Polar bears crowd on Russian island in sign of Arctic change

Polar bears crowd on Russian island in sign of Arctic change

SOURCE: Channel News Asia

DATE: November 23, 2017

SNIP: A boatload of tourists in the far eastern Russian Arctic thought they were seeing clumps of ice on the shore, before the jaw-dropping realisation that about 200 polar bears were roaming on the mountain slope.

The bears had come to feast on the carcass of a bowhead whale that washed ashore, later resting around the food source. The crowd included many families, including two mothers trailed by a rare four cubs each, Gruzdev told AFP.

Climate change means ice, where polar bears are most at home, is melting earlier in the year and so polar bears have to spend longer on land, scientists say.

Studies have shown that, compared with 20 years ago, polar bears now spend on average a month longer on Wrangel Island because “ice is melting earlier and the ice-free period is longer”, said Eric Regehr, from the University of Washington, the lead American scientist on the US-Russian collaborative study of Wrangel Island polar bears.

Changing ice conditions could also be responsible for the increasing number of bears flocking there, Regehr said.

This autumn, the number of bears observed was 589, far exceeding previous estimates of 200-300, he said, calling it “anomalously high“.

Ice Apocalypse

Ice Apocalypse

SOURCE: Grist

DATE: November 21, 2017

SNIP: The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

In the past few years, scientists have identified marine ice-cliff instability as a feedback loop that could kickstart the disintegration of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet this century — much more quickly than previously thought.

A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet, flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

All this could play out in a mere 20 to 50 years — much too quickly for humanity to adapt.

“It could happen faster or slower, I don’t think we really know yet,” says Jeremy Bassis, a leading ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan. “But it’s within the realm of possibility, and that’s kind of a scary thing.”

There’s a recurring theme throughout these scientists’ findings in Antarctica: What we do now will determine how quickly Pine Island and Thwaites collapse. A fast transition away from fossil fuels in the next few decades could be enough to put off rapid sea-level rise for centuries. That’s a decision worth countless trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

“The range of outcomes,” Bassis says, “is really going to depend on choices that people make.”

Record low sea ice in Alaska waters in fall 2017

Record low sea ice in Alaska waters in fall 2017

SOURCE: Climate.gov

DATE: November 21, 2017

SNIP: In the Bering and Chukchi Seas, where sea ice should be starting its winter expansion, thousands of square miles of open water stretch out from the state’s western coastline in late fall 2017. It’s the lowest ice extent on record for this time of year for the combined basins.

Except for a few areas of nearshore ice, the entire Bering Sea is ice-free as are thousands of square miles of the Chukchi Sea to the north.

[T]he ice conditions are unlikely to reverse course any time soon. Predicted storminess in the near-term means that waves and winds will be churning up the surface waters, breaking up and dispersing ice that does form and bringing more unseasonably warm air into the region.

Arctic climate change being felt farther south, scientists say

Arctic climate change being felt farther south, scientists say

SOURCE: CBC News

DATE: November 20, 2017

SNIP: An international summary of five year’s worth of research on Arctic climate change concludes the top of the world is getting warmer faster than anyone thought.

And if it all sounds interesting but a little far removed from southern concerns, David Barber has news for you.

“There are very clear linkages there and they’ve been occurring consistently for the last 10, 15 years,” said Barber, one of Canada’s top ice scientists and a prominent contributor to the report.

“Most people don’t understand how bad it is.”

Climate change in the Arctic is well underway and can’t be stopped.

“We should have started 20 years ago,” Barber said. “We didn’t get our act together and we’re still dicking around trying to figure out how to price carbon.

“These things are costing us. And they’re costing the stability of our planet.”

Venezuela is losing its last glacier

Venezuela is losing its last glacier

SOURCE: EarthSky Voices

DATE: November 19, 2017

SNIP: Venezuela used to have five glaciers. Today, only one remains. The last glacier in Venezuela, the Humboldt glacier, is about to disappear.

Once Venezuela loses the Humbolt, it will become the first country in modern history to have lost all of its glaciers.

The glacier is expected to completely vanish in ten to twenty years, and scientists have expressed the importance of studying the glacier in its last stages.

What they don’t tell you about climate change

What they don’t tell you about climate change

SOURCE: The Economist

DATE: November 16, 2017

SNIP: The Paris agreement assumes, in effect, that the world will find ways to suck CO2 out of the air. That is because, in any realistic scenario, emissions cannot be cut fast enough to keep the total stock of greenhouse gases sufficiently small to limit the rise in temperature successfully. But there is barely any public discussion of how to bring about the extra “negative emissions” needed to reduce the stock of CO2 (and even less about the more radical idea of lowering the temperature by blocking out sunlight). Unless that changes, the promise of limiting the harm of climate change is almost certain to be broken.

Fully 101 of the 116 models the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses to chart what lies ahead assume that carbon will be taken out of the air in order for the world to have a good chance of meeting the 2°C target. The total amount of CO2 to be soaked up by 2100 could be a staggering 810bn tonnes, as much as the world’s economy produces in 20 years at today’s rate. Putting in place carbon-removal schemes of this magnitude would be an epic endeavour even if tried-and-tested techniques existed.

They do not.

[F]acing the shortcomings of Paris is beyond most governments. Under Mr Trump, America is not prepared to reduce the flow of emissions, let alone the stock. But the problem would not magically be solved even if America returned to the fold. Many rich countries say they are already doing their bit by cutting emissions more steeply than developing countries. In fact, taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is not an alternative to belching out less greenhouse gas. It is necessary in its own right. Unless policymakers take negative emissions seriously, the promises of Paris will ring ever more hollow.

Species in the north are more vulnerable to climate change

Species in the north are more vulnerable to climate change

SOURCE: Lund University

DATE: November 16, 2017

SNIP: Acclimation means the ability of both animals and plants to adjust their physiology when it gets hotter or colder. In this way, individual organs are able to interact effectively and various processes in the body function optimally in varying conditions.

The common perception has long been that animals and plants that live near the Earth’s poles are best at acclimating. This assumption was based on the idea that they have the most to gain from acclimating, due to the large fluctuations in temperature between summer and winter in these regions.

Now this picture is being challenged by new research findings that demonstrate the opposite. Acclimation is most beneficial at intermediate, temperate latitudes. In Europe, this area corresponds to the regions between southern Spain and northern Germany.

The research findings could change our perception of which species are likely to be most affected by climate change.

“High-latitude species could have a less flexible physiology than previously thought and thus be more vulnerable to climate change”, says Viktor Nilsson-Örtman, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden.

Groundwater depletion could be significant source of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Groundwater depletion could be significant source of atmospheric carbon dioxide

SOURCE: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

SOURCE: November 16, 2017

SNIP: Humans may be adding large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by using groundwater faster than it is replenished, according to new research. This process, known as groundwater depletion, releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has until now been overlooked by scientists in calculating carbon sources, according to the new study.

Based on these figures, groundwater depletion should rank among the top 20 sources of carbon emissions documented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We were somewhat surprised that this hasn’t been accounted for in the literature and in the [EPA and IPCC] evaluations,” said David Hyndman, a hydrogeologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan and co-author of the new study accepted for publication in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

How climate change could lead to more wars in the 21st century

How climate change could lead to more wars in the 21st century

SOURCE: Vox and Environmental Justice Foundation

DATE: November 14, 2017

SNIP: “My belief is that we will see a renaissance of violent conflict in the 21st century, and that many of these conflicts will spring from climate change. It’s hard to predict the rate of decline or where or when conflicts will emerge, but we can say with some confidence that climate change will render huge parts of the world less hospitable to human beings, and that as a consequence, humans will have to change how and where they live.

These sorts of changes will produce tensions among groups of people struggling to adapt to a new environment. Again, that’s why I see climate as a fundamental driver of conflict in this century.” — Harald Welzer

This Company Is Pioneering “Climate Leave” After Disasters Hit

This Company Is Pioneering “Climate Leave” After Disasters Hit

SOURCE: Fast Company

DATE: November 14, 2017

SNIP: After Hurricane Irma hit Florida–and one of his Florida-based remote employees was forced to evacuate with his family–Anil Dash, CEO of the software company Fog Creek, called the employee and told him to do whatever he needed to do to be safe. Dash also realized that as climate change makes hurricanes and other disasters more destructive, it was a situation his employees would likely face again.

Fog Creek now offers “climate leave”: up to five days of leave for extreme weather each year, or longer in the case of an extended, officially declared state of emergency.

During Irma, Dash heard about people at other companies who were worried about evacuating because they didn’t want to lose their jobs. “For our team, hopefully that’s never a concern,” he says. “But then I said, you know, I don’t blame people for wondering, because if it’s not in writing, it can change at any time. You want to be able to trust as an employee.

The company is also trying to prepare for climate change in other ways, including researching renewable energy and looking at data center efficiency. Because employees telecommute (and those who live in New York City can take public transportation) in a typical week, no one commutes by car.

A remote workforce also makes the company more resilient: In the case of a wildfire or flood or other disasters in one location, employees elsewhere can still keep working.

Since Fog Creek announced the new program, Dash says that other companies have reached out to ask about creating something similar. He plans to watch what they do, and to also tweak Fog Creek’s program as it’s tested in future disasters.