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Climate & environment - June 26

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Uganda 'at risk' of losing all its forests

Annie Kelly, Guardian

Uganda has already lost two-thirds of its forests in the last 20 years and could have lost all of its forested land by 2050, which would have severe repercussions for its poorest people according to environmentalists.

Deforestation has already seen Uganda's 5 million hectares (12.3 million acres) of forest in 1990 dwindle to 3.5 million by 2005. Now the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has warned that if deforestation continues in Uganda at its present rate there will be no forests left in 40 years.

In its State of the Environment Uganda 2008 report, published this month, NEMA attributes the acceleration of deforestation to expanding farmland, a population boom and increasing urbanisation. It says unless the situation is reversed, the knock-on effect will be catastrophic, contributing to and exacerbating soil degradation, declining food security, disease and conflict.
(23 June 2009)

Growth of global carbon emissions halved in 2008, say Dutch researchers

Duncan Clark, Guardian
Recession and oil price main drivers behind fall in consumption as developing world emissions rise above 50% for first time
The growth of global carbon dioxide emissions fell by half in 2008, according to data released today. The global recession and high oil prices played a major role in reducing the rate of emissions. But measures to tackle global warming by cutting emissions such as renewable energy were only partly responsible. The data from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) also show that, for the first time, CO2 emissions from the developing world account for more than half of the global total.

Analysis from the NEAA draws on fossil fuel consumption figures published last week by BP. It shows that the rise in the world's emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production in 2008 was just 1.7%, compared with 3.3% in 2007.

The slowdown in emissions growth was caused primarily by a 0.6% fall in the consumption of oil – the first decline in global oil use since 1992.
(25 June 2009)

The Pacific isn’t the only ocean collecting plastic trash

Kristen Chick, Christian Science Monitor
A swirling 'soup' of tiny pieces of plastic has been found in the Atlantic Ocean, and something similar may be present in other ocean areas as well.
... Dr. Earle’s experience illustrates the rising tide of plastic accumulating in the world’s oceans.
And while the Pacific Ocean has garnered much attention for what some call the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” – a vast expanse of floating plastic deposited in the middle of the ocean by circulating currents – the problem doesn’t stop there.

New research shows that plastic has collected in a region of the Atlantic as well, held hostage by converging currents, called gyres, to form a swirling “plastic soup.” And those fragments of plastic could also be present at the other three large gyres in the world’s oceans, says Kara Lavender Law, a member of the oceanography faculty at the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, Mass., which conducted the study.

Because the plastic has broken down into tiny pieces, it is virtually impossible to recover, meaning that it has essentially become a permanent part of the ecosystem. The full impact of its presence there – what happens if fish and other marine animals eat the plastic, which attracts toxins that could enter the food chain – is still unclear.

“It’s a serious environmental problem from a lot of standpoints,” Dr. Law says. “There are impacts on the ecosystem from seabirds, fish, and turtles, down to microscopic plankton.”
(17 June 2009)

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