April 2023

1.New disease caused by plastics in seabirds

Hayley S. Charlton-Howard et al., “‘Plasticosis’: Characterising macro- and microplastic-associated fibrosis in seabird tissues,” Journal of Hazardous Materials (15 May 2023). bit.ly/3YhCxvq

See also, Helena Horton, “New disease caused by plastics discovered in seabirds,” The Guardian (3 March 2023) bit.ly/3SSzusD

“A new disease caused solely by plastics has been discovered in seabirds.

The birds identified as having the disease, named plasticosis, have scarred digestive tracts from ingesting waste, scientists at the Natural History Museum in London say.

It is the first recorded instance of specifically plastic-induced fibrosis in wild animals, researchers say.

Plastic pollution is becoming so prevalent that the scarring was widespread across different ages of birds, according to the study…

Young birds were found to have the disease, and it is thought chicks were being fed the plastic pollution by parents accidentally bringing it back in food.”

2.  Finding of sewage bacteria in ocean spray

Matthew A. Pendergraft, et al., “Bacterial and Chemical Evidence of Coastal Water Pollution from the Tijuana River in Sea Spray Aerosol,” Environmental Science & Technology (March 2023).  bit.ly/3YoNqLS

See also, Katharine Gammom, “Not a breath of fresh air: study finds sewage bacteria in ocean spray,” The Guardian (2 March 2023).  bit.ly/3YoJJG7.

“… a first of its kind study shows how bacteria from sewage in the ocean can get whipped up in salt spray and blow into coastal communities miles away, a phenomenon exacerbated by storm runoff.

The study, released on Thursday by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, looked at an area south of San Diego near the US-Mexico border, where a Mexican wastewater treatment plant often becomes overwhelmed and spews sewage into the Tijuana River. That river then flows north into Imperial Beach on the northern side of the border. The beach there was closed 249 days last year due to high levels of pathogens like E coli, norovirus and salmonella – but until now, little was known about what happened when crashing waves sent salt spray into the air.

A team of researchers sampled coastal aerosols at Imperial Beach and water from the Tijuana River for 26 days between January and May 2019, focusing on times after storms. They used DNA sequencing to match bacteria and chemical compounds in coastal aerosols back to the sewage-polluted Tijuana River flowing into the ocean.

They found that three-quarters of the bacteria in the air came directly from the sewage in the surf zone. It’s not yet clear whether these bacteria can make people sick, and experts are exploring the possible harms…

While the degree of risks remain unknown, the study is significant because it is the first time scientists have linked such pollution to coastal sea spray.

3.  Rising ocean temperatures are producing huge increases in rainfall associated with North Atlantic hurricanes, affecting Ireland

Samantha Hallam, et al., “The relationship between sea surface temperature anomalies, wind and translation speed and North Atlantic tropical cyclone rainfall over ocean and land,” Environmental Research Communications (2 March 2023). bit.ly/3ybZPbz

See also, Kevin O’Sullivan, “Every 1-degree rise in ocean temperatures produces huge increase in rainfall, Irish study finds,” The Irish Times (2 March 2023).  bit.ly/3JeauYr

“Rising ocean temperatures are producing huge increases in rainfall associated with North Atlantic hurricanes – with a 140 per cent overall increase overland associated with every 1-degree rise above normal temperatures.

The trend, which is exacerbating major freshwater flooding events, is the main finding of a study led by a researcher at Maynooth University and has the greatest implications for the US and Caribbean, especially as ocean temperatures continue to warm due to climate change.

However, it also has consequences for Ireland because of likely increased rainfall and associated flooding due to ex-tropical cyclones crossing the Atlantic.”

4.  Plant Atlas 2020 reveals devastating loss of Irish flora

Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, Plant Atlas 2020: Ireland’s Changing Flora – A Summary of the Results of Plant Atlas 2020 (March 2023).  bit.ly/3JovDjH

“20-year research project reveals devastating loss of Irish flora

The new Plant Atlas is the most powerful statement ever produced on the state of our wild and naturalised plants

Thousands of botanists from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) have spent the last twenty years collecting data on changes in the British and Irish floras. The results have now been published in Plant Atlas 2020. Three main trends emerged from the Irish data.

  • Most Irish native plant species (56%) have declined in range and abundance or both.
  •  Native grassland plants are those that have suffered the most, but many plants of lakes and wetlands have also declined.
  •  In contrast, the overwhelming majority (80%) of species introduced into Ireland since 1500 have increased. Most of these non-native species are benign but some, such as Himalayan Balsam and Rhododendron, have become invasive, with a negative impact on the native flora.

Plant Atlas 2020 is the most in-depth survey of the British and Irish flora ever undertaken. It builds on two previous Atlas surveys undertaken by the BSBI in the twentieth century.”

See also, Kevin O’Sullivan, “‘Devastating loss’ of Irish plant life revealed in 20-year study, The Irish Times (8 March 2023).  bit.ly/3J7IyFz

5.  Critical need to slash methane emissions from dairy and meat

Catherine C. Ivanovich et al., “Future warming from global food consumption,” Nature Climate Change ( 6 March 2023).  go.nature.com/3JpumZM

See also, Kristoffer Tigue, “The Paris Agreement Will Fail Without Slashing Methane Emissions From Dairy and Meat, Researchers Say,” Inside Climate News (7 March 2023).  bit.ly/3Yz4tLw

“… if the emissions released by the world’s food systems continue at current levels, they’ll cause at least 0.7 degree Celsius of additional warming by 2100, pushing the planet past the 1.5 degree threshold set by the Paris Agreement, even if fossil fuel use is drastically reduced. Methane emissions will account for a whopping 73 percent of that projected warming by mid-century, the study says.”

6.  How sustainable forestry operations fall short of their own claims or voluntary standards

Scilla Alecci, “Environmental Auditors Approve Green Labels for Products Linked to Deforestation and Authoritarian Regimes,” Inside Climate News (5 March 2023).   bit.ly/3l18dYp

“Major environmental auditing firms ignore or fail to recognize glaring environmental damage caused by loggers and other clients whose practices they certify as sustainable, undercutting an elaborate global system meant to fight forest destruction and climate change.

With alarming frequency, the auditors and so-called certification firms validate products linked to deforestation, logging in conflict zones and other abuses, according to an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 39 media partners. Certification helps the firms’ clients produce and promote teak yacht decks, high-end furniture and other products in markets all around the world.

The ICIJ investigation, Deforestation Inc., showed how companies use the results of flawed audits to advertise products and operations as compliant with environmental standards, labor laws and human rights, misinforming shareholders as well as customers. The damage can be devastating and long-lasting.”

7.  Climate crisis to deliver ‘ongoing systemic shocks’ to production as hot conditions become more frequent

Doug Richardson, et al., “Synchronous climate hazards pose an increasing challenge to global coffee production,” PLOS (8 March 2023). bit.ly/3Fhy5pD

See also,  Donna Lu, “Rising temperatures in tropics to lead to lower coffee yields and higher prices, study suggests,” The Guardian bit.ly/3mNyXfD via @guardian

“Climate conditions that reduce coffee yield have become more frequent over the past four decades, with rising temperatures from global heating likely to lead to “ongoing systemic shocks” to coffee production globally, new research suggests.

Researchers analysed the impacts of climate factors such as temperature, rainfall and humidity in the top 12 coffee-producing countries globally between 1980 and 2020.

The study, published in the journal PLOS Climate, found that the frequency of “climate hazards” – suboptimal growing conditions due to extremes such as high temperatures – had increased in every region during that period. Five of the six most hazardous years occurred between 2010 and 2020.”

8.  Irish land uses for artificial surfaces, agriculture, forest and semi-natural areas, wetlands and water bodies

Irish Department of Environment and Department of Agriculture, Land Use Evidence Review Phase 1 Synthesis Report (10 March 2023). bit.ly/3YOzmeS

See also, Caroline O’Doherty, “Artificial surfaces double in 30 years as concrete and tar spread over land,” Irish Independent (11 March 2023).  bit.ly/3JLauRb

The amount of Ireland covered in concrete, paving and roads has almost doubled in less than 30 years, a land use study has found.

But artificial surfaces still occupy just 2.4pc of the land, a tiny proportion compared with agriculture, which covers 67.35pc.

The findings are in the first phase of a Land Use Review project begun by the Department of Environment and Department of Agriculture.

The study found that just 8pc of the country’s land can be verified to be publicly owned, compared with 78pc in private ownership.

Bizarrely, it could not be determined who owned the remaining 14pc.

The study looks at land use under five broad categories: artificial surfaces, agriculture, forest and semi-natural areas, wetlands and water bodies.

9.  Analysis of Irish policies and measures to address residential retrofitting

Friends of the Earth Ireland, Still left out in the cold:  An assessment of Irish Government policies and measures to address energy poverty, energy needs and climate action in the residential sector (15 March 2023).  bit.ly/401qUKM

See also, Emmet Malone, “‘Families who can’t pay energy bills aren’t in a position to invest in expensive retrofitting’,” The Irish Times (15 March 2023). bit.ly/42phni8

“The Government needs to do much more to help those in fuel poverty as it promotes policies intended to reduce carbon emissions, according to a new report commissioned by Friends of the Earth.

The report, based on a wide range of existing materials as well as interviews with representatives of NGOs, academics and others, makes a wide range of recommendations it argues would help those in, or threatened with, fuel poverty as Ireland seeks to meet its climate change obligations.

A key element of the report is the argument that the Government should take greater account of issues like household income and housing conditions when designing policies intended to address climate change through the promotion of energy efficiencies and use of renewables in the home.

It contends that at a time of high energy prices and rising costs in other areas of the economy more than a third of households are currently experiencing fuel poverty – spending more than 10 per cent of income on energy – and require more targeted supports if they to be able to transition away from fossil fuels, benefit from lower-priced alternatives and contribute to the reduction in carbon emissions.”

10.  The IPCC Climate Synthesis Report summarizing five years of critical and foreboding climate reports

IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023. bit.ly/3lrGdNX

See also, Kevin O’Sullivan, “This decade’s climate decisions will last ‘thousands of years’, IPCC report warns: ‘Multiple, feasible and effective options’ immediately available to slash emissions and to adapt to human-caused climate change,” The Irish Times (20 March 2023).  bit.ly/3FIc2sz

Known as the “synthesis report”, “it evaluates six major reports issued since 2018 and is the culmination of a global review known as AR6. It is aimed at policymakers, especially government and key decision-makers on climate action.”

“In 2018, IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5 degrees – a key target under the Paris Agreement.

“Five years later, that challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change,” the synthesis report finds.”

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