Best of our wild blogs: 14 Dec 17

Discovering nature, and the spirit of discovery – Love MacRitchie Walk (December 2017)
Love our MacRitchie Forest

What’s in the Lab?
Mei Lin NEO

Giant study by Singapore marine scientists!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Research jam: Who honoured their 2017 commitments?
People's Movement to Stop Haze

November Facebook Jam
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Read more!

Harnessing the power of nature in healing - Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

KTPH bags design award for the way it blends nature into hospital's building
Salma Khalik Straits Times 14 Dec 17;

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's lush landscaping - it boasts a waterfall, gardens and ponds all within its grounds - has earned it the honour of being named one of the world's most "biophilic" buildings.

KTPH beat out a wide field of contenders to win the inaugural Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award - a prize that honours a Yale University academic who helped pioneer "biophilia", a theory about humans' affinity with the natural world.

The award - set up after Dr Kellert's death last year - was conferred on the hospital in Yishun by the International Living Future Institute ahead of 20 other entrants.

It said in its announcement yesterday: "Khoo Teck Puat surpasses traditional hospitals and opens the door towards a new kind of building type for the healthcare industry, which considers how the built and natural environment can become part of the healing process."

It said the hospital "used nature as a healing process" through paying close attention to all the human senses, noting that it is also a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and fish.

"The rainforest-like landscaping that weaves in and out of the hospital infuses the atmosphere with natural sights, sounds and scents."

Its design boasts such features as natural ventilation in patient rooms and the transformation of a storm water pond into a "lake feature".

KTPH is no stranger to design awards, with about 20 others under its belt, including the President's Award for the Environment, which it received last month.

Chief executive Chew Kwee Tiang said: "When we designed KTPH, we aspired to create 'a hospital in a garden and a garden in a hospital'."

She said that while the surrounding flora and fauna act as a healing oasis for patients, it also serves as a shared space for the community.

The other four close contenders for the award received honourable mentions. Three are from the United States.

One was The Phipps Centre for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh, which was described as "a habitat for biodiversity and a nursery for the landscape".

The Etsy Headquarters in New York was singled out for "bringing nature inside and creating varied scale spaces that replicate nature's patterns", while Cookfox Architects Studio, also in New York, shone for "its direct and visual connections to nature and natural cycles".

The Yanmar Headquarters in Osaka, Japan, was also honoured. Its "glass-enclosed beehive in the centre of the building is an innovative focal point, a bold staircase is a biomimetic journey and a water feature is a unique approach towards a meditative and restful space for staff and visitors alike".

Read more!

Carbon tax an opportunity to take a leap forward on sustainability and transparency

Amidst talk of possible tax hikes, one already-declared measure stands the chance of changing behaviour in Singapore and beyond. Jaime Ho, Channel NewsAsia’s Chief Editor, Digital News talks about what to expect of the carbon tax in 2018.
Channel NewsAsia 14 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: In his Budget speech in February this year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat laid the groundwork for the implementation of a carbon tax in Singapore by 2019.

In preparation for it to come into force by then, much of the groundwork in the form of consultations has already been done.

The draft Carbon Pricing Bill, to be read in 2018, has been open for viewing since the end of October, with calls for input ending earlier this week. Further details such as the landing price point of the tax – currently expected to be between S$10-S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – should emerge in Minister Heng’s next Budget speech, if not by the time the Bill is read.

Coupled with the declaration that next year will be Singapore’s Year of Climate Action, 2018 already looks set to be an important year for the environment.


Aimed at some 30 to 40 large emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the impact of the carbon tax is not primarily meant to be felt by electricity users.

According to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), households will likely see an increase of S$1.70 to S$3.30 per month for electricity in a typical 4-room flat, on top of an average monthly bill of S$72.

Similarly, for businesses, increases in costs will likely be in the range of the equivalent of a US$3.50-US$7/bbl increase in crude oil prices. This is estimated to represent a 6.4 per cent to 12.7 per cent increase from current oil prices. Both these increases fall well within usual market fluctuations.


While impacts such as these will be minimal, the carbon tax still holds significant potential as a powerful signal on several important levels.

First, at the level of consumers – both large and small – the carbon tax will for the first time embed into the cost of electricity a price signal tied to the negative externalities (in this case GHG emissions) arising from the production of the resource.

While the costs arising directly from the carbon tax will not be significant for most users, the key is for larger users of electricity to take further stock of how efficiently they use energy.

Second, at the level of the government, the carbon tax is a signal of its commitment towards fully meeting its goals as inscribed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): To reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and more importantly, to stabilise and peak GHG emissions by around 2030.

Aside from these goals to mitigate emissions, what is also key is Singapore’s commitment to channeling revenue from the carbon tax towards further driving innovation in areas such as energy efficiency and green growth.

In this regard, apart from the government signaling to major emitters the need for them to invest in innovation and energy efficiency, the carbon tax must be seen as a key opportunity for Singapore to take a quantum leap ahead in its position as a global leader in offering solutions that can be developed here and exported worldwide.

Last month, together with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), oil giant ExxonMobil announced the setting up of a new Singapore Energy Centre in 2019 to explore technology in energy production and energy efficiency, with the goal of eventually breaking new ground in the area of sustainability. The Singapore-based centre will be ExxonMobil’s first such institution outside the United States.

With the policy and financial backing that will come from the government, there is every reason to be optimistic that academia, industry and government will continue to grow Singapore as a key global leader in clean energy, and develop the business opportunities that will follow.

Third, at the level of individual facilities, the carbon tax and its eventual implementation through the final Carbon Pricing Act 2018 and other measures present a unique opportunity to signal a new approach towards transparency and awareness, particularly when it comes to major emitters in Singapore.

Under the draft bill, two major categories of facilities will be covered.

The first are reportable facilities, which emit more than 2,000 tonnes, but less than 25,000 tonnes of GHG emissions annually. These facilities, already mandated to have reporting requirements under the Energy Conservation Act (ECA), will not be liable for the carbon tax, but will continue to submit emissions reports.

The second, taxable facilities, will be those which emit more than 25,000 tonnes every year. In line with eventually paying the carbon tax, each will have to develop a monitoring plan plus submit verifiable emissions reports as well.

It is unclear if information on these facilities and their emissions will eventually be made available to the public.

There are important examples around the world from which to take reference. In the United States for example, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) provides granular information at the level of individual facilities: from power plants, refineries, chemicals, pulp and paper plants, to other significant emitters.

As a case in point, one of Exxon’s facilities in Billings, Montana is on record to have emitted 687,177 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2016 – a figure that is among its lower figures since 2010. Emissions in 2013 were at 770,141 metric tonnes.

This provides not just a snap-shot of individual facilities’ emissions, but also allows public scrutiny of their progress at managing and reducing emissions over time.

While the emissions reports of each facility will have to be submitted and independently verified under draft legislation, it is likely that the public release of such information will be equally helpful in ensuring compliance as well as contributing to greater public awareness over the role that each major emitter plays in the larger economy.

The ultimate goal of the carbon tax is not to raise revenue, but to reduce emissions through changing behaviour at the level of facilities and industries. As such, to pre-empt any situation where emitters may choose the status quo, and either absorb or pass down costs in different degrees to consumers, a strong element of transparency will be crucial. Indeed, public awareness of potential laggards could serve far better than, or at least complement, the deterrent effect of the tax itself.

If the country as a whole aims to peak emissions by around 2030, then there is even more reason for there to be public clarity as to whether each of these major emitters is on a similar trajectory in the mid to long term.

Fourth, the openness with which Singapore operationalises the carbon tax will have important signaling effects beyond its borders as well. Singapore will already be the first country in Southeast Asia to implement such a tax.

Even if it is unlikely that regional neighbours will follow suit anytime soon, it will be key to signal the importance that Singapore places on transparency when it comes to all issues related to the environment, GHG emissions or even air quality reporting in neighbouring countries.

2018 will be a crucial year as Singapore puts in place a carbon pricing regime which must, and will, direct resources and attention towards ensuring environmental sustainability as well as to new growth areas in the clean and green energy sectors.

In addition, implementation of the carbon tax should also be seen as an opportunity for even greater transparency, and building deeper public awareness over where exactly emissions originate, and what climate change mitigation measures are being taken at the most granular level.

At its core, the carbon tax can be that rare fiscal tool – in not just providing for government revenue, but through its implementation, potentially driving even more important and long-term economic and behavourial changes.

Source: CNA/hm

Read more!

Malaysia: Yet another endangered Borneo pygmy jumbo found dead in Sabah

The Star 14 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Another critically endangered Borneo pygmy elephant has been found dead even as conservationists call for informants and professional investigators to be engaged to stop the killing.

The elephant, the ninth slain in the last 14 months, was a healthy 12-year-old bull named Liningkung, that was fitted with a satellite collar 18 months ago.

It was found in the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve on Sabah’s east coast on Tuesday.

Rangers discovered its decomposed carcass with the tusks untouched.

Liningkung’s movements were being monitored by DGFC on a weekly basis, Goossens said, and they alerted Sabah Forestry officials on Dec 11 to say that it had not moved since Dec 3.

A team is in the area to carry out a post-mortem.

“It is another sad day for elephant conservation. If this goes on, we might be staring at its extinction,” Goossens said.

There are only about 1,500 elephants left in Sabah’s forests.

This is the third elephant found dead in the same area in the past year.

Goossens said it is vital for a special wildlife enforcement unit to be set up to go after wildlife poachers and traders as suggested by chief conservator of forests Datuk Sam Mannan.

Meanwhile, Marc Acrenaz, scientific director for Sabah-based wildlife research and conservation NGO Hutan, said informers and professional investigators are needed to stop the killing.

“Many years ago, locals killed these animals for food and it was not too serious.

“Now, we see that things have changed and people are poaching for the international trade or killing them because of animal-human conflicts,” he said.

No suspects have been identified in many of these cases, including a recent incident where a bull elephant was shot in the mouth and died of dehydration because it could not eat or drink.

“The authorities lack people on the ground,” Acrenaz said.

“We need a strong team which can identify the culprits and bring them to justice,” he said, adding that the killings might stop then.

For now, Acrenaz said, there are not enough rangers to cover all the places where animals – especially endangered species like the pygmy elephants, orang utan and pangolins – roam.

He said the three main reasons for poaching and killing were conflicts between landowners and animals (especially elephants), poaching of bush meat because of demand by tourists, and the international underground trade in exotic meat and animal parts like ivory and pangolin scales.

Cold-blooded killers: Third elephant turns up dead in Sabah
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 13 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Yet another elephant was found dead in Sabah yesterday, making it the third such death this year.

The decomposing remains of an elephant was found by Sabah Forestry personnel at the Kawang Forest Reserve yesterday.

Based on a Facebook post by the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the elephant, known as Liningkung, was collared by them in May last year.

Due to conflicts with the community, it was translocated from the Telupid area to the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve.

"He lived happily for 18 months before he was most likely shot by poachers.

"The tusks were still on the animal which leads us to assume that he had escaped from his poachers."

DGFC provided Lininkung's location to Sabah Forestry officers when the elephant was stationary.

In the post, they also lauded Sabah Forestry's annoucement on setting up a special wildlife enforcement unit to go after wildlife poachers and traders.

Read more!

Malaysia: Exotic meat cargo intercepted at border in Perlis

DZIYAUL AFNAN ABDUL RAHMAN New Straits Times 13 Dec 17;

PADANG BESAR: An attempt to smuggle over RM120,000 worth of goods including dried tortoise meat out of the country was foiled by the Malaysian Border Security Agency (Aksem).

The Perlis Aksem team also seized instant coffee and other herbal products without Health Ministry approval from the 38 year-old man from Taiping, Perak who was subsequently held for investigations.

State Aksem commander Syed Basri Syed Ali said the man was flagged down at a road block at Km27 of the Kangar-Padang Besar trunk road while driving an Isuzu lorry on Monday afternoon.

He said the team ordered the man to drive the lorry to the Padang Besar Aksem Complex upon spotting suspicious boxes in the vehicle.

"Based on further inspection, we found 29 packets containing dried tortoise parts in five boxes while the other boxes contained instant coffee and herbal products without the Health Ministry approval.

"The total value of seizure is estimated at RM123,560," he said in a statement today.

The dried tortoise case is being investigated under Act 716 of the Widlife Conservation 2010 while the instant coffee and herbal products are being probed under Regulation 360B, Foods Regulations 1985 under the Food Act 1983.

Meanwhile, when contacted, the state Wildlife Department director Affendi Ibrahim said the man had been released on police bail pending a chemist report on the dried tortoise.

Read more!

Malaysia: Poachers busted with highly-prized chandan from Bukit Bauk reserve

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 13 Dec 17;

DUNGUN: Two poachers, who had been plundering the highly-prized and rare 'Aquilaria Hirta' or chandan at the foothills near the Bukit Bauk forest reserve over the past three years, were finally caught in the act yesterday.

The two men, aged 27 and 31, had six sacks of the aromatic wood when they were nabbed by Forestry Department officers.

The Forestry Department's enforcement unit, acting on a public tip-off, trekked two hours in the jungle to reach the foothills where the poachers were caught red-handed filling their sacks with the precious wood.

State Forestry Department director Datuk Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid said the poachers confessed to their illegal activity and spilled the beans on the identity of the buyer based in Kuantan, Pahang who processed the wood to extracts its resin.

“From our initial investigation, there are more than four groups operating illegally in the area. We will track them down as well as the buyer in Kuantan,” he said, adding that the arrest and seizure were the first in the state.

Officers found at least 20 stumps of the trees and believed that there could be more since the poachers had been encroaching the area over the past three years.

He said the Aquilaria hirta species is harvested merely for its resin to be processed for its aromatic oil, and that the trees are not as common as the Aquilaria malaccensis or gaharu.

Fazil said the two men would be charged under Section 15 of the National Forestry Act 1954 which carries a fine of not more that RM500,000 or a jail term of 20 years, or both.

Read more!

Indonesia: Prosecutors demand three-year prison sentence for trader of Sumatran tiger skins, organs

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 14 Dec 17;

Prosecutors asked a panel of judges at the Medan District Court to sentence Ismail Sembiring, a trader of Sumatran tiger skins and organs, to three years in prison during a hearing on Tuesday.

They also demanded that the judges order the defendant, a resident of Sumber Waras village in Langkat regency, North Sumatra, to pay Rp 100 billion (US$7.36 million) or face an additional six months in prison.

Prosecutor Sani Sianturi said that, by trading the tiger skins and organs, the defendant had violated articles 40 and 21 of Law No. 5/1990 on the conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem.

Presiding judge Riana Pohan allowed the defendant to convey his defense statement. “I [have] regrets, your honor. I admit that I have committed the crime and, here, in my defense statement, I ask for a lighter sentence,” Ismail said in the hearing.

The judges delayed the hearing to Jan. 4, during which they will read out their ruling after examining the defendant’s plea.

Mount Leuser National Park patrol force personnel arrested Ismail, a palm fruit harvester, on Aug. 27. They conducted an undercover operation during which they acted as the buyer of dried tiger skin on sale from the defendant. They also confiscated one dead Sumatran tiger as evidence during the raid. (ami/ebf)

Read more!

UN warns of surging e-waste, little recycling

Nina LARSON AFP Yahoo News 14 Dec 17;

Geneva (AFP) - The UN warned Wednesday that waste from discarded electronics like mobile phones, laptops and refrigerators is piling up worldwide, and it urged far better recycling of the often hazardous rubbish.

A full 44.7 million tonnes of so-called e-waste was generated around the world in 2016, up eight percent from two years earlier, according to a report from the UN's International Telecommunication Union, the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association.

That's the equivalent of 4,500 Eiffel Towers, the report noted, adding that the number was expected to swell "significantly" over coming decades.

By 2021, the world will likely be cluttered with a full 52.2 million tonnes of such waste, which today consists mainly of fridges, washing machines and other domestic appliances, but also increasingly mobile phones and computers.

At the same time, this waste, which can pose serious risks to human health and the environment, is rarely recycled or properly discarded, with most of it ending up at dumpsites or in incinerators, according to the report.

Only 20 percent of all e-waste, or 8.9 tonnes, generated last year was documented as properly recycled, while the fate of a full 76 percent of all e-waste around the globe is unknown, Wednesday's report found.

- Urgent -

"E-waste management is an urgent issue in today's digitally dependent world, where use of electronic devices is ever increasing," ITU chief Houlin Zhao said in a statement.

There is also an economic argument for more recycling: the total value of all raw materials present in e-waste, including gold, is estimated to be worth around 55 billion euros ($64.6 billion) -- more than most countries' national economies, the report said.

On a positive note, a growing number of countries are adopting e-waste management policies.

Today, 66 percent of the global population, living in 67 countries, is covered by such policies, up from just 44 percent in 2014, Wednesday's report found.

This is good news as shortening replacement cycles for mobile phones and other devices continue to push the mountains of e-waste ever higher.

ITU's e-waste technical expert Vanessa Gray suggested that technology companies should consider the e-waste impact of constantly pushing out new versions of products.

There are "also things that we can avoid, for example cables... that (are) not compatible with different devices," she told reporters in Geneva.

Perhaps the most promising approach to reducing e-waste is a system where consumers no longer purchase devices, but instead only the services they provide, Ruediger Kuehr of UNU's Sustainable Cycles Programme told AFP.

If companies retain ownership of devices and appliances, providing consumers with replacements when needed, they would have an incentive to properly collect and recycle them and improper disposal and storage of the equipment would "substantially decrease, or ideally disappear," he said in an email.

Read more!

World Bank to end financial support for oil and gas exploration

Bank announces in Paris it ‘will no longer finance upstream oil and gas’ after 2019 in response to threat posed by climate change
Larry Elliott The Guardian 12 Dec 17;

The World Bank will end its financial support for oil and gas exploration within the next two years in response to the growing threat posed by climate change.

In a statement that delighted campaigners opposed to fossil fuels, the Bank used a conference in Paris to announce that it “will no longer finance upstream oil and gas” after 2019.

The Bank ceased lending for coal-fired power stations in 2010 but has been under pressure from lobby groups also to halt the $1bn (£750m) a year it has been lending for oil and gas in developing countries.

The Bank said it saw the need to change the way it was operating in a “rapidly changing world”, adding that it was on course to have 28% of its lending going to climate action by 2020. At present, 1-2% of the Bank’s $280bn portfolio is accounted for by oil and gas projects.

In exceptional circumstances, the Bank said it would consider lending for oil and gas projects in the very poorest countries but only where it helped the poor get access to energy and the project did not conflict with commitments to reduce greenhouse gases made in the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

The announcement was made at the One Planet Summit, convened by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the World Bank president, Yim Yong Kim, and the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to mark the two-year anniversary of the agreement.

The Greenpeace International climate campaigner Gyorgy Dallos said: “The end is clearly coming for the oil and gas industry as the pace of change accelerates.”

Dallos said the Bank had sent a damning vote of no confidence in the future of the fossil fuel industry. “The world’s financial institutions now need to take note and decide whether their financing is going to be part of the problem or the solution,” he said.

Stephen Kretzmann, an executive director of the Washington-based advocacy group Oil Change International, said: “It is hard to overstate the significance of this historic announcement by the World Bank.

“Environmental, human rights, and development campaigners have been amplifying the voices of frontline communities for decades in calling for an end to World Bank financing of upstream oil and gas projects. [Now] the World Bank has raised the bar for climate leadership by recognising the simple yet inconvenient truth that achieving the Paris agreement’s climate goals requires an end to the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. It is time for all of the institutions, countries, investors and individuals who are still in the Paris agreement to stop funding fossils – once and for all.”

The World Bank announcement came as the Bank of England’s governor revealed that there was growing global support for a new initiative designed to help pave the way for a low-carbon economy by persuading companies to come clean about their exposure to climate change risks.

Speaking at the Paris summit, Carney said 237 companies with a combined market capitalisation of $6.3tn (£4.7tn) were now backing the scheme.

Britain’s six leading banks – Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Standard Chartered – have all supported the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, set up by Carney in his role as chairman of the Financial Stability Board, an international body charged with preventing a repeat of the 2008 banking crisis.

Under the plan, companies pledge to use their financial reports to disclose their direct and indirect exposure to global warming under a range of different scenarios. Banks are obliged to say how much they have lent to companies with climate-related risks.

Carney said 20 of the 30 globally systemically important banks and eight out of 10 of the largest asset managers and leading insurance companies were committed to informing investors. Leading construction, consumer goods, transport, mining and energy companies have also signed up.

“Markets need the right information to seize the opportunities and mitigate the risks that are being created by the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Carney said. “This solution, of the market and for the market, is truly entering the mainstream.”

UK sources said that London was becoming a hub for climate change-related finance, with green bonds issued in more than 40 different currencies, including the Indian rupee and the Chinese yuan.

Michael Bloomberg, the chair of the taskforce, said: “Climate change poses both economic risks and opportunities. But right now, companies don’t have the data they need to accurately measure the risks and evaluate the opportunities.”

Read more!

Global warming made Hurricane Harvey deadly rains three times more likely, research reveals

The unprecedented downpour and severe flooding was also 15% more intense due to climate change, which is making weather more violent around the world
Damian Carrington The Guardian 13 Dec 17;

Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented deluge, which caused catastrophic flooding in Houston in August, was made three times more likely by climate change, new research has found.

Such a downpour was a very rare event, scientists said, but global warming meant it was 15% more intense. The storm left 80 people dead and 800,000 in need of assistance.

The scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative usually publish their assessments of the role of climate change in extreme weather events around the world as soon as possible. However, in this case they waited for the work to be confirmed by peer review because of the current US government’s opposition to strong action on climate change.

The researchers said their new work shows global warming is making extreme weather events worse right now and in the US. The cost of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey has been estimated at $190bn (£140bn), which would make it the most costly weather disaster in US history, more than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined.

A series of new reports have found that extreme heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms and wildfires across the planet have been made more likely or more intense by rising global temperatures. The UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) analysed 59 studies of the influence of climate change on extreme weather published in the last two years and found warming has made matters worse in 70% of cases and better in just 7%.

Another report, published on Wednesday by the American Meteorological Society, assesses 21 different extreme weather events in 2016, from US snowstorms and South African drought to ocean hotspots and Arctic heating. Most of the events can be attributed, at least in part, to human-caused climate change, the scientists found.

Hurricane Harvey made first landfall on 25 August and then stalled over Texas, with torrential downpours dumping a year’s worth of rain on Houston and surrounding areas in a few days. In east Harris County, a record 132cm (52 inches) of rain fell over six days, the highest storm total in US history.

The WWA scientists used both historical rainfall records and high-resolution climate models to determine the influence of global warming. “This multi-method analysis confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and lead author of the new study published in Environmental Research Letters.

“It was very a rare event – they were very unlucky,” said van Oldenborgh. But the research shows the chance of it happening was raised threefold by climate change.

The team also estimated that, even if the world limits warming to the internationally agreed 2C limit, the likelihood of such extreme downpours will triple again. “But, if we miss those targets, the increase in frequency and intensity could be much higher,” said Karin van der Wiel, also at KNMI.

“The link between global warming and more extreme weather is nowhere more obvious than in the US. Even if Donald Trump isn’t seeing the picture, many others are,” said Richard Black at the ECIU.

Friederike Otto, at Oxford University, said: “We’re now finding that for many kinds of extreme weather event, especially heatwaves and extreme rainfall, we can be quite confident about the effect of climate change. The ECIU report shows just how quickly knowledge is accumulating, and I think it’s only going to accelerate.”

Climate scientists have long predicted that global warming would increase extreme weather, based on simple physics that means warmer air can contain more water vapour and therefore lead to more intense rain.

Major storms are powered by the warmth of the water at the ocean’s surface, and therefore hotter seas lead to more violent storms. But the fast developing science of climate change attribution now means the role of climate change in many events happening today can be clearly seen.

Scientists Are Linking Extreme Weather to Man-Made Warming
Jim Efstathiou Jr Bloomberg 14 Dec 17;

Some of last year’s crazy weather -- including extreme heat around the world to unusually warm waters in the Bering Sea -- can be blamed on man-made climate change, according to a report from a group of weather researchers.

Scientists are a careful lot, and while there’s been plenty of others who’ve blamed the changing climate for weather events, this is the first time the American Meteorological Society has definitively linked the two phenomena. The report was published Wednesday as a special supplement to the group’s annual bulletin, and included contributions from researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Climate change, driven by carbon emissions from human activity since the start of the Industrial Revolution, affected, among other things, the severity of El Nino, coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and the warmth of the North Pacific Ocean. The report “marks a fundamental change,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the bulletin. “We’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”

In a separate study Wednesday, scientists from World Weather Attribution found that human-caused climate change made the record rainfall that fell over Houston during Hurricane Harvey in August 15 percent more intense.

Read more!

Marine scientists lead comprehensive review of giant clams species worldwide 11 Dec 17;

An international team of marine researchers led by Dr Neo Mei Lin and Associate Professor Peter Todd from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has recently published a comprehensive study on the status of giant clams worldwide. Between 2014 to 2016, the scientists involved in this massive endeavour re-examined and updated the taxonomy, distribution, abundance, and conservation status of all species of giant clams.

The study, funded by the National Parks Board of Singapore, found that the world's largest giant clam species, Tridacna gigas, is the most threatened mollusc. About half of its wild populations are either severely decimated or no longer exist at sites where they were previously found.

Its smallest cousin, Tridacna crocea, commonly known as the burrowing giant clam or boring giant clam, is the least threatened, as it remains relatively abundant in the Indo-Pacific area despite ongoing fishing activities.

The results of the study were recently reported in the 55th volume of a leading marine publication Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review on 22 November 2017.

Taking stock of giant clams worldwide

Giant clams, the world's largest living shellfish, are multi-tasking marine ecosystem engineers who build and shape reefs, filter water, and provide food for fellow reef creatures. They are predominantly found in the Indo-Pacific region, and the largest clam can grow up to one metre long, and weigh over 300 kilogrammes.

Since the mid-19th century, giant clams have been exploited, particularly for food and the curio trade. In the last century, habitat loss, reef degradation, and overfishing for food and shell craft contributed to their depletion. Concerns over the dwindling populations of giant clams, and their threatened status throughout the Indo-Pacific fuelled scientific interest to examine their global distribution and develop measures to conserve them.

In 2014, marine biologists Dr Neo and Assoc Prof Todd embarked on an in-depth study on the 12 currently recognised species of giant clams. They examined online data and publications that date back to the 1900s on the taxonomy of giant clams and their global distribution. They collated the information available on the exploitation of giant clams and the laws that protect them, reviewed the impacts that harvesting rates may have on wild populations, and summarised the outcomes of past and ongoing conservation programmes. They also recruited fellow marine scientists from around the world to assess and cross-examined the information.

The world's largest giant clam at highest risk of extinction

Results from the three-year study showed that a combination of increased commercial demand, coupled with advances in fishing techniques, as well as climate change, pollution, habitat loss and coastal development have all impacted giant clams.

The highest threat of extinction is faced by the only truly gigantic giant clam species, Tridacna gigas, according to findings by the research team. The large size of Tridacna gigas results in the most substantial meat mass for consumption, and the species is easy to be harvested directly from the reef bed. Out of the 31 sites around the world where natural wild populations of Tridacna gigas were known to be present, the species are either severely depleted or could no longer be found at 26 of them. In Singapore, while old records dating back to 1847 mention Tridacna gigas in local waters, there have not been any sighting of it in recent times.

On the other hand, the smallest giant clam species, Tridacna crocea, that measures up to 15 centimetres, is the least threatened, thanks to its small size and burrowing behaviour, which makes it difficult for fishers to remove it from the reef bed where it lives.

Dr Neo, who is from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science, said, "We urgently need to step up on our conservation efforts to prevent the larger giant clam species from going extinct. The trends are worrying, so while there may be more of the smaller clam species now, it is only a matter of time before they become endangered too." Dr Neo is also from the St. John's Island National Marine Laboratory and the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

Conserving giant clams

To assist in the conservation of Tridacna gigas, the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines has been culturing giant clam species for the restoration of depleted populations in the Philippines for the last 20 years. The highlight of this programme is the recent appearance of young Tridacna gigas near the area where the parent clams are placed.

Assoc Prof Todd, who is also from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, commented, "The success by the Philippines team provides evidence that, given enough time and local protection, restocked clams can produce local juvenile recruitment. We hope to have similar success while restocking the fluted giant clam, Tridacna squamosa, in Singapore. While this species is not as threatened as Tridacna gigas, its numbers in Singapore are very low and the population is probably not currently self-sustaining."

The restocking project, started in 2011 by Assoc Prof Todd and Dr Neo, aims to increase the numbers of Tridacna squamosa on Singapore coral reefs. Over the past seven years, with funding support from the National Parks Board of Singapore, and the establishment of a fully functional hatchery with microalgal culture facilities and settlement tanks, there has been considerable progress in restocking Tridacna squamosa.

In 2014, NUS researchers reported the successful spawning of some 7,000 healthy fluted giant clam juveniles, and they are being grown in rearing tanks until they mature. In 2016, the team transplanted about 250 hand-reared Tridacna squamosa onto various reefs among the Southern Islands. Researchers continue to monitor these giant clams to assess their growth and survivorship.

"I hope that by highlighting the threat that giant clams face, and demonstrating the success of current conservation measures, we can encourage further restocking efforts and provide a greater push for their conservation," Dr Neo added.

Read more!

New app launched to help Singaporeans lead a green lifestyle

Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 12 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: Finding the location of the nearest recycling point as well as keeping abreast of green activities will soon be easier, with a new app launched by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) on Tuesday (Dec 12).

The SEC Green Map app will have features which will be able to tell you where the recycling bins are as well as details of upcoming green activities, like beach clean-ups and car-free events.

To encourage green living, eco-friendly products will also be showcased on the app.

By the second half of 2018, the app will also be enhanced to include a carbon calculator for individuals to track and calculate their carbon footprint on a daily basis.

The SEC Green Map app will have features such as the location of recycling bins and details of upcoming green activities, such as beach clean-ups and car-free events.
Speaking at the launch of the app, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli encouraged more to adopt a green lifestyle.

“As a small island city-state, Singapore is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Last year was the warmest year on record globally and in Singapore," said Mr Masagos.

"Rising sea levels and intense rainfalls will have real and far-reaching implications."

He added that businesses must also consider the impact of climate change on their operations and develop measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Singapore has committed to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

It also aims to stabilise its emissions, with the aim of peaking around 2030.

As part of Singapore's efforts to cut greenhouse emissions, a carbon tax will be introduced in 2019.

This will encourage large emitters to reduce emissions and stimulate investments in clean, low-carbon technologies and market innovation, said Mr Masagos.

The Carbon Pricing Bill, which will set out a framework for implementing the carbon tax, including requirements for measurement, reporting and verification, will be tabled in the first quarter of 2018.

At the same event, the SEC announced that 12 pulp and paper products have been certified under its enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme (SGLS).

The enhanced scheme, launched in January this year, requires companies to meet stricter environmental standards such as haze fighting measures.

The 12 products to receive certification under the enhanced SGLS are all produced by consumer goods company Kimberly-Clark.

The SEC Green Map app is already available for Android users and will be available on the Apple app store before Christmas this year.

Source: CNA/ad

Read more!