Best of our wild blogs: 4 Nov 17

How unhealthy is the haze from Indonesia’s annual peat fires?
Conservation news

Night Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Farm (03 Nov 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Singaporeans have to take ownership in keeping country clean: DPM Tharman

Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans have to take ownership in keeping the country clean, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the annual Clean and Green carnival on Saturday (Nov 4).

Although Singapore has done well in transforming its waterways, and becoming one of the few Asian cities with greenery throughout the country, more work needs to be done on the cleanliness front, he said.

"Today we are reliant on 50,000 cleaners … We also have our community initiatives, teams of volunteers who go around and help pick up the litter. But that isn’t going to solve the problem," said Mr Tharman.

“It starts from young, building that culture. And it is all about public-spiritedness – being mindful of our neighbours, people who live beside us, and a little further from us, and owning Singapore together.”

Mr Tharman also commended efforts such as the Education Ministry's move to introduce daily cleaning by students in all schools. He also spoke about technological advances such as solar panels that help make sustainable living more affordable and attractive to businesses.

At the event, the Deputy Prime Minister also planted a cratoxylum cochinchinese – a tree native to Singapore that can grow up to 30m – along Boon Keng Road. He also presented eight awards to grassroots organisations for their efforts in areas such as public hygiene and energy efficiency.

The carnival, held at the open field next to Boon Keng MRT station’s Exit C, showcases how Singaporeans can adopt a greener lifestyle such as by using energy-efficient appliances and recycling in different ways.

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Keen gardeners can now rent spaces at parks to grow their own crops

Raffaella Nathan Charles Straits Times 3 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE - Amid the backdrop of an increasingly eco-conscious Singapore, the National Parks Board (NParks) will for the first time be leasing out garden spaces in their parks for anyone to grow their own plants.

These 2.5 sq m plots can be rented at a price of $57 a year, for up to three years. Users can use the space to grow any plants of their choice, from blooms to vegetables.

A total of 1,000 of these "allotment gardens" will be built in 10 parks by 2019, said NParks.

This move is part of a broader Edible Horticulture Plan launched on Friday (Nov 3) that also spells out training initiatives and ways to support gardening in Singapore.

In recent years, more community gardens have sprouted islandwide, reflecting a keen interest in gardening beyond the professional sphere. Gardening enthusiasts also say that they have observed more aspiring green thumbs.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social And Family Development, who made the announcement on Friday, noted that gardens have sprung up not only in residential estates, but also in schools, and even indoors.

Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for National Development, also said that about 80 per cent of community gardeners under NParks' Community In Bloom (CIB) programme grow edibles in their shared plots.

He was speaking at the Community Garden Festival, which runs from Friday to Sunday, 9am to 7pm, at HortPark off Alexandra Road.

In a pilot allotment garden scheme that started in 2016, 80 allotment plots that were made available in Hort Park were quickly snapped up by those interested in growing their own crops.

By year-end, new allotment gardens will be available for rent at Punggol, Clementi and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Parks.

NParks provides the basics: a raised garden plot at waist-level, soil and water. The gardeners simply have to bring their own seeds and tools.

Mrs Emily Fong, a retiree in her 60s, owns a plot in in HortPark. Her own 2.5 sq m space is right next to her niece's.

She said of the plots: "There's a sense of ownership. It's a bit hard in the shared community gardens, because how do you determine what you own?"

NParks said there are now over 1,300 community garden groups.

As part of the Edible Horticulture Plan, NParks aims enhance training schemes from the current basic training needed to be a CIB gardener.

The new three-tiered training scheme sees a basic level, an advanced level for decorative plants, edibles and pollinator-attracting plants, as well as a final level to become a CIB ambassador who will groom a new generation of gardeners.

Hundreds of people turned up to the festival itself, attending talks, tours, buying plants at their retail marketplace, and more.

"I'm impressed with the gardens," said housewife 47-year-old Rosna Hamde, who turned up with her nine-year-old son Rafael Afiq. "This is my second time at the festival since the first one in 2015. I came for the tours, talks, and maybe I'll go for the cooking demonstrations too."

More communal gardens in the heartlands as part of new national master plan
Dawn Ang Siew Lin Channel NewsAsia 3 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: More public gardening plots will be installed in parks across Singapore as part of the new national gardening master plan announced on Friday (Nov 3).

A total of 160 gardening plots will be launched at HortPark, and another 200 across 10 other parks such as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Clementi Woods Park and Punggol Park by the end of this year, the National Parks Board (NParks) said.

Plots will be rented to interested parties at S$57 yearly, for up to three years.

"We plan to eventually have more than 1,000 allotment gardening plots for (all) to use," said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who was speaking at NParks' biannual Community Garden Festival.

The Edible Horticulture Masterplan has four focus areas in total, said Mr Lee.

Under the plan, courses will be held for community garden enthusiasts and landscaping professionals. On Friday, NParks also unveiled a new training centre at HortPark - a refurbished colonial-style house named HortHouse, which will host arboriculture, botany and horticulture courses. Classes will begin in January next year.

Fast-growing edible plants that also bear fruit quickly will be promoted along with new gardening technologies. Education and outreach efforts to encourage community gardening activities among members of public, families and neighbours will also be ramped up.

The aim is to get more Singaporeans involved in the community gardening movement, said Mr Lee, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development.

NParks also announced on Friday that starting January, it will take over the management and development of the orchid sector from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, bringing the entire landscape industry under its scope.

NParks will engage with landscape industry partners in the coming months to keep them abreast of developments such as on land tender and account manager changes, said Mr Chong Whye Keet, director at NParks' Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology.

Orchid industry partners can expect more details to be released early next year.

Gardening fans snap up 330 allotment plots
Raffaella Nathan Charles Straits Times 8 Nov 17;

The plot to get Singaporeans gardening and harvesting is off to a flying start.

Two days after the National Parks Board (NParks) announced it was making available 330 allotment garden plots, all have been snapped up.

Gardening enthusiasts formed long snaking queues around the Allotment Garden Booth at the second Community Garden Festival in HortPark last weekend. By the end of Sunday, all 110 plots in Punggol Park, 60 in Clementi Woods Park, and 160 in HortPark were taken up.

The 2.5 sq m plots allow gardeners of any skill level to grow their own plants, with soil and water provided by NParks. Individuals simply need to provide their own seeds and tools.

One household is entitled to one plot, costing $57 a year. Leases are for three years.

Housewife Kelly Orozco is eagerly waiting for the upcoming opening of allotment garden plots in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

NParks plans to open 70 plots there by the middle of next month, which the public can sign up for on its website or at the park's site office.

The 53-year-old housewife, who lives in Toa Payoh, has her own garden at the back of her first-floor HDB flat. But her plants, especially the edibles, sometimes get stolen by neighbours or eaten by pests.

"I want to have the freedom to plant what I want, without it getting stolen," she said.

The allotment gardens are considered "a novelty" to her in land-scarce Singapore. "Gardening helps me destress, so the individual lots will be very useful to me," she said.

The allotment gardening scheme aims to increase spaces provided to garden and promote edible gardening, in line with NParks' Edible Horticulture Masterplan.

The plan taps the hot trend of planting edibles: 80 per cent of over 1,300 NParks' public estate community gardens grow their own fruits and vegetables.

The public can expect more than 1,000 allotment garden plots in 11 parks across the island by 2019.

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Malaysia: Terengganu caged fish breeders urged to step up harvesting before monsoon season

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 4 Nov 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: With the impending monsoon floods, caged fish breeders along Terengganu’s main rivers have been advised to harvest their catch promptly to avoid losses.

Terengganu Fisheries Department director Zawawi Ali made the recommendation for the 236 registered fishermen and breeders who ply their trade along rivers such as Sungai Terengganu, to take the pro-active measure.

Caged fish breeding along rivers has been popular for many years and supplements fishermen’s income, accounting for tens of thousands of ringgit in catch per cage.

“But with strong currents and (rising river levels during the monsoon season), the cages become damaged, allowing fish to escape, resulting in losses for fishermen and breeders.

“For instance, during the last monsoon season, some of the breeders suffered losses of up to RM20,000 for each cage,” Zawawi said after releasing 5,800 lobster hatchlings into the open river at Dataran Pengkalan Penambang in Beladau Kepong.

He said thunderstorms also cause riverbank trees or their branches to fall onto the cages, damaging them further.

“Our department is assisting the breeders by providing suitable equipment, including ropes, netting and boats, to secure their cages,” said Zawawi.

He advised the cage owners to have a system of breeding fish fry soon after the monsoon season in March, so that they can harvest the grown catch before the following monsoon begins.

On the release of the lobster hatchlings, Zawawi said the effort is meant to replenish the dwindling lobster population in the open rivers and estuaries.

The department has released 1.8 million lobster hatchlings into the state’s seven rivers since 2011.

“The releases are to enable the lobster hatchlings to mature over several months, and periodically provide fishermen with alternate sources of income.

“The mature lobsters are usually caught in traps or fishing rods,” he added.

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Malaysia: Sarawak focuses on forest research

geryl ogilvy The Star 4 Nov 17;

KUCHING: The state government will back Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) with funding in forest research to maximise the timber industry’s growth while ensuring sustainability.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said SFC would receive financial support to adopt technology in their forest conservation and protection efforts, especially in mitigating illegal logging.

He urged SFC and other forest agencies to focus on research and development (R&D) to support the establishment of a strong and robust industrial forest plantation sector, where all raw material needs of the processing industry can be met.

“I will give you funds to carry out research. Find new ways and scientific methods of not only planting trees but adding value to downstream industries such as research on furniture.

“We must be committed to protect our environment,” he said at the SFC 14th anniversary dinner here.

On the state’s long-term policy on environment, Abang Johari said combating illegal logging remained a challenge.

“The state is committed to enlarge its protected forest areas, nature reserves and wildlife parks,” he said, lauding SFC’s use of drones in enforcement, boundary patrolling, wildlife survey and monitoring of harvesting operations.

Timber industry players are required to strengthen their industrial forest planting activities to provide sustainable feedstock and at the same time, carry out more research to spur growth of planted forests.

Abang Johari mentioned Scandinavian countries like Finland, despite slow growth of trees for timber, was able to turn its furniture industry as among the top in the world. He also cited Johor, which has a higher timber product revenue than Sarawak despite a smaller land mass and less timber resources.

“We produce lots of logs but we don’t add value to our resources. That is why it is important to fund our R&D.

“We must expedite the development of our industrial forests so we can use our natural forests for other purposes instead of logging, such as ecotourism and the provision of ecosystem services,” he said.

Abang Johari announced that he would be introducing a new bill in the upcoming state assembly on the establishment of a research council that would coordinate all R&D activities in the state.

“This is to streamline all R&D efforts to help facilitate the commercialisation of R&D outputs,” he said.

The dinner saw SFC ink an agreement with Spectral Imaging System (SIS) Sdn Bhd, which delivers high-speed geospatial data acquisition and analytic solutions to support strategic management decisions.

SIS is able to deliver fast intelligence based data acquired using remote sensing platforms.

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'Jakarta Declaration' Aimed at Helping Indonesia Save Its Peatlands

A coalition of peatland protection institutions, along with researchers from several countries, issued a declaration in Jakarta on Thursday, aimed at encouraging the responsible management of these ecosystems. Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 3 Nov 17;

Jakarta. A coalition of peatland protection institutions, along with researchers from several countries, issued a declaration in Jakarta on Thursday (02/11) aimed at encouraging the responsible management of these ecosystems, in addition to a plan to establish an international committee this year.

"We have issued the Jakarta Declaration as a milestone for promoting action on the responsible management of tropical peatland, which is a basis for bridging Indonesian stakeholders and the international community," said Gerald Schmilewski, president director of the International Peatland Society (IPS).

Schmilewski explained that the declaration was a move to restore degraded peatlands in Indonesia, as it requires the substantial development of an integrated peatland management system based on scientific and technical knowledge.

He added that the coalition agreed to establish an international committee before the end of this year to provide technical consultation and to facilitate Indonesia's tropical peatland restoration actions.

The declaration follows a two-day "Framework on Tropical Peatland Restoration" panel discussion in Jakarta on Wednesday and Thursday. It was organized by the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG), IPS and the Japan Peatland Society (JPS).

Participants included 69 researchers and practitioners from various countries, including Indonesia, Germany, Japan, Finland, Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Netherlands. They will undertake a field trip to study degraded peatlands in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Friday and Saturday to provide the BRG with technical advice on the restoration of Indonesia's degraded tropical peatlands.

Besides the plan to establish an international committee, the BRG, IPS and JPS have also set a target to establish a tropical peatland center in Indonesia this year, with the purpose of assisting the local body with technical and scientific support and help it achieve its mandate to restore 2.4 million hectares of degraded peatlands in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua by 2020.

BRG head Nazir Foead, who is a former conservationist from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said participants in the roundtable would seek to launch model pilot projects for responsible management of peatland restoration in the country.

"We have cooperated with the JPS in dealing with a degraded peatland area near Tohor River in Meranti district, Central Kalimantan. We would like to work with other partners in other peatland areas. We want to ask their technical expertise to cooperate with our team," Nazir said on Wednesday.

He urged panel participants establish a capacity-building system to help the BRG achieve its peatland restoration target by 2020.

The main sponsors of the event are the United Nations Development Program, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Norwegian Embassy and the BRG.

The Indonesian government has started to place greater emphasis on the protection and management of peatlands after heavy international criticism over forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which resulted in haze choking several Southeast Asian countries in 2015.

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Indonesia: Air pollution in Jakarta to become worse - Greenpeace

Antara 3 Nov 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News)- The pollution already suffered by Greater Jakarta will become much worse because of plans to ring the city with coal-fired power plants, says a new report from Greenpeace.

Greater Jakarta could see more new coal-fired power stations built within 100 kilometres than any other capital city, Greenpeace Southeast Asia said in a press release recently.

Greenpeace Indonesias report, "Jakartas Silent Killer", tracks the likely health impacts of all these power plants. It estimates that they would cause a projected 10,600 premature deaths and 2,800 low birth weight births per year; nearly half of them within Greater Jakarta.

Jakarta already has notoriously bad air quality, caused mainly by transport, industry and residential emissions. This air pollution is being made even worse by coal-fired power plants around the city.

Greater Jakarta already sits in the shadow of eight CFPPs (22 units); four more (seven units) will become operational between 2019 and 2024, and one existing plant will be expanded in 2019.

"The people of Jakarta need to recognise that it is not just traffic which is damaging their health, and the health of their children," said Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Indonesia, Didit Wicaksono.

Greenpeace has used a sophisticated atmospheric modeling system developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to project the impact on air quality and human health of the power plants surrounding Greater Jakarta. The emissions from the power plants were calculated at full operation based on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), using the assumption of 80% capacity utilization.

The results indicated that the emissions from the existing and new CFPPs are likely to have the biggest impact on pollution levels in cities and towns to the north and west of the power plant. The highest estimated daily SO2, PM2.5 and NO2 levels are in Cilegon, Tangerang, Bogor, and Jakarta for the existing plants. The planned CFPPs will increase pollutants levels not only in those areas, but also in Bekasi, Depok, Tambun, and Karawang. All these areas would be subject to a major new source of air pollution.

The current permitted SO2 and NOx levels (750 mg/Nm3) are seven times higher than other major countries, while the total particulate or PM standard (100 mg/Nm3) is three times higher than others. There are no restrictions on mercury pollution.

"The Government must tighten emission standards for coal power plants in Indonesia and improve the monitoring of these plants. It must put health at the heart of Indonesias energy plan and stop these plans, which will be so hazardous to human health," Didit said.


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Indonesia: Sunda slow lorises undergo wildlife rehabilitation in W.Kalimantan

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 3 Nov 17;

Four Sunda slow lorises, known locally as kukang, have been sent to a rehabilitation camp in a protected forest in Mount Tarak, Ketapang regency, West Kalimantan, so they can regain their wild instincts.

Having long been kept as pets, the slow lorises underwent a rehabilitation process at a shelter owned by the International Animal Rescue (IAR) organization in the past year before being sent to Mt. Tarak for further wildlife training at the end of October.

Ruswanto of the West Kalimantan Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) told The Jakarta Post on Friday that two of the four Sunda slow lorises were adult females that had been confiscated from local residents in Pontianak. Another slow loris rescued by the agency’s personnel in Sambas regency was an adult male, he added.

Ruswanto said also that during the rehabilitation process at the IAC shelter, a baby slow loris was born and it was now four months old.

It is expected the four slow lorises will be able to immediately adapt and regain their wild instincts as Mt.Tarak remains a well preserved ecosystem and is home to several notable species. These include orangutans and other primates, helmeted hornbills and various other species of birds and mammals.

“There is an abundance of natural food in the area," said Ruswanto.

Located in Sungai Awan Kiri village in Muara Pawan district, the IAR shelter began its activities as an orangutan rehabilitation center in November 2009. The shelter, which covers almost 60 hectares, employs 25 animal nurses and has 15 cages. The center is equipped with a clinic and an orangutan school. (ebf)

8 Javan slow lorises released into natural habitat
Aman Rochman The Jakarta Post 9 Nov 17;

Eight Javan slow lorises seized from illegal wildlife trade networks were released to the Kondang Merak protected forest area in Malang, East Java, on Wednesday.

The slow lorises – four males and four females – were seized by Kediri Police personnel from illegal traders during separate operations in July.

The Aspinall Foundation’s Javan Langur Center (JLC) communication officer, Anang Eko, said the eight Javan slow lorises underwent three months of quarantine and rehabilitation overseen by the International Animal Rescue (IAR) team in Bogor, West Java, before they were released into their natural habitat.

The rehabilitation included medical check-ups and training that aimed to help the animals control their behavior, he went on.

“They moved from one place to another in poor living conditions and consumed food unsuitable for them. Hence, their health, eating patterns and emotional condition need to be rehabilitated,” said Anang on Thursday.

The slow lorises showed signs of stress, dehydration and malnutrition when the police rescued them, he added.

“We were only able to release them into their natural habitat after they were deemed healthy and completed rehabilitation. We worked with IAR, the East Java Natural Resource Conservation Agency [BBKSDA] and the Kediri Police for their release,” Anang said, adding that the protected forest in southern Malang was in good condition and widely known as the natural habitat of Javan slow lorises. (ebf)

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Thailand: Call for effective management of Mekong amid threats from projects and climate change

The Nation 4 Nov 17;

SCHOLARS AND environmental conservationists from Thailand and Vietnam called for better and effective management of the Mekong River as Southeast Asia’s longest river was in danger due to climate change and development projects, notably hydropower dams in its mainstream.

No single government is able to take care of the Mekong, which is an international river running through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, said Nguyen Truong Giang from Vietnam’s Diplomatic Academy. Giang and Thai and Vietnamese scholars and conservationists gathered for a seminar entitled “Promoting Cooperation in Sustainable Use of the Mekong River” hosted by Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University on Tuesday.

International law expert Giang (above) said the 1995 Mekong Agreement, which gave birth to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and regulations for the river, is not sufficient to handle the situation.

While the Mekong runs through six countries, only countries in the lower part of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are members of the MRC.

“We want to have the MRC as an inter-governmental body to coordinate a master plan for the international river management, which must include countries in the upper part – China and Myanmar”, Giang told the seminar.

China is needed to be an active part of the MRC since the country shares 16 per cent of the total length of 4,880 kilometres of the Mekong, has built seven hydropower dams in the river’s mainstream, plans to build more as well as blasts rapids, rocks and islets in the river to clear navigation routes in the river.

Apart from climate change, which has caused rising sea levels, the construction of infrastructure in the Mekong River is another major challenge for the delta in southern Vietnam, said Nguyen Thi Hong Van, Coordinator of Vietnam River Network (below). Hydropower dams upstream cause impacts on the delta due to fluctuations in water flow, blocking migration of fish, reducing sediment load, and saline intrusion into farm lands, she said.

“The infrastructure development would increase the risk of future conflict in the region, not only among the countries but also in the economic sectors and ecological values,” Van said.

People in the Mekong region need to be well aware of the transboundary impacts of development projects in the river on their livelihood, said Withoon Permpongsacharoen, director of Energy Network for Ecology in the Mekong Basin.

Energy generated by hydropower dams is not cheap as widely understood since it is built at the expense of environmental damage, and impacts people’s lives, he said.

Rock blasting to clear navigation channels in the Mekong River not only damages the river’s ecosystem, but also the livelihood of Thai and Lao people along the river, said leader of Love Chiang Khong Group Somkiat Khuanchiangsa.

China cleared the stretch at the Golden Triangle more than 10 years ago, enabling convenient and safe navigation from Simao Port in Yunnan province to Thailand. It wants to facilitate the passage of bigger vessels along the river to at least Luang Prabang in Laos. There is the need to clear rapids and rocks underwater between Laos’ Huay Xay to Luang Prabang. Some parts of this portion border Thailand and Laos and the clearance would affect the boundary between the two countries, Somkiat said.

Local residents and environmental conservationists in Thailand urged the Thai government to review its decision since blasting rocks and islands to clear the waterway would affect their livelihood and environment.

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From Miami to Shanghai: 3C of warming will leave world cities below sea level

An elevated level of climate change would lock in irreversible sea-level rises affecting hundreds of millions of people, Guardian data analysis shows
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 3 Nov 17;

Hundreds of millions of urban dwellers around the world face their cities being inundated by rising seawaters if latest UN warnings that the world is on course for 3C of global warming come true, according to a Guardian data analysis.

Famous beaches, commercial districts and swaths of farmland will be threatened at this elevated level of climate change, which the UN warned this week is a very real prospect unless nations reduce their carbon emissions.

Data from the Climate Central group of scientists analysed by Guardian journalists shows that 3C of global warming would ultimately lock in irreversible sea-level rises of perhaps two metres. Cities from Shanghai to Alexandria, and Rio to Osaka are among the worst affected. Miami would be inundated - as would the entire bottom third of the US state of Florida.

The Guardian has found, however, that local preparations for a 3C world are as patchy as international efforts to prevent it from happening. At six of the coastal regions most likely to be affected, government planners are only slowly coming to grips with the enormity of the task ahead - and in some cases have done nothing.

This comes ahead of the latest round of climate talks in Bonn next week, when negotiators will work on ways to monitor, fund and ratchet up national commitments to cut CO2 so that temperatures can rise on a safer path of between 1.5 and 2C, which is the goal of the Paris agreement reached in 2015.

The momentum for change is currently too slow, according to the UN Environment Programme. In its annual emissions gap report, released on Tuesday, the international body said government commitments were only a third of what was needed. Non-state actors such as cities, companies and citizens can only partly fill this void, which leaves warming on course to rise to 3C or beyond by the end of this century, the report said.

The UN’s environment chief, Erik Solheim, said progress in the year since the Paris agreement entered into force has been inadequate. “We still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” he said.

Nature’s ability to help may also be diminishing. On Monday, the World Meteorological Organisation said concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose last year at a record speed to reach 403.3 parts per million - a level not seen since the Pliocene era three to five million years ago.

A 3C rise would lead to longer droughts, fiercer hurricanes and lock in sea-level rises that would redraw many coastlines. Depending on the speed at which icecaps and glaciers melt, this could take decades or more than a century. Colin Summerhayes of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge said three-degrees of warming would melt polar and glacier ice much further and faster than currently expected, potentially raising sea levels by two metres by 2100.

At least 275 million city dwellers live in vulnerable areas, the majority of them in Asian coastal megacities and industrial hubs such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Bangkok and Tokyo.

Japan’s second biggest city, Osaka, is projected to lose its business and entertainments districts of Umeda and Namba unless global emissions are forced down or flood defences are built up. Officials are reluctantly accepting they must now put more effort into the latter.

“In the past our response was focused on reducing the causes of global warming, but given that climate change is inevitable, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we are now discussing how to respond to the natural disasters that will follow,” said Toshikazu Nakaaki of the Osaka municipal government’s environment bureau.

In Miami - which would be almost entirely below sea level even at 2C warming - the sense of urgency is evident at city hall, where commissioners are asking voters to approve a “Miami Forever” bond in the November ballot that includes $192m for upgrading pump stations, expanding drainage systems, elevating roads and building dykes.

Elsewhere, there is less money for adaptation and a weaker sense of urgency. In Rio de Janeiro, a 3C rise would flood famous beaches such as Copacabana, the waterfront domestic airport, and many of the sites for last year’s Olympics. But the cash-strapped city has been slow to prepare. A report compiled for Brazil’s presidency found “situations in which climate changes are not considered within the scope of planning”.

In Egypt, even a 0.5m sea-level rise is predicted to submerge beaches in Alexandria and displace 8 million people on the Nile Delta unless protective measures are taken, according to the IPCC. But local activists say the authorities see it as a distant problem. “As far as I’m concerned, this issue isn’t on the list of government priorities,” said Ahmed Hassan, of the Save Alexandria Initiative, a group that works to raise awareness of the effects of climate change on the city.

The impacts will also be felt on the economy and food production. Among the most vulnerable areas in the UK is Lincolnshire, where swaths of agricultural land are likely to be lost to the sea.

“We’re conscious that climate change is happening and perhaps faster than expected so we are trying to mitigate and adapt to protect people and property. We can’t stop it, but we can reduce the risk.” said Alison Baptiste, director of strategy and investment at the UK Environment Agency. She said the measures in place should protect most communities in the near and medium term, but 50 years from now the situation will become more challenging. “If climate change projections are accurate, we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions.”

Additional reporting by Justin McCurry, Dom Phillips and Ruth Michaelson

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More coral bleaching feared for Great Barrier Reef in coming months

The next event, if it occurs, may not be as damaging as the previous two, but could ruin the chances of coral recovery
Michael Slezak The Guardian 3 nov 17;

The Great Barrier Reef could face more bleaching in the coming months, following unprecedented mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, which are believed to have killed half the coral.

Forecasts stretching to February are pushing the science to its limits, leaving significant uncertainty. But scientists say there is reason to be concerned, and some bleaching is very likely, although it won’t be anything like what happened during the past two years.

The most recent forecasts of the Coral Watch program of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) puts much of the reef, especially the southern parts, on “Alert Level 1” in late February. At that level, bleaching is considered likely although it is not expected to continue long enough to cause much coral to die.

The head of Noaa’s Coral Watch program, Mark Eakin, said predicting the heat stress on the Great Barrier Reef in February was complicated because of the uncertain state of the El Niño/La Niña cycle.

“Unfortunately, that’s four months away and at the bitter end of our forecast skill,” Eakin said. “The farther away the forecast, the lower the skill. We don’t have an El Niño and the La Niña isn’t looking very strong. That lowers skill.”

He said there was reason to be concerned but not “too worried yet”.

“There will probably be some bleaching in some parts of the Great Barrier Reef but so far it doesn’t look anything like the last two years. However, it’s still early and we’ll know more in a month or so.”

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a leading coral bleaching researcher from the University of Queensland, said the results were concerning since, after the past two big bleaching events, a summer without heat stress would have given the coral the best chance of recovery.

“Ideally, it would be nice to have temperatures around average because then we might see recruits coming and corals growing back,” he said.

In 2016, the Great Barrier Reef suffered the worst bleaching event on record, with about 30% of the coral dying. At the start of 2017, it was hit again, losing roughly another 20%, leaving about half the coral cover dead.

The damage was worst in the top third of the reef, where some parts lost as much as 90% of their coral. The southern third of the reef mostly escaped any damage.

“We will be watching closely,” Hoegh-Guldberg said. “Most of us are holding our breath to a certain extent. Could this be the year in which we lose coral from the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef?”

The chance for a wave of coral recovery will emerge in the coming weeks as the famous spawning events begin. But for the worst-hit parts of the reef, that event would be hampered by the previous mortality, said Selina Ward, an expert from the University of Queensland, who has conducted studies into the impact of bleaching on coral reproduction.

“If you look at Lizard Island, which has been exposed to 2016 and 2017 heat events and suffered very high mortality, one of my colleagues has just been there and has not seen any reproductive colonies. And that’s where you would have expected most to be reproductive.”

For the badly-hit parts of the northern Great Barrier Reef, Ward said the spawning event was likely to be so adversely affected that they would be relying on coral spawning from the Coral Triangle to bring recruits through ocean currents.

Richard Leck, head of oceans at WWF-Australia, said conservation groups were also monitoring the bleaching warnings, and believed the forecasts were worrying. .

“The Noaa maps predict a better than even chance of coral bleaching in the southern Great Barrier Reef – the only part that hasn’t suffered widespread bleaching in the last two years,” he said. “It is a huge cause for concern that there is a chance the Reef is facing the threat of a third consecutive mass bleaching event.

“This is even more reason for Queensland to shift to a renewable energy future and away from old, polluting industries such as coal.”

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