Nature and Biodiversity

Melting ice caps slowing Earth's rotation, study shows, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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Top nature and climate news: Melting ice caps slowing Earth's rotation, study shows, and more.

Top nature and climate news: Melting ice caps slowing Earth's rotation, study shows, and more. Image: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Melting ice caps slowing Earth's rotation, study shows; Annual food waste worth $1 trillion, says UN; EU's flagship policy to restore damaged nature could be in jeopardy.

1. Melting ice caps slowing Earth's rotation, study shows

The study published in Nature, says the climate crisis is changing where the planet's mass is concentrated, shifting ice from the poles to become water at the equator, which has a significant impact on the planet's rate of spin.

Duncan Agnew, study author and geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, gives the analogy of a figure skater spinning on ice.

“If you have a skater who starts spinning, if she lowers her arms or stretches out her legs, she will slow down,” he told NBC News. However, drawing in the skaters arms reduces resistance and causes them to spin faster, he said.

In the last few decades several factors have caused the planet to temporarily spin faster, prompting scientists to consider subtracting a leap second from global clocks by 2026.

Agnew suggests the effect of melting ice caps could delay this by around three years.

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2. Annual food waste worth $1 trillion, says UN

In 2022, the world generated 1.05 billion tonnes of food waste; almost one fifth of the food available to consumers, the report found.

Of that, households generated 60%, the food service sector was responsible for 28% and retail for 12%.

“Food waste is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature,” she said.

Food production generates around one quarter of of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The environmental impacts of food and agriculture.
Food production accounts for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Image: Our World in Data

Food loss and waste generates between 8 and 10% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the UN.

Reducing food waste would decrease the environmental cost of food production by using less water, land and energy in production.

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

The EU's policy to restore damaged nature could be in jeopardy after a surprise move by Hungary to withdraw its support, causing a vote on passing the law to be cancelled. If passed, the law would require EU countries to restore nature on a fifth of the bloc's land and sea by 2050.

Brazil and France have launched a $1.1 billion private and public investment programme to protect Brazilian and Guyanese Amazon rainforests. The announcement was made during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the South American country.

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Mexico's ancient oasis of Cuatro Cienegas wetlands is running dry as alfalfa crops and other agricultural activity sap it dry, according to a Mexican Institute of Water Technology report. Scientists say the geological anomaly can help them understand the origins of Earth, climate change and the chances of life on Mars.

UK greenhouse gas emissions fell 5.4% in 2023, partly as a result of reduced gas demand from the electricity supply and buildings and product uses sectors, according to data from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ).

There is speculation that the Javan tiger, thought extinct, could still be in the wild after a DNA study found strands of tiger hair with characteristics matching the native species. Conservationists have set up camera traps and are conducting DNA sweeps to find more evidence of their existence, an Indonesian environment ministry official told Reuters.

The 18th annual Earth Hour was marked on the 23rd March 2024 by supporters in more than 180 countries contributing 1.4 million hours to reconnect with nature, restore environments, learn about sustainability and care for the planet, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

The United Nations' World Water Day is held annually on 22nd March, with the aim of raising awareness of global freshwater challenges and solutions. This year's theme was Water for Peace, exploring links between water and instability and conflict.

Earthquakes and other disasters underscore the importance of investing in building resilient infrastructure. Here's how building codes, inspections and innovation can play an important role in reducing casualties and property damage.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
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Contents
1. Melting ice caps slowing Earth's rotation, study shows2. Annual food waste worth $1 trillion, says UN 3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week 4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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