Global Warming

Climate refugees cannot be sent back home – UN

Refugees fleeing the effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home by their adoptive countries, a United Nations panel has ruled, in a landmark decision that could open the door to a flood of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

The UN’s Human Rights Committee was making a judgment on the case of Ioane Teitiota, who applied for protection from New Zealand after claiming his life was at risk in his home country of Kiribati. The Pacific island is at risk of becoming the first country to disappear under rising sea levels.

The committee ruled against Teitiota on the basis that his life was not at imminent risk — but it also outlined that countries could violate people’s international rights if they force them back to countries where climate change poses an immediate threat.

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Ocean Warming

After analyzing data from the 1950s through 2019, an international team of scientists determined that the average temperature of the world’s oceans in 2019 was 0.075 degrees Celsius (0.135 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 1981–2010 average.

That might not seem like a significant amount of warming, but given the massive volume of the oceans, an increase even that small would require a staggering influx of heat – 228 sextillion Joules’ worth, according to the scientists’ study, which was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences on Monday.

That’s a hard number to contextualize, so one of the scientists behind the study did the math to put it into an explosive frame of reference – by comparing it to the amount of energy released by the atomic bomb the United States military dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

“The Hiroshima atom-bomb exploded with an energy of about 63,000,000,000,000 Joules,” author Lijing Cheng from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a press release.

“The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions.”

That averages out to four Hiroshima bombs’ worth of energy entering the oceans every second for the past 25 years. But even more troubling, the rate isn’t holding steady at that alarming figure – it’s increasing.

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Global Warming – Thinner Clouds – More Heat

A new study suggests global warming effect is underestimated. The most up-to-date computer simulations suggest that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity will leave the planet hotter than previously thought, researchers have found.

A study that combines the outputs of nearly 30 new computer models that simulate the Earth’s climate suggests that, if the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles, then the average global temperature should increase by 3.9 degrees C. This figure is around 0.6 degrees C more than previous simulations predicted.

Reflecting the findings of recent research, newer simulations assume that cold clouds thin out more as the atmosphere becomes warmer. Thinner clouds reflect less of the sun’s energy back to space—meaning more warming on the Earth’s surface. Over the whole planet, this effect could be amplifying global warming. Clouds are Earth’s sunscreen, reflecting away sunlight and keeping the planet cooler than it would otherwise be.

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Oceans hotter than ever

The world’s oceans are warmer than ever — and they are getting warmer faster, according to a new report.

In a development that provides yet further evidence of global warming, the study, published in the Chinese journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, found that ocean temperatures in the last decade have been the warmest on record.

In addition, the research illustrates the influence of human-induced warming on the Earth’s waters and indicates that sea-level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather could get worse as the oceans go on absorbing excess heat.

The rate of ocean warming is increasing at an alarming rate, according to the report. It showed that, from the period 1987 to 2019 compared with the period 1955 to 1986, the rate of warming accelerated almost 4 1/2 times in the latter timespan.

Global Warming

Russia unveils plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change

The Russian government has unveiled a plan to adapt the country’s economy and population to climate change. Climate change, the report says, poses a threat to public health, endangers permafrost, and heightens the likelihood of infections and natural disasters. Russia will likely see longer and more frequent droughts, extreme precipitation and flooding, increased risk of fire as well as the displacement of different species from their habitats, according to the plan.

Expected positive effects of climate change, the plan says, include the reduction of energy consumption during warm periods, shrinking levels of ice which will foster increased access to navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean, and expanded agricultural areas.

Russia is warming faster than the global average — its average annual air temperature has increased 2.5 times more rapidly than the average global air temperature since the mid-1970s.

The country is one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, with large arctic areas and infrastructure that is built on permafrost. In recent years, Russia has experienced flooding and fires, with the massive wildfires in Siberia in 2019.

Global warming found to give rise to earlier springs

An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests global warming is giving rise to earlier springs in some parts of the world, which contributes to drier summers—at least in the northern hemisphere. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their study of satellite data over a 30-year period.

The researchers report that they found that earlier greening led to water earlier water depletion from the soil by plants, which led to drier soil as summer came on. Noting that most of the water that is pulled by plants makes its way into the air through pores in leaves, the researchers wondered if that might contribute to more rainfall. The researchers found that it did contribute to more rainfall, but not enough to offset the amount of water pulled from the soil by plants. They suggest that in addition to making conditions more difficult for plants, the drier soil could also lead to higher temperatures in the drier areas due to less evaporative cooling in the summer. They report also that they found drying is worse in Europe, east and west Asia and some parts of North America.


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The Climate Crisis Is Now Detectable in Daily Weather

The climate changes we humans have inflicted on the planet are now so deeply embedded, they are showing up in our daily weather.

Researchers from Switzerland and Norway now claim to have detected the “fingerprint” of climate change in every single day of weather in the global record since 2012.

The distinction between climate and weather is one that scientists have been hammering on about for years. And while the two are closely intertwined, they are generally considered distinct, with weather referring to short-term conditions and climate referring to longer trends.

Examining yearly data, the authors noticed the stamp of climate change on global weather went back to 1999. And from 2012, it could be seen every single day. And the signal of climate change is now so big it’s greater than global daily weather variability.

In recent years, scientists have detected stronger links between global warming and changing weather patterns, and while it’s difficult to blame any one storm on climate change, the overall pattern for heat waves, droughts and storms is clear.

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Global Warming Defined

The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have distinct definitions.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) defines global warming as the “long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900).” Global warming focuses on the changes in global average surface temperatures caused by human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, which increases the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Climate change is the long-term change in the average weather patterns that are typical for a local, region, or the globe; these changes can be natural or human-induced. Human activities that contribute to climate change include urbanization, fossil fuel burning, agriculture, deforestation, and many others. Natural processes that contribute to climate change include volcanic activity, mountain growth, El Nino and La Nina, changes in solar output, and shifts in the planet’s orbit.

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China’s Incentive To Pollute: Global Warming Is Big Business

While most countries are fast decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, China’s overall carbon emissions almost tripled between 2000 and 2018. The country now accounts for almost 30 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, while only numbering 18 percent of the world’s population.

China’s rapid economic growth, averaging about 9.1 percent annually since 2000, according to self-reported figures and based in large part on fossil-fuels, is alone sufficient to push global warming beyond the safe temperature of 2°C within 16 years.

China is disincentivized to limit its own greenhouse gas emissions as 1) its internal economy depends on the burning of cheap energy, and 2) its growing clean energy exports, including solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear, depend on world demand to limit the effects of global warming. China’s authoritarian leadership depends for its survival on compensating its population, which cannot vote, through quick and dirty economic growth.

The Northeast warms ahead of rest of USA

Northeast states are among the fastest warming in the U.S., a trend that can be detected down to the county level. Here’s a look at how air temperatures in each county over the past five years compares with 20th century averages. In much of the region, the greatest temperature changes follow the coastline.


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The ice we’ve lost to climate change

One of the most poignant climate moments of 2019 was a funeral for ice: an August ceremony in Iceland for the country’s Okjökull glacier. As can be seen in these NASA satellite images, the glacier declined dramatically between 1986 and 2019.

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The Arctic in particular is warming twice as fast as the global average and experienced many historic heat waves. The warming, in turn, is causing an unprecedented amount of melt in the world’s ice. We are currently in the midst of the fastest decline of Arctic sea ice in 1,500 years.

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In the past decade, the rate of ice melt in Antarctica tripled compared to 2007.

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We’ll likely lose even more from the coldest parts of the world in the coming decade. But the actions we all take will shape just how much is lost.

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Dutch court rules people have a fundamental right to be protected from climate change

The highest court in the Netherlands ruled Friday that the nation’s government must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by the end of next year. The landmark case marks the first time a country has been held responsible by its courts to take action against climate change.

“The lives, well-being and living circumstances of many people around the world, including in the Netherlands, are being threatened” by climate change, Presiding Judge Kees Streefkerk, said in the decision. “Those consequences are happening already.”

The government was attempting to appeal earlier rulings that it must cut emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 from 1990 levels. The Supreme Court upheld the rulings that humans have a fundamental right to be protected from the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change by their government, because “there is a serious risk that a dangerous climate change will occur that threatens the lives and well-being of many in the Netherlands.”

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Scientists detect methane surge in South Sudan

Scientists think they can now explain at least part of the recent growth in methane levels in the atmosphere. Researchers, led from Edinburgh University, UK, say their studies point to a big jump in emissions coming from just the wetlands of South Sudan.

Satellite data indicates the region received a large pulse of water from East African lakes, including Victoria. This would have boosted CH4 from the wetlands, accounting for a significant part of the rise in global methane.

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Arctic Report Card 2019: Extreme Ice Loss, Dying Species as Global Warming Worsens

When dead salmon wash ashore along the coast of the Bering Sea, the problem is much bigger than dead fish. It’s a sign of deeper trouble cascading through the Arctic’s ecosystems.

It’s been happening more and more the last few years—fish, dead or dying, rolling in with the tide, said Mellisa Johnson, executive director of the Bering Sea Elders Group. “The seals, they don’t want to eat those types of fish. They know they’re unhealthy for consumption. So then they don’t have enough fat reserves to last them.”

As the Arctic warms roughly twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the effects are reverberating far beyond any single species. Massive systems—from the sea ice and permafrost to the jet stream—are beginning to behave in unexpected ways.

The changes are impacting species, fishing industries and local communities, including the people who have long called Bering Sea communities home. Indigenous hunters are working harder than ever to find the food they have long relied on, and they’re sometimes making macabre discoveries: sea birds dying en masse, nets filled with fish that have rarely been seen in those areas.

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Oceans running out of oxygen as temperatures rise

Climate change and nutrient pollution are driving the oxygen from our oceans, and threatening many species of fish. That’s the conclusion of the biggest study of its kind, undertaken by conservation group IUCN.

While nutrient run-off has been known for decades, researchers say that climate change is making the lack of oxygen worse. Around 700 ocean sites are now suffering from low oxygen, compared with 45 in the 1960s. Researchers say the depletion is threatening species including tuna, marlin and sharks.

As more carbon dioxide is released enhancing the greenhouse effect, much of the heat is absorbed by the oceans. In turn, this warmer water can hold less oxygen.

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Polar Bears Descend On Russian Village

More than 50 polar bears have gathered on the edge of a village in Russia’s far north, environmentalists and residents said, as weak Arctic ice leaves them unable to roam.

The Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund said climate change was to blame, as unusually warm temperatures prevented coastal ice from forming.

The WWF said 56 polar bears had gathered in a one-square-kilometre (0.4-square-mile) area near the village of Ryrkaipy in Chukotka on the northeastern tip of Russia.

There were concerns they could enter the village, home to fewer than 1,000 people, and patrols had been set up to monitor their movements.

“The number of human and predator encounters in the Arctic is increasing,” the WWF said in statement.

“The main reason is the decline of sea ice area due to the changing climate. In the absence of ice cover, animals are forced to go ashore in search of food.”

How saving the ozone layer in 1987 slowed global warming

The Montreal Protocol, an international agreement signed in 1987 to stop chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroying the ozone layer, now appears to be the first international treaty to successfully slow the rate of global warming.

New research published today in Environmental Research Letters has revealed that thanks to the Protocol, today’s global temperatures are considerably lower. And by mid-century the Earth will be—on average—at least 1°C cooler than it would have been without the agreement. Mitigation is even greater in regions such as the Arctic, where the avoided warming will be as much as 3°C—4°C.

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30 Year Old Climate Change Warning Vindicated

‘It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.’ – Dr. James Hansen

This sounds like a comment that might have been overheard in Madrid this week, where the U.N. is yet again huddling to discuss the climate crisis.

No doubt similar sentiments were expressed among those delegates in recent days but this was the viewpoint offered as many as three decades ago from NASA scientist James Hansen, who was giving congressional testimony.

Dr. Hansen is considered to be among the first climatologists to sound the alarm on man-made global warming in this context, including charting a projection for just how hot conditions could get by 2019.

As 2019 draws to a close, the year is on course to be among the top three warmest years on record. Data issued this week shows that the world continues to increase the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide it pumps into the air, led by China and India, but it’s not rising as fast as in the previous couple years.