New study suggests rapid meltdown during post-ice age warming
After taking a close look at rocks from West Antarctica’s dramatic Ellsworth Mountains, climate researchers say there’s a chance that ice sheets in the region could melt quickly as the planet warms, potentially causing sea level to rise by six to eight feet.
The new study, published in Nature Communications, took a close look at Antarctic climate change about 21,000 years ago during a period of warming after the coldest point of the most recent Ice Age. They found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet reached a tipping point, after which it thinned relatively quickly, losing 400m of thickness in 3,000 years. Continue reading “What’s the tipping point for Antarctica’s ice sheets?”→
Disease may be exacerbated by warm water, low stream flows
The Yellowstone River, part of Montana’s iconic western landscape, is once again beset by environmental woes, as a rapidly spreading fish kill has spurred state resource managers to close the river to all recreational uses, including fishing, boating and tubing. Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they’ve counted more than 2,000 dead mountain whitefish, and the estimate the total mortality in the tens of thousands. The river was also hammered by an oilspill in 2011 after pipeline burst. Continue reading “Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River”→
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed changes in the population of 62 wild bee species, comparing them with patters of oilseed rape crops between 1994 and 2011, as the use of commercial use of neonicotinoids became widespread.
The findings suggest that systemic pesticides contributed to a “large-scale and long-term decline” in wild bee species distributions and communities. Species that regularly forage on treated rape fields declined, on average, three times as much as species that feed on a wider variety of plants, showing that oilseed rape is a principle mechanism of neonicotinoid exposure among wild bee communities. Continue reading “Neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in decline of wild bees across the UK”→
‘Our study is for sea level what the now well-confirmed famous ‘hockey stick’ diagram was for global temperature’
The global rise of sea level may not be as dramatic or as easily visible as some other signs of global warming like melting glaciers, but it will be one of the most destructive and expensive long-term impacts. With a huge percentage of the world’s population living in coastal regions, society will need to take costly measures to protect people. In some cases, there will no option but to move entire communities away from the rising waters.
“Our study is for sea level what the now well-confirmed famous ‘hockey stick’ diagram was for global temperature,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, co-author of the paper on past sea-level rise and Co-Chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. “We can confirm what earlier, more local sea-level data already suggested: during the past millennia sea-level has never risen nearly as fast as during the last century.”
The researchers said greenhouse gas emissions have caused at least half of the observed sea level rise in the 20th century, and possibly even all of it.
While the study didn’t break new ground in terms of projections, it’s important to be able to show with great certainty how much sea level will rise, Rahmstorf said.
“The new sea-level data confirm once again just how unusual the age of modern global warming due to our greenhouse gas emissions is – and they demonstrate that one of the most dangerous impacts of global warming, rising seas, is well underway.”
Barring any catastrophic climate feedback loops that could accelerate the meltdown of Arctic and Antarctic ice, the researchers said sea-levels worldwide will rise by 50 to 130 centimeters by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced rapidly.
“With all the greenhouse-gases we already emitted, we cannot stop the seas from rising altogether, but we can substantially limit the rate of the rise by ending the use of fossil fuels,” said PIK’s Anders Levermann, who specializes in climate adaptation.
“We try to give coastal planners what they need for adaptation planning, be it building dikes, designing insurance schemes for floodings, or mapping long-term settlement retreat.”
Even if the world’s countries live up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, sea level will rise 20 to 60 centimeters by 2100.
“This is quite a challenge, but less expensive than adaptation to unabated sea-level rise which in some regions is impossible”, Levermann adds. “If the world wants to avoid the greatest losses and damages, it now has to rapidly follow the path laid out by the UN climate summit in Paris.”
The likely future sea-level rise cannot be brought down to just one number, but is represented as a range, which at first sight might seem large.
“The range allows for a risk assessment,” said Ben Marzeion from the University of Bremen, Germany. “Coastal Planners need to know how a reasonable worst-case scenario as well as a well-founded best-case scenario look like to weigh chances and costs. The best available science is now converging towards a common uncertainty range of future sea-level rise. Curbing greenhouse gas emissions now gives us the chance to prevent sea level rise to accelerate further.”
Research to help shape efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution
By Bob Berwyn
Emissions from oil and gas production along the Colorado Front Range are a significant, measurable part of the region’s chronic summer ozone problem, scientists concluded after taking a close look at air pollution during an extensive research project in the summer of 2014.
Ozone levels in the area often spike above 70 parts per billion, a level deemed by the EPA to be dangerous to human health and to the environment, causing respiratory problems and damage to plants. About 17 ppb of that ozone are produced locally; about 3 ppb come from oil and gas industry emissions, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Fossil fuel protestors targeted by undercover investigations
The threat of international terrorism apparently is not keeping federal agents so busy that they don’t have time to investigate the largely peaceful community of climate activists who are advocating for a rapid shift to a carbon-free energy economy.
In recent months, federal and local law enforcement agencies have cooperated with fossil fuel companies to spy on groups like 350.org and the Break Free movement, as shown by a series of documents obtained by The Intercept. Those records show that agents went underground to monitor the groups activities and training sessions. Of course, such domestic intelligence operations aren’t new — paranoid government agencies have a long history of tracking activists going back at least to Dr. Martin Luther King. Continue reading “Why is the government spying on climate activists?”→
‘Reducing immediate impacts is essential to tackling the biodiversity crisis’
About 75 percent of the world’s threatened species are at risk because of human impacts to their environment and unsustainable harvesting, according to a new study in the journal Nature.
“Addressing these old foes of overharvesting and agricultural activities are key to turning around the biodiversity extinction crisis” said lead author Sean Maxwell of the University of Queensland, “This must be at the forefront of the conservation agenda.”
Scientists from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the International Union for Conservation of Nature studied 8,688 species on the IUCN Red List. They found that 72 percent of species are imperiled by unsustainable harvesting. The production of food, fodder, fiber and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees imperils another 62 percent. By comparison, 19 percent are considered threatened by climate change. Continue reading “New report IDs biggest global threats to wildlife”→