Queensland, Sept 19 (Canadian-Media): In internationally respected group of scientists have urgently called on world leaders to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change. Almost every aspect of the planet's environment and ecology is undergoing changes in response to climate change, some of which will be profound if not catastrophic in the future.
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
According to their study published in Science today, reducing the magnitude of climate change is also a good investment. Over the next few decades, acting to reduce climate change is expected to cost much less than the damage otherwise inflicted by climate change on people, infrastructure and ecosystems.
"Acting on climate change" said lead author, Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia "has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting."
The investment is even more compelling given the wealth of evidence that the impacts of climate change are happening faster and more extensively than projected, even just a few years ago. This makes the case for rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions even more compelling and urgent.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg explained the mismatch. "First, we have underestimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change, and the speed at which these changes are happening. Second, we have underappreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats—with the outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts. This is resulting is rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems, and livelihoods."
For example, sea-level rise can lead to higher water levels during storm events. This can create more damage. For deprived areas, this may exacerbate poverty creating further disadvantage. Each risk may be small on its own, but a small change in a number of risks can lead to large impacts.
Prof Daniela Jacob, co-author and Director of Climate Services Centre (GERICS) in Germany is concerned about these rapid changes—especially about unprecedented weather extremes.
"We are already in new territory" said Prof Jacob, "The 'novelty' of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult."
These changes are having major consequences. The paper updates a database of climate-related changes and finds that there are significant benefits from avoiding 2 C and aiming to restrict the increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial global temperatures.
Prof Rachel Warren from the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in the UK assessed projections of risk for forests, biodiversity, food, crops and other critical systems, and found very significant benefits for limiting global warming to 1.5 C rather than 2 C.
"The scientific community has quantified these risks in order to inform policy makers about the benefits of avoiding them," Prof Warren stated.
Since the Paris Agreement came into force, there has been a race to quantify the benefits of limiting warming to 1.5 C so that policy makers have the best possible information for developing the policy required for doing it.
Prof Warren continued. "If such policy is not implemented, we will continue on the current upward trajectory of burning fossil fuels and continuing deforestation, which will expand the already large-scale degradation of ecosystems. To be honest, the overall picture is very grim unless we act."
A recent report from the United Nations projected that as many as a million species may be at risk of extinction over the coming decades and centuries. Climate change is not the only factor but is one of the most important ones.
The urgency of responding to climate change is at front of mind for Prof Michael Taylor, co-author and Dean of Science at the University of the West Indies. "This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere. That said, people from small island States and low-lying countries are in the immediate cross-hairs of climate change."
"I am very concerned about the future for these people," said Professor Taylor.
This urgency to act is further emphasized by the vulnerability of developing countries to climate change impacts as pointed out by Francois Engelbrecht, co-author and Professor of Climatology at the Global Change Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
"The developing African countries are amongst those to be affected most in terms of impacts on economic growth in the absence of strong climate change mitigation," Prof Engelbrecht explains.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg reiterated the importance of the coming year (2020) in terms of climate action and the opportunity to strengthen emission reduction pledges in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015.
"Current emission reduction commitments are inadequate and risk throwing many nations into chaos and harm, with a particular vulnerability of poor peoples. To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement. As we show, this is much less costly than suffering the impacts of 2 C or more of climate change."
"Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being—and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue."
'The human imperative of stabilizing global climate change at 1.5°C' is published in Science on September 19.
Ottawa, Aug 25 (Canadian-Media): The global issue of climate change is being covered intensely by media organizations worldwide, yet how the news media frame it varies from area to area, according to new research published in Global Environmental Change.
This study investigated the news coverage of climate change of 45 different countries and territories based on all relevant characteristics, represented by 84 different media outlets using the news framing approach.
Severn key frames, most often found in media representations of climate change across the globe, were outlined to determine how climate issues are presented and interpreted and and how these further influences discussions, policy, and action in determining what issues get more attention and what receive less.
The study also pointed out that apart from culture or geography, economics and politics also contribute to climate change and clarifies how the variation of news coverage is related to each country’s economic development, climate severity, and governance.
Over 23 million words within articles for keywords and phrases attributed to a particular frame were scanned by a tailored computer algorithm with more than 37,000 pieces published between 2011 and 2015 included in the analysis.
With an aim capture local contexts, the researchers studied articles published in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
This is the largest study to date and also the first study looking at a diversity of factors including vulnerability, emission levels, government action, and press freedom in media analysis of climate coverage.
The most common frame among countries covered by the study was international relations focussing on global action to address climate change and how nations interact in trying to address issues like responsibility, justice, and commonly agreed targets.
Economic impacts of climate change was another widely shared frame used by the researchers suggesting GDP per capita as the strongest predictor of how climate action is portrayed within a country.
It was also revealed that richer countries emphasized climate science and regulations, poorer and vulnerable countries focus on damage and loss attributed to climate change, while countries with high carbon footprints are also often focused on their energy use.
The least popular frame was found to be the social progress in addressing climate change, insufficient action on climate, apocalyptic narratives and other negative associations with the issue.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Plymouth (England), Aug 14 (Canadian-Media): With a mission to pressurise politicians to put climate change at the top of their agenda, 16-year old Eco-activist Greta Thunberg, set sail today from the English coastline, on her two week journey, for New York, media reports said.
With an intention to attend the U.N. climate summits next month in New York and in Santiago, Chile, in December, she took an year off from school for travel.
Keeping in mind the priority of cutting carbon emissions, Thunberg announced last month that instead of flying to environmental conferences, she decided to sail on a yacht which does not hurt the planet.
The 60-foot (18-meter) yacht, on which Thunberg is traveling, is outfitted with solar panels and underwater turbines to generate electricity, allowing Thunberg to make a zero-carbon trans-Atlantic journey.
Thunberg is well aware of the challenges she would face such as seasicknes, but is looking forward to the adventure.
Thunberg's father, Svante, and filmmaker Nathan Grossman of B-Reel Films, will accompany her on her trans-Atlantic voyage. She is carrying with her audiobooks and has notebooks for notes.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
California (U.S.), Aug 13 (Canadian-Media): Like the eponymous character in Shel Silverstein's classic children's tale, trees are generous with their gifts, cleaning the air we breathe and slowing the ravages of global warming by absorbing about a quarter of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, PhysXOrg reports said.
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But this generosity likely can't last forever in the face of unabated fossil fuel consumption and deforestation. Scientists have long wondered whether trees and plants could reach a breaking point and no longer adequately absorb carbon dioxide.
An international team led by scientists at Stanford University and the Autonomous University of Barcelona finds reason to hope trees will continue to suck up carbon dioxide at generous rates through at least the end of the century. However, the study published Aug. 12 in Nature Climate Change warns that trees can only absorb a fraction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and their ability to do so beyond 2100 is unclear.
"Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the best way to limit further warming," said study lead author César Terrer, a postdoctoral scholar in Earth system science in Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. "But stopping deforestation and preserving forests so they can grow more is our next-best solution."
Weighing carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide—the dominant greenhouse gas warming the earth—is food for trees and plants. Combined with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, it helps trees grow and thrive. But as carbon dioxide concentrations rise, trees will need extra nitrogen and phosphorus to balance their diet. The question of how much extra carbon dioxide trees can take up, given limitations of these other nutrients, is a critical uncertainty in predicting global warming.
Planting or restoring trees is like putting money in the bank," said co-author Rob Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor in Earth System Science at Stanford. "Extra growth from carbon dioxide is the interest we gain on our balance. We need to know how high the interest rate will be on our carbon investment."
Several individual experiments, such as fumigating forests with elevated levels of carbon dioxide and growing plants in gas-filled chambers, have provided critical data but no definitive answer globally. To more accurately predict the capacity of trees and plants to sequester carbon dioxide in the future, the researchers synthesized data from all elevated carbon dioxide experiments conducted so far—in grassland, shrubland, cropland and forest systems—including ones the researchers directed.
Using statistical methods, machine-learning, models and satellite data, they quantified how much soil nutrients and climate factors limit the ability of plants and trees to absorb extra carbon dioxide. Based on global datasets of soil nutrients, they also mapped the potential of carbon dioxide to increase the amount and size of plants in the future, when atmospheric concentrations of the gas could double.
Their results show that carbon dioxide levels expected by the end of the century should increase plant biomass by 12 percent, enabling plants and trees to store more carbon dioxide—an amount equivalent to six years of current fossil fuel emissions. The study highlights important partnerships trees forge with soil microbes and fungi to help them take up the extra nitrogen and phosphorus they need to balance their additional carbon dioxide intake. It also emphasizes the critical role of tropical forests, such as those in the Amazon, Congo and Indonesia, as regions with the greatest potential to store additional carbon.
"We have already witnessed indiscriminate logging in pristine tropical forests, which are the largest reservoirs of biomass in the planet," said Terrer, who also has a secondary affiliation with the Institut de Ciencia i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. "We stand to lose a tremendously important tool to limit global warming."
Netherlands, Aug 13 (Canadian-Media): The dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice through climate change has only a "minimal influence" on severe cold winter weather across Asia and North America, new research has shown, ScienceXNewsletter reports said.
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The possible connection between Arctic sea-ice loss and extreme cold weather—such as the deep freezes that can grip the USA in the winter months—has long been studied by scientists.
Observations show that when the regional sea-ice cover is reduced, swathes of Asia and North America often experience unusually cold and hazardous winter conditions.
However, previous climate modelling studies have suggested that reduced sea ice cannot fully explain the cold winters.
Now, a new study by experts from the University of Exeter, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute in Groningen, has shed new light on the link between sea-ice loss and cold winters.
For the research, the international team combined observations over the past 40 years with results from sophisticated climate modelling experiments. They found that the observations and models agreed that reduced regional sea ice and cold winters often coincide which each other.
They found that the correlation between reduced sea ice and extreme winters across the mid-latitude occurs because both are simultaneously driven by the same, large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns.
Crucially, it shows that reduced sea ice only has a minimal influence on whether a harsh and severe winter will occur.
The study is published in leading science journal, Nature Climate Change.
Dr. Russell Blackport, a Mathematics Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and lead author of the paper said: "The correlation between reduced sea ice and cold winters does not mean one is causing the other. We show that the real cause is changes in atmospheric circulation which moves warm air into the Arctic and cold air into the mid-latitudes."
Over recent decades, the Arctic region has experienced warming temperatures through climate change, which has led to a large decline in sea-ice cover.
This reduction in sea-ice cover means that areas of open water increase, which in turn allows the ocean to lose more heat to the atmosphere in winter—this can potentially alter the weather and climate, even well outside the Arctic.
Recent studies have suggested that the reduced sea ice or Arctic warming has contributed to recent cold winters experienced in the mid-latitude region—and that as the sea-ice reduces further through climate change, cold winters will become more frequent and severe.
Now, this new study suggests that reduced sea ice is not the main cause of the cold winters. Instead, the cold winters are likely caused by random fluctuations in the atmospheric circulation.
Professor James Screen, an Associate Professor in Climate Science at the University of Exeter said: "The are many reasons to be concerned about the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, but an increased risk of severe winters in North America and Asia is not one of them."
Dr. John Fyfe, a Research Scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, who was not involved in the research, writes in Nature Climate Change: "Blackport and colleagues put to rest the notion that Arctic sea-ice loss caused the cold mid-latitude winters, showing instead that atmospheric circulation changes preceded, and then simultaneously drove sea-ice loss and mid-latitude cooling".
#studentsAsEcoWarriors; #SouthAfrica; #ClimateChangeWarriorsProject
United Nations, Aug 12 (Canadian-Media): Schools in South Africa have been designating students as “eco-warriors” as part of an initiative supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to drive environmental and climate change awareness amongst the young and old in their communities, UN reports said.
As part of the Climate Change Warriors Project (CCWP), FLC supported communities and schools in semi-urban, rural, and urban areas, organised five clean up campaigns to eliminate illegal rubbish dump sites. © SGP South Africa and Future Leaders of Change
The youthful warriors have supported rubbish clean-up campaigns around their schools, eliminating over 1000 illegal dumping sites.
Through the SGP support the Climate Change Warriors Project (CCWP) was able to establish six small-scale conservation agriculture co-operatives and coordinate youth training on sustainable agriculture. © SGP South Africa and Future Leaders of Change
Other students have established agricultural co-operatives and learnt how to farm sustainably in the face of the effects of climate change and the degradation of the environment.
On International Youth Day which is marked annually on 12 August, find out here how South Africa’s youth are mobilizing to take climate action.
The Projects in South Africa are supported by UNDP’s Small Grants Programme.
Rome, Aug 12 (Canadian-Media): Pope Francis said this week that climate change is a “global emergency” and added loss of biodiversity is his worst fear, media reports said.
In an interview published by the Italian daily La Stampa Friday, Pope Francis said that the upcoming Vatican synod of bishops on the Amazon region will focus heavily on environmental issues.
The pontiff went on to enumerate some of the information he has received regarding environmental devastation.
“Ours will be an urgent Synod,” the pope continued. “But be aware that a synod is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament: it is something else. It was convened by the Church and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit.”
The Amazon, he said, is a “representative and decisive place,” which explains why it was chosen for this year’s synod.
“Together with the oceans it contributes decisively to the survival of the planet,” Francis said. “Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from there. That is why deforestation means killing humanity.
Asked what he fears the most for the planet, Francis answered: “The disappearance of biodiversity. New lethal diseases. A course and devastation of nature that can lead to the death of humanity.”
Peace Country (AB), Aug 11 (Canadian-Media): Residents of Peace Country (Alberta) had been plagued by receiving heavy rainfall and thunderstorms, media reports said.
The month of July saw a number of thunderstorms and above average rainfall in Grande Prairie, which received 88.4 mm of rain.
Albertans had been warned by Environment Canada to prepare and protect themselves from lightning.
“The big thing is to keep your eye out for is lightning,” stated Meteorologist for Environment Canada Dan Kulak.
“In the last week or so we know of three incidents in the last week in Alberta, where people were caught hiking in the mountains during and caught in a lightning storm. On average more people in Canada die each year from lightning than hail, rain, wind, tornados, and hurricanes combined.”
In Alberta alone, there are roughly 400,000 lightning strikes per year.
Kulak reminds residents that if you do plan on spending an extended amount of time outside this summer to always check the forecast prior to heading out.
More tips to protect yourself from lightning can be found here.
California, Aug 8 (Canadian-Media): A USC-led research team has found that marine microbes with a special metabolism are ubiquitous and could play an important role in how Earth regulates climate.
Visual representation of marine bacteria in the ocean. Credit: Laura Gómez-Consarnau
The study finds bacteria containing rhodopsins, a sunshine-grabbing pigment, are more abundant than once thought. Unlike algae, they don't pull carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air. And they will likely become more abundant in warming oceans, signaling a shuffling of microbial communities at the base of the food chain where the nitty-gritty work of energy conversion occurs.
"Oceans are important for climate change because they play a key role in the carbon cycle. Understanding how that works, and the marine organisms involved, helps us refine our climate models to predict climate in the future," said Laura Gómez-Consarnau, assistant professor (research) of biology at the University of Southern California (USC) Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
The study appears today in Science Advances. Gómez-Consarnau is the lead author among an international team of scientists from California, China, the United Kingdom and Spain.
The findings break from the traditional interpretation of marine ecology found in textbooks, which states that nearly all sunlight in the ocean is captured by chlorophyll in algae. Instead, rhodopsin-equipped bacteria function like hybrid cars, powered by organic matter when available—as most bacteria are—and by sunlight when nutrients are scarce.
Seawater sampling in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Josep M. Gasol
Rhodopsins were discovered 20 years ago, and scientists at USC and elsewhere have been studying their prevalence and metabolism since. These microbes have light-sensitive protein systems in their cell membranes that trap sunlight, an adaptation analogous to how rods and cones in the human eye gather light.
In this study, researchers trolled a 3,000-mile-long swath of the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea in 2014. They sampled microorganisms in the water column down to 200 meters in an attempt to find how widespread rhodopsins are and in what conditions they are favored.
They found that rhodopsin photosystems were much more abundant than previously realized and concentrated in nutrient-poor waters. In such oligotrophic zones, they outperform algae at capturing light. While algae use sunlight and CO2 to produce organic material and oxygen, rhodopsin pigments use light to make adenosine triphosphate, the basic energy currency that drives many cellular processes.
"Rhodopsins appear to be more abundant in a nutrient-poor ocean, and in the future, the ocean will be more nutrient poor as temperatures change," Gómez-Consarnau explained. "So, with fewer nutrients near the surface, algae will have limited photosynthesis, and the rhodopsin process will be more abundant. We may have a shift in the future, which means the ocean won't be able to absorb as much carbon as it does today. So more CO2 gas may remain in the atmosphere, and the planet may warm faster."
So far, computer simulations of what global warming could be like in the future do not yet account for this microbial shift.
Research vessel "Sarmiento de Gamboa", in which the research team collected seawater samples for this study. Credit: Josep M. Gasol
Previous studies have shown rhodopsins comprise about 80% of the marine bacteria, based on genetic analyses. But this is the first study to actually measure their concentration in the ocean and where they like to congregate.
The study underscores how scientists are learning new pathways by which organisms gain energy to live. For example, they've long known that plants and algae use chlorophyll to convert sunshine and nutrients into sugars; indeed, about half of all photosynthesis on Earth is performed by algae at the ocean surface. And they've discovered bottom-dwelling life supported by chemical energy from minerals and chemical compounds released from deep-ocean volcanic vents. In this research, they've learned that bacteria, long considered mainly decomposers in an ecosystem, can actually function as a main producer of energy at the ocean surface.
"We estimate that, given the concentrations found in seawater, rhodopsins could capture more light energy than chlorophyll in the ocean," Gómez-Consarnau said.
"These findings change the fundamental assumption that the marine biosphere is only powered by sunlight captured by chlorophylls during algal photosynthesis."
It also means that, years in the future, microbial communities will likely shift, resulting in less carbon fixation in the ocean. To fully evaluate how the findings affect the ocean's capacity to absorb greenhouse gases, Gómez-Consarnau said CO2 fluxes in marine systems will need to be reevaluated and future climate models will have to include this bacterial metabolism.
Ottawa, Aug 3 (Canadian-Media): About tenth of the world’s electricity usage by Data centers that handle Artificial Intelligence(AI) computing could account for an international climate threat by 2025, MIT Technology review reports said.
According to the chief executive of Applied Materials, a big supplier to the semiconductor industry, the climate threat could be lessened by innovation hardware and software could help keep AI’s demands for more electrical power in check.
Google already uses algorithms developed by DeepMind, which cut its cooling bill by 40%. Pioneering companies like Facebook and Amazon are more energy-efficient than servers in conventional centers that have to juggle a wider range of functions.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)