U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn Climate Change Is a Worldwide Threat

U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn Climate Change Is a Worldwide Threat

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: January 30, 2019 SNIP: The nation’s intelligence community warned in its annual assessment of worldwide threats that climate change and other kinds of environmental degradation pose risks to global stability because they are “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” Released Tuesday, the Worldwide Threat Assessmentprepared by the Director of National Intelligence added to a swelling chorus of scientific and national security voices in pointing out the ways climate change fuels widespread insecurity and erodes America’s ability to respond to it. “Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security,” said the report, which represents the consensus view among top intelligence officials. “Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.” The United Nations Security Council also held a discussion on Friday devoted to understanding and responding to how climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” in countries where governance is already fragile and resources are sparse. “Climate change exacerbates vulnerabilities and inequalities, especially in situations of armed conflict, where countries, communities and populations are the least prepared and the least able to protect themselves and adapt,” Robert Mardini, the permanent observer to the UN from the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the Security Council, according to his published remarks. “Conflicts harm the structures and systems that are necessary to facilitate adaptation to climate...
Are we headed toward the worst-case climate change scenario?

Are we headed toward the worst-case climate change scenario?

SOURCE: Pacific Standard and New York Times DATE: January 25, 2019 SNIP: This week, researchers warned that Greenland’s ice sheet has reached a tipping point. Looking at more than a decade’s worth of ice loss, an international team of scientists found that the rate of Greenland’s ice loss in early 2013 was four times higher than in 2003. [I]n this new study, Michael Bevis, a professor at Ohio State University, and his colleagues were surprised to see that most of the ice loss occurred in the southwest corner of Greenland, a region with very few glaciers. In other words, most of the ice loss was in the form of meltwater runoff, draining from land-based ice sheets into the sea. What Bevis and his colleagues found was that the melting was being controlled by something called the North Atlantic Oscillation—an irregular fluctuation in atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic Ocean that influences the weather on several continents. “Global warming brought summertime temperatures just shy of the critical temperature at which massive melting would occur, and the NAO pushed it over this critical threshold,” he says. It means that the ice sheet is now sensitive to small fluctuations in summer temperatures, and if global temperatures continue to rise as predicted, soon Greenland’s summers will be warm enough to cause massive melting regardless of the NAO’s phase. The new research dovetails with other recent papers on the accelerating melting. Last month a team of researchers published a paper in Nature that used satellite observations, analysis of ice cores and models to show that losses from the Greenland ice sheet have reached their fastest...
Risks of ‘domino effect’ of tipping points greater than thought, study says

Risks of ‘domino effect’ of tipping points greater than thought, study says

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 20, 2018 SNIP: Policymakers have severely underestimated the risks of ecological tipping points, according to a study that shows 45% of all potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another. The authors said their paper, published in the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises. “The risks are greater than assumed because the interactions are more dynamic,” said Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “The important message is to recognise the wickedness of the problem that humanity faces.” When the Arctic ice sheets melt, there is less ice to reflect the sun’s heat so the temperature of the planet rises. This increases the risks of forest fires, which discharge carbon into the air that adds to the greenhouse effect, which melts more ice. Although geographically distant, each amplifies the other. The deforestation of the Amazon is responsible for multiple “cascading effects” – weakening rain systems, forests becoming savannah, and reduced water supplies for cities like São Paulo and crops in the foothills of the Andes. This, in turn, increases the pressure for more land clearance. Until recently, the study of tipping points was controversial, but it is increasingly accepted as an explanation for climate changes that are happening with more speed and ferocity than earlier computer models predicted. The loss of coral reefs and Arctic sea ice may already be past the point of no return. There are signs the Antarctic is heading the same way faster than thought. “We’re surprised at the rate of change in the...
Step up on climate or choose ‘immoral, suicidal’ path, says UN chief

Step up on climate or choose ‘immoral, suicidal’ path, says UN chief

SOURCE: Climate Change News DATE: December 12, 2018 SNIP: Governments face a choice between increasing their climate pledges or embarking on an “immoral” and “suicidal” path, UN secretary general António Guterres said on Wednesday. At a UN climate summit in Poland, Guterres was joined by Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama in issuing a plea for countries to renew and upgrade their Paris Agreement promises within a year. “To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal,” Guterres said. “This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this: a dramatic appeal.” Launching the call, Bainimarama said governments needed to increase their current national climate pledges five-fold to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial level. “Or enter history as the generation that blew it; that sacrificed the health of our world and ultimately betrayed humanity because we didn’t have the courage and foresight to go beyond our short-term individual concerns. Craven, irresponsible and selfish,” said...
Global warming will happen faster than we think

Global warming will happen faster than we think

SOURCE: Nature DATE: December 5, 2018 SNIP: In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report setting out why we must stop global warming at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, and how to do so. It is grim reading. If the planet warms by 2 °C — the widely touted temperature limit in the 2015 Paris climate agreement — twice as many people will face water scarcity than if warming is limited to 1.5 °C. That extra warming will also expose more than 1.5 billion people to deadly heat extremes, and hundreds of millions of individuals to vector-borne diseases such as malaria, among other harms. But the latest IPCC special report underplays another alarming fact: global warming is accelerating. Three trends — rising emissions, declining air pollution and natural climate cycles — will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated. In our view, there’s a good chance that we could breach the 1.5 °C level by 2030, not by 2040 as projected in the special report (see ‘Accelerated warming’). The climate-modelling community has not grappled enough with the rapid changes that policymakers care most about, preferring to focus on longer-term trends and equilibria. Three lines of evidence suggest that global warming will be faster than projected in the recent IPCC special report. First, greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising. In 2017, industrial carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have reached about 37 gigatonnes. This puts them on track with the highest emissions trajectory the IPCC has modelled so far. This dark news means that the next 25 years are poised to warm...