Climate Letter #1080

Ocean waters are losing oxygen, in part due to climate change.  “Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas.”  These are separate problems, with the latter perhaps more serious at this time.  They both require solutions involving similar types of organized effort on a monumental scale.  Open oceans are capable of losing oxygen to a much greater extent than the atmosphere above, a primary explanation behind many of the great extinctions of ancient history.
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Global warming also threatens the existence of coral reefs exposed to repeated bleaching events.  “Before the 1980s, mass bleaching of corals was unheard of, even during strong El Niño conditions,” said the lead author of a new study.  “Now repeated bouts of regional-scale bleaching and mass mortality of corals has become the new normal around the world as temperatures continue to rise.”  The study also notes the fact that entire ecosystems generally die along with the reefs, thereby threatening the livelihoods of many millions of people.
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The cost of natural disasters to insurance companies, largely weather-related, set a new record in 2017.  As usual, uninsured losses were even greater.  Globally, as often expected, losses from North America dominated, with the US alone accounting for 50% of the total.  Munich RE sees losses of this type as the “new normal,” thanks to climate change.
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Southern Madagascar—a climate hotspot.  “In the south of the island, where many people farm for a living, the rainy season is getting shorter and shorter, they say. Rains that once stretched from October to March now fall only between December and February.”  An expected recovery following the usual El Nino-related dryness has failed to materialize, leaving nearly one million people who live off the land in deep trouble.
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The deforestation of Indonesia for palm oil plantations continues at a strong pace (Mongabay).  Papua New Guinea is now in the line of fire, with the full blessing of the Indonesian government.  Besides the setback for carbon emission controls the wildlife habitat that will be lost is priceless.  Indigenous communities dependent on the forests for their livelihood are opposed but have no say in the matter.
Carl
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