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October 2017 Environment

  • Nicaragua signs Paris climate agreement
    Nicaragua has signed the Paris climate agreement, leaving the United States and Syria as the only two holdouts on the global climate pact. The 2015 agreement set measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent temperatures rising by more than two degrees. US President Donald Trump in June announced the start of a three-year process to pull out of the agreement, signed by 195 countries, on the grounds that it would put the US at an economic disadvantage. 

  • India’s methane emissions stabilising, conform to UN report
    The scientists, led by Anita Ganesan, who specialises in estimating greenhouse emissions at Bristol University in the UK, found that India’s average emissions of methane gas were about 22 trillion grams per year between 2010 and 2015. The study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications. 

    More importantly, the study found that the estimates conform to what India has reported to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

    Significantly, their estimates showed India’s methane emissions are about a third lower than what was calculated by a global research consortium called the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research, in a comprehensive global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. 

    This is in contrast to other countries, such as China, where measurements have shown increasing emissions of the gas in recent years, or the US, where large discrepancies have been found between reported emissions and those inferred from atmospheric observations. 

    Methane, the second most powerful greenhouse gas implicated in climate change, is mainly released from livestock and paddy fields. 

    It is a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide: each tonne of methane emitted contributes roughly 25 times more to global warming than a tonne of CO2. 

    The aim of the study was to quantify India’s methane emissions using observations of methane concentration in the country’s atmosphere, the first time that this has been done for India at this scale. 

    For the study, the scientists used a combination of observations — from the surface, from an aircraft and from a satellite that is measuring methane concentrations globally from space. 

    The study also found that methane emissions are enhanced each year between June and September over emissions that are being released continuously. 

    This signal is due to rice, which is predominantly grown during this season, and can clearly be observed. 

  • Carbon emissions from soil may intensify global warming
    Soil leaks up carbon when it warms up but a new research suggests that the soil may release more carbon than previously believed as temperatures increase. This can potentially create a dangerous feedback loop that may aggravate global warming. 

    While most of the studies on climate change are conducted at atmospheric levels, the findings of a new study are based on 26 years' worth of observations in a Massachusetts hardwood forest, where scientists artificially heated certain sections of the soil and measured the amount of carbon released. 

    Analysis revealed that rising temperatures may cause a two-stage cycle characterized by the carbon output increasing for several years and then leveling off, which can be explained by soil microbes adjusting to the warmer condition. 

    In the study, carbon released from heated soil rose dramatically in the first decade but the effect disappeared. After about seven years, the researchers observed another increase in carbon from the heated plots after readjustment. 

    Scientists are concerned that warmer soil may cause a warmer atmosphere that in turn may heat up the ground and perpetuate increase in temperatures. 

    Carbon is a greenhouse gas largely blamed for climate change. Global efforts to combat climate change are in fact, focused on reducing the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere. 

    Every year, the world pumps about 10 billion metric tons of this planet-warming gas into the atmosphere mainly through the burning of fossil fuels. The world's soil is believed to contain about 3,500 billion metric tons of carbon. 

  • Ozone Layer may face new threat
    The ozone layer, once dangerously thin in spots, has been slowly healing in recent years, thanks in large part to a 1987 treaty called the Montreal Protocol. That agreement required countries to phase out the most dangerous ozone-destroying chemicals, allowing the planet's protective UV shield to rebuild. 

    But the Montreal Protocol left out a group of chemicals that researchers thought at the time were too short-lived to pose a threat. Now, production of those chemicals is on the rise in East Asia, and new research suggests that seasonal air currents may carry them high enough to damage the ozone layer. 

    The ozone layer sits about 6 to 10 miles above Earth's surface in a region called the stratosphere. Previous research has suggested that during the Northern Hemisphere winter, cold surges rapidly suck polluted air from China and other parts of continental East Asia into the tropics, where it can be pushed up into the stratosphere. 

    The new study added weight to this hypothesis, using air samples collected from ground level in Taiwan and Malaysia and from airplanes flying over Southeast Asia. 

    Both on the ground and at altitudes of 7 miles, the researchers found startlingly high levels of several ozone-destroying chemicals that typically degrade within six months. One of these was a chemical called dichloromethane, which is used as a solvent, degreaser and paint stripper. Dichloromethane pollution has risen by about 60 percent worldwide over the past decade, according to past research. 

    In a more surprising finding, the researchers also measured high concentrations of a chemical known as 1,2-dichloroethane. Dichloroethane is used to produce the common plastic PVC, but not typically in ways one would expect to release large amounts of the chemical into the air -- particularly given that it is highly toxic, according to the researchers. 

    Together, the findings suggest that short-lived pollutant concentrations could increase in the stratosphere in coming years, once more endangering the ozone layer, according to the authors. They published their findings in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 

  • Turtle Sanctuary to be set up in Allahabad
    The Union Ministry of Water Resources approved a project to set up Turtle sanctuary in Allahabad along with River Biodiversity Park at Sangam in Allahabad. The purpose of the Turtle sanctuary is to protect the rich aquatic biodiversity of river Ganga from escalating anthropogenic pressures. 

    This project will provide a platform to make the visitors aware of their place in the ecosystem, their roles, and responsibilities, improve their understanding of the complexity of co-existence with the environment. 

    The sustenance of more than 2000 aquatic species including threatened gharials, dolphins and turtles in river Ganga exemplifies rich biodiversity of River Ganga.
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