We’ve talked a lot about weather events and oceans in our climate column — but there’s a reason. The gradual increase of the Earth’s temperature to two or even three degrees over the next decade already has massive consequences in terms of the world’s biosphere and the survival of marine lifeforms, particularly phytoplankton and other microorganisms that feed virtually every inhabitant of the ocean.
While it’s likely we’ve starved of complete disaster, there’s a high chance that by 2050 we may significantly alter the world’s biosphere with more extreme weather events, droughts and larger and larger tracts of uninhabitable land mass.
What’s also concerning is that current environmental prerogatives are by no means secure, and previously secured promises may decay far quicker than they were put together. Case in point, the Paris Shipping Agreement.
The Paris Shipping Agreement
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the recent Paris Shipping Agreement failed to arrive at concrete measures concerning the proposed global shipping tax on carbon emissions, which has repeatedly arisen over the last few years. The proposed tax may raise as much as $100 billion a year for climate change initiatives, aiming to shift the dependence on fossil fuels and incentivise the development and adoption of cleaner alternatives.
The United States and China have been the most reluctant to adopt the taxation plan — hardly shocking considering the Biden administration’s dismissal of several important environmental projects in order to support short-term economic gain. The US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen avoided giving a definitive answer with the non-commital response;
“I think I would agree with President Macron’s description of the logic of why it would be appropriate, and it’s something that the United States will look at.”
However, some good has come out of the proceedings. Debt-burdened Zambia has managed to strike a loan with several creditors, and Senegal has also reached a deal which will help increase its ability to provide clean, renewable energy by up to 40% by 2030.
In all fairness, the proposed shipping taxation has caught some flack for the unfairness of the playing field, with at least 53 countries in economic distress, unable to meet the demands of higher interest.
Another round of decision-making is set for July. While the prospects appear largely in the air, the good news is that initiatives are being put into place to help poorer nations achieve independence — independence which will hopefully lead to more clean energy.
Dead fish on a Thai beach
The death of thousands of fish along the beaches of Thailand’s southern Chumphon province raises concerns about rising sea temperatures. The deaths have been attributed to a recent plankton bloom, lowering oxygen levels in the water and causing marine life to suffocate. This phenomenon has been responsible for the coral bleaching found off the Great Barrier Reef and other coastal areas. Coral bleaching effectively starves the coral of oxygen, killing it and the food supply which entire marine ecosystems thrive on, after which the reef has to be abandoned entirely.
As the Faculty of Fisheries, Thon Tamrongnawasat, explains;
“Various natural phenomena, such as coral bleaching or plankton bloom, have naturally occurred for thousands to tens of thousands of years. However, when global warming occurs, it intensifies and increases the frequency of existing phenomena.”
The blooms are expected to continue, affecting not only fish but larger marine animals, such as sea lions and dolphins, destroying entire ecosystems.
The importance of seagrass
Seagrass provides a natural feeding ground for many species, such as the endangered green sea turtles, manatees, parrotfish, shrimp and other marine invertebrates. But recent findings indicate that this important resource is under threat from hotspots, with predictions that natural seagrass will decline in abundance well before the end of the current century. As the Stanford University study states, this problem is even more profound than the loss of individual species, as from this one event, entire biotic communities will be under threat.
The study uses snapshots from the last 100 years of coastal seagrass ecosystems, combining these with field records to make predictions using ecological modelling. The results show four potential scenarios, from low-greenhouse gas levels to high concentrations, raised sea temperatures and disrupted sea patterns. Even the best scenarios showed decreasing seagrass levels — although, as the model showed, acting now could dramatically decrease the severity of the seagrass deduction.
Heat waves intensify
China has recently had some of the hottest weather events on record for June.
Between Thursday and Friday, 22nd-23rd, Beijing upgraded its weather warning to ‘red’, the highest in the system, with temperatures of over 40℃, temperatures more normally expected closer to the Earth’s equator. Regular climate column readers may note that we’ve previously covered heat waves in China, Vietnam, the US and Chile, showing that this new high is far from an isolated weather event.
As with the other recorded highs, the weather event has resulted in limited power use, with increased pressure on China’s power grid. The heatwave has prompted officials to urge residents to stay indoors and avoid the heat, although many have opted to head outdoors to escape to Beijing’s canals.
Harsh Texan water laws
Texas has also come under fire, with state governor Greg Abbott signing a law that effectively eliminates required water breaks for construction workers. A lineman was killed just days later due to extreme heat temperatures and humidity in excess of 37℃.
The signing comes after the state’s second hottest summer on record just last year, with more heat waves to follow. Experts say the number of high-temperature days has nearly doubled over the last half-century and that more deaths are expected as a result of this signing. The law will also disproportionately affect Black and Latino communities, who make up six of every ten construction workers.
Groups are lobbying for local protection rules in the absence of a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruling on heat protection. Whatever the final decision, it’s hoped that more deaths can be avoided as the June heat wave rages on.
- “Beijing records hottest June day since weather records began as heatwave hits China” on The Guardian. Date Published: 23rd June, 2023. Site Link: https://bit.ly/3Jwz5s6.
- Harvey, Fiona. “Paris climate finance summit fails to deliver debt forgiveness plan” on The Guardian. Date Published: 23rd June, 2023. Site Link: https://bit.ly/3NKSrfP.
- Paddison, Laura. “Thousands of dead fish have washed up on a Thai beach. Experts say climate change may be to blame” on CNN. Date Published: 23rd June, 2023. Site Link: https://bit.ly/3PvSsWk.
- “Paris climate summit ends without global shipping tax deal” on Aljazeera. Date Published: 23rd June, 2023. Site Link: https://bit.ly/3XnN4WV.
- Responsible Seafood Advocate. “Seagrass at risk of decline from the effects of climate change, study concludes” on Global Seafood Alliance. Date Published: 22nd June, 2023. Site Link: https://bit.ly/3CMpvxw.
- Singh, Martin. “Texas governor signs bill rescinding water breaks as deadly heat grips state” on The Guardian. Date Published: 23rd June, 2023. Site Link: https://bit.ly/3NwcH3A.
About the author - meet Earthan James McCulloch
James is a literary student and environmental enthusiast who likes thinking about the better futures we could have (and those we best avoid). When not playing with other people’s dogs or taking long, mindful walks, he’s usually found reading and writing, often at the local library. You can check him out on his blog for something a little different, where he talks about all things literary or otherwise.