Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Global Warming And The Cradle Of Life.

"Increased carbon dioxide emissions are rapidly making the world's oceans more acidic and, if unabated, could cause a mass extinction of marine life..." - Carnegie Institution's Dept of Global Ecology Report Feb 2006.

Our oceans, the cradle of life, account for about 70 per cent of the Earth's surface and are home to a diverse range of life, from marine mammals like whales and dolphins to fishes, corals, crustaceans and exotic micro-organisms. Many, like the food fishes, are crucial to us and the oceans, as natural carbon sinks, perform an important role in maintaining atmospheric gaseous equilibrium through the carbon cycle.

But rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, due to the unbridled burning of fossil fuels especially over the last two to three decades, are causing the climate to warm resulting in rising water temperatures, and the oceans to become increasingly acidic.

A recent report, "Turning Up the Heat: How Global Warming Threatens Life in the Sea," by the World Wildlife Fund and Marine Conservation Biology Institute in June 2007, indicated that rising global temperatures are impacting ocean ecosystems to a far greater extent then previously thought. Wide spread changes are occurring across the entire marine food chain, from plankton, corals, fishes, seabirds to penguins and polar bears.

Coral reefs, the most biologically diverse and beautiful marine ecosystems, are suffering unprecedented devastation due to high surface water temperatures, with large numbers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea, losing their polyps, turning completely white and dying - a process called bleaching. As a result, thousands of species of fishes and invertebrates that depend on the habitats that the reefs provide are in danger.

Dying corals off Florida's coast 1975 - 1995
Unchecked warming would also wipe out most of the habitat of the salmon species, eg. the Pacific Sockeye salmon, as they are extremely temperature-sensitive. In the waters off Australia, warmer oceans have sparked mass migration of species like the yellow-fin tuna, stinging jellyfish and sea turtles to the cooler waters in the south while in California, reef fish and inter-tidal invertebrates including sea anemones, crabs and snails are moving toward the poles in response to warming.

The biomass of phytoplankton, tiny marine plants that many marine organisms depend on for food, has also declined as a result of warmer oceans. Data released by researchers from the Oregon State University, after a ten-years analysis, indicated that phytoplankton productivity from 2000 onwards, declined by 190 million tons of carbon each year, with carbon as a unit of measurement of the amount of carbon dioxide they remove from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

The study clearly showed that overall phytoplankton biomass decreases as the climate warms. This also creates a vicious cycle. As carbon dioxide levels rise, with decrease in phytoplankton production, there will be less ocean plants to absorb this green house gas.
Coral bleaching
The declined in plankton biomass has also contributed to decreased reproduction and increased mortality of seabirds due to starvation as these plankton form the base of the birds' food chain. Between late 1980s and early 1990s, California's Sooty shearwaters population declined by 90 percent and Cassin's auklets by more than 50 per cent. Common murres also died by tens of thousands.

Besides warmer ocean temperatures, the rising amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is also causing our oceans to be increasingly acidic which will adversely affect many organisms that use calcium carbonate for their skeletons and shells, including corals and molluscs. Carbon dioxide, when dissolved in the oceans, becomes carbonic acid and excessive amount of carbonic acid lowers the pH of the oceans, increases its acidity and endangers marine life.

This drop in ocean pH is especially damaging to hard-shell marine animals such as corals and shellfish that use calcium carbonate, a critical mineral, for the formation of their shells and growth. However, a more acidic ocean will easily dissolve calcium carbonate, just like a piece of chalk dissolving in vinegar.

For decades, the oceans' absorption of carbon dioxide have been viewed as an environmental plus, as it mitigates the effects of global warming. But by taking up about 30 per cent of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide, mainly produced through the burning of fossil fuels, our oceans ph levels have dropped by about 0.1 units on the 14-point scale since the Industrial Revolution.

Scientists expect that carbon dioxide emissions, if left unchecked, will further reduce the oceans ph levels by another 0.3 units by 2100 and the increased ocean acidification will have serious repercussions to all marine life from the smallest marine micro-organisms, molluscs, corals to large marine mammals like whales.

Failure to check and reduce carbon dioxide emissions today may mean that there will be no place in the oceans of the future for many of the species and ecosystems that we know today.

*Sources :
-Live Science
-Science Daily
-World Wildlife Fund
-Oregon State University
-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

*Related post :
- Magical Melodies & The Songs Of Pain

Monday, November 19, 2007

Magical Melodies And The Songs Of Pain.

"A Japanese whaling fleet has set sail aiming to harpoon humpback whales for the first time in decades. The fleet is conducting its largest hunt in the South Pacific - it has instructions to kill up to 1,000 whales, including 50 humpbacks." - BBC News Nov 18 2007

Have you ever heard the songs that whales sing? You can listen to them here and you will realise that they sing some of the most beautiful songs on Earth. The songs are an amazing phenomenon, highly structured and at any one time, all the males sing the same songs using the same sounds arranged in the same pattern. These haunting songs travel many kilometres and can even be heard above the surface and consists of intricate vocalisations ranging from high squeaks to low growls, with many at a frequency so low that they are inaudible to humans.

The Singer of The Sea - the endangered humpback whale - produces the most varied songs in the animal world, with each lasting 10-15 minutes and can be repeated without pause, for hours. The largest of the whales, the blue whale, can sing for 10 hours.

But the songs they sing, with the latest announcement by Japan, will no longer be songs of joy but of pain.

“If we can imagine a horse having two or three explosive spears stuck in its stomach and being made to pull a butcher's truck through the streets of London while its blood pours into the gutter, we shall have an idea of the method of killing whales." - "Troubled Waters," a March 2004 report by Whale Watch.

The main method of killing whales is insanely inhuman and cruel. Using a grenade-tipped harpoon fired from a cannon mounted on the brow of a ship, the harpoon penetrates about 30cm into the whale before detonation. The aim is to kill the animal through neuro-trauma induced by the blast-generated pressure waves of the explosion. And if this fails, which is more often the case, a second harpoon is fired.

Given their sheer mass, complex vascular systems, their adaptations for diving and the constantly moving environment of the sea, killing them swiftly is impossible. Whales, when hit with an exploding harpoon, can take up to an hour or more before dying with the majority likely to suffer a slow and painful death.

In the Faroes Islands, whole families of whales - including pregnant mothers, lactating females, youngsters and foetuses - are butchered by the islanders in a carnival-like atmosphere. Islanders in motorboats first drive and round-up the terrified and confused whales into a shallow bay where the bloodbath begins.

The islanders repeatedly jab 2.2 kg metal poles into the living flesh of each whale until the hooks hold. A 15 cm knife is then used to slash through the blubber and flesh to the spinal column followed by the severing of the main blood vessels. The blood-stained bay is soon filled with horribly mutilated and dying whales, screaming in agony.

Despite a worldwide ban since 1986, about 30,000 whales have been killed by the 3 whaling nations - Japan and Iceland under the guise of "scientific research"- while the meat and by-products from the slaughtered whales are sold for profit - and by Norway as commercial hunt. The numbers of whales killed in recent years are among the highest since the moratorium went into effect and they continue to increase.

More shockingly, this unsanctioned killing is happening in the protected waters of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean Marine Sanctuary, blatantly defying international law. Japan and Iceland ability to continue hunting whales with such blatant disregard for international law is because they are exploiting a loophole in the international ban that permits killing whales in the name of scientific research. But the painful slaughter of whales is totally unnecessary as it does not benefit science, whales or people.

Despite claims of killing whales in the name of science, Japanese whaling isn’t about science at all and is simply commercial whaling in disguise.

Non-lethal methods to study whales already exist such as photo identification, tagging, DNA analysis and observation experiments. Data from satellite tagging of whales, harmless skin biopsies and fluke identification has already yielded valuable information about the migration patterns of whales, without a single harpoon being fired. In fact, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has clearly stated it does not need the data obtained from killing whales and has passed forty-one resolutions critical of Japan’s research whaling program.

As a food source, it is a known fact that whale meat is often extremely toxic and is dangerous to eat. Whales accumulate environmental pollutants that bond with their blubber, such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and dioxin, and also heavy metals such as methylmercury. The effects on humans who consume contaminated whale meat or blubber include cancer, nerve damage, reproductive and developmental disorders, immune system suppression and liver damage, to name a few.

With the whales' natural low reproductive rates and already facing long-term debilitating effects on their communication, social behaviour and foraging habits arising from chemical pollution, noise pollution, increasing shipping traffic and oil and gas exploration, it is imperative that all governments condemn and stop the needless slaughter of whales by Japan, Iceland and Norway, with the ultimate objective of banning this barbaric practice entirely. A complete and permanent ban would also stop the exploitation of the loophole in International Whaling Commission rules and exceptions by the pro-whaling nations.

These majestic cetaceans are the largest animals that have ever existed, far larger than any dinosaur that have roamed the Earth and are highly evolved animals with a complex social life. Whales are sensitive, social animals - they call out to each other over the vast expanses of the oceans - with highly developed nervous systems and have a profound capacity to suffer distress, terror and pain. The killing of whales is unjust, terribly inhuman and has no place in modern civilised society.

Living whales are far more valuable to us and a joy to behold. We should allow them to sing their songs of joy again.

*Sources :
- Whale Trust
- Whale Watch
- Stop Whaling
- Green Peace
- Humane Society of United States

*Catch the latest updates about Japan's whaling mission :
- GlobalNewsBlogger

*Related post : Man And The Loss Of Biodiversity

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Man And The Loss Of Biodiversity.

"Current documented rates of extinction of species are estimated to be roughly 100 times higher than typical rates in the fossil record." - United Nations GEO4 report.
Golden Mahseer
Have you ever seen the golden mahseer before? The majestic fish, known to reach 2.75m in length and 60 kg in weight, is no ordinary fish. Lying at the top of the food chain, the golden mahseer is the emperor of the freshwater fish species inhabiting the mountain streams of the Himalayas. But in recent years, its population have been declining rapidly because of net and dynamite fishing, damming and pollution of the rivers it depends on.

Living often in the same habitats as the golden mahseer is another species which was suddenly found this year to be highly endangered - the gharial, or fish-eating crocodile. With increasing human encroachment into their habitats and as gharials compete directly with people for fish in the rivers they inhabit, there are now only an estimated 200 breeding adults left in the wild as compare to about 10,000 in the 1950s.

Like the golden mahseer and gharial, thousands of species are dying worldwide, often unacknowledged because they are not cute or cuddly. Some, like the Sumatran Rhino, are functionally extinct in the wild - meaning their population is so low and so widely scattered that breeding is no longer possible.

A recent update of endangered species by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union in September concluded that more than 16,000 species are in danger of being extinct - 188 more than last year. In Europe, more than a third of the continent's 522 freshwater fish species face extinction due to overfishing, pollution and damming which have caused rivers to dry up. The European eel, which reproduces only once in 20 years, is critically endangered and the population of jarabugo, a freshwater fish found only in Spain and Portugal, has declined by more than 50 per cent in the past 10 years.

Golden Headed Langur
Hong Kong's Ocean Park Conservation Foundation released findings recently that showed 79 species of freshwater turtles - 80 per cent of the turtle family in Asia - are endangered. Asia alone has 11 primates, including the Hainan black-crested gibbon and Siau island tarsier, on the endangered list. In Vietnam, the population of the beautiful golden-headed langur has declined drastically - down from thousands of animals two generations ago to only 65 today.

While species extinction is a natural part of Earth’s history, numerous studies have clearly
shown that human activity is accelerating the extinction rate by at least 100 times. The causes of this rapid and widespread loss of biodiversity, with entire species in the air, on land, in freshwater and in our seas and oceans disappearing, includes loss of ecosystems from large scale conversion of natural forests for use in agriculture, industry and towns, changing the geography and hydrology of river systems with dams and reservoirs, over-exploitation of natural resources for food and commercial trade, and pollution.

Hainan Black-Crested Gibbon
Biodiversity loss, as part of the food chain, has negative effects on several aspects of human well-being, such as food security, vulnerability to natural disasters, energy security, and access to clean water and raw materials. It also affects human health and social relations as it narrows the base for food and medicine.

This drastic loss of biodiversity is seriously impacting us if we are to survive as a species ourselves and it is now imperative that education on the importance of biodiversity be ramp up across all segments of our society. Further actions like habitat conservation, reduction in consumption and waste, recycling and promoting sustainable agricultural practices are needed to reverse this loss in biodiversity so that future generations can enjoy our priceless heritage.

*Sources :
- United Nations GEO 4
- World Conservation Union
- Hong Kong Ocean Park Conservation Foundation
- The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
- GreenFacts. org

*Related post : A Planet In Peril

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reducing Your Carbon Footprints - Going Green At Work.

With many of us spending a major chunk of our time at work, the office is another area besides our home where simple changes to the way we work can result in drastic reduction in the amount of resources and energy being consumed plus the additional benefit of saving money.

With offices being major producers of paper, printing and electronic waste, adopting environmental friendly practices like recycling and waste reduction, can have a tremendous and beneficial impact on our environment. With an estimated 3.8 million acres of U.S. forests cleared every year to meet Americans demand for wood pulp, implementing paper waste reduction practices for example, can drastically reduce the need for large scale deforestation. Refurbishing and reusing computers and other electronic products will also go a long way in reducing the ever growing amount of hard-to-dispose and hazardous electronic waste.

Here are some green tips that you can easily adopt in your office and contribute to a better environment :

1. Go paperless where possible
- Think before you print and print only when you really need to. Read documents off the screen and store them online. Post employee instructions, manuals and other similiar materials online rather than distributing hard copies.
- Use a fax-modem to reduce paper usage as it allows documents to be sent directly from a computer without the need for a printed hard copy.

2. Print smarter
- Print on both sides of paper or recycle old documents for printing on one side.
- Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever possible.
- Buy chlorine-free paper as products bleached with chlorine leached harmful by-products like dioxins into the environment.
- Choose a lighter stock of paper, which uses less paper fibre, and consider alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton or kenaf.
- Consider buying copier paper produced from farmed trees as paper produced from farmed trees which are grown and replaced, have minimal environmental impact.

3. Recycle
- Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy re-manufactured ones. Companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard have schemes to take back used printing cartridges from their customers for recycling.
- Recycle everything that your company collects including fax paper, junk mail and catalogs and check if your suppliers take back packaging for re-use.
- Place recycling bins in accessible, high-traffic areas and provide clear information about what can and cannot be recycled.

4. Improve computer efficiency
- Turn off your computer at the end of the day. Leaving it on overnight increases energy consumption by more than 50 per cent, increases mechanical stress and reduces its lifespan.
- Turn off the monitor when not in use and setting your computer to "sleep" mode during breaks reduces energy consumption by as much as 60 per cent.
- Invest in energy-saving electronic products for e.g switching to LCD monitors as they use half the energy of old, bulky CRT ones.
- Refurbish and reuse old computers or donate them to organizations that will refurbish and find them new homes.

5. Save electricity
- Turn off the lights, air-conditioners and other apliances when leaving a room. Utilize natural light whenever you can.
- Use energy-rated light bulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting, and install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they're not needed.

6. Improve communication efficiency
- Reduce the amount of traveling by investing in video-conferencing and other technological solutions.
- Make it a habit to commute by train, bus or subway whenever possible instead of a rental car when traveling on business.

7. Create a healthy office environment.
- Brighten up your workplace with plants which absorbs indoor pollution.
- Use non-toxic cleaning products.
- Buy furniture and carpeting and use paint that are free of volatile organic compounds that will not leach toxic chemicals.

*Related post :
- Going green at home.
- Calculating your carbon footprints.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

The Impact Of Global Warming On Rainfall And Flooding.

"Breaking news in recent years has been swamped with stories of extreme weather - flash floods in East Asia, prolonged drought in Africa, destructive hurricanes like Hurricane Katrina, heavy monsoon rainfall in South Asia, and an historic heat wave in Europe. The effects of these weather crises have been devastating and their frequency seemingly on the rise." - A NASA Feb 2007 report

When i was a boy, the year-end monsoon season always started somewhere in late October and will end around February of the following year, followed by the hot months from March to September. But the timing of this raining season has become unpredictable and had in fact, shifted in recent years. Together with sudden occurrences of heavy thunderstorms in what is suppose to be hot months and hot days during the traditional monsoon period, it all points to changes to our weather patterns and i am sure these freakish climate changes are not isolated to my country alone.

Global warming, the result of unbridled emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, leads to higher rainfall because a warming atmosphere contains more water vapour and more energy. An increase in global temperatures will cause an increase in evaporation and higher levels of water vapour. In addition, a warmer atmosphere is also capable of holding more water vapour. The excess water vapour will in turn lead to more frequent heavy and intense downpours which results in flooding, soil erosion, landslides and damage to structures and crops.

Besides causing increased rainfalls, global warming also leads to heavy flooding due to the impact of the massive amount of CO2 - the principle greenhouse gas - has on vegetation. During photosynthesis - the process in which plants make food and produce oxygen - CO2 enter plants thorough tiny holes in their leaves called stomata. Plants take water from the ground and secrete the excess thorough the stomata. But higher levels of CO2 in the air cause these tiny holes to open far less widely, leading to reduced water loss from the plants.

And with plants extracting less water from the soil in a warmer world, the soil becomes saturated and surplus water will then drain into rivers. "This will increase global flows by a further 6 per cent on top of the 11 per cent rise already predicted due to global warming," said a meteorologist at Britain's Met Office. Together with more water staying in the ground and the runoff into rivers, areas with increased rainfall will suffer severe flooding and flash floods.

According to recent study published by the British science journal Nature in Aug 2007, the risks of flooding may increase more than previously expected because intense precipitation events - heavy downpours - would be more likely to occur over areas with saturated ground.

Flooding is a major problem, especially in poor countries that do not have the money to invest in drainage systems to cope with runoffs from saturated soils. Since June this year, more than 3,200 people in South Asia have been killed as a result of heavy monsoon rains and snow melt and many more left homeless.

*Sources :
- British science journal Nature
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- Climate Ark

*Related post : The Melting Of Our Polar Ice Caps.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Planet In Peril.

"The earth has experienced five mass extinction in the past 450 million years, the latest about 65 million years ago. A sixth major extinction is under way, this time caused by human behaviour."

This statement was made in the recent fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4), a United Nations environmental report. Alarmist? Maybe, but it is a fact that the human population is living far beyond its means and is inflicting damage and seriously undermining the environment of the only home we will ever have.

Climate change, the challenge of feeding a growing population and the rate of extinction of species are putting humanity at risk. Over the past twenty years, our world population has increased dramatically by about 35 per cent, from 5 billion to 6.7 billion. The amount of resources needed to sustain it far exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns and human activity, needed to feed this population, has reached an unsustainable level and is outstripping available resources.

Humanity's demand on space, currently at 21ha per person, is now about a third more than what the earth can supply. This intensity of land use have led to major environmental degradation, due to pollution, soil erosion and nutrient depletion and affects more than a third of the world's people. Over-harvesting of the oceans due to rising fish consumption coupled with the rapid formation of "dead zones", where marine life cannot survive due to pollution, will result in massive depletion of fish stocks and the extinction of marine life.

The environmental degradation has also led to species becoming extinct 100 times faster than what available fossil records show, with 12 per cent of birds, 23 per cent of mammals and over 30 per cent of amphibians facing possible extinction. Other than the golden-headed langur of Vietnam and China's Hainan gibbon, it is estimated that a third of all apes, monkeys and other primates now face extinction due to large scale deforestation.

The ever-rising energy demands to cope with the world's population has contributed to the rapid rise in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and will further hinder efforts to stabilise the situation. As a result of the unbridled burning of oil, gas and coal, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are now around a third more than in pre-industrial times.

With some greenhouse gases ability to persist in our atmosphere for up to 50,000 years, global temperatures are expected to rise by 1.8 to 4 deg C this century and accelerates the rate of melting of glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic continents. The resultant rising sea levels will have disastrous implications on about 60 per cent of the world's population who live within 100km off coasts. Vast river systems, sustaining hundreds of millions of people, will dry up as the glaciers that feed them disappear and the resultant migration people, in search of water and sustenance, may lead to terrible conflicts.

While advances in science and technology, especially the development and deployment of clean technologies, together with improvements in energy conservation and efficiency are vital in meeting the climate change challenges, efficiency and innovation will not be enough unless there are concerted and coordinated efforts by governments to come up with a global framework that obliges governments to penalise pollution and provide market incentives to encourage clean energy alternatives.

- Global Environment Outlook 4
- World Conservation Union
- British Science journal-Nature

*Related post : The Melting Of Our Polar Ice Caps

Saturday, November 10, 2007

From Ice To Water

"Rising seas would severely impact the United States and scientists have projected a 1.5m sea-level rise by 2100. This increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina." - A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2001 Report.

Quite simply, as a result of global warming, the polar ice caps are melting and at a rate faster than previously thought. A study, published by the journal Science last year, suggests that sea levels worldwide will rise by several metres by the end of this century leading to catastrophic consequences to huge swaths of low-lying regions from Florida, Bangladesh, Lagos to Shanghai.

A recently released UNEP report in June this year said that a 1 metre rise in sea level would inundate over 800 sq km of low-lying lands in Asia with an estimated displacement of more than 100 million people. Coastal and island tidal gauge data indicated that sea levels rose by just 20cm over a 130 years period from 1871 to 2001, at an average rise of 1.7mm per year. But from 1993 to 2006, a mere 7 years, global measurements by satellite altimeters shows that worldwide average sea level rose by more than 3mm per year.

With the world's only two continental ice sheets, Antarctic and Greenland, containing more than half of the world's total amount of freshwater and around 99 per cent of freshwater ice on Earth, the potential for global catastrophe is clear. The rise in global temperatures over the last 50 years, has contributed to the rapid shrinking and melting of both our polar ice caps, especially the Arctic continent.

Arctic Continent.
Greenland is much more susceptible to global warming than Antarctica because it's climate is strongly affected by its proximity to other land masses and to the North Atlantic ocean. Its ice sheet is also smaller and much less thicker, with a volume about one-ninth that of the Antarctic ice sheet. Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world and its ice sheets are shrinking rapidly, melting and rupturing. The largest single block of ice in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, which had been around for 3,000 years, started cracking in 2000. Within two years it had split all the way through and is now breaking into pieces.

Summer melting now occurs over half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet, particularly near the coast, with much of the water flowing into the sea. "As the surrounding temperatures rose, the total loss from the ice sheet more than doubled from a few tens of billions of tonnes per year in the early 1990s to about 100 billion tonnes in 2000, with a likely further doubling by 2005," said the UNEP report. Recent images from NASA satellites show that the ice cover is contracting at a rate of 9 percent per decade. If this trend continues, summers in the Arctic could become ice-free by the end of the century.

The "Frozen Continent", an area larger than Europe, is totally covered in ice, some as thick as 10,000 feet. While the rate of melting of its ice sheets is nowhere as fast as in the Arctic, some ice shelves in the northernmost part of Antarctica—the Antarctic Peninsula—have been collapsing in recent years, in line with the rapid warming trend there since 1945.

In Jan 1995, the 1,994 km2 Larsen A ice shelf disintegrated suddenly and in March 1998, after more than 400 years, more than 2,978 km2 of the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed. This was followed by the disintegration of the Wilkins ice shelf in March 1999. The dramatic disintegration of the ices shelves in such a short time period has been attributed to the rise in global temperatures.

Results from a 2005 study by researchers at British Antarctic Survey and U.S. Geological Survey, showed that over the last 50 years, 87% of 244 glaciers studied have retreated and that average retreat rates have accelerated. "On average, the glaciers retreated by 50 metres per year in the last five years, faster than at any time in the last fifty years," the report said. Overall, seven ice shelves have between them, declined in area by about 13,500 km2 since 1974.

Besides contributing to rising sea levels, the rapid shrinking of the ice sheets have tremendous impact on the ecosystem and its native people. Polar bears, seals, whales and walruses in the Arctic are changing their feeding and migration patterns, the natives are finding it difficult to hunt them and along the coastlines, entire villages has been uprooted. The very cultural identity and survival of the native people and the many denizens of the ecosystem are being threatened. In Antarctic, the population of Adelie Penguin have shrunk by 33% during the past 25 years as a result of the disappearance of their winter sea ice habitat.

The retreat of the ice caps is also accelerating global warming due to the loss of the reflective and protective nature of the ice sheets. The melting will expose more land to the sun and the earth will absorb more sunlight and gets even hotter, thus hastening the rise in global temperatures.

Other than governmental and world bodies initiatives in tackling global warming, like the Antarctic tour that Mr.Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations secretary-general is embarking on this week, it is imperative that companies and citizens worldwide adopt clean energy alternatives and green practices to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emissions. Failure to do so would result in serious repercussions and we might find the price to high to pay for our children.

*Resources :
- Natural Resources Defence Council
- Science Daily
- Climate Hot Maps

*Related post : A Planet In Peril

Tired Of FTP?

Reducing Your Carbon Footprints - Going Green At Home.

You don't have to take drastic measures to save planet Earth from the effects of global warming, neither does it requires massive changes to the way you live. Going green and leading an environmental friendly lifestyle does not have to be about grand gestures.

Simple changes to how you live, play and get around can make all the difference and you can even save money in the process. For example, choosing to take the trains or bus instead of driving your car can keep about 4,500kg of CO2 out of the environment a year and will also result in a bundle of savings for you. Replacing 3 incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs in your household will result in less electricity used by up to 4 times.

Here are some green tips for an area which anyone can easily adopt and reduce their carbon footprints - your home.

- Switch off lights, fans, air-conditioners, televisions, computers and other appliances when not in use. Turn-off "standby" mode and pull out the plug as well.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs and install dimers, timers and sensors.

- Do not overcool air-conditioned rooms. Set the temperature at between 25 to 26 deg C and remember to close all doors and windows when running the units.
- Check air-con filters once a month and clean or replace them if necessary. Dirty air filters impede air flow and result in more electricity being consumed.
- Do not place television sets, lamps or other heat-emitting appliances near the air-con thermostat as they will interfere with its ability to regulate the air-con operations, thus making it work harder than it needs to.

- Decide what you want before you open the door. That way, it doesn't stay open too long and waste energy.
- Cool down hot food before you put it into the fridge so that it does not have to work harder to maintain the temperature.
-Avoid overcrowding the fridge as too many items obstruct air-flow and reduce cooling capabilities.
- Do not position fridge near to a oven or stove.

Washing Machine
- Wash clothes only when you have a full load and choose a cold water wash cycle.
- Use just enough detergent as this will cut the need to rinse again.

- Opt for energy-efficient appliances as green tick energy-labelled appliances can result in massive energy savings.

- "Green" your furniture. Buy furniture made from sustainable harvested woods and recycled, bio-based or non-toxic materials.
- Bamboo is an excellent option as it is versatile and grows fast. You can also buy second-hand or vintage furniture which does not require further resources to make.

Shopping, eating and drinking
- Where possible, buy in bulk. Buy household necessities like rice, juice and detergent in large sizes as small sizes use relatively more packaging materials and opt for refills instead of throwing bottles away.
- Cut back on consumption of meat. Not only will it do wonders for your health but will help greatly in cutting down emission of greenhouse gases. Estimates by the United Nations point to livestock as contributing to almost a fifth of the world's emissions with cattle being the biggest contributor. They emit methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases that trap more heat than carbon dioxide.

Watch what you throw.
- Learn to compost. Even if you live in an apartment, food waste can be used as compost in your personal or community garden. You can learn more about composting at sites like Compost
- Use recycling bins for your trash like paper, bottles and other materials so that they can be recycled.

*Related posts :
- Calculating Your Carbon Footprint
- How To Make Your Home Environmental Friendly

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Calculating Your Carbon Footprints.

Small lifestyle changes can go a long way in saving Earth from the effects of global warming and the easiest way is to reduce your carbon footprints - the amount of carbon dioxide that you emit from everyday activities.

From the moment you wake up each day, everything you do - eat, drink, shop to driving a car consumes energy that produces carbon dioxide and has an impact on the environment. Your carbon footprint represents the impact that you and your lifestyle have on our planet in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide.

In line with global target, aim to limit your carbon dioxide emissions to no more than 2.5 tonnes a year. As a guide, the average American has a footprint of 20 tonnes while the average Briton produces about 5 tonnes. Less energy consumed means less fossil fuels being burned which means less carbon dioxide emissions. You can calculate your carbon footprint at which provides calculators that can convert your utility bills and transport use into CO2 emissions. This should give you some idea of where you stand and you can then take steps to try and reduce it.

Other than reducing your carbon footprint, you can also offset your emissions. Many companies, example airlines and travel agencies, allows you to compensate for unavoidable emissions by contributing to projects that remove an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the environment. These include re-forestation and energy-savings initiatives. For example, you can offset your carbon emissions from your holiday to Japan by planting some trees in Indonesia. Some airlines even offer carbon offsetting when you are purchasing your tickets.

Genuine carbon offset companies are endorsed by organisations like the United Nations and include, and

*Related post : Reducing Your Carbon Footprints - Going Green At Home

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