UN Warns of Extreme Weather Ahead After Declaring Hottest Decade in Recorded History

UN Warns of Extreme Weather Ahead After Declaring Hottest Decade in Recorded History

SOURCE: Science Alert DATE: January 16, 2020 SNIP: The past decade has been the hottest on record, the UN said Wednesday, warning that the higher temperatures were expected to fuel numerous extreme weather events in 2020 and beyond.​ The World Meteorological Organization, which based its findings on analysis of leading international datasets, said increases in global temperatures had already had dire consequences, pointing to “retreating ice, record sea levels, increasing ocean heat and acidification, and extreme weather”. WMO said its research also confirmed data released by the European Union’s climate monitor last week showing that 2019 was the second hottest year on record, after 2016. “Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said. The UN agency said that average global temperatures during both the past five-year (2015-2019) and 10-year (2010-2019) periods were the highest ever recorded. Since more than 90 percent of excess heat is stored in the world’s oceans, their heat content is a good way to quantify the rate of global warming, WMO said. Conservationists said the UN agency’s findings were to be expected. “It is no surprise that 2019 was the second hottest year on record – nature has been persistently reminding us that we have to pick up the pace,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy practice, calling for dramatic measures to halt the warming...
New climate models suggest Paris goals may be out of reach

New climate models suggest Paris goals may be out of reach

SOURCE: Phys.Org DATE: January 14, 2020 SNIP: New climate models show carbon dioxide is a more potent greenhouse gas than previously understood, a finding that could push the Paris treaty goals for capping global warming out of reach, scientists have told AFP. Developed in parallel by separate teams in half-a-dozen countries, the models—which will underpin revised UN temperature projections next year—suggest scientists have for decades consistently underestimated the warming potential of CO2. Vastly more data and computing power has become available since the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections were finalised in 2013. “We have better models now,” Olivier Boucher, head of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris, told AFP, adding that they “represent current climate trends more accurately”. The most influential projections from government-backed teams in the US, Britain, France and Canada point to a future in which CO2 concentrations that have long been equated with a 3C world would more likely heat the planet’s surface by four or five degrees. For more than a century, scientists have puzzled over a deceptively simple question: if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere doubles, how much will Earth’s surface warm over time? The resulting temperature increase is known as Earth’s “climate sensitivity”. That number has been hard to pin down due to a host of elusive variables. Whether oceans and forests, for example, will continue to absorb more than half of the CO2 emitted by humanity is hard to predict. “How clouds evolve in a warmer climate and whether they will exert a tempering or amplifying effect has long been a major source...
500 million animals lost in Australian bushfires in 2019

500 million animals lost in Australian bushfires in 2019

SOURCE: Sydney News & Life DATE: December 28, 2019 SNIP: The true cost of the bushfires on the Australian environment and ecology is only just coming to light. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate some 480 million mammals, birds & reptiles have been lost by the devastating bushfires in 2019. There are now fears entire species of animals and plant life may be lost forever, with scientists moving to understand the full scope of destruction. The estimates include some 8,000 koalas lost in the flames. About 30% of the entire koala population of NSW’s mid-north coast region has perished. There were only 28,000 koalas in the entire region before the fires began. The mortality rate of koalas from these fires has been particularly high. According to Mark Graham, an ecologist with the Nature Conservation Council, koalas “have no capacity to move fast enough to get away” from fires that spread from treetop to treetop. “The fires have burnt so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies,” Mr Graham told a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry earlier this month. Large areas of bush land surrounding Sydney, including beloved national parks and areas containing rare and endangered species, have also been lost. In the Blue Mountains, 50% of heritage reserves have been lost in November and December alone. The UNESCO World Heritage Listed region is home to highly endangered species, including a shrub called the Kowmung hakea,...
Climate emergency: world ‘may have crossed tipping points’

Climate emergency: world ‘may have crossed tipping points’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 27, 2019 SNIP: The world may already have crossed a series of climate tipping points, according to a stark warning from scientists. This risk is “an existential threat to civilisation”, they say, meaning “we are in a state of planetary emergency”. Tipping points are reached when particular impacts of global heating become unstoppable, such as the runaway loss of ice sheets or forests. In the past, extreme heating of 5C was thought necessary to pass tipping points, but the latest evidence suggests this could happen between 1C and 2C. The planet has already heated by 1C and the temperature is certain to rise further, due to past emissions and because greenhouse gas levels are still rising. The scientists further warn that one tipping point, such as the release of methane from thawing permafrost, may fuel others, leading to a cascade. The researchers, writing in a commentary article in the journal Nature, acknowledge that the complex science of tipping points means great uncertainty remains. But they say the potential damage from the tipping points is so big and the time to act so short, that “to err on the side of danger is not a responsible option”. They call for urgent international action. Phil Williamson at the University of East Anglia, who did not contribute to the article, said: “The prognosis by Tim Lenton and colleagues is, unfortunately, fully plausible: that we might have already lost control of the Earth’s...
60% of Toxic Superfund Sites Threatened by Climate Change

60% of Toxic Superfund Sites Threatened by Climate Change

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: November 19, 2019 SNIP: Sixty percent of the nation’s heavily polluted Superfund sites—nearly 950 of them—are at risk from the impacts of climate change, including hurricane storm surges and flooding that could spread their toxic legacies into waterways, communities and farmland, a new federal report warns. The U.S. Government Accountability Office report, released Monday, describes the increased risk of toxic substances being washed out by flooding at sites across the country, as well as wildfire risks that could send health-harming pollutants airborne. It recommends that the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the federal Superfund program, start providing clear, agency-wide instructions on how its officials should incorporate climate change into Superfund site risk assessments and response decisions. That would be a change for the current administration. Currently, the EPA does not include climate change in its agency-wide goals and objectives, preventing the agency from addressing the added risks at contaminated sites across the country as the planet warms, the report concluded. Of the nearly 1,600 “national priority list” Superfund sites not on federal land that were examined in the report, more than half are at increased risk from flooding or storm surge. One example is a site in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with contaminated soil and groundwater from 27 unlined chemical waste lagoons stemming from more than 90 years of chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. The site is in a 100-year flood zone and could be reached by the storm surge from powerful hurricanes. Heavy rains from Hurricane Irene flooded the site in 2011, though subsequent testing by EPA concluded no significant release of contaminants occurred. Another...