415.26 parts per million: CO2 levels hit historic milestone, highest in 3 million years; first time in human history

Getting back to around 350 ppm is required for a safe climate to sustain life as we know it on Earth. The last four years were the four hottest on record and, in spite of the Paris deal and increasing public awareness of the problem, mankind continues to break its own emissions records, year on year.

Read full PhysOrg post here

The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has tracked atmospheric CO2 levels since the late 1950s, on Saturday morning detected 415.26 parts per million (ppm)….

The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest.

“It shows that we are not on track with protecting the climate at all. The number keeps rising and it’s getting higher year after year,” Wolfgang Lucht, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), told AFP. It was also the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm….

….The 2015 Paris Agreement calls on humanity to block the rise in Earth’s temperature at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared to preindustrial levels, and 1.5C if possible. ….Earth’s average surface temperature has already increased 1.0C since pre-industrial times due to man-made emissions.

Four years after California’s largest dam removal project, Steelhead trout numbers are growing, a model for other projects nationwide

by Paul Roger Read full Mercury News article here

The destruction of the [10-story] San Clemente Dam [along the Carmel River near Monterey], which had blocked the river since 1921, remains the largest dam removal project in California history. It’s still early, but one of the main goals of the project seems to be on track: The river is becoming wilder, and struggling fish populations are rebounding.

…. The 106 foot-tall dam had been located 18 miles up river from Monterey Bay. In 2016, the first year after it was removed, researchers found that no steelhead trout, an iconic type of rainbow trout listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, swam past its former site to a tagging location seven miles upriver. By 2017, seven steelhead had made the trip. Last year, the count was 29. So far this year, 123 steelhead have traveled upriver.

… The broader lesson, scientists say, is one of hope. Despite declines in other species, some wildlife species — from the Great Plains bison to Pacific gray whales to bald eagles — have rebounded significantly, despite plummeting close to extinction, after humans recognized what was killing them and corrected it. For bison and whales, it was hunting. For bald eagles, it was the now-banned chemical DDT. For steelhead trout, dams built across the West over the past century blocked their ability to swim to the ocean and return upriver to spawn, crashing their populations….

… Crews recycled the dam’s steel. They broke the concrete pieces ranging in size from softballs to boulders. They buried the debris in the sediment pile and covered it with willows, sycamores and other native plants. They built rocky step-pools, each one foot higher than the previous one so the fish could migrate upriver more easily. ,,

U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending

The world would be richer and healthier if the full costs of fossil fuels were paid, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. The authors found that if fossil fuels had been fairly priced in 2015, global carbon emissions would have been slashed by 28 percent. Deaths from fossil fuel-linked air pollution would have dropped by nearly half. Fossil fuel subsidies were nearly 10 times what Congress spent on education. Broken down to an individual level, fossil fuel subsidies cost every man, woman and child in the United States $2,028 that year.

by Tim Dickinson Read full Rolling Stone article here

The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year was $599 billion.

The study defines “subsidy” very broadly, as many economists do. It accounts for the “differences between actual consumer fuel prices and how much consumers would pay if prices fully reflected supply costs plus the taxes needed to reflect environmental costs” and other damage, including premature deaths from air pollution….

Dangerous decline of nature and increase in species extinctions unprecedented in human history- New UN report

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” The five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

Read Policymakers Summary here (Pdf), press release here and ScienceDaily coverage here.

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, per a new report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)… More than 1,000,000 species- or ~25% of all species- are threatened with extinction. Transformative changes are needed to restore and protect nature for our well-being.

Findings include:

  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production…

….Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point…”

For ease of reference, a number of issues highlighted in the Report are summarized in the ‘Further Information’ section that follows below, specifically on:

…Societal goals – including those for food, water, energy, health and the achievement of human well-being for all, mitigating and adapting to climate change and conserving and sustainably using nature – can be achieved in sustainable pathways through the rapid and improved deployment of existing policy instruments and new initiatives that more effectively enlist individual and collective action for transformative change. Since current structures often inhibit sustainable development and actually represent the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, such fundamental, structural change is called for. By its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good. If obstacles are overcome, commitment to mutually supportive international goals and targets, supporting actions by indigenous peoples and local communities at the local level, new frameworks for private sector investment and innovation, inclusive and adaptive governance approaches and arrangements, multi-sectoral planning and strategic policy mixes can help to transform the public and private sectors to achieve sustainability at the local, national and global levels…

El Nino events increased dramatically over past 30 years compared to past 400 years

Read ScienceDaily coverage here

There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of El Niños forming in the Central Pacific over the past 30 years, compared to all 30 year periods in the past 400 years. At the same time, the stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños were the most intense El Niño events ever recorded, according to both the 100-year long instrumental record and the 400-year long coral record. This information will help improve climate change models to understand future impacts on weather and extreme events.

….Australian researchers have produced a world-first seasonal El Niño record extending 400 years and a new methodology that will likely be the basis for future climate research…..”The El Niño phenomenon is one of the most important features of global climate, and changes to its behaviour have very serious implications for weather patterns and extreme events around the world,” said Dr Henley.

Mandy B. Freund, Benjamin J. Henley, David J. Karoly, Helen V. McGregor, Nerilie J. Abram & Dietmar Dommenget. Higher frequency of Central Pacific El Niño events in recent decades relative to past centuriesNature Geoscience, 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0353-3