Federal report: High-tide flooding could happen ‘every other day’ by late this century

Federal report: High-tide flooding could happen ‘every other day’ by late this century

SOURCE: Washington Post and NOAA

DATE: March 28, 2018

SNIP: By 2100, a new NOAA report says, “high tide flooding will occur ‘every other day’ (182 days/year) or more often” even under an “intermediate low scenario” in coastal areas along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. This scenario works under the assumption that greenhouse gas emissions — which warm the climate and speed up sea-level rise — are curbed.

For a more aggressive “intermediate” scenario, in which greenhouse gas emissions carry on at today’s pace, high-tide flooding is forecast to occur 365 days per year.

The prospect of high-tide flooding occurring every day or even every other day late this century is difficult to fathom.

Michael Lowry, a visiting scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, expressed shock on Twitter after seeing these projections. “It’s hard to overstate the significance of this,” he said. “That isn’t even the intermediate high, high, or extreme scenarios that bring us 365 [days per year] high tide flooding in my lifetime. It’s crazy.”

Astrid Caldas is a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists who tracks the effects of sea-level rise at the coast and is extremely worried about the projected flooding increases.

“By mid-century, the frequency of this type of ‘minor’ flooding would become so disruptive that business as usual would be practically impossible without significant adaptation measures,” Caldas said. “Without planning for flooding with measures such as protecting, elevating, accommodating the water, or even moving stuff out of the way, the impacts on the cities, their economy, and their residents would be immense.”

‘Extreme’ fossil fuel investments have surged under Donald Trump, report reveals

‘Extreme’ fossil fuel investments have surged under Donald Trump, report reveals

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: March 28, 2018

SNIP: Bank holdings in “extreme” fossil fuels skyrocketed globally to $115bn during Donald Trump’s first year as US president, with holdings in tar sands oil more than doubling, a new report has found.

A sharp flight from fossil fuels investments after the Paris agreement was reversed last year with a return to energy sources dubbed “extreme” because of their contribution to global emissions. This included an 11% hike in funding for carbon-heavy tar sands, as well as Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil and coal.

US and Canadian banks led a race back into the unconventional energy sector following Trump’s promise to withdraw from Paris, with JPMorgan Chase increasing its coal funding by a factor of 21, and quadrupling its tar sands assets.

Bank funding for tar sands production and pipelines more than doubled last year – compared to the 2015-16 period, when then-US president Barack Obama nixed the Keystone pipeline project, which Trump subsequently reapproved.

Support for coal among the 36 banks surveyed was also up by 6% in 2017 after a 38% plunge in 2016.

14 European banks collectively increased their coal financing by more than $2bn last year.

Draining peatlands gives global rise to greenhouse laughing-gas emissions

Draining peatlands gives global rise to greenhouse laughing-gas emissions

SOURCE: Science Daily

DATE: March 28, 2018

SNIP: Drained fertile peatlands around the globe are hotspots for the atmospheric emission of laughing-gas — a powerful greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide, which is partly responsible for global warming and destruction of the ozone layer, a new study shows.

Research into natural peatlands such as fens, swamps and bogs, as well as drained peatlands, found that either draining wet soils or irrigating well drained soils boosts the emission of nitrous oxide significantly.

Dr Sami UllahProf UÜlo Mander, Senior Lecturer in Biogeochemistry, at the University of BirminghamTartu, who conceived this research with a global network of 36 scientists said: “Nitrous oxide is no laughing matter — it is a significant contributor to global climate change and depletion of the ozone layer, which protects our planet from cosmic radiation.

“Organic soils, such as fens, swamps, bogs and drained peatlands, make up more than one-tenth of the world’s soil nitrogen pool and are a significant global source of laughing gas. They are significant sources of nitrous oxide when drained for cultivation.”

Plastic is in our food, our clothes – and in us

Plastic is in our food, our clothes – and in us

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: March 28, 2018

SNIP: Since we started engineering polymers to make plastic on a mass scale in the 1950s, this byproduct of the petrochemical industry, which uses about 6% of all the oil we extract a year, has spread to myriad manufacturing processes. Plastic is now ubiquitous, insidious and impossible to avoid. It makes up our clothes, containers, bottles, electronics, food trays, cups and paints. Our cars depend on it, so do our computers, roofs and drain pipes. It’s the global packaging material of choice. We sleep on it, wear it, watch it, and are in direct bodily contact with it in one form or other all day and night.

It may have profound societal benefits, but this most successful of all manmade materials sticks around for centuries. When exposed to sunlight, oxygen or the action of waves, it doesn’t biodegrade but simply fragments into smaller and smaller bits, until microscopic or nano-sized particles enter the food chain, the air, the soil and the water we drink.

In the past few years, minute microplastics and fibres, measuring the width of a human hair or far less, have been found in an extraordinary range of products, such as honey and sugar, shellfish, bottled and tap water, beer, processed foods, table salt and soft drinks.

The more researchers look, the more they find in the human body. The same scientists who raised the alarm on air pollution from the deadly particles emitted by diesel vehicles are now finding plastic microparticles raining down on cities, and blown into the air from cars and construction sites, washing lines and food packaging. Indoor plastic pollution may be even worse than outdoors.

Ice cores show Greenland’s melting is unprecedented in at least four centuries

Ice cores show Greenland’s melting is unprecedented in at least four centuries

SOURCE: The Washington Post

DATE: March 28, 2018

SNIP: Scientists who crossed western Greenland with a fleet of snowmobiles, pulling up long cylinders of ice at camps a little more than a mile above sea level, have found evidence that the vast sheet of ice is melting faster than at any time in the past 450 years at least — and possibly much longer than that.

That’s worrisome, because the snow that has fallen on the island over millennia — now compacted into ice — could raise sea levels by 20 feet if it completely melted.

The new study is further evidence that Greenland is seeing a lot of melt in the present, but what’s novel is the ability to put that in context, said Twila Moon, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who studies Greenland but was not involved in the current study.

It’s just another type or form of evidence to support the fact that we’re seeing really dramatic, rapid, and probably unprecedented changes,” Moon said.

Based on such research, “I am personally fully confident that we haven’t seen melt like this for 5,000 years,” Osterberg said.

The Paris Climate Accords Are Looking More and More Like Fantasy

The Paris Climate Accords Are Looking More and More Like Fantasy

SOURCE: New York Magazine

DATE: March 25, 2018

SNIP: Remember Paris?

It was not even two years ago that the celebrated climate accords were signed — defining two degrees of global warming as a must-meet target and rallying all the world’s nations to meet it — and the returns are already dispiritingly grim.

This week, the International Energy Agency announced that carbon emissions grew 1.7 percent in 2017, after an ambiguous couple of years optimists hoped represented a leveling off, or peak; instead, we’re climbing again. Even before the new spike, not a single major industrial nation was on track to fulfill the commitments it made in the Paris treaty. To keep the planet under two degrees of warming — a level that was, not all that long ago, defined as the threshold of climate catastrophe — all signatory nations have to match or better those commitments.

But this winter has brought even worse news than the abject failure of Paris compliance, in the form of a raft of distressing papers about what beyond compliance is required to stay below two degrees. Were each of those 195 countries to suddenly shape up, dramatically cutting back on fossil fuels to bring emissions in line with targets, that would still be not nearly enough to hit even Paris’s quite scary target. We don’t just need to draw down fossil fuels to stay below two degrees; doing so also requires “negative emissions” — extracting carbon from the atmosphere, essentially buying back some amount of existing fossil-fuel pollution through a combination of technological and agricultural tools.

[I]n 2014, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented more than 100 modeled scenarios that would keep global temperatures below two degrees of warming. Nearly all of them relied on negative emissions. These tools come in two forms: technologies that would suck carbon out of the air (called CCS, for carbon capture and storage) and new approaches to forestry and agriculture that would do the same, in a slightly more old-fashioned way (bioenergy carbon capture and storage, or BECCS).

According to these recent papers, both are something close to fantasy: at best, uneconomical and entirely untested at scale, and, at worst, wholly inadequate to the job being asked of them.

Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn

Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: March 23, 2018

SNIP: Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people, according to the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade.

Such is the rate of decline that the risks posed by biodiversity loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change, noted the authors of the UN-backed report, which was released in Medellin, Colombia on Friday.

“The time for action was yesterday or the day before,” said Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which compiled the research. “We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature or risk not only the future we want but even the lives we currently lead,” he added.

Although poaching often grabs the headlines for the demise of the rhino and other animals, worldwide the biggest threats to nature are from habitat loss, invasive species, chemicals, and climate change.

“The world has lost over 130m hectares of rainforests since 1990 and we lose dozens of species every day, pushing the Earth’s ecological system to its limit,” said Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme. “Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are not only the foundation for our life on Earth, but critical to the livelihoods and well-being of people everywhere.”

The rate of decline is moreover accelerating. In the Americas – which has about 40% of the world’s remaining biodiversity – the regional population is gobbling up resources at twice the rate of the global average. Despite having 13% of the people on the planet, it is using a quarter of the resources.

In 20 Years, Wildfires Will Be Six Times Larger

In 20 Years, Wildfires Will Be Six Times Larger

SOURCE: Outside Magazine

DATE: March 22, 2018

SNIP: From Montana to California, wildfires in 2017 shattered record after record and cost the Forest Service an unprecedented $2 billion. The blazes ravaged rural landscapes and business centers and claimed dozens of lives, including those of at least two firefighters. This season’s bone-dry winter conditions in the southern Rockies could set the stage for another taxing fire season in the West. If it’s starting to feel like the weather pendulum is favoring one side of the extreme, that’s because it is.

Over the next two decades, as many as 11 states are predicted to see the average annual area burned increase by 500 percent, according to a recent study. That would mean a small fire, say 100 acres, becomes, on average, a 600-acre fire, with Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Nevada expected to increase 700 percent in burn size. It’s a grim picture for future fire seasons—one that might be inevitable, because researchers have been able to check their work from current trends.

Scientists from the University of Arizona, the Universidad Nacional del Comahue in Argentina, and the University of California, Merced, analyzed more than three decades of fire occurrence, seasonal temperatures, and snowpack trends throughout western North America to calculate how climate regulates wildfire. By 2039, the researchers estimate there will be 50 fewer days of snowpack in much of the West and a four-degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperature. Both trends will create longer fire seasons that burn much more land.

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ Is Ballooning, 87,000 Tons of Plastic and Counting

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ Is Ballooning, 87,000 Tons of Plastic and Counting

SOURCE: New York Times

DATE: March 22, 2018

SNIP: In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

In recent years, this notorious mess has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling oceanic graveyard where everyday objects get deposited by the currents. The plastics eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that often get eaten by fish and may ultimately enter our food chain.

A study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports quantified the full extent of the so-called garbage patch: It is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. And, they say, it is growing “exponentially.”

The image is the stomach contents of a sea turtle.

Some sea turtles caught near the patch were eating so much plastic that it made up around three-quarters of their diet, according to the foundation.

Climate science’s official text is outdated. Here’s what it’s missing.

Climate science’s official text is outdated. Here’s what it’s missing.

SOURCE: Grist

DATE: March 22, 2018

SNIP: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the gold-standard for mainstream climate science. Problem is, the last IPCC report came out way back in 2013. As it turns out, we’ve learned a lot about our climate since then, and most of that new information paints an increasingly urgent picture of the need to slash fossil-fuel emissions as soon as possible.

The next IPCC report isn’t planned for public release until the fall of 2019. Gathering consensus takes time, and the result is that IPCC reports are out of date before they’re published and necessarily conservative.

Actually, a helluva lot has changed in our understanding of the Earth’s climate system since the 2013 IPCC report. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Sea level rise is going to be much worse than we thought.
  • Antarctica’s massive ice sheets could collapse much more quickly than we thought.
  • Extreme weather is here and can now be linked to climate change in real time.
  • Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius is pretty much locked in.
  • We’ve already lost entire ecosystems, most notably coral reefs.

The climate system is moving much more quickly than we thought, and human action to curb climate change is moving much too slowly.