Climate change, biodiversity loss - reincarnations of population bomb

Perjantai 2.11.2018 klo 12:46 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Very recently several important contributions on environmental questions have been published. First, the IPCC report on Climate Change, and, second, the WWF Living Planet 2018 report  (WWF. 2018. Living Planet Report 2018. Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A.(Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.). In addition, an article in Nature (Resplandy et al. 2018   Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition, Nature 563, 105-108) indicates that more heat has been absorbed by the oceans than conservative estimates suggest, i.e. that climate change may be worse than previously thought

Surprisingly, the reports do not give virtually any attention to the size of human population, although looking at the above two pivtures, a striking similarity in the population increase and athospheric carbon dioxide level graphs can be seen. In the future, it can unfortunately be estimated that if climate actions are not effective, carbon dioxide production increases much more than population growth, since population growth occurs in areas, where carbon dioxide production per person has increased markedly during recent past. Also, the major reasons for the huge (60 %) biodiversity loss are habitat loss and exploitation, both the result of the need of increasing population to get food and other commodities.

It is shocking that economic circles and politicians throughout the world forget that all economic activity ultimately depends on healthy environment. As a result, growth is not possible indefinitely, and economic theories should center not around growth but around sustainability. And one of the major aims of future global planning should be to limit world population. However, as long as the growth-based ideology predominates, population growth is needed. Naturally, actions to corb population growth should be such that nobody is offended. I have toyed with the idea that foreign aid would be given to individuals, not the (mostly corrupt) governments. The direct funding would depend on the size of the family, increasing with a decrease in the number of children. Another significant action would be the schooling of women: this would significantly decrease the population growth, and would also foster equality - certainly opposed by many in male-dominated societies.

Many innovative solutions to decrease the exploitation of wild animals and habitat distruction have been already advanced. Also, there are a plenty of possibilities to decrease the energy needed for transporting goods and new ways of energy production. However, in my opinion, a success in combatting both climate change and biodiversity loss requires that we are succesful in limiting population growth. If we cannot do that, there is bound to be a collapse resembling one that is always seen with animal populations, which have become too dense.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: land use, extinctions, energy consumption, carbon dioxide

State of the world - what has happened in 25 years

Lauantai 18.11.2017 klo 12:40 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Twenty five years ago the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" (with the major authors and 1700 scientists' signatures) where they were concerned about population growth, freshwater availability, climate change, extinctions etc. Now, scientists have looked at what has happened in the past 25 years, and concluded that "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: Second Notice" was in order. This article was published on November 13 in Bioscience with William J. Ripple as the first author (in addition to the major authors the article had 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries). Apart from the ozone hole, which is now starting to shrink, all the environmental problems recognized in 1992 have become worse, and are still continuing to be more detrimental. For example, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions has increased in the last year after it had stabilized or even slightly decreased in the previous two years. In the past 25 years, the availability of fresh water has decreased by 25 %, mean global temperature increased by 0.5 degrees C, carbon dioxide emissions have almost doubled, the dead zones in marine areas increased by almost a third, forests decreased by about 5 % and vertebrate species number decreased by about 30 %. Although human population growth has stopped in the developed countries, the same thing has not happened in Africa and most Asian countries, whereby the total world population has increased by almost 40 % with no sign of increase rate to be slowing down. The number of extinctions in vertebrates is probably much smaller than that of invertebrates - for example insect biomass in certain protected areas in Germany has decreased by 75 %. A significant problem is also that despite increased catching effort, the marine fish catches have decreased by about 20 % from the best years. One final note of the gloomy statistics, we consider almost always only deforestration as causing a decrease in carbon dioxide removal. However, because of the prevalence of sea area, almost half of global photosynthetic activity takes place in marine algae. Marine pollution has decreased algal photosynthesis by approximately 10 % in the past 25 years.                                

Although most of the indices show radical worsening in the state of global environment, the situation with ozone hole indicates that if mankind heeds the warnings, we are able to make the changes required to keep the environment in satisfactory state. The stratospheric ozone layer above Antarctica is now strongest since 1988. If similar united actions were done for the other questions pinpointed by the authors of the Bioscience article, they could also be solved in reasonable fashion. Changes of diet, schooling, improvement of women's situation, discontinuation of fossil fuel use could all be done if we so decided.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: deforestration, population growth, fisheries, climate change, extinctions

Declines in bird and butterfly populations

Keskiviikko 12.4.2017 klo 10:07 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In British Isles bird and butterfly populations have been carefully monitored probably for the longest time in the world. Thus, the observations made there are probably significant for the rest of the world. Recently the estimations of bird and butterfly populations from Britain have come out and they are frightening. About a quarter of bird species have been placed in more vulnerable categories in the red list than after previous estimations. The species in decline are surprisingly often the non-conspicuous ones, whereas notable species with population increase include for example golden eagle. More than half of British butterfly populations have declined since 1970's. The single most important reason of declines of populations in both animal groups has been suggested to be climate change which also has resulted in a change in land use. 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: red list, climate change, extinctions