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Week in Review: Top Climate News for March 6-12

CRISIS - Atmospheric CO2 Levels CRISIS - Ocean Viability CRISIS - Pollution Crises by Earth.Org Global Commons Mar 10th 20234 mins
Week in Review: Top Climate News for March 6-12

This weekly round-up brings you key climate news from the past seven days, including a historic deal to protect high seas, new studies revealing dangerous trends of marine plastic and air pollution, and the alarming impact of Australian bushfires on the ozone layer.

1. UN Ocean Treaty: Member States Reach Historic Deal to Protect High Seas After Decades of Talks

Over a decade of negotiations for an ocean treaty to protect international waters have finally borne fruit as UN member countries on Saturday agreed to establish marine protected areas spanning millions of kilometres and help reverse marine biodiversity loss.

Delegates gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York have spent two weeks trying to reach an agreement on the high seas, vast stretches of the ocean beyond national boundaries that cover two-thirds of all ocean and almost half of the planet, are home to up to 10 million species and an invaluable source of food for billions of people.

“The ship has reached the shore,” the conference’s president Rena Lee said on Sunday to announce the long-awaited Treaty of the High Seas after days of negotiations, the third round in a year, between more than 100 nations. Countries began discussing a potential ocean treaty in 2004.

Read more here.

2. Plastic in the Ocean Reaches 2.3 Million Tonnes, Could Triple by 2040: Study

About 171 trillion plastic particles – equivalent to about 2.3 million tonnes – were floating in the ocean by 2019, a new study showed.

The peer-reviewed paper, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS One, relies on previously published and new data on floating plastics from 11,777 ocean stations across six major marine regions to estimate the amount of small plastics floating on the ocean’s surface from 1979 to 2019. Samples were collected by dragging a net with an extremely fine mesh for several miles across the ocean surface and analysed through a computer model.

According to the study, the rise was driven by several factors, including a dramatic increase in global plastic production, more microplastics, and a lack of international laws regulating marine plastic pollution; researchers also warned that “cleanup is futile” unless we drastically cut plastic production.

Read more here.

3. ‘Methane Bombs’ Release 30 Years Equivalent of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Risk Triggering Climate Catastrophe

Methane bombs – “gas fields where leakage alone from the full exploitation of the resources would result in emissions equivalent to at least a billion tonnes of CO2” – represent a huge threat to the climate and have the potential to release methane levels equivalent to three decades of all US greenhouse gas emissions, a new investigation by The Guardian has revealed.

The newspaper disclosed details of more than 1,000 sites pumping the potent gas into the atmosphere – the worst of which, a leak of 427 tonnes an hour that occurred last August near Turkmenistan’s Caspian coast, generated the same amount of pollution as 67 million cars. Scientists behind the investigation warned about these sites’ potential to trigger a series of climate tipping points. Detected through satellite imagery, the “super-emitter” sites are scattered around the world but most of them are found in the US, Russia, and Turkmenistan.

Read more here.

4. Less Than 1% of Global Land Area Has Safe Air Pollution Levels: Study

Air pollution levels exceed safe values set by the World Health Organization (WHO) almost everywhere in the world, new research has revealed.

According to the new study, conducted by scientists in Australia and China and published Monday in Lancet Planetary Health, just about 30% of days in 2019 had daily concentrations of PM2.5 lower than 15 μg/m3. Moreover, researchers found that about 0.18% of the global land area and only 0.001% of the world’s population had an annual exposure to PM2.5 below the safe threshold of 5 μg/m3.

Eastern and Southern Asia were the regions with the highest air pollution levels, followed by Northern Africa. At the other side of the spectrum are Australia and New Zealand, followed by other regions in Oceania and South America.

Read more here.

5. Smoke from 2020 Australian Bushfires Depleted Ozone Layer by up to 5%, Threatening Restoration Progress

Changes in atmospheric chemical composition were observed over Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes following the 2020 Australian bushfires, suggesting that smoke from the fires depleted the ozone layer, new research suggests.

According to the study, published Wednesday in Nature, smoke from the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires – which burnt 42 million acres, destroyed thousands of buildings and killed dozens of people and up to 3 billion animals – temporarily depleted the ozone layer by 3% to 5%.

The findings come just months after the United Nations and the World Meteorological Association announced that the ozone layer is on track to being fully healed by 2040. But while the ozone layer’s recovery remains one of history’s most successful climate restoration stories, scientists warn that changes in policies and climate change-related events such as wildfires could still delay the recovery.

Read more here.

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