Soil to sand: Spain’s growing threat of desertification

Soil to sand: Spain’s growing threat of desertification

SOURCE: Anadolu Agency DATE: July 19, 2019 SNIP: If carbon emissions remain unabated, Madrid will have a climate more like present-day Marrakesh by 2050, according to a recently published study by Swiss researchers. The study by ETH Zurich and Crowther Lab suggests that if the world doesn’t band together within the next 11 years – “the point of no return” – to reduce CO2 emissions, the earth could be 2-2.5 degrees hotter within a matter of a few decades. In that scenario, Madrid’s weather is likely to increase by an average of 2.1° Celsius, with the hottest temperatures increasing by 6.4°C. Already this year, Madrileños have perspired their way through record-breaking heat, with June 28 registering the hottest maximum temperature on record for the month of June – 40.7C (105 Fahrenheit), according to Spain’s national meteorological service. Experts from the European Environment Agency (EEA) told Anadolu Agency that the most extreme climate scenarios also project precipitation decreasing by more than 40% in parts of Spain during the summer months by the end of the century, leading to longer and more severe droughts across the Iberian Peninsula. And with at least 74% of Spain at risk of desertification (18% at high or very high risk), according to official data from 2008, could some parts of Spain come to look more like the Moroccan Sahara within our lifetimes? “The process of desertification will never produce a desert. Desertification creates something much worse than that – a landscape formed by opportunistic ecosystems and land degradation,” explained Gabriel del Barrio, a researcher at the Experimental Station for Arid Zones (EEZA) in Almeria, Spain....
Achievement of Paris climate goals unlikely due to time lags in the land system

Achievement of Paris climate goals unlikely due to time lags in the land system

SOURCE: Nature Climate Change DATE: February 18, 2019 SNIP: Achieving the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting average global temperature increases to 1.5 °C requires substantial changes in the land system. However, individual countries’ plans to accomplish these changes remain vague, almost certainly insufficient and unlikely to be implemented in full. These shortcomings are partially the result of avoidable ‘blind spots’ relating to time lags inherent in the implementation of land-based mitigation strategies. [P]roper assessment of mitigation options and NDCs requires factoring in the speed with which ambition and policy translate into beneficial on-the-ground activity. Without this, unrealistic expectations about the rate and extent of mitigation will delay and eventually preclude the adoption of appropriate targets. This effect is already clear in land-based mitigation policies, which are affected by a number of time lags that are rarely anticipated in the design of mitigation policies. Partly as a result, of the 197 countries that have produced NDCs so far (representing 96.4% of global GHG emissions), no major industrialized country has yet matched its own ambitions for emissions reductions. Of 32 countries (representing 80% of anthropogenic emissions) considered by the independent scientific organization Climate Action Tracker, only two (Morocco and the Gambia) are rated as achieving ‘Paris Agreement-compatible’ implementation of their NDCs. Global CO2 emissions appear to have risen in both 2017 and 2018 after previously levelling off. We argue that such setbacks can, and must, be avoided by improved assessment and recognition of the time lags inherent in land-system policy-making, management change and feedback...
Most land-based ecosystems worldwide risk ‘major transformation’ due to climate change

Most land-based ecosystems worldwide risk ‘major transformation’ due to climate change

SOURCE: University of Michigan News DATE: August 30, 2018 SNIP: Without dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, most of the planet’s land-based ecosystems—from its forests and grasslands to the deserts and tundra—are at high risk of “major transformation” due to climate change, according to a new study from an international research team. The researchers used fossil records of global vegetation change that occurred during a period of post-glacial warming to project the magnitude of ecosystem transformations likely in the future under various greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. They found that under a “business as usual” emissions scenario, in which little is done to rein in heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions, vegetation changes across the planet’s wild landscapes will likely be more far-reaching and disruptive than earlier studies suggested. The changes would threaten global biodiversity and derail vital services that nature provides to humanity, such as water security, carbon storage and recreation. Some of the expected vegetational changes are already underway in places like the American West and Southwest, where forest dieback and massive wildfires are transforming...
Scientists just presented a sweeping new estimate of how much humans have transformed the planet

Scientists just presented a sweeping new estimate of how much humans have transformed the planet

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 20, 2017 SNIP: In this age of climate change, we naturally train our attention on all the fossil fuels being combusted for human use — but scientists have long known that what’s happening is also all about the land. Just as buried fossil fuels are filled with carbon from ancient plant and animal life, so too are living trees and vegetation on Earth’s surface today. Razing forests or plowing grasslands puts carbon in the atmosphere just like burning fossil fuels does. Now, new research provides a surprisingly large estimate of just how consequential our treatment of land surfaces and vegetation has been for the planet and its atmosphere. If true, it’s a finding that could shape not only our response to climate change, but our understanding of ourselves as agents of planetary transformation. Using a series of detailed maps derived from satellite information and other types of ecological measurements, Karl-Heinz Erb, the lead study author, and his colleagues estimated how much carbon is contained in Earth’s current vegetation. The number is massive: 450 billion tons of carbon, which, if it were to somehow arrive in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, would amount to over a trillion tons of the gas. But the study also presented an even larger and perhaps more consequential number: 916 billion tons. That’s the amount of carbon, the research calculated, that could reside in the world’s vegetation — so not in the atmosphere — if humans somehow entirely ceased all uses of land and allowed it to return to its natural state. The inference is that current human use of...
Climate refugees will search hard for homes

Climate refugees will search hard for homes

SOURCE: Climate News Network DATE: June 30, 2017 SNIP: By 2060, around 1.4 bn people could be climate refugees, driven from low-lying coastal cities by sea level rise. By 2100, as the global population may have reached 11bn, there could be 2bn climate refugees. To feed those 9 to 11 bn people expected in the second half of the century, farmers will have to grow as much food in 40 years as they have grown in the last 8,000 or so. Journal: Land Use...