Global Warming

Students Around the World Protest Climate Change

Thousands of school pupils worldwide have abandoned classrooms for a day of protest against climate change. India, South Korea, Australia and the US are among the countries where teenagers are already on strike.

The day of action is expected to embrace about 100 countries. The globally co-ordinated children’s protests – promoted through posts on Twitter and other social media – have been going on for several months.

Global Warming

Dire UN climate change report

Earth is sick with multiple and worsening environmental ills killing millions of people yearly, a new U.N. report says.

Climate change, a global major extinction of animals and plants, a human population soaring toward 10 billion, degraded land, polluted air, and plastics, pesticides and hormone-changing chemicals in the water are making the planet an increasing unhealthy place for people, says the scientific report issued once every few years.

The sixth Global Environment Outlook, released Wednesday at a U.N. conference in Nairobi, Kenya, concludes “unsustainable human activities globally have degraded the Earth’s ecosystems, endangering the ecological foundations of society.”

But the same document says changes in the way the world eats, buys things, gets its energy and handles its waste could help fix the problems.

The report details climate change impacts on human health, air, water, land and biodiversity. Almost all coastal cities and small island nations are increasingly vulnerable to flooding from rising seas and extreme weather.

A major species extinction event, compromising planetary integrity and Earth’s capacity to meet human needs, is unfolding,” the report says, listing threats to ecosystems, fisheries and other major systems. It notes conservationists are divided on whether Earth is in a sixth mass extinction.

People getting sick from diseases caused by antimicrobial resistant bacteria in water supplies could become a major cause of death worldwide by 2050, unless something can be done about it, the report says.

Land is getting less fertile and useful. The report says degradation “hot spots,” where it’s difficult to grow crops, now cover 29 percent of all land areas. The rate of deforestation has slowed but continues.

Global Warming

Planting Trees Not Enough

There is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that solely planting trees won’t be enough to save humans from global warming, a study has revealed.

It was recently found that young trees can absorb carbon dioxide better than established tropical rainforests, which seemed to be a dose of good news.

But research has found there just isn’t enough space on earth to plant the amount of trees that would be required to make a real dent in our carbon emissions.

It has been calculated that if we planted 1.7 billion acres of trees, we could remove 3 billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year, according to Business Insider.

That’s about 10 percent of what humans emit every year, which can total up to 40 billion tons.

Scientists have looked at trees as a potential solution because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, using it to form carbohydrates that are used in plant structure and function. Trees also release oxygen back into the atmosphere as a byproduct.

But 1.7 billion acres of trees would be equivalent to the entire contiguous US.

And planting that many trees would cover half the land that is used to farm crops worldwide, plus land we would need to eventually farm as populations continue to grow.

Thus, studies have found that this solution could actually lead to starvation of the human population.

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Wildfires

Wildfires Destroying Forests Permanently in American West

Climate change in the American West may be crossing an ominous threshold, making parts of the region inhospitable for some native pine and fir forests to regrow after wildfires, new research suggests.

As temperatures rise, the hotter, drier air and drier soil conditions are increasingly unsuitable for young Douglas firs and ponderosa pines to take root and thrive in some of the region’s low-elevation forests, scientists write in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wildfires in these areas could lead to abrupt ecosystem changes, from forest to non-forest, that would otherwise take decades to centuries.

The two iconic species are important to both the region’s forest ecology and its economy, particularly its timber industry.

Global Warming

Rain melting Greenland ice sheet ‘even in winter’

Rain is becoming more frequent in Greenland and accelerating the melting of its ice, a new study has found. Scientists say they’re “surprised” to discover rain falling even during the long Arctic winter. The massive Greenland ice-sheet is being watched closely because it holds a huge store of frozen water.

Precipitation usually falls as snow in winter – rather than as rain – which can balance out any melting of the ice in the summer. Even if it falls during winter, and then quickly refreezes, the rain changes the characteristics of the surface, leaving it smoother and darker, and “pre-conditioned” to melt more rapidly when summer arrives.

The darker the ice is, the more heat it absorbs from the Sun – causing it to melt more quickly.

Whereas in 1979 there were on average 2 spells of winter rain, by 2012 the analysis found there were 12 spells of winter rain.

In stable times, snowfall in winter will balance any ice melted or breaking off into the ocean in summer. But research has shown how in recent decades the ice-sheet has been losing vast amounts of mass.

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Global Warming

Climate change is reshaping Australia’s forests

Australia’s forests are being reshaped by climate change as droughts, heatwaves, rising temperatures and bushfires drive ecosystems towards collapse, ecologists have told Guardian Australia. Trees are dying, canopies are getting thinner and the rate that plants produce seeds is falling. Ecologists have long predicted that climate change would have major consequences for Australia’s forests. Now they believe those impacts are unfolding.

According to the 2018 State of the Climate Report, produced by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, large parts of the country are experiencing increases in weather patterns favourable to fires. The report found that rainfall has dropped in the south-east and south-west of the country, temperatures have warmed by an average of 1C, and a “shift to a warmer climate in Australia is accompanied by more extreme daily heat events”.

In one large shrub species – the south-western native Hooker’s banksia – researchers found seed production has halved in the last 30 years. They say the idea that Australia’s forests are well adapted to the country’s variable climate and can withstand fire and drought, is incorrect. “A big misapprehension is that these things are climatologically flexible, but they’re just not”, explaining that Australia’s dominant eucalypts have “fine-tuned their life history around assumptions of fire frequency”, but “climate change is just blowing that up”.Screen Shot 2019 03 07 at 2 17 44 PM

Global Warming

Climate change forces Arctic animals to shift feeding habits

Seals and whales in the Arctic are shifting their feeding patterns as climate change alters their habitats, and the way they do so may determine whether they survive, a new study has found.

Researchers harnessed datasets spanning two decades to examine how two species of Arctic wildlife — white whales and ringed seals — are adapting to their changing homes.

Both species traditionally hunt for food in areas with sea ice and particularly at so-called tidal glacier fronts, where glaciers meet the ocean. But with climate change melting sea ice and prompting glaciers to retreat, researchers in Norway decided to look at whether and how animals in the affected areas were adapting.

The data showed that two decades ago, both species spent around half their time foraging at glacier fronts and eating a diet dominated by polar cod.

Seals stuck with their old diet, but appeared to spend more time searching for the food at the glacier fronts. White whales meanwhile are spending less time near glacier fronts and more time in the centre of fjords.

The “flexible” response apparently shown by the whales “improves their chances of adapting to warming conditions”, the researchers added. By contrast, the apparent doubling down by the ringed seals on their traditional hunting grounds despite the shifting climate “reflects limited adaptability and resilience”. And that could be bad news for the seals in a changing world, the study warns.

Global Warming

Ocean heatwaves devastate wildlife

Invisible to people but deadly to marine life, ocean heatwaves have damaged ecosystems across the globe and are poised to become even more destructive, according to the first study to measure worldwide impacts with a single yardstick.

The number of marine heatwave days has increased by more than 50 percent since the mid-20th century, researchers reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Sustained spikes in sea-surface temperatures can also have devastating consequences. A 10-week marine heatwave near western Australia in 2011, for example, shattered an entire ecosystem and permanently pushed commercial fish species into colder waters.

Corals have been the marquee victims of shallow-water heatwaves, and face a bleak future. Even if humanity manages to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius — mission impossible, according to some scientists — up to 90 percent of corals are likely to die, the UN’s top climate science body said in October.

But other bedrock species have suffered too: the 2011 surge of heat killed off large swathes of seagrass meadows and kelp forests, along with the finfish and abalone that depend on them.

Another ocean hot spell off the coast of California warmed waters by 6 C (10.8 F) and lasted for more than a year. Known at “The Blob”, it generated toxic algae blooms, caused the closure of crab fisheries, and led to the death of sea lions, whales and sea birds.

As manmade global warming heats the planet, oceans have absorbed some 90 percent of the extra heat generated. Without that heat sponge, air temperatures would be intolerably higher.

Global Warming

Climate change shrinking fish populations worldwide

Warming oceans from human-caused climate change has shrunk the populations of many fish species around the world, according to a study released Thursday.

Overfishing and poor fisheries management have only intensified the problem.

Some of the biggest drops were In the seas near China and Japan, where fish populations dropped by as much as 35 percent from 1930 to 2010, the decades analyzed in the study. Globally, the drop is 4.1 percent for many species of fish and shellfish, according to the study.

Keeping fish stocks plentiful is vital, the study says, since Earth’s oceans have become a crucial source of food for the planet’s rapidly growing population. In fact, more than 50 million people around the world earn a living by fishing, and seafood provides about half of the protein eaten by people in developing nations, according to the study.

“We recommend that fisheries managers eliminate overfishing, rebuild fisheries and account for climate change in fisheries management decisions,” the study said.

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Global Warming

Climate change is revealing, and threatening, thawing relics

Since the scorching hot summer of 2006, almost 3,000 archaeological artifacts have appeared from the melting ice in Oppland, Northern Norway. Among them, an Iron Age tunic, a 1,500-year-old arrow and a 3,400-year-old shoe.

Here, a a glacier archaeology program called Secrets of the Ice is documenting the finds being made on local ice patches — static or slow-moving ice fields that are ideal locations to find objects that were once lost in the snow. Instead of having to dig like traditional archaeologists, Oppland’s archaeologists simply survey areas of the ice, looking out for artifacts that have thawed.

Many of Norway’s glaciers have experienced increased melting this century, caused by warmer temperatures. But whilst the changing climate is presenting archaeologists with exciting finds, it is also threatening to destroy ancient relics before archaeologists ever see them. Once an artifact is exposed to oxygen and sunlight, it will start to degrade.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Could Make Common Clouds Extinct, Which Would Scorch the Planet

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If humanity pumps enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, one of Earth’s most important types of cloud could go extinct. And if the stratocumulus clouds — those puffy, low rolls of vapor that blanket much of the planet at any given moment — disappear, Earth’s temperature could climb sharply and radically, to heights not predicted in current climate models. That’s the conclusion of a paper published today (Feb. 25) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Clouds have long been one of the great uncertainties of climate models. Clouds are complicated, small and fast-changing. Computer models that easily capture the complexity and detail of most climate systems just aren’t powerful enough to predict worldwide shifts in cloud behavior.

But clouds are important. They dye a wide swath of the atmosphere white, as seen from space, reflecting sunlight away from Earth’s surface. And stratocumulus clouds are an important part of that picture; they’re those white blankets you might have seen as you looked out the window of an airplane, rolling out below you and hiding the ground. Researchers suspect that certain sudden, past jumps in temperature may have been caused by changes to clouds like these.

And once the stratocumulus clouds are gone, Wolchover reported, they likely wouldn’t reappear until atmospheric carbon dioxide levels dropped below where they are currently.

Evidence for Man-Made Global Warming Hits ‘Gold Standard’

Evidence for man-made global warming has reached a “gold standard” level of certainty, adding pressure for cuts in greenhouse gases to limit rising temperatures, scientists said Monday.

“Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals,” the U.S.-led team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change of satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years.

They said confidence that human activities were raising the heat at the Earth’s surface had reached a “five-sigma” level, a statistical gauge meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the signal would appear if there was no warming.

Global Warming

Australian rodent marks first climate change extinction

An Australian rodent that lived near the Great Barrier Reef has been officially declared extinct, making it the first known mammal killed off by climate change, according to researchers.

The Bramble Cay melomys, a rat-like rodent known to live on a small northern island at the edge of the Torres Strait Islands in Queensland, was relocated from the government’s “endangered” list to its “extinct” list, the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy announced Monday.

Researchers, in a 2016 report released on the critter, said they confirmed that melomys on Bramble Cay were extinct after a “survey in March 2014 failed to detect the species.” Fishermen who visited the area suggested to scientists that the last known sighting of the animal was in late 2009.

The Torres Strait region where Bramble Cay is located has seen “extreme high water levels and damaging storm surges,” the 2016 report stated. These weather events are the “root cause” of the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys, which “point[s] to human-induced climate change,” scientists said.

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Global Warming

Massive restoration of world’s forests would cancel out a decade of CO2 emissions

Replenishing the world’s forests on a grand scale would suck enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cancel out a decade of human emissions, according to an ambitious new study.

Scientists have established there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees to grow in parks, woods and abandoned land across the planet.

If such a goal were accomplished, ecologist Dr Thomas Crowther said it would outstrip every other method for tackling climate change – from building wind turbines to vegetarian diets.

Lack of accurate information meant for years experts severely underestimated the number of trees on Earth. Combining data from ground-based surveys and satellites, Dr Crowther and his colleagues arrived at a figure of three trillion – over seven times more than a previous Nasa estimate. Dr Crowther said undervaluing trees means scientists have also been massively underestimating the potential for forests to combat climate change.

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Global Warming

Warming Record

The U.N. weather agency announced that the last four years have been the warmest ever recorded since reliable measurements began.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also says that the 20 warmest years in history occurred during the past 22 years.

The WMO went on to point out that the unprecedented warming continues this year, with Australia experiencing its hottest January on record.

“The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Oceans to Change Color

The distinctive blue color that Earth presents to the universe may be altered by the end of this century due to effects of a warmer climate.

A team of U.S. and British researchers modeled how phytoplankton absorb and reflect light, and how the ocean’s color will change as global warming alters the composition of those microorganisms living in it.

The scientists predict that blue regions, such as the subtropics, will become more blue, while areas nearer the poles may turn a deeper green as warmer waters stimulate larger and more diverse blooms of phytoplankton.

“There will be a noticeable difference in the color of 50 percent of the ocean by the end of the 21st century,” said lead researcher Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT.

Global Warming

Study: Melting ice sheets may cause ‘climate chaos’

Billions of tonnes of meltwater flowing into the world’s oceans from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could boost extreme weather and destabilise regional climate within a matter of decades, researchers said yesterday.

These melting giants, especially the one atop Greenland, are poised to further weaken the ocean currents that move cold water south along the Atlantic Ocean floor while pushing tropical waters northward closer to the surface, they reported in the journal Nature.

Known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc), this liquid conveyor belt plays a crucial role in Earth’s climate system and helps ensures the relative warmth of the Northern Hemisphere.

“According to our models, this meltwater will cause significant disruptions to ocean currents and change levels of warming around the world,” said lead author Nicholas Golledge, an associate professor at the Antarctic Research Centre of New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington.

The Antarctic ice sheet’s loss of mass, meanwhile, traps warmer water below the surface, eroding glaciers from underneath in a vicious circle of accelerated melting that contributes to sea level rise.

Most studies on ice sheets have focused on how quickly they might shrink due to global warming, and how much global temperatures can rise before their disintegration — whether over centuries or millenia — becomes inevitable, a threshold known as a “tipping point.”

But far less research has been done on how the meltwater might affect the climate system itself.

One likely result of weakened current in the Atlantic will be warmer air temperatures in the high Arctic, eastern Canada and central America, and cooler temperatures over northwestern Europe and the North American eastern seaboard.