Global Warming

Warming Greenland ice sheet passes point of no return

Nearly 40 years of satellite data from Greenland shows that glaciers on the island have shrunk so much that even if global warming were to stop today, the ice sheet would continue shrinking.

The finding, published today, Aug. 13, in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, means that Greenland’s glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from glaciers.

Climate change, not hunters, may have killed off woolly rhinos

Rather than getting wiped out by Ice Age hunters, woolly rhinos charged to extinction in Siberia around 14,000 years ago when the climate turned warm and wet, a study of ancient DNA suggests.

Numbers of breeding woolly rhinos stayed relatively constant for tens of thousands of years until at least about 18,500 years ago, more than 13,000 years after people first reached northeastern Siberia, scientists report online August 13 in Current Biology. Yet only a few thousand years later, woolly rhinos died out, probably because temperatures had risen enough to reshape arctic habitats. A shift to warm, rainy conditions, which occurred between roughly 14,600 and 12,800 years ago, likely played a large role in the rapid decline of this cold-adapted species.

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Tropical Soil Leaks CO2

Tropical forest soil warmed in experiments to levels consistent with end-of-century temperature projections released 55 percent more CO2 than control plots, exposing a previously underestimated source of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers reported Wednesday.

Before humanity began loading the atmosphere with carbon pollution by burning fossil fuels, the input and outflow of CO2 into soil – one key element in Earth’s complex carbon cycle – remained roughly in balance.

Gases emitted by deadwood and decaying leaves, in other words, were cancelled out by microorganisms that feed on such matter. But climate change has begun to upset that balance, according to a new study, published in Nature.

In experiments, researchers placed heating rods in a one-hectare plot of undisturbed primary forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. They warmed the soil to a depth of just over one metre (three feet) by 4C over a period of two years. The findings shows an increase in in the release of CO2 of 55 per cent above the basal rates.

Global Warming

Six Month Deadline

The Paris-based International Energy Agency has warned that world leaders have only six months to take measures to control carbon emissions, before a post-lockdown recovery brings a surge in the greenhouse gases that may be impossible to curb. The organization cautions that without immediate action, reaching the targets to address global warming will not be possible.

“This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. He told The Guardian governments must design economic recovery packages that promote shifts away from carbon-based fuels.

Global Warming

Carbon Comeback

While overall global CO2 emissions have been expected to fall by about 7% this year due to the pandemic, scientists fear that the man-made pollution will rebound as the world’s population returns to work and industrial production surges.

Daily global emissions of the greenhouse gas fell by 17% at the height of the COVID-19 shutdown. But levels of transportation and economic activity are able to return to pre-pandemic levels by mid-June, researchers estimate the annual fall in CO2 emissions this year will be only 4%.

Global Warming

Global Sea Level Rise

Global sea levels have risen 0.55 inches since 2003 due to ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland driven by climate change, according to new data measurements from several NASA satellites.

Scientists found that Greenland’s ice sheet lost an average of 200 gigatons of ice per year and Antarctica’s ice sheet lost an average of 118 gigatons of ice per year. One gigaton of ice can fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Carbon Emissions Drop

The United Nations weather agency said that while global carbon emissions are likely to see the biggest yearly fall since World War II due to the COVID-19 crisis, governments should still use some of the new stimulus packages to encourage a move to a greener economy.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) cautioned that past economic recoveries have been accompanied by higher emission growth than before the downturns. “We need to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Global Warming

Global warming is shrinking the rainforest’s role as climate protector

The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide that can be sucked up from the atmosphere and stored by tropical forests is falling as the global climate heats up, researchers said on Wednesday. They warned in a study that rainforests could tip from absorbing carbon to becoming a source of emissions.

The 30-year study, led by the University of Leeds and involving almost 100 institutions, showed that the intake of carbon by “intact tropical forests” peaked in the 1990s and had dropped by a third by the 2010s.

Intact forests are large areas of continuous forest with no signs of intensive human activity like agriculture or logging. They form part of the world’s roughly 5.5 billion hectares of forest.

Trees suck carbon dioxide from the air, the main greenhouse gas heating up the Earth’s climate, and store carbon, which they release when they are cut down and are burned, or rot.

Tropical forests are huge reservoirs of carbon, storing 250 billion tonnes in their trees alone – an amount equivalent to 90 years of global fossil-fuel emissions at current levels.

Researchers, who tracked the growth and death of 300,000 trees in Africa and the Amazon, found that undisturbed tropical forests had started the process of switching from a carbon sink to a source, largely due to carbon losses from trees dying.

In the 1990s, intact tropical forests removed about 46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, declining to an estimated 25 billion tonnes in the 2010s, the study said.

The lost sink capacity was 21 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – the same as a decade of fossil-fuel emissions from Britain, Germany, France and Canada combined

Intact tropical forests removed 17% of human-made carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990s but that fell to 6% in the 2010s.

The decline was because those forests, whose area shrank by 19%, absorbed a third less carbon, while global carbon emissions soared by 46%, the study said.

The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, including 3.6 million hectares of old-growth rainforest, an area the size of Belgium, much due to fires, land-clearing for farms and mining, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Global Warming

Carbon Pollution

Smoke from the massive Australia bushfires of recent months will contribute to an anticipated record annual rise in atmospheric carbon emissions this year, according to Britain’s Met Office.

The CO2 concentration is predicted to peak above 417 parts per million (ppm) in May, while the 2020 average should be around 414 ppm. That would be nearly 3 ppm above the 2019 average, according to the agency.

Smoke from the protracted bushfire crisis will contribute up to one-fifth of the CO2 increase caused by global warming’s altered weather patterns and the resulting effects on the landscape, the British experts say.

As our planet gets greener, plants are slowing global warming

In a new study, published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, the researchers report that climate-altering carbon emissions and intensive land use have inadvertently greened half of the Earth’s vegetated lands.

Green leaves convert sunlight to sugars while replacing carbon dioxide in the air with water vapor, which cools the Earth’s surface. The reasons for greening vary around the world, but often involve intensive use of land for farming, large-scale planting of trees, a warmer and wetter climate in northern regions, natural reforestation of abandoned lands, and recovery from past disturbances.

And the chief cause of global greening we’re experiencing? It seems to be that rising carbon dioxide emissions are providing more and more fertilizer for plants, the researchers say. As a result, the boom of global greening since the early 1980s may have slowed the rate of global warming, the researchers say, possibly by as much as 0.2 to 0.25 degrees Celsius.

Global Warming

Human CO2 Emissions Greatly Outstrip Natural Sources

Human activity churns out up to 100 times more planet-warming carbon each year as all the volcanoes on Earth, says a decade-long study released on Tuesday.

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 500-strong international team of scientists, released a series of papers outlining how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and manmade processes.

They found that manmade carbon dioxide emissions drastically outstrip the contribution of volcanoes – which belch out gas and are often fingered as a major climate change contributor – to current warming rates.

The findings, published in the journal Elements, showed just two-tenths of 1% of Earth’s total carbon – around 43 500 gigatonnes – is above the surface in oceans, the land, and in our atmosphere.

The rest – a staggering 1.85 billion gigatonnes – is stored in our planet’s crust, mantle and core, providing scientists with clues as to how Earth formed billions of years ago. One gigatonne is equivalent to around 3 million Boeing 747s.

Global Warming

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2018

Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a record high last year as energy demand and coal use increased, mainly in Asia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday (March 26).

Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 per cent to 33.1 billion tonnes from the previous year, the highest rate of growth since 2013, with the power sector accounting for almost two-thirds of this growth.

The United States’ CO2 emissions grew by 3.1 per cent in 2018, reversing a decline a year earlier, while China’s emissions rose by 2.5 per cent and India’s by 4.5 per cent. Europe’s emissions fell by 1.3 per cent and Japan’s fell for the fifth year running.

Carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global average temperature rise which countries are seeking to curb to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

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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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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

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

Retreating Ice Exposes Arctic Landscape Unseen for 120,000 Years

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The retreat of Arctic glaciers on Baffin Island is exposing landscapes that haven’t seen the sun for nearly 120,000 years.

These rocky vistas have very likely been covered in ice since the Eemian, a period in which average temperatures were up to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than present, and sea levels up to 30 feet (9 meters) higher.

The island is ringed with dramatic fjords, but its interior is dominated by high-elevation, relatively flat, tundra plains. These tundra plains are covered with thin ice caps. Because the landscape is so flat, the ice caps don’t flow and slide like typical glaciers. Instead, they simply sit on the underlying rock and soil, preserving everything beneath them like the glass of a museum case.

What’s preserved includes tiny Arctic plants and mosses that were last alive when the ice enveloped the land. As the ice melts, it exposes this ancient, delicate vegetation. Wind and water destroy the long-lost plants within months, but if researchers can get to them first, they can use radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the vegetation. The samples were at least as old as the oldest age that radiocarbon dating can detect: 40,000 years. That’s a direct indication that the plants had been under ice for at least that long.

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Over 70,000 march for the climate in Brussels

At least 70,000 people marched on January 27 in Brussels, braving the cold and rain to urge politicians to uphold their promises on countering climate change.

Chanting and holding placards with slogans such as, “Stop denying the Earth’s dying” and “What I stand for is what I stand on,” demonstrators walked through the streets of the Belgian capital towards the European Parliament building to send a message about climate change to European lawmakers.

Protests Across France Call for Action on Climate Change

Thousands gathered in Paris and across France on Sunday to denounce political inaction on battling climate change.

More than 100 demonstrations were planned across France for a weekend of action on the environment. Organisers called on people to come together to discuss practical ideas on how to advance an agenda that would halt or at least slow global warming.

Hundreds of people battled heavy rain and winds in Paris to attend a protest at Place de la République that included representatives from NGOs, scientists and activists as well as the general public.

Throughout the afternoon moderators will run workshops exploring how to make the planet greener and how lawsuits can be an effective tool against climate change. More than 2 million people signed a petition in December to sue the French government for not doing enough to combat climate change, France’s most successful petition ever.

Germany Sets Goal to End Coal Use by 2038

In a pioneering move, a German government-appointed panel has recommended that Germany stop burning coal to generate electricity by 2038 at the latest, as part of efforts to curb climate change.

Germany gets more than a third of its electricity from burning coal, generating large amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Global Warming

CO2 Surge in US Emissions

A three-year decline in the amount of carbon dioxide being spewed into the atmosphere by the United States ended in 2018 with a surge that saw emissions rise by 3.4 percent.

Data collected by an independent economic research firm found it was the largest rise in carbon emissions in the country in eight years.

A report by the Rhodium Group said the spike occurred even though a record number of U.S. coal-fired power plants closed last year.

But prolonged cold spells in many areas and a hot summer increased demand for air conditioning and heating, fueling the surge.

Wildfires

Wildfires – CO2 Emissions

Wildfires in California in 2018 released the rough equivalent of about 68 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide — about the same amount of carbon emissions as are produced in a year to provide electricity to the state.

The carbon dioxide figure — based on data analyzed by the U.S. Geological Survey — is more than 15 percent of all emissions produced by California in a year.

Wildfires – Australia

A central Queensland man has died and 10 people including seven children who were caught up in the state’s bushfires have had to be airlifted to safety, as authorities urged residents in the path of the Deepwater bushfire to leave the area immediately.

As two men were arrested for starting fires in central Queensland, more than 100 fires continued to burn across the state. Heatwave conditions were expected to continue over the weekend and the prospect of an incoming cyclone threatened to complicate things further.