Category Archives: Climate change

Freezing weather endangers British wildlife

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Britain’s long cold spell is threatening ever greater numbers of animals, birds and insects. The length of the current cold spell is unprecedented, with temperatures are unlikely to return to their average level until the end of April. By that time, a great deal of harm could have been done to the nation’s wildlife.

A report in The Observer warns that the freezing weather is particularly affecting creatures that are already struggling to survive the loss of their habitats and changes in climate, including:

  • Hedgehogs that are still hibernating. “The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them,” said Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. “Usually they would be up and about by now. The problem is that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it gets and the less energy it has to restore itself to wakefulness. In general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all. Hedgehogs that have already woken up are having a hard time finding any food.
  • Seabirds along the east coast are also badly affected, struggling to catch fish in the current stormy conditions. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and gulls are all affected.
  • Owls and small birds, such as goldcrests, long-tailed tits and wrens, which mainly feed on small insects, are finding the current cold weather very tricky.
  • Frogs have spawned only for their ponds to have frozen over, while many plants and insects are emerging late, which has a knock-on effect on species that feed on them.
  • Butterflies wake-up in April and, if it is still freezing, that could have very serious consequences for their ability to get food.

The RSPB says everyone can help by making sure their bird feeders are regularly topped up, and The Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends that nature lovers leave plentiful water supplies and food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food.

Five sperm whales sighted off Scotland

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National Geographic

An extraordinary winter sighting of five Sperm whales off the coast of North West Scotland this week could be a reflection of climate change and warming sea temperatures, says a leading marine scientist.

The Sperm whales were first seen by creel fishermen between Loch Torridon and South Rona on Monday, according to a report on the Wildlife Extra website. The fishermen initially thought they were Humpback whales and alerted boat operator Nick Davies from Hebridean Whale Cruises, based at Gairloch, who is involved in a project collecting data for Sea Watch.

He went out to the location, and when he arrived was astonished to recognise Sperm whales diving together for food – the first time he has ever seen them. Dr Peter Evans, director of  Sea Watch, says: “In past decades, most records of Sperm whales in British waters have been of lone adult males around Scotland mainly off the Northern Isles and the Hebrides. Increasingly, however, adolescent males have occurred in our waters, sometimes in groups of 5-10.

“Sightings of groups of Sperm whales have tended to occur mainly in summer so this winter sighting of a group is notable not just for the time of year but for its inshore location. The increased occurrence of winter sightings in Scottish waters could be a reflection of climate change.”

One in five reptiles face risk of extinction

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There was some worrying news about the future of reptiles from the Zoological Society of London last Friday, when they they revealed that one in five of world’s 10,000 species of reptiles are threatened with extinction.

Their new study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, estimates that 19% are now struggling to survive. Of those under threat, 12% of reptile species were critically endangered and 41% endangered and 47% vulnerable.
It highlights three critically endangered species:

  • The jungle runner lizard, Ameiva vittata, which has only ever been spotted in an area of the Bolivian jungle that is under threat from the growth of agriculture and logging.
  • The Anolis lizard from Haiti, where six of the nine species are at risk of extinction due to increased deforestation.
  • Freshwater turtles — 50% are at risk of extinction from hunting because turtle parts are in high demand as ingredients in traditional medicine.

The study,  published in conjunction with the IUCN species survival commission, reveals that 30% of freshwater reptile species are also in danger of disappearing. The spread of farming and deforestation in tropical regions represents two of the greatest threats to reptiles.

Monika Bohm,  the lead author, said: “Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world. But many reptile species are very high specialized in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes.”

Climate change ‘likely to be more severe than predicted’

Extreme weather has been much in evidence around the globe  this year, with superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on New York being the most recent example. There has also been drought across much of the United States’s  grain-growing area, and problems with the Indian monsoon.

In the UK, one of the worst droughts on record gave way to the wettest spring recorded, damaging crops and pushing up prices.

Scientists who have been analysing climate models believe we can expect much more of this in future. A survey by the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research  has shown that climate change is likely to be more severe than some models have implied,  meaning more extreme weather, sooner than we expected.

The new finding come just weeks ahead of a crucial UN conference in Doha, where ministers will discuss the future of international action on greenhouse gas emissions. There has already been increasing evidence of a warming effect this year  – the Arctic’s summer ice sank to its lowest extent and volume yet recorded and experts have predicted that the Arctic seas could be ice-free in winter in the next decade.

The International Energy Agency warned earlier this year that on current emissions trends the world would be in for 6C of warming – a level scientists warn would lead to chaos.

Climate change ‘likely to be more severe than some models predict’ | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

Climate campaigners shut down power station

On top of the chimney. Pic by @nodashforgas

Around 20 climate change campaigners shut down the UK’s newest gas-fired power station early this morning.

The protest started at 2am when they got through a security fence and climbed two smokestacks at EDF’s West Burton plant in Nottinghamshire. Some of them abseiled down inside the chimneys and set up camp inside the flues, stopping the plant’s furnaces from operating. 

The  power station in Nottinghamshire was targeted because it’s one of the first in a new generation of highly polluting gas plants planned for the UK. The Coalition Government recently announced it intends to give the green light to as many as 20 new gas plants – a move that would crash Britain’s carbon targets, contribute to the climate crisis and push up bills.

Protestor Ewa Jasiewicz, who is occupying one of the chimneys, said: “It’s pretty scary hanging inside a chimney, but we’ve been rigorously trained and have very skilled climbers. We’ve made a cosy camp with tarpaulins, and we plan to share a hot meal this evening at the same time as our friends on the other chimney. 

“We’re doing this because the gas plant is one of the first in a dash for gas that has to be stopped. The Government and the big energy companies want  to build as many as 20 new gas power stations, which would leave the UK dependent on this highly polluting and increasingly expensive fuel for decades to come.”

EDF said that the company was committed to low-carbon energy, adding: “The station is in a commissioning phase at the moment and the first unit is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.”

Guardian.co.uk – Why I’m occupying a gas-fired power station chimney.

Shell loses suit against Greenpeace

Amsterdam District Court has rejected a bid by Royal Dutch Shell to ban Greenpeace International from holding protests on or near its property.

“Future Greenpeace actions against Shell cannot be banned in advance provided that they remain in a certain framework,” the court ruling said in response to Shell’s suit. “The judge took as starting point that organisations, such as Greenpeace, are in principle free to carry out actions to let the public know about their point of view,” it added.

The court did, however, hand Greenpeace a set of protest guidelines, including the requirement that the group will not be able to occupy gas stations for more than an hour at a time.

Shell had sought a ban on any Greenpeace protests in the Netherlands within 500 metres (yards) of its operations, including petrol stations or offices, after the group organised several protests against the oil company’s drilling in the Arctic.

Shell loses suit against Greenpeace – Business – CBC News.

Greenpeace activist dressed as polar bear arrested at petrol station protest

Greenpeace activist dressed as polar bear arrested at petrol station protest | Metro.co.uk.