2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #13B

Borrowed time on disappearing land

River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In this delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal. 

Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land by Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Mar 28, 2014

Changing views on biofuels reflected in forthcoming IPCC report 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s new report, due to be launched next week, is likely to give a new and updated perspective on biofuels - reflecting a flood of research on their impact on natural systems in past years. 

The UN-created body launched its last major report back in 2007. At that time, the idea of using plant based crops as a replacement for fossil fuels was largely viewed as an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. 

But soon after, studies began emerging in the scientific literature that challenged this idea. They suggested biofuels could damage the environment, drive up food prices, or even increase greenhouse gas emissions

Carbon briefing: changing views on biofuels reflected in forthcoming climate report by Robin Webster, the Carbon Brief, Mar 25, 2014

Climate change is going to turn the Earth into a planet of hungry kids

Talk of climate change-induced disasters probably brings to mind Pacific islands disappearing into the ocean, powerful storm surges, overwhelming floods, and raging wildfires. But some of the impacts — stemming in part from some of these same phenomena — will be more prosaic, but just as deadly.

Take food. A report released Monday evening by Oxfam America, an anti-poverty organization, finds that, “food prices could double by 2030, with half of this rise driven by climate change.” The result? “There could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of 5 in 2050, compared with a world without climate change.”

We’re not talking about kids in the backseat whining that they want their chicken McNuggets posthaste. This is about already impoverished families in the world’s poorest countries that will be pushed to starvation by rising prices for their dietary staples.

Climate change is going to turn the Earth into a planet of hungry kids by Ben Adler, Grist, Mar 26, 2014

Extreme weather, natural disasters led to $45 billion in insurance losses

Disasters such as floods in Europe, winter storms in the U.S. and typhoons in Asia cost insurance companies $45 billion in 2013, a leading Swiss firm said Wednesday.

The sum represents only about a third of the $140 billion in economic losses, not to mention 26,000 lives lost, from 308 catastrophes and disasters around the globe last year, according to Zurich-based Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd., known as Swiss Re.

As a whole, Asia was the region that suffered the most, with $62 billion in economic losses and more than 20,000 victims. But only $6 billion was paid in claims, reflecting the region's relative lack of insurance.

Extreme Weather, Natural Disasters Led To $45 Billion In Insurance Losses In 2013 by John Helprin, AP/The Huffington Post, Mar 26, 2014

ExxonMobil to disclose carbon emissions risk

As the international community and the U.S. government place a heightened emphasis on reducing carbon emissions as a way to combat global climate change, shareholders have convinced the oil-and gas giant ExxonMobil to publicly disclose the risk that strengthened regulation could pose to its profits.

The Texas-based company announced its intentions last week and agreed to publish a carbon asset risk report on its website by the end of the month.

“Investors … are looking at the energy market and starting to see shifts that they’re concerned about,” Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, an advocacy group that spearheaded shareholder pressure on the issue, told IPS.

ExxonMobil to Disclose Carbon Emissions Risk by Bryant Harris, Inter Press Service (IPS), Mar 25, 2014

How climate change will acidify the oceans

Off the remote eastern tip of Papua New Guinea a natural phenomenon offers an alarming glimpse into the future of the oceans, as increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere make sea water more acidic.  

How climate change will acidify the oceans by Roger Harrabin, BBC News Magazine, Mar 26, 2014

IPCC report: climate change felt 'on all continents and across the oceans'

Climate change has already left its mark "on all continents and across the oceans", damaging food crops, spreading disease, and melting glaciers, according to the leaked text of a blockbuster UN climate science report due out on Monday.

Government officials and scientists are gathered in Yokohama this week to wrangle over every line of a summary of the report before the final wording is released on Monday – the first update in seven years.

Nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers. 

IPCC report: climate change felt 'on all continents and across the oceans' by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Mar 28, 2014

Many seek sterner warnings of GDP losses in UN climate report

Many governments want sterner warnings of probable economic damage from global warming in a draft U.N. report due on Monday, saying that existing estimates of trillions of dollars in losses are only part of the picture.

A final draft before talks this week among governments and scientists in Japan projected that warming would cut economic output by between 0.2 and 2.0 percent a year by damaging human health, disrupting water supplies and raising sea levels.

But many countries reckon that is an underestimate because it excludes risks of catastrophic changes, such as a runaway melt of Greenland's ice, collapse of coral reefs or a drying of the Amazon rainforest that could cause massive economic losses.

Many seek sterner warnings of GDP losses in UN climate report by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Mar 28, 2014 

No pause in global sea level rise

In a finding that challenges climate skeptics, a team of scientists reported this week that a seeming slowdown in global sea-level rise in the last decade was not a slowdown at all.

Their work—released in Nature Climate Change—found that a natural weather cycle known as La Niña provides most of the explanation for the pause in sea-level rise observed after 2003. The phenomenon lowered precipitation over the oceans in the last decade, dampening the warming signal, they said.

The research also supports a theory that a parallel pause in air temperature rise in recent years may result from storage of heat in the deep ocean.

No Pause in Global Sea Level Rise by Christa Marshall and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Mar 26, 2014 

Scientists gather to finalize dire warning for planet's climate future

The world's leading climate scientists gathered in Japan on Tuesday to begin hashing out the final details of a "grim" climate report, which both leaked drafts and those familiar with its contents say will call on policy makers to take immediate action or face a climate future that will otherwise be marked by widespread ecological and human catastrophe.

Of those harsh challenges, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report—according to a draft version of the leaked earlier this year— will show that the four degrees Celsius rise that we are currently careening towards will undoubtedly cause increasing natural disasters, including: more violent storms, forest fires, devastating droughts, flooding, widespread hunger, disease, and a rise in ocean levels by up to a meter.

However, as Kaisa Kosonen explains on the Greenpeace blog Tuesday, the difference in their latest report from previous work by the IPCC and other similar warnings from the global scientific community is its emphasis on the stark "choice" now before humanity.

Scientists Gather to Finalize Dire Warning for Planet's Climate Future by Jacob Chamberlain, Common Dreams, Mar 25, 2014

Shanghai Stock Exchange considering launch of carbon index

The Shanghai Stock Exchange has asked China's securities regulator to make it mandatory for listed companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions to pave the way for new carbon-related financial products.

The exchange, which has listed nearly 1,000 Chinese companies, wants to set up a new benchmark index for companies, based on how much carbon each company emits per yuan it makes.

The index would allow traders to invest in products associated with companies that are least exposed to fossil fuel risks if China and the world step up efforts to cut emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change. 

Shanghai Stock Exchange considering launch of carbon index, Reuters, Mar 27, 2014

Twelve simple propositions: Change and the Asia Pivot

1. Climate change is the greatest challenge that humanity has faced. Climate phase change (abrupt climate change) is an existential threat that will render most the Earth uninhabitable. All signs point to this phase change as either already initiated or soon to be initiated. 

2. Although most nations, including the United States and China, have varying levels of commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation, they are about as meaningful as providing every passenger on the Titanic with a rubber ducky. Even if these commitments are met in full and on time - they are insufficient for preventing catastrophic climate change.

Twelve Simple Propositions: Change and the Asian Pivot by DH Garrett, Truthout, Mar 26. 2014 

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 29 March, 2014

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