Tag Archives: global warming

Secretary Kerry: Obama’s climate change targets won’t be reversed

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a stirring appeal on Nov. 16 to all countries — including his own — to press ahead with the fight against climate change, saying a failure to do so would be a “betrayal of devastating consequences.”

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Kerry’s speech at the U.N. climate talks was partly aimed at the Republican president-elect who has called global warming a “hoax” and has pledged to “cancel” the Paris deal limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

“No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input,” Kerry said.

With 2016 on track to be the hottest year on record, Kerry said the impacts of global warming are now evident across the world with record-breaking droughts, rising sea levels, unusual storms and millions of people displaced by weather events.

“At some point even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening,” he said.

The U.S. election outcome has created deep uncertainty about the U.S. role in international climate talks — and about the Paris Agreement adopted last year by more than 190 countries. But Kerry said the U.S. was already in the midst of a clean energy transition that would continue regardless of policy-making.

“I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now today on our way to meeting all of the international targets we have set,” Kerry said. “Because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed.”

The Obama administration pledged during the Paris negotiations to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Bill Hare, director of the Climate Analytics research group, said the U.S. in on the right path toward meeting its target “but a bit more is needed to get there.”

He said if Trump dismantles Obama policies such as the Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan, then U.S. emissions would stay at current levels instead of decrease.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, said clean energy and efficiency investments by U.S. businesses and consumers are likely to keep American emissions falling overall.

However, he added that “most analysts believe it will take additional government policies that Trump is highly unlikely to pursue to meet the sharper emissions cuts the U.S. has pledged by 2025 under the Paris agreement.”

Kerry said an “overwhelming majority” of Americans know that climate change is happening and support the U.S. commitments under the Paris deal.

Falling short in the fight against climate change would be a “moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequences,” he said.

Kerry said climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue and noted that military and intelligence leaders have recognized its potential as a “threat-multiplier.”

He asked leaders in all parts of the world, “including my own,” to inform themselves about climate change by talking to scientists, economists, business leaders and other experts.

“I ask you on behalf of billions of people around the world … do your own diligence before making irrevocable choices,” he said.

Study predicts deserts in Spain if global warming continues

Southern Spain will become desert and deciduous forests will vanish from much of the Mediterranean basin unless global warming is reined in sharply, according to a new study.

Researchers used historical data and computer models to forecast the likely impact of climate change on the Mediterranean region, based on the targets for limiting global warming 195 countries agreed to during a summit in France last year.

“The Paris Agreement says it’s necessary to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), if possible 1.5 degrees,” Joel Guiot, a researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research in France who co-wrote the study, said. “That doesn’t seem much to people, but we wanted to see what the difference would be on a sensitive region like the Mediterranean.”

The authors examined the environmental changes the Mediterranean has undergone during the last 10,000 years, using pollen records to gauge the effect that temperatures had on plant life.

They came up with four scenarios pegged to different concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Three of the scenarios are already widely used by scientists to model future climate change, while the fourth was designed to predict what would happen if global warming remains at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

The fourth scenario is particularly ambitious because average global temperatures have already risen by 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times. It is, however, the only one under which Mediterranean basin ecosystems would remain within the range of changes seen in the past 10,000 years, the researchers found.

At the other extreme — the scenario in which global warming hits 2 degrees — deserts would expand in Spain, North Africa and the Near East, while vegetation in the region would undergo a significant change from the coasts right up to the mountains, the study states.

The region is considered a hotspot for biodiversity and its landscape also has long been cultivated by humans, making it a particularly interesting case study for the researchers, whose work was published online in the journal Science.

“Climate has always been important there,” said Guiot, noting that several civilizations — from the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks and the Romans — emerged around the Mediterranean over the past millennia.

While their demise probably resulted from social and political changes, climate conditions may have played a role in the past and could do so again in the future, he said.

Current flows of migrants are being driven largely by political unrest, but prolonged periods of drought could spark mass migrations of people due to climate change, Guiot said.

The researchers acknowledged that their study did not factor in the environmental impact of human activity in the Mediterranean basin. Some areas already are experiencing severe water shortages made worse by intensive agriculture and tree clearance.

“If anything, human action will exacerbate what the study projects, and it could turn out to be too optimistic,” Guiot said.

The Paris climate agreement comes into effect next week.

 

Global deal reached to limit powerful greenhouse gases

Nearly 200 nations have reached a deal, announced this weekend, to limit the use of greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide in a major effort to fight climate change.

The talks on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, were called the first test of global will since the historic Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions was reached last year. HFCs are described as the world’s fastest-growing climate pollutant and are used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Experts say cutting them is the fastest way to reduce global warming.

President Barack Obama, in a statement Saturday, called the new deal “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis.” The spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “critically important.”

The agreement, unlike the broader Paris one, is legally binding. It caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning by 2019 with action by developed countries including the United States, the world’s second-worst polluter. More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s top carbon emitter, will start taking action by 2024, when HFC consumption levels should peak.

A small group of countries including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states pushed for and secured a later start in 2028, saying their economies need more time to grow. That’s three years earlier than India, the world’s third-worst polluter, had first proposed.

“It’s a very historic moment, and we are all very delighted that we have come to this point where we can reach a consensus and agree to most of the issues that were on the table,” said India’s chief delegate, Ajay Narayan Jha.

Environmental groups had hoped that the deal could reduce global warming by a half-degree Celsius by the end of this century. This agreement gets about 90 percent of the way there, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

Zaelke’s group said this is the “largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement.”

The new agreement is “equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years,” David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

It is estimated that the agreement will cut the global levels of HFCs by 80 to 85 percent by 2047, the World Resources Institute said in a statement.

Experts said they hope that market forces will help speed up the limits agreed to in the deal.

HFCs were introduced in the 1980s as a substitute for ozone-depleting gases. But their danger has grown as air conditioner and refrigerator sales have soared in emerging economies like China and India. HFCs are also found in inhalers and insulating foams.

Major economies have debated how quickly to phase out HFCs. The United States, whose delegation was led by Secretary of State John Kerry, and Western countries want quick action. Nations such as India want to give their industries more time to adjust.

“Thank God we got to this agreement that is good for all nations, that takes into consideration all regional and national issues,” said Taha Mohamed Zatari, the head of Saudi Arabia’s negotiating team.

Small island states and many African countries had pushed for early timeframes, saying they face the biggest threat from climate change.

“It may not be entirely what the islands wanted, but it is a good deal,” Mattlan Zackhras, the minister-in-assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands, said in a statement. “We all know we must go further, and we will go further.”

The U.N. says the next meeting in 2017 will determine how much of the billions of dollars needed to finance the reduction of HFCs will be provided by countries.

HFCs are less plentiful than carbon dioxide, but Kerry said last month that they currently emit as much pollution as 300 coal-fired power plants each year. That amount will rise significantly over the coming decades as air conditioning units and refrigerators reach hundreds of millions of new people.

HFCs don’t harm the ozone layer like chlorofluorocarbons and similar gases that were eliminated under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. The entire world ratified that agreement, helping to repair holes in the ozone that helps shield the planet from the harmful rays of the sun. The aim of this meeting was to attach an amendment to that treaty dealing specifically with HFCs.

“This is about much more than the ozone layer and HFCs. It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable,” Erik Solheim, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement.

Environmental groups were already turning attention Saturday to other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

“Acting on HFCs does not exempt us from acting on CO2 or other important greenhouse gases like methane. We emit considerably more carbon, and it lingers in the atmosphere for more than 500 years,” Carol Werner, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, said in a statement.

Washington voters to decide on nation’s 1st carbon tax

Washington lawmakers have tried and failed in recent years to make polluters pay for their carbon emissions to fight climate change.

Now, voters will get to decide.

Continue reading Washington voters to decide on nation’s 1st carbon tax

Global agreement to tackle climate change takes effect Nov. 4

A new global agreement to tackle climate change will take effect on Nov. 4 after the accord crossed an important threshold for support late on Wednesday.

European nations, Canada, Bolivia and Nepal boosted official backing for the 2015 Paris Agreement to countries representing more than 55 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions, as needed for implementation.

By Thursday, 74 countries or parties to the U.N. climate change convention had formally joined the Paris Agreement, adding up to nearly 60 percent of global emissions, a U.N. website showed.

U.S. President Barack Obama called Wednesday “a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations”.

“If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet,” he said.

Work will start at U.N. climate talks in Morocco next month to hammer out the rules for putting the accord into practice.

Here is a selection of comments on the agreement’s entry into force from top officials and climate change experts:

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State:

“Today it is crystal clear that we have finally woken up. We have learned from the false starts of the past, and we are now – finally – on the path to protecting the future for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come.”

Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary-General:

“Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts.”

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary, U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):

“Entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mohamed Adow, senior climate advisor, Christian Aid:

“The speed at which the Paris Agreement has come into force has been remarkable. But we now need to see tangible actions to follow just as quickly. As Hurricane Matthew leaves destruction across the Caribbean, we’re reminded that our climate continues to undergo rapid change and we are continuing to pollute it.”

Wolfgang Jamann, CEO and secretary general, CARE International:

To see the benefits of the Paris Agreement, “we need to keep the momentum, and quickly step up actions to cut emissions by shifting away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Governments need to rapidly improve the climate resilience of their most vulnerable and marginalized populations especially women and girls. Otherwise the agreement will be an empty shell, and the consequences will continue to be devastating for millions around the world.”

Heather Coleman, climate change manager, Oxfam America:

“While countries have all pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, the collective commitments made are still not enough to prevent dangerous climate change. Countries need to implement and scale up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean, resilient economy.

Oxfam estimates that the communities most vulnerable to feeling the effects of climate change are only receiving a fraction of the money that rich countries pledged to adaptation.”

Jennifer Morgan, executive director, Greenpeace International:

“Now that a truly global binding climate agreement is in place, governments should have the confidence to not only meet but also beat their national targets and provide support to the poorest countries.”

Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute:

“With the agreement in full force, countries can shift their focus from commitment to action.

We must create more livable, low-carbon cities and expand the supply of land and forests for carbon storage. We must slash food loss and waste, a major source of emissions and a travesty for people who lack enough food. And, we must continue to work at all levels – global, national, cities and communities – to build the political will for this transformation.”

May Boeve, executive director, 350.org:

“The entry (into force) of the Paris climate agreement represents a turning point in the fight against climate change: the era of fossil fuels is finally coming to an end. Now the real work begins. The only way to meet the 1.5 or 2°C target (for global temperature rise) is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The fossil fuel industry’s current ‘drill and burn’ business plan is completely incompatible with this agreement.”

Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer, IKEA Group:

“The Paris agreement represents a turning point for business. The certainty of ever-stronger policies to reduce emissions creates clarity and unlocks opportunities for developing products, services and operations for a low-carbon economy. We are only at the beginning, but the pace at which countries have been ratifying the agreement shows that the policy leadership is there to achieve real change. Now we need to work together for a rapid transition to a future built on clean, renewable energy.”

(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Arctic sea ice shrinks to second lowest level on record

 

Arctic sea ice this summer shrank to its second lowest level since scientists started to monitor it by satellite, with scientists saying it is another ominous signal of global warming.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said the sea ice reached its summer low point on Sept. 10, extending 1.6 million square miles (4.14 million square kilometers). That’s behind only the mark set in 2012, 1.31 million square miles (3.39 million square kilometers).

Center director Mark Serreze said this year’s level technically was 3,800 square miles (10,000 square kilometers) less than 2007, but that’s so close the two years are essentially tied.

Even though this year didn’t set a record, “We have reinforced the overall downward trend. There is no evidence of recovery here,” Serreze said. “We’ve always known that the Arctic is going to be the early warning system for climate change. What we’ve seen this year is reinforcing that.”

This year’s minimum level is nearly 1 million square miles (2.56 million square kilometers) smaller than the 1979 to 2000 average. That’s the size of Alaska and Texas combined.

“It’s a tremendous loss that we’re looking at here,” Serreze said.

It was an unusual year for sea ice in the Arctic, Serreze said. In the winter, levels were among their lowest ever for the cold season, but then there were more storms than usual over the Arctic during the summer. Those storms normally keep the Arctic cloudy and cooler, but that didn’t keep the sea ice from melting this year, he said.

“Summer weather patterns don’t matter as much as they used to, so we’re kind of entering a new regime,” Serreze said.

Serreze said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Arctic was essentially ice free in the summer by 2030, something that will affect international security.

“The trend is clear and ominous,” National Center for Atmospheric Research senior scientist Kevin Trenberth said in an email. “This is indeed why the polar bear is a poster child for human-induced climate change, but the effects are not just in the Arctic.”

One recent theory divides climate scientists: Melting Arctic sea ice may change the jet stream and weather further south, especially in winter.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said. “It looks increasingly likely that the dramatic decrease in Arctic sea ice is impacting weather in mid-latitudes and may be at least partly responsible for the more dramatic, persistent and damaging weather anomalies we’ve seen so many of in recent years.”

 

Arctic cruise goes from Bering Strait to New York for first time

The giant luxury liner was anchored just off Nome, too hulking to use the Bering Sea community’s docks on its inaugural Arctic cruise.

Instead, its more than 900 Arctic cruise passengers piled into small transport boats and motored to shore, where they snapped photos of wild musk oxen, lifted glasses in the town’s colorful bars and nibbled blueberry pie while admiring Alaska Native dancers at Nome’s summer celebration.

The Crystal Serenity’s visit to Alaska’s western coast is historic. At nearly three football fields long and 13 stories tall, the cruise ship is the largest ever to traverse the Northwest Passage, where its well-heeled guests glimpsed polar bears, kayaked along Canada’s north shore, landed on pristine beaches and hiked where few have stepped.

Some remote villages along the way are seeing dollar signs, while environmentalists are seeing doom. They say the voyage represents global warming and man’s destruction of the Earth.

The terrible irony with the Crystal Serenity’s voyage is that it’s taking place only because of climate change and the melting Arctic, said Michael Byers, a professor in the political science department at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The Northwest Passage, which connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, has long been choked off by ice. But melting brought on by climate change is allowing passengers to cruise up the Bering Strait and then head east toward Greenland over the Arctic Ocean before docking next week in New York City.

“And yet, by actually taking advantage of climate change, it’s contributing to the problem because the ship has a very large carbon footprint of its own,”Byers said.

The Arctic cruise ship left Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula, Aug. 16 with about 900 guests and 600 crew members on board. During its monthlong journey to New York, it will visit towns and villages in western and northern Alaska, Canada, Greenland and the eastern seaboard.

Smaller cruise ships, those that hold about 200 people, routinely make a port call in Nome and continue through the passage, but this ship is different.

“This is the game changer,”Nome Mayor Richard Beneville said. “This is the one that’s on everyone’s lips.’’

Nome spared nothing to make sure tourists off the high-end Arctic cruise liner — tickets cost more than $20,000 per person, with a penthouse starting at about six times that — felt at home.

The guests came to town in waves so they didn’t overwhelm the available services in Nome, population about 3,800.

They arrived at the small harbor dock and loaded into vans or school buses for their adventures, which included getting a gander at a herd of wild musk oxen that had taken up residence just outside town.

Other activities arranged for the Arctic cruise ship passengers were hiking and birding tours and helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft flights. Organizers even rescheduled the annual Blueberry Festival so visitors could enjoy a $5 piece of pie while watching traditional Eskimo dancers or browsing tables of seal skin gloves and wallets made by Alaska Native artists. The event took place a block from where the world’s most famous sled-dog race, the Iditarod, ends every March.

“Being at this festival here, the indigenous families that are here, I mean they are so proud of what they have, their handcrafts, their dancing, their music. They just love it, even with the hardships they have to endure, the prices they have to endure,”said Floridian Bob Lentz, who was traveling with his wife, Linda.

Charlie and Joan Davis of San Francisco signed up for the cruise within the first hour it was offered three years ago.

“We’ve been around the world many times, and this is someplace we’ve never been to, that’s somewhat unknown,”Charlie Davis said. “You know, just an adventure.’’

They weren’t alone in wanting to be part of the historic cruise.

“This is the longest single cruise we have ever made, and it is the most expensive cruise we’ve ever made because it’s many days, and it’s very expensive to operate up here,”said the ship’s captain, Birger Vorland. “And it’s the one that sold out the fastest; 48 hours, it was basically gone.’’

This cruise was three years in the making, and just about everything is unique to the trip, said John Stoll, a Crystal vice president who organized it.

The Serenity was fitted with special equipment to operate in the Arctic, including an ice navigation satellite system. Its operators even chartered cargo flights to northern communities to gather fresh perishables for the vessel’s five-star restaurants.

“The planning and the logistics that has gone into this ship has been nothing short of amazing,”Stoll said.

The cruise company is planning another Alaska-to-New York City voyage next August, catering to travelers like the Lentzes.

“We’re going off on a wildlife adventure right now, and that, to me, is what it’s all about in our twilight years — kind of experiencing things before crazy humans destroy it,”Bob Lentz said.

 

Climate change may be turning gulls into cannibals

By TRISTAN BAURICK, Kitsap Sun

Jim Hayward slips on a hard hat and pops open an umbrella before stepping into a storm of angry gulls.

Hayward, a seabird biologist based on Protection Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is making his evening rounds through the largest gull nesting colony in the Puget Sound region. He’s been monitoring this site since 1987, so he’s used to the shrieking, the dive-bombing, the frequent splatterings of gull poop, and the pecking at his head, hands and feet.

What he’s not accustomed to is the cannibalism, reported the Kitsap Sun. It’s hard to watch: A fluffy chick straying a few yards from its nest is suddenly snatched up by its neck. Another hungry gull swoops in and bites at the chick’s leg. The mother intervenes but is outnumbered. Her baby disappears under a frenzy of flapping and pecking.

Over the last decade, the gulls have shown a growing taste for their neighbors’ eggs and chicks. The trend appears linked to climate change.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot, but a one-tenth of a degree change in seawater temperature correlates to a 10 percent increase in (the odds of) cannibalism,” said Hayward, a professor at Andrews University in Michigan.

Over the past 60 years, ocean temperatures have increased about 15 times faster than any other time over the past 10,000 years. As temperatures rise, plankton drops into deeper, colder water. Fish that feed on the plankton also drop lower. The surface-feeding gulls, which depend almost entirely on fish while nesting on Protection Island, can’t find enough to eat.

“So they resort to feeding on their neighbors,” Hayward said.

Bird paradise

Protection Island is a high-cliffed and nearly treeless swath of land near the mouth of Discovery Bay about five miles west of Port Townsend.

More than 70 percent of the region’s seabirds nest on Protection — a fact that led to its status as a national wildlife refuge in 1982. The 380-acre island is home to the third largest colony of rhinoceros auklet seabirds in North America and one of the last two breeding sites in the Salish Sea for tufted puffins, which nest in holes burrowed into sandy cliffs.

The island’s ecological value and the fragility of its habitat make it off-limits to the public.

Protection’s only full-time resident is a caretaker employed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hayward and his wife, mathematician Shandelle Henson, also of Andrews University, spend two months each summer studying the vast glaucous-winged gull population.

High temps, high cannibalism

It was Henson who answered the cannibalism question.

Taking decades of Hayward’s data, she fed it into a computer model loaded with a range of climate and other environmental factors.

“We found that, over the last eight years, there’s a 100 percent correlation between hot years and high cannibalism,” she said.

She also found that gulls are beginning to synchronize egg-laying, possibly in response to cannibalism.

“On one day, we’ll see a ton of eggs. The next day — hardly any,” Hayward said.

Henson’s hypothesis: “If there’s a lot of eggs available all at once, there’s less chance your own eggs will be taken,” she said.

Gulls aren’t picky eaters. They’ll pluck a meal from a dumpster just as readily as a beach at low tide. But during nesting, their range is greatly reduced. They can’t be gone for long from their nests and must rely on whatever the immediate area provides. Increasingly, the region’s marine waters simply aren’t providing.

Forage fish such as herring and sand lance — key food sources for salmon, birds and other marine animals — are in decline. Fish accustomed to warmer water are moving in, but they pack less of a nutritional punch.

“Essentially, they’re getting junk food,” said Scott Pearson, an avian ecologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The region’s puffins haven’t resorted to cannibalism but climate change appears to be making them less committed parents.

During periods of high sea temperatures, Puffins tend to abandon their nests, fail to incubate their eggs or skip the nesting routine altogether. That’s probably because they’re so busy and exhausted from food hunting that they can’t invest time or energy into raising the next generation, Pearson said.

While puffin populations are struggling, a visit to any Puget Sound beach makes clear that gulls are anything but endangered, despite the rise in cannibalism.

But what happens with gulls may be happening or may soon happen with other species that aren’t as easy to study, Henson said. Gulls have long been a favorite species for scientists investigating how environmental changes affect animal behavior.

“They’re big, easy to see and easy to find,” Hayward said. The fact that they nest on the ground in densely-packed colonies makes data collection fairly simple. Hayward strolls through each day, counting and measuring eggs and noting the occurrence of chicks or broken eggs in about 300 nests marked with numbered stakes.

“They’re a good indicator species, like canaries in the coal mine,” he said.

Meade Krosby, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, agrees.

“There’s no doubt climate change has already negatively impacted species around the world,” she said. “We know the oceans are getting warmer, so we can expect more cannibalism.”

Scientists have recently documented climate-related upticks in cannibalism among other species.

As ice recedes in the Arctic, polar bears are finding it harder to hunt seals and other marine mammals. In response, hungry males have been spotted hunting down smaller bears and cubs.

In 2013, warming waters off the coast of Maine sparked a lobster population explosion. With lobsters suddenly the most plentiful food source around, the opportunistic eaters began dining on each other.

“They kind of ate themselves out of business,” Krosby said.

Super cannibals

Cannibalism has been noted in about 1,300 species, including humans. Usually, animals resort to cannibalism as a stopgap measure during periods of food scarcity. Once food is plentiful again, cannibalism ceases.

But what if conditions don’t improve, as appears to be the case with climate change? It could give rise to what Hayward calls “super cannibals.” These are gulls that have largely given up on fish foraging and are instead specializing in hunting their own kind.

“You can tell them because they have scads of egg shells around their territory,” he said. “You see them slowly flap around the colony, and suddenly they drop when they see an unattended nest.”

They also take advantage of the panic caused when an eagle soars overhead. Most gulls begin flying frantic circles, but the super cannibals seize the opportunity, raiding eggs and plucking away chicks.

Cannibal gulls often eat two or three eggs a day — more than enough to meet their caloric needs. Hayward has recorded some of these gulls eating up to 80 eggs in a month.

“For a species, cannibalism is not a good long-term strategy,” Hayward said. “If there’s no food, it can get you across a bad year.”

“But every year,” added Henson, “could be a bad year with climate change.”

A tufted puffin. The region’s puffins haven’t resorted to cannibalism but climate change appears to be making them less committed parents.
A tufted puffin. The region’s puffins haven’t resorted to cannibalism but climate change appears to be making them less committed parents.