Toxic chemicals in Durban beach water

With only weeks to go before thousands of holiday-makers travel to KwaZulu-Natal, experts have warned that the water off many Durban beaches contains toxic chemicals.

Beaches, including Anstey’s and Brighton, are among those affected

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance activist Priya Pillay described Durban’s beaches as unsafe and unfit for holiday-makers.

“The tests carried out by the eThekwini municipality’s water and sanitation department revealed high levels of E.coli and Enterococcus bacteria, which cause cholera and gastro-intestinal illnesses,” she said.

The city tested beaches around Durban in the past year, ending in July, and the results revealed that the quality of the beach water did not meet South African water standards.

Pillay cited heavy pollution from industries in the city, as well as pollution from informal settlements as the cause.

“Beaches, including Anstey’s and Brighton, are among those affected,” she said.

In February, the bacterium Vibrio vulnificus was found at a Durban beach after a local doctor contracted it while surfing.

This bacterium, which might cause blistering and inflammation, had eaten through the tissue on Dr Peter Breedt’s foot, leaving an open wound.

He was among several people who became sick after swimming or surfing off city beaches. Continue reading Toxic chemicals in Durban beach water

Huge tongue of ice breaks off glacier

A massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off of a glacier in Greenland, according to NASA satellite imagery, in what could be the latest indication of global warming.

The Petermann Glacier begins to grind and slide toward the sea, terminating in a giant floating ice tongue. Image: Nasa / Reuters

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Sea water getting saltier

The water cycle is the worldwide phenomenon of rainwater falling to the surface, evaporating back into the air and falling again as rain.

Fresh water is getting fresher and saltwater saltier

The wetter parts of the world are getting wetter and the drier parts drier. The researchers know this because the saltier parts of the ocean are getting saltier and the fresher parts, fresher.

Records showed that the saltier parts of the ocean increased salinity — or their salt content — by 4 percent in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000. If the climate warms by an additional 2 or 3 degrees, the researchers project that the water cycle will turn over more quickly, intensifying by almost 25 percent.

Reporting in Science magazine, the researchers said the results of the change in climate would affect agriculture and the ability of drier areas to capture and use fresh water from rain, creating serious problems, including droughts and floods. But they had to look offshore to find their data.

“The oceans are really where the action is happening,” said Paul Durack, the lead author.

The study uses 50 years of data — from 1950-2000 — gathered by instruments, some adrift on the ocean currents, some tethered in place. Some of the instruments are tiers of bottles that open at various depths as they are lowered into the sea, and they take measurements as far down as 9,000 feet. Continue reading Sea water getting saltier

Annual $2 trillion damage to oceans

Greenhouse gases are likely to result in annual costs of nearly $2 trillion in damage to the oceans by 2100, according to a new Swedish study.

Rising sea levels will boost the risk of flood damage around the coastlines of Africa. Photo: Dulue Mbachu/IRIN

The estimate by the Stockholm Environment Institute is based on the assumption that climate-altering carbon emissions continue their upward spiral without a pause.

Warmer seas will lead to greater acidification and oxygen loss, hitting fisheries and coral reefs, it warns.

Rising sea levels and storms will boost the risk of flood damage, especially around the coastlines of Africa and Asia, it adds.

Projecting forward using a business-as-usual scenario, the Earth’s global temperature will rise by four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, says the report, “Valuing the Ocean.”

On this basis, the cost in 2050 will be $428 billion annually, or 0.25 percent of global domestic product (GDP).

By 2100, the cost would rise to $1,979 billion, or 0.37 percent of output.

If emissions take a lower track, and warming is limited to 2.2 C (4 F), the cost in 2050 would be $105 billion, or 0.06 percent of worldwide GDP, rising to $612 billion, or 0.11 percent, by 2100.

“This is not a scaremongering forecast,” says the report. Continue reading Annual $2 trillion damage to oceans

Rising sea levels force nation’s relocation

In what could be the world’s first climate-induced migration of modern times, Anote Tong, the Kiribati president, said he was in talks with Fiji’s military government to buy up to 5,000 acres of freehold land on which his countrymen could be housed.

None of the coral atolls rises more than a few feet above sea level

Some of Kiribati’s 32 pancake-flat coral atolls, which straddle the equator over 1,350,000 square miles of ocean, are already disappearing beneath the waves.

Most of its 113,000 people are crammed on to Tarawa, the administrative centre, a chain of islets which curve in a horseshoe shape around a lagoon.

“This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one,” Mr Tong said.

“Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”

Mr Tong said the plan would be to send a trickle of skilled workers first, so they could merge more easily with the Fijian population and make a positive contribution to that country’s economy.

“We don’t want 100,000 people from Kiribati coming to Fiji in one go,” he told the state-run Fiji One television channel.

“They need to find employment, not as refugees but as immigrant people with skills to offer, people who have a place in the community, people who will not be seen as second-class citizens. Continue reading Rising sea levels force nation’s relocation