Environmental groups slam airline carbon-offset program

Can the air transport industry get a a grip on its greenhouse gas emissions? @bberwyn photo.

Voluntary program won’t help curb rapidly rising emissions, according to critics

Staff Report

Climate activists and conservation groups say a voluntary international airline carbon-trading scheme doesn’t go nearly far enough to curb greenhouse gas pollution.

Growth in the aviation sector puts the industry on track to triple emissions by 2050, but the new carbon-offset program won’t even take effect until 2021 and is slated to remain voluntary through 2027. According to the climate-action advocates, the deal, adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), only covers about a quarter of total emissions and shifts the industry’s growing carbon debt on to third parties using what could be questionable carbon-offset credits. Continue reading “Environmental groups slam airline carbon-offset program”

Pacific bluefin tuna may get endangered species status

A rampant black market and lax regulations are quickly leading to the demise of the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Overfishing is pushing bluefin tuna toward extinction.

Unsustainable fishing is pushing the species to the brink of oblivion

Staff Report

Federal regulators are one step closer to putting Pacific bluefin tuna on the endangered species list, as humankind’s insatiable appetite for resources drives the fish to the edge of extinction. The announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service came in response to a petition filed by conservation groups, who say bluefin tuna populations have declined by about 97 percent since the advent of industrial fishing operations. Continue reading “Pacific bluefin tuna may get endangered species status”

Study says global warming ups odds of Southwest megadrought

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases may dessicate Colorado River Basin

The paradox of water in the desert, illustrated by a NASA satellite image of the Colorado River.
Megadroughts ahead? Satellite photo of the Colorado River Basin via NASA.

Staff Report

It’s very likely the southwestern U.S. will be hit by droughts unlike any seen since the region was settled by Europeans. Global warming has driven the odds of a 10-year drought to at least 50 percent, and the chances of a 35-year megadrought range from 20 to 50 percent during the next century, according to a new study led by researchers with Cornell, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Global warming is “weighting the dice” for megadroughts, said lead study author Toby Ault, explaining that the buildup of greenhouse gases is shifting the climate dramatically. The study is set to be published in an upcoming issue of the  American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. Continue reading “Study says global warming ups odds of Southwest megadrought”

Sunday set: Riverside

Rock my soul

During out last reporting trek we visited a unique wildnerness area in central Austria, in the far eastern reaches of the Alps, to learn how resources managers and citizens perceive wilderness in the heart of a densely populated country. The area is the watershed of the Ybbsteinbach, which flows into the Ybbs, and then into the Danube, which is really a mountain river at heart. Learning how resources managers are trying to recreate a true undisturbed wilderness area here was inspiring, and we have a story coming up, but for now enjoy these autumn riverside scenes and visit our online gallery for more landscape photography. And learn more about our reporting in the Alps here.

Melting Arctic may not be to blame for slowdown in critical Atlantic Ocean current

A pool of icy water twice the size of Lake Victoria could disrupt the Gulf Stream when it pours out of the Arctic Ocean into the Atlantic.
A new study tries to determine why a key Atlantic Ocean current is slowing down.

New study eyes link to Southern Hemisphere

Staff Report

A slowdown of a key heat-carrying Atlantic current may not be due to melting Arctic ice, but to changes in the Southern Hemisphere, according to University of Washington scientists studying how climate change may affect global wind and ocean flows.

Their new study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, analyzed data from satellites and ocean sensors off Miami that have tracked the Atlantic overturning circulation for more than a decade. Together they show a definite slowdown since 2004, confirming a trend suspected before then from spottier data.

Several recent studies have warned that a large influx of cold, fresh water from the melting Arctic might be impeding the current, which moves warmer water north along the ocean’s surface and sends cold water southward at depths. But the latest research found that changes in the Southern Hemisphere may be a bigger factor. Continue reading “Melting Arctic may not be to blame for slowdown in critical Atlantic Ocean current”

Paris climate deal hits threshold to take effect

Can the world live up to the Paris climate agreement? @bberwyn photo.

Now the real work begins

By Bob Berwyn

The Paris climate agreement has reached the milestones needed to take effect, as 70 countries, representing almost 57 percent of global emissions, have formally signed on to the deal. According to the United Nations, Canada, the European and Nepal deposited their instruments of ratification with the global body Wednesday, Oct. 6. The agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, will become effective Nov. 4.

In a prepared statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable. ”

Under the agreement, more than 190 countries agreed late last year to try and decarbonize the world’s energy systems by the middle of the century to end the buildup of heat-trapping pollution that has already raised the world’s average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius since 1850. In the past few months, the global temperature has spiked near the 1.5 degree threshold. Climate scientists agree that capping the rise at 2 degrees is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change impacts like deadly droughts and heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather events.

The treaty also requires richer countries to set up a mitigation fund to help developing countries adapt to impacts. All countries party to the deal must submit individual plans and update them on a regular basis.

Commenting on the news from the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said that, if the world follows through on the deal’s terms, “history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.” More from the White House here.

Making it real will require a massive transformation of the world’s economy, and despite the good intentions, there are not many strong signs that will actually happen soon enough. Some recent studies have also warned that the planet is just 15 years away from hitting the 1.5 degree threshold, and that without immediate and massive greenhouse gas cuts, the 2-degree Celsius mark will be passed as early as 2050.

Understanding the urgency, the world community may try to ramp up climate action as soon as the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh in November.

Antarctic sea ice peaks near record-low extent

Australian scientists document early start to melt season

Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it's melting faster than ever. bberwyn photo.
Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it’s melting faster than ever. bberwyn photo.
Antarctic sea ice extent was near a record low in late September and early October. Via NSIDC.

Staff Report

Australian scientists say Antarctic sea ice started its annual spring retreat early this year and has set new daily record lows for extent during late September — during the Austral spring, when Antarctic sea ice is at a maximum.

In a press release, the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre said the sea ice extent started its annual retreat early, just two years after  winter sea ice extent around Antarctica reached a new record high in September 2014, when it exceeded 20 million square kilometres for the first time since satellite measurements began in 1979.

This year, Antarctic sea ice began its annual spring retreat about four weeks earlier than average, after peaking at 18.5 million square kilometres on 28 August 2016, which was close to the lowest winter maximum on record.

Continue reading “Antarctic sea ice peaks near record-low extent”