Greenland ice sheet melt ‘off the charts’ compared with past four centuries

  • Researchers found a 50% increase in total ice sheet meltwater runoff versus the start of the industrial era, and a 30% increase since the 20th century alone

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution  Read ScienceDaily article here

Surface melting across Greenland’s mile-thick ice sheet began increasing in the mid-19th century and then ramped up dramatically during the 20th and early 21st centuries, showing no signs of abating, according to new research.

…Ice loss from Greenland is one of the key drivers of global sea level rise. Icebergs calving into the ocean from the edge of glaciers represent one component of water re-entering the ocean and raising sea levels. But more than half of the ice-sheet water entering the ocean comes from runoff from melted snow and glacial ice atop the ice sheet. The study suggests that if Greenland ice sheet melting continues at “unprecedented rates” — which the researchers attribute to warmer summers — it could accelerate the already fast pace of sea level rise…

Luke D. Trusel, Sarah B. Das, Matthew B. Osman, Matthew J. Evans, Ben E. Smith, Xavier Fettweis, Joseph R. McConnell, Brice P. Y. Noël, Michiel R. van den Broeke. Nonlinear rise in Greenland runoff in response to post-industrial Arctic warming. Nature, 2018; 564 (7734): 104 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0752-4

Global carbon dioxide emissions rise even as coal wanes and renewables boom

  • Fossil fuel emissions have climbed for a second straight year, driven by growing energy use
  • In the United States, emissions of carbon dioxide are projected to increase 2.5 percent in 2018 after a decade of declines.
  • Consumption of one fossil fuel, however, is no longer on the rise: coal. The study shows coal consumption in Canada and the United States has dropped by 40 percent since 2005

Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences Read ScienceDaily coverage here

Renewable energy capacity has hit record levels and global coal use may have already peaked. But the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased in 2018, and the trend places global warming targets in jeopardy.

The new projections come in a week when international negotiators are gathering in the coal-mining city of Katowice, Poland, to work out the rules for implementing the Paris climate agreement. Under the 2015 accord, hundreds of nations pledged to cut carbon emissions and keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago,” said Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “After two years of renewed growth, that was wishful thinking.”…

R B Jackson, C Le Quéré, R M Andrew, J G Canadell, J I Korsbakken, Z Liu, G P Peters and B Zheng. Global Energy Growth Is Outpacing Decarbonization. Environmental Research Letters, 2018 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/af303

Sir David Attenborough calls climate change ‘our greatest threat’ in UN COP24 climate meeting opening session

[Ellie note: I am in Katowice, Poland representing Point Blue at the UNFCCC’s COP24– the annual global climate meeting. More to come!]

Matt McGrath Read the full BBC News article here

The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has said climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years. The broadcaster said it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

The meeting is the most critical on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement. Sir David said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” The naturalist is taking up the “People’s Seat” at the conference, called COP24. He is supposed to act as a link between the public and policy-makers at the meeting.

…This Conference of the Parties (COP) is the first to be held since the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C came out in October. The IPCC stated that to keep to the 1.5C goal, governments would have to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030. But a recent study showed that CO2 emissions are on the rise again after stalling for four years. In an unprecedented move, four former UN climate talks presidents issued a statement on Sunday, calling for urgent action. They say “decisive action in the next two years will be crucial”….

Snowpack declines may stunt tree growth and forests’ ability to store carbon emissions

Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

Researchers conducting a 5-year-long study examining snow cover in a northern hardwood forest region found that projected changes in climate could lead to a 95 percent reduction of deep-insulating snowpack in forest areas across the northeastern United States by the end of the 21st century. The loss of snowpack would likely result in a steep reduction of forests’ ability to store climate-changing carbon dioxide and filter pollutants from the air and water.

…..”These experiments demonstrate the significant impact that changes in winter climate have on a variety of environmental factors, including forest growth, carbon sequestration, soil nutrients and air and water quality,” Reinmann said. “Left unabated, these changes in climate could have a detrimental impact on the forests of the region and the livelihoods of the people who rely on them for recreation and industries such as tourism, skiing, snowmobiling, timber and maple syrup production.”

Andrew B. Reinmann, Jessica R. Susser, Eleonora M. C. Demaria, Pamela H. Templer. Declines in northern forest tree growth following snowpack decline and soil freezing. Global Change Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14420

The Surprising Climate And Environmental Legacy Of President George H. W. Bush

Marshall Shepherd- Read Forbes article here

One of his most important contributions is related to the recently released 4th National Climate Assessment. President Bush was a central figure in this activity. In fact, some have asked me why the Trump administration would release a report that the current president says he doesn’t believe. The short answer: It’s the law. George H.W. Bush’s Administration and the Congress of that time period deserve credit. By the way, science is not a “belief” system so even if you don’t believe in gravity, guess what happens when you fall from a ladder. The National Climate Assessment reports are not about “belief systems” or “tooth fairies.” They are about science and policy. As I wrote recently in Forbes,

“The U.S. Global Change Research Program was established during President George H.W. Bush’s administration in 1989 by a Presidential Initiative. Congress then mandated further action with the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The law specifically mandated the following key actions: Directs the President to establish an interagency United States Global Change Research Program to improve understanding of global change. Requires the Chairman of the Council, through the Committee, to develop a National Global Change Research Plan for implementation of the Program. Sets forth required Plan contents and research elements, including that the Plan provide recommendations for collaboration within the Federal Government and among nations…..

To Help Prevent the Next Big Wildfire, Let the Forest Burn

Ash Ngu and Sahil Chinoy  NYTimes Opinion

…Much of California’s forestland is overgrown, partly because of federal regulations implemented in 1910, which mandated stamping out wildfires as soon as possible. These policies were revised around the 1970s to allow some fires to naturally burn their course, but much of the West has struggled to do so.

…Policymakers and citizens alike must abandon the idea that trees are always worth saving and that fire is always a threat. Instead, they should permit modest, ecologically necessary wildfires to burn.

“For a long time, we were mistaken about what was going on in the forest,” said Malcolm North, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “People believed that you needed to put fires out because it was burning the forest up. That has proven to be wrong.”…

….Decreasing the amount of fuel available to wildfires requires a combination of practices that remove vegetation, like prescribed fires and the selective removal of smaller trees and mulching. Stephen Pyne, an environmental historian who studies fire, emphasized that logging would not keep wildfires at bay. “Logging takes the big trunks and leaves the small stuff because there’s no market for it,” he said. “Fire burns the little and leaves the big.”

Making matters more complicated, more than 11 million Californians live in the wildland-urban interface, fire-prone transition zones between unoccupied land and developed areas….

….California is now collecting itself at the tail end of its most destructive and deadliest wildfire season on record. But recovery is not just about donating to relief efforts and rebuilding burned homes. It’s also about creating a new culture for forest and fire management in the state, one that respects the role that carefully planned fires play in preventing disasters.

In May, Gov. Jerry Brown took a step towards this future, dedicating $96 million to reducing wildfire risk in the state. He directed state offices to double the number of acres being managed with prescribed burns and vegetation thinning to 500,000 acres from 250,000 acres, among other directives like educating landowners about effective forest management….

Very Hot and Very Dry Conditions Have Doubled Worldwide Posing Serious Threat to Food Systems, Study Finds

Stanford University and Charles III University   Yale Environment 360 Summary

The chance of having years that are both extremely warm and extremely dry — conditions that pose a serious threat to agricultural systems — has doubled around the globe since 1931, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances. The research attributes this change almost entirely to human-driven climate change.

The study, conducted by scientists at Stanford University and Charles III University of Madrid, also found an uptick in dry and severely warm conditions in multiple key agricultural regions in the same year, which reduces the possibility that surpluses in one location can make up for low yields in another.

“When we look in the historical data at the key crop and pasture regions, we find that before anthropogenic climate change, there were very low odds that any two regions would experience those really severe conditions simultaneously,” Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author of the new study, said in a statement. “The global marketplace provides a hedge against localized extremes, but we’re already seeing an erosion of that climate buffer as extremes have increased in response to global warming.”

The California drought is devastating agriculture across the state. Credit: Cerabona/Flickr

Diffenbaugh and his colleagues also found that the frequency of these simultaneous hot-dry conditions will continue to increase, by about 20 percent, over the next three decades if nations don’t drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, E&E News reported.

Ali Sarhadi, María Concepción Ausín, Michael P. Wiper, Danielle Touma1 and Noah S. Diffenbaugh. Multidimensional risk in a nonstationary climate: Joint probability of increasingly severe warm and dry conditions. Science Advances  28 Nov 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 11, eaau3487 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3487

Abstract

We present a framework for quantifying the spatial and temporal co-occurrence of climate stresses in a nonstationary climate. We find that, globally, anthropogenic climate forcing has doubled the joint probability of years that are both warm and dry in the same location (relative to the 1961–1990 baseline). In addition, the joint probability that key crop and pasture regions simultaneously experience severely warm conditions in conjunction with dry years has also increased, including high statistical confidence that human influence has increased the probability of previously unprecedented co-occurring combinations. Further, we find that ambitious emissions mitigation, such as that in the United Nations Paris Agreement, substantially curbs increases in the probability that extremely hot years co-occur with low precipitation simultaneously in multiple regions. Our methodology can be applied to other climate variables, providing critical insight for a number of sectors that are accustomed to deploying resources based on historical probabilities.

Climate-warming El Niño very likely in 2019, says UN agency

  • Natural cycle has major influence on global weather, bringing droughts and floods
  • There is a 75-80% chance of a climate-warming El Niño event by February, according to the latest analysis from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

Damian Carrington Read full GuardianUK article here

///The last El Niño event ended in 2016 and helped make that year the hottest ever recorded by adding to the heating caused by humanity’s carbon emissions. The 2019 event is not currently forecast to be as strong as in 2016.

El Niño events occur naturally every few years and stem from abnormally high ocean temperatures in the western Pacific. They have a major influence on weather around the globe, bringing droughts to normally damp places, such as parts of Australia, and floods to normally drier regions, such as in South America. The high temperatures also cause major bleaching on coral reefs.

“The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015-2016,” said Maxx Dilley, the director of WMO’s climate prediction and adaptation branch. “Even so, it can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agriculture and food security, and for management of water resources and public health. It may also combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures.”…

Global warming increases the risk of an extinction domino effect

  • Co-extinctions (the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources) could be a major culprit in the ongoing biodiversity crisis.
  • Global warming predictions that fail to take into account this cascading effect might underestimate extinctions by up to 10 times.

European Commission Joint Research Centre

The complex network of interdependencies between plants and animals multiplies the species at risk of extinction due to environmental change, according to a new study.

….As an obvious, direct consequence of climate change, plants and animals living in a given area are driven to extinction when the local environmental conditions become incompatible with their tolerance limits, just like fish in an aquarium with a broken thermostat. However, there are many elusive drivers of species loss that go beyond the direct effects of environmental change (and human activity) which we still struggle to understand.

In particular, it is becoming clearer that co-extinctions (the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources) could be a major culprit in the ongoing biodiversity crisis….

Giovanni Strona, Corey J. A. Bradshaw. Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-35068-1

AND RELATED PUBLICATION FROM CAL ACADEMY:

A new study explores ecosystem stability. Its findings raise questions about the stability of our modern global system. See ScienceDaily summary here.

Peter D. Roopnarine, K.D. Angielczyk, A. Weik, A. Dineen. Ecological persistence, incumbency and reorganization in the Karoo Basin during the Permian-Triassic transition. Earth-Science Reviews, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2018.10.014

New federal climate assessment for U.S. released- drastic action needed to stay under 2C warming

NOAA (from ScienceDaily) and read NATURE summary here

Immediate, drastic action is needed to keep global warming under 2 °C, according to United Nations report.

A new federal report finds that climate change is affecting the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, and human health and welfare across the U.S. and its territories.

Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), released Nov. 23, 2018 by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP — http://www.globalchange.gov/about), focuses on climate change impacts, risks and adaptations occurring in the U.S. The report contains supporting evidence from 16 national-level topic chapters (e.g., water, oceans, energy, and human health), 10 regional chapters and two chapters that focus on societal responses to climate change. USGCRP also released the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2 — https://carbon2018.globalchange.gov/).

NOAA is one of 13 federal agencies that contributed significantly to the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

Key findings of the NCA4, Vol. II Communities

  • Human health and safety, our quality of life, and the rate of economic growth in communities across the U.S. are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
  • The cascading impacts of climate change threaten the natural, built and social systems we rely on, both within and beyond the nation’s borders.
  • Societal efforts to respond to climate change have expanded in the last five years, but not at the scale needed to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.
  • Without substantial and sustained global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and regional initiatives to prepare for anticipated changes, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.

Agriculture and food production

  • Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly challenge the quality and quantity of U.S. crop yields, livestock health, price stability and rural livelihoods.

Ecosystems

  • Continued changes to Earth’s climate will cause major disruptions in some ecosystems. Some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing transformational changes, affecting communities and economies that rely upon them.

Water and the coasts

  • Changes in the quality and quantity of fresh water available for people and the environment are increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry and recreation.
  • Climate change will transform coastal regions by the latter part of this century, with ripple effects on other regions and sectors. Many communities should expect higher costs and lower property values from sea level rise.

Health

  • Climate change threatens the health and well-being of the American people by causing increasing extreme weather, changes to air quality, the spread of new diseases by insects and pests, and changes to the availability of food and water.

To access the report and find background information, visit the USGCRP website: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov