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Showing posts from March 8, 2017

Ocean warming leading to loss of fish stocks, crop yields: IUCN (downtoearth,)

In a report released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii today, it has stated that the effects of ocean warming are now more visible than ever and it is affecting humans in direct ways and the impacts are already being felt. “From effects on fish stocks and crop yields to more extreme weather events and increased risk from water-borne diseases, global warming is here for real,” says the report, ‘Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences.’

Ocean conservation is one of the major themes addressed by the ongoing IUCN Congress, where IUCN members will vote on motions related to protecting the high seas and protected areas in Antarctica, among others.

Findings of IUCN report

The report reviews the effects of ocean warming on species, ecosystems and on the benefits oceans provide to humans. It has been compiled by 80 scientists across 12 countries and highlights detectable scientific evidence of impacts on marine life, from microorganisms to mammals, wh…

El Nino may make a comeback in 2017, but unlikely to affect southwest monsoon (downtoearth,)

In 2016, the world witnessed the strongest El Nino on record, which resulted in above average temperatures. The year experiences record-breaking heat for nine consecutive months. It had also ruined the Indian monsoon for two years. After two successive droughts in 2014 and 2015, last year witnessed erratic rainfall both in terms of geographical spread and time. Thanks to El Nino, the southwest monsoon in 2014 and 2015 witnessed a deficit of 11 and 14 per cent respectively.

While the 2016 monsoon season in India saw 97 per cent rainfall, it was far less than the 106 per cent that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast in July. The lesser-than-expected rainfall, especially in the second half of the monsoon season, has been attributed to the absence of a strong La Nina phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that is known to help the Indian monsoon.

According to a recent forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there’s a 50 per cent chan…

How the warming world could turn many plants and animals into climate refugees (downtoearth, )

Finding the optimum environment and avoiding uninhabitable conditions has been a challenge faced by species throughout the history of life on Earth. But as the climate changes, many plants and animals are likely to find their favoured home much less hospitable.

In the short term, animals can react by seeking shelter, whereas plants can avoid drying out by closing the small pores on their leaves. Over longer periods, however, these behavioural responses are often not enough. Species may need to migrate to more suitable habitats to escape harsh environments.

During glacial times, for instance, large swathes of Earth’s surface became inhospitable to many plants and animals as ice sheets expanded. This resulted in populations migrating away from or dying off in parts of their ranges. To persist through these times of harsh climatic conditions and avoid extinction, many populations would migrate to areas where the local conditions remained more accommodating.

These areas have been termed …

Oceans are fast losing oxygen, putting marine habitat at greater risk (downtoearth,)

The oxygen content in global oceans has reduced by more than two per cent since 1960, with large variations in oxygen loss in different ocean basins and at different depths, finds a new study by researchers at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

This oxygen depletion, the study shows, is mostly a result of climate change.

Published in Nature Journal, the study gives more teeth to previous arguments about deadly consequences of the ocean's declining oxygen levels on marine life. The three co-authors: Sunke Schmidtko, Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck looked into the data dating back to 1960.  By using information on oxygen, temperature and other factors relating to the oceans, they estimated the overall oxygen loss.

"We were able to document the oxygen distribution and its changes for the entire ocean for the first time. These numbers are an essential prerequisite for improving forecasts for the ocean of the future," said Schmidtko.

While the…

Demonetisation and the GDP: knock-out (Hindu.)

The CSO has been consistent with its methods, allowing little room for suspicion of window dressing.

Did demonetisation deal a knock-out punch to the Indian economy? Or was it just a mild tap from which it is already recovering?

This debate should have been settled with the latest second advance estimates from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which peg FY17 GDP growth at 7.1%. But commentators who believe that the economy has suffered a debilitating blow from the note ban are not willing to rest their case here. They have flagged a long list of issues with these GDP numbers, apart from hinting that the numbers are fudged.

However, this is taking the criticism a little too far. A closer analysis of the CSO’s estimates suggests that, contrary to perception, they do factor in the impact of the note ban. And while India’s GDP estimation method could certainly do with improvements, the CSO has been both transparent and consistent with its methods, allowing little room for suspicions of…

How to tame our forest fires (Hindu.)

The roots of the crisis lie in the implementation of India’s no-fire forest policy

Come March every year, the print media is filled with reports of fires in the dry deciduous forests of India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha. This year has been no different. The death of Murigeppa Tammangol, a forest guard who served in Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, in a forest fire last month, is a sombre reminder of the danger posed by forest fires to our front-line forest staff.

Fighting fires with minimal equipment in challenging terrain is a thankless task that poses grave risks. It is perhaps time to ask whether a strict no-fire policy is relevant in ecological and societal contexts, rather than raise ineffective questions about how forest fires can be controlled or prevented through technology.

08THBharat Sundaram bw

The bulk of forest fires in India occurs in the tropical dry forests of our country, an um…

No economy for women (Hindu.)

In stark contrast to worldwide trends, women in India are being forced out of the workforce

According to a recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), India and Pakistan have the lowest rates of women’s labour force participation in Asia, in sharp contrast to Nepal, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that have the highest, with richer nations like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia falling in between. Moreover, even this low rate of labour force participation seems to be declining. The National Sample Survey found that while in 1999-2000, 25.9% of all women worked, by 2011-12 this proportion had dropped to 21.9%. This is in stark contrast to worldwide trends. Of the 185 nations that are part of the ILO database, since the 1990s, 114 countries have recorded an increase in the proportion of women in the workforce, and only 41 recorded declines, with India leading the pack. So what does this tell us about India’s growth story?

The importance of access

A heartening explanation c…

Sparks in a tinderbox (Hindu.)

Unless de-escalation becomes a priority for all, the Korean Peninsula will remain a flashpoint

North Korea’s provocative action of launching four missiles into the Sea of Japan a few hundred kilometres from the Japanese coastline has triggered fears of renewed tension between nuclear-armed powers. The launch seems timed to test the strategic fortitude and tactical capabilities of new relationships in the broader power balance that reins in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. The first test would be of the strength of bilateral U.S.-Japan ties on the watch of U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un had already given these two leaders a wake-up call when his regime fired a medium-range missile last month. Mr. Trump has assured both Mr. Abe and South Korea’s acting President, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, of his ironclad commitment to stand by them through this crisis. Yet it is likely that Mr. Kim was, in fact, trying to get a measure of …