Archive | Climate Change

Are We Sustainable?

As the Rio+20 conference closes, radical change remains necessary, experts tell Al Jazeera.

Renewable energy is helping in countries such as Pakistan, where power outages are common in some areas [EPA]

Hopeful rhetoric had preceded the Rio+20 UN Conference on sustainability.

World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, NGOs, the private sector and other groups met in an attempt to find ways to reduce poverty and increase social equity while ensuring environmental protection.

But they have their work cut out for them.

Resource wars, global warming-driven extreme weather events, poverty, and the disparity between poor and rich are at all time highs and escalating.

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How Many More Fish in the Sea?

Seafood is the primary source of protein for more than one billion people – can they live without it?

As world fishing stocks decline, less sustainable methods of fishing are becoming increasingly common (Reuters)

Worldwide, 90 per cent of large predatory fish stocks are now gone due to overfishing.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 85 per cent of fish stocks are “overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion”.

Speaking on the occasion of International World Biodiversity Day on May 22, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon warned that over-consumption and rampant pollution was threatening the world’s oceans and marine biodiversity.

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Ocean Systems in Peril

How a warming planet is threatening ocean cycles that fuel our atmosphere, food chain, and weather patterns.

Artist Erika Blumenfeld documented the dramatic light expression of bioluminescent dinoflagellates (phytoplankton) at the microscopic scale of the organism (Erika Blumenfeld)

The ocean’s phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, is the planet’s most important organism. They generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe, and are a vital component in the ocean’s food chain.

So when researchers find trouble among phytoplankton, which has dramatic implications for the marine food web and the world’s carbon cycle, we should pay attention.

According to researchers at Canada’s Dalhousie University, phytoplankton populations have dropped 40 per cent since 1950.

Recently published studies have shown that these populations are continuing to fall. Scientists interviewed by Al Jazeera are concerned that our world’s oceans are growing increasingly instable and unhealthy.

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World’s Oceans in Peril

Climate change is causing our oceans to become increasingly acidic, threatening to alter life as we know it.

The MV Rena, stuck on Astrolabe Reef in Tauranga, New Zealand has spilled 350 tonnes of oil, and many of its shipping containers, severely polluting and damaging the surrounding marine environment (GALLO/GETTY)

“From a climate change/fisheries/pollution/habitat destruction point of view, our nightmare is here, it’s the world we live in.”

This bleak statement about the current status of the world’s oceans comes from Dr Wallace Nichols, a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences. Al Jazeera asked Dr Nichols, along with several other ocean experts, how they see the effects climate change, pollution and seafood harvesting are having on the oceans.

Their prognosis is not good.

Dr Nancy Knowlton is a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Her research has focused on the impact of climate change on coral reefs around the world, specifically how increasing warming and acidification from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have affected oceans.

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