Best of our wild blogs: 30 Oct 18

14 Oct (Sun) - Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Proning - Getting Down on It!
Butterflies of Singapore

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Outdoor educator, nature enthusiasts reach happy compromise over Rifle Range Nature Park

LOW YOUJIN Today Online 29 Sep 18

SINGAPORE – Conservationists who were alarmed by the potential impact of an outdoor education programme on Rifle Range Nature Park have reached a happy compromise with its founder Darren Quek.

In the wake of TODAY's report on Mr Quek's alternative programme, Forest School Singapore, nature enthusiasts had raised concerns over the impact that humans could have by going off-trail and entering an ecologically sensitive stream in the area.

While they welcomed Mr Quek's efforts to connect children with nature, they wondered if the positive online response to his programme would lead more parents to sign their children up, and were worried that he might be loving nature to death.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said he was disturbed by Forest School Singapore's videos of children running through the streams in nature reserves and parks.

"Basically, that is not allowed as the streams are delicate ecosystems in their own right, with native wildlife that would be very badly disturbed by such activities," said Mr Subaraj.

Mr Louis Ng, founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said he supports Mr Quek's intentions.

"There are important lessons (children) can and need to learn in the forest and through free play," said Mr Ng, who is also a Member of Parliament.

But "it is a question of sustainability, especially if more and more people start to follow and also wander off the trails and ultimately destroy the ecosystem which we are teaching the children to protect," he said.


The National Parks Board's (NParks) group conservation director Adrian Loo got in touch with Mr Quek and met him recently with nature enthusiast and biology teacher Tan Beng Chiak.

Ms Tan, who is a member of the Nature Society (Singapore) and board member of the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), said she knew conservationists were "quite upset" with Mr Quek's activities within Rifle Range Nature Park as it is a pristine area.

She did not disagree with Mr Quek's teaching philosophy and went along to meet Mr Quek as she wanted to share her perspective as an educator.

"All we need is to communicate with each other and come to a better solution than to clamp them down and shut them off," said Ms Tan.

Dr Loo said the meeting was to share about conservation matters and to better understand the school's objectives so that NParks could support it.

He has offered to guide Mr Quek on walks through the various reserves and parks on the island to share more about Singapore's ecology and biodiversity.

Mr Quek, on his part, is heartened by discussions so far.

He acknowledged the ecological sensitivity of Rifle Range Nature Park and has agreed to adjust his programme accordingly. The former preschool teacher wants to have more conversations with the nature community and is excited to learn from the experts.

Both sides are open to collaboration, although no concrete plans have been laid out yet.

Dr Loo said an option is "co-creating programmes with the school that will connect children to nature in ways that are both experiential and sensitive to the environment".

Forest School Singapore's participants could serve as eyes and ears on the ground for NParks, said Mr Quek.

With Rifle Range Nature Park slated to close from October until 2020 for enhancement works, Mr Quek is scouting around for other green areas in Singapore that are not ecologically sensitive to conduct his programme.

This is something that NParks can help with, said Dr Loo.

"We welcome other educators who are interested in organising nature-based activities in our green spaces to get in touch with us, to discuss how to carry out the programmes in a sensitive manner," he said.


Taking TODAY on a guided walk through Rifle Range Nature Park last week, Dr Loo said the upcoming enhancement works will benefit the ecosystem and not turn it into a manicured space, as Mr Quek had feared.

Natural features such as dead logs by the side of walking trails will become a home for insects, which in turn serve as food for the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin.

Invasive plant species such as the Zanzibar Yam will be removed. The tuber with heart-shaped leaves was originally brought over by the British from Africa who thought it might be a good food source.

Left unmanaged, this climber will grow rapidly and even "smother trees", said Dr Loo.

"If we don't eradicate it, the native plants will not be able to come in and take root."

More native species of plants will be introduced. For example, the fishtail palm's fruit will attract animals such as the Common Palm Civet, which in turn helps to disperse seeds through its scat.

Creatures that can be found in the stream include the Common Walking Catfish and a native Lowland Freshwater Crab, as well as the Malayan Forest Betta (a fish) and Sunda Swamp Eel.

"Several species of dragonflies and their larvae could take six months to a year to mature into adults," said Dr Loo.

While a lone person wading through the stream will not make a difference, a big group could cause fine silt to get stirred up and clog the gills of aquatic life and "even prevent fish from finding their prey".

Going off-trail could damage seedlings and plants such as the bintagor gasing – an evergreen plant with medicinal properties – which may not be able to recover, said Dr Loo.

Spreading awareness of nature is the point of his efforts, said Dr Loo. "We want to impart this. That's why we are in conservation. With more knowledge, you can become more aware of your surroundings and be better stewards to your environment."

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First turtle hatchery in Singapore opens; almost 40 turtle nests recorded on Singapore shores this nesting season

Jose Hong Straits Times 29 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - The Republic's first turtle hatchery opened at the Sisters' Island Marine Park on Saturday (Sept 29), allowing conservationists to better protect rare sea turtles which have been increasingly sighted here.

The National Parks Board's (NParks) Dr Karenne Tun said 38 nests have been recorded on Singapore's shores this nesting season, which lasts from around May to October. There are between 120 and 180 eggs in each nest.

By chance, 16 hawksbill turtles hatched at the facility on the morning of the launch. They were later released into the sea.

The hatchery comprises two sections: An incubation sand pit area, where trained volunteers and staff take care of eggs as they incubate, and a turtle field station that provides volunteer training, educational and research programmes, and other hatchery-related activities.

NParks said the facility is located on Small Sister's Island because it sits between East Coast Park and the other Southern Islands, the two areas where most turtle nesting activities have been recorded since 2005.

Staff and volunteers will transport eggs found across Singapore to the incubation sandpit if their original sites are not suitable, said Dr Tun, who is the director for coastal and marine at the National Biodiversity Centre.

At other sites, turtles may lay their nests in places with high human footfall that could threaten the eggs.

Turtle eggs in the incubation sandpit area where trained volunteers and staff take care of them as they incubate. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The nesting site at the hatchery uses high-tech systems such as a Bluetooth water level detector that can tell if seawater is entering the nests; a temperature sensor; and a motion trigger camera that can tell when the turtles are emerging from the sand.

The incubation area consists of three metal cages that protect the eggs from predators, and they can hold up to four nests each.

A hawksbill turtle, which laid 99 eggs on Sept 2 on a Sisters' Island beach, has had its nest relocated to one of the cages. The eggs are due to hatch around Oct 26.

Speaking at the launch of the hatchery, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said: "Aside from already being a popular nesting spot, Small Sister's Island is a protected area within the Sisters' Island Marine Park that is zoned for conservation and research.

"This limits the disturbance to the nests caused by human traffic and light pollution. It also helps to maximise the number of hatchlings that are able to make it out to sea."

Singapore is home to two species of turtles, both of which are at high risk of extinction.

The hawksbill turtle, which is most commonly seen around the Republic's coasts, is critically endangered. The green turtle, which is much less encountered, is endangered.

NParks already monitors the various nests around the country, such as the one where the eggs had hatched on Pulau Satumu last Tuesday (Sept 25), but it said the public will be able to learn how to take care of these nests and eggs at the hatchery through a volunteer training programme.

Called the Biodiversity Beach Patrol, it will teach participants how to protect nesting turtles and how to move eggs safely, for instance.

Volunteer Lisa Lim was at the hatchery's launch on Saturday and preparing the baby turtles for their maiden journey into the sea.

"Many people don't think that Singapore has sea turtles, but volunteering gives you the chance to see them and really understand what we have," said the science teacher, who volunteers weekly.

"This hatchery gives us the chance to share why we need to conserve turtles, why they're so vulnerable and how we can sustain their population," said Ms Lim, 48.

NParks will announce new training dates by the end of 2018, but those interested in the Biodiversity Beach Patrol can read more here.

Over 300 endangered turtles hatch in Singapore
AFP Yahoo News 28 Sep 18;

More than 300 hawksbill turtles have hatched on beaches in Singapore this month and been released into the sea, authorities said Friday, in a boost for the critically endangered creatures.

They hatched on three beaches across the tropical Southeast Asian country, according to the National Parks Board, which oversees parks and nature reserves.

Over 100 turtles hatched on Sentosa Island, a popular tourist destination, according to the organisation that manages the island. After their nest was discovered in July, a barrier was erected around the site to protect it from monitor lizards and crabs

It was the fourth time since 1996 that eggs of the critically endangered turtles have hatched on Sentosa.

The other turtle nests were discovered at a beach on the east coast and on Satumu island south of the Singapore mainland, the parks board said. A total of 321 turtles hatched over a 10-day period from September 15.

Hawksbills get their names from their narrow pointed beaks and are found throughout the world's tropical oceans, mainly around coral reefs.

They are threatened by damage to their natural habitats from pollution and coastal developments, and are also targeted by poachers.

Their body parts are used to make turtle soup and their shells are crushed into powder for use in jelly dessert. The Hawksbill shell is also used to make products like combs and ornamental hairpins.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the turtles as critically endangered.

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Indonesia: Death toll in Palu quake, tsunami reaches 384 on Saturday

Antara 29 Sep 18;

Jakarta, (ANTARA News) - The death toll in a powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Central Sulawesi provincial capital of Palu reached 384 on Saturday, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The death toll is 384. The figure may increase, as the joint team has not reached all affected areas," Head of the BNPB Data and Information Center and Public Relations Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Saturday.

Nugroho noted that 540 residents in Palu had sustained injuries. The figure did not include those from Donggala District that also bore the brunt of the quake and tsunami.

The Disaster Victim Investigation team of the National Police has, so far, identified 56 of the 384 dead victims.

The agency has also received a report that 29 people were still missing in Palu City.

Sutopo confirmed the social media report and photographs of the quake and tsunami victims that had yet to be evacuated.

The evacuation and identification of quake victims are still underway.

He noted that both Palu City and Donggala District currently need heavy-duty equipment, power supplies, and telecommunication networks apart from fast food and other basic necessities.

"Last night, the joint SAR team heard somebody seeking help to remove the debris falling on him. However, it is increasingly difficult to evacuate victims in the dark," he revealed.

The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency earlier stated that an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale had rocked the province on Friday evening. The quake, centered 27 kilometers (km) northeast of Donggala at a depth of 10 km, triggered a tsunami 0.5-6 meters high in the province`s western coast.

Reporting by Virna P Setyorini
Editing by Suharto

Editor: Suharto

Several hundreds of Palu quake victims likely trapped under rubble
Antara 29 Sep 18;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Several hundreds of residents of Palu City are feared to be trapped under the remnants of buildings destroyed by the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that rocked the capital city of Central Sulawesi Province on Friday.

As of Saturday morning, the earthquake victims, likely trapped under the rubble of the destroyed buildings, including the city`s biggest shopping mall, have yet to be evacuated.

Antara journalist Rolex Malaha, who traveled across the city to observe the real condition in the aftermath of the quakes on Saturday morning, reported that tens of local residents might still be trapped under the rubble of the four-floor Tatura shopping mall.

A worker at Tatura shopping mall stated that several victims, buried under the rubble, had yet to be rescued and evacuated.

A total of 14 bodies, retrieved from the Tatura shopping mall, had been carried to the Budi Agung Hospital, while several hundreds of wounded survivors had yet to receive medical treatment due to unavailability of doctors.

Several buildings, including the Roa-Roa Hotel and Anutapura Hospital, were destroyed by the strong earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami.

The eight-floor hotel has 80 rooms, of which 76 were occupied by guests. According to several witnesses, many guests of the hotel might still be trapped under the rubble.

Meanwhile, the fate of several hundreds of people flocking to the Wonderful Palu Nomoni Festival venue remain unknown after the tsunami hit the area on Friday afternoon.

Among those missing are dancers, who would perform at the annual festival.

The strong earthquake not only destroyed many commercial and government buildings but also the people`s houses.

Several city residents, fearing the aftershocks, have yet to return to their houses and have instead taken refuge in safer places and are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Certain parts of Central Sulawesi, especially the areas of Donggala District and Palu, the province`s capital city, were rocked by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake on Friday afternoon.

The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency has issued a tsunami warning following the earthquake. The tremors of the strong earthquake were also felt by those living in Mamuju District, around 237 kilometers away from Donggala District.

In response to this catastrophe, President Joko Widodo has expressed his condolences to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Reporting by Budi Setiawanto dan Rolex Malaha
Editing by Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Otniel Tamindael

Central Sulawesi quake: What we know so far
Devina Heriyanto The Jakarta Post 28 Sep 18;

A tsunami hit Palu, Donggala and Mamuju in Central Sulawesi on Friday evening, triggered by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked the province at 5:02 p.m. Jakarta time. The epicenter of the quake is about 27 kilometers northeast of Donggala and 10 km deep.

Prior to the earthquake, in the afternoon, Donggala regency was hit by a 6.0 magnitude quake that killed at least one and injured several others. The quake struck about 2 km north of Donggala at a depth of 10 km and lasted 10 seconds. The earthquake was followed by several aftershocks of magnitudes between 3.2 and 5. The main quake was felt in Donggala, Palu and Poso.

Soon after the evening quake, a tsunami warning for Central Sulawesi was issued at 5:07 p.m. The warning, however, was revoked around 30 minutes later.

Soon, pictures and video footage of buildings being hit by water went viral on social media. Confusion ensued due to a lack of information from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) as communications were cut off.

It was only later that the BNPB confirmed that a tsunami had occurred. Its wave reached 1.5 meters high and hit, among other structures, Palu Grand Mall and Baiturrahman Mosque, both located near the coastline.

On Wednesday, the Palu Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Central Sulawesi said the region had been rocked by 30 earthquakes daily over the last four months. The daily quakes were caused by shifts in the Palu-Koro fault, which extends from Poso to the waters of Tolitoli regency and branches off to the Matano fault in South Sulawesi.

Cause of quakes, tsunami

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the first quake, which hit at 2 p.m., was caused by a Palu-Koro thrust fault that stretched from Palu to Teluk Bone.

On Saturday morning, Sutopo explained in a tweet that the Palu-Koro fault was very active and its movement might have caused a submarine landslide that triggered the tsunami. Sutopo said more research was needed.

Death toll

As of Friday evening, the government had yet to receive reports about the number of victims who died in the disaster because the communications system was damaged.

Komang Adi Sujendra, the head of the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) Central Sulawesi, said in a video on Saturday morning that at Central Sulawesi General Hospital (RSUD) alone, 30 were dead and at least 21 injured.

At around 2 p.m. on Saturday, the BNPB announced that at least 384 people are dead, 29 missing and 540 injured as rescue teams scoured the ravaged city of Palu.

“Updated numbers of the victims show that 384 people died, 29 are missing and 540 are injured. Donggala is still unreachable because communications are still cut off. A team has been dispatched to the regency,” Sutopo said.

He added that the number of victims was likely to increase because the rescue teams have yet to reach other affected areas.

Scale of destruction

There is no definitive data on the scale of destruction in the region. Damage estimates can only be determined via pictures and videos spread online. Communications have been cut off, making it hard to find information.

Video footage of the tsunami shows that the wave swept away several small buildings on the coastline. Pictures and videos show the iconic Ponulele Bridge, a major tourist attraction located near the coast of Palu, as having collapsed.

Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu is closed due to damages caused by the earthquake. A notification letter from AirNav Indonesia announced on Friday evening that the closure would be effective from 7:26 p.m. local time on Friday until 7:20 p.m. on Saturday. The airport suffered damages to its navigation system as well as 500 meters of its 2,500-m-long runway as a result of the earthquake, which made it impossible for large aircraft to land.

Confusion over tsunami warning

Critics have questioned why the agency decided to revoke the warning when a tsunami did take place.

BMKG chairwoman Dwikorita Karnawati claimed the warning was revoked after the agency learned the tsunami was over.

She also claimed that the height of the waves had decreased gradually, prompting the agency to revoke the tsunami warning status at 5:36 p.m.

According to the BNPB, the BMKG had initially given a different reason for its decision to change the status.

“The decision was based on visual monitoring and further monitoring using the equipment [tsunami detection buoys] at sea for 30 minutes. The BMKG did not see any significant change in the sea level. That’s why they ended the alert,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement.

Tsunami expert Abdul Muhari criticized the BMKG’s decision to end the tsunami warning early after the agency had obtained witness reports of a 1.5-m high wave.

“If witnesses said they saw a wave with a height of more than 1 meter, authorities should not have ended the warning, because more waves could have hit at any time soon after. Until authorities can confirm that the tsunami is over, the warning should be kept,” Abdul told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He added that authorities might not be able to reach a conclusion immediately because they lacked the proper equipment to measure the height of the sea level both from land and in the water, as the only tide gauge available was located around 400 km away in Mamuju.

Disaster relief efforts

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto led a meeting with ministers and state institutions on Friday evening to set a plan of action that will involve the deployment of personnel, dispatch of aid and reparation of damaged facilities.

Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport is partly damaged. However, the government said it expected that the remaining 2,000 m of the runway could still be used for the landing of a Hercules cargo aircraft and CN-235 aircraft, which authorities would use to speed up the deployment of personnel and delivery of aid, including medical assistance and food supplies.

"The Transportation Ministry will deploy one helicopter from Makassar to Palu while bringing navigation equipment, which will be used to handle aircraft that can deliver supplies," he said, adding that, by Saturday morning, the runway was expected to be used for landing by the Hercules aircraft.

Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel stationed near the affected areas and officials from Gorontalo, Mamuju and Makassar were working to help clear building debris to find and rescue any victims who might be trapped, Wiranto said.

Sutopo said in an update that, as of 9:19 a.m., military personnel and aid totaling 6,943 kilograms had been sent to Palu.

C. Sulawesi earthquake sends shocks across Makassar Strait
N. Adri The Jakarta Post 29 Sep 18;

When Donggala regency in Central Sulawesi was struck by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake, residents in the neighboring island of Borneo also felt the shock.

Wahyullah, an architect living in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, reported the jolt lasted for seconds. The city is located around 410 kilometers to the west of Donggala, separated by the Makassar Strait.

“[We felt] the earthquake, around 6:10 p.m.,” he said on Friday evening.

Wahyullah and other employees who were in the office buildings within the area exited the buildings and gathered in the muster points.

A string of earthquakes hit Donggala on Friday afternoon, the strongest of which, measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale, occured at 6:02 p.m. local time.

The largest earthquake was followed by tsunami waves measuring 0.5 meters to 3 m in height that lashed parts of the Donggala coast and Talise beach in Palu, as the results of rising waters in Palu Bay.

The head of the search and aid operations office in Balikpapan, Octavianto, told The Jakarta Post that his unit had been on full alert since then.

The Post also received reports that visitors of Samarinda Central Plaza in Samarinda, also in East Kalimantan, exited the building when the quake occurred.

The shock was also felt by residents in Bontang city, Sangatta district in East Kutai, and Tanjung Redeb district in Berau, which are located along the eastern coast of East Kalimantan.

The distance between Balikpapan and Tanjung Redeb is around 800 km.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported that the epicenter of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake was located about 27 km north-east of Donggala at a depth of 10 km.

The BMKG said the major earthquake – stemming from shifts of the active Palu-Koro fault –a fracture of the earth’s crust that spans from the Makassar Strait to the northern part of Boni Gulf in western Sulawesi.

The fault runs underneath Sulawesi Island.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has expressed condolences to the victims.

Jokowi called for calm among all Indonesian people, especially those living in or near the disaster-hit regions.

“To remain calm but stay alert as well. We hope this can be done together,” he said in Surakarta, Central Java, on Friday night. (sau)

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World 'nowhere near on track' to avoid warming beyond 1.5C target

Exclusive: Author of key UN climate report says limiting temperature rise would require enormous, immediate transformation in human activity
Oliver Milman The Guardian 27 Sep 18;

The world’s governments are “nowhere near on track” to meet their commitment to avoid global warming of more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial period, according to an author of a key UN report that will outline the dangers of breaching this limit.

A massive, immediate transformation in the way the world’s population generates energy, uses transportation and grows food will be required to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C and the forthcoming analysis is set to lay bare how remote this possibility is.

“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” said Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which will be unveiled in South Korea next month.

“While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”

In the 2015 Paris climate pact, international leaders agreed to curb the global temperature rise to 2C above the era prior to mass industrialization, with an aspiration to limit this to 1.5C. The world has already warmed by around 1C over the past century, fueling sea level rises, heatwaves, storms and the decline of vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Shindell would not share exact details of the IPCC report, but he said that the more ambitious 1.5C goal would require a precipitous drop in greenhouse emissions triggered by a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, particularly coal, mass deployment of solar and wind energy and the eradication of emissions from cars, trucks and airplanes.

Even then, emerging technology will be required on a global scale to capture emissions at the source and bury them in the ground or remove carbon directly from the air.

“The penetration rate of new technology historically takes a long time,” Shindell said. “It’s not simple to change these things. There aren’t good examples in history of such rapid, far-reaching transitions.”

The fading prospect of keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5C has provoked alarm among leaders of low-lying island nations that risk being inundated should the world warm beyond this point.

“Every country must increase the ambition of their existing targets,” said Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, which announced a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the UN general assembly in New York this week. “If we can do it, so can everyone else.”

The UN general assembly has again pitted the world’s countries against Donald Trump when it comes to climate change, with the US president using his keynote speech to praise “clean coal”. Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord, a stance that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, told the UN should be met with consequences such as a refusal by countries to enter into trade deals with the US.

“It’s a lot more difficult without the US as a leader in climate change negotiations,” Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s environment minister, told the Guardian. “We have to find solutions even though the US isn’t there.”

Elvestuen said countries, including Norway, which is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, need to transition away from fossil fuels, embrace electric cars and halt deforestation.

He admitted these changes had not happened quickly enough since the Paris deal. Last year, global greenhouse gas emissions rose slightly again after a short period of stasis.

“We are moving way too slowly,” Elvestuen said. “We have to do more of everything, faster. We need to deliver on policies at every level. Governments normally move slowly but we don’t have the time.”

“The 1.5C target is difficult, but it’s possible. The next four to 12 years are crucial ones, where we will set the path to how the world will develop in the decades ahead. The responsibility in doing this is impossible to overestimate. To reach the goals of the Paris agreement we need large structural changes.”

A difference of 0.5C in temperature may appear small but the IPCC report, which is a summary of leading climate science, is expected to warn there will be major impacts if warming reaches 2C.

“Even 1.5C is no picnic, really,” said Dr Tabea Lissner, head of adaptation and vulnerability at Climate Analytics.

Lissner said a world beyond 1.5C warming meant the Arctic would be ice-free in summer, around half of land-based creatures would be severely affected and deadly heatwaves would become far more common. “0.5C makes quite a big difference,” she said.

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