Climate: Another warning on permafrost ‘tipping point’

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Melting permafrost could trigger a massive surge in global greenhouse gas emissions.

‘The real and imminent threat posed by permafrost thawing must be communicated clearly and broadly to the general public and the policy community’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Policy makers should pay more attention to the potential to the potential for greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, a team of researchers warned in a special bulletin, released as President Obama prepares to attend an international conference on the Arctic.

Arctic permafrost – ground that has been frozen for many thousands of years – is thawing, and the results could be disastrous and irreversible, potentially triggering a spiral of global warming far beyond any of the scenarios currently envisioned, a team of scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center wrote in a policy brief. Continue reading

Climate: Scientists warn of boreal forest ‘tipping point’

Climate zones in boreal forests are shifting northward ten times faster than the trees’ ability to migrate

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More monitoring, adaptive management needed in crucial forest zones.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world’s vast boreal forests, stretching around the globe at high latitudes, could reach a climate tipping during this century, according to a team of international researchers who said there needs to be more attention on climate mitigation and adaptation with respect to these forests.

Boreal forests make up about 30 percent of the planet’s total forest area and play a vital role in in the global climate system by capturing huge amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Report: Little doubt that global warming will eradicate the world’s glaciers and ice sheets

‘The big picture across the world and over the long run is clear — carbon dioxide is making the ice melt’

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A Greenland glacier shows signs of wear and tear during the peak of the summer melt season. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just like today, there were regional nuances in the Earth’s climate at the end of the last ice age — like solar radiation and ocean currents — that were factors in the meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers.

But the single biggest overriding cause was a global rise in temperatures caused by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a team of researchers said in a new study that measured isotopes in boulders that were uncovered during the global meltdown 11,000 years ago. Continue reading

July 2015 was the hottest month on record for Earth

All signs point toward more record-breaking heat ahead

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Only a few small parts of the planet saw anywhere near average or below average temperatures in July 2015.

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There is little question that average global temperatures have been soaring since the 1970s.

Staff Report

FRISCO — July 2015 was the hottest month on record for planet Earth by any measure, federal climate scientists said this week during their monthly global climate update. What’s more, the researchers are 99 percent sure that 2015 will end up as the hottest year since humankind has been tracking the climate, going back to about 1880.

That would break the record set just last year and is sure sign that greenhouse gases are inexorably heating the planet, despite year-to-year variations in the rate of warming. Continue reading

Climate: EPA seeks to cut landfill methane emissions

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Cutting methane emissions is a key piece of the Obama administration’s climate strategy.

Cost of new regs estimated at $55 billion

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil and gas drilling aren’t the only sources of methane. Landfills generate a significant amount of the heat-trapping gas as waste materials decompose in the ground. Now, the EPA wants to reduce those emissions amount by a third with a rule that would require landfills to collect and control methane.

According to the agency, municipal landfills are the third-largest source of methane, accounting for 18 percent of methane emissions in 2013 – the equivalent of approximately 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution. Continue reading

Climate: Deep oceans likely to feel CO2 legacy for centuries

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Melting sea ice around Greenland. @bberwyn photo.

‘If we do not implement emissions reductions measures in line with the 2 degrees Celsius target in time, we will not be able to preserve ocean life as we know it’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Removing CO2 from the atmosphere as a last-ditch effort to avoid dangerous climate change probably wouldn’t be enough to ameliorate impacts to the world’s oceans, where the legacy of carbon pollution will likely play out for centuries to come in the form of deep ocean heat and increasing acidification.

These changes would linger even if the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration were to be restored to pre-industrial levels at some point in the future, according to a new Nature Climate Change paper from an international team including Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution. This is due to the tremendous inertia of the ocean system. Continue reading

Watchdogs say voluntary methane cuts aren’t enough

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‘To fight global warming, we need real methane rules …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A slew of recent studies showing how heat-trapping methane emissions have been consistently underestimated apparently didn’t have a big impact on the EPA, which has proposed a voluntary program to try and cut atmospheric methane buildup, with some mandatory regulations still in the works.

The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program (“Methane Challenge”) (PDF) (18 pp, 512K, About PDF) would provide a new mechanism enabling oil and gas companies cto track ambitious commitments to reduce methane emissions. According to the EPA, the program is based on extensive stakeholder outreach and reflects a revision of EPA’s previously proposed Gas STAR Gold framework. Continue reading

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