Mangrove forests in Indonesia store approximately 3.14 billion tonnes of carbon, therefore protection of these ecosystems should be considered a major priority in terms of global climate change mitigation, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
With so many immediate crises to deal with, it would be easy for world leaders to put the issue of climate change on the back burner. As European leaders continue to battle with Greece’s financial crisis, terrorist attacks drive tourists from Tunisia, and conflicts continue to divide Syria and Iraq, then a climate summit to be held in Paris late this year is well down the politicials ‘to-do’ list. But although the worst consequences of failing to deal with climate change may still be decades or even centuries away, it doesn’t make them less important to address. In a new report issued this week by the UK’s Foreign Office, a Commonwealth and Foreign Office minister says that we should address the threat of climate change in the same way as we do the dangers of terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation, and look at the ‘worst case scenarios’ and how likely they are to occur. For just as in matters of national security, failing to consider and prepare for the worst makes it more likely that it will actually happen.
The report ‘Climate change: a risk assessment’ was commissioned by the Foreign Office and written by experts from the UK, USA, China and India, led by the UK’s climate change envoy, Professor Sir David King. In the forward, Baroness Joyce Anelay, minister of state at the Commonwealth and Foreign Office, says the indirect impacts of global warming, such as deteriorating international security, could be far greater than the direct effects, such as flooding. Focusing only on the direct effects is too narrow an approach, she says. Rather than treating climate change as a long-range weather forecast, we need to assess the systemic risks, such as those affecting international security.
With the global population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, there has been much debate around the issues of nutrition and food security. Amid these concerns, a report published on May 6 by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), calls for greater consideration of the use of forests as a food source as well as for biodiversity conservation. The report, titled “Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition” was presented at the UN Forum on Forests and is a result of the collaboration of more than 60 scientists from around the world.
Last year saw the first World Wildlife Day, to be held annually on 3 March as the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). (See this blog article by Stephanie Cole from a year ago). As is appropriate for a day commemorating CITES, protection of wildlife and combating poaching and illegal wildlife trade was the theme of the 2014 day, and in 2015 the focus of the international day is again that “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”. With wildlife in its natural habitat a key resource for tourism in many parts of the world – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa – the UNWTO is one of the leading organisations highlighting wildlife and the value of protection.
Ebola in West Africa has claimed more than 9300 lives in the last year.
Researchers have traced the origins of the epidemic to a two-year-old toddler, who died in December 2013 in Meliandou, a small village in south-eastern Guinea. The child was seen playing under a tree heavily infested with bats.
AT “Ebola: The 21st century plague?" [Royal Society of Medicine, London, UK. February 6, 2015], we heard from international experts handling the epidemic. They examined the history of the disease, the lessons learnt from 2014 and what strategies are in place for preventing future outbreaks. In doing so, we gained an explanation as to why a rural outbreak became a regional urban epidemic, and an understanding of the complexity of medical volunteering and running ebola treatment centres.
I have selected some keyfacts & insights from the talks, to give you a flavour of this one-off national symposium, an update from the frontline. This blog also appears on our monthly Global Health Knowledge Base, along with relevant ebola research and news.
Ebola virus has been with the world since at least 1976 - nearly 40 years We are aware of 28 independent outbreaks of the ebola virus disease in that time, from 5 different strains named for each country of origin and all but one in Africa. What's different this time is that the death toll is so much higher.
Keyfact: 4 times as many deaths in one year as in the previous 40 years
Insight: Although ebola has been around for some time - and probably longer than we realise - the global community only became aware of it because a nun at a missionary clinic went down with a mystery disease caught from patients. Her blood sample sent to London in 1976 yielded a new virus - which was named "Ebola" after the river near to the outbreak village in Yambuko, DRC. At the same time, 500 miles away in Sudan, a similar but separate outbreak occurred.
Ebola in West Africa largely confined to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia These have vast rural areas, with dense forest and wild life in close proximity to the local population, perfect for transmission of a virus from wildlife to people (zoonoses).
Keyfact: Right from 1976, wildlife transmission was suspected and the search for an animal reservoir began. The index case for the 1976 Yambuko outbreak was a headmaster who had eaten monkey meat, the simulatenous Sudan outbreak was centred on a sugar factory infested by bats; a vet caught ebola from treating a sick chimpanzee colony in Cote D’Ivoire
Insight: In 1996, a lab study finally showed that of various mammals, only bats could be infected and remain healthy (=reservoir)
‘First generation’ bioethanol is produced directly from food crops such as corn and sugarcane. Global production of bioethanol has been increasing in recent years due to policies in many countries that consider biofuel as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. While it is widely recognised as means to improve future energy security, the rapid expansion of bioethanol production has caused controversy over competition for land use to grow crops for food as well as contributing to increased grain prices. However, a group of Japanese researchers have developed a technology that can produce bioethanol and animal feed simultaneously from the same crop, without the need for off-site processing.
Forests cover approximately 4 billion hectares of the Earth's surface, equivalent to a third of it's total land area. According to the WWF, between 12-15 million hectares of forests are lost every year due to human impacts, such as deforestation. It is estimated that forest loss is responsible for around 15% of global carbon emissions. Being able to accurately measure these emissions is important to develop a strategy to mitigate against the impacts of climate change. Until now, it has been difficult for researchers to monitor the world's carbon stocks and how they vary over time. However, a team of researchers from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory of Stanford University (CAO) have developed an airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system that can measure how much carbon is stored in forests and where human activities including deforestation are releasing it.
Insecticides can be beneficial to humans in many ways, such as providing crop protection from disease and defoliation and as a tool used in the reduction of mosquitoes and other insects that can transmit diseases such as malaria, to humans. However, once they enter an aquatic system, the environmental costs can be very high. Just how much of a threat these chemicals pose to aquatic biodiversity has been the focus of a recent study, highlighting regions most at risk.
Wood has many different uses, including shelter, fuel and paper to write on, as well as having a key role in maintaining a healthy planet. More recently however, the development of engineered wood for use in the construction of tall buildings has led to a new generation of ‘ply-scrapers’. So is our attitude to wood changing? This was the subject of a discussion on The Forum of the BBC’s World Service yesterday morning (19 Jan 2015). The panel consisted of architect Michael Green, timber researcher and civil engineer Dan Ridley-Ellis, geographer Reginald Cline-Cole and cellist Steven Isserlis.
Sir Andy Haines, Professor of Public Health and Primary Care, and former director of the LSHTM, described the book is a “wakeup call”, “creating a new paradigm that will define the issue for decades to come.” He highlighted the role of the late Tony McMichael, a contributor to the book, who developed the concept of the “healthy worker effect” (the observation that people in employment tend to be healthier) and pioneered the study of climate change and global health.