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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The global warming hiatus could last another five years. Its aftermath is the real problem.

You may or may not know or care that the rate of increase in Earth’s average surface temperature has apparently eased off in recent years. A paper this week found that this ‘hiatus’ could go on for some years yet, but that it’s not that surprising, and definitely doesn’t mean we can stop worrying about climate change.

GAPLOGS

Whether you’ve been fending off climate-change skeptics on Twitter or have been looking for reasons to become a climate-change skeptic yourself, you must’ve heard about the hiatus. It’s the name given to a relatively drastic drop in the rate at which the world’s surface temperatures have increased, starting since the late 1990s, as compared to the rate since the early 1900s. Even if different measurements have revealed different drops in the rate, there’s no doubt among those who believe in anthropogenic global-warming that it’s happening.

According to one account: between 1998 and 2012, the global surface temperature rose by 0.05 kelvin per decade as opposed to 0.12 kelvin in the decades preceding it, going back to the start of the previous century. To be sure, the Earth has not stopped getting warmer, but the rate at which it was doing so got turned down a notch for reasons that weren’t immediately understood. And even as climate-scientists…

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Of tree rings and rain: droughts predicted to worsen in southwestern United States

By the end of the 21st century, the average drought conditions in the Southwest US will exceed even the worst conditions during the megadroughts in the Medieval period

Good Night Earth

Figure courtesy of pixabay.com Figure courtesy of pixabay.com

Droughts have intensified in already dry regions around the world, including in the Southwest United States and in Australia throughout the first decade of this century.  The severity of these droughts has been attributed to global warming and climate change, which climate models predict should make traditional weather patterns more extreme, so dry regions will get drier.

However, there’s an inherent difficulty in determining the causes behind contemporary droughts because of their naturally long timescales.  During the medieval 12th and 13th centuries, North America experienced ‘megadroughts’ spanning 1000 years!  With such long timescales, it’s hard to know whether the intense dry spells we see now in California and nearby states are due to natural climatic variability or spurred on by anthropogenic carbon emissions.  Is man-made global warming to blame?

A recent paper in Science Advances provides a comprehensive answer to this question.  The group from…

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