2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #31B

Air pollution and climate change could mean more people going hungry

The combination of rising temperatures and air pollution could substantially damage crop growth in the next 40 years, according to a new paper. And if emissions stay as high as they are now, the number of people who don't get enough food could grow by half by the middle of the century.

Research shows rising temperatures are likely to lead to lower crop yields. Other work suggests air pollution might reduce the amount of food produced worldwide. But nobody has considered both effects together, say the paper's authors.

The two effects are closely related as warmer temperatures increase the production of ozone in the atmosphere. Here's lead author Professor Amos Tai from the Chinese University of Honk Kong to explain.  

Air pollution and climate change could mean 50 per cent more people going hungry by 2050, new study finds by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, July 30, 2014

Arctic sea ice minimum will be among 10 lowest

The extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean at the end of the summer season likely won’t surpass the record low of 2012, but 2014 will still likely rank as one of the lowest minimum extents (or areas) in the record books.

That’s according to Julienne Stroeve, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “It’s likely that it will be among the top 10 lowest,” Stroeve told Climate Central in an email.

Stroeve is one of many scientists who monitor the seasonal waxing and waning of the ice. The annual summer minimum in ice extent has been closely watched as its precipitous decline in recent decades has stood as a stark example of the effects of global warming in the Arctic, which can in turn impact global climate and weather, as well as throwing polar ecosystems out of whack. The Arctic could become seasonally ice-free by mid-century, according to some estimates.

No Record, But Arctic Sea Ice Will be Among 10 Lowest by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 31, 2014

“Climate change is killing our Mother Earth”

From Alaska to Peru, indigenous people across the world are already having to face up to the damage that climate change is imposing on their land. 

Due to their reliance on the land – culturally, spiritually and physically – indigenous people are one of the most vulnerable to climate risks. But campaigners warn against seeing them as one heterogeneous group.

From region to region, the difficulties and opportunities posed by climate change differ wildly. While in the Arctic circle, communities are worrying over thinning ice, in Peru communities are having to deal with the loss of their rainforests.

This week at RTCC, we’ve been looking at where indigenous people fit in the climate jigsaw, including their role in the UN, adaptation initiatives in Kyrgyzstan and how a Brazilian tribe is using solar powered smartphones to fight illegal logging.

To round up, we’re handing the stage over to indigenous people themselves. Here’s how they are coping with the loss of their “Mother Earth” – and how they’re fighting back.

“Climate change is killing our Mother Earth” by Sophie Yeo and Gitika Bhardwaj, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) Aug 1, 2014  

Climate change and disasters — where would you go?

When typhoon Glenda made landfall on July 15, many people affected by the storm faced one question: Where should I go? Fortunately the disaster preparedness measures put in place by the Philippine authorities offered them options to find safety.

Millions of people around the world confronted by earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts or storms have had to answer this question. Due to the increased prevalence and force of natural hazards and climate change related disasters, millions more will likely have to find an answer in the years to come.

Between 2008 and 2012 alone, natural disasters forced 144 million people out of their homes worldwide — more than the entire population of the Philippines. When typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, over 10 percent of the country’s population was affected. 

Climate change and disasters — where would you go?, Diplomatic Pouch By Ivo Sieber, Ambassador of Switzerland, The Philippine Star, July 31, 2014

How Antarctica shows we're at the point of no return

Recent satellite observations have confirmed the accuracy of two independent computer simulations that show that the West Antarctic ice sheet has now entered a state of unstoppable collapse. The planet has entered a new era of irreversible consequences from climate change. The only question now is whether we will do enough to prevent similar developments elsewhere.

What the latest findings demonstrate is that crucial parts of the world’s climate system, though massive in size, are so fragile that they can be irremediably disrupted by human activity. It is inevitable that the warmer the world gets, the greater the risk that other parts of the Antarctic will reach a similar tipping point; in fact, we now know that the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica, as big or even bigger than the ice sheet in the West, could be similarly vulnerable.

There are not many human activities whose impact can reasonably be predicted decades, centuries, or even millennia in advance. The fallout from nuclear waste is one; humans’ contribution to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, and its impact on rising sea levels, is another.

Indeed, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated, in uncharacteristically strong terms, that the sea level is “virtually certain” to continue to rise in the coming centuries or millennia. Moreover, the greater our emissions, the higher the seas will rise.

How Antarctica shows we're at the point of no return by Anders Levermann, World Economic Forum/Project Syndicate, July 28, 2014

IMF: Raise fossil-fuel taxes to fight climate change

Countries all over the world, including the United States, should be collecting much higher pollution taxes on fossil fuels—stiff enough to reflect the long-term cost of global warming's damage, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday in an important new study.

The IMF, one of the world's leading development institutions, has long favored putting a price on carbon as an essential defense against the mounting damages of climate change.

But its advice has never been so blunt, or so detailed.

"Many energy prices in many countries are wrong," said the report, entitled Getting Energy Prices Right. "They are set at levels that do not reflect environmental damage, notably global warming."

IMF's Blunt Message to Nations: Raise Fossil-Fuel Taxes to Fight Climate Change by John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News, Aug 1, 2014

Intensifying ocean acidity hitting Pacific shellfish industry

For more than a century, Bill Taylor's family has used the calm, protected waters of Puget Sound to raise oysters, planting billions of larvae in underwater beds and then harvesting them to ship to some of the finest restaurants in the world.

But then something went wrong. After the hatchery produced peak levels of seven billion larvae in 2006 and 2007, the numbers began to drop precipitously. In 2008, it had just half as many larvae. By 2009, it produced less than a third of the peak.

Up and down the Pacific Coast, from California to British Columbia to Alaska, other shellfish farms experienced the same decline: Something was happening to their larvae at the formative stage of life when they build their shells. No one in the industry knew why.

"We didn't know that much about the water because we didn't have any problems," Taylor said. Once the larvae started dying off, they tested the water: It was much too acidic.

Intensifying ocean acidity from carbon emissions hitting Pacific shellfish industry by Reid Wilson, Sydney Morning Herald. July 31, 2014

Leading climate economist accused of “distorting” research

One of the world’s top climate change economists stands accused of inserting inaccurate information into the UN’s recent climate science report.

US economist Dr Frank Ackerman has written to Sussex University professor Richard Tol, saying he used  “a narrow distorting lens” when compiling a 2013 paper examining the impacts of climate change.

In a document published on July 21 Ackerman, who is senior economist at consultancy Synapse Energy and an MIT lecturer, wrote: “Tol’s 2013 review article, despite its appearance of objectivity, is founded on faulty selection of data and analyses, and contains interpretive flaws that make its facile conclusions unsupportable.”

Leading climate economist accused of “distorting” research by Ed King, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) Aug 1, 2014

Record-setting drought intensifies in parched California

The relentless heat that has plagued the western half of the country this summer has ratcheted up California’s terrible drought once again, bringing it to record levels. More than half of the state is in “exceptional” drought, the highest category recognized by the U.S. Drought Monitor, which released its latest update on Thursday.

“The heat has been and continues to be a factor in drought expansion,” Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and this week’s Drought Monitor author, told Climate Central.

New information coming in about reservoir levels, stream flows and groundwater pumping prompted Rippey to increase the amount of California covered by exceptional drought to 58 percent from 34 percent (all of the state is in some level of drought). That is a record amount of the state covered by this level of drought since the Monitor began in 1990, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Record-Setting Drought Intensifies in Parched California by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Aug 1, 2014

Religious conservatives embrace pollution fight

he Rev. Lennox Yearwood punched his fist in the air as he rhythmically boomed into the microphone: “This is a moment for great leadership. This is a moment for our country to stand up. This is our moment.”

But Mr. Yearwood’s audience was not a church. It was the Environmental Protection Agency.

The E.P.A. on Wednesday ended two days ofpublic hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mixed in with the coal lobbyists and business executives were conservative religious leaders reasserting their support for President Obama’s environmental policies — at a time when Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change.

Religious Conservatives Embrace Pollution Fight by Theodore Schleifer, New York Times, July 30, 2014

Scotland fights to keep history from vanishing beneath the waves

As countries around the world, including the United States, are pondering how they might protect their historic sites from the threats of climate change, Scotland is showing them the struggles they may have to look forward to.

Climate change is chewing into Scotland's 6,000-mile coastline at an alarming rate. Precipitation is doubling in some areas of Scotland. Sea levels are rising, and the coastline is eroding. An increasingly hostile Atlantic Ocean is battering the soft, sandy shores with violent storms, and the trend is both unearthing hosts of undiscovered ancient sites and putting them in immediate danger of being lost again. 

Scotland Fights to Keep History from Vanishing Beneath the Waves by Hemry Glass, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Aug 1, 2014

Sea level rise driving 'Nuisance Flooding' higher in U.S. coastal cities

Many of the nation's coastal cities have seen big increases in recent years in what's known as "nuisance flooding," or flooding caused not by storms but by sea level rise, according to a new reportissued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Nuisance flooding has been on the rise on all three U.S. coasts since the 1960s, the report adds, shooting up by between 300 and 925 percent during that time.

Eight of the top 10 cities lie along the East Coast, where the problems nuisance flooding causes – forcing road closures, damaging urban infrastructure such as water and sewer systems, and overwhelming cities' storm drains – are becoming costlier and more destructive.

In many cities, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding, said Dr. William Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA and the report's lead author, in a press release announcing the study. 

Sea Level Rise Driving 'Nuisance Flooding' Higher in Coastal Cities Across U.S. by Terrell Johnson, The Weather Channel, July 30, 2014

The 'greatest threat' to the peoples of the Pacific

The Pacific Ocean is "under siege" and with it its small islands states - that was the message given by the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, at the opening ceremony of the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum in Koror on July 29. The three-day meeting is being used as an opportunity to draw international attention to the impact of climate change on the region ahead of a United Nations special summit on the issue in September.

The majority of the countries represented in the forum are small islands in the Pacific that lie barely a meter (three feet) above sea level and face submersion should sea levels continue to rise. The island nations have been calling for a globally coordinated response on climate change for years, saying it is "threatening to wipe entire states off the map."

In a DW interview, the Secretary General of the Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, says that overfishing, pollution and rising ocean temperatures are some of the biggest challenges faced by the Pacific Islands given that these can destroy whole economies and people's livelihoods.

Climate change: The 'greatest threat' to the peoples of the Pacific by Sofia Diogo Mateus, Deutsche Welle (DW), July 30, 2014

US: A dozen states file suit against new coal rules

Twelve states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on Friday seeking to block an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate coal-fired power plants in an effort to stem climate change.

The plaintiffs are led by West Virginia and include states that are home to some of the largest producers of coal and consumers of coal-fired electricity.

Republicans have attacked the E.P.A. proposal as a “war on coal,” saying that it will shut down plants and eliminate jobs in states that depend on mining. But the rule is also opposed by the Democratic governors of West Virginia and Kentucky.

A Dozen States File Suit Against New Coal Rules by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Aug 1, 2014

What climate change debate?

The truth is that there is a strikingly strong consensus among climate scientists — above 97 percent — that our planet is warming and we are primarily to blame. It's near impossible to get 97 percent of scientists to agree about much of anything beyond the basic laws of physics. The fact that the consensus is this broad tells us it is time to end the idea that there is any debate in the scientific community.

What climate change debate?, Op-ed by Seth B. Darling, Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 2 August, 2014

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