The US National Climate Change Assessment is now on-line and it isn't pulling any punches.
"Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities."
The news for Mariners is deeply concerning.
Did you know that the Oceans have absorbed 93% of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?
This is causing the world's ocean waters to warm, become increasingly acidic, while decreasing the amount of oxygen available in the world's waters. These three changes in the ocean's chemistry are already producing a variety of devastating impacts, including widespread coral bleaching in tropical regions, disruption of traditional fisheries and marine ecosystems around the world, and the loss of sea-ice based ecosystems in the polar regions.
The report also notes that we can expect to experience larger, more powerful hurricanes fueled by the warming atmosphere, and that warmer, higher seas, will pose growing challenges for island-based economies in the US Caribbean, Hawaii, and communities living along coastal shoreline in the US and around the world.
While this report focuses on specific impacts being felt in the United States -- it is clear that similar changes are unfolding across the entire planet.
"Climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action," warns the authors, "and decisions made today will determine the degree of risk faced by both current and future generations."
Climate change are now upon us, the report concludes, and not enough is being done to avoid the worst case scenarios now looming before us.
"Neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damage to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades."
Maritime polluters beware!
A new global initiative launched by the United Nations is working to coordinate the fight against oil and other forms of marine pollution around the world.
Codenamed "30 Days at Sea," the joint UN and INTERPOL led mission involved 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies, 122 national coordinators, and police, customs and environmental officers in 58 countries. The coordinated sweeps resulted in 5,200 inspections, and uncovered more than 500 marine offenses, including illegal discharges of oil and garbage from vessels, breaches of ship emissions regulations, and pollution on rivers and land-based runoff to the sea.
“Criminals believe marine pollution is a low-risk crime with no real victims,” explains Jürgen Stock, the According Secretary General of INTERPOL. “This is a mistake and one which INTERPOL and our partners are addressing as demonstrated by this operation. Marine pollution creates health hazards worldwide which undermine sustainable development and requires a multi-agency, multi-sector cooperative response within a solid global security architecture.”
Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, who spearheaded the effort, said that the issue of illegal marine pollution is one that global communities may well be able to tackle successfully in the next decade. “But we need the help of our law enforcement partners to make sure that there is no impunity for the perpetrators of marine pollution crime."
From Germany to Ghana, 30 Days at Sea proved that concentrated effort by enforcement agencies is an effective way to catch criminals and prevent further disaster. In Albania the operation successfully prevented 500 liters of oil from being spilled from a sinking vessel. The operation also made use of satellite imagery, aerial surveillance, drones, and night vision cameras to detect criminal acts.
This global effort followed the globally coordinated effort called "30 Days of Action," led by INTERPOL in June 2017, which took on the illegal disposal of hazardous waste in 43 countries around the world. This effort resulted in 483 individuals and 264 companies being charged with illegal dumping and environmental violations, involving more than 1.5 million tons of illicit waste.
30 Days at Sea expands this global enforcement model to the world's oceans and reflects a growing awareness that harm to the marine environment is a crime that impacts everyone on earth. We’re excited to see what comes next!
Six years ago, scientists studying the long-term effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill began noticing something very odd. They found enormous rainbow oil slicks on the surface of the water off the coast of Louisiana – which, curiously, were many miles away from the area where the Deep Water Horizon spill had taken place.
What these scientists discovered was on-going leakage from the Taylor Oil Spill, which has been quietly releasing between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf Coast over the last 14 years. The spill began in 2004, when Hurricane Ivan's 145 mph winds and 70 foot waves toppled an oil production platform owned by Taylor Energy.
Because the shattered wells that fed the platform were buried under a mud slide and never capped, the site has quietly leaked vast quantities of oil into the gulf, and is now threatening to overtake the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest marine oil spill in American history.
The Washington Post recently broke the story in an article by Darryl Fears, which explains how it took scientists six years to catch on to reality of the enormous spill, which federal officials estimate could continue through this century.
"The Taylor Energy spill is largely unknown outside Louisiana because of the company’s effort to keep it secret in the hopes of protecting its reputation and proprietary information about its operations," writes Fears, and the extent of the spill was only discovered when a lawsuit filed by environmental watchdog groups eventually forced the company to reveal its cleanup plan.
After the spill was discovered, initial estimates by the NRC put the amount of oil leaking into the water at 1 to 55 barrels of oil per day. However more recent data shows that the truth is closer to 1 to 700 barrels of oil per day.
"The Interior Department is now fighting an effort by Taylor Energy to walk away from the disaster," reports Fears. "The company sued Interior in federal court, seeking the return of about $450 million left in a trust it established with the government to fund its work to recover part of the wreckage and locate wells buried under 100 feet of muck."
While scientists are just beginning to assess the environmental damage caused over the past fourteen years, there is growing potential for similar spills take place. The article notes that the Trump administration has proposed to expand drilling leases to the entire out continental shelf, including along the Atlantic coast, where hurricanes are twice as frequent as they are in the Gulf.
The risks associated with these new developments are greatly increased by the growing intensity of storms, fueled by waters warmed by climate change, and environmental groups worry that officials have not learned from the mistakes of the Taylor spill.
To learn more about the background of the spill, and how Taylor Energy kept it so quiet for all these years, be sure to check out Fears’ original article!