We’re witnessing the fastest decline in Arctic sea ice in at least 1,500 years

We’re witnessing the fastest decline in Arctic sea ice in at least 1,500 years

SOURCE: Vox and Inside Climate News DATE: February 17, 2018 SNIP: Vox: The Arctic Ocean once froze reliably every year. Those days are over. Arctic sea ice extent has been measured by satellites since the 1970s. And scientists can sample ice cores, permafrost records, and tree rings to make some assumptions about the sea ice extent going back 1,500 years. And when you put that all on a chart, well, it looks a little scary. “The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,” Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic research program, said at a press conference. “This year’s observations confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a decade ago.” The report, which you can read in full here, compiles trends that scientists have been seeing for years. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. And 2017 saw a new record low for the maximum sea ice extent (i.e., how much of the Arctic ocean freezes in the coldest depths of winter). That huge drop-off at the end? That’s “the largest magnitude decline in sea ice, and the greatest sustained rate in sea ice decline in that 1,500-year record,” said Emily Osborne, the NOAA scientist who compiled the data for the chart. Inside Climate News: In just eight days in mid-February, nearly a third of the sea ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast disappeared. That kind of ice loss and the changing climate as the planet warms is affecting the lives of the people who...
Far More Methane Leaking at Oil, Gas Sites in Pennsylvania than Reported

Far More Methane Leaking at Oil, Gas Sites in Pennsylvania than Reported

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: February 16, 2018 SNIP: Leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from oil and gas sites in Pennsylvania could be five times greater than industry reports to state regulators, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund. Drawing from peer-reviewed research based on measurements collected downwind of oil and gas sites, along with government data, the EDF analysis estimates that the state’s oil and gas wells and infrastructure leak more than 520,000 tons of methane annually, largely due to faulty equipment. “This wasted gas causes the same near-term climate pollution as 11 coal-fired power plants and results in nearly $68 million worth of wasted energy resources,” the group said in its report, released Thursday. Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century. The Trump administration has been working to roll back several policies and initiatives that were designed to rein in methane emissions, most recently to end requirements to limit leaks at oil and gas sites on federal...
B.C. ill prepared to cope with climate change: auditor general

B.C. ill prepared to cope with climate change: auditor general

SOURCE: Alaska Highway News DATE: February 15, 2018 SNIP: B.C. will not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emission targets and is not adequately prepared to mitigate the impact of fire, flooding, and drought precipitated by climate change, B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer says. In an audit of B.C. climate change policies and the province’s ability to address both risk and adaptation, Bellinger confirmed what the B.C. government already has admitted: it is not on track to meet its interim 2020 targets of reducing greenhouse gases by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. But it’s also unlikely to meet its longer-range targets either, Bellringer concludes, with its current climate change policies, and says carbon taxes alone are insufficient tools for reducing GHGs. “The trajectory to 2050 is indicating it will not be met with what’s currently in the plans, and that’s even before you take into account the LNG,” Bellringer said at a press conference Thursday, February 15. Then again, few jurisdictions in the world are on track to meet their respective climate change targets. Even Germany, often held up as the climate change poster child, has considered scrapping its 2020 interim targets – an acknowledgement that it won’t meet them. A paper in Nature last year says that all major industrialized countries are failing to meet their climate change commitments and suggested that too many countries are focused on “numerical targets” and should focus more concrete...
First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker as global warming causes ice sheets to melt

First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker as global warming causes ice sheets to melt

SOURCE: The Independent DATE: February 14, 2018 SNIP: A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt. The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months. The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment. As global warming leads to melting Arctic ice, areas of the northern oceans are becoming accessible to vessels for the first time. Shipping companies have been investing in ships that are able to break through thinning polar ice, as the northern sea route is considerably shorter for many trade links between Europe and Asia. [E]nvironmentalists have noted the irony in the rapidly warming Arctic seas being used as a highway for fossil fuel transport. “Inevitably, this has caused massive changes, with most of the Arctic ice having already disappeared. And so now, ironically, we can deliver fossil fuels more quickly. It’s like a heavy smoker using his tracheotomy to smoke two cigarettes at once,” said Sarah North, senior oil strategist for Greenpeace...
Decline in krill threatens Antarctic wildlife, from whales to penguins

Decline in krill threatens Antarctic wildlife, from whales to penguins

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 14, 2018 SNIP: The Antarctic, one of the world’s last great wildernesses and home to animals such as whales, penguins and leopard seals, is being threatened by the plight of an animal just a few centimetres long, according to scientists. Researchers and environmental campaigners warn that a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing is threatening the krill population in Antarctic waters, with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators. The report, published in the journal Plos One, warned that climate change could reduce krill size by up to 40% in some areas of Antarctica’s Scotia Sea causing a drastic reduction in predator numbers. Researchers also said that current permitted rates of krill fishing “increased the risk for depletion of some predator populations” although it had “less impact than ocean warming”. Krill populations have declined by 80% since the 1970s. Global warming has been blamed for part of that decrease because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton they feed on is retreating. Campaigners say recent developments in fishing technology are exacerbating the problem, allowing ‘suction’ harvesting by large trawlers which are now able to gather up vast quantities of krill. Krill are a key part of the delicate Antarctic food chain. They feed on marine algae and are a key source of food for whales, penguins and seals. They are also important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder...
Leaked U.N. climate report sees ‘very high risk’ the planet will warm beyond key limit

Leaked U.N. climate report sees ‘very high risk’ the planet will warm beyond key limit

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: February 14, 2018 SNIP: A draft United Nations climate science report contains dire news about the warming of the planet, suggesting it will likely cross the key marker of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, of temperature rise in the 2040s, and that this will be exceedingly difficult to avoid. The draft document states that there is a “very high risk” of the planet warming more than 1.5 degrees above the temperature seen in the mid-to-late-19th century. Maintaining the planet’s temperature entirely below that level throughout the present century, without even briefly exceeding it, is likely to be “already out of reach,” it finds. The document finds that a warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) would pose substantially larger risks in many respects than 1.5 degrees C — but it also finds that some severe risks will be present at 1.5 degrees, too. What’s most striking is the radical nature and rapidity of the changes that would be required to somehow preserve a world below 1.5 degrees. The document finds that the world has only 12 to 16 years worth of greenhouse gas emissions left, from the start of 2016, if it wants a better-than-even chance of holding warming below 1.5 degrees. Two of those years have already elapsed, as of this writing. A third will have nearly elapsed by the time the draft report is finalized and released in October. And once this “carbon budget” for 1.5 degrees Celsius is used up, emissions would have to plunge to zero to preserve the 1.5 degree goal — something that would almost certainly...