Australian rodent first mammalian victim of climate change

Good Night Earth

Bramble-cay-melomy

Tucked away on a small island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the rat-like animal would have stared up at you with dark, beady eyes from the safety of some scattered shrubs.  No more than 15 centimeters long, the rodent would have been covered with light red fur, its tiny ears tucked tightly against its head, its pale underbelly barely visible.  You would have probably noticed the odd tail, as long as its body and lumpy with scales.

You may have seen this mosaic-tailed rat, melomys rubicola, had you traveled once upon a time to Bramble Cay, a small island built upon a the Great Barrier Reef.  But no longer.  After a fairly exhaustive search using traps, cameras, and searches on foot, Australian scientists have pronounced with confidence that the melomys is likely extinct [1].  The probable cause?  Evidence suggests dramatic weather conditions in the region combined with rising sea levels due to…

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Modern mussel shells much thinner than 50 years ago

The increasing vulnerabilities is another striking impact of our CO2 emissions. Anyone who likes moules frites would be well advised to push for action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to keep them on the menu.

Science Life

Mussel cross-section Cross section of a mussel shell showing thickness. The holes show were samples were drilled to analyze its composition.

Shells from the Pacific Northwest are nearly a third thinner now than specimens collected in the 1970s

As humans burn fossils fuels, the oceans absorb a large portion of the additional carbon released into the atmosphere. This in turn causes pH levels of ocean water to drop, making it more acidic. Mussels, oysters, and certain species of algae have difficulty producing their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons in such an environment, and can provide an early indicator of how increasing ocean acidification affects marine life.

A new study by University of Chicago biologists shows how those effects are coming to pass. They compared shells of California mussels collected from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington in the 1970s to modern specimens, and saw that the older shells are on…

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A very beautiful and unusual animal in danger

The sad effects of our burning of fossil fuels are already hitting home

Good Night Earth

Amazing_Great_Barrier_Reef_1

“We are tied to the ocean.  And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” — John F. Kennedy

Coral reefs across the world could vanish within this century.  This is a warning from scientists, not attention-seeking alarmists.  This is a warning from men and women who spend their lives diving along the 2300-km Great Barrier Reef, who know the reef-supported marine communities like beekeepers might know their hives.  In the words of Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, “this is not in the future, it’s happening right now.”

On a day when we celebrate Earth’s suppleness, its diversity, its numerous gifts wrapped in blue and green, as one of its stewards we must also face the threats to its stability that were created by us and can…

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Eyes on Environment: the many stories of climate change

An interesting close-up on some of the many threads of climate change impacts that weave together to make the case for action.

Good Night Earth

Over 40,000 delegates from 195 countries meet in Paris this week to legally commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global temperature increases above 2 degrees Celsius. Although the prevention of 2 degree warming may not be possible, such emissions reduction agreements are a crucial step to stop global warming above 3-5 degrees that could lead to massive displacement of coastal populations, droughts, and severe natural disasters. In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, this meeting is both a “test” and a “great opportunity” for all nations to work together towards a globally unifying goal.

In honor of these talks, I hope to emphasize a few stories about how climate change impacts lives around the world and how each of us can contribute to the cause of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. From global leaders to individual citizens of the world, we all play a role.

1)…

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Equity or inertia: how emissions sharing philosophies shape climate policy success

Some timely research in advance of the key upcoming climate talks

Good Night Earth

What is the best way for the global community to set greenhouse gas emission goals to stave off global temperature increases over the dreaded 2 degrees Celsius? This question framed the heart of negotiations between 190 countries during a UN-sponsored meeting in Lima earlier this year.1 As a result, countries agreed to create ‘fair and ambitious’ post-2020 emission standards tailored to each country’s economic, environmental, and social circumstances.

Next, countries will declare their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) at the Paris Climate Conference next month. Each INDC is a national pledge made by a country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain amount by a particular date, with the entirety of INDCs summed to meet UN reduction goals. The expectations for the conference are high: the declared goals will set the stage for post-2020 reductions and dictate the course of human civilization’s combat against global warming.

This…

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Nature’s Eyes on Environment Blog: the story of a cave and climate change

Science and history combine to give some interesting predictions!

Good Night Earth

Courtesy of Reference 1 Courtesy of Reference 1

The following was originally published on Nature’s Eyes on Environment blog!

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Among the foothills of a vast mountain range, a mayor guides his nervous citizens into the dank darkness of a nearby cave. The two hundred people huddle together, scared by the thought of possible starvation during another year of drought. The group shifts unsteadily along the rocky terrain as they move farther beneath the hills until they reach a large room typically full of water during monsoon season. This year, only damp rocks greet them. A fortuneteller steps away from the crowd and prays for more rain for their village.

This vignette is not fiction but rather inspired by a recent discovery of inscriptions in the Dayu Cave in central China. The writings span four hundred years and reveal societies across eras that visited the cave during times of drought to pray or…

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Carbon Budget

This is a very clear analysis – upshot: humanity can burn a trillion tonnes of carbon before being committed to the 2°C warming limit governments have agreed. We’re 60% of the way there, and on course for 1.5 trillion, which would commit us to 3°C.

Azimuth

On Quora someone asked:

What is the most agreed-on figure for our future carbon budget?

My answer:

Asking “what is our future carbon budget?” is a bit like asking how many calories a day you can eat. There’s really no limit on how much you can eat if you don’t care how overweight and unhealthy you become. So, to set a carbon budget, you need to say how much global warming you will accept.

That said, here’s a picture of how we’re burning through our carbon budget:


It says that our civilization has burnt 60% of the carbon we’re allowed to while still having a 50-50 chance of keeping global warming below 2 °C.

This chart appears in the International Energy Agency report World Energy Outlook Special Report 2015, which is free and definitely worth reading.

The orange bars show CO2 emissions per year, in gigatonnes. The blue…

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