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Global Warming worst-case projections look increasingly likely
by Inside Climate News, NASA, NOAA, Earth Institute
12:17pm 15th Jan, 2018
Jan 18, 2018
The year 2017 was one of the planet''s three warmest years on record—and the warmest without El Niño conditions that give rising global temperatures an extra boost, U.S. and UK government scientists announced on Thursday.
The year was marked by disasters around the globe of the kind expected in a warming climate: powerful hurricanes tore up the islands of the Caribbean and the Texas and Florida coasts; Europe experienced a heat wave so severe it was nicknamed "Lucifer"; record-breaking wildfires raged across California, Portugal and Chile; and exceptional rainfall flooded parts of South Asia and the U.S. Midwest and triggered landslides that killed hundreds of people in Africa.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration''s annual State of the Climate: Global Climate Report has been documenting the warming of the planet and the effects of those rising temperatures. With the UK''s Met Office, it declared 2017 the third-warmest year, after 2016 and 2015. In a separate analysis, NASA said that 2017 was the second warmest on record, based on a different method of analyzing global temperatures. The World Meteorological Organization said temperatures in 2015 and 2017 were "virtually indistinguishable."
"The annual change from year to year can bounce up and down," Derek Arndt, head of the monitoring branch at NOAA''s National Centers for Environmental Information, said, "but the long-term trends are very clear."
The six warmest years in 138 years of record keeping have now all occurred since 2010, NOAA noted. Nine of the top 10 have been since 2005.
Globally, temperatures in 2017 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) above the 20th Century average, according to the report. The warmth prevailed over almost every corner of the globe, the agencies found. Hot, dry conditions contributed to record wildfires on three continents, droughts in Africa, and heat waves so intense that planes had to be grounded in Phoenix.
Ocean temperatures also experienced their third-warmest year on record, well after the last strong El Niño conditions dissipated in early 2016. Warm oceans can fuel powerful tropical storms like the three hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico and other parts of the United States.
The reports noted that 2017 was the hottest year on record that did not coincide with El Niño conditions, a periodic warming of surface waters in parts of the Pacific that tends to increase temperatures globally.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA''s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that if you were to remove the influence of the El Niño pattern, the past four years all would have seen record-breaking average temperatures, with each year warmer than the last, including 2017.
Regionally, declining sea-ice trends continued in the Arctic, with a record-low sea-ice extent recorded in the first three months of 2017 and the second-lowest annual average.
The director of the UK Met Office, Prof Peter Stott, told BBC News: "It''s extraordinary that temperatures in 2017 have been so high when there''s no El Niño.. It shows clearly that the biggest natural influence on the climate is being dwarfed by human activities – predominantly CO₂ emissions."
The World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the long-term temperature trend was far more important than the ranking of individual years.
"That trend is an upward one," he said. “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have all been during this century, and the degree of warming during the past three years has been exceptional.
“Arctic warmth has been especially pronounced and this will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world.”
Bob Ward, from the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, pointed out that this year governments were due to start assessing the gap between their collective ambitions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the goals of the Paris climate agreement, to stabilise temperature rise below 2C, and as close to 1.5 as possible.
“The record temperature should focus the minds of world leaders, on the scale and urgency of the risks that people, rich and poor, face around the world from climate change," he said.
The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting issued its bulletin on 4 January. It called 2017 as the second warmest on record.
Jan 12, 2018
The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees warming is ''a greater likelihood of drought, flooding, resource depletion, conflict and forced migration,’ a new IPCC draft warns. (Inside Climate News)
A far-reaching report being drafted by the United Nations authoritative climate science panel explores in comprehensive detail the environmental justice, poverty and other human rights challenges facing the world as it pursues the urgent and daunting goals of the Paris Agreement.
"In a 1.5 degree Celsius warmer world"—a world we''re likely to see by mid-century without a global transformation in the next decade, the latest version of the draft report says—"those most at risk will be individuals and communities experiencing multidimensional poverty, persistent vulnerabilities and various forms of deprivation and disadvantage."
To help protect them, it calls for policies "guided by concerns for equity and fairness and enhanced support for eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities."
In scope, scale and detail—but also in its careful attention to questions of ethics and justice—this report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a landmark work in progress.
When negotiators during the Paris climate talks called for deep and rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming within as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial era levels, everybody realized that the target was extraordinarily ambitious.
Nations had not pledged strict enough controls to achieve even a 2 degree limit. And there was little scientific research into the implications of a 1.5 degree increase, as opposed to a 2 degree increase, to guide policymakers decisions about how to cut even more.
But with one eye on the most recent evidence and the other on the clock, they pressed for more ambition on the grounds that it was vital for the poorest and most vulnerable people. The report is intended to synthesize the latest findings to steer that process.
After two years of intense research and consultations, scientists have compiled extensive new evidence that those instincts were correct—and that, if anything, the crisis may be more acute than previously realized.
The emerging report is more than 800 pages long, heavily footnoted and packed with graphics and sidebars. It lays out as never before "an assessment of current knowledge of the extent and interlinkages of the global environmental, economic, financial, social and technical conditions that a 1.5 degree Celsius warmer world represents." It takes on "complex ethics questions" that demand "interdisciplinary research and reflection."
How, it asks, will a 1.5 degree warmer world impact the human rights of the dispossessed, "including their rights to water, shelter, food, health and life? How will it affect the rights of the urban and rural poor, indigenous communities, women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities?"
The draft report gauges how the half-degree gap from 1.5 to 2 degrees of warming "amounts to a greater likelihood of drought, flooding, resource depletion, conflict and forced migration."
It notes that even if all the nations achieve their Paris pledges, the result will be worldwide emissions in 2030 that already lock in 1.5 degrees of warming by the end of this century. The temperature barrier would likely be broken by mid-century, as Reuters noted in first reporting on the draft study. Even the 2 degree target eventually would fall unless emissions are brought to zero, the IPCC and other agencies have repeatedly warned.
"Delayed action or weak near-term policies increase the likelihood of exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius target," the draft report warns.
Either way, the outlook is dire, especially for the poor.
"The risks to human societies through impacts on health, livelihood, food and water security, human security and infrastructure are higher with 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming compared to today, and higher still with 2 degrees Celsius global warming compared with 1.5 degrees," the draft concludes.
"These risks are greatest for people facing multiple forms of poverty, inequality and marginalization; people in coastal communities and those dependent on agriculture; poor urban residents; and communities displaced from their homes."
Suitable pathways forward, the report said, must square the circle of energy use and sustainable development—not an easy task, but one that would pay off with a cleaner environment, better health, prospering ecosystems and other benefits. There would be risks for poverty, hunger and access to energy; those must be "alleviated by redistributive measures."
Experts were invited last week to download the document from the website of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which will gather comments and then offer feedback to the IPCC. While the document is marked as a draft not to be circulated or cited, an expert sent a copy to InsideClimate News in order that it be given wider exposure.
The text and conclusions can be expected to change between now and October, the deadline for a final draft.
The focus on justice and fairness is enlisted to press for substantial transformations of the energy landscape as emissions from fossil fuels are eliminated and changes in land management, among other steps, are pressed hard.
On the one hand, these remedies "are put at risk by high population growth, low economic development, and limited efforts to reduce energy demand," the report says. On the other hand, the solutions cannot be allowed to burden the poor.
There are many possible pathways, but no guarantee that any of them will stop global warming.
Achieving the 1.5 degree target, scientists have concluded, "requires that net global CO2 emissions fall to zero by the middle of the century. Scenarios that achieve this would see coal phased out, renewable energy become the dominant source of electricity by 2050, and rapid cuts made to non-CO2 drivers of warming, including methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons. Different pathways—including those that see warming temporarily overshoot 1.5 degrees Celsius and return later in the century—will have different implications for climate impacts, sustainable development and equity."
There are many alarming signposts along the way. The vanishing of coral reefs is one—not quite as cataclysmic in a 1.5 degree world, but enough to "decrease resources and increase poverty levels across the world''s tropical coastlines in the short term, highlighting the key issues of equity for the millions of people that depend on these valuable ecosystems."
On the coast of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, one recent study found, 1.5 degrees warming rather than 2 degrees of warming would mean 40 percent fewer incidents of annual coral bleaching events until 2050. That would make a big difference for subsistence fishing, tourism, and coastal flood protection.
In another example, at the 2 degree target, 781 million people would be exposed to one severe heat and drought event per year, while at the 1.5 degree target, the number would be 455 million—mostly in tropical and subtropical regions.
There is some hope, the report says, of finding pathways that limit warming while sustaining development. But it questions whether the world has the political, institutional or moral spine to carry this off.
"Flexible governance will be needed to ensure they are inclusive, fair and successful," the report warns. "Equity, like equality, aims to promote justness and fairness for all. This is not necessarily the same as treating everyone equally, since not everyone comes from the same starting point."
Jan. 2018
Keep global warming under 1.5C or ''quarter of planet could become arid''. (Guardian News)
A global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels could see many regions facing an increased threat of drought and wildfires, study suggests.
More than a quarter of the planet’s surface could become significantly drier if global temperatures rise 2C above pre-industrial levels, scientists predict.
The study, which is one of the most detailed assessments to date of future aridity, suggests that many regions could face an increased threat of drought and wildfires.
Limiting global warming to under 1.5C would avoid extreme changes for two-thirds of these areas, the study suggested.
Chang-Eui Park, the first author from the Southern University of Science and Technology (Sustech) in Shenzhen China, said: “Aridification is a serious threat because it can critically impact areas such as agriculture, water quality, and biodiversity. It can also lead to more droughts and wildfires similar to those seen raging across California.”
Aridity is a measure of the dryness of the land surface, which can be calculated by combining predictions of precipitation and evaporation.
The scientists studied projections from 27 different global climate models to pinpoint regions where the land is expected to become significantly drier, as global warming reaches 1.5C and 2C above pre-industrial levels.
Manoj Joshi, a co-author of the study from the University of East Anglia (UEA), said: “Our research predicts that aridification would emerge over about 20 to 30% of the world’s land surface by the time the global mean temperature change reaches 2C. But two-thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification if warming is limited to 1.5C.”
Drought severity has already increased across the Mediterranean, southern Africa, and the eastern coast of Australia during the 20th century, while semi-arid areas of Mexico, Brazil, southern Africa and Australia have started turning into desert as the world warms. The study suggested that equatorial regions and countries at high latitudes could get wetter.
Prof Tim Osborn, also one of the study’s co-authors from UEA, said: “The areas of the world which would most benefit from keeping warming below 1.5C are parts of south-east Asia, southern Europe, southern Africa, Central America and southern Australia where more than 20% of the world’s population live today.”
The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
27 Dec. 2017
Parts of the Earth to become uninhabitable within 50 years, by Earth Institute at Columbia University, agencies.
High humidity will magnify the effects of rising heat from South America to India, affecting people''s ability to work and even survive, unless greenhouse gas emissions are substantially cut in coming decades, according to U.S. researchers.
Heat remains underestimated as a threat by governments, aid agencies and individuals, and muggy heat is even more oppressive than the "dry" kind, because it stops people from sweating which takes away excess heat.
A new study from the Earth Institute at Columbia University found areas along the coast and others that experience humid-weather patterns will be most affected by higher temperatures unless governments curb greenhouse gas emissions that can raise temperatures and put in place measures to tackle the heat.
The areas likely to be affected include the Amazon, southeastern United States, western and central Africa, parts of the Middle East, northern India and eastern China.
Current and projected "wet bulb" temperatures - which reflect the combined effects of heat and humidity - found that by the 2070s, high wet-bulb readings that now occur maybe once a year could prevail 100-250 days of the year in some parts.
"The conditions we''re talking about basically never occur now - people in most places have never experienced them," said lead author Ethan Coffel at Columbia''s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
"Failure to adopt both mitigation and adaptation measures is likely to result in suffering, economic damage, and increased heat-related mortality."
Rising temperatures may make low-latitude developing nations in the Asian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa and South America practically uninhabitable during the summer months, another report earlier this year noted.
With muggy heat, the air is already heavy with moisture, so sweat stops evaporating, halting a process to cool the body. If there is no air conditioning, organs strain and can start to fail.
This can lead to lethargy, sickness and, in the worst conditions, death, according to the new study.
The study projects parts of the Middle East and northern India may hit 35 wet-bulb degrees Celsius by late century - equal to the skin''s temperature, and the theoretical limit at which people will die within hours without artificial cooling.
"It''s not just about the heat.. it''s about how many people are poor, how many are old, who has to go outside to work, who has air conditioning," said Alex de Sherbinin at Columbia''s Center for International Earth Science Information Network.
* Access the report:
Jan. 2018
Areas starved of oxygen in open ocean and by coasts have soared in recent decades, risking dire consequences for marine life and humanity, reports Damian Carrington for Guardian News.
Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, scientists have warned, while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold. Most sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and current trends would lead to mass extinction in the long run, risking dire consequences for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.
Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas.
The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the first comprehensive analysis of the areas and states: “Major extinction events in Earth’s history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans.” Denise Breitburg, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the US and who led the analysis, said: “Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path.”
“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” She pointed to recoveries in Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Thames river in the UK, where better farm and sewage practices led to dead zones disappearing.
However, Prof Robert Diaz at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who reviewed the new study, said: “Right now, the increasing expansion of coastal dead zones and decline in open ocean oxygen are not priority problems for governments around the world. Unfortunately, it will take severe and persistent mortality of fisheries for the seriousness of low oxygen to be realised.”
The oceans feed more than 500 million people, especially in poorer nations, and provide jobs for 350 million people. But at least 500 dead zones have now been reported near coasts, up from fewer than 50 in 1950. Lack of monitoring in many regions means the true number may be much higher.
The open ocean has natural low oxygen areas, usually off the west coast of continents due to the way the rotation of the Earth affects ocean currents. But these dead zones have expanded dramatically, increasing by millions of square kilometres since 1950, roughly equivalent to the area of the European Union.
Furthermore, the level of oxygen in all ocean waters is falling, with 2% – 77bn tonnes – being lost since 1950. This can reduce growth, impair reproduction and increase disease, the scientists warn. One irony is that warmer waters not only hold less oxygen but also mean marine organisms have to breathe faster, using up oxygen more quickly.
There are also dangerous feedback mechanisms. Microbes that proliferate at very low oxygen levels produce lots of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
In coastal regions, fertiliser, manure and sewage pollution cause algal blooms and when the algae decompose oxygen is sucked out of the water. However, in some places, the algae can lead to more food for fish and increase catches around the dead zones. This may not be sustainable though, said Breitburg: “There is a lot of concern that we are really changing the way these systems function and that the overall resilience of these systems may be reduced.”
The new analysis was produced by an international working group created in 2016 by Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The commission’s Kirsten Isensee said: “Ocean deoxygenation is taking place all over the world as a result of the human footprint, therefore we also need to address it globally.”
Lucia von Reusner, campaign director of the campaign group, Mighty Earth, which recently exposed a link between the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and large scale meat production, said: “These dead zones will continue to expand unless the major meat companies that dominate our global agricultural system start cleaning up their supply chains to keep pollution out of our waters.”
Diaz said the speed of ocean suffocation already seen was breathtaking: “No other variable of such ecological importance to coastal ecosystems has changed so drastically in such a short period of time from human activities as dissolved oxygen.”
He said the need for urgent action is best summarised by the motto of the American Lung Association: “If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

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