Healthy Soils to Cool the Planet – A Philanthropic Action Guide

See more here about Breakthrough Strategies and read their excellent new guide here (Pdf)

Background from Ellie: Conservatively, managing agricultural soils for soil organic matter can sequester 5 billion tons (Gt) of CO2e out of the atmosphere globally every year, drawing down 50% of what is needed to return to a safe climate by 2050.

The UN IPCC’s recent 1.5C report called soil carbon sequestration as among the cheapest methods with the greatest potential (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/). Healthy soils are foundational to human well-being, climate stabilization and vibrant ecosystems. The sustainable management and restoration of soils enhance agricultural productivity, fresh water availability, biodiversity, and climate change preparedness with enormous potential to slow and reverse negative impacts such as droughts, floods and more (von Unger, M. & Emmer, I. 2018. Carbon Market Incentives to Conserve, Restore and Enhance Soil Carbon. Silvestrum & TNC).  

Almost all IPCC scenarios that keep us below 2°C of warming include CO2 removal – typically about 10 billion tons CO2 yr-1. Based on the latest estimates from the IPCC, soils management could conservatively pull 5 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually on croplands and rangelands by 2050, offering 50% of the needed carbon removal, with zero additional land and water use (D. Bossio, TNC; and, Zomer et al. Global Sequestration Potential of Increased Organic Carbon in Cropland Soils. Scientific Reports 7.; Vermeulen et al, A Global Agenda for Action on Soil Carbon. Nature Sustainability, Jan 2019). Equally important is avoiding future emissions from soil by protecting existing soil carbon stocks in grasslands and wetlands. 

Currently, only 8 governments include soil health in their efforts to achieve the Paris Climate goals (UNFCCC 2015). Yet boosting soil health at scale should be relatively easy to achieve through low-tech sustainable agricultural practices with policy, funding and technical support. There are other natural climate solutions as well such as climate-smart habitat restoration (https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/item/59fb62cbe4b0531197b165f8 and Dybala et al. (2018) Carbon sequestration in riparian forests: a global synthesis and meta-analysisGlobal Change Biology. ) and silviculture (https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/topics/silviculture-climate-change).  

CO2 emissions in 18 developed economies fall due to decreasing fossil fuel and energy use, increase in renewables and climate policies in place

University of East Anglia Read full ScienceDaily article here

Efforts to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and tackle climate change in developed economies are beginning to pay off according to new research.

…Policies supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency are helping to reduce emissions in 18 developed economies. The group of countries represents 28 per cent of global emissions, and includes the UK, US, France and Germany.

The research team analysed the reasons behind changes in CO2emissions in countries where emissions declined significantly between 2005 and 2015. The findings, published in Nature Climate Change, show that the fall in CO2 emissions was mainly due to renewable energy replacing fossil fuels and to decreasing energy use.

However, the decrease in energy use was partly explained by lower economic growth reducing the demand for energy following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. Significantly, countries where CO2 emissions decreased the most were those with the largest number of energy and climate policies in place…

  1. Corinne Le Quéré, Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Charlie Wilson, Jale Tosun, Robbie Andrew, Robert J. Andres, Josep G. Canadell, Andrew Jordan, Glen P. Peters, Detlef P. van Vuuren. Drivers of declining CO2 emissions in 18 developed economiesNature Climate Change, 2019; 9 (3): 213 DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0419-7

Increasing precipitation whiplash in twenty-first century California

–A new study projects a 25% to 100% increase in extreme dry-to-wet precipitation events in CA, despite only modest changes in mean precipitation; CA will likely experience more frequent jarring transitions between dry and wet years, but also between dry and wet months within individual years.

–Most of California will likely experience a 100 – 200% increase in the frequency of very wet November-March “rainy seasons” similar to 2016-2017, which have historically occurred about four times per century.

California will likely experience an increase of anywhere from 50% to 150% (highest in the south) in the frequency of very dry November-March periods similar to 1976-1977(and only slightly drier than 2013-2014), which have historically occurred about once per century. …

–The core rainy season months of December-February will typically be wetter than their 20th century counterparts, but that precipitation during the “shoulder season” (i.e., the autumn months of September-November and the spring months of March-May) will typically be drier than in California’s historical past. … potentially leading to more fire -prone conditions later in the year

–There is a 300-400% increase in the risk of an extreme “sub-seasonal” 40-day precipitation event similar in magnitude to that which caused the 1862 flood; what is today considered to be the “200-year flood”—an event that would overwhelm the vast majority of California’s flood defenses and water infrastructure—will become the “40-50 year flood” in the coming decades.

Daniel Swain Read full Weather West article here and Nature Climate Change publication here

….The notion that California’s average precipitation might not change much in the future is actually somewhat surprising, as there is high confidence that other “mediterranean” climate regions on Earth will experience progressively less precipitation as the world warms and the region of stable subtropical influence expands. As we demonstrate in our new research, however, these small shifts in average precipitation mask profound changes in the character of California precipitation. We find that the occurrence of both extreme wet and extreme dry events in California—and of rapid transitions between the two—will likely increase with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The rising risk of historically unprecedented precipitation extremes will seriously test California’s existing water storage, distribution, and flood protection infrastructure…

…Interestingly, when we considered potential changes in the future frequency of multi-year dry spells (as experienced during the recent 2013-2016 drought), we didn’t find a significant change in either direction—essentially because 21st century droughts in California will have a greater propensity to be interrupted by brief but very wet interludes. On the other hand, there is already abundant evidence that rising temperatures themselves are increasing the likelihood and intensity of multi-year droughts in California through increased evaporation and snowpack loss, even in the absence of precipitation changes. …

….Our new analysis suggests that the risk of an extreme “sub-seasonal” 40-day precipitation event similar in magnitude to that which caused the 1862 flood will rise substantially as the climate warms. By the end of the 21st century, we find a 300 – 400+ % increase in the relative risk of such an event across the entire state. One specific statistic that my colleagues and I found particularly eyebrow-raising: on our current emissions trajectory, at least one occurrence of an 1862-level precipitation event is more likely than not over the next 40 years (between 2018 and 2060), with multiple occurrences plausible between now and the end of the century. In practical terms, this means that what is today considered to be the “200-year flood”—an event that would overwhelm the vast majority of California’s flood defenses and water infrastructure—will become the “40-50 year flood” in the coming decades….

…. An increase in the frequency of extremely both extremely wet and extremely dry years in California has recently begun to emerge in the observational record, and there is preliminary evidence that precipitation whiplash has started to increase across a broad swath of the western United States. Our findings regarding a 3- to 4-fold increase in the projected risk of an 1862-like flood event parallel similar insights into the rising risk of a Hurricane Harvey-likecatastrophic flood event along the Gulf Coast. While the physical mechanisms of extreme precipitation due to landfalling tropical cyclones (as occurred in Houston during Harvey) are quite different from that resulting from a persistent sequence of atmospheric river storms (as occurred in California during the 1862 flood), they both share a common factor: both processes act to locally concentrate atmospheric water vapor, which is increasing at an exponential rate as the atmosphere warms. …

…. This trend toward rain (at the expense of snow) will likely have a “double whammy” effect, amplifying the increased flood risks associated with more extreme precipitation events. And as noted above, expected large future increases in California drought risk will be driven primarily by increasing temperatures; the projected increase in extremely low precipitation years will only add to this risk. Together, these rather profound hydroclimatic changes will likely pose a progressively escalating series of tests upon California’s existing water infrastructure.


Swain, D. L., B. Langenbrunner, J. D. Neelin, and A. Hall, “Increasing precipitation volatility in 21st-century-California,” Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0140-y, 2018.

ABSTRACT:
Mediterranean climate regimes are particularly susceptible to rapid shifts between drought and flood—of which, California’s rapid transition from record multi-year dryness between 2012 and 2016 to extreme wetness during the 2016–2017 winter provides a dramatic example. Projected future changes in such dry-to-wet events, however, remain inadequately quantified, which we investigate here using the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble of climate model simulations. Anthropogenic forcing is found to yield large twenty-first-century increases in the frequency of wet extremes, including a more than threefold increase in sub-seasonal events comparable to California’s ‘Great Flood of 1862’. Smaller but statistically robust increases in dry extremes are also apparent. As a consequence, a 25% to 100% increase in extreme dry-to-wet precipitation events is projected, despite only modest changes in mean precipitation. Such hydrological cycle intensification would seriously challenge California’s existing water storage, conveyance and flood control infrastructure.

UNFCCC Katowice Climate Package: Making The Paris Agreement Work For All

Read more here at the UNFCCC website

When delegates adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement to widespread cheers and excitement, it was clear that further details needed to be negotiated on how the agreement would be implemented transparently and fairly for all. Countries set a deadline for themselves to complete these negotiations on the implementation guidelines in 2018 at COP24.

Against the backdrop of rising global emissions and multiplying signs of climate change such as wild fires, droughts and storms, countries began negotiating in 2016. “Recognizing the urgency, governments overcame difficult political and complex technical issues to agree the Katowice Climate Package at COP24,” said the UNs Climate Chief, Patricia Espinosa.

..The Katowice outcome is a complex package, achieved through in-depth technical discussions and political compromise and containing operational guidance on:

  • the information about domestic mitigation and other climate goals and activities that governments will provide in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs);
  • how to communicate about efforts to adapt to climate impacts;
  • the rules for functioning of the Transparency Framework, which will show to the world what countries are doing about climate change;
  • establishment of a committee to facilitate implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote compliance with the obligations undertaken under the Agreement;
  • how to conduct the Global Stocktake of overall progress towards the aims of the Paris Agreement;
  • how to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology;
  • how to provide advance information on financial support to developing countries and the process for establishing new targets on finance from 2025 onwards.

Time to Panic: The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. And fear may be the only thing that saves us

To stay safely below that threshold, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, according to the United Nations report. Instead, they are still rising. So being alarmed is not a sign of being hysterical; when it comes to climate change, being alarmed is what the facts demand. Perhaps the only logical response….. The likeliest outcomes for the end of this century fall between two and four degrees of warming. And so looking squarely at what the world might look like in that range — two degrees, three, four — is much better preparation for the challenges we will face than retreating into the comforting relative normalcy of the present.

By David Wallace-Wells Read full NYTimes opinion here

The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island.

We are living today in a world that has warmed by just one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, when records began on a global scale. We are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate faster than at any point in human history since the beginning of industrialization.

In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its “Doomsday” report — “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)…

Though the report — the product of nearly 100 scientists from around the world — did not address any of the scarier possibilities for warming, it did offer a new form of permission to the world’s scientists. The thing that was new was the message: It is O.K., finally, to freak out.Even reasonable.

This, to me, is progress. Panic might seem counterproductive, but we’re at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable, for several reasons….

… If we started a broad decarbonization effort today — a gargantuan undertaking to overhaul our energy systems, building and transportation infrastructure and how we produce our food — the necessary rate of emissions reduction would be about 5 percent per year. If we delay another decade, it will require us to cut emissions by some 9 percent each year. This is why the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, believes we have only until 2020 to change course and get started. …

… as climate change has been dawning more fully into view over the past several decades, all the cognitive biases that push us toward complacency have been abetted by our storytelling about warming — by journalism defined by caution in describing the scale and speed of the threat.

World seeing ‘catastrophic collapse’ of insects- 41% in decline and 1/3 heading toward extinction threatening crop pollination and ecosystem food webs

Read Phys.Org. article here

Francisco Sánchez-Bayo et al. Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers, Biological Conservation (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.01.020

Nearly half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains.

…”We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline—41 percent—to be twice as high as that of vertebrates,” or animals with a backbone, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia reported.

“At present, a third of all insect species are threatened with extinction.”….

….Experts estimate that flying insects across Europe have declined 80 percent on average, causing bird populations to drop by more than 400 million in three decades.

Only a few species of insects—mainly in the tropics—are thought to have suffered due to climate change, while some in northern climes have expanded their range as temperatures warm.

In the long run, however, scientists fear that global warming could become another major driver of insect demise….

Warmest period on record forecast for next 5 years on Earth

University of East Anglia Read ScienceDaily summary here

The forecast for the global average surface temperature for the five-year period to 2023 is predicted to be near or above 1.0 degree C above pre-industrial levels, says the United Kingdom’s Met Office. If the observations for the next five years track the forecast, that would make the decade from 2014 to 2023 the warmest run of years since records began.

Records for annual global average temperature extend back to 1850.

Professor Adam Scaife, Head of Long-Range Prediction at the Met Office said: “2015 was the first year that global annual average surface temperatures reached 1.0 °C above pre-industrial levels and the following three years have all remained close to this level. The global average temperature between now and 2023 is predicted to remain high, potentially making the decade from 2014 the warmest in more than 150 years of records.”

Averaged over the five-year period 2019-2023, forecast patterns suggest enhanced warming is likely over much of the globe, especially over land and at high northern latitudes, particularly the Arctic region….

Hurricanes are strengthening faster in the Atlantic, and climate change is a big reason why, scientists say

A startling study says that devastating storms that intensify rapidly are becoming more common;
the 5 most destructive Atlantic storms of the past 2 years all went through rapid intensification

By Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis Read full Washington Post article here

A group of top hurricane experts, including several federal researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published striking new research Thursday suggesting that hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean have grown considerably worse, and climate change is part of the reason why.

The study focused on rapid intensification, in which hurricanes may grow from a weak tropical storm or Category 1 status to Category 4 or 5 in a brief period. They found that the trend has been seen repeatedly in the Atlantic in recent years. It happened before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and before Hurricane Michael pummeled the Gulf Coast with little warning last fall. Hurricane Michael, for example, transformed from a Category 1 into a raging Category 4 in the span of 24 hours….

…. “Rapid intensification is a nightmare for hurricane forecasters especially for storms nearing land,” added Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with Weather.us. “As the climate warms, some ocean regions may disproportionately see more intense and rapidly intensifying storms.” …

Bhatia et al. Recent increases in tropical cyclone intensification rates
Nature Communications Volume 10, Article number: 635 (Feb 2019)

2018 4th warmest year; last 5 years warmest on record collectively

NOAA/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Read ScienceDaily summary here

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.