global food security".

The new research shows for the first time the huge contribution of wild insects and shows honeybees cannot replace the wild insects lost as their habitat is destroyed. Garibaldi said relying on honeybees was a "highly risky strategy" because disease can sweep through single species, as has been seen with the varroa mite, and single species cannot adapt to environmental changes nearly as well as a group of wild pollinators.

"The studies show conclusively that biodiversity has a direct measurable value for food production and that a few managed species cannot compensate for the biodiversity on which we depend," said Tylianakis, who was not part of the research team.

Garibaldi's team, whose work was published in the journal Science on Thursday, warn: "Global degradation of natural services can undermine the ability of agriculture to meet the demands of the growing, increasingly affluent, human population."

Garibaldi said: "Without wild pollination, you will not get the best yields and the best agricultural land already farmed, so it is very important to get the maximum yield." He added that, across the world, the yields of crops that needed pollination were rising significantly more slowly than crops that did not.

Wild pollinators perform better than honeybees because they deploy a wider range of pollinating techniques, such as "buzz" pollination. They also visit more plants, meaning much more effective cross-pollination than honeybees, which tend to carry pollen from one flower to another on the same plant.

A second new study published in Science on Thursday showed more than half the wild bee species were lost in the 20th century in the US. It made use of a remarkable record made of plants and pollinators at Carlinville, Illinois between 1888 and 1891 by entomologist Charles Robertson. Scientists combined that with data from 1971-72 and new data from 2009-10 to discover the changes in pollination seen over the century as widespread forest was reduced to the fragments that remain today.

They found that half of the 109 bee species recorded by Robertson had been lost and there had been a serious degradation of the pollination provided by the remaining wild insects, with their ability to pollinate specific plants falling by more than half. There was an increasing mismatch between when plants flowered and when bees were active, a finding consistent with climate change, according to the researchers.

Laura Burkle, at Washington University in Montana, who led the work, said: "There are two sides to this coin. These pollination systems are incredibly robust to environmental change, it is almost miraculous that they continue to pollinate given the land use changes. But the system is also incredibly compromised and further degradation will have serious impacts."

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Public concern about environment overshadowed by crisis

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 1 Mar 13;

Public concern about environmental issues hit a 20-year low last year, a poll showed, as worries about the aftermath of the global financial crisis overshadowed growing evidence of man-made climate change.

Canada-based research group GlobeScan surveyed 22,812 people from 22 countries, asking them to rate the seriousness of six issues - air pollution, water pollution, species loss, automobile emissions, fresh water shortages and climate change.

On average, 49 percent of people surveyed said climate change was a "very serious" concern and 50 percent said the same for biodiversity loss. The highest level of concern was about fresh water shortages, with 58 percent of people rating this as a "very serious" concern.

"Scientists report that evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever but our data shows that economic crisis and a lack of political leadership mean that the public are starting to tune out," said Doug Miller, chairman of GlobeScan.

"Those who care about mobilizing public opinion on the environment need to find new messages in order to reinvigorate a stalled debate."

The survey was conducted in July-September 2012, before hurricane Sandy hit the United States' east coast, which experts said might have raised awareness of extreme weather events.

The poll showed public concern for all issues except climate change was lower last year than in 1992. Many of the sharpest falls in concern occurred over the past two years.

Concern about climate change was actually lower between 1998 and 2003 than last year but no exact reason was given for this.

Falling public concern over environmental issues coincides with the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2007-8 and a series of disappointing international climate conferences since a United Nations' summit in 2009 in Copenhagen failed to clinch a strong deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries are still working on getting a deal signed by 2015 which would legally bind all nations to cut emissions from 2020.

Last year saw evidence mount of man-made climate change and the effects of global warming. Summer sea ice in the Arctic declined to a record low level while carbon dioxide emissions rose to record highs.

In January, a report by the World Economic Forum estimated that curbing climate change would cost the world an extra $700 billion a year. [ID:nL6N0AQDAR]

(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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