"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for June, 2016|Monthly archive page

“Blood Snow”Algae Blooms Appearing In Arctic, Antarctica, Glacial Mountain Ranges World Wide As Runaway Climate Change Accelerates

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm

Oldspeak: “While infotainment streams bleat about, Trump, Brexit, Obama’s immigration plan, and a congressional sit to in pass toothless gun control legislation, Spaceship Earth’s environmental control systems are continuing to go haywire. Basically, the formerly perpetually frozen regions of earth have warmed with help from human activities, have warmed to the point that Algae is blooming and this signals the beginning of yet another “runaway effect”of Anthropocentric Climate Disruption. “whereby melting snow would cause algae to bloom, which would darken the snow, causing more to melt, creating more water, which also darkens the snow and feeds the algae, and so on, in a circular pattern of cotton candy-colored surfaces meltingwhereby melting snow would cause algae to bloom, which would darken the snow, causing more to melt, creating more water, which also darkens the snow and feeds the algae, and so on, in a circular pattern of cotton candy-colored surfaces melting.” This process will in all probability accelerate. Dark snow melts faster. Faster melting means more runoff. More glacial runoff and disintegration means more sea level rise. More sea level rise means more extreme weather. More extreme weather means  more climate refugees. More climate refugees …. We can spend all day tumbling down this rabbit hole. Short decription = Blood snow bad. Will make things worse.” -OSJ

Written By Ben Guarino @ The Washington Post:

Pink snow was a high-latitude curiosity described by Arctic explorers such as Britain’s John Ross. Upon receiving word of the reddish snow, the London Times speculated in 1818 that the color came from meteoric iron deposits. Biologists know now that the red hue is the result of a chemical reaction within the algae Chlamydomonas nivalis and other cold-loving species. These algae are normally green, but as they start to suck up ultraviolet rays, they turn red.

What may look like an Arctic accident involving gallons of pink lemonade is, in fact, reddish algae blooming in the snow. The unusual phenomenon is also found in high altitudes, and sometimes called watermelon snow or blood snow.

Despite the Willy Wonka tinge, the snow hides a sobering reality: According to a new study, the algae cause Arctic melts, which are already happening at an unprecedented pace because of climate change,to worsen.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released this video animation Jan. 20 2015, illustrating how warmer waters led to shrinking older ice. White indicates ice more than nine years old, whereas dark blue is ice created in the most recent winter. (NOAA)

Although scientists had already figured out why the snow was pink, the effects that the algae had on the wintry environment remained an understudied and fairly obscure topic.

But the new research from a team of geobiologists in Germany and Britain could expand that niche status. In their paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers examined 40 red-snow samples, representing 16 glaciers and snowfields from four Arctic countries: Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. The red algae darkens the snow, they found, causing it to melt faster than its white counterpart.

Specifically, the European scientists measured the red snow’s albedo, the proportion of light reflected from a surface. It is a property of color: Dark objects, by definition, absorb a higher percentage of incoming light. When a British company, Surrey NanoSystems, created the blackest substance known to science — a paste of carbon nanotubes called Vantablack — its albedo was measured at 0.035. That is, it absorbed 99.965 percent of incoming light.

Because light is energy, objects that take in more light become hotter. Conversely, lighter-colored objects reflect more energy and stay cooler. Albedo is why Lawrence of Arabia was smart to wear white robes. It is why former energy secretary Steven Chu championed painting rooftops white to keep structures cooler, as dark gravel or shingles would mean buildings are converting light to heat.

This principle is also why scientists are concerned about darker snow — it would be a bit like a glacier tossing on a red shirt (lower albedo) instead of a plain white tee (high albedo).

The presence of red algae, on average, decreased albedo by 13 percent over the duration of the melting season. “Our results point out that the ‘bio-albedo’ effect is important and has to be considered in future climate models,” Lutz said in a statement. The researchers note that current climate-change models account for details such as black carbon from forest fires and Saharan dust. The scientists suggest algae, too, needs to be considered.

Exactly how large or small a role algae plays in melting glaciers is unclear, and the scientists plan to study it in more depth. But the geobiologists are concerned that the decrease in albedo may act like a positive feedback loop. As more algae bloom, more snow thaws — and, nourished by the unfrozen water, even more of the microorganisms are able to grow. And so on.

This study underscores the far-reaching effects of climate change, down to the smallest of organisms. A warm Arctic happens to be good news, if you are a fleck of red alga.

For polar bears, people who own real estate in Florida and global civilization generally, the outlook may not be so hot.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Reach Point of No Return, Oceans Deoxygenating, Heat Records Shattered, Extreme Droughts Intensifying, Glacial Melt Accellerating

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm

1

Oldspeak:

“runaway train, never goin’ back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i’m neither here nor there

bought a ticket for a runaway train
like a madman laughing at the rain
little out of touch, little insane
it’s just easier than dealing with the pain” -Soul Asylum, “Runaway Train”

It’s a giant shit sandwich and we’re all gonna have to take a bite. This is what runaway climate change looks like. “Changes that normally occur over a matter of centuries are transpiring over decades…”And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re at the point where “A typical person is more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event as in a car crash.” The ranks of  “Climate Refugees continue to swell. The Great Barrier Reef and other ocean ecosystems worldwide are dying as the oceans turn increasingly acidic and toxic due to ever increasing CO2 buildup. Wildfires that pump even more CO2 in to the atmosphere are more frequent and persistent. Fresh water sources continue to be depleted, poisoned and evaporated at a breakneck pace. Glaciers and polar ice, once thought to be permanent features of our planet are melting and disintegrating, becoming “fundamentally unstable”. We’re on a runaway train people, A LOT out of touch and certifiably insane. The train is chock full of  a constellation of irreversible, non-linear positive feedback loops that cannot be stopped. We need be more mindful of the messages our Great Mother is sending us  and like Joanna Macy once said “The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.” Dahr Jamail is back with his latest climate dispatch, and as usual it’s a doozy. Buckle up Dorothy, we’re in for a bumpy ride!” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

A recent trip up Washington State’s Mount Rainier brought home to me how rapidly things are changing, even in the high country.

I first climbed the mountain in 1994, when the main route was a picturesque climb up smooth glaciers. Most of the time crevasses weren’t even visible, and snow cover was abundant.

But anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) has been speeding up with each passing year, and in the same area 22 years later, I found large portions of it nearly unrecognizable. We took a somewhat different route than the one I’d climbed in 1994, primarily because the lower portion of that route is now unusable, as the glacier it traversed is so broken up and crevassed as to make it impassable.

“Changes that normally occur over a matter of centuries are transpiring over decades.”

It being early season (most of the guide services had yet to begin taking clients up the mountain), I expected much heavier snow cover and the snow bridges over crevasses to be in decent shape. That wasn’t the case. After gingerly stepping our way over several sketchy snow bridges, I was grateful we weren’t on the 14,411-foot-high northwestern volcano any later in the season than we were. Thankfully, we were able to summit and get back down without incident.

Less than a year and a half earlier, in December 2014, Nature World News reported that ACD was melting Rainier’s glaciers at “unprecedented” rates (six times the historic speed).

“Changes that normally occur over a matter of centuries are transpiring over decades,” according to the report. “The Nisqually Glacier, for example, one of Rainier’s 28 named glaciers, has been disappearing since 1983. It’s currently at a historic minimum and still shrinking – more than 3 feet every 10 days.”

Paul Kennard, a National Park Service geomorphologist, said of the rapidity of the decline of the glaciers, “If you look at it on a graph, it’s like a Ping-Pong ball just fell off the edge of the table.”

And things have only sped up since then, both in terms of hotter temperatures as well as loss of ice on the Pacific Northwest iconic mountain.

To give you an idea of how rapidly ACD is occurring, one of the most striking infographics I’ve ever seen on the rapidity with which the global temperature is increasing can be viewed here. Make sure you watch it; it only takes a moment.

Climate disruption only continues to speed up.

NASA recently released data showing that the planet has just seen seven straight months of not just record-breaking, but record-shattering heat. It is clear, through the space agency’s data, that this year we are already well on track to see what will likely be the largest increase in global temperature a single year has ever seen.

The NASA data also show that April was the hottest April ever recorded, as well as the fact that it crushed the previous April record by the largest margin of increase ever recorded.

That makes it three months in a row that the monthly record has been broken, and easily at that, by the largest margin ever. When record-smashing months started in February, it was then that scientists began talking about a “climate emergency,” and since then our situation has only escalated.

“Scientists know that a warming climate can be expected to gradually sap the ocean of oxygen.”

In particular, the way this is playing out in the Arctic is horrifying. An Arctic without summer sea ice could happen as early as this September, a turn of events that would have serious implications for global climate patterns. The decline in Arctic sea ice extent, area and volume is in the midst of a deep dive more severe than those that occurred in 2007 and 2012. The loss of sea ice is even outpacing the worst-case modeling predictions. It’s worth noting that less than 10 years ago, scientists believed that an Arctic free of summer sea ice was not something that would happen until at least 2100.

But given that a recent four-day period saw a net loss of ice area the size of New Mexico, we will be lucky to see summer sea ice in the Arctic in September two to three years from now. Given the radically high temperature records and corresponding ice loss, scientists have been saying that the Arctic is now in “uncharted territory.”

When we look at the amount of human-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it too is only continuing to increase.

Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration first crossed over the 400 parts per million threshold in 2013, but now, scientists are speculating that we may have entered an era when the global concentration remains permanently over that mark — an event some scientists are seeing as a point of no return.

And with the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide increasing, temperatures are increasing right alongside it, and with higher temperatures comes a lowering of the oxygen content of most of the global oceans before 2040.

Yes, that is as scary as it sounds. According to a recent press release from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a reduction in the amount of dissolved oxygen in the oceans due to ACD is already happening, and will become widespread before 2040.

Matthew Long, the lead author of the study that this press release is based on, stated, bluntly:

Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of a warming atmosphere, and a major threat to marine life. Since oxygen concentrations in the ocean naturally vary depending on variations in winds and temperature at the surface, it’s been challenging to attribute any deoxygenation to climate change. This new study tells us when we can expect the impact from climate change to overwhelm the natural variability.

The press release added, “Scientists know that a warming climate can be expected to gradually sap the ocean of oxygen.” This is literally making it harder for fish to breathe, as well as exacerbating the effects of ACD and ocean acidification.

Facts like these are why, according to a report recently published in the UK, a person may be five times as likely to die in an extinction event than in a car crash.

On multiple levels, this is extremely difficult information to take in: emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, spiritually. But this is the world we live in today, and we need an accurate understanding of what is happening in order to make informed, and better choices for how we are to live our lives.

It is in the spirit of providing the most updated, accurate information available that this dispatch is written.

Read on, sit with the information and then use it as a mirror for your life.

Earth

A report by Lloyd’s of London sees the single greatest threat to civilization over the next four decades as ACD-amplified extreme floods and droughts that impact multiple global grain-producing “breadbaskets” simultaneously. Hence, the “Food System Shock” report warns that when this occurs, mass rioting, civil war, terrorist attacks and mass starvation are likely to happen.

The impacts of ACD on various species continue to make themselves known.

A cascade effect of ACD impacting weather, insect availability and other food sources is taking a serious toll on birds like the red knot, which is seeing its populations decline as the birds’ body mass shrinks, according to a recently published study.

The report shows how, in the case of the red knot, the consequences of ACD are only being seen at a distance, which is another important concept for us to get our minds around as the crisis unfolds on multiple levels.

In this case, the body size of the red knot has been decreasing as its breeding grounds in the Arctic continue to warm, but, as the report states: “The real toll of this change appears not in the rapidly changing northern part of their range but in the apparently more stable tropical wintering range. The resulting smaller, short-billed birds have difficulty reaching their major food source, deeply buried mollusks, which decreases the survival of birds born during particularly warm years.”

On that note, a recently released report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative shows that one-third of all North American bird species are at risk of going extinct, and ACD is one of the drivers of the catastrophic bird loss.

Water

As usual, the majority of the most dramatically obvious impacts of ACD are in this sector of the dispatch.

The World Bank issued a new report warning that global water shortages will deal a “severe hit” to economies across the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia as ACD progresses. The report warned that by 2050 growing demand for water from both cities and agriculture will cause dramatic water shortages in regions where it is currently in abundance, in addition to worsening shortages that already exist. This will, according to the World Bank, generate broad amounts of conflict and human migration across the regions cited.

Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir, broke a record in May by declining to its lowest level ever recorded.

Another report from the World Bank shows that, conversely, by 2050 there will be 1.3 billion people, along with $158 trillion in assets, put at risk from flooding and sea level rise alone. The twin factors of ACD and urbanization are the culprits, and the report warns that increasingly intense extreme weather disasters will continue to make matters worse as well.

Meanwhile, in the Micronesian island nation of Palau, the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Jellyfish Lake is losing its namesake. Severe drought and increasingly hot temperatures are causing the unique non-stinging jellyfish to vanish, and possibly not return.

Sea level rise is continuing at abrupt rates.

A study in the journal Environmental Research Letters linked ACD-caused sea level rise, along with wave action, to the Pacific Ocean swallowing several villages and five of the Solomon Islands.

More and more studies are showing the likelihood of far higher sea level increases than previously projected, as the rapid pace of melting of both the Antarctic and Greenland icecaps increases. The studies show that abrupt sea level rise is an increasingly realistic threat, with sea levels estimated to rise by six feet within this century, and far higher in the next — flooding out many of the world’s heavily populated coastal areas and cities.

As if to underscore that point, a study recently released by the UK-based charity Christian Aid projected over 1 billion people at risk from coastal flooding by 2060, with the populations of China, India and the United States being the most heavily impacted. Again, ACD and overpopulation are cited as the prime drivers of the crisis.

Recent images of the unprecedented coral bleaching event that is signaling the demise of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef reveal the complete destruction of coral colonies that are large enough to fill an area the size of Scotland.

Recent findings by leading ACD researchers and coral reef scientists show that the exceedingly warm water temperatures that drove the bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef were made 175 times more likely by ACD, and could well become the “normal” water temperature with permanent bleaching there within the next 18 years.

Meanwhile, India is experiencing dramatic coral bleaching events as well. Rohan Arthur, the scientist who heads the coral reef program at the Nature Conservation Foundation based in India, has been studying the coral reefs and documenting the bleaching. Arthur described India’s widespread coral bleaching as “heart wrenching,” and expects it to continue to worsen.

In Florida, it’s not warm waters that are destroying coral. Instead, acidification is causing that state’s coral to disintegrate faster than had been predicted, and a recent report shows that this trend will only accelerate as ocean acidification progresses, with the world’s oceans continuing to rapidly absorb carbon dioxide.

Positive feedback loops have been wreaking havoc in the Arctic as well.

Arctic Ocean acidification is being sped up by erosion and river runoff in Siberia. As the permafrost is thawing there, coastlines across Russia are falling into the ocean, along with rivers dumping massive amounts of carbon into the ocean, which is all combining to ramp up the acidification, which is bad news for all things living in the once-pristine waters of the Arctic.

In Austria, the glaciers are melting so fast, they have retreated an average of 72 feet during last year alone, which is more than twice the rate of the previous year, according to a recent survey.

Half of all conservatives in the US believe that ACD is real, which is an increase of 19 percent over the last two years.

In the Antarctic, the news of more melting continues. In eastern Antarctica, where the vast majority of the ice volume resides — an area once believed to be largely free of the impacts of ACD — the Nansen Ice Shelf has produced an iceberg 20 kilometers long. A giant crack in the shelf that has existed since 1999 expanded dramatically in 2014, and that trend continued into this year, when melting on the surface and from the warming seas below the shelf caused an area larger than the area of Manhattan to release out into the ocean.

On the other side of that continent, the Antarctic Peninsula saw an incredible new record high temperature of 17 degrees Celsius last year. This, coupled with the ongoing ramping up of the melting of the ice shelves, is having global implications already, including sea level rise, and impacts on global weather patterns.

Extreme drought across the world continues.

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown has deemed that state’s water conservation efforts permanent, a sign of resignation to the fact that the state’s drought is now being considered ongoing, without an end in sight. Ninety percent of California remains in drought, and summer is just beginning.

As if to underscore that point, Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir, broke a record in May by declining to its lowest level ever recorded.

In Zimbabwe, the UN Development Programme announced recently that 4.5 million people, which is at least half of the country’s total rural population, will need food and water aid by next March, as an extreme drought persists with no end in sight.

Fire

Summer had barely found its stride when residents of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, became part of the historical record: Their town saw the single largest fire evacuation event in Alberta’s history. More than 80,000 residents of the tar sands oil town fled massive wildfires, in what couldn’t be a more obvious sign from the planet that engaging in the most environmentally destructive method of fossil fuel extraction might not be the best idea.

Things settled down a bit after the winds shifted and the fires subsided — until the winds shifted again and the fires returned, forcing yet more evacuations as people again did not get the earth’s memo.

So far this year, 22 times more land has burned than burned in the same period last year, and that year was one of the worst fire seasons in Canada’s history. Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with the rest of the country’s mainstream media, have opted not to mention ACD when discussing the wildfires that threaten their earth-destroying cash cow, the tar sands.

Meanwhile, a recently published study shows what we are already seeing — that warming temperatures in the northern latitudes are spurring more fires across Alaska, which in turn cause increasingly warming temperatures … hence, yet another runaway feedback loop is unveiled.

Out-of-control wildfires raged across the Russian-Chinese border, as well as nearby Lake Baikal, according to The Siberian Times, resulting in more ACD refugees.

Air

As mentioned in the introduction of this dispatch, heat records around the world continue to be set at a breakneck pace, including the overall record heat increases for the entire planet.

More specifically, Southwest Asia and India recently saw historic heat waves that have brought more than 150 deaths. Cambodia and Laos each set record highs for any day of the year during April. Cambodia saw 108.7 degrees Fahrenheit on April 15, and on April 26, Thailand set a record for national energy consumption (air conditioning), according to The Associated Press.

India went on to break its heat record in May, when the city of Rajasthan saw 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit), as the heat wave besetting northern India persists, as temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees Celsius for several weeks in a row now.

Looking to the north, the Russian Hydrometeorological Center recently reported that since May 2015, every single month has been the warmest in Russia’s history. By way of example, in March, the temperature deviation on islands in the Barents Sea was a staggering 12 degrees Celsius.

In Alaska, despite it being very early in the summer, heat records are breaking by the dozens. Recent statements from the National Weather Service reported that the towns of McGrath and Delta Junction in the interior of the state hit a high of 78 degrees and a low of 49 degrees, respectively, beating the previous records set in 2005 and 1988 for each. Fairbanks set a new high temperature record of 82, which shattered a century-old record of 80 degrees set in 1915.

The largest city in Alaska, Anchorage, set a record of 72 degrees, a stunning seven degrees above the previous high that was set in 2014, while Juneau and Bethel, set new heat records. Even Barrow, in the far north, saw 42 degrees recently, breaking the previous heat record by four degrees. Given that Anchorage has already seen the second-largest number of record high temperatures for any year and there is still 63 percent of the year left, 2016 will certainly break the previous record of high temperatures seen, which was set in 2003.

In Africa, the heat continues to be unrelenting, and that trend is expected to not only continue, but increase, according to a study recently published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. According to the study, by 2100, heat waves on that continent will be hotter, last longer and occur with much greater frequency.

One of the research team’s authors said that “unusual” heat events will become much more regular, “meaning it can occur every year, and not just once in 38 years — in climate change scenarios.”

Denial and Reality

Never a dull moment on the ACD denial front, especially with Donald Trump dominating headlines in the United States, and the corporate media giving him all the coverage he could possibly hope for.

Trump, who could very well become the next US president, recently named ACD “skeptic” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) as his energy adviser. Cramer is one of the leading oil and gas drilling advocates in the US, and North Dakota has been one of the states on the front lines of the US shale oil and gas boom.

Over in the UK, a group of the most eminent scientists there recently criticized The Times of London newspaper for its “distorted coverage” of ACD, along with the “poor quality” of its journalism around human-caused climate disruption. Media misrepresentation has been a major culprit for much of the public unawareness and misunderstanding of ACD.

Back in the US, on the reality front, Kevin Faulconer, the Republican mayor of San Diego, is pushing forward with a plan to run the city completely on renewable energy by 2035.

Another hopeful note: Recent polling shows that now half of all conservatives in the United States believe that ACD is real, which is an increase of 19 percent over the last two years.

Exxon, now targeted by a campaign aimed at making the oil giant pay for ACD, is working overtime to blunt the attack. Exxon is sending executives and lobbyists to meet with state representatives in an effort to mitigate what could be extreme economic losses for the company if the campaign continues to be as successful as it has been thus far. The campaign against Exxon is now deeply tied to the overall campaign to pressure universities and businesses to divest from fossil fuel companies, which has been incredibly successful and is becoming more so by the week.

Lastly, in a story that has not gotten anywhere near the coverage it deserves, the US government has been actively resettling its first official ACD “climate refugees.” A large grant of federal money was given to Louisiana’s community of Isle de Jean Charles, where the people have been struggling (and losing) against rising seas, coastal erosion and increasingly violent storms.

It is important to note this development, since well before 2100, there will be millions of people along US coastlines who will have to be resettled further inland as sea level rise only continues to speed up.

Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest inventory of greenhouse gas emissions provided the warning that methane and carbon dioxide emissions are “going completely in the wrong direction,” as the amounts being injected into the atmosphere continue to accelerate.

______________________________________________________________

 

 

UNEP Report: Extreme Weather & Rising Temperatures To Make 70% of World’s Agriculture Toxic To Animals & Humans Worldwide

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2016 at 3:13 pm

1

Oldspeak: “So yeahhhh, there’s that. While us proles are infantilized & pacified with digitally rendered pablum, incessant bread and circuses, seems we won’t have the grains to make the pablum and bread for much longer…. Not only are crops becoming more and more scarce, they are becoming more and more toxic in response to extreme environmental conditions. I wonder if these toxic effects are already being felt right now, with the rise in rare neurological disorders and cancers of all kinds (aside from the effects of toxins knowingly added to our food supplies to maximize profit)… Needless to say, with 70% less edible and nutritious food to go around for a projected 9 billion people let alone the lifeforms we feed on, prospects for survival and our ability to ignore what is going on are getting smaller by the day. Well, at least we’ll always have our circuses.  :-/

We’re sooooo fucked.”-OSJ

 

By Navin Singh Khadka @ The Kathmandu Post:

It is not the drought as you know it. Scientists are saying so because they have found that it is not just about scarce water. They say that when the life sustaining liquid becomes quite scarce, plants find a way of surviving the extreme condition. And that is where the good news ends. The bad news is that when plants adapt to the harsh environment, they accumulate toxins to dangerous levels that can kill livestock and can cause cancer and other serious illnesses in humans.

How about heavy rainfall after a prolonged drought? If you thought it could be a respite for us all, you are in for a surprise. A new report has shown even drought-breaking intense rains can lead to accumulation of dangerous toxins in plants. Welcome to the world of extreme weathers and toxic crops.

70 percent toxic
That is the dire message the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has delivered through a report released during its second general assembly this week. Scientists who wrote the report say extreme weather conditions and rising temperatures will make 70 percent of the world’s agricultural production toxic to animals and humans across the globe.

Such toxins include nitrate and prussic acid. The first one gets accumulated in crops like wheat, barley maize, millet, soybean, among others, because of acute droughts, the UNEP report says. The second one gets deposited in crops such as flax, maize, coffee, cherries, apples, among others, as a result of heavy rainfall after prolonged dryness.

In normal conditions, plants can turn nitrates into protein. But during extreme weather conditions, they cannot complete that process and the chemicals accumulate.

Several research before the UNEP report had found that nitrate and prussic acid poisoning occurs when cattle eat forage stressed by severe environmental conditions. The toxin converts the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood to methemoglobin which cannot carry the life supporting gas.

Worse news for us
While that is already bad news for small scale farmers and herders, mainly in poor countries like Nepal, there is even worse news. The UNEP report has warned that over 4.5 billion people from the developing world are at risk of exposure to a particular highly harmful toxin in crops.
It is known as aflatoxin, one of the mycotoxins that are chemical by-products of fungal growth causing severe damage to the health of animals and humans even at small concentrations. Mycotoxins fungi infect many crops such as coffee, groundnut, maize, oilseeds, peanut, sorghum, tree nuts, and wheat.

“In many African and Central American countries, a subsistence farmer may eat 500 grams of maize per day,” Professor John Leslie of Kansas State University told me in an interview I did for the BBC. “They can easily be exposed to threatening levels of aflatoxin, even if the grain meets the safety standards set by the EU.” In Kenya, for instance, hundreds of human death cases were attributed to the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated maize products some years ago.

“That prompted the Kenyan government to condemn 2.3 million bags of maize,” agriculture scientist Jagger Harvey, one of the authors of the UNEP report, told the BBC. Scientists say mycotoxins including aflatoxins get accumulated in crops because of increasing temperatures. And now the toxin is expected to contaminate crops in higher latitude.

A study published in 2013 showed aflatoxins were found in maize grown in different regions of Serbia because of hot and dry weather with prolonged drought during the spring and summer of 2012. Another study said the contamination in maize could become a food security issue in Europe. But, as you can imagine, European agro scientists might find one or the other way to deal with the issue.

Even in Africa, research is gaining ground. “Initiatives like the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa have been established to work with policymakers and other key stakeholders on the African continent, to help them address this particular challenge in concert,” said Professor Harvey. “We are at a critical point where the risk for contamination is significant, and potentially expanding; and interventions are being developed, adapted and deployed to address this issue globally.”

Our food security
The question now is: Will Nepal be able to take advantage of such solutions? Before seeking an answer to that, you need to ask a more fundamental question: Does Nepal even know what is happening to its crops in the wake of extreme weather events?

Or, do we know what kind of crops we are importing if they are coming in from places that are prone to drought and intense rainfall? The UNEP report has pointed out there is no dearth of such places now. And as Professor Leslie said: Food security has both quantity and  quality aspects to it. “People need enough calories, but they also need to include essential nutrients and to exclude noxious contaminants such as disease-causing organisms and toxic chemicals.”

Khadka is a BBC journalist based in London

It is not the drought as you know it. Scientists are saying so because they have found that it is not just about scarce water. They say that when the life sustaining liquid becomes quite scarce, plants find a way of surviving the extreme condition. And that is where the good news ends. The bad news is that when plants adapt to the harsh environment, they accumulate toxins to dangerous levels that can kill livestock and can cause cancer and other serious illnesses in humans.

How about heavy rainfall after a prolonged drought? If you thought it could be a respite for us all, you are in for a surprise. A new report has shown even drought-breaking intense rains can lead to accumulation of dangerous toxins in plants. Welcome to the world of extreme weathers and toxic crops.

70 percent toxic
That is the dire message the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has delivered through a report released during its second general assembly this week. Scientists who wrote the report say extreme weather conditions and rising temperatures will make 70 percent of the world’s agricultural production toxic to animals and humans across the globe.

Such toxins include nitrate and prussic acid. The first one gets accumulated in crops like wheat, barley maize, millet, soybean, among others, because of acute droughts, the UNEP report says. The second one gets deposited in crops such as flax, maize, coffee, cherries, apples, among others, as a result of heavy rainfall after prolonged dryness.

In normal conditions, plants can turn nitrates into protein. But during extreme weather conditions, they cannot complete that process and the chemicals accumulate.

Several research before the UNEP report had found that nitrate and prussic acid poisoning occurs when cattle eat forage stressed by severe environmental conditions. The toxin converts the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood to methemoglobin which cannot carry the life supporting gas.

Worse news for us
While that is already bad news for small scale farmers and herders, mainly in poor countries like Nepal, there is even worse news. The UNEP report has warned that over 4.5 billion people from the developing world are at risk of exposure to a particular highly harmful toxin in crops.
It is known as aflatoxin, one of the mycotoxins that are chemical by-products of fungal growth causing severe damage to the health of animals and humans even at small concentrations. Mycotoxins fungi infect many crops such as coffee, groundnut, maize, oilseeds, peanut, sorghum, tree nuts, and wheat.

“In many African and Central American countries, a subsistence farmer may eat 500 grams of maize per day,” Professor John Leslie of Kansas State University told me in an interview I did for the BBC. “They can easily be exposed to threatening levels of aflatoxin, even if the grain meets the safety standards set by the EU.” In Kenya, for instance, hundreds of human death cases were attributed to the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated maize products some years ago.

“That prompted the Kenyan government to condemn 2.3 million bags of maize,” agriculture scientist Jagger Harvey, one of the authors of the UNEP report, told the BBC. Scientists say mycotoxins including aflatoxins get accumulated in crops because of increasing temperatures. And now the toxin is expected to contaminate crops in higher latitude.

A study published in 2013 showed aflatoxins were found in maize grown in different regions of Serbia because of hot and dry weather with prolonged drought during the spring and summer of 2012. Another study said the contamination in maize could become a food security issue in Europe. But, as you can imagine, European agro scientists might find one or the other way to deal with the issue.

Even in Africa, research is gaining ground. “Initiatives like the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa have been established to work with policymakers and other key stakeholders on the African continent, to help them address this particular challenge in concert,” said Professor Harvey. “We are at a critical point where the risk for contamination is significant, and potentially expanding; and interventions are being developed, adapted and deployed to address this issue globally.”

Our food security
The question now is: Will Nepal be able to take advantage of such solutions? Before seeking an answer to that, you need to ask a more fundamental question: Does Nepal even know what is happening to its crops in the wake of extreme weather events?

Or, do we know what kind of crops we are importing if they are coming in from places that are prone to drought and intense rainfall? The UNEP report has pointed out there is no dearth of such places now. And as Professor Leslie said: Food security has both quantity and  quality aspects to it. “People need enough calories, but they also need to include essential nutrients and to exclude noxious contaminants such as disease-causing organisms and toxic chemicals.”

Khadka is a BBC journalist based in London

It is not the drought as you know it. Scientists are saying so because they have found that it is not just about scarce water. They say that when the life sustaining liquid becomes quite scarce, plants find a way of surviving the extreme condition. And that is where the good news ends. The bad news is that when plants adapt to the harsh environment, they accumulate toxins to dangerous levels that can kill livestock and can cause cancer and other serious illnesses in humans.

How about heavy rainfall after a prolonged drought? If you thought it could be a respite for us all, you are in for a surprise. A new report has shown even drought-breaking intense rains can lead to accumulation of dangerous toxins in plants. Welcome to the world of extreme weathers and toxic crops.

70 percent toxic
That is the dire message the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has delivered through a report released during its second general assembly this week. Scientists who wrote the report say extreme weather conditions and rising temperatures will make 70 percent of the world’s agricultural production toxic to animals and humans across the globe.

Such toxins include nitrate and prussic acid. The first one gets accumulated in crops like wheat, barley maize, millet, soybean, among others, because of acute droughts, the UNEP report says. The second one gets deposited in crops such as flax, maize, coffee, cherries, apples, among others, as a result of heavy rainfall after prolonged dryness.

In normal conditions, plants can turn nitrates into protein. But during extreme weather conditions, they cannot complete that process and the chemicals accumulate.

Several research before the UNEP report had found that nitrate and prussic acid poisoning occurs when cattle eat forage stressed by severe environmental conditions. The toxin converts the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood to methemoglobin which cannot carry the life supporting gas.

Worse news for us
While that is already bad news for small scale farmers and herders, mainly in poor countries like Nepal, there is even worse news. The UNEP report has warned that over 4.5 billion people from the developing world are at risk of exposure to a particular highly harmful toxin in crops.
It is known as aflatoxin, one of the mycotoxins that are chemical by-products of fungal growth causing severe damage to the health of animals and humans even at small concentrations. Mycotoxins fungi infect many crops such as coffee, groundnut, maize, oilseeds, peanut, sorghum, tree nuts, and wheat.

“In many African and Central American countries, a subsistence farmer may eat 500 grams of maize per day,” Professor John Leslie of Kansas State University told me in an interview I did for the BBC. “They can easily be exposed to threatening levels of aflatoxin, even if the grain meets the safety standards set by the EU.” In Kenya, for instance, hundreds of human death cases were attributed to the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated maize products some years ago.

“That prompted the Kenyan government to condemn 2.3 million bags of maize,” agriculture scientist Jagger Harvey, one of the authors of the UNEP report, told the BBC. Scientists say mycotoxins including aflatoxins get accumulated in crops because of increasing temperatures. And now the toxin is expected to contaminate crops in higher latitude.

A study published in 2013 showed aflatoxins were found in maize grown in different regions of Serbia because of hot and dry weather with prolonged drought during the spring and summer of 2012. Another study said the contamination in maize could become a food security issue in Europe. But, as you can imagine, European agro scientists might find one or the other way to deal with the issue.

Even in Africa, research is gaining ground. “Initiatives like the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa have been established to work with policymakers and other key stakeholders on the African continent, to help them address this particular challenge in concert,” said Professor Harvey. “We are at a critical point where the risk for contamination is significant, and potentially expanding; and interventions are being developed, adapted and deployed to address this issue globally.”

Our food security
The question now is: Will Nepal be able to take advantage of such solutions? Before seeking an answer to that, you need to ask a more fundamental question: Does Nepal even know what is happening to its crops in the wake of extreme weather events?

Or, do we know what kind of crops we are importing if they are coming in from places that are prone to drought and intense rainfall? The UNEP report has pointed out there is no dearth of such places now. And as Professor Leslie said: Food security has both quantity and  quality aspects to it. “People need enough calories, but they also need to include essential nutrients and to exclude noxious contaminants such as disease-causing organisms and toxic chemicals.”

Khadka is a BBC journalist based in London

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It is not the drought as you know it. Scientists are saying so because they have found that it is not just about scarce water. They say that when the life sustaining liquid becomes quite scarce, plants find a way of surviving the extreme condition. And that is where the good news ends. The bad news is that when plants adapt to the harsh environment, they accumulate toxins to dangerous levels that can kill livestock and can cause cancer and other serious illnesses in humans.

How about heavy rainfall after a prolonged drought? If you thought it could be a respite for us all, you are in for a surprise. A new report has shown even drought-breaking intense rains can lead to accumulation of dangerous toxins in plants. Welcome to the world of extreme weathers and toxic crops.

70 percent toxic
That is the dire message the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has delivered through a report released during its second general assembly this week. Scientists who wrote the report say extreme weather conditions and rising temperatures will make 70 percent of the world’s agricultural production toxic to animals and humans across the globe.

Such toxins include nitrate and prussic acid. The first one gets accumulated in crops like wheat, barley maize, millet, soybean, among others, because of acute droughts, the UNEP report says. The second one gets deposited in crops such as flax, maize, coffee, cherries, apples, among others, as a result of heavy rainfall after prolonged dryness.

In normal conditions, plants can turn nitrates into protein. But during extreme weather conditions, they cannot complete that process and the chemicals accumulate.

Several research before the UNEP report had found that nitrate and prussic acid poisoning occurs when cattle eat forage stressed by severe environmental conditions. The toxin converts the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood to methemoglobin which cannot carry the life supporting gas.

Worse news for us
While that is already bad news for small scale farmers and herders, mainly in poor countries like Nepal, there is even worse news. The UNEP report has warned that over 4.5 billion people from the developing world are at risk of exposure to a particular highly harmful toxin in crops.
It is known as aflatoxin, one of the mycotoxins that are chemical by-products of fungal growth causing severe damage to the health of animals and humans even at small concentrations. Mycotoxins fungi infect many crops such as coffee, groundnut, maize, oilseeds, peanut, sorghum, tree nuts, and wheat.

“In many African and Central American countries, a subsistence farmer may eat 500 grams of maize per day,” Professor John Leslie of Kansas State University told me in an interview I did for the BBC. “They can easily be exposed to threatening levels of aflatoxin, even if the grain meets the safety standards set by the EU.” In Kenya, for instance, hundreds of human death cases were attributed to the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated maize products some years ago.

“That prompted the Kenyan government to condemn 2.3 million bags of maize,” agriculture scientist Jagger Harvey, one of the authors of the UNEP report, told the BBC. Scientists say mycotoxins including aflatoxins get accumulated in crops because of increasing temperatures. And now the toxin is expected to contaminate crops in higher latitude.

A study published in 2013 showed aflatoxins were found in maize grown in different regions of Serbia because of hot and dry weather with prolonged drought during the spring and summer of 2012. Another study said the contamination in maize could become a food security issue in Europe. But, as you can imagine, European agro scientists might find one or the other way to deal with the issue.

Even in Africa, research is gaining ground. “Initiatives like the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa have been established to work with policymakers and other key stakeholders on the African continent, to help them address this particular challenge in concert,” said Professor Harvey. “We are at a critical point where the risk for contamination is significant, and potentially expanding; and interventions are being developed, adapted and deployed to address this issue globally.”

Our food security
The question now is: Will Nepal be able to take advantage of such solutions? Before seeking an answer to that, you need to ask a more fundamental question: Does Nepal even know what is happening to its crops in the wake of extreme weather events?

Or, do we know what kind of crops we are importing if they are coming in from places that are prone to drought and intense rainfall? The UNEP report has pointed out there is no dearth of such places now. And as Professor Leslie said: Food security has both quantity and  quality aspects to it. “People need enough calories, but they also need to include essential nutrients and to exclude noxious contaminants such as disease-causing organisms and toxic chemicals.”

Khadka is a BBC journalist based in London