Oceans are warming even faster than previously thought

Recent observations show ocean heating in line with climate change models

January 10, 2019 University of California – Berkeley Read full ScienceDaily article here

Lijing Cheng, John Abraham, Zeke Hausfather, Kevin E. Trenberth. How fast are the oceans warming? Science, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav7619

Heat trapped by greenhouse gases is raising ocean temperatures faster than previously thought, concludes an analysis of four recent ocean heating observations. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or ‘hiatus’ in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

Ocean heating is critical marker of climate change because an estimated 93 percent of the excess solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the world’s oceans. And, unlike surface temperatures, ocean temperatures are not affected by year-to-year variations caused by climate events like El Nino or volcanic eruptions.

The new analysis, published Jan. 11 in Science, shows that trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models, and that overall ocean warming is accelerating….. “The fact that these corrected records now do agree with climate models is encouraging in that is removes an area of big uncertainty that we previously had,” he said. …

Trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models. Overall ocean warming is accelerating. Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

California Wildfires, Hurricane Michael Top List of 2018’s Costliest Natural Disasters: Munich Re

by LS Howard, Jan 8 2019 Read full Insurance Journal article here 0

The costliest natural catastrophes occurred in the United States in 2018 with one of California’s devastating wildfires and Hurricane Michael topping the list, according to Munich Re.

A report from Munich Re on last year’s natural disasters pointed to “clear indications” that man-made climate change is a factor in California’s wildfires.

Breaking down the losses, Munich Re said northern California’s November wildfire, known as “Camp Fire,” had overall losses of US$16.5 billion and insured losses of US$12.5 billion, while Hurricane Michael had overall losses of US$16 billion and insured losses of US$10 billion.

In total last year’s natural catastrophes racked up an overall global price tag of US$160 billion, said the reinsurer, noting that only half these economic losses were insured. The 2018 losses were below 2017’s significant loss total of US$350 billion, due mainly to record hurricane losses.

Last year’s insured losses of $80 billion were substantially above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years (US$41 billion), but below 2017’s record figures of US$140 billion, said the reinsurer.

Munich Re said California saw its worst-ever wildfire season – for the second year running – with the state’s wildfires contributing US$24 billion to the overall 2018 natural catastrophe loss burden with US$18 billion of the total wildfire price tag covered by insurance.,,,,

Ireland withdraws public money from fossil fuel investments

by Charlie Taylor January 4, 2019 read full article here

Ireland Strategic Investment Fund divests from 38 companies, raising €68m

The Department of Finance confirmed on Friday that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), a State body controlled and managed by the National Treasury Management Agency, has divested from 38 fossil fuel companies.

The divestment, which was worth a combined €68 million, saw the fund selling off its shares in companies involved in oil, gas and other fossil fuels.

ISIF, which published a list of 148 fossil fuel companies in which it said it will not invest, is expected to continue to divest in such companies while also increasing investment in clean energy projects. Its portfolio already includes a range of wind farms, solar power and other renewable energy projects.

The €7.9 billion fund, which was designed to support economic activity and employment in Ireland, replaced the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2010.

“The passing of this legislation marks Ireland out as one of the first countries in the world to withdraw public money from investment in fossil fuels,” said the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. “It positions the ISIF as one of a handful of sovereign wealth funds globally to implement a fossil fuel divestment strategy’.

How we can combat climate change

Wash Post Editorial Staff January 2 2019 read full Washington Post article here

The world has until 2030 to drastically cut our emissions. Where do we begin?

Last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm: The world has until 2030 to implement “rapid and far-reaching” changes to our energy, infrastructure and industrial systems to avoid 2 degrees Celsius of warming, which could be catastrophic. But the scale of the challenge can appear so overwhelming that it’s hard to know where to start. The Post asked activists, politicians and researchers for climate policy ideas that offer hope. Radical change from one state, or even the whole United States, won’t address climate change on its own, but taking these actions could help start the planet down a path toward a better future.

11 policy ideas to protect the planet

Read more here….

A Valedictory Visit With Ellie Cohen as the CEO Leaves Point – from Bay Nature

By David Loeb for Bay Nature

Read the full Bay Nature article here

By the time I got out of my car at the Petaluma headquarters of Point Blue Conservation Science on the morning of November 8, the sky had already turned a sickly yellowish tan. On the drive up from Berkeley, I had started noticing what first appeared to be yellow fog to the northeast, while the sky remained clear and blue to the west. Strange, I thought; fog usually comes in from the west. By the time I reached Petaluma, the whole sky was blanketed by the sickly yellow haze; the acrid smell when I got out of the car told me immediately this was not fog. Inside the office, Ellie Cohen, CEO of Point Blue, was already communicating with Point Blue field staff about the fast-moving wildfire that had ignited just a few hours earlier near the town of Paradise in Butte County. “Get inside and be safe,” she pleaded. What we couldn’t have known at that point was that this was the start of the deadliest wildfire in California history, leaving 86 people dead and thousands displaced.

This was an all-too-appropriate segue to my interview with Ellie Cohen, on the occasion of her impending departure from Point Blue Conservation Science (founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory/PRBO). Because if the world at large had been heeding Ellie for the past 12 years, we might already be on track to make the choices and changes necessary to avoid this apocalyptic, smoke-filled vision of the future of California … and the planet….

The Real-Life Effects of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation (NY Times)

By Eric LiptonSteve Eder and John Branch Read full NYTimes article here

For nearly two years, President Trump has pursued an aggressive, far-reaching effort, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, to free American business from what he and many of his supporters view as excessive environmental regulation.

The consequences are starting to play out in noticeable ways in communities across the United States.

An investigation by The New York Times showed how Mr. Trump’s deregulatory policies are starting to have substantial impact on those who experience them close up — and often are economically dependent on the industries the president is trying to help.

Here are 5 key takeaways….

Recommended Sources- Climate Change and Ecology News (my final Point Blue blog post)

Dear colleagues,

On this 50th anniversary of the NASA Earth Rise photo (humanity’s first view of Earth from afar), I thank you for an incredible 20 years at the helm of Point Blue. This is my last official posting as CEO of Point Blue (read more here and here).

To keep up on the latest climate change, ecology and related news, I’ve listed below some of my favorite online, free sources.

Thank you for being part of my Point Blue news blog and community over the years. Thank you for your continued support of Point Blue‘s outstanding, collaborative climate-smart conservation science. And thank you for everything you do to secure a healthy, just future for all life on our planet!

Happy holidays and all the best in the future-


Climate change, ecology and related online news sources:

  • Science Daily (you can choose specific topics from climate change, agriculture and food to ecology, animals and microbes; you can also choose daily or weekly updates; you can subscribe and/or get RSS feeds):
  • Skeptical Science (excellent compilation of science articles on climate change as well as multiple resources on rebutting skeptics and more; free subscription, RSS feeds- and weekly climate change science publication summary):
  • Inside Climate News (a non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment – with layperson-friendly interpretations and comments from the scientists- free subscription and feeds)
  • The Daily Climate (an excellent compilation of news stories from around dthe world on climate change solutions, impacts, causes, resilience, politics and good news; free subscription and feeds)
  • Climate Home News (an independent climate change news site with a more global perspective on climate policy, finance, energy, land use, technology and science; they provide excellent high level summaries of the UNFCCC and other global policy efforts)
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD News, Knowledge Hub, global jobs listing and more- free subscription)
  • Nature Climate Change
  • Society for Ecological Restoration
  • Maven’s News (California’s water news/policy blog with daily and weekly news compilations, updates, and other excellent resources on water and groundwater)
  • California Weather Blog (excellent occasional postings with the science explained)
  • Public Policy Institute of California (excellent nonpartisan analyses and updates on water and many other key policy issues facing California)

A Year of Climate Change Evidence: Notes from a Science Reporter’s Journal

  • Compelling new evidence shows we will speed past a dangerous climate-risk threshold as soon as 2030 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, potentially triggering climate change on a scale that would present grave dangers to much of the living planet.
  • The IPCC 1.5C report reinforces the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half in the next 12 years in order to move toward the Paris treaty’s most ambitious goal, and to eliminate emissions by 2050.
  • “The reports are all about one thing: To reach the global climate goal, we have to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the environment and realize that we aren’t separate from the environment,” said Kyle White, who co-authored a National Climate Assessment chapter on Tribes and Indigenous People. “A sustainable environment must become a basic aspect of governance. Indigenous knowledge systems are not just about recording environmental data. They’re about the way society should be organized to learn from people who know about the environment.”

Our heat-stricken planet is orbiting through the end of a year that humanity might rather forget. But several recent climate reports tell us that 2018 may be remembered as a turning point, for better or worse, in the fight to cap global warming…

….Several reports conclude that investing in a global economic transformation now would save huge amounts of money compared to paying spiraling costs for climate disasters later. Others outline the tremendous challenge: We are still shoveling millions of tons of coal into furnaces every day; CO2 emissions have increased 4.7 percent since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015.

Although there were many promises of action and signs of progress as coal plants closed, renewable costs dropped and companies and state and local governments tightened their rules, the United Nations Environment Program said the gap remains as large as ever between commitments under the Paris agreement and the cuts needed to reach its goals.

IPCC: 1.5°C Warming Is Bad; 2°C Is Worse

The climate science highlight of the year was publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of a report mandated by the Paris Agreement, Global Warming of 1.5 Celsius.

It authoritatively reinforces the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half in the next 12 years in order to move toward the treaty’s most ambitious goal, and to eliminate emissions by 2050. That means transforming energy, agriculture and forest systems on a large scale. It means rethinking how and where we build, work, shop, play and live; how we get around and feed ourselves; where we obtain the energy we need for economic development, and how we adapt to the global warming impacts that are ahead….

….Biodiversity, Food Security and Extinction

…scientists have also started identifying global warming impacts to biodiversity, and by extension, the effects on humans due to the loss of important food crops or the ecologically valuable services of species like pollinating insects and bats. By 2070, global warming could be the main driver of biodiversity decline. Warming temperatures can affect animals directly, by changing their habitat, and also by disrupting natural reproductive cycles between species, like flowers, insects and birds.

A World Wildlife Fund study released in October found that global populations of vertebrate species have, on average, declined in size by 60 percent in the past 40 years. Habitat loss and direct exploitation are the main factors, and are linked with overconsumption of resources, which is also at the root of global warming. In November, the European Commission Joint Research Centre suggested global warming will cause cascading extinction effects at up to 10 times the rate of existing estimates. Scientists also showed how populations of crop-killing insects will boom with global warming, and how warming temperatures are throwing the plant-pollinator cycle out of sync.

In the oceans, hundreds of fish species are moving north to cooler water, disrupting coastal economies and threatening food supplies in less developed countries in the Global South…

In the Arctic: Rapid Changes Underway

Several 2018 reports also described how global warming continues to force rapid changes in Arctic ecosystems, including changes to ocean chemistry that are affecting marine life, as well as melting ice and thawing permafrost that is directly affecting local communities and the wider global climate system….

….What Should We Be Learning from All This?

The massive amounts of information can seem overwhelming, but if you strip away most of the technical and scientific jargon, the message is clear, said Michigan State University professor Kyle White, who co-authored a National Climate Assessment chapter on Tribes and Indigenous People.

“The reports are all about one thing: To reach the global climate goal, we have to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the environment and realize that we aren’t separate from the environment,” White said.

The indigenous knowledge expressed in several of this year’s reports has universal relevance for the systems-level change we need, he said. “A sustainable environment must become a basic aspect of governance. Indigenous knowledge systems are not just about recording environmental data. They’re about the way society should be organized to learn from people who know about the environment,” he said.

Our Food, Our Farmers and the Planet

  1. Solutions to global environmental problems will also not be realized without tackling the problems in agriculture.
  2. Agriculture is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of freshwater withdrawals, 70 per cent of biodiversity loss on land and 73 per cent of deforestation in the tropics.
  3. At the same time, the increased frequency of droughts and floods is a major obstacle to ending hunger and malnutrition.

International Institute for Sustainable Development Read full story here

Agriculture matters: it provides a livelihood for more people in the world than any other sector and represents almost 50 percent of total employment in poor countries. It is also on the front lines of nearly all urgent global challenges, from hunger & malnutrition to climate change, biodiversity loss and freshwater scarcity.

Farming has the power to end extreme poverty and feed billions of people. The goal of ending hunger is within reach, but it will not happen unless we increase public spending—by an extra USD 11 billion per year from now to 2030. IISD is working with IFPRI to measure the costs and provide the solutions to ensure the world achieves the critical SDG goal of ending hunger. Our recent study looked at the agricultural conditions and policies of 117 states in Asia and Africa over 45 years to determine why some countries have made the leap beyond subsistence agriculture and others have not….

Scientists called for ‘unprecedented’ action. But the global climate talks aren’t built for that.

  • “We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” said one young activist.

  • But in Poland, the IPCC’s findings on what the world would need to do to hold off the worst impacts of climate change collided with the reality of a bureaucratic process that requires consensus among nearly 200 nations. It was never designed to be nimble. Instead of dramatic new commitments, diplomats were left to wrestle with what to outsiders may seem like semantics, arguing about whether to “welcome” or “note” or “recognize the role” of the report.