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Climate change could kill off one in three plant and animal species within 50 years

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The common giant tree frog from Madagascar is one of many species that's under threat from climate change (Image: John J. Wiens)
The common giant tree frog from Madagascar is one of many species under threat from climate change (Image: John J. Wiens)

Climate change could wipe out one-third of all the plant and animal species on Earth within half a century, scientists have warned.

In a new study, University of Arizona researchers analysed data on recent extinctions and compared it against weather predictions for the next 50 years.

Cristian Román-Palacios and John J. Wiens from the university’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology surveyed data from 538 species and 581 sites around the world.

They found that 44% of the 538 species had already gone extinct at one or more sites – which is known as local extinction.

‘By analyzing the change in 19 climatic variables at each site, we could determine which variables drive local extinctions and how much change a population can tolerate without going extinct,’ Román-Palacios said.

‘We also estimated how quickly populations can move to try and escape rising temperatures. When we put all of these pieces of information together for each species, we can come up with detailed estimates of global extinction rates for hundreds of plant and animal species.’

A dead alligator juniper from Arizona, which is unable to cope with heat increases (Image: Ramona Walls)
A dead alligator juniper from Arizona, which is unable to cope with heat increases (Image: Ramona Walls)

The study identified maximum annual temperatures – the hottest daily highs in summer – as the key piece of information that ‘best explains whether a population will go extinct’.

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Researchers found that many species were able to tolerate some increases in maximum temperatures, but only up to a point.

They found that about half of the species experienced local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius – but a 95% extinction rate if temperatures increase by more than 2.9 degrees Celsius.

The academics said that ‘projections of species loss depend on how much climate will warm in the future’.

‘In a way, it’s a “choose your own adventure,”‘ Wiens said.

‘If we stick to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than two out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070.

‘But if humans cause larger temperature increases, we could lose more than a third or even half of all animal and plant species, based on our results.”

The paper’s projections of species loss are similar for plants and animals, but extinctions are projected to be two to four times more common in the tropics than in temperate regions.

‘This is a big problem, because the majority of plant and animal species occur in the tropics,’ Román-Palacios added.

VINCENNES BAY, ANTARTICA - JANUARY 11: Giant tabular icebergs are surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay on January 11, 2008 in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. (Photo by Torsten Blackwood - Pool/Getty Images)
Humanity could be teetering on the edge of catastrophe (Image: Getty)

Humanity is about to reach the climate change ‘point of no return’ and our attempts to save the planet have been ‘utterly inadequate’, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last year.

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Speaking before the start of a two-week international climate conference in Madrid, the UN chief said rising temperatures are already causing chaos around the world.

He suggested the world has the scientific knowledge and the technical ability to tackle global warming, but ‘what is lacking is political will.’

‘The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,’ Guterres told reporters in the Spanish capital.

‘It is in sight and hurtling toward us.’

Guterres said there was mounting scientific evidence showing the impact man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are already having on the planet, including record temperatures and melting polar ice.

But he insisted that his message was ‘one of hope, not of despair’.

He added: ‘Our war against nature must stop and we know that that is possible.’

‘What is still lacking is political will,’ he added.

‘Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.’

Global warming 'threatens the existence of human civilisations' and we need to cut emissions immediately, researchers warned (Picture: Getty)
Global warming ‘threatens the existence of human civilisations’ and we need to cut emissions immediately, researchers warned (Picture: Getty)

The warning came after scientists said nine climate change ‘tipping points’ have now been crossed and the ‘cascade of changes’ could spell doom for humanity.

They called for the establishment of a ‘state of planetary emergency’ and urged governments to take urgent action to stop the production of greenhouse gases and said global warming risked creating a ‘hothouse Earth’ that ‘could threaten the existence of human civilisations’.

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‘A decade ago we identified a suite of potential tipping points in the Earth system, now we see evidence that over half of them have been activated,’ said Professor Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter and lead author of a new paper in the respected journal Nature.

‘The growing threat of rapid, irreversible changes means it is no longer responsible to wait and see. The situation is urgent and we need an emergency response.

‘We might already have crossed the threshold for a cascade of inter-related tipping points.

‘However, the rate at which they progress, and therefore the risk they pose, can be reduced by cutting our emissions.’

Countdown to doomsday: If these nine natural

  1. Melting of Arctic sea ice.
  2. Loss of Greenland ice sheet.
  3. The disappearance of boreal forests.
  4. Thawing of Permafrost.
  5. Loss of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (currents which carry warm water from the tropics into the North Atlantic)
  6. Death of the Amazon rainforest.
  7. The demise of warm-water corals.
  8. Melting of West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  9. Loss of parts of East Antarctica.

The collapse of major ice sheets on Greenland, West Antarctica and part of East Antarctica would cause roughly 10 metres of irreversible sea-level rise.

If rainforests, permafrost and boreal forests die off, huge amounts of greenhouse gases will be released into the air and amplify global warming.

We could stave off this disaster by reducing emissions, but this would only ‘allow more time for low-lying populations to move’ to another part of the world.

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And once we’ve reached several tipping points, a cataclysmic ‘cascade’ could begin which accelerates climate change to terrifying proportions.

‘If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization,’ the scientists wrote.

‘No amount of economic cost-benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.’

Co-author Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: ‘It is not only human pressures on Earth that continue rising to unprecedented levels.

‘It is also that as science advances, we must admit that we have underestimated the risks of unleashing irreversible changes, where the planet self-amplifies global warming.

‘This is what we now start seeing, already at 1°C global warming.

‘Scientifically, this provides strong evidence for declaring a state of planetary emergency, to unleash world action that accelerates the path towards a world that can continue evolving on a stable planet.’

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Furious note brands police ‘a**holes’ for parking at scene of serious incident

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(Picture: Ilfracombe Police) Busy morning in Ilfracombe, officers were straight out to an Immediate concern log, on returning to their vehicle, to attend an Immediate RTC at Iron Letters Cross, they disappointingly found the following note on their police vehicle.We wonder if the writer would be as critical if we were going to assist them or their family in an emergency!!When responding to immediate incidents getting to those in need takes priority over spending time finding a parking space!
The officers expressed their disappointment with the note online (Picture: Ilfracombe Police)

Police in Devon have expressed their disappointment at being called ‘a**holes’ over a parking space.

The officers had been called out to a serious incident in Ilfracombe, North Devon, this morning, and were rushing back to their vehicle after hearing reports of a crash nearby.

They then found an unknown passerby had left them a note on the car reading: ‘Great parking a**holes’.

The mystery author had then also drawn a smiley face at the end of the message.

Taking to social media, a spokesperson for the Ilfracombe force said it had been a ‘busy morning’ for the officers who received the note.

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They continued: ‘On returning to their vehicle, to attend an immediate RTC at Iron Letters Cross, they disappointingly found the following note on their police vehicle.

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‘We wonder if the writer would be as critical if we were going to assist them or their family in an emergency!

‘When responding to immediate incidents getting to those in need takes priority over spending time finding a parking space!’

The post received several comments from well-wishers towards the police, who described the note as ‘rude’.

This isn’t the first time emergency service vehicles have been hit with angry messages, with one neighbour telling officers in Shirley, West Midlands, they would clamp their car unless it moved.

The officers had been at the scene of a 94-year-old burglary victim at the time.

While in November last year, a paramedic came back to her ambulance to someone had written a furious note after she blocked their driveway.

The message said: ‘Don’t care if you’re an ambulance you can’t block people’s driveways! ‘Either ask or f***ing come out when we beep the horn for 10 minutes.’

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Woman badly burnt on birthday after hibachi grill exploded in her face

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Samantha Myers
Samantha Myers was left with burns on her face, neck and chest after a hibachi grill exploded in her face. (Picture: KATV/KAIT)

A woman’s 26th birthday ended in disaster after a hibachi grill exploded in her face.

Samantha Myers was left with first-degree burns on her face and second-degree burns on her neck after the painful mishap at Kimono Japanese Steakhouse in Paragould, Arkansas on Sunday.

‘He makes our food and does the volcano trick with the fire. After he does that, he lights it, and fire goes everywhere,’ Myers told KAIT.

She told KATV that both she and the chef caught on fire.

‘It happened so fast, I kind of just jumped back and I was like, “I’m on fire,” she said.

Samantha Myers
Myers was treated for burns at the hospital and was later treated for an infection on her eyelids (Picture: KATV)
Hibachi
Myers was celebrating her 26th birthday with her family when she was burned by the hibachi explosion. (Picture: KAIT)

After the explosion, Myers said she ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face.

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The flames singed off her eyelashes and eyebrows and burned her hair, she said.

thumbnail for post ID 12236966Seriously ill baby died after being infected with mold at damp hospital

She went to a hospital where she was treated for first-degree burns on her face and second-degree burns on her chest and neck.

On Tuesday, she was treated for an infection on her eyelids.

Myers said she had a nightmare about the ordeal after the accident.

Kimono Japanese Steak House
The incident occured at the Kimono Japanese Steak House in Paragould, Arkansas on Saturday. (Picture: Google Maps)

‘I just feel emotionally and physically drained. I’m tired and I’m hurting pretty badly,’ she said.

The restaurant did not make her family pay for their meals and they later offered to pay for her medical bills.

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Myers and her husband, Kobe Myers, hired a layer on Monday to guide them through the steps they would need to take to file a lawsuit.

‘We really don’t know. Whatever the lawyer thinks we need to do because I’m going to have this for the rest of my life,’ she said.

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Seriously ill baby died after being infected with mold at damp hospital

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Photo of Beth Hutt being soothed by her mother Kate next to photo of her in bed
Beth Hutt is soothed by her mom Kate as she prepares to say goodbye to the youngster, who was killed by a mold infection she contracted while receiving treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital (Pictures: Beth’s HLHS Journey)

A six month-old baby girl died after being infected with mold while being treated at a hospital with a damp problem.

Beth Hutt died in the early hours of Wednesday, six months after being born suffering from a heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) at the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The little girl underwent three surgeries for the condition, and contracted an infection caused by Aspergillus mold during her stay there.

That mold has plagued the hospital for almost 20 years, and sickened patients as far back as 2001.

Writing on a Facebook page set up to share Beth’s story, her family said: ‘Elizabeth Vera Hutt gained her wings on her 175th day of life at 4:40 am.

Photo of baby Beth laying in hospital bed
Seattle Children’s Hospital has been plagued by the mold problem since 2001, with Beth’s parents now joining a lawsuit against the facility (Picture: Beth’s HLHS Journey)

‘Late last night, Beth told us she was ready.

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‘I cannot begin to express the gratitude we have for the team that worked through the night to make sure Beth’s transition was as painless and smooth as possible.

‘We will post when we’ve had the chance to make plans for celebrating our brave, courageous, beautiful warrior.

‘Please understand that we likely won’t be responding to messages or calls while we figure out what “life after” looks like.

‘Much love, the Hutts.’

Beth’s family is now involved in a class action lawsuit against the hospital, The Seattle Times reported.

It was first filed in December, with Beth added to the suit in January.

The youngster had battled debilitating viral infections during her final days, with her parents announcing doctors had done all they can in a moving post Wednesday night.

They said: ‘Beth is dying.

‘There’s nothing further that the team can provide to give her a chance at a life beyond the hospital walls.’

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