Best of our wild blogs: 7 Nov 17

Abandoned net at Chek Jawa (5 Nov 2017)
Project Driftnet Singapore

19 Nov (Sun): Sea Angel RUM Monthly Ubin Mangrove Walk
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Leopard cats and roads
Through the Eyes of the Leopard Cat

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Government working with stakeholders to 'manage wild boar issues': MND

Channel NewsAsia 6 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: The Government is "working closely" with stakeholders to "manage the wild boar issues" in Singapore, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Monday (Nov 6) in a written reply to MP Sun Xueling.

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Member of Parliament had asked if the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) would be "implementing measures to mitigate encounters with wild boars" and ensure the safety of residents in her constituency where wild boar sightings had been reported.

Ms Sun's question comes after a spate of incidents involving wild boars, with the latest resulting in a man in his forties suffering cuts and lacerations to his legs after being attacked near a bus stop at Hillview Road. Two wild boar-related road accidents were reported just a few weeks before.

There have also been sightings of the animals in Tuas and the Thomson area.

MND said that together with stakeholders like the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, National University of Singapore, Wildlife Reserves Singapore and nature groups, the Government "will continue to monitor and manage the wild boar populations in their natural habitats".

"There are not that many wild boars in our nature reserves," said MND. "But we have identified a few hotspots where the numbers are higher due to the availability of food."

MND said agencies have been removing oil palms - a "favoured food source of the boars" - from these areas. Authorities will also roll out enforcement action in places such as Pasir Ris-Punggol where people are feeding wild boars.

"It is important for the public to stop this feeding because this changes the natural behaviour of the boars," said the ministry, adding that low railings will be installed at hotspots close to roads to prevent the creatures from wandering beyond the forest.

MND also said to reduce the chances of wild boars escaping into residential areas, the National Parks Board (NParks) will continue to advise agencies and developers on shepherding wild boars to other habitats when forested state land is cleared for development.

Additionally, the Government will step up public education efforts on human-wildlife encounters, said the ministry, with AVA and NParks working on materials informing residents what to do should they encounter animals such as wild boars.
Source: CNA/hs

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Burning smell in September likely due to vapours called volatile organic compounds: Masagos

Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 6 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Higher than usual levels of a type of vapours in the air were likely to have been behind a strange burning smell that affected some areas in Singapore in September, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said on Monday (Nov 6).

Air monitoring sensors and air samples collected showed an increase in the levels of some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – vapours which can come from both man-made and natural sources, and can cause smells by themselves or when they react with other volatile organic compounds, he said.

“The smell could also have been intensified by the light wind conditions during the period, and only dissipated later that night when winds blowing from the south and south-east picked up strength,” he said. He added that while there have been previous smell-related incidents in Singapore, this episode was more widespread.

Despite the increase, the levels of the VOCs detected were well within international safety guidelines, he said.

He was responding to questions in Parliament from Members of Parliament (MPs) Gan Thiam Poh, Lee Bee Wah and Sun Xueling on the smell on Sep 25 this year, which left some residents in areas like Sengkang, Commonwealth and Serangoon with breathing difficulties and headaches.

The MPs asked for the cause of the smell and what Singaporeans should do in the event of a similar incident and whether there have been similar incidents previously.

Mr Masagos said that when the incident happened, the National Environment Agency informed its counterparts from the Malaysian Department of Environment in Johor of the incident and sought their assistance to locate the source of the smell. Following NEA’s request, the Johor authorities launched an investigation into the incident, he said.

The source of the smell was traced to a factory in Pasir Gudang. The Johor authorities issued a stop-work order against the operator of the facility and ordered the operator to carry out a list of remedial actions, Mr Masagos said.

The Malaysia media reported last month that the stop-work order was lifted after the operator had completed the necessary remedial actions.

“Tracing the source of fugitive smell is not a straight-forward process but requires time and effort,” Mr Masagos said.

VOCs are typically released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also emitted from oil and gas fields and diesel exhaust, and from solvents, paints and glues. Many VOCs are commonly used in paint thinners, lacquer thinners, moth repellents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, degreasers, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids.

Ms Sun asked if there is any research done on the effects of persistent low-level exposure to such compounds, as the residents in her ward in Punggol live near Pasir Gudang. Mr Masagos said that no such research is available.


Responding to MP Joan Pereira's question on how prepared Singapore is to deal with a chemical gas attack by terrorists, Mr Masagos said security agencies have plans in place.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force, for instance, regularly conducts exercises simulating chemical agent attacks where officers are tested for their proficiency in detection, monitoring and mitigation operations, he said.

In incidents involving toxic gases, the response of the public is also important, Mr Masagos added. Those in the affected area may feel unwell or experience symptoms such as giddiness and shortness of breath.

They should quickly leave the affected area and, where possible, help evacuate others, before seeking medical attention, he said, attributing the advice to SCDF.

Those who are not able to leave should go to the nearest indoor place and take actions like "shutting the doors, windows and ventilation systems like fans and air conditioners, and seal the gaps with masking tape to minimise the infiltration of hazardous vapours".

Source: CNA/ja

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Malaysia: Climate change triggers Penang’s flood, prompting need to revamp counter-flood systems

Today Online 7 Nov 17;

KUALA LUMPUR — Abnormal downpour caused by climate change has rendered Penang’s current flood mitigation system obsolete and in need of a major revamp, Putrajaya said on Monday (Nov 6) after major floods hit the northern Malaysian state over the weekend.

At the same time, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the federal government will have to revise its national flood mitigation plans, noting that the heavy downpour in Penang even affected locations thought to be flood-proof.

“It all ties up to climate change. When the earth is warmer, the more water gets absorbed. That also means more water will come down as rain,” he said, noting that the downpour was likely the heaviest to hit Penang.

Flash floods caused by hours of torrential rain killed seven people in the state over the weekend, while over 6,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Over half of Penang was submerged in flood waters following the heavy downpour that averaged more than 250mm in just 24 hours. That amounts to 60mm of heavy rain an hour, according to official data.

The state is bracing itself for more rain as the Malaysian Meteorological Department has forecasted more thunderstorms for north-western states.

Climate change was seen as the primary cause for the 2014 floods that ravaged Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and some parts of Johor. It was the worst natural disaster in the country to date. Twenty-one people died in the floods that year with damage estimated to be more than RM1 billion (S$322 million).

Since then, Putrajaya has drafted a new national flood mitigation system with an allocation of up to RM4 billion for short to long-term projects aimed at reducing floods in monsoon-prone states.

But what happened in Penang meant the government needed to revise its planning, Mr Wan Junaidi said.

“Now we have to relook at the entire rain data and restrategise”.

Elaborating further on the flooding, Mr Wan Junaidi said Penang’s existing drainage system could not cope with the amount of rain as well as the rapid development taking place in the state.

“Penang’s flood problem is unique from other states like Kelantan, Terengganu and so on because it is an island. When the water level goes up and you’re surrounded by the sea, where do you drain the water to?” he said.

“Some possible solutions may be to build a barrage in the sea or a reservoir for storm water...but because Penang has no large tracts of land, they might have to make it deeper underground.”

Moreover, the state’s sewerage and irrigation system is two to three decades old and was planned without anticipating the effects of climate change, said Mr Wan Junaidi.

“And when you factor in development… the more the land is leveled and cemented, the easier it is for rain water to pile up.”

The minister conceded however that under-capacity sewerage and irrigation is not a problem unique only to Penang, as the flood mitigation systems in all major cities in Malaysia were to some extent outdated.

Meanwhile, Penang will get a Flood Forecasting and Warning System (PRAB) under the federal Budget 2018, said state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow.

“The system will implemented next year in three to four major rivers in the state,” he said in his winding-up speech after tabling an emergency motion on the flash floods at the state legislative assembly sitting on Monday morning.

PRAB is already running in Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang.

In its second phase, the system would be introduced in Kedah, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor.

Mr Chow, who heads the state flood mitigation committee, vowed that Penang “would not sink” in the face of the current crisis, and instead, will prove that it was a resilient government in facing the situation together with the various government agencies and the people.

“Penang will get through this,” he said. AGENCIES

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Malaysia: ‘Sarawak needs active marine conservation’

Borneo Post 6 Nov 17;

MIRI: Repeated calls by environmentalists for stricter laws to protect the marine ecosystem show that more effort is needed to make marine conservation a success.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri branch chairman Iqbal Abdollah said that law enforcement and public education are vital to marine conservation.

“Sarawak faces the South China Sea which is full of magnificent marine resources.

“The extensive and very diverse coral reefs are natural gems located within the Coral Reef Triangle and its fauna are the fishes, marine mammals, the dugongs and the turtles.

“Recently, with heart breaking news of turtle carcasses found floating and gruesomely found on beaches, we are worried that the same could happen in Sarawak,” he told The Borneo Post.

Without strict laws and enforcement by state and federal agencies, Iqbal lamented that marine life is endangered.

He is grateful to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) for a ‘commendable job’ in Sarawak and for the cooperation of local fishermen who gave information on foreign fishermen ‘trespassing in our waters.’

Foreign vessels which encroached Malaysian waters not only rob local fishermen of their source of income but also harm various fish species caught with illegal fishing tools.

Another matter of concern, Iqbal highlighted is related to how MMEA would handle the seized marine creatures caught by foreign fishermen.

“A special case worth mentioning here is the live shark and other frozen fish seized in September this year. I was told that the frozen fishes will be auctioned off, but how about the live shark?” he asked.

It belongs to a species of shark — Bamboo Cat Shark or White-spotted Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium plagiosum) —which is not protected under the Fisheries Act of Malaysia 1985, Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulation 1999 and Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.

The species is native to the Asian region under the family of Hemicyllidae and is quite common in Sarawak waters.

However, it is listed as a Near Threatened (NT) species in the Red List of Threatened Species by International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Foreign fishermen caught and kept the sharks alive as the species has good market value as aquarium fishes at RM300 to RM400 per fish. It has much less value if sold for its meat.

“Having said this, I really hope that the authority would not auction the shark to businessmen but released it back,” Iqbal pleaded.

Iqbal also wants to see stricter laws that will prohibit fishermen from selling any endangered marine species that were accidentally caught.

He cited a recent incident when he came across a juvenile zebra shark — listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — at a market here.

Iqbal, who is also the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) divemaster, described how sighting valuable marine species is a great and priceless experience to divers.

“More importantly, sharks of any species have great value and attraction for eco-tourism. It is one of the largest attraction because divers really look forward to seeing sharks during their dives,” he pointed out.

Scuba diver and diving instructor Martin Wong is one of the handful in the country to be awarded CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques) three-star scuba diver status. He opined that before the Sarawak Government promotes Miri’s eco-tourism, the conservation work must come first.

“Sadly, there are a lot of people who may love diving but lack knowledge and understanding of marine life and the importance of protecting it.

“The government should make it a point to include marine studies into the school curriculum. Miri’s underwater has more than 3,000 species of fishes and coral reefs.

“With the human activities that are going-on, I must say that they are quite ignorant about how human activity has been threatening marine life,” he observed.

Such education, he suggests, can be incorporated into subjects like geography and biology so the young can develop a greater appreciation of nature.

Wong is of the same mind with Iqbal concerning the law and its enforcement.

Law enforcement is important, he said, to help ensure that ‘endangered species are protected from extinction.’

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Indonesia: Communities in Riau Urge Government to Empower Peatland Society

Jakarta Globe 6 Nov 17;

Jakarta. A conference on the ongoing crisis of deforestation and the degradation of peatland ecosystems in Indonesia was convened by the Riau Peatland Society Network, or JMGR, on Monday (06/11) to urge the government to support the organization.

JMGR was established in 2010 to prevent deforestation and peatland degradation amid increasing developments by players in the palm oil, pulp and paper and mining industries in the province.

According to organization, there are at least 4.044 million hectares of peatlands in Riau.

Isnadi Esman, secretary general of JMGR, said that the three-day conference is aimed at strengthening the commitment of communities who care about peatland protection, particularly in the province of Riau.

"In addition to peatland protection, we urge the government to empower the peatland society to boost [the province's] economy," Isnadi said in a statement.

Isnadi said JMGR represents a collection of communities that partners with the government to protect peatlands in the province.

The conference was opened by Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) head Nazir Foead in Pekanbaru, Riau.

Last week in Jakarta, a coalition of peatland protection institutions, along with researchers from several countries, issued the Jakarta Declaration aimed at encouraging the responsible management of tropical peatland ecosystems.

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Indonesia: RAPP Submits Revised Business Plan to Comply With Regulation on Protecting Peatlands

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 6 Nov 17;

Jakarta. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, or RAPP, the operation unit of global pulp and paper industry leader Asia Pacific Resources International, has submitted a revision of its long-term business plan to comply with government regulations on peatland protection, a minister said on Friday (03/11).

"I have seen key points in their revised work plans. They have complied with the government regulations on peat protection," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya told reporters in Jakarta.

RAPP previously had a spat with the ministry after it rejected the company's 10-year business plan for a failure to comply with the government's new peatland protection framework, as detailed in Ministerial Decree No. 17 of 2017. That decree provides technical detail related to the implementation of Government Regulation No. 57 of 2016.

The company was forced to cease all of its upstream activities after the ministry rejected its work plan, including seeding, planting and harvesting and transportation of acacia and eucalyptus logs.

RAPP submitted its newly revised business plan to the ministry on Oct. 26 after two letters of reprimand, which stated that the company must submit its plan before Oct. 30.

The government's tougher approach for peat protection and management may affect up to half of the company's upstream operations in its 480,000-hectare concession areas in the districts of Pelalawan, Kuantan Sengingi, Siak, Kampar and Meranti Island in Riau province.

"With this revision of the work plan, RAPP realizes that there are protected peatlands within their [concession] areas," she said.

RAPP has planted acacia and eucalyptus — sources for paper — on its concession areas. The company has demanded a land swap scheme that can ensure a stable supply of raw materials and which has a "clean and clear" legal status.

"We will need to see their planting rotation plan too before making a decision about providing the land swap," Siti added.

The ministerial decree of 2017 affects at least 85 land concession holders in Indonesia, forcing them to revise their work plans due to the status of protected peatlands within their concession areas.

The ministry said it has approved revised work plans for 12 companies so far.

The Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has set a target of restoring 2.4 million hectares of degraded peatlands by 2020. The agency, which was established in January 2016, has restored at least 200,000 hectares of degraded peatlands so far.

At least 1.4 million hectares of degraded peatlands are situated within concession areas that the agency is not able to restore.

The agency has urged the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to require concession holders to restore those degraded peatlands in their area.

Indonesia has been firm on protecting the country's peatland ecosystems that are threatened yearly by large fires.

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Vietnam flood toll hits 49 ahead of APEC summit

AFP News 6 Nov 17;

At least 49 people have died after Typhoon Damrey slammed into central Vietnam, disaster officials said Monday, as heavy flooding cast doubt on a planned retreat for APEC leaders' spouses to the ancient town of Hoi An.

The weather system hit just days before Vietnam welcomes world leaders to the APEC summit in Danang and has left several areas totally submerged in the worst flooding in years.

While Danang itself has not been seriously affected, heavy flooding has hit Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its unique blend of buildings, some dating back to the 15th century.

Large swathes of four central and southern provinces were submerged on Monday, officials said, with the death toll likely to rise further as the search for at least 19 missing people got under way.

"We're facing a major threat in all the affected areas, all the lakes and rivers are full," Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said at an emergency meeting on Sunday, according to state-controlled VNExpress.

He said flood levels were close to surpassing records set 1997.

Some 30,000 people were evacuated and around 116,000 properties have been submerged or damaged since the typhoon hit Saturday.

Restaurants and hotels in Hoi An were inundated with water and tourists were evacuated from hotels on boats.

"It's reached places in Hoi An that it hasn't reached in years," Peter Kahl, 53, a restaurant owner in Hoi An, told AFP.

The spouses of world leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in nearby Danang were set to visit the city later this week.

There has been no word yet on whether the visit will go ahead.

"If anyone from APEC comes to see (Hoi An) and sees the condition it's in at the moment -- it's dreadful," Hoi An resident Andrew Lambie told AFP, as a river snake swam past his home.

Danang was mostly spared from the storm's destruction, with reports of heavy rain and high winds but no major flooding.

US President Donald Trump will attend the APEC summit this week, along with China's Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Vietnam has been battered by a series of storms this year. Flooding and landslides in northern and central regions killed more than 70 people last month.

In September, Typhoon Doksuri tore through central Vietnam, killing 11 people and decimating communities across several provinces.

The country has reported at least 240 people dead or missing in floods and landslides since the beginning of the year.

Natural disasters have killed more than 13,000 people and caused more than $6.4 billion in property damage over the past 20 years in Vietnam, according to the World Bank.

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As climate disasters quicken, urgent action - and cash - are needed

Alex Whiting Reuters 7 Nov 17;

BONN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As climate change impacts strengthen, poor people and countries vulnerable to rising sea level, droughts, hurricanes and floods need to be the focus of this year’s U.N. climate talks - and governments need to act faster to protect them, campaigners said on Monday.

For the first time, the talks, which opened in Bonn Monday, are being presided over by a small island state - Fiji, which is already facing problems from rising seas that forced one coastal village to move in 2014.

As millions worldwide are affected by increasingly frequent climate shocks, developing countries lack the resources to cope with the next disaster, said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International’s global lead on climate change.

The talks need “to represent the interests of all vulnerable countries and people”, he said on the sidelines of the negotiations.

Vital to that is making progress in raising money to help countries recover from disasters, and adapt their lives and economies to the changing climate, he said.

Richer countries have promised to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer nations make that transition - though many experts say the figure is well below what is needed.

“The Fijian presidency has a moral responsibility to make sure we make huge progress around (climate finance),” Singh said.

“We need to have tangible outcomes from (these talks). We can’t leave (here) and say to people affected by disasters: ‘Sorry guys, you’re on your own.'”


A group representing 12 Pacific island nations on Monday urged the government leaders to act quickly. More than two decades of climate negotiations have not yet delivered enough action to protect homes and jobs from dangerous climate change, said members of the Pacific Climate Warriors group.

“In the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not a debate, it is our reality. We no longer have time to talk. Now is the time to act,” said the young islanders, part of a network of Pacifid youth fighting climate change.

U.N. climate leaders on Monday agreed that countries need to act quickly and with ambition to cut planet-warming emissions and to help the millions of people whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters.

“Never before have we met with a greater sense of urgency,” said Patricia Espinosa, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

“Millions of people have suffered and continue to suffer from extreme weather events.... (and) the fact is that this may only be the start, a preview of what is to come,” she said.

“We no longer have the luxury of time. We must act now.”

Limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - less than half a degree higher than today - “is a matter of survival for many vulnerable nations around the world”, said Genevieve Jiva, a Fijian and project officer at the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.

To achieve the goal, countries must work swiftly and immediately to phase out coal and other fossil fuels, she said. “Developed countries and major polluters need to understand that their fossil fuels is the Pacifics’ loss and damage,” she said.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama urged governments at the opening ceremony to keep global warming in control, or face more people being exposed to destruction and suffering.

“We are all in the same canoe,” he said.

Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi, Editing by Laurie Goering.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

Bonn climate talks will aim to meet goals laid out in Paris, says UN
Delegates ‘do not have the luxury of lots of philosophical discussions’ but must focus on advancing the pledges set out in the Paris agreement
Fiona Harvey in Bonn The Guardian 6 Nov 17;

The UN hopes to create an “operating manual” for implementing the Paris agreement on climate change, with talks in the next two weeks in Bonn.

“We want to advance further, faster, together to meet the goals set out in the Paris agreement,” said Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s chief official on the climate, at the opening of the talks. “We need an operating manual for the Paris agreement. This has to be the launchpad for the next level of ambition on climate change action, because we know the pledges [to cut emissions] made so far are not enough to take us to [meeting the Paris goals].”

Nazhat Shameem Khan, of the Fijian presidency, said she wanted delegates to answer three questions: where we are on meeting the Paris commitments; where we want to be; and how to get there.

“This needs high level commitment,” she said. “We do not have the luxury of having lots of philosophical discussions. We have to roll our sleeves up and get through the agenda points.”

Although the document agreed in Paris was extensive, it could not set out in full detail all of the ways in which governments would be expected to implement the agreement, and the process of checking how this is being achieved. Some of these technical issues could be relatively easily resolved, but others have a broader political import that will require delicate negotiation.

One key issue will be “enhancing ambition”, which means making good on the commitment made in Paris to strengthen countries’ pledges on cutting emissions, given that current pledges are inadequate to hold warming to no more than 2C, as required by the landmark agreement. A key date falls next year, when countries are supposed to start coming forward with higher pledges.

However, Espinosa stopped short of saying that COP23 would result in a full timetable for when countries would be required to make new commitments. “That’s a difficult question to answer at this point. But I remain optimistic.”

Elina Bardram, director general of climate action for the EU, said the bloc wanted to “flesh out the technical guidelines of implementation”, including allowing for “transparency and accountability”. This means ensuring not only that pledges are sufficient, but that they are being met by the national governments signed up to the Paris accord. It can be a tricky issue at the UN talks, where countries set their own targets and ways of meeting them.

The EU is soon expected to set out its own progress on meeting its emissions-cutting target, and how it intends to ensure its 2030 target of a 40% emissions cut is met.

Discussions would also take place on climate finance, which involves ways of helping poorer countries to cut their emissions, Espinosa promised. She declined to give any targets on how much finance should be raised and where it should come from, but said the outlook was positive. “There is a very clear tendency going in the direction of green financing,” she said, referring to estimates that more money worldwide is going into low-carbon projects.

She also said the US delegation was present and taking a full part in the talks. President Donald Trump announced last summer his intention to begin the withdrawal process, the only country to have done so. Despite this, the US will be party to the agreement until 2020, as the the withdrawal process will take several years.

The UN said 169 countries of the 197 signed up to the Paris agreement had now ratified it.

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Australia: Coral bleaching damages more WA reefs

Up to 80 per cent of inshore reefs in WA's Kimberley region have been severely affected by a recent mass coral bleaching event.
Sophie Moore, Australian Associated Press 6 Nov 17;

Up to 80 per cent of coral reefs in parts of Western Australia's Kimberley region were severely affected by recent global bleaching, scientists say.

Inshore Kimberley reefs suffered bleaching for the first time in 2016, when the most severe mass event on record damaged between 57 to 80 per cent of coral.

Bleaching occurs when a spike in sea temperatures puts coral under stress, causing it to expel the tiny photosynthetic algae responsible for its brilliant colours and turning them bone white.

Stressed coral struggles for food and to fight disease but can recover if the temperature drops.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia analysed aerial and underwater surveys to monitor the health of coral reefs along the WA coastline, from the Kimberley to Bremer Bay.

They found despite Kimberley corals being tougher than most, they were not immune to the 2016 bleaching.

"This is the first documented regional-scale bleaching event in WA during an El Nino year and the first time we have been able to measure the percentage of impacted corals," lead researcher Verena Schoepf told AAP.

El Nino is the natural warming of the central Pacific that affects weather around the world, while La Nina is the name for when it cools.

"Coral reefs in WA are now at risk of bleaching during both El Nino and La Nina years as different reefs are affected depending on their geography," Dr Schoepf said.

Ningaloo Reef was severely affected from 2010 to 2011 but escaped unharmed in the 2016 event which hit the Kimberley.

Dr Schoepft said bleaching had rapidly increased in frequency since 1980, caused by a hike in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

"It is extremely important to monitor bleaching events to see how coral is affected and how long it takes to recover," she said.

Like a skeleton, coral reefs are vital for marine life, support fishing and tourism industries and also to provide protection for coastlines during storms and prevent coastal erosion.

"Biomedical compounds to treat diseases such as cancer have also been found in reefs," Dr Schoepf said.

"It's a pharmacy of the future."

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2017 to be the hottest year on record that wasn’t affected by El Nino

The last three years have been the hottest ever to be recorded
Andrew Griffin The Independent 6 Nov 17;

This year will be the hottest ever that wasn't affected by the El Nino weather event, according to the UN.

The prediction is a shock because El Nino has been used to explain rising temperatures and occasionally to suggest that the temperature isn't warming at all. The new finding shows that the climate is in fact warming rapidly, even without the effect of the El Nino which pushes up temperatures across the world.

Even accounting for that, this year will be one of the three warmest on record. Already, 2016 and 2015 were the hottest years yet.

In an announcement as annual UN climate change talks hosted by Fiji begin in Bonn, Germany, the WMO said the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was 1.1C above the pre-industrial era.

As a result of a powerful El Nino, 2016 is likely to remain the hottest year on record, but 2017 is expected to join 2015 as the second or third hottest year.

The years 2013 to 2017 are likely to be the hottest five-year period on record.

Parts of southern Europe including Italy, North Africa, parts of eastern and southern Africa and the Asian part of Russia experienced record warm conditions.

Other indicators of rising temperatures include Arctic sea ice, which was well below average throughout 2017 and was at record low-levels for the first four months of the year, while sea ice cover in Antarctica also hit record lows.

Globally, sea surface temperatures in 2017 are on track to be among the three highest on record, with some significant coral "bleaching" caused by over-warm oceans, including on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Major, high-impact hurricanes battered the US, with Harvey in August, followed by Irma and Maria in September.

Ophelia reached major hurricane status more than 600 miles further north-east than any previous North Atlantic hurricane and caused significant damage in Ireland.

While there is no clear evidence climate change is making hurricanes such as Harvey more or less frequent, it is likely human-induced global warming is making rainfall more intense and rising sea levels worsens storm surges, the WMO said.

During 2017, exceptionally heavy rain caused a landslide in Sierra Leone, many parts of the Indian subcontinent were hit by flooding, as was Peru and area of southern China, while east Africa remained gripped by drought.

Italy saw drought and record temperatures, heatwaves hit parts of South America, eastern Australia and southwest Asia, and wildfires raged in Chile, Portugal and the US.

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: "The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long term warming trend.

"We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50C (122F) in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.

"Many of these events - and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many - bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities," he said.

Additional reporting by Press Association

2017 set to be one of top three hottest years on record
Data so far this year points to 2017 continuing a long-term trend of record breaking temperatures around the world, says World Meteorological Organization
Fiona Harvey in Bonn The Guardian 6 Nov 17;

2017 is set to be one of the hottest three years on record, provisional data suggests, confirming yet again a warming trend that scientists say bears the fingerprints of human actions.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said temperatures in the first nine months of this year were unlikely to have been higher than 2016, when there was a strong El Niño weather system, but higher than anything before 2015.

Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the WMO, said: “The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long term warming trend. We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50C in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.”

He said further detailed scientific studies would be carried out, but that it was already possible to say many “bear the tell-tale sign of climate change” caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities, such as burning fossil fuel and deforestation.

This recent increase in average global temperatures confirms a renewed warming trend in recent years, which had slowed its pace slightly in the previous decade, leading some climate sceptics to claim global warming had “paused”.

The results were revealed to delegates at the UN’s global climate talks being held in Bonn, Germany, this week and next. The COP23 talks, a follow-up to the landmark Paris agreement of 2015, will focus on a new process by which countries’ pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions can be toughened, in line with scientific advice.

Current pledges would, according to estimates, leave the world 3C warmer than in pre-industrial times. At that level, sea levels would rise, heatwaves and droughts would become more common in large swathes of the globe, and fiercer storms and floods would become more likely.

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief, said the talks showed “unprecedented momentum”, but warned of the consequences of failure.

Recent research also found that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been for 800,000 years.

Scientists reacted with concern to the WMO’s findings, which are still provisional and only cover January to September. Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, London, said: “The state of our climate is being reset by humans. What were once one-in-a-hundred-year events are now turning into regular events. We see this in terms of extreme weather impacts, with examples from the south of the US this year. For the future we can expect more of the same.”

Richard Betts, professor of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: “We expect developing countries to be hit the hardest in terms of human impact. Flooding will be a particular threat in south Asia, particularly due to increased rainfall and rising sea levels, and partly because of the large and growing numbers of people who have little choice about being in harm’s way.”

Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of WMO, said at the Bonn conference that he saw little likelihood of the warming trend being reversed in the short term. “This trend can be expected to continue for the coming 50 years. In this system, once you reach a certain level it does not drop soon.”

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