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Ecology Arkive

Majestic Dolphins












Ecology is Not What is Out There, Irrelevant, Far Away, Remote, Outside and Beyond Us But Our Home: If, We Let It Become Devastated Ruins We Let Ourselves Live and Suffer in This Devastation, as Well as, Ruining and Devastating the Entire Web of Life. We Can Not Live Well, If, We Do Not Seek to Ensure Everything Lives Well for These Dolphins Can Not Live Well, If, the Oceans are Poisoned. As an Individual Human Soul, a Human Can Not Exist Well, If, the Entire Society is Poisonous or the Earth is Poisoned with Polluted Air or Water. Therefore, Selfishness is Anti-Existence, Anti-Humanity, Anti-Nature, Anti-Life, Anti-Science and Anti-Reason. Commonness, Connections, Oneness and Unison in Goal, Work and Creation is What Humanity is About. If, We Need Support for This View Just Bring in Mind the Human Physiology and See How It All Works in Oneness and Unison So to Ensure Existence is Not Only Sustainable But, Also, Being at Homeostasis, It is Ensured to Continue to Flow.....


The Delhi Declaration: Countries Agree to Make Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030: Now It Is Time to Translate What Is Declared



|| Monday: September 16: 2019 || ά. A major United Nations Conference on fighting desertification agreed on Friday to make the Sustainable Development Goal target of achieving ‘land degradation neutrality’:LDN, a national target for action for all nations.

The Governments, which are party to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification:UNCCD, met in the Indian capital of New Delhi over ten days for COP14, adopting a series of new measures in the accord, known as, the Delhi Declaration.

Besides the LDN agreement, whereby countries have pledged to halt the degradation of land to the point where eco-systems and land use can no longer be supported, there was a landmark decision to boost global efforts to mitigate and manage the risks of crippling drought.

Countries will, also, now be expected to address insecurity of land tenure, including, gender inequality, promote land restoration to reduce land-related carbon emissions and mobilise innovative sources of finance from public and private sources to support the implementation of these decisions at national levels.

“We have woken up to the fact that we will see more frequent and severe droughts, a phenomenon, that will be exacerbated by climate change.” said Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

“To my mind, this was the COP where we put people at the heart of what we do; with Parties adopting a breakthrough decision on land tenure rights and drawing on the unique voices, experiences of youth and women.”

Mr Thiaw drew attention to the contribution of COP 14 to the upcoming Climate Action Summit in New York, stressing that land restoration, at scale, is one of the cheapest solutions to address the global crises of climate and biodiversity loss.

He said that the key message to the upcoming New York Summit was clear, investing in land, unlocks multiple opportunities.

He said that it was important for businesses to be incentivised to help conserve land for sustainable use, through national regulations, that support sustainable land management and reward conservation, restoration and innovation. 

The Conference drew the interest of nearly 9,000 participants. Delegates, including, ministers, heads of United Nations and inter-governmental bodies, youth, local governments, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

Mr Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the President of COP 14, reiterated the country’s commitment to achieving land degradation neutrality by the SDG target year of 2030. He, also, promised to provide effective leadership to the UNCCD during his two-year presidency.


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Climate Change: It Is Already Getting to Be Too Late: No New Males: Climate Change Threat to Cape Verde Turtles: The Hapless Turtles Do Not Understand Their Existential Threats But Humanity Is Supposed to Do: Where Are Their Emergency Actions




|| Friday: July 12: 2019: University of Exeter News || ά. Rising temperatures could mean no male loggerhead turtles hatching at a key breeding ground by the end of this century, new research suggests. The University of Exeter Study, also, warns that, by 2100, more than 90% of loggerhead nests on the Cape Verde islands could incubate at lethally high temperatures, that could kill turtles before they hatch.

The sex of turtle hatchlings is determined by incubation temperature and this study combined current temperature and hatchling data with projections from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change:IPCC. Even, under a scenario, based on low future emissions and warming, by 2100 just 0.14% of hatchlings would be male. Under mid and high-emissions scenarios, hatching of male loggerheads could cease entirely.

“Cape Verde hosts one of the largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles in the world, up to 15% of the global nesting total.” said Dr Lucy Hawkes, of the University of Exeter. ‘’We estimate that 84% of current hatchlings are female and warmer temperatures will increase this proportion.

Under all three climate change scenarios in our Study, by 2100 more than 99% of hatchlings would be female and under mid and high-emissions scenarios there could be no males at all.”

Lead Author Ms Claire Tanner, who worked on the Study as part of a masters at the University of Exeter, said, “What surprised us was how, even, the low emissions scenario has detrimental effects for this population. What this shows is that now is the time to act on climate change, before it is too late to prevent the estimations seen in this paper.”

The projections in the Study are based on current nesting behaviour and the researchers say that loggerheads could adapt to some extent by nesting earlier in the year, when it is cooler. Dr Hawkes said that natural selection should favour turtles, that do this but, the long lifespan of loggerheads and the speed of climate change will, probably, mean they can not evolve fast enough.

About 85% of loggerhead nests in Cape Verde are currently laid on Boa Vista, where incubation temperatures are coolest, so, most of the population can not switch to cooler islands. However, the Study says that they might benefit from ‘refugia’, places where specific features, such as, shade from trees or the landscape, provide cooler conditions.

It is not clear how long it will take the population to decline, if, males stop being produced, as the reproductive lifespan of males is not known, so older males, may, continue breeding for many years after new males stop being hatched.

The Study used data gathered by CSIC, Seville, Spain and three IPCC predictions for surface air temperature increase by the end of this century: low, 01.8°C, mid, 02.8°C and high, 03.4°C. Previous studies have been done on turtles breeding in Cape Verde but, this Study was unusual because it examined all the areas where turtles breed, known as rookeries.

The work was carried out with bios.cv, an NGO, that studies the bio-diversity of the Cape Verde islands and has been working on sea turtles across the Cape Verde archipelago since 2013.

The Paper: Highly feminised sex-ratio estimations for the world’s third-largest nesting aggregation of loggerhead sea turtles Marine Ecology Progress Series: Claire E. Tanner, Adolfo Marco, Samir Martins, Elena Abella-Perez, Lucy A. Hawkes:::ω.

Caption: Common Snapping Turtle: Image: University of Manchester

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The European Union Environment and Climate Ministers Gather to Discuss Climate Crisis and Bio-diversity Loss Caused by Over-consumption Require Joint Solutions: And These Ministers Must Talk About Why the European Union Puts It Under the Carpet As to Why Many European Countries Are Still Digging Their Heads Deeper Into Coal




|| Thursday: July 11: 2019 || ά. The European Union’s Ministers for Environment and Climate discussed stepping up global climate action in their informal meeting. The first day of the meeting focused on the EU’s long-term climate strategy and messages to the UN Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2019. The ministers, also, discussed the EU’s objectives for halting the loss of bio-diversity. The Informal Meeting of the Ministers is being held on July 11-12 in Helsinki.

In addition to the ministers, Mr Miguel Arias Cañete, the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy and Ms Karmenu Vella, the Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, also, attended the first day of the meeting. The ministers noted that climate change and the loss of bio-diversity are part of the same sustainability crisis and, therefore, call for coherent solutions. Over the next two decades, Europe’s economy and prosperity need to be built on a new, sustainable foundation, which will require significant changes in the production and consumption habits of both people and businesses.

Finland’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Ms Krista Mikkonen, who is chairing the two-day meeting, said, “Europe’s future depends on our ability to find solutions to these challenges. The EU needs to set ambitious climate targets and concrete objectives to halt bio-diversity loss. We must have a clear vision of the future to be able to take key decisions on economic reform in the next few years.”.

One of the main objectives of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU is to reach a common understanding within the EU on a long-term climate strategy. Based on the European Council conclusions from June 2019, Finland will take the discussion forward in various Council configurations. The ministers took up the issue in an informal setting at today’s meeting.

“For EU climate policy to be in line with the 01.5 degrees Celsius target, our aim should be net zero emissions, in other words, a balance between carbon emissions and sinks by 2050 at the very latest. We had a very open discussion today, that will help identify the key obstacles to be cleared to reach agreement by the end of the year. Many countries already support this objective but, a few details still need to be finalised. The transition to a zero-emissions society must be fair and we must address citizens’ concerns.” Ms Mikkonen said.

The ministers stressed that the EU now needs to show global climate leadership more urgently than ever before. The EU is leading by example and has passed its emissions reduction targets into law. It has, also, embedded climate issues into all policy sectors and its budget.

“What is crucial is that the EU has translated words into action. But we, too, need to do more to stop climate change. During Finland’s Presidency, we intend to hold discussions, that will prepare for updating the EU’s emissions reduction targets for 2030. Many member states, also, hoped that the Commission would prepare an analysis to support this work.” Ms Mikkonen said.

Finland’s Presidency will work on preparing the EU’s positions for the 2020 UN climate conference, which is due to set new targets for halting bio-diversity loss. During the informal ENVI meeting, the ministers emphasised the EU’s role in leading the way to promote biodiversity. The EU aims to agree ambitious, measurable targets with clear timelines for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

“What we’re doing now simply isn’t enough. To avoid irreversible impacts, we need a swift change of direction. Our discussions strongly highlighted the need to speed up and improve our work to stop the loss of bio-diversity. The EU needs to be prepared to review all its actions from the perspective of reinforcing bio-diversity. It’s a matter of preserving the foundations of human life.” Ms Mikkonen said.

Ms Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the United Nations Assistant Secretary General and the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, delivered a keynote speech on bio-diversity. The ministers will resume their discussion of the EU’s efforts to halt bio-diversity loss at next autumn’s Environment Council. The goal is to prepare Council conclusions on the topic before the end of the year.

Finland holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union between July 01 and December 31, 2019. In this capacity, Finland will chair both the formal Council meetings in Brussels or Luxembourg and the informal meetings of ministers held in Finland. The Presidency will host six informal meetings of ministers and a large number of meetings of working groups and experts, all of them at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.:::ω.

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Pöyry Paves the Way: Turning Fossil-Based Plastics Into Bio-Based Materials: The Way Towards a Sustainable Future



|| Wednesday: May 29: 2019 || ά. Pöyry, a Finnish Company, has developed a Plastics to Bio concept and an initiative to address the global plastics problem, providing an affordable and economically viable way to decouple plastics from fossil-based materials and turn all plastics bio-based. The concept looks at the whole value chain all the way from material suppliers to consumers and demonstrates that there is a lucrative business case in replacing fossil plastics with bio-based plastics.

“Societies, companies and consumers recognise the magnitude of the plastics problem. Solutions to replace fossil plastics, including, recycling, are in constant development but, so far, there has not been a systemic concept to drive decoupling plastics from fossil based materials. Neither has increasing plastics recycling in a large enough scale been developed so far and in an affordable, economically viable and sustainable manner. Pöyry’s Plastics to Bio concept shows that within just ten years, most fossil based plastics could be replaced with bio-based materials.” says Mr Tomi Nyman, Principal, Pöyry’s Management Consulting Business Group.

The concept is based on two key areas: a substantial increase in recycling and the gradual replacing of fossil feedstock with bio-based feedstock in plastics production. An important tool in this implementation is developing a global deposit scheme for plastics collection and recycling.

Similar schemes are already in use in various countries either on national or retail chain level. A partnership and value chain are set up between the retailers and recyclers in such a way, that when a consumer buys a product from a store, a deposit value of, e.g, $0.1, is charged by the cashier to the consumer for the packaging. When returning the used packaging to the shop, the consumer receives the deposit value back either directly or as a receipt, which indicates the deposited value.

This amount of money can, then, be discounted from the next purchase in the same store. The returned plastic packaging is, then, regularly collected, transported and sorted for recycling and material reuse.
Plastics should feature an icon, which states indicatively the deposit value for packaging, for example, as 0.1 or 0.2 units per piece in the relevant currency or, alternatively, show a value per kg.

“There are, naturally, investments needed to make this change happen. For example, we will need recycling sites, waste management and new infrastructure for collection, sorting and logistics. Pöyry’s concept shows that the investments needed to introduce this scheme and, eventually, use just bio-based plastics will become cheaper than sourcing crude oil today to produce fossil based plastics.” Mr Nyman says.

The plastics production is set to grow from 400 million tonnes today to one billion tonnes in just 30 years, if, no measures are taken to address the plastics problem. Pöyry is ready to start solving the world’s plastics problem and help companies harness the value of recycled plastics and bio-based feedstock.

More information, contact Tomi Nyman: Principal: Pöyry Management Consulting: tomi.nyman at poyry.com: Tele: +358504481067
About ÅF Pöyry: ÅF Pöyry is an international leader within engineering, design and advisory services. We create solutions to support our customers worldwide to act on sustainability, as well as, the global trends of urbanisation and digitalisation. We are more than 16,000 devoted experts within the fields of infrastructure, industry and energy operating across the world to create sustainable solutions for the next generation.:::ω.

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Arctic Warming Will Accelerate Climate Change and Impact the Global Economy by Multi-trillion Dollars



|| Monday: April 29: 2019: Lancaster University News || ά. Carbon, released into the atmosphere by the increasing loss of Arctic permafrost, combined with higher solar absorption by the Earth’s surface due to the melting of sea ice and land snow, will accelerate climate change and have a multi-trillion dollar impact on the world economy. A new Paper, published in Nature Communications, shows a combination of these factors has the potential to increase the long-term economic impact of climate change by just under $70 trillion, under mitigation levels consistent with current national pledges to cut carbon emissions, 05% of the estimated total cost of climate change for this scenario.

Under the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change:IPCC Paris Agreement target of global temperature rises being limited to 01.5C from pre-industrial levels, the extra impact drops to $25 trillion, 04% of the total cost for this scenario. In both cases, the primary driver behind the additional costs is the emitted permafrost carbon. The inter-disciplinary research team hope their assessments will provide a better understanding of the socio-economic risks from climate change under different scenarios and help guide policy-makers towards prudent decisions on emissions reduction targets.

Researchers explored simulations of complex, advanced, physical models to quantify the strength of the permafrost carbon feedback:PCF, driven by the additional carbon, released from thawing permafrost and of the surface albedo feedback:SAF, driven by the extra solar energy, absorbed by the Earth’s surface as the white sea ice and land snow cover declines, exposing darker ocean and land.

Nearly, all climate policy studies to date, have implied a constant SAF and zero PCF. However, recent observations and computer models show the permafrost feedback is the stronger of the two and that both are non-linear, their strength changing in complex ways as the climate warms. This affects their impact on both the global climate and economy.

“Arctic sea ice and land snow currently contribute around a third each to the global albedo feedback.” said the Lead Author of the Paper, Mr Dmitry Yumashev, of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University.

“These two components are set to peak for global temperatures within the range, covered by the Paris Agreement but, if, the climate warms further, the summer and spring sea ice and land snow covers will retreat further north and the albedo feedback will actually weaken.

The permafrost feedback, however, grows progressively stronger in warmer climates. Both feedbacks are characterised by non-linear responses to warming, including, a varying lag between rising global temperature and permafrost carbon emissions.

Compared with zero PCF and constant SAF from present-day climate, legacy values used in climate policy modelling to this point, the combined non-linear PCF and SAF cause significant extra warming globally under low and medium emissions scenarios.’’

Low emissions scenarios in the study include meeting the 01.5°C and 02°C Paris Agreement targets relative to pre-industrial conditions by 2100, while medium emissions scenarios include mitigation levels consistent with current national pledges:NDCs. Under the NDCs, the world is set to warm by around 03°C relative to pre-industrial by 2,100.

High emissions scenarios, such as, the current business as usual trajectory:BaU, expected to lead to around 04°C of warming by 2,100 and cause by far the highest impacts on eco-systems and societies, are, also, included. Under these, the strength of the PCF reaches its peak and does not increase further, while the continued weakening of the SAF gradually cancels the warming effect of the PCF.

For the purposes of the research, other major planetary feedbacks, such as, those driven by changes in clouds and water vapour in response to warming, are assumed to remain constant, supported by the last two generations of climate models.

Under all scenarios, using the non-linear Arctic feedbacks compared to previous constant values leads to an increase to the total cost of climate change, consisting of the mitigation costs of cutting emissions, climate adaptation costs and residual climate-related impacts. The increases occur primarily through additional temperature-driven impacts on economy, eco-systems and human health and additional impacts from sea level rise.

All costs were estimated, using simulations in specially developed integrated assessment model PAGE-ICE, which includes simple statistical representations of the Arctic feedbacks, derived from complex models. It has multiple updates to climate science and economics, including, up-to-date uncertainty estimates.

Under the NDCs scenario, the additional estimated impact based on thousands of simulations of the nonlinear PCF and SAF is just under $70 trillion compared to their previously used values, exceeding, by around 10 times current estimates for long-terms economic gains from transit shipping routes and mineral resource extraction in the Arctic region.

With previous estimates for Arctic feedbacks, the total cost of climate change, associated with the 01.5C and 02C scenarios is virtually the same and is around $600 trillion, in comparison, the estimated cost of business as usual is around $2,000 trillion. Non-linear PCF and SAF add further $25 trillion to the $600 trillion figure for the 01.5C scenario and $34 trillion for the 02C scenario. Thus, the non-linear Arctic feedbacks make the more ambitious 01.5C target marginally more economically attractive.

Dr Yumashev further said, “Our findings support the need for more proactive mitigation measures to keep global temperature rise well below 02C. We hope, our work will lead to further assessments of multiple non-linear processes in the Earth’s climate system, both those associated with the Arctic and beyond.”

The research is part of the ICE-ARC project, funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme, grant 603887.

The authors of the study are: Dmitry Yumashev, Gail Whiteman and Paul Young, of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business and Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University; Chris Hope, of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge; Kevin Schaefer, of the National Snow and Ice Date Centre at the University of Colorado, USA; Kathrin Riemann-Campe, of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany; Fernando Iglesias-Suarez, of the Institute of Physical Chemistry Rocasolano, Spain; Elchin Jafarov, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA; Eleanor J Burke, of the UK Met Office and Yasin Elshorbany, of the University of South Florida, USA.:::ω.

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Stockholm Environment Institute: New Report Details How US Policy-Makers Can Phase Out Fossil Fuels: This Phase-Out Must Be Done Equitably Both as an Ethical Imperative and a Political Necessity



|| February 26: 2019 || ά. As the American Congress focuses anew on climate change, Stockholm Environment Institute:SEI researchers outline three principles to inform the pace and structure of a rapid phase-out of U.S fossil fuel production. This new SEI Working Paper aims to help federal and state policy-makers wind down oil, gas and coal extraction, through the use of principles, that consider not only economics and science but, also, equity and other critical social dimensions.

The Paper comes as the House Democrats, newly in control of the Chamber, have put climate change back on the Congressional agenda, with a slate of hearings scheduled over the next few days and weeks. “The U.S should take on a leadership role in aligning fossil fuel production with climate limits. It is one of the world’s very top fossil fuel producers, both historically and currently and has tremendous financial resources,” said Ms Jessica Koski, an SEI Associate, who is the Lead Author of the paper. “This phase-out must be done equitably, both as an ethical imperative and a political necessity.”

“With this Paper, we hope to provide a structure for guiding what will, no doubt, be a difficult dialogue.” said the Report Author Mr Peter Erickson, an SEI Senior Scientist. “Phasing out production comes with political challenges and it will require a democratic dialogue, that engages impacted communities and various stakeholders.”

Globally, meeting the global warming limits in the Paris Agreement will require fossil fuel consumption and production to, almost, immediately, peak, with a rapid decline thereafter. Several countries are already winding down new exploration and production. The Working Paper helps advance that conversation in the U.S, by outlining how the federal government and state-level resource managers could begin to fairly decide which regions need to phase out extraction most rapidly.

In their Working Paper, ‘Principles for Aligning U.S Fossil Fuel Extraction with Climate Limits’ Ms Koski and her colleagues detail three guiding principles, that policy-makers can use to inform the pace and structure of the necessary decline in production:

Reduce fossil fuel production at a pace consistent with climate protection. Move, even, faster where fuels are the most carbon-intensive and costly.

Accelerate the phase-out where communities are most resilient. Consider what financial resources can be made available to communities where adaptation will be more difficult and involve local communities in shaping their post-fossil-fuel economies.

Safeguard human rights, cultural resources and the local environment. Minimise harm by rapidly phasing out extraction where it threatens Indigenous rights, public health and areas of high conservation value.

“Federal and state agencies have an opportunity to ensure that the transition away from fossil fuels is equitable and fair, rather than sudden and disruptive.” said Co-author Mr Sivan Kartha, an SEI Senior Scientist. “The principles in our Paper will, hopefully, further the discussion, so policy-makers can plan an effective phase-out of fossil fuels, that has the buy-in of the American public.”

Read the Paper:::ω.

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The State of the Ozone Layer: Despite the Ozone Layer Recovering Banned Substances Are Still Being Released



|| February 21: 2019: Lancaster University News || ά. While the ozone layer is recovering due to international action, banned substances are still being released. However, not all ozone-depleting substances are currently banned. Scientists from Lancaster University are among global experts, who produced the UN’s latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, published in full earlier this month. It brings together current knowledge about the health of the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from harmful levels of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The Assessment reports on the progress of the Montreal Protocol, the 30 year old international agreement, which committed 197 countries to phase out production of chlorofluorocarbons:CFCs, used in refrigeration and air conditioning and other ozone-depleting substances. Dr Ryan Hossaini, from the Lancaster Environment Centre, has been leading research into ozone depleting compounds and is a Co-author of the Assessment. He said, “The Montreal Protocol continues to be a phenomenal success and a great example of the international community coming together.

However, there is now a very strong indication that CFC-11, a gas, whose production is banned under the Montreal Protocol, is, actually, being emitted, when it shouldn’t be. Starting from around 2013, measurements indicate that CFC-11 in the atmosphere is declining at a slower rate than expected and that emissions are likely increasing in Eastern Asia; we can’t pinpoint where they are coming from more accurately than that. 

There is, also, strong evidence that certain ozone-depleting compounds not currently controlled by the Montreal Protocol are increasing in the atmosphere. This class of compounds are known as VSLS, very short lived substances. Lancaster University has been leading research into this class of compounds.”

Dr Paul Young, a Climate Scientist from the Lancaster Environment Centre, is a Co-author of the Assessment chapter on the polar regions. He said, “Although, the Antarctic ozone hole is still with us, the weight of evidence is that we are beginning to see signs of recovery. The ozone hole is a powerful reminder of our capacity to harm the environment but, due to the successes of the Montreal Protocol in controlling key ozone depleting substances, we are confident that the ozone hole will heal by the time this century is out.

We do not see the same severe ozone loss in the Arctic but, 2011 did come close. While ozone depleting substances remain, similar losses remain a possibility depending on what the weather is doing in the ozone layer. But, again due to the Montreal Protocol, we do expect Arctic ozone levels to recover by the middle of this century."

Looking to the future, the Assessment emphasises the importance of the Kigali Amendment to the Protocol, which came into effect in January. It commits signatories to reducing hydrofluorocarbons:HFCs, a later generation of ozone-depleting chemical, by 80% over the next 30 years.

Hydrofluorocarbons are greenhouse gases, that are hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide and so contribute to global warming. The Assessment calculates that the world can avoid up to 0.4°C of global warming this century through implementation of the Kigali Amendment, giving it a critical role in keeping global temperature rise below the 02°C mark.

Read the Report

Caption: False-color view of total ozone over the Antarctic pole. The purple and blue colours are where there is the least ozone, and the yellows and reds are where there is more ozone: Image: NASA:::ω.

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New Research Finds Toxic Bacteria on Micro-plastics Retrieved From Tropical Waters




|| February 12: 2019: 2019: National University of Singapore News || ά. When micro-plastics or tiny pieces of plastics are ingested by marine organisms, they, may, accumulate and be transferred up the food chain. A Field Survey, conducted by a team of marine scientists from the University has uncovered toxic bacteria, living on the surfaces of micro-plastics, which are pieces of plastic smaller than five millimetres in size, collected from the coastal areas of Singapore. These bacteria are capable of causing coral bleaching and triggering wound infections in humans.

The researchers, also, discovered a diversity of bacteria, including, useful organisms, such as, those, that can degrade marine pollutants like hydrocarbons, in the plastic waste. This Study is the first to examine the bacterial community on micro-plastics, found in tropical coastal regions. There are currently more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean. Micro-plastics, in particular, pose an evident problem as many marine organisms, such as, shrimps, mussels and fish, often, mistake these tiny plastics for food.

Dr Sandric Leong, the Research Lead and Senior Research Fellow at the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute, said, “Micro-plastics form a large proportion of plastic pollution in marine environments. Marine organisms, may, consume bits of micro-plastics unintentionally and this could lead to the accumulation and subsequent transfer of marine pathogens in the food chain. Hence, understanding the distribution of micro-plastics and identifying the organisms, attached to them, are crucial steps in managing the plastic pollution on a national and global scale.”

Compared to micro-plastics on land, micro-plastics in aquatic eco-systems take a much longer time to degrade due to the presence of salt and a lower temperature in the ocean. As a result, they present a habitable environment for marine biota to colonise. Yet, despite their prevalence, the distribution of micro-plastics along the coasts of tropical regions is not well studied.

Dr Leong and Ms Emily Curren, a PhD student from TMSI and the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, embarked on a six-month study to examine the bacterial communities on micro-plastics collected from coastal regions of Singapore.

Between April and July 2018, the research team collected and examined 275 pieces of micro-plastics from three beaches along the coastline of Singapore, namely, Lazarus Island, Sembawang Beach and Changi Beach. By using high-through-put sequencing techniques, the researchers discovered more than 400 different types of bacteria across all the micro-plastics collected.

Species of the bacteria Erythrobacter, which is capable of degrading plastic and bacteria species Pseudomonas veronii, which have been used to clean up oil spills, were found. “Given the predicted increase in plastic waste contamination in oceans, the discovery of such bacteria provides important nature-friendly alternatives for the mitigation of plastic pollution and toxic pollutants, such as, hydrocarbons.” said Ms Curren.

In contrast, the bacteria Photobacterium rosenbergii, often, associated with coral bleaching and disease, was, also, identified. The proliferation and accumulation of this bacterium could be detrimental to the coral reefs in Singapore as the southern strait is characterised by multiple coral communities with great bio-diversity, that are under conservation.

The researchers uncovered species of marine Vibrio, a major cause of wound infections in humans and species of Arcobacter, known to cause gastro-enteritis in humans. “As the micro-plastics we studied were collected from locations, easily, accessible to the public and in areas, widely used for recreation, the identification of, potentially, pathogenic bacteria would be important in preventing the spread of diseases.” said Ms Curren.

This Study demonstrates that micro-plastics are a rich habitat, that is home to many types of bacteria, including, toxic ones. The research team will conduct further studies to examine the origin of the bacteria species transported by the micro-plastics. This will allow the identification of non-native species, that threaten the existing bio-diversity, and provide insights on managing the urgent issue of marine plastic pollution.

Caption: Doctoral student Emily Curren, examining micro-plastic samples, collected from coastal areas of Singapore.:::ω.

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