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  1. Massive Arctic wildfires emitted more CO2 in June than Sweden does in an entire year Key Points Smoke from massive fires in the Arctic has blanketed nearby cities and could travel thousands of kilometers to other parts of the world, raising concerns among scientists about poor air quality and exacerbated global warming. The ongoing Arctic fires this year have been particularly severe in Siberia and Alaska. “This year, it’s an incredible amount of burning, and the smoke affects air quality thousands of miles away from the Arctic region,” said Liz Hoy, a researcher at NASA’s space flight center. In Alaska this year, over $150 million was spent on suppression and protection efforts against wildfires burning closer to populated areas, according to researcher Smoke billows from a fire outside Ljusdal, Sweden in July, 2018. Sweden is fighting its most serious wildfires in decades, including blazes above the Arctic Circle, prompting the government to seek help from the military, hundreds of volunteers and other European nations. Maja Suslin | TT | AP Smoke from massive fires in the Arctic has blanketed nearby cities and could travel thousands of kilometers to other parts of the world, raising concerns among scientists about poor air quality and exacerbated global warming. The ongoing Arctic fires this year have been particularly severe in Siberia and Alaska. In Russia, flames engulfed more than 7 million acres in Siberia and beyond in August, forcing President Vladimir Putin to send military transport planes and helicopters across the country to put out the fires. In Alaska, more than 2.4 million acres have burned over the past three months, inundating nearby cities with smoke and forcing temporary hospitals to open for clean air access. Now, a cloud of smoke and soot bigger than the European Union is moving from Siberia into the Arctic, according to the World Meteorological Organization. It is forecast to reach Alaska, where fires have scorched an area larger than the wildfire damage in California last year. Scientists say the smoke plumes, filled with megatons of tiny, harmful particles, could travel to other areas of the world and cause serious respiratory problems for people. “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” said Liz Hoy, a researcher at NASA’s space flight center, which has tracked the blazes from satellites. “This year, it’s an incredible amount of burning, and the smoke affects air quality thousands of miles away from the Arctic region. The warming there will translate to the East Coast [of the U.S.], contribute to sea level rise and affect people all over.” The fires in northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada released a record 50 megatons of CO2 in June — equivalent to Sweden’s total annual emissions and more than the past eight Junes combined — and 79 megatons in July, according to NASA. Preliminary data also shows that July 2019, the hottest month on record, has also registered the highest CO2 in the last 10 years. In Russia, NASA satellite imagery shows a thick smoke plume from fires that extends across more than 4.5 million square kilometers of central and northern Asia, blocking sunlight and impacting air quality. “People ask, how do wildfires in Alaska and Siberia impact me back in Seattle or Minneapolis? The immediate concern is the transport of smoke, which travels thousands of miles,” said Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “That affects people far removed from where these fires are. It affects air travel, and the carbon emissions from fires burning negatively impacts everyone.” Nearly 400 fires have burned in Alaska so far in 2019, forcing residents in Fairbanks to open up hospitals for clean air, and lock themselves in their homes during the hot summer months. “In Fairbanks, we had smoke thick enough to substantially reduce visibility for 25 days. That’s a lot of smoke. Some of the worst days were pretty choking,” said Rick Tolman, a researcher who lives in Fairbanks. “It’s a big concern for people with existing respiratory issues,” he continued. “The smoke from these fires travels so far and can produce significant air quality problems in areas far from the fires. With the intensity of the fires increasing, it’s wreaking havoc.” Smoke and soot from the wildfires also absorbs solar energy, further warming the earth. The Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the world. In August, for instance, record ice melt in Greenland over one day irreversibly raised sea levels by 0.1 millimeters across the world. Mark Parrington, a scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said that higher than usual temperatures and dry soil has made great conditions for unusually intense, hot blazes. The latitude, intensity and duration of the fires have set them apart from what is typically observed in the region. “The fires burn for so long. Over the last two months, it’s unusual to see this scale. Generally, fires in Alaska last for a few days to two weeks. But this is now two months of burning,” Parrington said. The worst fires move north of forests and impact Arctic tundra and permafrost layers, which accumulate organic matter over thousands of years, Parrington said. When those areas are burned, it releases thousands of years worth of carbon and methane into the atmosphere. “From a climate point of view, these fires are exponentially worse,” Brettschneider said. Besides health and environmental concerns, there’s an economic toll too. The higher frequency of fires, and exponential warming in the Arctic, will contribute to sea level rise, which threatens to destroy property value in coastal regions, displace residents and impact global markets. In Alaska this year, over $150 million was spent on suppression and protection efforts against wildfires burning closer to populated areas, according to researchers. Typically resources are not used to combat wildfires, since they are a natural part of the boreal ecosystem. However, this year’s unprecedented wildfire season has changed that, as fires burn hotter, more frequently, and deeper into the ground, destroying trees and their ability to reproduce. “It is important to understand that fires aren’t only a result of climate change, but also are impacting climate change,” said Anton Beneslavsky, a Greenpeace Russia activist. “If we talk about mitigating climate change, we need to urgently pay attention to the wildfire issue,” he said. Source: Massive Arctic wildfires emitted more CO2 in June than Sweden does in an entire year
  2. Alaska's Hottest Month on Record: Melting Sea Ice, Wildfires and Unexpected Die-Offs Arctic sea ice is at a record low for this time of year, and the usual buffer that helps keep Alaska cool is gone. July 2019 was Alaska's hottest month on record, according to NOAA, with temperatures 5.4°F above average. Credit: Danielle Brigida/USFWS The temperatures have soared as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, seals and other animals are inexplicably dying, and the once-dependable sea ice is long gone from the shores. Welcome to summer in Alaska in the Anthropocene. Alaska just recorded its warmest July—and warmest month—on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday. At a time when the Lower 48 states were clocking average temperatures 1°F above normal, Alaska's temperatures were 5.4°F above average and 0.8°F more than the previous warmest month, which was July 2004. With sea ice at a record low, the usual buffer that helps keep Alaska cool is gone, said Karin Gleason, a climate scientist with NOAA. "That exacerbates temperatures, because when you don't have sea ice near the coastlines, then the temperature of the continent can warm sooner and earlier than it typically would." Arctic sea ice hit a record low in July after an early start to the melt season, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The sea ice volume Arctic-wide was about 47 percent lower than the average from 1979-2018. In Alaska, the ice is now about 150 miles from shore—a phenomenon that has only occurred in recent years and never before September, according to Rick Thoman, a climate scientist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. Alaska also had an unusual weather system to contend with in July. The same type of phenomenon that allowed scorching temperatures to sit over Europe earlier this summer—and Greenland more recently—also cooked Alaska. "This July in particular, it appears there was a record high-pressure ridge that kind of got stuck over Alaska," Gleason said. That combination—the climate-driven trend of disproportionately warm summers with a weather-driven event layered on top—resulted in records falling across the state. Anchorage, normally in the high 50s to low 60s in July, clocked its first-ever 90°F day on July 4. In Utqiagvik, the northern-most city in the U.S., temperatures were 7.4°F higher than average, according to the National Weather Service. Wildfires scorched more than 1.1 million acres of the state. "Boy can that do damage to things that should be frozen or cold," said Gleason. "Places where the ground has been frozen seemingly forever are starting to thaw. That's not a good thing when you have permafrost you want to keep, and glaciers you want to keep." Alaska's permafrost contains a huge amount of carbon in the form of long-frozen grasses and other organic materials that also release methane as the ground thaws and the organic matter decays. As the region warms, research shows more permafrost is thawing. Arctic-wide, scientists have estimated that the permafrost contains twice as much carbon as what's currently in the atmosphere. A 2012 article in the journal Nature estimated that thawing permafrost could warm the planet as much as 1.7°F over several centuries. As the permafrost thaws along Alaska's shorelines, the damage to communities and coastlines is compounded by stronger storms and coastal erosion. Food Web Disruptions and Die-Offs According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, sea surface temperatures along the Alaska coast are at least 9°F above average. "This has implications for marine and land habitats, the food web, commerce and ultimately, communities across Alaska," said Gleason. Across Alaska, there have been reports this summer of a number of die-offs involving different species. Sea birds, gray whales, ice seals, mussels and krill have been reported dying in surprising numbers, raising questions among Alaska natives and scientists about whether climate change could be a driver. On a survey in late July, a NOAA fisheries research team saw sub-arctic whales at higher latitudes than ever before. The humpback and fin whales they recorded were in areas that are normally devoid of large whales, leading to the hypothesis that their ranges are expanding due to less sea ice and warming ocean temperatures. "It doesn't surprise me that there are stories of wildlife dying or migrating places that they aren't normally," said Gleason. "They have to do what they have to do to try and survive. They'll adapt where they can and where they can't, unfortunately, there's loss." Source: Alaska's Hottest Month on Record: Melting Sea Ice, Wildfires and Unexpected Die-Offs
  3. The Greenland ice sheet poured 197 billion tons of water into the North Atlantic in July alone Extreme melt event led to greatest single day volume loss from the ice sheet since 1950 (This story has been updated with new data from August 1.) When one thinks of Greenland, images of an icebound, harsh and forbidding landscape probably come to mind, not a landscape of ice pocked with melt ponds and streams transformed into raging rivers. And almost certainly not one that features wildfires. Yet the latter description is exactly what Greenland looked like this week, according to imagery shared on social media, scientists on the ground and data from satellites. An extraordinary melt event that began earlier this week continued through August 1 on the Greenland ice sheet, and there are signs that about 60 percent of the expansive ice cover saw detectable surface melting, including at higher elevations that only rarely see temperatures climb above freezing. On Thursday, the ice sheet saw its biggest single-day volume loss on record, with 12.5 billion tons of ice lost to the ocean from surface melt, according to computer model estimates based on satellite and other data. Records of daily mass loss date back to 1950. “This model, which uses weather data and observations to build a record of ice and snowfall, and net change in mass of the ice sheet, is remarkably accurate,” says Ted Scambos, a senior researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado. “I would accept the result as fact. 12.5 billion tons [lost] in one day, and the highest single-day total since 1950,” Scambos said. July 31 was the biggest surface melt day since at least 2012, with about 60 percent of the ice sheet seeing at least 1 millimeter of melt at the surface, and more than 10 billion tons of ice lost to the ocean from surface melt, according to data from the Polar Portal, a website run by Danish polar research institutions, and the NSIDC. Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019, near Ilulissat, Greenland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images) According to Ruth Mottram, a climate researcher with the Danish Meteorological Institute, the ice sheet sent 197 billion tons of water pouring into the Atlantic Ocean during July. This is enough to raise sea levels by 0.5 millimeter, or 0.02 inches, in a one-month time frame, said Martin Stendel, a researcher with the institute. This might seem inconsequential, but every increment of sea-level rise provides a higher launchpad for storms to more easily flood coastal infrastructure, such as New York's subway system, parts of which flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Think of a basketball game being played on a court whose floor is gradually rising, making it easier for even shorter players to dunk the ball. As a result of both surface melting and a lack of snow on the ice sheet this summer, “this is the year Greenland is contributing most to sea-level rise,” said Marco Tedesco, a climate scientist at Columbia University. Thanks to an expansive area of high pressure enveloping all of Greenland — the same weather system that brought extreme heat to Europe last week — temperatures in Greenland have been running up to 15 to 30 degrees above average this week. At Summit Station, which at 10,551 feet is located at the highest point in Greenland and rarely sees temperatures above freezing, the thermometer exceeded this mark for about 11 hours Tuesday, according to Christopher Shuman, a glaciologist at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (National Snow and Ice Data Center) The 2019 extreme melt event is being compared to a record extreme heat and melt episode that occurred in Greenland in 2012. While the extent of surface melt during that event may have exceeded this one so far, Shuman found that Summit Station experienced warmth that was greater “in both magnitude and duration” during the current event. The temperature only remained above freezing about half as long in 2012, and the peak temperature reached 34.02 degrees this year, whereas it only hit 33.73 in 2012. During the 2012 extreme event, however, 97 percent of the ice surface experienced melting. “Like 2012, this melt event reached the highest elevations of the ice sheet, which is highly unusual,” says Thomas Mote, a professor of geography at the University of Georgia. “Both our satellite observations and the ground-based observations from Summit indicated melt on Tuesday.” “The event itself was unusual that the warm air mass came from the east, and appears to be a part of the air mass that caused the record-breaking heat wave in Europe. Most of our extreme melt days on the Greenland ice sheet are associated with warm air masses moving from the west and south. I cannot recall an instance where we saw such extensive melt associated with an air mass coming from Northern Europe,” Mote said. The heat, along with below-average precipitation in parts of Greenland, has even sparked wildfires along the Greenland’s non-ice-covered western fringes. Satellite images and photos taken from the ground show fires burning in treeless areas, consuming mossy wetlands known as fen that can become vulnerable to fires when they dry out. These fires can burn into peatlands, releasing greenhouse gases buried long ago through decomposition of organic matter. A wildfire burns in western Greenland on July 31, 2019. (Orla Joelsen via Twitter) Studies have shown that ice melt periods like the one seen in 2012 typically occur about every 250 years, so the fact that another one is taking place only a few years later could be a sign of how climate change is upping the odds of such events. According to DMI’s Mottram, the short-term, extreme melt event is a sign of climate change’s increasing influence on the Arctic. “So yes it’s weather but it shows that in spite of internal variability the background signal of a warming climate is still “winning,” she said via a Twitter message. She said state-of-the-art climate computer models have been unable to simulate events like this, which hampers scientists’ ability to accurately predict Greenland ice melt and, therefore, future sea-level rise. Source: The Greenland ice sheet poured 197 billion tons of water into the North Atlantic in July alone
  4. Last chance to see? — Many animals can’t adapt fast enough to climate change Some species are coping fine, but others are running out of time. Enlarge / Bonobos carrying the footprint of an ancient, extinct species of ape. flickr user: Reflexiste Climate change has thrown our beautifully balanced planet into chaos. As oceans and forests transform and ecosystems go into shock, perhaps a million species teeter on the edge of extinction. But there may still be hope for these organisms. Some will change their behaviors in response to soaring global temperatures; they might, say, reproduce earlier in the year, when it’s cooler. Others may even evolve to cope—perhaps by shrinking, because smaller frames lose heat more quickly. For the moment, though, scientists have little idea how these adaptations may be playing out. A new paper in Nature Communications, coauthored by more than 60 researchers, aims to bring a measure of clarity. By sifting through 10,000 previous studies, the researchers found that the climatic chaos we’ve sowed may just be too intense [Editor's note: The researchers scanned 10,000 abstracts, but their analysis is based on data from 58 studies]. Some species seem to be adapting, yes, but they aren’t doing so fast enough. That spells, in a word, doom. To determine how a species is adjusting to a climate gone mad, you typically look at two things: morphology and phenology. Morphology refers to physiological changes, like the aforementioned shrinking effect; phenology has to do with the timing of life events such as breeding and migration. The bulk of the existing research concerns phenology. The species in the new study skew avian, in large part because birds are relatively easy to observe. Researchers can set up nesting boxes, for instance, which allow them to log when adults lay eggs, when chicks hatch, how big the chicks are, and so on. And they can map how this is all changing as the climate warms. By looking at these kinds of studies together, the authors of the Nature Communications paper found that the 17 bird species they examined seem to be shifting their phenology. “Birds in the Northern Hemisphere do show adaptive responses on average, though these adaptive responses are not sufficient in order for populations to persist in the long term,” says lead author Viktoriia Radchuk of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. In other words, the birds simply can’t keep up. By laying their eggs earlier, they’re encouraging their chicks to hatch when there are lots of insects to eat, which happens once temperatures rise in spring. But they’re not shifting quickly enough. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to human-caused climate change. Life on Earth is so diverse because it’s so adaptable: temperatures go up or down, and a species might move into a new habitat and evolve to become something different over time. But what we humans have unleashed on this planet is unparalleled. “We’re experiencing something on the order of 1,000 times faster change in temperature than what was seen in paleo times,” says Radchuk. “There are limits to these adaptive responses, and the lag is getting too big.” Which means now more than ever, we have to aggressively conserve habitats to help boost species. “I think the results of this paper really add an abundance of caution, that we shouldn't hope that species will adapt to changing climate and changing habitats, that we don't need to do anything,” says Mark Reynolds, lead scientist for the Nature Conservancy’s migratory bird program, who wasn’t involved in the study. Indeed, this paper is a terrifying window into what might be happening to ecosystems at large. A bird doesn’t live in a vacuum—it preys and is preyed upon. An ecosystem is unfathomably complex, all sorts of creatures interacting, which makes these dynamics extremely difficult to study, especially when Earth’s climate is changing so quickly. “It's not an Internet type of network, it's not an electrical grid,” says Peter Roopnarine, curator of geology and paleontology at the California Academy of Sciences, who wasn’t involved in this work. “These are systems that have very specific structures and configurations to them. We have poor documentation of that.” On a very basic level, if insects start breeding earlier in the year because the planet is warming, birds have to shift their life cycles. That means the birds’ predators do, too. “One phenological change in one species can have a ripple effect through the system,” says Roopnarine. Another major consideration here is generation length. Species that more rapidly produce offspring tend to adapt better to change. That’s why bacteria can so quickly evolve resistance to antibiotics: they proliferate like mad, and individual bacteria with the lucky genetics to survive the drugs win out and pass those genes along. Something like an elephant, which may not reproduce until she’s 20 years into a 50-year lifespan, is working with way longer timescales and may struggle to adapt to change. What’s so troubling about this study is that, by comparison to other animal families, birds are relatively adaptable in their phenology: they can tweak the timing of their migrations, for instance. A less mobile critter like a frog has no such luxury. But what these researchers have found is that flexibility is no longer enough for salvation. This story originally appeared on wired.com. Source: Many animals can’t adapt fast enough to climate change (Ars Technica)
  5. Climate change: Current warming 'unparalleled' in 2,000 years Getty Images The speed and extent of current global warming exceeds any similar event in the past 2,000 years, researchers say. They show that famous historic events like the "Little Ice Age" don't compare with the scale of warming seen over the last century. The research suggests that the current warming rate is higher than any observed previously. The scientists say it shows many of the arguments used by climate sceptics are no longer valid. When scientists have surveyed the climatic history of our world over the past centuries a number of key eras have stood out. These ranged from the "Roman Warm Period", which ran from AD 250 to AD 400, and saw unusually warm weather across Europe, to the famed Little Ice Age, which saw temperatures drop for centuries from the 1300s. The events were seen by some as evidence that the world has warmed and cooled many times over the centuries and that the warming seen in the world since the industrial revolution was part of that pattern and therefore nothing to be alarmed about. Three new research papers show that argument is on shaky ground. University of Bern The science teams reconstructed the climate conditions that existed over the past 2,000 years using 700 proxy records of temperature changes, including tree rings, corals and lake sediments. They determined that none of these climate events occurred on a global scale. The researchers say that, for example, the Little Ice Age was at its strongest in the Pacific Ocean in the 15th Century, while in Europe it was the 17th Century. Generally, any longer-term peaks or troughs in temperature could be detected in no more than half the globe at any one time, The "Medieval Warm Period", which ran between AD 950 and AD 1250 only saw significant temperature rises across 40% of the Earth's surface. Today's warming, by contrast, impacts the vast majority of the world. "We find that the warmest period of the past two millennia occurred during the 20th Century for more than 98% of the globe," one of the papers states. "This provides strong evidence that anthropogenic (human induced) global warming is not only unparalleled in terms of absolute temperatures but also unprecedented in spatial consistency within the context of the past 2,000 years." Heatwaves in Europe have been made more likely by climate change, scientists say Getty Images What the researchers saw is that prior to the modern industrial era, the most significant influence on climate was volcanoes. They found no indication that variations in the Sun's radiation impacted mean global temperatures. The current period, say the authors, significantly exceeds natural variability. "We see from the instrumental data and also from our reconstruction that in the recent past the warming rate clearly exceeds the natural warming rates that we calculated - that's another view to look at the extraordinary nature of the present warming," said Dr Raphael Neukom, from the University of Bern, Switzerland. While the researchers did not set out to test whether humans were the chief influence on the current climate, their findings indicate clearly that this is the case. "We do not focus on looking at what's causing the most recent warming as this has been done many times and the evidence is always agreeing that it is the anthropogenic cause," said Dr Neukom. "We do not explicitly test this; we can only show that natural causes are not sufficient from our data to actually cause the spatial pattern and the warming rate that we are observing now." Other scientists have been impressed with the quality of the new studies. Winter skating on ice in Europe in centuries gone by was a common event during the Little Ice Age Getty Images "They have done this across the globe with more than 700 records over the past 2,000 years; they have corals and lakes and also instrumental data," said Prof Daniela Schmidt from the University of Bristol, UK, who was not involved with the studies. "And they have been very careful in assessing the data and the inherent bias that any data has, so the quality of this data and the coverage of this data is the real major advance here; it is amazing." Many experts say that this new work debunks many of the claims made by climate sceptics in recent decades. "This paper should finally stop climate change deniers claiming that the recent observed coherent global warming is part of a natural climate cycle," said Prof Mark Maslin, from University College London, UK, who wasn't part of the studies. "This paper shows the truly stark difference between regional and localised changes in climate of the past and the truly global effect of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions." The three papers have been published in the journals Nature (1) and Nature Geoscience (2), (3). Source: Climate change: Current warming 'unparalleled' in 2,000 years
  6. Running the numbers on an insane scheme to save Antarctic ice It would take a lot. Like a real lot. Enlarge / Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier sheds some icebergs. Could we... sort of... put them back? NASA Earth Observatory Imagine, if you will, the engineers of the king’s court after Humpty Dumpty’s disastrous fall. As panicked men apparently competed with horses for access to the site of the accident, perhaps the engineers were scoping out scenarios, looking for a better method of reassembling the poor fellow. But presumably none of those plans worked out, given the dark ending to that fairy tale. A recent study published in Science Advances might be relatable for those fairy tale engineers. Published by Johannes Feldmann, Anders Levermann, and Matthias Mengel at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the study tackles a remarkable question: could we save vulnerable Antarctic glaciers with artificial snow? Keeping our cool Antarctica’s ice is divided into two separate ice sheets by a mountain range, with the smaller but much more vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet representing one of the biggest wildcards for future sea level rise. In 2014, a study showed that two of the largest glaciers within that ice sheet—known as the Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier—had likely crossed a tipping point, guaranteeing a large amount of future ice loss that would continue even if global warming were halted today. Much of the bedrock beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is actually below sea level, though it's buried below kilometers of solid ice. This makes for situations where the bed beneath the ice slopes down as you go inland from the coast. That’s inherently unstable, and once a glacier starts retreating downslope, the invading water provides an increasing floating force that reduces the sliding friction that slows the seaward flow of ice. In the case of the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, it seems that this is exactly what's happening. Although this process can take centuries to fully play out, this portion of the ice sheet contains enough ice to raise global sea level by more than a meter. Is there some extraordinary measure that could prevent that loss and preserve these glaciers? It’s the kind of question people will often ask, and scientists (who know the scale of these things) generally ignore as implausible. But in this case, the researchers decided to go wild. Using a computer model of the ice sheet, they simulated the effects of adding huge amounts of ice near the front of these two glaciers. The idea works like this: Where a glacier meets the sea, it transitions from grounded to floating. Behind this “grounding line," the glacier sits on the bedrock and sediment beneath; in front it gets thinner and floats as an ice shelf. To preserve the glacier, you need to keep that grounding line from retreating downhill. Thicken the ice on the inland side of the grounding line, and the thickness of ice flowing over the line and into the ice shelf increases—its weight keeps the grounding line pinned in place. Enlarge / This map shows bedrock elevation beneath the ice sheet, with the white box highlighting the area of the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers where snow would be added in this scenario. Feldmann et al/Science Advances The researchers played around with different amounts of ice added to the glaciers for different periods of time, ranging from 10 year treatments to 50 years. Spreading it out over a longer period could mean a less preposterous addition of ice each year, but they found that the total amount has to increase if you do it that way. So in the end, the scenario they selected was 7,400 billion tons of ice added over 10 years. That was enough to restabilize these glaciers, preventing their inexorable decline. Two for one special To put that into context, removing that much seawater from the ocean would lower global sea level by about 2 millimeters per year. Current total sea level rise is a little over 3 millimeters per year, so it would be like nearly halting sea level rise… by bailing water out of the ocean. We can call that a bonus positive. This analysis is more about what it would take than what such a scheme would look like, but the basic options are to pump water up and hose it around—hoping it freezes quickly—or to freeze it into snow like the world’s most awkwardly located ski resort. Here, the researchers transition to listing all the reasons this is impractical and all the negative impacts it could have. For starters, the seawater would have to be desalinated since salt would probably affect the physics and behavior of the ice. Simply pumping that much water up the 640 meters and spreading it over an area nearly the size of West Virginia would require the power of something like 12,000 wind turbines—and that’s without the very substantial energy requirements for desalination and snow-making. “The practical realization of elevating and distributing the ocean water would mean an unprecedented effort for humankind in one of the harshest environments of the planet,” the researchers write. The impacts on Antarctic ecosystems could also be huge. Pumping that water out of the sea near the coast would significantly alter the circulation of water, which might even become somewhat self-defeating, as it could bring more warm water up against the ice shelf, increasing melt. In the Potsdam Institute’s press release, Levermann puts it this way: “The apparent absurdity of the endeavour to let it snow in Antarctica to stop an ice instability reflects the breath-taking dimension of the sea-level problem. Yet as scientists we feel it is our duty to inform society about each and every potential option to counter the problems ahead.” And to be clear, this is in addition to halting climate change—the scenario the numbers are based on assumes the temperatures don't keep rising. But as the alternative is eventual inundation of parts of the world’s coastal cities, an argument can be made that the cost could be worth paying. It least it gives us an idea just how hard it would be to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Source: Running the numbers on an insane scheme to save Antarctic ice (Ars Technica)
  7. Warming climate likely leading to larger California fires Warmer temperatures mean drier fuels and more fire for much of the state. Enlarge / The 2018 Camp Fire burned more buildings and claimed more lives than any other fire in California's history. NASA Earth Observatory The last couple years have seen devastating and record-setting wildfires in California, leaving many in the region to wonder what to expect in the future. Elsewhere in the US West, research has found that fires were increasing due to a combination of climate change and other human activities, which exacerbate both the fires and the damage they cause. But California is a different beast from much of the West and requires its own analysis. A new study from a team led by Park Williams and John Abatzoglou—also the scientists behind a recent study of western US fires—uses government records of California wildfire areas going back to 1972, along with weather data and climate model simulations. The work breaks California into four different regions based on vegetation. The coast is split into a forested northern section, separate central and southern shrublands, and the forested Sierra Nevada rounding out the list. Big changes Overall, the average area burned by fires each year in California has increased by a factor of five since 1972—a remarkable increase. However, this is mostly due to an even larger increase in the forested parts of the state, as the central and southern coastal regions haven’t really seen an increase. Enlarge / The forested regions of the state have seen large increases in area burned. Williams et al/Earth's Future California has gotten warmer over this time period, and at a rate that matches climate model simulations of human-caused warming. There isn’t a clear trend in precipitation, though mountain snowpack has declined with rising temperatures. But the temperature change alone can have a huge impact on fire conditions. Hotter air sucks more moisture out of the soil and out of the vegetation that the fire burns. The summer fire trend in the forested Sierra Nevada and northern coastal region correlates well with this warming-driven atmospheric drying. In fact, the area burned by fires increased exponentially with the drying—not surprising given the physics involved. In the analysis, this was the single biggest factor, accounting for most of the increased area burned. "Vapor Pressure Deficit" indicates how dry the air is and how much it will dry out the vegetation on the ground. Williams et al/Earth's Future In the central and southern coastal regions, the correlation with weather is pretty weak since there hasn’t been an increase in summer burn area. This is probably related to the nature of this shrubbier and more populous landscape, where the spread of fires can actually be halted by gaps in the vegetation (or rapidly controlled by firefighters). There was, however, a relationship between fires there and precipitation in the previous year—rain causes a burst of growth that subsequently dries out, setting up the potential for rapidly spreading fires. Getting particular So what about the recent fall fires around Los Angeles and the Bay Area? This type of fire is particularly variable from one year to the next, as they rely on a particular confluence of events. In fall and winter, strong downslope winds (called Diablos in the north and Santa Anas in the south) develop that can stoke fires like a bellows. But by the time these winds arrive, the rainy season has usually begun, greatly reducing fire risk. What happened in both 2017 and 2018 is that the rains were late, leaving tinder-dry vegetation in the path of the winds. In those conditions, a major fire is almost inevitable, but the conditions are unusual. Trends in those weather conditions are less clear. Climate models do project later starts to the rainy season with continued warming (a little of which has already been seen), as well as an increase in swings between wet and dry years. But they also show a possible reduction in fall winds. Warming temperatures, though, have led an increase in the number of fall days where vegetation is dry enough to make the fire risk high. The study acknowledges other human impacts on fire—from the history of fire suppression that caused fuels to accumulate to developments that create gaps in the vegetation even as they put more homes in harm’s way—but can’t separate them out in this case. They did find that their correlations for 1972-2018 were the same if you compared the first half of this time period to the second half. That at least tells you that those other human activities have had a pretty constant influence. Overall, the researchers found that climate change looks to already be a major factor in increased summer forest fires in California. “Importantly,” they write, “the effects of anthropogenic warming on California wildfire thus far have arisen from what may someday be viewed as a relatively small amount of warming. According to climate models, anthropogenic warming since the late 1800s has increased the atmospheric vapor-pressure deficit by approximately 10 percent and this increase is projected to double by the 2060s. Given the exponential response of California burned area to aridity, the influence of anthropogenic warming on wildfire activity over the next few decades will likely be larger than the observed influence thus far where fuel abundance is not limiting.” Source: Warming climate likely leading to larger California fires (Ars Technica)
  8. Rapid results in on climate change and the European heat wave Heat wave was several degrees Celsius hotter than an equivalent event in 1900. Enlarge / How the warmest three-day averages from June rank—the darkest red area set new records. van Oldenborgh et al. Much of Europe—and particularly France—has been sweating through an incredible heat wave in recent days, with temperature records falling left and right. Despite it being only June (albeit the hottest June on record in Europe), a station in Gallargues-le-Montueux actually broke France's all-time high by more than 1.5°C, reaching a sweltering 45.9°C (114.6 °F). A team of climate scientists with an established method of rapidly analyzing extreme weather events like this has already taken a look at this heat wave. (The study has yet to be peer-reviewed but follows a protocol which has.) The team's results give a good idea of the role of climate change in this heat wave. The first question is how to define this weather event. The scientists decided to go with a human-health-relevant definition of the three-day mean temperature rather than a single daily high. They focused on June temperatures for the whole of France, as well as performing a local-scale analysis for just the city of Toulouse—where much of the team coincidentally happened to be attending a conference on weather extremes at the time. The analyses look at both changes in past weather data and a host of climate-model simulations. In this case, the data shows a very large increase in heat waves since the start of the 20th century. Based on the most recent data, this heat wave looks like it is approximately a 30-year event (meaning it has a probability of about 1 in 30 of occurring in a given year). Around 1900, however, this would have been a much rarer event. The difference means it's now roughly 100 times more likely to happen in our current, warmer climate. Put another way, the current 30-year heat wave event is a whopping 4°C or so hotter than what would have been a 30-year heat wave at the start of last century. These numbers came out pretty much the same for Toulouse and for France as a whole. The climate-model simulations proved a little murkier. To start with, the models' results were compared to data to see how accurately they simulate this particular weather pattern in this particular place. In this case, the model simulations produced fewer and weaker heat waves than have actually occurred, so the models have to be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, they do all simulate increases in heat waves in France due to human-caused warming (that relationship is relatively straightforward). But the increase in probability was mainly in the 5- to 100-times-greater range. As for the increase in the temperature of a 30-year heat wave, it was closer to 1-2°C than the 4°C change seen in the actual data. Enlarge / How much warmer this heat wave was, in degrees C, compared to a 30-year heat wave in the early 1900s. Observed weather data shown in blue, and a collection of model simulation results is in red. van Oldenborgh et al Taken together, the researchers conclude that climate change made the recent heat wave at least five times more likely, though that's the lower limit of their results. This isn't really a surprise, especially given that past analyses by this team have found similar answers for other heat waves around Europe. Fortunately, the researchers also note that past heat waves have led to improvements in preparedness. The extreme heat was forecast days in advance, and France put its emergency plans into motion—very likely saving lives. Source: Rapid results in on climate change and the European heat wave (Ars Technica)
  9. Protesters target Amazon in France calling for action on climate change PARIS (Reuters) - Several hundred environmental activists protested outside Amazon’s headquarters in Paris and at two of its regional distribution centers in France on Tuesday as part of stepped-up climate change demonstrations. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, May 13, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo The protest drew support from groups including Friends of the Earth and the “Gilets Jaunes”, who have mounted months of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron. Some 240 people blocked access to Amazon’s main office in Paris, organizers said. Around 70 people blockaded a distribution center in the southern city of Toulouse and another 80 were gathered at a center near the city of Lille, with workers forced to go home and operations at both warehouses halted, organizers said. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for immediate comment. The retailer earlier announced the creation of 1,800 new jobs in France as it looks to raise its number of permanent staff to 9,300 by the end of the year. Those taking part in the demonstrations said they were angered by a report issued last week that showed France was falling behind on its commitments to reduce CO2 emissions and combat climate change. “We have to be radical with our demands,” said Alma Dufour, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “There are no little steps left to take when it comes to climate change. We want a transformation of the system.” Organizers said the aim was not to have Amazon shut down in France but to cancel its plans for expansion in 2020. The U.S. online retail giant has expanded rapidly in the French market, prompting domestic rivals to up their game. But environmental activists say Amazon needs to do more to limit its environmental impact, including changing a policy of destroying unsold non-food items such as clothes, cosmetics and luxury goods. French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe called for a ban on the destruction of non-food items last month, saying he hoped it could be brought into effect within four years. Protests against climate change have expanded across northern and western Europe in recent months, with Swedish teenaged activist Greta Thunberg leading a high-profile campaign in which students have walked out of school on Fridays. Last Friday, French police used pepper spray to forcibly remove scores of members of the Extinction Rebellion group who were occupying a bridge over the River Seine. The French government on Monday ordered an inquiry into tactics used against a peaceful protest. Source: Protesters target Amazon in France calling for action on climate change
  10. Exclusive: Investors with $34 trillion demand urgent climate change action LONDON (Reuters) - Investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world’s invested capital, are demanding urgent action from governments on climate change, piling pressure on leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meeting this week. A person walks across Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls In an open letter to the “governments of the world” seen by Reuters, groups representing 477 investors stressed “the urgency of decisive action” on climate change to achieve the Paris Agreement target. Almost 200 nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Current policies put the world on track for at least a 3C rise by the end of the century. The letter comes ahead of a June 28-29 G20 summit in Japan and as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges countries to back more ambitious climate goals. “There is an ambition gap... This ambition gap is of great concern to investors and needs to be addressed, with urgency,” a statement from the investors accompanying the letter said. Governments were urged to strengthen their Paris Agreement targets by 2020; phase out thermal coal power and fossil fuel subsidies by set deadlines; set a robust global carbon price by 2020 and improve climate-related financial reporting. “It is vital for our long-term planning and asset allocation decisions that governments work closely with investors to incorporate Paris-aligned climate scenarios into their policy frameworks and energy transition pathways,” the statement said. The investor letter was signed by the chief executives of the seven founding partners of The Investor Agenda, including the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment. Large investors signing the statement included Legal & General Investment Management and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), although the world’s two biggest asset managers, BlackRock and Vanguard, did not. A BlackRock spokeswoman declined to give a specific reason for not supporting the call, but pointed to a statement from its annual report that said it typically does not join such initiatives. Reasons can include overlap with the company’s existing efforts or a misalignment of views. A spokeswoman for Vanguard was not able to give a specific reason, but said it was concerned about the long-term impact of climate risk and was actively engaged on a number of climate related initiatives with an emphasis on good disclosure. A U.N.-backed panel of scientists has said limiting global warming to 1.5C would cost at least $830 billion a year but the cost of inaction is thought to be much higher. DIVESTING DRIVE A number of institutional investors have already started to divest from fossil fuel companies due to the risk their assets will become stranded as the cost of renewable energy falls. Last month, the U.N.’s Guterres urged countries to end approval for new coal-fired power plants beyond 2020, as well as fossil fuel subsidies. Carola van Lamoen, Head of Active Ownership at global asset manager Robeco, said: “As investors, in our view the development of new coal power plants after 2020 puts at risk both the return on investment and the world’s chance of limiting global warming in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” However, some countries argue that they need to keep using fossil fuels to power their economic development. A report by researchers which tracks countries’ progress toward limiting global warming showed that only five out of 32 nations have targets in line with a 2C limit. A report by the Overseas Development Institute thinktank said on Tuesday that G20 governments boosted backing for coal-fired power plants, particularly in poorer nations, from $17 billion to $47 billion a year from 2014 to 2017. Japan, as host of the G20 summit in Osaka this week, has been criticized for its plans to continue using coal. It backs the use of carbon capture and storage to trap emissions, but the technology is costly and not yet commercial. Source: Exclusive: Investors with $34 trillion demand urgent climate change action
  11. How a supercomputer is helping AT&T prepare for extreme weather Prepping for climate change with help from a national lab Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images AT&T has a new climate change risk-assessment tool, developed with the help of Argonne National Laboratory’s scientists and supercomputing power, CNBC reports. The telecommunications company hopes to protect its infrastructure from the flooding and extreme weather events that are projected to increase as climate change continues. A few years ago, AT&T started thinking about the long-term risks that climate change posed to its equipment. For example, the company has cell towers and sites across the country that are vulnerable to flooding and might need to be lifted above encroaching waters. In other places, services rely on above-ground copper wires that can blow down in large storms, and which might be safer buried underground as weather patterns shift. “We just essentially did a deep dive: What was our long term planning, and how was that linked to climate change?” Shannon Carroll, director of environmental sustainability at AT&T, tells The Verge. “THE MOST INTERESTING QUESTIONS PEOPLE ARE ASKING ARE AT THOSE SCALES.” So they turned to the scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, like Rao Kotamarthi, chief climate scientist in the environmental sciences division. He and his colleagues used millions of hours of supercomputing time to analyze how wind and flood risk could change in a warmer future. But for the data to be useful, they had to use a much smaller scale than usual. “Basically, you have to model at the scale where this infrastructure exists,” Kotamarthi tells The Verge. “The most interesting questions people are asking are at those scales.” Most climate models work at the 100-kilometer (62-mile) scale, which means the data covers 100-kilometer square chunks of North America. That gives you the big picture, but not finer-grained details like what’s happening on a particular block. The Argonne team managed to get their regional climate models down to the 12-kilometer (7.5 mile) scale — and for the flooding data, down to 200 meters (656 feet). That’s key for the kind of planning AT&T wants to use that information for. “It’s all about the resolution — how close of a view can you get,” AT&T’s Carroll says. Analyzing climate data on such a small scale takes a lot of time and computing power, which makes it expensive. “The struggle is to get to those scales as much as possible but to still have some useful information,” Kotamarthi says. “How far you can go is a good question to ask.” All told, he estimates that crunching the numbers took around 80 million hours on parallel processors at Argonne National Laboratory’s supercomputer. “WE BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE LONG TERM FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO DOING THIS.” The Argonne scientists shrunk that information down and gave it to AT&T, which mixed the data with its own mapping tools that show key infrastructure like cell towers and fiber cable. “You can see the potential impacts of climate change overlaid on that visually,” Carroll says. Right now, the company is starting small and the map only covers the southeastern United States. “They’ve been hit extremely hard the last few years with severe weather events, and we have significant infrastructure there as well,” Carroll says. Ultimately, the goal is to manage the company’s risks as it looks toward the future, Carroll says. “We’re a company that’s been around for over 100 years, and we plan to be around at least another 100 years,” he says. Knowing where to place cell towers, for example, to avoid flooding or extreme winds could mean having to shell out less money for repairs in the future. “We believe that there are long term financial benefits to doing this.” Correction: Rao Kotamarthi is the chief climate scientist in the environmental sciences division, not the chief scientist of the environmental sciences division. Source
  12. Climate change: UK carbon capture project begins Image captionThe project aims to capture one tonne per day of CO2 The giant Drax power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, has become the first in Europe to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from wood-burning. Drax burns seven million tonnes of wood chips each year to drive generators to make electricity. The firm has now begun a pilot project to capture one tonne a day of CO2 from its wood combustion. The technology effectively turns climate change into reverse on a tiny scale, but it’s controversial. How does it reverse climate change? When a forest grows, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make their wood. If you burn that wood, the process doesn’t emit any extra CO2 into the atmosphere - because the trees removed it from the air in the first place. It’s called carbon neutral. If you go one step further by capturing the CO2 from wood burning, you’re actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere overall. In an ideal world you’d go one step further by creating useful products from the waste CO2. Power plant aims to cut biomass gases Turning carbon dioxide into rock - forever Five cheap ways to limit climate change Caution urged over 'carbon unicorns' Why is it needed? This technology is known as Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Many scientists believe it will be needed because they don't trust politicians to curb the CO2 emissions that are over-heating the planet. They say that unless carbon emissions start falling dramatically, we will overshoot the recommended safety limit of a 1.5C rise in global temperature. Image captionDrax's is one of several different approaches to carbon capture Carbon capture sounds smart – why is it controversial? There are two main reasons for controversy. First is the impact on the plants and animals living on the huge amount of land needed to grow the trees and plants needed to generate power on a wide scale. Second is the amount of additional energy needed to capture and store the carbon. Let’s just take the example of Drax. The power station generates 6% of the UK’s electricity whilst burning seven million tonnes of wood a year – that’s more wood than is harvested in the whole of Britain. The majority of the supply comes from the US, where forests are expanding as small-scale farmers allow unprofitable land to go back to nature. Drax says most of its fuel is residue from forest industries – that’s offcuts and unsuitable trees for timber. A previous BBC investigation found that some of the wood almost certainly also comes from species-rich swamp forests in the southern US. What if the world wants to generate carbon neutral energy by burning wood? This is where the numbers get a bit mind-boggling. One estimate suggests that a staggering amount of land would be required to make BECCS feasible under the Paris climate agreement — perhaps as much as three times the area of India. Harvard University professor David Keith warned: “We must be cautious of technologies that aim to remediate the carbon problem while greatly expanding our impact on the land.” That impact will depend on many variables, such as whether the wood is so-called “waste”; whether it comes from plantation forests or natural forests; how its removal from the forest reduces the amount of material that will lock up carbon in the soil; how it’s transported – and more. How does the carbon capture work? Image copyrightPA Image captionDrax generates 6% of the UK's electricity Drax is trialling a new system devised at Leeds university. Most existing carbon capture technologies use a chemical, amine. It is drizzled down through a flue gas chimney, where it absorbs the CO2. A further process separates the CO2 from the amine, which can be re-used. The Drax experiment is working with a tech spin-off called C-Capture. It uses an organic solvent which it says is less toxic than amine and uses less energy. It’s one of several products on the market as chemists strive to find new ways of taking CO2 out of the air. What do people say about the Drax experiment? Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power, admits that its carbon capture pilot is tiny – but says it's an important step towards getting the whole plant capturing its CO2 - and finding a market to use it. “This is a really important technology,” he told us. “We are definitely going to need it if we want to keep within the 1.5C temperature limit proposed by scientists. " Almuth Ernsting from the pressure group Biofuelwatch takes the opposite view. “Burning biomass is absolutely the wrong option for so many reasons,” she said. "Forests are vital for the health of the climate so we need to keep them not burn them. "The Drax experiment is so ridiculously tiny it’s hard to believe it’s not 'greenwash'." Source
  13. Climate change: World heading for warmest decade, says Met Office A Nasa graphic showing the global temperature anomalies between 2014 and 2018 - higher than the long term trend is shown in red The world is in the middle of what is likely to be the warmest 10 years since records began in 1850, says the Met Office. It's forecasting that temperatures for each of the next five years are likely to be at or above 1C compared to pre-industrial levels. There's also a small chance that one of the next five years will see global temperatures temporarily go above 1.5C. That's seen as a critical threshold for climate change. If the data matches the forecast, then the decade from 2014-2023 will be the warmest in more than 150 years of record keeping. Will the forecast temperature rises bust the Paris climate agreement? The Met Office says that 2015 was the first year in which the global annual average surface temperature reached 1C above the pre-industrial level, which is generally taken to mean the temperatures between 1850 and 1900. Each year since then, the global average has hovered close to or above the 1C mark. Now, the Met Office says that trend is likely to continue or increase over the next five years. "We've just made this year's forecasts and they go out to 2023 and what they suggest is rapid warming globally," Prof Adam Scaife, head of long term forecasting at the Met Office, told BBC News. "By looking at individual years in that forecast we can now see for the first time, there is a risk of a temporary, and I repeat temporary, exceedance of the all-important 1.5C threshold level set out in the Paris climate agreement." Last October, UN scientists published a special report on the long-term impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C. They concluded that it would take a massive carbon cutting effort to keep the world from tipping over the limit by 2030. The Met Office analysis now says there's a 10% chance of this happening within the next five years. "It's the first time the forecasts have shown a significant risk of exceedance - it is only temporary. We are talking about individual years fluctuating above the 1.5 degree level," said Prof Scaife. "But the fact that that can happen now due to a combination of general warming and the fluctuations due to things like El Niño events in the next few years does mean we are getting close to that threshold." Image copyrightMET OFFICE Image captionTemperature data for the five major global climate databases How confident is the Met Office of its prediction? The Met Office says it has a 90% confidence limit in the forecasts for the years ahead. It says that from 2019 to 2023, we will see temperatures ranging from 1.03C to 1,57C above the 1850-1900 level, with enhanced warming over much of the globe, especially over areas like the Arctic. The research team says it is pretty certain in its predictions because of its past experience. The team's previous forecast, made in 2013, predicted the rapid rate of warming that's been observed over the past five years. It even predicted some of the lesser known details such as the patch of cooling seen in the North Atlantic and the cooler spots in the Southern Ocean. If the observations over the next five years match the forecasts, then the decade between 2014 and 2023 will be the warmest in more than 150 years of records. What about other climate agencies? The Met Office forecast comes as a number of agencies publish their full analysis of temperature data from 2018, showing it to be the fourth warmest since records began in 1850. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published an analysis of five major international datasets showing that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22. "Temperatures are only part of the story. Extreme and high impact weather affected many countries and millions of people, with devastating repercussions for economies and ecosystems in 2018," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. "Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority," he said. Other researchers in the field said the new forecast for the next five years was in line with expectations, given the record level of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere in 2018. "The forecast from the Met Office is, unfortunately, no surprise," said Dr Anna Jones, an atmospheric chemist at the British Antarctic Survey. "Temperatures averaged across the globe are at a record all-time high, and have been for a number of years. They are driven predominantly by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that result from our continued use of fossil fuels. "Until we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect to see upward trends in global averaged temperatures." Source
  14. The healthcare cost for animal-related injuries in the United States exceeds $1 billion per year, according to the findings of a new study published in the BMJ journal Trauma Surgery and Acute Care Open on Tuesday. This cost does not include doctors' fees, lost productivity, costs of rehabilitation, and outpatient clinic charges, which means the total costs are higher. Animal Bites Researchers found that dog bites, bites from venomous snakes and lizards, and bites from non-venomous insects and spiders accounted for 60 percent of the total costs. People who are most likely to be injured by bites from venomous snakes, insects, and spiders belong to the lowest 25 percent of household income for their ZIP code. Animal bites also tend to be more common in people who live in rural and resource-poor settings. The researchers also found that the adult victims are usually the wage earners or the care providers of the family. The findings were based on data submitted to the National Emergency Department Sample or NEDS)between the years 2010 and 2014. Role Of Climate Change And Land Development Study researcher Joseph Forrester, from the Department of Surgery at Stanford University, and colleagues also warned that the number of animal-related injuries is likely to increase amid increasing global temperatures and development pressure. Warmer temperatures already expose people to more ticks and mosquitoes. Bites from these insects place people at risk of diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Researchers said that global warming is exacerbated by developmental sprawls that reduce the number of lands that animals exclusively use. The researchers said that human development and recreational activities can increase encounters with animals that in turn, raises odds for animal-related injuries. "As available habitat for these animals increasingly overlaps with human development and recreational activities, it is expected encounters with these animals may increase and could result in increased animal-related injuries," the researchers wrote in their study. Source
  15. F rance’s military has teamed up with an environmental non-profit for the first time to study the threat of climate change where the country is at war, a representative of the green group said on Saturday. So far, WWF France and the Ecole de Guerre, the top French military academy, have been jointly promoting their view that climate change is a national security threat. The Ecole de Guerre trains officers to become the next generation of the armed forces’ top brass. The partnership marks the first time the French military has worked with a non-profit on adapting to climate change, said Nathaniel Powell, an expert on the French army in Africa at the Lausanne-based Pierre du Bois Foundation for Current History. The venture seeks to study the ability of conflict areas to withstand the pressures of a changing climate as the planet warms, said Marine Braud, head of green diplomacy for WWF France, at a conference held alongside U.N. climate talks. “We work together on the links between environment and security,” she told a panel discussion. The partnership, which kicked off in September, involves about 40 officers at the Ecole de Guerre, representing about a fifth of the school’s students. It will focus at first on West Africa’s Sahel region, said Braud, where the alliance hopes to carry out its first “stress test” exercise next year. The results will be released in a report, she said. France has maintained a large military presence in the Sahel, one of the poorest parts of the world with a rapidly growing population that has been hit hard by climate change. The French armed forces drove out a mix of Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels from northern Mali in 2013, and now deploy 4,500 troops in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, according to the defence ministry. WWF France’s head, Pascal Canfin, referred to climate change as a “threat multiplier” while speaking to lawmakers at the French National Assembly last month about the group’s partnership with the military. “The French armed forces today are touching the reality of climate change where they operate,” he said. “They are increasingly anxious to integrate this dimension (of climate change) in their analysis,” he said. The initiative was part of a broader trend by military forces to adapt to climate change, said historian Powell. The U.S. Department of Defense, which has the world’s most powerful military, found in a study published earlier this year that nearly half of U.S. military sites globally are threatened by wild weather linked to climate change. Given WWF’s high profile, the move could potentially undermine the perceived neutrality of environmental organisations working in the conflict-torn Sahel, warned Powell. Source
  16. Green campaigners have lined up to attack chancellor Philip Hammond for announcing a multi-billion-pound boost for building and upgrading roads – days after world scientists urgently warned that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut. In Monday’s budget, Mr Hammond is due to champion £30bn of funding for new roads and road repairs, hailing it “the biggest-ever cash injection for England’s largest roads”. Yet the chancellor is recycling an old Conservative party announcement, The Independent can reveal – and environmental experts including Greenpeace’s chief scientist said he should have done a U-turn on the party's earlier pledge. It comes after the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned the world has 12 years in which to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. And earlier this month the government cut grants for electric cars and scrapped those for hybrids. Mr Hammond will say in his budget speech that a £28.8bn fund will be dedicated to strategically important roads such as motorways and major local routes, for improvements, upgrades and easing congestion under the plan, which covers 2020-25. Major new roads could be built too. He will also set aside extra cash to fix potholes, repair damaged roads, and trial new methods of transport such as electric bikes. But in the 2015 budget, then-chancellor George Osborne announced that for cars registered after April 2017, all vehicle excise duty would go to a new roads fund from 2020. Car tax raises about £6bn a year, and calculated across the five years of Mr Hammond’s plan for 2020-25, amounts to £30bn – the sum he will be trumpeting in the budget. Publicising the move in advance, the Treasury said: “This will be the first time ever that ‘road tax’ will only be spent on roads. Roads are a crucial part of transport infrastructure and it’s right that from 2020 motorists see their road tax directly paying for improvements to their roads.” But both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr said Mr Hammond should have reconsidered Mr Osborne’s plan. “It’s less than three weeks since we had a very severe warning from scientists on the effects of climate change. When we need to start cutting emissions, how compatible is this roads programme he’s talking about?” said Mr Parr. “He should have considered the state of nature, of public transport, of pollution and of climate change and done a U-turn.” Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Liz Hutchins said: “Doesn’t Philip Hammond read the news? Earlier this month UN scientists warned that we only have a dozen years to prevent catastrophic climate change. “Yet rather than investing in a low-carbon economy, the chancellor is gearing up to create more pollution that wrecks our climate and damages our health. “We could be a world leader in building a cleaner, safer future, but government climate policy seems to be stuck in reverse.” Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green party, said: “’It’s very disappointing to see this government announce over and over again a ‘new’ roads programme that will just make traffic problems worse. “Building new roads just creates new traffic. Real, green investment in our future would boost walking and cycling, green energy and local public transport.” Simon Alcock, of environmental charity ClientEarth, said: “Emergency measures to protect our children from traffic pollution would cost £153m, which is a drop in the ocean compared with the numbers the government is allocating to roads. “Ministers seem unwilling to find money to protect children from traffic pollution around schools but are happy to spend billions on roads.” The Treasury said the roads fund would help “make journeys quicker and easier for millions of commuters across the country, while boosting productivity and road safety. Congestion costs UK households over £30 billion every year and the equivalent of more than 100 million working days could be lost, between now and 2040, unless action is taken. Councils will receive £420m for potholes and repairs and to keep bridges open. A further £150m will help improve local junctions. The government’s Transforming Cities Fund will be extended by £680m to support local transport projects such as cycling networks, new buses and trams. The chancellor is also expected to announce an extra £90m to trial “next-generation” methods of transport, potentially including self-driving shuttle services and electric bikes. RAC spokesman Simon Williams told The Independent: “It’s great news for motorists. We know from research that there has been a big increase in dependency on the car so roads are important for the country. “We found 59 per cent of drivers said they would be very keen to take public transport if it was better, but it’s not as affordable, comfortable or frequent as it should be, and many people in rural areas have not choice of how to get to work.” He said motorists were suffering too much damage to their vehicles from potholes, which also posed a safety risk to others when drivers swerved to avoid the holes. A Treasury spokesman said the government was not boosting roads in isolation but was also improving air quality. He said: “We need to repair our roads and ensure the right roads are in the right places, and it’s part of our mix of strategies.” Source
  17. Flooding reduces seawater salt content, induces stress in bivalve animals American Physiological Society New Orleans (October 27, 2018)--Climate change-associated severe weather events may cause flooding that threatens the survival of the Olympia oyster, new research suggests. The findings will be presented today at the American Physiological Society's (APS) Comparative Physiology: Complexity and Integration conference in New Orleans. Oceans around the world typically have a salt content (salinity) of around 3.5 percent, but the percentage varies more in shallow coastal waters affected by rainfall. Researchers studied three groups of Olympia oyster from different areas of the California coast where the influence of rainfall on seawater salinity varies. One group was native to a large estuary--a body of seawater near the mouth of a river--that was routinely exposed to freshwater flooding from extreme precipitation, which decreased the salinity of the oysters' surroundings. A second group lived in a small estuary that received much less freshwater exposure, and a third group lived far away from the large estuary where salinity was also higher and more stable. All organisms, including oysters, show higher expressions of genes that are involved with DNA damage and protein unfolding in response to extreme stress. Protein unfolding is a process in which proteins lose their structure and become unstable, which, if not repaired, will eventually lead to the animal's death. Researchers study the Olympia oyster because they are a "foundation species," meaning the presence of oysters provides habitat for a large number of other smaller species and creates a much healthier ecosystem. If the oysters die out, all of the associated species will too. Because of the vital role oysters play in coastal ecosystems, researchers want to know if oysters living in certain areas are more tolerant of low salinity and therefore better equipped to survive climate change. The research team exposed all three groups of oysters and their offspring to low-salinity seawater (around 0.5 percent salt) and measured their gene expression patterns. They found that the oysters living closest to the large estuary were more tolerant of a five-day exposure to low-salinity seawater. "More frequent exposure to freshwater in this region likely forced oysters to evolve new ways of surviving in low salinity," explained Tyler Evans, PhD, from California State University East Bay, and first author of the study. This group expressed considerably higher levels of mRNA--genetic material that tells cells what new proteins to make--than the less-tolerant oysters that were accustomed to higher salinities. Proteins encoded by the mRNA control the activity of the oyster's cilia (hair-like structures on the gills that move back and forth to circulate fluid inside the oyster shell). The researchers predict this added cilia movement increases survival by allowing oysters to keep their shells closed (and the low-salinity seawater out) for longer amounts of time. However, climate change is a concern for the survival of even the most tolerant group of Olympia oysters due to the expected increase in the severity of extreme-precipitation events that would expose the oysters to even longer periods of low salinity. "Even oysters having garnered greater low-salinity tolerance via natural selection will be vulnerable to future freshwater flooding events," the research team wrote. Source
  18. The climate apocalypse wants to strip us of everything sacred in this world. There are concerns about chocolate (though it isn’t going extinct), the future of wine, and even the potential loss of our prized Tabasco sauce! A study published in Nature Plants Monday is throwing more depressing news our way: Beer is next. Yes, beer. Your Friday night best friend. Your motivation for that vacation brewery stop. Your favorite reason for October. The study expects future yields of barley, beer’s key ingredient, to drop from 3 to 17 percent worldwide due to extreme heat and drought events by 2099. Depending on where you live, beer prices could spike in those years as a result, from 52 percent to more than 600 percent. That means a $4 beer today may cost something like $6 or, in a real dystopian world, $24. The study’s authors, who hail from China, Mexico, the U.K., and California, didn’t consider the effects of the gradual rise in temperatures caused by climate change, instead assuming “perhaps heroically,” as co-author Steven Davis put it, that barley farmers could keep up. Instead, the team used historical data from the years 1981-2010 to focus on global extreme heatwaves and droughts between 2010 and 2099—those that are worse than so-called 100-year events. “The more climate warming we get, the more often these extreme years occur,” Davis, an associate professor at the University of California at Irvine, told Earther. He and the rest of his team concluded this after looking at four different climate models, including one where humanity avoids 2 degrees of warming and a worst-case business-as-usual scenario, where we blow past it, and our future is dominated by extreme heat. Barley suffered in all these models across the 34 world regions that produce the crop, including Ireland, Brazil, and Russia. The situation just worsens as the models see more warming. Every country is set to feel these impacts differently. Countries like Belgium and Japan—which produce a lot of beer—will have a harder time importing barley. And beer will become a luxury not everyone can afford. Argentina, for example, may see consumption drop by 32 percent in the more dramatic scenarios. Now, let’s not get too worked up just yet. Remember: This is beer we’re talking about, a luxury product. No one will starve or die of thirst without a beer. The study even notes that consuming less beer might have health benefits. At the same time, people love beer, and it plays an important role in social gatherings. That’s why Davis and his colleagues pursued this research endeavor in the first place. It’s also worth pointing out that this study looked at the regions where barley currently grows. This is important because climate change may move where crops grow best. While parts of the U.S. Midwest start producing less barley, perhaps there’s hope for their northern neighbors. And in some regions, certain areas do show higher future barley yields in the authors’ models. “Even in extreme years, some parts of the world will have normal or above-average barley production, so it’s not everywhere or all the time,” Davis said. Source
  19. Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave Friday, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 and in Montoro, Spain last year. Here is a roundup: Spain: two dead Two men—a roadworker in his 40s and a 78-year-old pensioner—died from heatstroke this week, as Spain is set to experience one of its hottest days this summer on Friday, with temperatures expected to top 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in Badajos on the border with Portugal, 42 degrees in Seville and 40 in Madrid. Portugal: record 45 degrees In Portugal, where temperatures topped a record 45 degrees in Alvega, 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of Lisbon, on Thursday, the heatwave is expected to reach its peak on Saturday, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). While no "substantial" wildfires have been reported so far, the emergency services say they remain on maximum alert and Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita declared a policy of "zero tolerance" towards risky activity, such as barbecues. Germany: tourists head north Tourism operators, such as Thomas Cook and Alltours, were quoted by German news agency DPA as saying that last-minute bookings for the Mediterranean are down, as holidaymakers seek out cooler temperatures on the North Sea and Baltic coastlines. Netherlands: water shortages In the Netherlands, where the current heatwave is the longest-ever recorded—with temperatures set to reach 35 degrees on Friday—people are beginning to experience water shortages, even if drinking supplies remain unaffected for now. Sweden: hottest July in 250 years With almost no rainfall since May, Sweden experienced its hottest July in more than 250 years, with the drought and high temperatures sparking wildfires across the country, even as far north as the Arctic Circle. The fires have largely abated. A glacier on Sweden's Kebnekaise mountain has melted so much that it is no longer the country's highest point, raising concerns about the rapid pace of climate change. But relief may be on the way: meteorologists are forecasting cooler temperatures and thundershowers across the country on Saturday. France: health alert Wide swathes of France have been placed on heatwave alert as millions hit the roads for August vacations, with sweltering conditions forecast to persist into next week. The health ministry has rolled out a TV and radio campaign alerting people to the dangers of what is expected to be the most intense heatwave since 2006. Britain: retail sales down In Britain, the heatwave has hit retail sales, which were down 1.1 percent in July, according to accountancy firm BDO. "While the sunshine and buzz around England's World Cup run was a boost for pubs and supermarkets, the scorching conditions did not encourage physical shopping and only hindered footfall in shops," said BDO's Sophie Michael. "While temperatures may have been rising, retailers are being frozen out. Summer is proving to be something of a disaster for shops." Belgium: more road accidents The Belgian road safety authority VIAS reported an increase in the number of road accidents as a result of the heatwave. "The daily average number of accidents is 15 percent higher during a heatwave. And the accidents are more serious," VIAS spokesman, Stef Willems, was quoted by Belgian media as saying. Italy: free bottles of water In the Italian capital, already well-equipped with free drinking water fountains, the authorities are handing out bottles of water to tourists. The national farmers' union, Coldiretti, said that milk production was down 15 percent as cows suffered from the heat. At the same time, ice cream consumption was up 30 percent over the past week, the union said. < Here >
  20. Coastal communities struggling to adapt to climate change are beginning to do what was once unthinkable: retreat MONIQUE COLEMAN’S BASEMENT was still wet with saltwater when the rallying began. Just days after Superstorm Sandy churned into the mid-Atlantic region, pushing a record-breaking surge into the country’s most densely populated corridor, the governor of New Jersey promised to put the sand back on the beaches. The “build it back stronger” sentiment never resonated with Coleman, who lived not on the state’s iconic barrier islands but in a suburban tidal floodplain bisected by 12 lanes of interstate highway. Sandy was being billed as an unusual “Frankenstorm,” a one-in-500-year hurricane that also dropped feet of snow. But for Coleman and many residents of the Watson-Crampton neighborhood in Woodbridge Township, the disaster marked the third time their houses had been inundated by floodwaters in just three years. Taxed by the repetitive assault of hydrodynamic pressure, some foundations had collapsed. As evacuees returned home for another round of sump pumps and mold, Coleman considered her options. Woodbridge sits in the pinched waist of New Jersey, where a network of rivers and creeks drain to the Raritan Bay and then to the Atlantic Ocean. She heard that the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t be coming to build a berm or tide gate; the area had recently been evaluated, and such costly protections seemed unlikely. Spurred by previous storms, Coleman had already learned a bit about the ecological history of her nearly 350-year-old township. She discovered that parts of her neighborhood, like many chunks of this region, were developed atop low-lying wetlands, which had been elevated with poorly draining “fill” back around the early 20th century. As Coleman researched more deeply, a bigger picture emerged. “I started to realize that, in a sense, we were victims of a system because we were living in a neighborhood that should have never been built,” she says. Although she had flood insurance—her mortgage required it—Coleman knew that her premiums would soon go up, and she worried that her property value would go down. She and her husband liked their house, a prewar colonial. Best of all, it was affordable, a rare find in a town so close to New York City. Coleman had only discovered she would be living in a “special flood hazard area” once she was reading the closing paperwork in 2006. That made her nervous. She recalls her attorney waving it off by saying that at the rate we’re going, everyone in New Jersey will live in a floodplain. That might be true in spirit, as a future-looking thought experiment, but it was severely misleading given the circumstances. Desperate to move her family away from a block in Newark with increasing drug activity, Coleman signed away one type of risk for another. For four uneventful years, the marsh near the bottom of her street was an attractive amenity, a place where her three young sons could play freely. Then the drainages that wrapped around her neighborhood like a wishbone were overwhelmed by a nor’easter in 2010. And by Hurricane Irene in 2011. And again, by Sandy, in 2012.[...] If interested, please read the entire (long) article < here >.
  21. Pope Francis next week will meet with global oil executives to talk about global warming. VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will meet with some of the world's oil executives next week, likely to give them another moral nudge to clean up their act on global warming. Climate change policy and science experts are cautiously hopeful but aren't expecting any miracles or even noticeable changes. The conference will be a follow-up to the pope's encyclical three years ago calling on people to save the planet from climate change and other environmental ills, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed Friday. Cardinal Peter Turkson, who spearheaded the encyclical, set up the June 8-9 conference with the executives. The pope himself will speak to the leaders on the second day of the summit, organized with the University of Notre Dame, Burke said. Officials at the Vatican and Notre Dame would not disclose who is coming. BP, however, confirmed that its CEO Robert Dudley plans to attend, and Exxon Mobil said CEO Darren Woods would be there. Woods said this week that his company is trying to balance the risks of climate change with growing demand for energy to raise living standards in the developing world. Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, said he doubts anything "measurable" will come out of the conference but he was nevertheless hopeful. Oil companies have talked about fighting climate change, but they haven't done much beyond talk, said MIT management professor John Sterman. The pope offers "moral persuasion," but if it is just a photo opportunity for oil executives to show off "it doesn't mean anything and in fact it's just PR to help oil companies burnish up their image while they continue to delay actions," Sterman said. Jerry Taylor, president of the Washington libertarian-oriented think-tank Niskanen Center, said he figures the oil executives will tell the pope they're willing to accept action, such as a tax on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. "But what is needed is for these oil majors to tell Republican lawmakers of their concern and support for action, not the pope. And this they have not done in any focused, sustained, or meaningful way," Taylor said in an email. That's where, he said, the pontiff needs to push them farther on the morality of what they're doing, he said. Dana Fisher, a sociologist who studies environmentalism at the University of Maryland, said the pope is cementing his leadership on climate. "He certainly is trying to lead for the planet and lord knows we need it," she said. Gary Yohe, an economics and environment professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said the executives might feel compelled to listen to the spiritual leader of nearly 1.3 billion Catholics. "This is not somebody you can ignore," Yohe said. "It might be a come to Jesus moment for them." < Here >
  22. It's almost impossible to calculate how many trillions of dollars it could cost. Leading global forecasts widely underestimate the future costs of climate change, a new paper warns. The findings, to be released Monday in the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, say projections used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rely on outdated models and fail to account for “tipping points” ― key moments when global warming rapidly speeds up and becomes irreversible. The IPCC, established in 1988, is the leading international body for assessing climate change, and took on an expanded role after every country on Earth signed the Paris Agreement, the first global pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions. By relying on inaccurate economic models, the organization is misleading policymakers around the world about the risks of climate change, according to the researchers at the Environmental Defense Fund, Harvard University and the London School of Economics who co-authored the paper. Current estimates for how much climate change will cost take different forms. One recent study looked at projected damage by U.S. county, finding that some counties in low-lying Florida, for example, would see costs of up to 30 percent of their gross domestic product. Other projections are more broad, putting the worldwide figure at $535 trillion by the end of this century. “It’s difficult to quantify that,” said study co-author Thomas Stoerk, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, when asked to give his own estimate. “That’s part of the point of the paper. It could be a lot more than the consensus.” The paper breaks down into three main points: • Current projections virtually ignore a very real possibility: that events such as the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet or the faster-than-expected thawing of Arctic permafrost will act like kerosene on a bonfire. These could increase the rate of climate change astronomically. • These forecasts are based on an average of all possible climate change scenarios, even though newer models account for the increased likelihood of more warming. • The newer models are still largely abstract, but they also factor in how human uncertainty over climate change can potentially cause even more damage in the future. “We have models that allow us to rank the probabilities,” Stoerk said. “There are some models out there that quantify how much the uncertainty itself ― not knowing what’s going to happen ― drives economic estimates.” Models that rely on averages of warming possibilities fail to factor in new data that show the continued rise in emissions makes the lower-end projections impossible, he said. Newer models, however, account for that reality. “All the tools that we argue for already exist,” he added. “The IPCC could really just go out and use them.” The findings come as policy attempts to rein in the world’s greenhouse gas output fall flat. Fossil fuel emissions hit an all-time high last year, causing global carbon dioxide pollution to surge for the first time in three years ― dashing hopes that the production of planet-warming pollution peaked. In fact, 2017 was the world’s second-hottest year on record and the third-warmest in U.S. history. Climate-fueled natural disasters caused $330 billion in losses from uninsured damages just last year, according to a report from the world’s biggest reinsurer. In the United States alone, extreme weather events caused $306.2 billion in damages and killed at least 362 people outright during the worst wildfire and hurricane seasons in modern history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found in January. In perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of domestic policymakers’ failure to account for climate change-fueled devastation, Harvard researchers found that 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year ― mostly as a result of the failure to provide medication, treatment and electricity ― more than 70 times the official death toll. < Here >
  23. BEIJING - As many as 21 provinces and regions in China are baking under a scorching heatwave even as the south reels from devastating floods which killed at least 50 people and forced 1.6 million to flee their homes. A heat wave will expand from northern China to the central and eastern regions in the coming three days, reported state media. As much as one-third of China's land mass will be affected. Maximum temperatures in 31 counties and cities in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan have hit record highs. The Chinese city of Xi'an in Shaanxi saw ground temperatures hitting as high as 50 deg C on Monday (July 10), according to a report on news portal Sina. Temperatures at Xinjiang's Turpan Flaming Mountain, or Huo Yan Shan as it is famously known in the Chinese classic Journey to the West, have been above 40 deg C for the past 13 days, reported state media. The city of Turpan saw temperatures hitting a historic high of 49 deg C on July 10 while the township of Erbaoxiang saw the mercury rising above the 50 deg C mark. Apart from the Xinjiang region, Shaanxi, Gansu and Hebei provinces have experienced many days of extreme heat, with temperatures hovering between 35 and 41 deg C. The southern parts of the country, which were battered by summer floods recently, will also be experiencing very hot weather that could last from four to nine days, said Mr Sun Jun, chief weather forecaster of the National Meteorological Center. Some places like Beijing may get some relief this weekend, with temperatures forecast to drop below 35 C. While the heatwave is making people feel uncomfortable, it is not particularly severe compared to other years, like in 2013, Mr Sun added. Mr Gu Chengdong, deputy director of the emergency department at China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, warns the young and old to avoid or cut down outdoor activities. He suggests reducing time outdoors, especially during the hottest time of the day from 10am to 3pm. Heatstrokes can happen when the body temperature hits 40 deg C and may lead to organ failure, he added. Map issued by China's National Meteorological Centre on the highest temperature forecast between 8am, July 11 to 8am, July 12. < Here >
  24. Biofuel Made From Human Excrement Has Become Easier To Produce Wastewater treatment plants rejoice—you may have a hot commodity on your hands. From the toilet to the tank–biofuels from sewage. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) have developed a new method for treating human sewage to create a biocrude oil product that can be refined into a fuel akin to gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels. The process is called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), and it has been described as a sped-up version of the way the Earth naturally creates crude oil. Researchers apply a considerable amount of heat and pressure to wastewater, breaking down its chemical components into biocrude and an aqueous liquid in minutes. PNNL says that wastewater treatment plants handle approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. In a Reddit AMA held last week, Justin Billing, one of the scientists on the project, noted that sewage traditionally has three destinations—being turned into fertilizer or soil additive, going in a landfill, or being incinerated. Some wastewater treatment plants (though not all) will also use anaerobic digestion, which “reduce the volume of solids and mitigates the toxic load while also producing methane that can be used for heat and power at the plant," Billings says. But anaerobic digestion alone can’t solve the whole equation. “From a capital intensity perspective it is reasonable to consider a hydrothermal process like HTL when designing, upgrading, or expanding existing facilities,” he suggested. Although sewage sludge has been converted to biocrude before, previous methods were considered uneconomical because the sludge had to be dried out before conversion. HTL, on the other hand, pressurizes the sludge to 3,000 pounds per square inch and then heats it up to 660 degrees Fahrenheit (349 degrees Celsius), a process that's amenable to some liquid being present in the feedstock. Enlarge / Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Corinne Drennan, a bioenergy technologies researcher at PNNL, said in a statement, “There is plenty of carbon in municipal wastewater sludge and interestingly, there are also fats. The fats or lipids appear to facilitate the conversion of other materials in the wastewater such as toilet paper, keep the sludge moving through the reactor, and produce a very high quality biocrude that, when refined, yields fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels." Using HTL, PNNL estimates that those 34 billion gallons of sewage a day could be theoretically turned into 30 million gallons of refined oil per year. Each American, on average, could generate two to three gallons of the unrefined biocrude per year. (In the future, grandmothers around the country could have another reason to push you to eat more: “You look too skinny! Do you eat? Think about American oil independence!” as another spoonful of casserole gets unloaded on your plate.) The new method could be a big help to municipalities that have pledged to reduce their waste to meet sustainability goals. PNNL scientists have licensed their process to a Salt Lake City-based company called Genifuel, which is working with the Metro Vancouver group to build a demonstration plant in the Canadian city. Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver's Utilities Committee, said that the group will fund about half of the $8 million to $9 million CAD ($6 million to $6.8 million USD) that the demonstration plant is estimated to cost. Metro Vancouver will seek external funding for the other half of the money needed to fund the plant. If all goes to plan, the demonstration plant would come online in 2018. Like everything, although the method shows promise, Billings cautioned in his AMA that there are still barriers to making the process commercially viable, namely scaling up the process in a cost-effective way and proving to refiners that the biofuel is useful and marketable. Enlarge / Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum. The researchers are still working on the best ways to remove certain elements and compounds found in raw sewage from the processed sludge. On Reddit, Billings explained that the HTL process does create a solid waste product that contains phosphorous and heavy metals, which can be mined for other uses. “We use dilute sulfuric and have had success in recovering bio-available phosphorous as phosphate,” Billings wrote. PNNL notes that this could be put toward fertilizer production. As far as life-cycle CO2 reduction, Billings says the biocrude represents a 50-75 percent reduction compared to petroleum. Although the burned biofuel still creates CO2 like burning petroleum does, breaking down sludge that will either be decomposed in fertilizer production or a landfill or combusted in an incinerator offers some clear advantages to drilling for additional oil. Source
  25. A United Nations panel today said that the effects of climate change are already being felt across the globe, warning in a major report that they will likely be "severe, pervasive, and irreversible" in the years to come. The report, released by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that rising global temperatures are already having clear impacts on agriculture, human health, and water supplies across all continents, oceans, and ecosystems. These effects will become more severe over time, the panel added, putting food supplies, infrastructure, and economies at serious risk. The IPCC noted that poor countries would be especially hard hit, due to lower crop yields and tighter water supplies, though it cautioned that all will feel the effects of climate change going forward. "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change," IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters today. The report released in Japan today was based on more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies, and is the second in a series of three that the IPCC will release this year. In a similarly comprehensive report released last year, the IPCC determined that humans are almost certainly to blame for rising global temperatures, calling for policymakers to take greater steps to contain greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC's findings will likely play a major role in international discussions on combatting climate change next year. "Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement following the report's release. "Denial of the science is malpractice," he added. On Monday, the panel said that changing precipitation patterns and melting ice are already shifting water systems, and that many fish species are moving to new waters or going extinct. Rising ocean levels are threatening coastal communities, while melting permafrost in the Arctic is releasing centuries-old organic matter that will decay and release even more greenhouse gases, the report notes. According to the IPCC, the amount of scientific evidence of the effects of climate change have nearly doubled since 2007. These effects are likely to be more acute in the future, and could lead to widespread health problems and violent conflicts over land and resources. The IPCC notes that many countries have already begun adapting to climate change, though it called upon governments and businesses to invest more to mitigate the serious risks it foresees. "Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation," Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II, said in a statement. "This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change." Source
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