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Executive Summary for April 13th

In this week’s news roundup, we report on the negotiations to cut shipping industry carbon emissions, the increasing frequency of marine heat waves, and a study that finds anemone-dwelling fish will face trouble as oceans warm.

Published on April 13, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Shipping Industry Near ‘Bare Minimum’ Climate Agreement

After fractious debate at an International Maritime Organization meeting this week, governments are likely to reach a deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in shipping following years of delay – but environmentalists expect the agreement will not go far enough.

Under international pressure to set a binding, long-term carbon emission reduction target and time line, negotiators struggled to bridge a divide between governments seeking near-full decarbonization by mid-century and nations with heavy shipping and export interests, including Brazil, China, Panama and Saudi Arabia, which are pushing for weaker measures. Japan, which chairs the committee making the decision and is also a nation that builds and owns ships, proposed a middle-ground target – a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 from 2008 levels – that has become the center of discussions.

Officials and leaders of the “high ambition” countries, which include France, the U.K., Germany, the Marshall Islands and other Pacific Island nations, blasted such a compromise. They say it will not put the shipping industry at pace to help keep rising global temperatures in check as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Several European Union members of parliament pledged to regulate shipping unilaterally in lieu of a substantive target. One called the compromise on the table the “bare minimum,” according to Climate Home News.

Separately, the IMO also considered other proposals to ban the use and transport of heavy fuel oil by ships in the Arctic Ocean, protecting a fragile ecosystem from potentially devastating oil spills.

Marine Heat Waves Are Longer, More Frequent

With average global temperatures rising, heat waves are getting worse, not just on land, but at sea, too. Over the last 35 years, there have been noticeably more marine heat waves, such as a 2011 warm zone off the coast of Western Australia and a 2012 episode in the Gulf of Maine, a new study published in the journal Nature Communications found.

Since 1925, there’s been a 54 percent jump in “marine heat wave days” annually – which are periods of extreme sea temperatures over a defined area – according to the research conducted by an international team. They relied on a range of data sources, including satellite observations and direct sea temperature measurements.

Marine heat waves, along with increasing average ocean temperatures, are linked to fish, kelp and coral die-offs that damage ecosystems and economies.

Bleaching of Anemones Makes LIfe Harder for Clown Fish

Bad news for Nemo, according to a new study: The sea anemones that are habitat for clown fish may become more stressful places to live as bleaching threats worsen.

Anemones, like corals, can bleach under warmer and more acidic ocean conditions, expelling the symbiotic algae that help feed them. But this process can also harm the fish that live among the anemones’ tentacles. One recent study showed that fish living in a bleached anemone may be become less fertile and produce stress hormones.

A new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, looked further at their stress response by taking clown fish living among healthy anemones and subjecting some to bleached conditions in a laboratory tank. It found that these fish had 10 percent higher metabolic rate and needed more energy, a common occurrence in fish that are just stressed out. The authors noted that this higher metabolic rate could make it harder for clown fish to survive in the long term as the planet warms.

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