A Remote Pacific Island Awash in Tons of Trash

Source: The New York Times

A survey of uninhabited Henderson Island in the South Pacific estimated that about 17.6 tons of debris had washed ashore, endangering wildlife and blighting beaches.

17hendersonisland1-superjumbo
Trash on East Beach, Henderson Island, in the South Pacific Ocean. A new study estimated that the white sand beaches were littered with 17.6 tons of debris, deposited there by ocean currents. Credit Jennifer Lavers/Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, via European Pressphoto Agency

Read more

‘Vulnerable Voices’ Lash Out as Companies Sway Climate Talks

Source: The New York Times

Developing nations and environmental groups condemned the presence of corporate lobbyists at a climate change talk session in Germany, but the United States defended it.

Developing nations and environmental groups are challenging some of the world’s biggest companies and wealthiest countries over the role corporate lobbyists play in United Nations climate change negotiations.

The dispute opens an additional battle in the struggle over how to fashion a global response to climate change, one that corporate interests appear to be winning, for now.

Though companies are not permitted to participate directly in the climate talks, representatives from almost 300 industry groups are free to roam the negotiations in Bonn, Germany, as “stakeholders,” and to lobby negotiators on behalf of corporations that may seek to slow action, the developing nations and their allies say.

Read more

Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up by Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters

Source: The New York Times

19ARCTICPLASTIC1-superJumbo-v2
A photo collage of plastic fragments found in the Arctic Ocean by the research team. A study published Wednesday shows a major ocean current is carrying trillions of bits of plastic from the North Atlantic to the Greenland and Barents seas, and leaving them there. Credit Andres Cozar

The world’s oceans are littered with trillions of pieces of plastic — bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and more, mostly in tiny particles — and now this seaborne junk is making its way into the Arctic.

In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, a group of researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain and several other institutions show that a major ocean current is carrying bits of plastic, mainly from the North Atlantic, to the Greenland and Barents seas, and leaving them there — in surface waters, in sea ice and possibly on the ocean floor.

More

Receding glacier and climate changes cause immense Canadian river to vanish in four days

Source: The Guardian

2250
A view of the ice canyon that now carries meltwater from the Kaskawulsh glacier, seen here on the right, away from the Slims river and toward the Kaskawulsh river. Photograph: Dan Shugar/University of Washington Tacoma

An immense river that flowed from one of Canada’s largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world’s geography.

The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 metres at its widest points, is the first observed case of “river piracy”, in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another.

For hundreds of years, the Slims carried meltwater northwards from the vast Kaskawulsh glacier in Canada’s Yukon territory into the Kluane river, then into the Yukon river towards the Bering Sea. But in spring 2016, a period of intense melting of the glacier meant the drainage gradient was tipped in favour of a second river, redirecting the meltwater to the Gulf of Alaska, thousands of miles from its original destination.

The continental-scale rearrangement was documented by a team of scientists who had been monitoring the incremental retreat of the glacier for years. But on a 2016 fieldwork expedition they were confronted with a landscape that had been radically transformed.

More

Deep seabed mining and interplay of conservation and low carbon wnergys

Source: BBC

British scientists exploring an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean have discovered a treasure trove of rare minerals.

Their investigation of a seamount more than 500km (300 miles) from the Canary Islands has revealed a crust of “astonishingly rich” rock.

Samples brought back to the surface contain the scarce substance tellurium in concentrations 50,000 times higher than in deposits on land.

Tellurium is used in a type of advanced solar panel, so the discovery raises a difficult question about whether the push for renewable energy may encourage mining of the seabed.

The rocks also contain what are called rare earth elements that are used in wind turbines and electronics.

More

Great Barrier Reef tourism: caught between commerce and conservation alarm

Source: The Guardian

More people than ever are coming to see the reef and those who make a living showing it off want the world to know it’s still a natural wonder. But they worry about its future, and that of their 64,000-strong industry

5616
‘Possibly more famous than Australia’: Tourism operators say much of the Great Barrier Reef is still healthy and worth visiting despite bleaching in many areas. Photograph: Daniela Dirscherl/Getty Images/WaterFrame RM

In the dark clouds gathering over the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there has been a small silver lining for the people who make their living showcasing the natural wonder.

When the reef was rocked by an unprecedented second mass bleaching event in the space of a year, the coral hardest-hit by heat stress lay mostly in the tourist-heavy latitudes between Cairns and Townsville.

But despite last year’s damage compounded by new cases dotted across 800 reefs in a 1,500km stretch, not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which licenses operators to visit designated reef sites, confirmed it has received one request to change a permit. And that was not because of bleaching but Cyclone Debbie further south, whichdamaged that other hub of reef tourism, the Whitsundays after it escaped the bleaching.

Read more