Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jun 13

TeamSeagrass Training Level 2 (16 Jun 2013)
from teamseagrass

A Rare Lycaenid at Upper Peirce Reservoir Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

ButterflyCircle in the News!
from Butterflies of Singapore

Piggies and seagrasses at Chek Jawa
from wild shores of singapore

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Get anglers' input on fishing spots

Straits Times 16 Jun 13;

PUB has allocated some places at the reservoirs where fishing is legal, but frequent anglers say that the bite rates are always higher in the no-fishing areas designated by PUB ("Anglers calling for more fishing spots"; last Sunday).

I suggest that PUB speak to anglers to find out the better spots to designate for fishing.

The authorities should also consider releasing new stocks of fish into the reservoirs every year, which is a common practice in other countries.

Kishore Vasu

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Singaporeans breathe easier as haze abates slightly

Straits Times 16 Jun 13;

A view of Housing Board flats at Lorong 1A Toa Payoh, at 5.30pm yesterday. The PSI reading then was 78, a slight improvement from Friday's peak of 88. The haze can be expected to linger for a few days, the NEA has said. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

There were slightly clearer skies over Singapore yesterday, even though forest fires continued to rage in Sumatra.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) eased slightly from last Friday's peak of 88 but remained in the "moderate" range, with the three-hour reading for the island hitting a high of 79 at 6pm.

A PSI reading of zero to 50 is "good", while anything above 100 is considered "unhealthy".

At 4pm yesterday, the 24-hour PSI readings in different parts of the island ranged from 66 to 89.

And as the hazy skies and burning smell receded perceptibly, many took the chance to spend the day outdoors.

At Gardens by the Bay, visitors were out and about in the evening. One of them, customer service associate Juni Rahmat, was surprised by the PSI reading.

"It feels like nothing today. If it was like Friday, I wouldn't have come here. Not only was it hot then, but it was hazy too," said Ms Juni, who was celebrating her 25th birthday.

Naval officer Eric Tam, 33, said he could still smell a slight burning, but "it's better than on Friday".

Still, the haze can be expected to be around for a few days, National Environment Agency officials said on Friday, as south-westerly winds carry smoke in this direction from forest fires in Sumatra.

In Riau, the Indonesian province prone to forest fires closest to Singapore, thick smoke continued to envelop several areas like the coastal city of Dumai as dry weather continued.

Visibility has been reduced all week, but flights have not been affected, city government spokesman Darmawan told The Sunday Times.

"There has been no rain for the past week," he said yesterday.

"Though the ban on burning (of land and shrubs) has been observed around here, sometimes dry weather sees the unintended happen."

As long as the PSI remains in the moderate range, people considered vulnerable should curtail their exertion, said NEA. This includes those with lung or heart disease, children and the elderly.

Melissa Lin and Zakir Hussain

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Why Singapore must act to cut vehicle soot now

Dennis Posadas Today Online 16 Jun 13;

Walk around many major Asian cities like Shanghai , Bangkok and Manila for a few minutes during the peak hour rush, and the impact of unburned fossil fuel soot will immediately be apparent in your lungs, your hair and skin.

Soot (known technically as black carbon) is the unburned component of fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline from poorly maintained and dilapidated vehicle engines, cookstoves and the like.

But most of Asia’s transportation systems, especially in poor countries and even China , consists of surplus and dilapidated engines that are not always properly maintained. Thus soot is a major problem, and given the number of decades it has persisted, it would not be surprising to conclude that nothing can be done – that it is a common problem that everyone talks about but no one wants to solve.

Economists call the ill effects an externality – in this case refering to respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, allergic rhinitis and the like. These result in real costs – hospital visits, asthma inhalers, so on – but still nothing is done about it, save for anti-smog laws that are often bypassed and sources of corruption in many cities.

But many scientists around the world, such as Dr Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the University of California at San Diego ( have found that black carbon is a very powerful climate change agent several thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide. Because the soot particles are black, just like a black car in the summer, when sunlight strikes it, it does not reflect light but instead emits heat – as a black body, to its surroundings.

When carried by winds to Arctic (and Himalayan) ice, it also reduces the reflectivity of these ice sheets, thus reducing the ability of ice sheets to reduce solar heat.

This finding allows black carbon to be treated as a climate change agent in much the same way that the other greenhouse gases are, meaning that financing mechanisms that allow for the building of solar and wind farms technically should be allowed for financing repair of dilapidated old engines and cookstoves.

To this end, the UNEP Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to reduce short lived climate pollutants (such as black carbon, HFC refrigerants, and methane) is studying how to move forward on this.

According to the UNEP, “rapidly reducing methane and black carbon could prevent over two million premature deaths and avoid annual crop losses of over 30 million tons annually. It could also slow down the warming expected by 2050 by about 0.5-degrees Celsius, almost halving projected near-term warming, while mitigating emissions of HFCs could augment this global mitigation potential by about 20 per cent.

“Reducing SLCPs is also likely to have enhanced climate benefits in many vulnerable regions such as elevated snow and ice covered regions and in reducing regional disruption of traditional rainfall patterns.”

If we do not move on this, it would be a pity, as fixing black carbon might be as simple as proper maintenance to, at worst, repairing or replacing a defective engine.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for many decades even if coal sources are displaced by renewable sources, black carbon disappears from the air only after a few weeks once the offending source is corrected. Thus black carbon efforts are a good way to move on the climate front while at the same time tackling what has been long a struggle for many cities – the respiratory health of their inhabitants.


Dennis Posadas is an Asia-based fellow of the Washington D.C. based Climate Institute and author of Greenergized: A Business Fable on Clean Energy.

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Malaysia: West coast hit by unhealthy air quality levels

The Star 16 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: The haze has returned, this time to the west coast of the peninsula, after 46 hot spots were found in Sumatra, says the Department of Environment (DOE).

Its director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said several areas in the country are experiencing unhealthy air quality levels following the location of the hot spots via satellite.

The hazy condition was also caused by the westerly monsoon season between June and September, which would see winds blowing from central Sumatera.

Images from the Asean Specialised Metrological Centre yesterday found that the Air Pollutant Index (API) levels were unhealthy in Malacca City (101), Muar (103) and Pasir Gudang, (127).

API reading is considered good when the reading is between 0 and 50, moderate (51 to 100), unhealthy (101 to 200), very unhealthy (201 to 300), and hazardous (above 300).

She added that although the dry spell had resulted in six peat soil fires in Selangor, the fires were not contributory to the present haze and were being put out.

She advised the people to refrain from carrying out open burning and to alert the fire department or the DOE at 1-800-88-2727.

In Muar, district police chief Asst Supt Nordin Osman said operators of vessels, especially fishing trawlers, are advised to navigate with care along the Straits of Malacca and the Muar estuary here due to thick haze.

He said the haze had enveloped the district over the past four days, but it worsened yesterday with visibility dropping to below one nautical mile (1.8km).

“We advise all ship captains plying the Straits to be alert for passing fishing trawlers,” he said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Muar Health Depart-ment officer Dr Mohd Zulkipli Othman advised schools to limit outdoor activities for students during the hazy period.

“People, especially those with asthma and breathing problems, should stay indoors and drink plenty of water,” he added.

A check at the Muar river estuary at 3pm yesterday showed it was covered with thick haze and visibility along the coastal area was low.

Indonesia Smoke Haze Shrouds Malaysian Cities
Agence France-Presse Jakarta Globe 16 Jun 13;

Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia was Sunday shrouded with haze from forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra causing “unhealthy” levels of pollution in six areas.

Haze is an annual problem during the monsoon season from May to September as winds blow the smoke across the Malacca Strait to Malaysia.

Environment Department director general Halimah Hassan said they had detected 46 hotspots in Sumatra via satellite.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) showed unhealthy levels of between 101 and 129 in six areas on Sunday morning, including two places in Malacca state along with Port Dickson and the country’s largest port, Port Klang.

In the capital Kuala Lumpur the skies were hazy with air pollution readings at 92, just below the unhealthy threshold.

A level of 101-200 is considered unhealthy, while 51-100 is moderate.

Halimah in a statement late Saturday attributed the haze to the westerly monsoon season during which winds blow the smoke towards Malaysia.

Haze, mostly caused by fires in Indonesia, builds up during the dry season, affecting tourism and contributing to health problems across the region.

Indonesia’s government has outlawed land-clearing by fire but weak law enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.

The haze hit its worst level in 1997-1998, costing the Southeast Asian region an estimated $9 billion by disrupting air travel and other business activities.

Agence France-Presse

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Climate talk shifts from curbing CO2 to adapting

Seth Borenstein Associated Press Yahoo News 16 Jun 13;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Efforts to curb global warming have quietly shifted as greenhouse gases inexorably rise.

The conversation is no longer solely about how to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions. It's becoming more about how to save ourselves from the warming planet's wild weather.
It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement last week of an ambitious plan to stave off New York City's rising seas with flood gates, levees and more that brought this transition into full focus.

After years of losing the fight against rising global emissions of heat-trapping gases, governments around the world are emphasizing what a U.N. Foundation scientific report calls "managing the unavoidable."

It's called adaptation and it's about as sexy but as necessary as insurance, experts say.
It's also a message that once was taboo among climate activists such as former Vice President Al Gore.

In his 1992 book "Earth in the Balance," Gore compared talk of adapting to climate change to laziness that would distract from necessary efforts.

But in his 2013 book "The Future," Gore writes bluntly: "I was wrong." He talks about how coping with rising seas and temperatures is just as important as trying to prevent global warming by cutting emissions.

Like Gore, governmental officials across the globe aren't saying everyone should just give up on efforts to reduce pollution. They're saying that as they work on curbing carbon, they also have to deal with a reality that's already here.

In March, President Barack Obama's science advisers sent him a list of recommendations on climate change. No. 1 on the list: "Focus on national preparedness for climate change."
"Whether you believe climate change is real or not is beside the point," New York's Bloomberg said in announcing his $20 billion adaptation plans. "The bottom line is: We can't run the risk."

On Monday, more than three dozen other municipal officials from across the country will go public with a nationwide effort to make their cities more resilient to natural disasters and the effects of man-made global warming.

"It's an insurance policy, which is investing in the future," Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif., who is chairing the mayors' efforts, said in an interview Friday. "This is public safety. It's the long-term hazards that could impact a community."

Discussions about global warming are happening more often in mayors' offices than in Congress. The Obama administration and local governments are coming up with thousands of eye-glazing pages of climate change adaptation plans and talking about zoning, elevation, water system infrastructure, and most of all, risk.

"They can sit up there and not make any policies or changes, but we know we have to," Broward County, Fla., Mayor Kristin Jacobs said. "We know that we're going to be that first line of defense."

University of Michigan professor Rosina Bierbaum is a presidential science adviser who headed the adaptation section of the administration's new National Climate Assessment. "It's quite striking how much is going on at the municipal level," Bierbaum said. "Communities have to operate in real time. Everybody is struggling with a climate that is no longer the climate of the past."

Still, Bierbaum said, "Many of the other developed countries have gone way ahead of us in preparing for climate change. In many ways, the U.S. may be playing catch-up."
Hurricanes, smaller storms and floods have been a harsh teacher for South Florida, said Jacobs.
"Each time you get walloped, you stop and scratch your head ... and learn from it and make change," she said. "It helps if you've been walloped once or twice. I think it's easier to take action when everybody sees" the effect of climate change and are willing to talk about being prepared.

What Bloomberg announced for New York is reasonable for a wealthy city with lots of people and lots of expensive property and infrastructure to protect, said S. Jeffress Williams, a University of Hawaii geophysicist who used to be the expert on sea level rise for the U.S. Geological Survey. But for other coasts in the United States and especially elsewhere in the poorer world, he said, "it's not so easy to adapt."

Rich nations have pledged, but not yet provided, $100 billion a year to help poor nations adapt to global warming and cut their emissions. But the $20 billion cost for New York City's efforts shows the money won't go far in helping poorer cities adapt, said Brandon Wu of the nonprofit ActionAid.

At U.N. climate talks in Germany this past week, Ronald Jumeau, a delegate from the Seychelles, said developing countries have noted the more than $50 billion in relief that U.S. states in the Northeast got for Superstorm Sandy.

That's a large amount "for one storm in three states. At the same time, the Philippines was hit by its 15th storm in the same year," Jumeau said. "It puts things in context."

For poorer cities in the U.S., what makes sense is to buy out property owners, relocate homes and businesses and convert vulnerable sea shores to parks so that when storms hit "it's not a big deal," Williams said. "I think we'll see more and more communities make that decision largely because of the cost involved in trying to adapt to what's coming."

Jacobs, the mayor from South Florida, says that either people will move "or they will rehab their homes so that they can have a higher elevation. Already, in the Keys, you see houses that are up on stilts. So is that where we're going? At some point, we're going to have to start looking at real changes."

It's not just rising seas.

Sacramento has to deal with devastating droughts as well as the threat of flooding. It has a levee system so delicate that only New Orleans has it worse, said Johnson, the California capital's mayor.

The temperature in Sacramento was 110 this past week. After previous heat waves, cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have come up with cooling centers and green roofs that reduce the urban heat island affect.

Jacobs said cities from Miami to Virginia Beach, Va., are coping with mundane efforts: changes in zoning and building codes, raising the elevation of roads and runways, moving and hardening infrastructure. None of it grabs headlines, but "the sexiness is ... in the results," she said.
For decades, scientists referenced average temperatures when they talked about global warming. Only recently have they focused intensely on extreme and costly weather, encouraged by the insurance industry which has suffered high losses, Bierbaum said.

In 2012, weather disasters — not necessarily all tied to climate change — caused $110 billion in damage to the United States, which was the second highest total since 1980, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.

Now officials are merging efforts by emergency managers to prepare for natural disasters with those of officials focused on climate change. That greatly lessens the political debate about human-caused global warming, said University of Colorado science and disaster policy professor Roger Pielke Jr.

It also makes the issue more local than national or international.
"If you keep the discussion focused on impacts ... I think it's pretty easy to get people from all political persuasions," said Pielke, who often has clashed with environmentalists over global warming. "It's insurance. The good news is that we know insurance is going to pay off again."

Describing these measures as resiliency and changing the way people talk about it make it more palatable than calling it climate change, said Hadi Dowlatabadi, a University of British Columbia climate scientist.

"It's called a no-regrets strategy," Dowlatabadi said. "It's all branding."
All that, experts say, is essentially taking some of the heat out of the global warming debate.

Associated Press writers Karl A. Ritter in Bonn, Germany, Jennifer Peltz in New York and Tony Winton in Miami contributed to this report.

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