Malaysia: Chinese sand-dredger capsizes off Muar

1 dead, 14 believed alive in sunken hull
AFP New Straits Times 21 Mar 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: One crew member was killed and 14 others, most of them Chinese, were missing Wednesday after a sand-dredging vessel capsized off Muar, Johor with some believed trapped alive inside the sunken hull.

The coastguard said authorities in the southern state were alerted at 8:50am that the vessel, the JBB Rong Chang 8, had sank.

Two boats were sent to the scene and found one Chinese citizen dead and three others alive, the coastguard said.

A search is continuing for the 14 sailors – 12 Chinese, one Indonesian and one Malaysian – still missing, said a coastguard statement.

Sanifah Yusof, a senior coastguard official, told AFP that divers searching for the missing crew believed some could still be alive inside the overturned boat.

"We believe there are some crew trapped in the ship. The divers knocked on the body of the ship and got a response," he told AFP.

It was not clear what caused the accident. The weather in the area was fine.

Dredging sand from coastal areas is a booming and lucrative business. The sand is shipped to wealthy, land-scarce areas such as Singapore for reclamation and construction work.

Last year two foreign vessels manned by Chinese crew were seized off Malaysia's west coast for allegedly conducting illegal sand-dredging. – AFP

One dead after sand mining vessel capsizes off Johor
Channel NewsAsia 21 Mar 18;

JOHOR BAHRU: A sand mining vessel capsized off Parit Jawa near Muar on Wednesday (Mar 21), resulting in one crew member drowning and 14 missing, Maritime Malaysia said in a statement.

Three Chinese crew members were rescued safely after authorities received reports that the JBB Rong Chang 8 had overturned at 8.50am, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said in a statement.

Those rescued were Wu Liangfu, Liang Rongbin and Jiang Chulin. A 50-year-old crew member, Liang Caiman, drowned in the incident.

Search and rescue operations were ongoing, with two patrol boats deployed, the agency said.

The Chinese-owned, Dominican-registered dredger was carrying one Malaysian, an Indonesian and 16 Chinese crew members.

Six crew were rescued after the vessel, JBB Rong Chang 8, capsized at 8.5 nautical miles offshore, Batu Pahat Base maritime director Muhammad Zulkarnain Abdullah had said earlier.

Lieutenant commander Muhammad said Maritime Malaysia sent two patrol boats to the location after it was alerted to the incident at 8.50am and that a search-and-rescue operation was ongoing.

Mr Zulkarnain advised people to exercise caution when conducting activities at sea and to contact the Batu Pahat Base Maritime Operations Centre or emergency services if they need help.

Source: Bernama/zl

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Malaysia: No solution in sight for human-elephant conflicts in Telupid

NORASIKIN DAINEH New Straits Times 21 Mar 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Authorities are finding it hard to find a concrete solution to escalating human-elephant conflicts in Telupid since early this year.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said discussions are still on going between all stateholders and experts but so permanent solutions appears to be in sight, for now.

"I must admit that this is one of the toughest issues we are handling. We hope to figure something out soon," he said when asked about a meeting between the ministry, State Wildlife department and experts recently on the matter.

"The cooperation and talks with those with elephant expertise are ongoing and it is a complicated matter,” Masidi said when met at a school related sporting event at Kota Kinabalu Sports Complex in Likas here.

NSTP highlighted the problem in Telupid, where elephants have been appearing near the town area and villages several times the last two months.

Things became serious when a herd damaged a fence and entered the disrict police station twice and wandered into Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Telupid last month.

A Wildlife department staff was also injured when he fell into a ravine while trying to escape from elephants nearby the school.

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Indonesia Considered Successful in Managing Peatlands, It Becomes Example for Other Countries

NetralNews 22 Mar 18;

JAKARTA, NNC - The management of peatlands in Indonesia is considered successful so that it becomes an example for other countries in the world.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya brought this peatland diplomacy to a global level, especially at the Global Peatland Initiative's Working Group Meeting in Brazaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo.

For the success of Indonesia, Siti Nurbaya in the meeting was not only present as a regular participant, but also as a keynote speaker in ministerial dialogue at the international meeting.

Siti Nurbaya proudly said that Indonesia, as the founder of the Asia-Africa movement, is ready to share experiences and help other countries to advance peat management through South-South and Triangular cooperation. Indonesia is ready to roll out its plan to establish the International Research Center of Tropical Peat in Indonesia.

She believed in the next few years, the world will recognize Indonesia's peatlands as world archive. As a country with 15 million hectares of peatland, Indonesia certainly has the privilege of various peat ecosystems; ranging from coastal peat that is mostly found on the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua; peatlands in the Mahakam delta of East Kalimantan, Kapuas in West Kalimantan; to peatland in the highlands as in Papua. Similarly, peat swamps in Kalimantan bear a resemblance to the peat in the Congo.

Minister Siti succeeded in bringing Indonesia's diplomacy for peat management to global level. Diplomatically, Minister Siti explained that the Indonesian Government learned very expensive lessons for the great peat land fires in 2015.

The government responds through policies to control very tightly and thoroughly to minimize the recurrence of this incident. The result is fantastic, within two years from 2015 to 2017 Indonesia managed to reduce the fire spots as much as 93.6 percent.

This result proves the seriousness of President Joko Widodo in making the prevention of forest and peatland fires as national priority. The President succeeded in making the policies he took into effective action on the ground.

"Strong cooperation between various parties, especially the involvement of the private sector becomes the key," said Siti Nurbaya, in a press release on Wednesday (3/21/2018).

Global Peatland Initiatives (GPI) is a global initiative by several countries, international bodies and experts committed to keeping peatlands worldwide sustainable. Peatlands as the largest organic carbon reserves in the world should be maintained so as not to burn.

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Indonesia: Sumatran tiger "Bonita" returns to forest

Genta Tenri Mawangi Antara 22 Mar 18;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - A female Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) called "Bonita" has returned to her home in the forest, after roaming at the oil palm plantation and fatally attacking two locals in Indragiri Hilir, Riau.

"During a patrol, our officers have reported that the Sumatran Tiger Bonita has returned to the wild," Mulyo Hutomo, head of the Bonita rescue team, informed Antara in Pekanbaru on Wednesday.

He stated that the critically endangered Sumatran tiger was roaming in the 22-kilometers-square-green belt area, which is situated in the borderline of the forest and an oil palm plantation, owned by the Malaysian-based company, PT Tabung Haji Indo Plantation (THIP).

For two months, the protected Sumatran tiger inhabited some zones in the plantation, including the Eboni 62, Eboni 63, and Eboni 64.

Hutomo stated that he will assure that the Sumatran tiger will remain in the wild and not return to the plantation or the residential area.

Hence, he will maintain coordination with the joint forces of the Indonesian Military, Indonesian National Police, the Natural Resources Conservation Office (BBKSDA), and the local government to regularly conduct patrols for rescuing the lost wild animal.

"Although Bonita has returned home, we are still conducting patrols for seeking and rescuing any wild animals that may be lost," he noted.

An immediate rescue is needed when a wild animal leaves his habitat for a prolonged period.

"We have noticed some changes in Bonita`s behavior," he stressed.

Following the incident, some 30 officers of the joint forces are still patrolling the forest to assure the safety of Bonita and the people.

These officers are divided into three groups, comprising of seven personnel and one sniper.

For two times, during the day and the night, the patrol officers will follow the tiger`s trail in the forest.

Bonita had received wide coverage from local and international news after attacking two villagers at the plantation. Her first victim reportedly was a 33-year-old-woman named Jumiati.

Meanwhile, the tiger`s second victim was a 34-year-old-man named Yusri Efendi.

Both victims are the residents of Indragiri Hilir District, Riau Province.

Reported by Anggi Romadhoni
Editor: Aditia Maruli Radja

Sumatran tiger captured after 100 days of hunting
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 22 Apr 18;

After being hunted for more than 100 days, a Sumatran tiger, called Bonita by animal conservationists, was captured alive on Friday in Indragiri Hilir regency in Riau.

Bonita had been haunting human neighborhoods, scaring residents for months. The latest tiger-human conflict in Sumatra saw a tiger brutally killed, as angry residents in North Sumatra speared the animal to death and later hung it from a ceiling.

Read also: Tiger brutally killed in North Sumatra, hung from ceiling

Following the incident, activists have been campaigning for Bonita’s life, pleading with residents and Riau authorities to capture the big cat alive.

Bonita, estimated to be four years old, had been shot twice with tranquilizer, Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency head Suharyono said in the provincial capital of Pekanbaru on Saturday.

Read also: Why blaming superstition for tiger's death is wrong

A joint team had been on patrol in the wee hours of Friday, amid heavy rain, in a plantation area run by PT Tabung Haji Indo Plantation in Tanjung Simpang village, Pelangiran district. Earlier, they had found Bonita’s traces and followed them. “Her favorite track is hard soil,” Suharyono said.

Bonita was different from other tigers, Suharyono said. Besides preferring a beaten path instead of the bushes, Bonita also showed a calm demeanor when she found herself in a cage. Other tigers would usually fight for their freedom, he said. (evi)

Rescued Sumatran tiger is improving, says conservation group
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 25 Apr 18;

A Sumatran tiger named Bonita that was recently caught in Indragiri Hilir regency, Riau, after a 100-day hunt is now under the watchful eye of the Arsari Djojohadikusumo Foundation’s (YAD) medical team.

Bonita was weak and refused to eat when she first arrived at the Dharmasraya Sumatran Tiger Rehabilitation Center (PRHSD) in West Sumatra on Saturday, according to YAD executive director Catrini Pratihari Kubontubuh

“On Sunday, a team of veterinarians took samples of her blood and treated her for two hours. The team found several diseases, such as a tumor located under the skin around her stomach. The team performed surgery to remove the tumor; it’s not [malignant],” Catrini told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

She added that Bonita’s condition had been improving in the last two days.

“We gave her a chicken and she was able to catch it by herself, just like in her natural habitat. She previously refused to eat, maybe because she was too tired. It took 20 hours to bring her to the rehabilitation center from where she was caught. Throughout the trip, she had to be kept conscious,” Catrini said, adding that it was prohibited to use anesthesia on animals that were being transported.

She rejected rumors claiming that Bonita suffered from obesity.

“She weighs around 82 kilograms; that’s normal for a 4-year-old tiger.”

Claims were also made that Bonita might be pregnant, which the veterinarian team has been unable to confirm.

“We’ll need to check that using an ultrasound,” Catrini said. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Minister asks Freeport to help overcome plastic waste

Andi Abdussalam Antara 22 Mar 18;

Timika, Papua (ANTARA News) - Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has asked PT Freeport Indonesia to help overcome the plastic waste in the area of Mimika District, Papua Province.

"We have a problem with plastic. I read in a book that (plastic) basket for crab cultivation can be used for about four years. Well, after four years, what can we do with it after it becomes waste," Pudjiastuti stated, while launching PT Freeport Indonesia`s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program in Timika, on Tuesday.

According to the minister, Indonesia has become the second largest contributor of plastic waste in the world after China. Therefore, after being used for crab cultivation in the community economic development program, the plastic basket should not be discarded into the sea.

"We are now throwing almost 160 million tons of plastic waste into the sea. One day, the Indonesian sea will contain more plastic than fish. This is my concern, because after traveling around Merauke, I see many canals filled with used mineral water bottles. I am sure it is the same around the villages in Mimika," she remarked.

"Maybe, in addition to this program, PT. Freeport, together with other relevant parties, can also support the environmental hygiene program; of course, plastic waste is not a matter of society," the minister added.

According to Pudjiastuti, in addition to reducing the beauty of the city, plastic waste has caused the emergence of puddles everywhere.

The plastic waste issue can become a time bomb for the Indonesian people if they do not immediately handle the waste in the gullies and waters which are filled with plastic.

"A campaign to reduce the use of plastics is also very important. Therefore, the waste from this crab farming program must not be thrown into the sea; otherwise, it becomes garbage again," she explained.

Editor: Aditia Maruli Radja

Plastic waste can be a time bomb
Andi Abdussalam Antara 22 Mar 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Plastic and Styrofoam products have made life so simple and easy for mankind. Plastic bags, plastic dishes, and plastic packages are among items that can make life trouble-free.

By using plastic wares, housewives and other residents can skip washing dishes. After use, plastic items can just easily be disposed of, especially into the sea, without causing trouble to maintain them. But not many are aware that it could have far-reaching repercussions. It is a time bomb.

After all, Indonesia is rated the second biggest plastic contributor to the sea after China. "We have thrown almost 160 million tons of plastic waste into the sea. One day, the Indonesian sea will contain more plastic than fish," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti stated in Mimika on Tuesday, while launching the corporate social responsibility (CSR) program of the United State-based copper and gold mining firm, PT Freeport Indonesia.

According to the minister, the plastic waste issue can become a time bomb for the Indonesian people if the waste disposed in the gullies and waters are not immediately handled.

Several studies have also indicated that if no significant changes are brought about, the ratio of plastic to fish in the oceans is expected to reach three to one by 2025, and the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

"We have a problem with plastic. I read in a book that (plastic) basket for crab cultivation can be used for about four years. Well, after four years what can we do with it after it becomes a waste," Pudjiastuti questioned, referring to the crab cultivation program in Timika.

Therefore, after being used for crab cultivation in the community economic development program, the plastic basket should not be discarded into the sea. The minister asked PT Freeport Indonesia to help overcome the plastic waste in the area of Mimika District, Papua Province.

"This is my concern, because after traveling around Merauke, I see many canals filled with used mineral water bottles. I am sure areas around the villages in Mimika will also face the same problem," she stressed.

"Maybe, in addition to this program, PT. Freeport, together with other relevant parties, can also support the environmental hygiene program; of course, plastic waste is not a matter of society," the minister added.

According to Pudjiastuti, in addition to ruining the beauty of the city, plastic waste has caused the emergence of puddles everywhere. "A campaign to reduce the use of plastics is also very important. The waste from this crab farming program must not be thrown into the sea, as it becomes garbage again," she revealed.

The same concern over plastic and Styrofoam wastes has also been expressed by the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), as the garbage generated from human activity, in the form of plastic and cork, has increasingly threatened human life and the environment.

In Jakarta, for instance, plastic wastes and Styrofoam have threatened microplastic particles, according to KEHATI Executive Director MS Sembiring.

"It is bad. Garbage that is not transported to the place of dumping and partly flowed into the sea includes mostly Styrofoam and other types of plastics," Sembiring stated in a press release received in Jakarta on Tuesday (March 20).

In addition to threatening human health, microplastic particles, which are mainly derived from plastic wastes and plastic food packaging, are also very dangerous for the survival of flora and fauna.

Quoting Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) data, Sembiring noted that Jakarta`s garbage production was increasing every year. In 2016, waste production reached 7,099.08 cubic meters, an increase from the previous year, which was at 7.046.39 cubic meters.

Out of all the garbage produced, only 84.7 percent could be transported. The rest is wasted in nature, including dumping into the sea.

"Therefore, the Jakarta Provincial Government must have a special strategy to address this problem to save Jakarta from microplastic wastes," he explained.

KEHATI hoped that the DKI Jakarta Provincial Government could utilize the momentum of two international days to intensively curb plastic waste. The two important international days which are celebrated in 2018, namely Earth Day (April 22) and World Environment Day (June 5), shared the same theme of plastic pollution.

In the meantime, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has warned local residents against throwing trash, particularly plastic waste, into the sea and rivers. "We ask all households and residents to throw trash in its respective places. Do no throw trash anywhere. And do not throw trash, particularly plastic ones, into the rivers," he stressed, while inspecting a pile of trash in the Muara Angke Ecomarine Mangrove Forest in Jakarta, on Monday (March 19).

"Most of the trash here is non-organic. The volume of plastic trash is extraordinary. "In the past few days, more than 50 tons of trash has been collected. Because of (difficult) terrain, the trash cannot be carried by heavy duty equipment, but by ships," he revealed.

In an effort to overcome plastic waste, the government is formulating a presidential regulation on the management of plastic waste at sea. This is a form of the government?s commitment to reduce plastic waste in its maritime areas, according to Aryo Hanggono, expert staff for Marine Ecology and Marine Resources of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries minister.

"The government will reduce plastic waste by up to 70 percent by 2025," he remarked.

He noted that currently, a draft of the presidential regulation on the management of plastic waste at sea was being formulated to ensure coordination between the central and local governments.

Editor: Heru Purwanto

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India's turtle warriors embrace mission to save threatened species

Abhaya SRIVASTAVA AFP Yahoo News 21 Mar 18;

Daluakani (India) (AFP) - Since he was a boy, Soumyaranjan Biswal has kept a night vigil at the beach near his coastal Indian village where tens of thousands of tiny olive ridley turtles gather to lay their eggs.

Fishing communities in Odisha protect this threatened species from harm as they return year after year to nest, a unique ritual for both turtles and their custodians that stretches back decades.

Olive ridley turtles navigate thousands of miles of open ocean to reach the eastern state, where they come ashore in numbers not seen anywhere else in the world.

It is familiar territory for the females, who hatched on these same sands many years ago.

"We have seen them coming to these beaches right from our childhood," Biswal told AFP on a moonlit night, as tiny white ocean crabs wriggled across his feet.

"The turtles are just like our friends now."

The turtles arrive under the cover of darkness, trudging ashore to dig shallow pits with their flippers where they deposit dozens of eggs.

Their work done, they return to the ocean.

But their eggs are vulnerable to predators like dogs and vultures during the 50-odd day incubation period beneath the sand, and high tides can wash away an entire nest.

- Unpaid job -

Fishermen along this stretch of east Indian coastline have been intervening to give the unborn turtles a shot at life.

Biswal, equipped with a flashlight and a bamboo pole, identifies nests at risk and carefully digs up the spongy eggs.

They are relocated to freshly dug hatcheries a safe distance away, ringed with fencing and marked with a flag -- an arduous process that can be repeated hundreds of times in a single nesting season.

Keeping a watchful eye over the brood is no easy task. The job is unpaid, usually following a long day at work. There is the added danger of scorpion bites and nipping crabs in the sand.

But Biswal knows safe passage for the turtle hatchlings to the sea is crucial for their survival.

"Their journey back to the sea is very important. The females come back to this same beach to lay eggs, helped by the alignment of moon and stars," he said.

There was a time when two million turtles would emerge from the sea at Odisha for the mass nesting phenomenon known as "arribada", or arrival.

But their numbers have sharply declined, with environmental pressures, coastal development and overfishing meaning many do not survive the journey to their ancestral nesting ground.

Hundreds can wash ashore dead every year.

In 2014 and 2016, for reasons still unknown, no turtles arrived at all, spooking villagers who consider their fate intertwined with their ocean visitors.

"For us, turtles are an incarnation of (Hindu God) Vishnu. If they die or don't come we feel we have missed out on their blessing," said one volunteer, Bichitranal Biswal.

- Turtle love -

However, the union between fishermen and turtles has not always been peaceful.

In 1997, the coastal regions off Odisha were declared a marine wildlife sanctuary and fishing was barred in shallow waters for more than half the year -- slashing incomes in one of India's poorest regions.

"For seven months a year the fishermen are left jobless," said Sumanth Bindumadhav, wildlife campaign manager with Humane Society International, an NGO.

"It's natural for them to feel that it's because of the turtles."

Bindumadhav said it had been a "Herculean task" motivating fishermen to protect the turtles during lean times when other work was scarce.

One approach is to remind them that the turtles eat jellyfish, which prey on the sealife the villagers eat and sell.

Ultimately, conservation efforts have succeeded in Odisha in large part due to the special relationship between turtles and locals.

"People here feel a personal connection with the turtles and have developed a sense of ownership. This has helped in our conservation effort," Bindumadhav said.

The state government provides 25 kilos (55 pounds) of subsidised rice every month to families affected by fishing laws under the World Bank-funded Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme.

But the villagers say they would rather learn new skills than depend on handouts.

Bijaya Kumar Kavi is director of the local Action for Protection of Wild Animals, which has been helping women set up self-help groups where each member contributes 60 rupees (90 cents) a month.

"We teach them how each olive ridley lays around 100 eggs, but of more than 10 million eggs laid in an arribada, only around 0.2 percent survive," he said.

"We also tell them how to handle eggs. If done the wrong way the embryo will drown in its own yolk.

"When the fishermen learn about these fascinating characteristics, their attitude changes and they become turtle-friendly."

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Ocean plastic could treble in decade

Roger Harrabin BBC 21 Mar 18;

The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to treble in a decade unless litter is curbed, a major report has warned.

Plastics is just one issue facing the world's seas, along with rising sea levels, warming oceans, and pollution, it says.

But the Foresight Future of the Sea Report for the UK government said there are also opportunities to cash in on the "ocean economy".

They say this is predicted to double to $3 trillion (£2 trillion) by 2030.

The report says much more knowledge is needed about the ocean. The authors say the world needs a Mission to "Planet Ocean" to mirror the excitement of voyaging to the moon and Mars.

The Foresight reports are written by experts to brief ministers on medium and long-term issues of significance. This one has been signed off by ministers from four different departments as the authors emphasise the need for a joined-up oceans policy.

One of the authors, Prof Edward Hill from the UK National Oceanography Centre told BBC News: "The ocean is critical to our economic future. Nine billion people will be looking to the ocean for more food. Yet we know so little of what's down there.

"We invest a lot of money and enthusiasm for missions to space - but there's nothing living out there. The sea bed is teeming with life. We really need a mission to planet ocean - it's the last frontier."

Another of the authors, the chief scientist for the UK government's environment department Ian Boyd, agreed: "The ocean is out of sight, out of mind," he said.

He told BBC News: "There's a continuous process of exploring for new things to exploit in the oceans, and that's happening faster than we scientists can keep up with. My suspicion is legislation is also struggling to keep up - and obviously there are risks in that."

He said offshore wind farms, oil industries and mining firms were spreading into unexplored areas. "Scientists need to get in there faster than the commercial people or at least at the same time - to put proper regulation in place to govern those industries."

The report highlights many concerns, including the current worry about ocean plastic litter, which it forecasts will treble between 2015 and 2025.

But it stresses that the ocean is being assailed from many different types of pollution - including run-off pesticides and fertilisers from farms, industrial toxins like PCBs, and pharmaceuticals.

The authors say if governments can identify ways of protecting biodiversity in the seas, there are riches to be harvested - including nodules of metals and possibly even cures for cancer.

They predict that the biggest industrial growth in the seas will come from offshore wind, followed by marine aquaculture and fish processing. The report also projects an increase in industrial capture of wild fish.

This latter suggestion alarmed Rachel Jones, a marine expert from London Zoo, ZSL. She told BBC News: "Given that 90% of global fisheries are either at or in excess of sustainable catch levels, I can't really see how they are going to expand capture fisheries."

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Flooding and heavy rains rise 50% worldwide in a decade, figures show

Such extreme weather events are now happening four times more than in 1980, according to a European science paper
Arthur Neslen The Guardian 21 Mar 18;

Global floods and extreme rainfall events have surged by more than 50% this decade, and are now occurring at a rate four times higher than in 1980, according to a new report.

Other extreme climatological events such as storms, droughts and heatwaves have increased by more than a third this decade and are being recorded twice as frequently as in 1980, the paper by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (Easac) says.

The paper, based partly on figures compiled by the German insurance company Munich Re, also shows that climate-related loss and damage events have risen by 92% since 2010.

Prof Michael Norton, Easac’s environmental programme director, said that greenhouse gas emissions were “fundamentally responsible for driving these changes”.

“Trends towards extremes are continuing,” he said. “People have experienced extreme weather already - big switches [between] warm and cold winters - but the frequency of these shifts may be changing.”

“Some of the underlying drivers of extreme weather which were speculative four years ago are now looking less speculative and [more like] credible hypotheses. That is the weakening of the Gulf Stream and the meandering behaviour of the jet stream.”

The Easac study, Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation, looked at new data and models focused on a potential slowdown of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, due to an influx of freshwater from melted ice sheets in Greenland.

It was compiled by experts from 27 national science academies in the EU, Norway and Switzerland, although the paper was not peer-reviewed.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has assessed the probability of a slowdown before 2100 at more than 90% - or “very likely”. However, a complete “switch off of the gulf stream – or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) – is increasingly thought possible by some scientists.

Some studies say this could lower land temperatures in the UK, Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia by up to 9C.

UK arrays positioned in the north Atlantic measured a 30% drop in AMOC strength between 2009-10, the Easac study says. And while uncertainties persist about the pace and scale of possible future changes, the decline in Gulf Stream strength itself has now been “confirmed”.

Citing “gathering evidence of an emerging negative phase” in Atlantic temperature swings driven by a weakening Gulf Stream, the study calls for research to be stepped up.

“With potentially substantial implications for the climate of north-west Europe, it is clearly desirable to quantify this risk further,” it says.

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Coal's tipping point near, but climate goals are not

MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press Yahoo News 22 Mar 18;

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Declines in coal power plant construction in China, India and the U.S. are projected to push the heavily-polluting fuel over the edge— but not fast enough to meet international climate change goals, environmental groups said Wednesday.

Coal's dominance as the fuel of choice for generating electricity has been slipping as cheap natural gas and renewable energy sources challenge its decades-long reign.

A joint report by the groups CoalSwarm, Sierra Club and Greenpeace projects that by 2022 retirements of older, more polluting coal plants will outpace new plant construction for the first time in the modern era.

The findings are in line with data from the International Energy Agency, which recently declared coal was in a "decade of stagnation" with demand declining at a level last seen in the early 1990s.

A drop in new construction would bolster international efforts to move away from the cheap and widely available fuel. Coal accounted for about 70 percent of worldwide power sector emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency estimates.

Yet the authors of Wednesday's reports and independent analysts agree the pace of decline is still too slow to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. The 2015 agreement was intended to fend off the worst effects of climate change by holding global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

"There is no way that we see right now that you can hold to a two-degree centigrade limit like scientists want us to if coal is in the mix," Any Roberts said, global coal research director for the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. "The wild card in all that is the research dollars being spent in renewable energy...That could be a game changer."

In the U.S., President Donald Trump's vociferous promotion of coal has had at best a modest impact on the industry. Wednesday's report noted that the U.S. currently has no new coal plants under construction.

In India and China, coal project cancellations have been growing as the world's two most populous nations struggle to clear polluted skies that have had dramatic negative health impacts.

Combined, they've shelved more than 500 gigawatts of coal projects that were once on the drawing board — equivalent to more than 1,000 coal-burning power units, according to CoalSwarm director Ted Nace.

Still, there are pockets of expected growth, according to Roberts and other observers, with new plants expected to go up in southeast Asia, Turkey and Pakistan.

In China — by far the world's largest coal consumer — the amount of coal that was mined increased about 3 percent in 2017 to reverse a dramatic drop the previous year, according to government figures. That reflects the stance by China's leaders that coal will remain a key piece of its ongoing economic expansion, even as the communist nation has become the world leader in renewable energy development.

Pointing to China's example, industry representatives stress that coal remains essential to balancing the global energy budget into the foreseeable future. Potential increases in India and southeast Asia "will be the driving force of demand for coal in the decades to come," said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive of the World Coal Association.

"To put in some context, even with the cancellation of some proposed plants, planned capacity additions in India are still more than three times greater than Germany, a major coal user," Sporton said in a statement released by the London-based organization in response to Wednesday's report.

The group did not directly dispute the claim that coal's growth in the power sector will peak by 2022.

Meanwhile, finding money to build coal plants is getting harder, Roberts said. That's driven in part by some major investors such as pension funds and multinational insurance companies that have pledged to stay away from coal projects because of their air pollution and climate impacts.

The head of Storebrand Asset Management, Norway's largest private asset manager with more than $90 billion under management, Jan Erik Saugestad said coal investors "are living on borrowed time" as institutional money instead pours into solar and wind projects. Storebrand began divesting from coal in 2013.

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