Global Warming

Oil Should Remain in the Ground

A new study says that oil and gas production around the world must fall by 3% each year, with 58% of known petroleum reserves remaining in the ground, to hold global heating to the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal in the Paris Agreement.

“There’s a good likelihood the rates of decline are going to have to be even larger, and the total amount of carbon that’s going to stay in the ground is also going to be larger,” said James Price at University College London, involved in the analysis.

While some oil companies have cut their plans for future oil and gas extraction as they transition to low-carbon energy, Price says the outlook is bleak for cooperation from countries that rely on revenue from oil and gas.

Global Warming

World now sees twice as many days over 50C

The number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50C has doubled since the 1980s, a global BBC analysis has found. They also now happen in more areas of the world than before, presenting unprecedented challenges to human health and to how we live.

The total number of days above 50C (122F) has increased in each decade since 1980. On average, between 1980 and 2009, temperatures passed 50C about 14 days a year.

The number rose to 26 days a year between 2010 and 2019. In the same period, temperatures of 45C and above occurred on average an extra two weeks a year.

“The increase can be 100% attributed to the burning of fossil fuels,” says Dr Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

Global Warming

Ice Persists in the Northwest Passage, Despite Global Warming

For centuries, explorers have tested the icy waters of the Arctic, looking for sea routes through the cluster of islands north of mainland Canada. Such a route, known as the Northwest Passage, can dramatically shorten the journey between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The decline of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has made this passage increasingly viable. But as this image shows, it’s still not always smooth sailing.

Part of the “southern route”—one of two main routes most feasible for the passage of large ships. Since about 2006, the Northwest Passage has become navigable for a short period late in most summers. So far this year, that hasn’t quite happened.

Northwest Passage August 2021 Annotated

Global Warming

Dwindled Giant

South America’s once- mighty Paraná River is now at its lowest level since 1941, causing thousands of acres of wetlands to dry up as well as threatening public water supplies and the livelihoods of fishermen and farmers.

Experts say they don’t know if this is part of a natural cycle or climate change. But there has been a three-year period of below-normal rainfall at the river’s source in southern Brazil. Low water levels have also created a 50% drop in hydroelectric power at generating plants along the Argentina-Paraguay border.

Global Warming

Polluters Are Trying to Ensure They’re Never Held Responsible for Climate Change

Last week, Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc from Louisiana to New York — but that wasn’t the only part of the country or world experiencing extreme weather events. The day before Ida raged through New Orleans, fire tornadoes blazed in California, a state currently grappling with more than a dozen active wildfires. The entire Pacific Northwest has been plagued by drought and heat waves all summer. The turmoil hasn’t been limited to North America. Italy, Lebanon, Siberia, Spain, Turkey, and Greece have been experiencing wildfires, while the Chinese province of Shaanxi has been struggling with extreme flooding and landslides.

The culprit is easily identified: man-made climate change. In recent years, “attribution science,” or the science of identifying causal connections between climate change and individual weather events, has become much more accurate. And last month, for the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserted that human activity is the driving force behind planetary warming. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” noted the new report.

According to the well-established “polluter pays” legal principle, those responsible for this warming should be held liable for the cost. Sure enough, the fossil fuel industry has increasingly found itself in the legal crosshairs of governments, impacted communities, students, and activists all over the world, especially in light of investigations showing that companies like Exxon knew about the dangers of climate change decades ago, did little to address it, and even misled the public on the dangers.

According to a January report from the UN’s Environment Programme, the number of climate change cases filed against countries and corporate actors nearly doubled in the past few years, with at least 1,550 cases filed as of July 2020. In the United States alone, twenty-four climate lawsuits — including some related to climate change–fueled wildfires — are currently moving through the courts. In February, the International Bar Association even released a model for litigants to pursue legal action related to climate change.

But the biggest polluters have yet to face meaningful consequences for planetary destruction — and it remains to be seen if they ever will. As efforts mount to hold polluters accountable, fossil fuel companies and other corporate interests are working overtime to leverage the US court and political system to avoid responsibility for the climate crisis — and offload the costs of environmental damage onto taxpayers.

Wildlife

Animals are ‘shape-shifting’ as a response to climate change

New review of existing research done by the authors of Trends in Ecology & Evolution, show some animals are adapting to climate change by changing their body size.

Research done on more than 30 animals show that average body size is decreasing while appendages and limbs, such as tails, beaks, and legs are growing for some animals. It’s suggested this is in order to adapt to a warming world caused by climate change. A smaller body size holds onto less heat and therefore keeps the animal cooler. Increased surface area though from a larger appendage now allows for better cooling and easier regulation of body temperature. This means larger appendages would be more advantageous in warmer climates than in cooler ones.

Australian parrots were found to have up to a 10% increase in beak surface area since 1871. Shrews and bats were also found to have an increase in ear, tails, legs and wing size as the climate warmed.

Global Warming

Disasters Soar

Natural disasters such as deadly heat waves and floods are now occurring five times more often than they did 40 years ago, which the U.N. weather agency says is directly linked to human-driven global heating.

The World Meteorological Organization’s new “Atlas” reviews the human tragedies and economic losses from weather extremes and water, and is said to be the most detailed ever produced. It shows that such disasters have killed more than 2 million people since 1970 and have cost $3.64 trillion in losses.

Global Warming

Chile Megadrought

A blob of warm water in the southern Pacific is fueling a decade-long megadrought in Chile, and climate change is at least partly to blame, scientists say.

The “Southern Blob” east of New Zealand is driving hot and dry conditions in Chile, with snow caps melting on the Andes, reservoirs running low and once-lush landscapes withered. Chilean authorities this year were forced to truck water to some 400,000 people living in rural areas.

That massive blob – wider than the continental United States – is now 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was 40 years ago. Areas of nearby ocean, however, have warmed much more slowly during that time, and are just 0.2C to 1C warmer, the study shows.

The heat from the blob warms the air directly above it and winds carry the heated air toward Chile. This impacts pressure trends, affecting rainfall and resulting in dry conditions in Chile.

Environment

Rain Falls on Greenland for First Time

Rain has fallen on the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet for the first time in recorded history, heightening concerns about the already precarious condition of its ice.

An unprecedented 7 billion tons (6.3 billion metric tons) of water pelted the ice sheet last Saturday (Aug. 14), falling as rain and not snow for several hours. This was the third time temperatures at the summit had risen above freezing in less than a decade.

Global Warming

Fish Baking

With record summer heat and drought threatening wild salmon in California, the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada this summer, experts say many commonly eaten fish could face extinction as global heating makes waters too hot for them to survive.

A report in the journal Nature Climate Change warns many species will struggle to keep pace with the deepening climate emergency. “Warming waters are a double whammy for fish, as they not only cause them to evolve to a smaller size, but also reduce their ability to move to more suitable environments, said co-author Chris Venditti of Britain’s University of Reading. He warns this could threaten global food security.

Global Warming

Annual Streams Drying up

Small streams that dry up for part of the year are easy to overlook. But these intermittent streams are everywhere, making up more than half of Earth’s waterways. They help purify surface water and provide crucial habitat for creatures such as the Sonoran Desert toad, fairy shrimp, and Wilson’s warbler. Now, a study has found that ephemeral streams across the continental United States have become less reliable over the past 40 years, likely as a result of climate change. Some are dry for 100 days longer per year than in the 1980s.

Global Warming

Landmark UN Climate Report

A newly released IPCC report shows that global heating is widespread, rapid and intensifying, and that extreme weather such as wildfires and floods will become more commonplace unless drastic and sustained changes are made – urgently.

The report, based on 14,000 scientific publications from around the world and prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries, is the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of the physical science basis of human-caused climate change. It conclusively and definitively explains that human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate for at least the past 2,000 years. It is the first in a series of reports to be published over the coming months.

Some of the headline statements to emerge from the sobering report include:

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

“Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).”

“Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.”

“Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.”

“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”

“Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

Global Warming

Ocean Currents Falter

The water in the Atlantic is constantly circulating in a complex pattern that influences weather on several continents. And climate scientists have been asking a crucial question: Whether this vast system, which includes the Gulf Stream, is slowing down because of climate change.

If it were to change significantly, the consequences could be dire, potentially including faster sea level rise along parts of the United States East Coast and Europe, stronger hurricanes barreling into the Southeastern United States, reduced rainfall across parts of Africa and changes in tropical monsoon systems.

Now, scientists have detected the early warning signs that this critical ocean system is at risk. Recent findings suggest the circulation system is gradually slowing down and may be approaching a tipping point at which it would abruptly transition to a much slower state.

Climate Perils

New studies find that Earth will suffer a growing number of devastating floods and deadly heat waves.

Chinese and U.K. scientists say that unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly curbed, wet regions such as the tropics and areas with monsoons will not only get wetter, but they will also swing widely between wet and dry. More frequently stalled weather patterns will bring prolonged periods of heavy rain and their resulting flood disasters, such as those this summer in China and Western Europe. The stalled patterns will create more frequent “heat domes,” such as those triggering firestorms in western North America and southeastern Europe this summer.

Global Warming

‘Massive melting event’ strikes Greenland after record heat wave

Greenland’s enormous ice sheet has been struck by a “massive melting event,” with enough ice vanishing in a single day last week to cover the whole of Florida in two inches (5 centimeters) of water, Danish researchers have found.

Since July 27, roughly 9.37 billion tons (8.5 billion metric tons) of ice has been lost per day from the surface of the enormous ice sheet — twice its normal average rate of loss during summer.

High temperatures on July 28 caused the third-largest single-day loss of ice in Greenland since 1950; the second and first biggest single-day losses occurred in 2012 and 2019. Greenland’s yearly ice loss began in 1990. In recent years it has accelerated to roughly four times the levels before 2000.

Global Warming

Earth’s Vital Signs

An international coalition of more than 14,000 scientists has signed an initiative declaring that world leaders are consistently failing to cope with the main causes of climate change and the deepening climate emergency.

Writing in the journal BioScience, the group calls for the elimination of fossil fuel use, the slashing of pollutants, the restoration of ecosystems, a switch to plant-based diets and the stabilization of the planet’s human population. They say the planet’s vital signs are deteriorating at a record rate, and also call for climate change to be included in core curricula in schools for the generation that will have to cope with the hotter decades to come.