The Dirty Secret of the World’s Plan to Avert Climate Disaster

The Dirty Secret of the World’s Plan to Avert Climate Disaster

SOURCE: Wired DATE: December 10, 2017 SNIP: The UN report envisions 116 scenarios in which global temperatures are prevented from rising more than 2°C. In 101 of them, that goal is accomplished by sucking massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—a concept called “negative emissions”—chiefly via BECCS. And in these scenarios to prevent planetary disaster, this would need to happen by midcentury, or even as soon as 2020. Like a pharmaceutical warning label, one footnote warned that such “methods may carry side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale.” Indeed, following the scenarios’ assumptions, just growing the crops needed to fuel those BECCS plants would require a landmass one to two times the size of India. The energy BECCS was supposed to supply is on par with all of the coal-fired power plants in the world. In other words, the models were calling for an energy revolution—one that was somehow supposed to occur well within millennials’ lifetimes. Today that vast future sector of the economy amounts to one working project in the world: a repurposed corn ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois. Which raises a question: Has the world come to rely on an imaginary technology to save it? “The most important of the IPCC’s projections is that we’re screwed unless we can figure out how to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, because we haven’t acted fast enough,” [Emily McGlynn] says. “I think that’s the most important part of the...
Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times DATE: December 5, 2017 SNIP: California could be hit with significantly more dangerous and more frequent droughts in the near future as changes in weather patterns triggered by global warming block rainfall from reaching the state, according to new research led by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Using complex new modeling, the scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years. Such a change would have profound economic impacts in a state where the most recent drought drained several billion dollars out of the economy, severely stressed infrastructure and highlighted how even the state most proactively confronting global warming is not prepared for its fallout. “As we learn more about the subtleties in the dynamics of climate change, we are learning that certain climate change impacts, like California drought, may be far worse than we had previously thought,” [Michael] Mann [director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University] wrote. “It also means that, when it comes to water resource issues in California, the impacts of climate change may exceed our adaptive capacity. That leaves only mitigation — doing something about climate change — as a viable strategy moving...
Importance and scale of past climate change underestimated

Importance and scale of past climate change underestimated

SOURCE: The Irish Times DATE: December 3, 2017 SNIP: The magnitude of past abrupt climate change events around the planet may have been underestimated, according to a major international study led by a scientist based at NUI Galway. If the findings using new evaluation models are correct, the impact of current climate change on the planet may be larger than expected. “Abrupt climate events that occurred during the last interglacial [warm] period, circa 125,000 years ago, have underestimated [temperature rise] by up to 4 degrees,” said lead author Dr Audrey Morley from NUIG school of geography and archaeology. “This is important because our current understanding of climate change and our predictions of future climate both rely on past examples from Earth’s climate...
Victorian logging could trigger ecosystem collapse, researchers say

Victorian logging could trigger ecosystem collapse, researchers say

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 30, 2017 SNIP: Decades of unsustainable logging has created an “extinction debt” in Victoria’s central highlands that will trigger an ecosystem-wide collapse within 50 years without urgent intervention from the state government, ecologists have warned. According to modelling produced by Australian National University researchers Dr Emma Burns and Prof David Lindenmayer, there is a 92% chance the mountain ash forests will not be able to support its current ecosystem of arboreal animals, like the critically endangered leadbeater’s possum, by 2067. If current logging practices continue, or if the forests experience another Black Saturday level bushfire, the likelihood of collapse approaches 100%. [T]he problem is the product of historical logging practices and that no amount of future logging is compatible with the ecosystem’s...
Climate Connection: Unraveling the Surprising Ecology of Dust

Climate Connection: Unraveling the Surprising Ecology of Dust

SOURCE: Yale Environment 360 DATE: November 30, 2017 SNIP: High in the snowfields atop the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, things are not as pristine as they used to be. Dust from the desert Southwest is sailing into the Rockies in increasing quantities and settling onto the snow that covers the peaks, often streaking the white surface with shades of red and brown. The amount of dust that settles on snow varies from year to year. From 2005 to 2008, about five times as much dust fell on the Rockies as during the 1800s, and those years are characterized by researchers as moderately dusty, according to a recent study. In 2009 and 2010, however, the Rockies saw an extreme dust scenario, with the amount of dust blowing onto the mountains mushrooming to five times more than those moderate years. The cause, scientists say, was increasing drought — linked to a warming climate — and human development. Because darker, dust-flecked snow absorbs more solar energy and warms faster than pure white snow, it means snow cover melts earlier — a lot earlier. “It’s not subtle at all,” said Jeff Deems, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. “There is 30 to 60 days difference in the melt out. Over a larger watershed, it’s...