Salamanders “Completely Gone” Due to Global Warming?

Christine Dell’Amore | National Geographic News

Silent and secretive creatures, salamanders are just as quietly falling off the map in tropical forests throughout Central America, a new study says.

Two common species surveyed in the 1970s in cloud forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala are extinct, and several others have plummeted in number, researchers say.

The tiny amphibians seem to be on the same downward spiral as their frog cousins, which have been mysteriously declining for years.

Scientists have identified chytrid, a fast-killing fungus that may spread in waves, as responsible for wiping out frogs around the world. Others have said that climate change is shifting temperatures and humidity, factors intricately tied to amphibian survival.

But among the Central American salamanders, “we have no evidence that either chytrid or climate change is responsible for the declines,” said study author David Wake, an biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Completely Gone”

In the 1970s, Wake spent several years researching lungless salamanders in the San Marcos region of western Guatemala, one of the most diverse and well-studied salamander communities in the American tropics.

Between 2005 and 2007, he and colleagues returned to that region and previous study sites in Mexico to survey salamanders and compare their results to the historical data.

Their data-collecting strategy remained the same: Spot as many salamanders as possible in a standard amount of time.

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Australia to act on natural disasters


Phil Mercer | The National

The savage effects of climate change on health are to be investigated by a new multimillion-dollar study funded by the Australian government as researchers investigate the threats posed by more frequent heat waves, cyclones, fires and droughts.

Scientists are warning that climatic shifts are likely to increase the incidence of infectious diseases, post-traumatic stress and heart ailments.

They also predict that climate change could have a near-apocalyptic effect on parts of Australia, which are expected to suffer more devastating bushfires, flooding and tropical storms.

“They injure, they maim and they kill people, but they also cause a lot of environmental and social disruption,” said Tony McMichael, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, which is involved in the study, for which the government paid AU$10 million (Dh24.8m).

“Post-traumatic stress disorders invariably follow and survivor guilt, those that say ‘well, I was the lucky one, but I was not seriously injured or killed’. There’s quite a widespread spectrum of consequences of these extreme weather events.”

Fires in the state of Victoria over the weekend have killed at least 96 people in the worst wildfire disasters in Australian history.

At the end of last month, Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city and capital of Victoria, roasted in its hottest period in more than a century as the southern metropolis endured several consecutive days of temperatures of more than 40°C, which gave residents a frightening insight into how the future could feel as the Earth warms.

In the tiny settlement of Kyancutta in South Australia the mercury peaked at 48.2°C.

Across the south-east of the continent the scorching conditions resulted in dozens of sudden deaths, mainly of older residents, who had heart attacks and strokes that have been blamed on the unbearable heat.

“It was a killer situation,” said Neville Nicholls, a climate scientist at Melbourne’s Monash University. “The heatwave has to have been catastrophic for the elderly in Melbourne.

“We know there are two vulnerable groups with heat waves; one is the very young, and people over about 65 years of age. If the average daily temperature is 30 degrees or above in Melbourne then we get a jump of about 20 per cent in deaths in the over-65 age group. It just gets worse and worse as the temperatures get higher. Around the world these hot extremes are getting hotter and more frequent and we can attribute this pretty easily to the enhanced greenhouse effect. It has a really simple effect – more heat waves mean more deaths.”

Melbourne’s red-hot spell caused chaos as railway lines buckled in the intense heat and the power network crumpled under unprecedented demand that left 500,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

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Australia: Bushfires and global warming: is there a link?


David Adam and Ellen Connolly | The Guardian

Scientists are reluctant to link ­individual weather events to global warming, because natural variability will always throw up extreme events. However, they say that climate change loads the dice, and can make severe episodes more likely.

Some studies have started to say how much global warming contributed to severe weather. Experts at the UK Met Office and Oxford University used computer models to say man-made climate change made the killer European heatwave in 2003 about twice as likely. In principle, the technique could be repeated with any extreme storm, drought or flood – which could pave the way for lawsuits from those affected.

Bob Brown, a senator who leads the Australian Greens, said the bushfires showed what climate change could mean for Australia.

“Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25%, 50% more,” he told Sky News. “It’s a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change.”

Models suggest global warming could bring temperature rises as high as 6C for Australia this century, if global emissions continue unabated, with rainfall decreasing in the southern states and increasing further north. As if to demonstrate that, Queensland, in the north, is currently experiencing widespread flooding after rainfall of historic proportions.

More than 60% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone in the worst floods for more than 30 years. Some 3,000 homes have been affected, and the main highway between Cairns and Townsville has been cut off.

Roger Stone, a climate expert at the University of Southern Queensland, said: “It certainly fits the climate change models, but I have to add the proviso that it’s very difficult, even with extreme conditions like this, to always attribute it to climate change.”

The fires and floods come as politicians gear up to negotiate a new global deal to combat climate change, to replace the Kyoto protocol. Australia plans a comprehensive carbon trading scheme, but green campaigners last year accused Kevin Rudd’s government of a “betrayal” when it pledged to reduce emissions by a modest 5-15% by 2020.

Professor Mark Adams, from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, said the extreme weather conditions that led to the bushfires are likely to occur more often.

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Bulgaria: Within 20 years Dobrudja to Turn into a Desert



In less than 20 years Dobrudja (northeastern Bulgaria) known for its wheat fields and rich harvest, might turn into a desert. The same fortune might befall some regions in the Danube Plain as well as on the Romanian regions Banat, Oltenia and Muntenia. This might happen due to climate changes, shows a research conducted for several years by specialists from 13 leading European meteorology and hydrology institutes. According to the scientists, after 20 years the southern part of the Old Continent will be strongly affected by the global warming and in many places there will be droughts and poor crops. The climate changes will cause a decrease in grain production nearly in half.
“In two decades the global warming might lead to droughts in at least 10 Romanian regions, which will lower by nearly 40 per cent the grain production,” said Romania’s minister of Environment Nicolae Nemirschi about the research, quoted by Adjerpress.
‘We have to take the results of that research under serious consideration and to try to slow down the process and to prepare ourselves for the expected changes,’ added the minister.

Fires, floods pressure Australia govt on climate

James Grubel | Reuters

Australia’s deadliest wildfires increased pressure on the national government to take firm action on climate change on Monday as scientists said global warming likely contributed to conditions that fuelled the disaster.

At least 130 people were killed in wildfires, set off by a record heatwave in southern Victoria state over the past week days, while large areas of Queensland state remain flooded by tropical downpours.

Scientists said Australia needed to prepare for more extreme weather events due to global warming, while the Greens and environmentalists said the fires and floods proved the government needed to toughen its targets to curb Greenhouse emissions.

“It’s very clear, both globally and in Australia, there has been a warming trend since about 1950,” leading Australian climate scientist Kevin Hennessy told Reuters.

“In a nutshell we can say the heatwaves and the fires we’ve seen in Victoria recently maybe partly due to climate change through the contribution of increased temperature.

“Going forward, we anticipate there will be continued increases in greenhouse gases and that locks in a certain amount of warming, and in the case of southern Australia further drying, and this will increase the fire weather risk.”

Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change because of its hot, dry climate, with the nation’s south in prolonged drought and temperatures tipped to rise by 3 degrees Celsius by 2050 across the tropical north and desert interiors.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has set a target to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent by 2020, and will only cut further, to about 15 percent, if there is widespread international agreement on tougher action.

But Green groups want Australia, which creates about 1.5 percent of global emissions, to cut emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020 as an example to the developing world, particularly India and China, about the need to take firm action.

Greens climate spokeswoman Christine Milne said all Australians had been deeply touched by the fire tragedy and the increased risk of fires from global warming.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a strong warning that global warming will have “substantial human health impacts” within the next few decades. The warning came in a report released only days after the same agency declined to regulate global warming-causing greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

“Today typifies the climate-change schizophrenia in the Bush administration,” said U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “On one hand, government scientists are saying that global warming poses grave threats to our health and our welfare, and, on the other hand, [there] are White House political hacks following the oil industry’s bidding to do nothing.”

The EPA report warns that rising temperatures will cause air quality to worsen in Eastern cities, as well as more deaths among the elderly, the poor and inner-city dwellers during future heat waves.

“It’s going to be hotter; it’s going to be hotter sooner in the year than it was in the past,” said co-author Kristie Ebi. Young people now living near Washington “[are] going to look back and think back about how nice the summers used to be,” she said. “Within 20, 30 years, on average, the [public] should notice that it’s warmer.”

Global warming is also likely to lead to more frequent and powerful hurricanes, dwindling water supplies in the West, loss of coastal land to rising sea levels and storm surges, and the more rapid spread of food- and water-borne illnesses.

According to the EPA’s former deputy associate administrator, Jason K. Burnett, the president’s deputy chief of staff for policy originally approved an EPA decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as air pollutants, a move supported by several cabinet members and senior administration officials. Before the decision could be made official, however, the White House prohibited the EPA from taking action.

Books: UT alumna’s novel explores global warming run amok


Elaine Ying Wang | Daily Texan

I thought Al Gore ascending to the top of an auditorium in a cherry picker was the height of global warming sensationalism — the most excited someone could be about global warming in a public sphere.

I was wrong.

UT alumna Perla Sarabia Johnson’s debut book, “Global Warning,” brings environmental passion to yet another level.

The novel takes place in the first half of the 21st century and features a young male protagonist named Dustin Jones who must cope with the consequences of severe global warming. Plants and animals have reached almost unfathomable sizes. Temperatures never dip below triple digits. The food market is saturated by a flood of artificial substitutes.

Dairy products are nowhere to be seen.

Yet “Global” is not a completely abstract, free-floating sci-fi novel. Johnson’s journalism training in newspaper, TV and radio aided her thorough research. She consulted many experts, from a horticulture professor at Texas A&M University to a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers to a curator at the Smithsonian.

Johnson said the most surprising thing she learned while researching for her book was that her “wild” ideas were often plausible.

The “Dallas Down Under” that Dustin designs in the book? Possible. Johnson’s ideas on futuristic agriculture? Also possible. While the likelihood of these events occurring is slim, she said, the idea of at least minor probability made her “surprised and pleased.”

Johnson also weaves discussions of racial identity into her novel. As a child of two Cuban parents, Johnson is passionate about her culture and is not shy to address it in her work, even through such insidiously silent topics as Latino racism.

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