Please select your home edition
Edition
InSunSport - International - RG

Humanity may be able to avert major environmental catastrophes

by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies on 27 Nov 2012
.
Humanity might be able to avert major environmental catastrophes that now loom if it learns to make better use of ‘borrowed time’, an eminent marine biologist will tell the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra tomorrow.

'There is mounting evidence that we have already passed or may soon pass several critical boundaries affecting life on Earth, as well as our own future wellbeing,' the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, Professor Terry Hughes, says.

Prof Hughes’ comments come as government leaders from around the world gather in Doha for the United Nation’s Climate Conference (Nov 26-Dec7) to try to impart new momentum to stalled efforts to prevent 4-6 degrees of global warming.

He is lead author of a new paper by an international scientific team in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE) which argues that while more and more of the planet’s environments are approaching major regime shifts – or points of no-return – there may still be time to save them.

The pressure of human activities and demands on the planet’s resources is shifting many of its familiar ecosystems to unfamiliar states, often much less productive and less able to support ourselves and other life, Prof. Hughes explains. These are known as ‘tipping points’ or regime changes.

'For example, there are signs the Arctic will soon shift to an ice-free condition in summer, which is a profound change, occurring just in our lifetime. In the Amazon Basin, clearing of jungle could move the whole region to a much drier state. Both of these changes affect human livelihoods as well as wildlife.

'In coral reefs, too, we see the impact of bleaching and other human pressures causing a shift from a coral-dominated ecosystem to one dominated by seaweeds, in which the rich diversity of the reef is lost. This in turn directly affects hundreds of millions of humans whose livelihoods depend on coral reefs,' Prof. Hughes says.

However the scientists say the good news is that many of these profound shifts take place over quite long time periods – decades or even centuries – and this gives humanity time to act wisely to prevent irreversible and dangerous damage from occurring.

'In effect we are living dangerously, on borrowed time – and we need to learn how to take early action to prevent ecosystems from approaching a tipping point,' he says.

The researchers say that when the decline in an ecosystem is sudden and dramatic, this often prompts society to take action.

Of greater concern is where the ecosystem degrades steadily over years or even generations before flipping into a new, unproductive state. It is human nature that we often fail to notice this gradual change.

'The human imagination is poorly equipped for dealing with distant future events that contemporary generations unconsciously discount,' the researchers say.

For example, 'it is hard enough to reach a societal consensus that anthropogenic climate change is real today – let alone to convince people of the longer-term threat (from current greenhouse gas emissions) of acidification in the deep ocean in 500–2000 years from now,' they add.

Today it appears 'that human activities are already slowly pushing many ecological and Earth systems closer to regional- and planetary-scale thresholds' – adding that it is possible some of these have already been crossed.

'Nevertheless, delayed responses displayed by slow systems might provide an important window of opportunity to navigate to a safer state,' they conclude.

'The most important slow regime-shift is a social one: convincing enough people to move away from ‘business-as-usual’ thinking before time runs out,' Professor Hughes says. 'Today this is a challenge for governments, managers, scientists and society alike, all over the world.'

He will present his paper to the Second Australian Earth System Outlook Conference, hosted by the AAS in the Shine Dome, Canberra, Nov 26-27, at 9.50 am tomorrow, as part of the session dealing with tipping points affecting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The article 'Living dangerously on borrowed time during slow, unrecognized regime shifts' by Terry P. Hughes, Cristina Linares, Vasilis Dakos, Ingrid A. van de Leemput and Egbert H Van Nes, appears in the online journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).

http://www.coralcoe.org.au/
North Technology - Southern SparsZhik Isotak Ocean 660x82Newport Boat Show 2016 660x82

Related Articles

Rio official murdered ten months before the Olympics
Rio de Janeiro is a troubled city and a reeling Olympic host, but it will always have beautiful Guanabara Bay. Does an unsolved murder of an official in Rio in charge of cleaning up Guanabara Bay say a lot about the state of platy in the magical city? Priscilla Pereira was murdered 10 months ago and the thinking is that she was murdered in relation to her work
Posted on 31 Jul
WHO statement on Zika virus
The third meeting of the EC convened by the Director-General under IHR 2005 regarding microcephaly and Zika virus The third meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding microcephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus was held by teleconference on 14 June 2016, from 13:00 to 17:15 Central European Time.
Posted on 16 Jun
Atlantic Cup 2016 - a race with an environmental commitment
The Atlantic Cup continues to further its mission for the 2016 race by examining the global economic impact of the ocean The Atlantic Cup continues to further its mission for the 2016 race by examining the global economic impact of the ocean and how an unhealthy ocean can affect the economy.
Posted on 7 Apr
Zika virus situation report
From 1 January 2007 to 16 March 2016, Zika virus transmission was documented in a total of 59 countries and territories. From 1 January 2007 to 16 March 2016, Zika virus transmission was documented in a total of 59 countries and territories. Cuba and Dominica are the latest to report autochthonous (local) transmission of Zika virus on 14 and 15 March, respectively. Five of these countries and territories reported a Zika virus outbreak that is now over.
Posted on 2 Apr
Have Norway scientists solved the Bermuda Triangle mystery?
The Bermuda Triangle has been said to have claimed numerous ships and aircraft over the years The Bermuda Triangle has been said to have claimed numerous ships and aircraft over the years, and everything from aliens to remnants from the lost island of Atlantis have been fingered as the culprits.
Posted on 15 Mar
Cyclone Winston Relief Fund – Help the people of Fiji
Sea Mercy is sending volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food and medical supplies to Fiji. Sea Mercy is once again sending our volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food, water and medical supplies and teams to Fiji.
Posted on 27 Feb
Flying Scot Atlantic Coast Champs - Hanson Medals awarded for rescues
US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to eight boats for their heroic efforts The US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to eight boats for their heroic efforts when a microburst storm hit the 2015 Flying Scot Atlantic Coast Championship, hosted by the Blackbeard Sailing Club, in New Bern, NC on September 12.
Posted on 2 Feb
Eco-warriors Sea-Bin crowd sharing critical stage with nine days to go
The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised 86% of their target with 9 days left. The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised $198,020 of $230,000.00 with nine days left on their Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, but they need more help now.
Posted on 29 Dec 2015
Higher levels of Fukushima Cesium detected offshore
Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco.
Posted on 6 Dec 2015
Don’t be a Tosser – Not your usual environmental article!!
The word ‘Tosser’ in the Oxford English dictionary means – ‘a person or thing that throws something’. The word ‘Tosser’ in the Oxford English dictionary means – ‘a person or thing that throws something’. There is no need for me to tell you the other meaning that is commonly used around the world. However in this article it will refer to both at the same time as someone who tosses trash into the ocean, truly is a tosser.
Posted on 3 Dec 2015