Countries could be forced to take climate action
At the United Nations in New York more than 130 member states have voted for the International Court of Justice to pronounce on “the obligations incumbent on states” to protect the climate “for present and future generations”.
The resolution, which has been years in the making, was proposed by the tiny Pacific island state of Vanuatu.
It means the world’s highest court will now clarify what countries must do legally to defend the environment from climate harm. However, the resolution is non-binding (for the time being) and represents a step forward particularly for those countries, like Vanuatu, which face an existential threat from climate change.
Trees Grow for Extra Month as Planet Warms
Researchers studying hardwoods in northwest Ohio say a century of warming has extended their annual growing season by a month on average.
Between 1883 and 1912, farmer Thomas Mikesell made meticulous notes on local tree growth, precipitation and temperature in his home town of Wauseon, Ohio. Researchers say Mikesell’s observations are a near unique pre-warming dataset to compare with modern times. They found that leaves stayed on trees about 15% longer than they did in Mikesell’s day. “An entire month of growing season extension is huge when we’re talking about a pretty short period of time for those changes to be expressed.”
Species responded to warmer temperatures in different ways – most kept their leaf colour longer into Autumn but some budded early.
It is time to phase out fossil fuels
Burning of coal, oil and gas has been the source of 64 percent of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution; over the past 10 years, this ratio has grown to 86 percent. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases drive up the Earth’s temperature, which creates a spiralling crisis of extreme weather, rising sea levels, disease, biodiversity loss, water stress and poverty.
Despite being aware of this problem for decades, the fossil fuel industry continues to put profits first and ignore scientists’ warnings. That is why, we need leaders who will put the people first.
We need leaders at international financial institutions like the World Bank to firmly commit to addressing climate change and better supporting vulnerable nations – not doubling down on fossil fuel investments.
Since the Paris Agreement was signed, the World Bank has continued to invest billions in fossil fuel projects. It has fallen behind on its already meagre climate commitments, which are less ambitious than the baseline targets set by other development banks. The World Bank and other international financial institutions need to take immediate action and commit to a fossil fuel phase-out that complies with the 1.5C target.
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report
The UN’s final IPCC report warns that drastic action must be taken immediately, but staving off disaster is within humanity’s grasp. The world needs immediate action now to defuse a “climate time bomb” that will unleash catastrophic environmental effects and climate breakdown, United Nation (UN) scientists have said in the last of its four major assessment reports to governments on Monday (March 20).
Governments must make “rapid, deep and immediate” cuts to global carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that is the largest contributor to human-caused climate change, in order to start to decrease annual emissions by 2025 and halve them by 2030, according to the final summary report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These carbon dioxide cuts must be made globally and across all industries if temperature changes are to remain at or below the dangerous threshold of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial temperatures, the IPCC said.
Scientists have warned that crossing this 1.5 C threshold greatly increases the risks of encountering tipping points that could unleash irreversible climate breakdown — such as the total collapse of most of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets; extreme heat waves; severe droughts; water stress; and extreme weather across large parts of the globe.
Heatwaves unfolding on the bottom of the ocean can be more intense and last longer than those on the sea surface, new research suggests, but such extremes in the deep ocean are often overlooked.
Bottom heatwaves ranged from 0.5 degrees Celisus to 3C warmer than normal temperatures and could last more than six months — much longer than heatwaves at the surface. Surface heatwaves can be picked up by satellites and can result in huge algal blooms. But, Amaya said, often no one knows a bottom marine heatwave is happening until the impacts show up in commercial bottom-dwelling species like lobsters and crabs.
The ocean has absorbed about 90% of the excess heat from global warming, with the ocean’s average temperature increasing by about 0.9C over the last century. Marine heatwaves have become about 50% more frequent over the past decade. Past bottom marine heatwaves have decimated Pacific cod and snow crab populations which declined by 75% following the big marine heatwave in 2015. Warmer water, he said, can increase the energy needs of species at the same time that there’s less prey available for them to eat, leading to more deaths and fewer births.
A Devastating Toxin Is Bubbling Up From the Permafrost
Trapped in all the permafrost encircling the northern reaches of the globe is an estimated 30 billion tons of carbon. It’s an unfathomable amount. But there’s something else lurking in the permafrost that has the potential to be more immediately dangerous to the people and wildlife living in the area: mercury.
Wildfires and volcanoes belch mercury, and, since the Industrial Revolution, so do coal-burning power plants and factories. Warm-air currents carry mercury in its inorganic heavy-metal form to the Arctic, where it settles into the soil and vegetation before being safely locked away in the deeply frozen permafrost.
In its inorganic form, mercury is less threatening to people. But as the permafrost thaws, mercury is finding its way into the soil and the region’s many ponds, rivers, and lakes. Once there, certain microbes can convert inorganic mercury into the form to be concerned about: neurotoxic methylmercury.
Antarctica’s sea ice reaches its lowest level since records began
The amount of sea ice surrounding Antarctica has reached its lowest level since modern records began, for the second year in a row.
Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the ocean’s surface around the planet’s polar regions. It forms at much lower sustained temperatures than freshwater ice does, at around 28.8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 1.8 degrees Celsius). Sea ice builds up during the winter until it reaches its maximum extent, and then melts away in the spring and summer until it reaches its minimum extent.
In Antarctica, where summer and winter are flipped relative to the Northern Hemisphere, sea ice normally reaches its maximum extent in September, when sea ice covers around 7 million square miles (18.5 million square kilometers). At its minimum extent, at the end of February, historically only around 1 million square miles (2.5 million square km) remains.
Last year, the minimum sea ice extent was less than 772,000 square miles (2 million square km), the lowest total since scientists began recording sea ice extent with satellites in 1979. On Feb. 21 this year, that number had shrunk to just 691,000 square miles (1.8 million square km), which is roughly 40% less than the average between 1981 and 2010
US got a record-breaking 40% of its energy from carbon-free sources in 2022
Carbon-free sources supplied over 40 per cent of the US’s total energy output in 2022, a new report reveals. This is an all-time high. The figure combines renewable generation – such as solar, wind and hydro – and nuclear power. Nuclear and hydropower remained at similar levels to previous years, so the majority of this increase comes from wind and solar.
Nuclear power is a contentious topic among sustainable energy advocates. It is considered ‘carbon-free’ as nuclear reactors don’t produce direct CO2 emissions, however, whether or not it ought to be regarded as being sustainable remains in dispute.
The report also shows that electric vehicle (EV) sales surged by 50 per cent in 2022 with nearly 982,000 new cars sold.
Global CO2 emissions reached a record high in 2022
Communities around the world emitted more carbon dioxide in 2022 than in any other year on records dating to 1900. The high figure is a result of air travel rebounding from the pandemic and more cities turning to coal as a low-cost source of power.
Emissions of the climate-warming gas that were caused by energy production grew 0.9 per cent to reach 36.8 gigatons in 2022, the International Energy Agency reported Thursday. The mass of one gigaton is equivalent to about 10,000 fully loaded aircraft carriers, according to NASA.
Extreme weather events intensified last year’s carbon dioxide emissions. Droughts reduced the amount of water available for hydropower, which increased the need to burn fossil fuels. And heat waves drove up the demand for electricity.
Ancient global warming event sheds light on Earth’s future
About 56 million years ago, our planet experienced one of the largest and fastest global warming events in the history. The so-called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was exceptional both in terms of its amplitude (with global temperatures rising by five to eight degrees Celsius) and its suddenness (about 5,000 years – a very short period on a geological scale).
By analyzing sediments collected from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has now found that this event – which led to the extinction of a vast number of terrestrial and marine species – was characterized by an increase in rainfall seasonality, which led to the movement of massive quantities of clay into the ocean, making it uninhabitable for many species.
Due to the similarities between PETM and current global warming – including possible causes such as high concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere – the geological remains of this period are closely studied by scientists in order to gain insights to the future of our planet.
France demolishes beach apartments and relocates residents due to rising sea levels
When it was built at the end of the 1960s on one of France’s most glorious Atlantic coastlines, the beach was over 200 metres away. Today, the hulk of the 80-flat Le Signal apartment block perches precariously on a dune just metres from the water and local authorities are tearing it down before it tumbles. With beaches disappearing at a rate of about 2.5 metres per year in past decades, Soulac-sur-Mer has suffered some of the fastest coastal erosion in France. By 2010, the ocean was lapping at the dune on which Le Signal was built. In 2014, the local government decided to relocate the building’s inhabitants and began the long process of expropriation and removing asbestos before starting demolition earlier this month.
Warm water melts weak spots on Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’
Thwaites – nicknamed the Doomsday Glacier – which is roughly the size of Florida, represents more than half a meter of global sea level rise potential, and could destabilise neighbouring glaciers that have the potential to cause a further three-meter rise.
Researchers found that warmer water was making its way into crevasses and other openings known as terraces, causing sideways melt of 30 meters or more per year. Using an underwater robot vehicle known as Icefin, monitoring data and censors, they monitored the glacier’s grounding line, where ice slides off the glacier and meets the ocean for the first time.
Launching a huge dust cloud from the moon could ease global warming
Launching a dust cloud from the moon to block sunlight reaching Earth could reduce global warming, but such a strategy may require more than a decade’s worth of research before it can be implemented. The risks involved with such an approach in terms of how it could affect agriculture, ecosystems and water quality in different parts of the world are also unclear.
Placing more than 100 million tonnes of dust between Earth and the sun to partially block light from reaching our planet has previously been explored as a way to combat climate change. Such dust particles would shade Earth by absorbing light energy or scattering light particles, known as photons, away from Earth.
To achieve this, the dust would need to be placed 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, where the gravitational pull of the sun and our planet cancel out. Here, objects stay at a fixed position known as the first Lagrange point, or L1. However, simulations indicate that the dust particles would not remain in place for long, being dispersed by solar wind and gravitational forces.
The vast burning of trees in the Amazon has been linked to the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas and even Antarctica due to newly discovered atmospheric pathways that threaten to push some regional climates beyond tipping points that cannot be reversed. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, an international team of researchers says the Amazon-Himalayan climate connection stretches 20,000 km from Brazil to Tibet. That means that as the Amazon warms and receives more rainfall, the mountains of South Asia get less precipitation and become warmer.
Water and climate change are inextricably linked. Climate change affects the world’s water in complex ways. From unpredictable rainfall patterns to shrinking ice sheets, rising sea levels, floods and droughts – most impacts of climate change come down to water. Climate change is exacerbating both water scarcity and water-related hazards (such as floods and droughts), as rising temperatures disrupt precipitation patterns and the entire water cycle.
About two billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water today (SDG Report 2022), and roughly half of the world’s population is experiencing severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. Only 0.5 per cent of water on Earth is useable and available freshwater.
Rising global temperatures increase the moisture the atmosphere can hold, resulting in more storms and heavy rains, but paradoxically also more intense dry spells as more water evaporates from the land and global weather patterns change.
Since 2000, flood-related disasters have risen by 134 per cent compared with the two previous decades. Most of the flood-related deaths and economic losses were recorded in Asia. The number and duration of droughts also increased by 29 per cent over this same period. Most drought-related deaths occurred in Africa.