Category: Uncategorized

Study says current rate of sea level rise is unprecedented in recent history

‘Our study is for sea level what the now well-confirmed famous ‘hockey stick’ diagram was for global temperature’

As global warming drives rising sea levels and more intense storms, some communities are looking to augment their beaches with "imported" sand. like here on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida.
As global warming drives rising sea levels and more intense storms, some communities are looking to augment their beaches with “imported” sand, like here on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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.

While there is still some uncertainty among climate scientists as to the extent of future sea level rise, there is little doubt that the current increase is unprecedented in recent times, according to a recent study by scientists with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“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.”

Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?

Hurricane Isaac satellite image
Tropical storm Isaac churning in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New study suggests tropical storms will become more intense

Staff Report

Tropical storms may become less frequent as the planet warms up, but those that do form could be increasingly powerful, according to a new study published in the journal Science last week.

How global warming will affect tropical storm formation in the decades ahead has been the subject of intensive research. The new study says that, so far, the warming effects of greenhouse gases on tropical cyclones have been hard to discern because of natural variability and also because air pollution has been masking the impacts. Continue reading “Will global warming super-charge hurricanes?”

Medical marijuana cuts costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program

marijuana bud
Medical marijuana is legal in 25 states, and is reducing costs for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program, according to a new study.

Patients using cannabis as alternative to prescription drugs

Staff Report

A new study by health experts at the University of Georgia suggests that people are using marijuana as an alternative to prescription medications for ailments that range from pain to sleep disorders.

That trend translates to about $165.2 million in savings for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program in 2013, the researchers reported in the journal  Health Affairs.The results suggest that if all states had implemented medical marijuana the overall savings to Medicare would have been around $468 million.

The can give policymakers and others another tool to evaluate the pros and cons of medical marijuana legalization, said study co-author W. David Bradford, who is the Busbee Chair in Public Policy in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs. Continue reading “Medical marijuana cuts costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program”

Vaquita population drops to brink of extinction

vaquita4_olsen
Continued poaching is pushing the vaquita toward extinction. Photo courtesy Paula Olsen/NOAA.

New survey results show as few as 60 remaining vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California

Staff Report

The population of vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California may be down to just 60 individuals, according to conservation advocates, who released the results of recent surveys in a press release last week.

The vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise and could be extinct in less than a decade without stringent conservation measures, especially a complete and well-enforced ban on gill nets in the northern Gulf of California. The new vaquita population estimate is based on observer data and acoustic monitoring conducted during a joint Mexico-U.S. vaquita research cruise last fall. Continue reading “Vaquita population drops to brink of extinction”

Does industrial pollution from Asia cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Pacific Ocean?

New research offers clues on global pollution pathways

oceans6
A new study shows  industrial pollution from Asia affects the health of tropical oceans. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Polluted dust from Asia is cutting oxygen levels in the tropical Pacific Ocean, researchers said this week, releasing a new study that traces a chain reaction that starts with land-based industrial pollution in China and other Asian countries.

“There’s a growing awareness that oxygen levels in the ocean may be changing over time,” said Taka Ito, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “One reason for that is the warming environment – warm water holds less gas. But in the tropical Pacific, the oxygen level has been falling at a much faster rate than the temperature change can explain,” Ito said.

The study found that the pollution raises levels of iron and nitrogen  in the ocean off the coast of East Asia. Ocean currents then carried the nutrients to tropical regions, where it feeds photosynthesizing phytoplankton. As those organisms feed on the nutrients, it has a negative effect on the dissolved oxygen levels deeper in the ocean. Continue reading “Does industrial pollution from Asia cause oxygen-starved dead zones in the Pacific Ocean?”

National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules

sdfg
A fracking boom near national parks has already degraded air quality and fragmented wildlife habitat around some of the country’s most cherished public lands. @bberwyn photo.

Agency acknowledges potential for adverse impacts to park values

Staff Report

The recent surge in fossil fuel exploitation on public lands near national parks has raised serious concerns about air quality, wildlife and scenic values — to the point that the National Parks Conservation Association outlined threats in a report a few years ago.

Now, the National Park Service wants to tackle some of the concerns by updating drilling regulations.  The proposal would revise current rules that are 36 years old, predating the modern fracking area. The agency hopes the update will give the fossil fuel industry more certainty, improve the agency’s ability to protect park resources and the values for which the parks were set aside, and protect visitors from potentially adverse impacts associated with fossil fuel development. Continue reading “National Park Service to update oil and gas drilling rules”