Tag Archives: Climate

CLIMATE CHANGE : Problem ‘likely to be more severe than some models predict’

Climate change

Climate change (Photo credit: jeancliclac)

Scientists analysing climate models warn we should expect high temperature rises – meaning more extreme weather, sooner. The Guardian reports

Climate change is likely to be more severe than some models have implied, according to a new study which ratchets up the possible temperature rises and subsequent climatic impacts.

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...

Scientific studies on climate helped establish a consensus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The analysis by the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature were likely to be more accurate than those showing a smaller rise. This means not only a higher level of warming, but also that the resulting problems – including floods, droughts, sea level rise and fiercer storms and other extreme weather – would be correspondingly more severe and would come sooner than expected.

Scientists at the NCAR published their study on Thursday in the leading peer-reviewed journal Science. It is based on an analysis of how well computer models estimating the future climate reproduce the humidity in the tropics and subtropics that has been observed in recent years. They found that the most accurate models were most likely to best reproduce cloud cover, which is a major influence on warming. These models were also those that showed the highest global temperature rises, in future if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase.

John Fasullo, one of the researchers, said: “There is a striking relationship between how well climate models simulate relative humidity in key areas and how much warming they show in response to increasing carbon dioxide. Given how fundamental these processes are to clouds and the overall global climate, our findings indicate that warming is likely to be on the high side of current projections.”

Extreme weather has been much in evidence around the globe this year, with superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on New York the most recent example. There has also been drought across much of the US’s grain-growing area, and problems with the Indian monsoon. In the UK, one of the worst droughts on record gave way to the wettest spring recorded, damaging crop yields and pushing up food prices.

The new NCAR findings come just weeks ahead of a crucial UN conference in Doha, where ministers will discuss the future of international action on greenhouse gas emissions. The ministers will have to take the first steps to a new global climate treaty, to kick in from 2020, but so far have shown little sign of urgency.

The next comprehensive study of our knowledge of climate change and its effects will come in 2014, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes its fifth assessment report. Before that, next September, the first part of the report will deal with the science of climate change and predictions of warming.

There has already been increasing evidence of a warming effect this year – the Arctic’s summer ice sank to its lowest extent and volume yet recorded, and satellite pictures showed that surface ice melting was more widespread across Greenland than ever seen in years of observations. Experts have predicted that the Arctic seas could be ice-free in winter in the next decade.

The International Energy Agency warned earlier this year that on current emissions trends the world would be in for 6C of warming – a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. Scientists have put the safety limit at 2C, beyond which warming is likely to become irreversible.

Given this year’s extreme weather, the results of the NCAR may not surprise some. But for scientists, narrowing down the uncertainties in climate models is a key activity. “The dry subtropics are a critical element in our future climate,” Fasullo says. “If we can better represent these regions in models, we can improve our predictions and provide society with a better sense of the impacts to expect in a warming world.”

Battle between climate deniers and school science!

The stage is set for a showdown between the EcoWatch and Heartland Institute

For my blog on this, click here 

Source: http://ecowatch.org/2012/heartland-institute-keep-climate-denial-out-of-our-schools/

Climate change breakthrough!

Durban Sea Front

Image by BBM Explorer via Flickr

The world is on track for a comprehensive global treaty on climate change for the first time after agreement was reached at talks in Durban, South Africa in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Guardian reports | http://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature

Negotiators agreed to start work on a new climate deal that would have legal force and, crucially, require both developed and developing countries to cut their carbon emissions. The terms now need to be agreed by 2015 and come into effect from 2020.

Why Durban is different ? http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/11/durban-questions-and-answers

“I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose – a long-term solution to climate change,” said Christiana Figueres, theUnited Nations climate chief.

Chris Huhne, the UK’s energy and climate secretary, said the deal would ensure the European Union’s efforts to tackle global warming were matched by others. “We know that we are working very hard on this, but we need to be sure that other countries are working just as hard – that’s very important for our industry and our competitiveness,” he said.

But Huhne also acknowledged that the hard work was only beginning, because following the agreement struck in Durban, governments face four gruelling years of horse-trading over how far and how fast each country should cut its carbon, in order to flesh out the bones of the deal.

Two weeks of talks — the last 60 hours of which was a single marathon negotiating session, with officials holed up in a conference centre through three nights with scarcely a break — ended with a surprise decision struck during a tea break just before dawn on Sunday.

A small huddle of key ministers were ordered to meet for 20 minutes and thrash out their differences. With tempers rising and the talks minutes from being abandoned, the chair, South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, ordered China, India, the US, Britain, France, Sweden, Gambia, Brazil and Poland to meet in a small group or “huddle”. Surrounded by nearly 100 delegates on the floor of the hall, they talked quietly among themselves to try to reach a new form of words acceptable to all.

The agreement – dubbed the “Durban platform” – is different from the other partial deals that have been struck during the past two decades, with developing countries, including China, the world’s biggest emitter, agreeing to be legally bound to curb their greenhouse gases. Previously, poorer nations have insisted that they should not bear any legal obligations for tackling climate change, whereas rich nations – which over more than a century have produced most of the carbon currently in the atmosphere – should.

Another first is that the US, the second biggest emitter, also agreed that the new pact would have “legal force” – a step it flirted with in 1997 with the Kyoto protocol, but abandoned as Congress made clear it would never ratify that agreement.

All of the world’s biggest economies and emitters already have targets to cut emissions between now and 2020, when the new deal would come into force.

But those targets are voluntary, not legally binding. This is a crucial difference for the EU and many others, who fear that voluntary targets are too easy to wriggle out of.

However, the deal did little to address the scale of emissions cuts needed, and environmental groups said this was a huge failing.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “Governments have salvaged a path forward for negotiations, but we must be under no illusion — the outcome of Durban leaves us with the prospect of being legally bound to a world of 4C warming. This would be catastrophic for people and the natural world. Governments have spent crucial days focused on a handful of specific words in the negotiating text, but have paid little heed to repeated warnings from the scientific community that much stronger, urgent action is needed to cut emissions.”

Lord Stern, former World Bank chief economist and author of the landmark 2006 review of the economics of climate change, said: “The outcome of the summit is a modest but significant step forward. The decision to move towards a unified system, with all countries having some form of legal commitments, removes an important obstacle and could allow, for example, the US to play a more participative and constructive role in the future.”

The agreement reached also ensured that developing countries will soon begin to gain access to billions of pounds in finance from the rich world to help them move to a green economy and cope with the effects of climate change.

Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/11/global-climate-change-treaty-durban?intcmp=122

border|22x20px South Africa, Durban beach

Image via Wikipedia

Climate change : Hard-up UK puts issue on back burner

Excel Graph showing the Carbon Intensity of di...

Image via Wikipedia

Report finds Britons more concerned with keeping warm than worrying about the environment. The Independent reports

Britain’s carbon emissions grew faster than the economy last year for the first time since 1996, as a cash-strapped population relegated the environment down its league of concerns and spent more money keeping warm, according to a new report.

The rise in Britain’s so-called carbon intensity increases the danger that the country will miss legally binding targets on reducing emissions, warns PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the consultancy behind the report.

Furthermore, it found that Britain’s rising carbon intensity is part of a worldwide trend which threatens to push global warming above a two-degree Celsius increase on pre-industrial levels.

This is the temperature that the G8 group of leading economies has pledged not to breach in the hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

Leo Johnson, partner for sustainability and climate change at PwC, said: “Our analysis points unambiguously towards one conclusion, that we are at the limits of what is achievable in terms of carbon reduction.

“The G20 economies have moved from travelling too slowly in the right direction to travelling in the wrong direction. The results call into question the likelihood of global decarbonisation ever happening rapidly enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius,” Mr Johnson added.

Experts calculate that limiting global warming to 2 degrees would require a 4.8 per cent decrease in carbon intensity every year until 2050 – meaning that emissions need to grow by 4.8 per cent less than the economy every year over that period.

However, global emissions jumped by 5.8 per cent in 2010, while gross domestic product (GDP) increased by just 5.1 per cent in 2010 – resulting in a 0.6 per cent rise in carbon intensity.

The UK recorded the third highest increase in carbon intensity among the G20 group of leading economies last year, as hard-up consumers and companies increasingly dropped green considerations in the pursuit of the cheapest, short-term option. Furthermore, the year was sandwiched between two bitterly cold winters, leaving people with no option but to turn up their heating.

Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability and climate change at PwC, said: “When money is tight people’s attention goes elsewhere and it becomes harder to implement high-cost, low-carbon technologies.

“Many people have higher priorities than climate change right now, it is probably fair to say. Maybe people are taking their eye off the ball a bit.”

Britain’s GDP increased by just 1.3 per cent in 2010, while its carbon emissions jumped 3.5 per cent, resulting in a 2.2 per cent rise in so-called carbon intensity.

If Britain wants to hit its legally binding target of reducing emissions by 34 per cent, on 1990 levels, by 2020, it will need to cut its carbon intensity by 5.6 per cent every year, PwC said.

Most of the other countries that recorded the biggest rise in carbon intensity were from the developing world. Fast-growing countries such as China, Brazil and Korea were among those economies contributing to what Mr Grant calls a “dirty” recovery.

Brazil’s growth was the dirtiest among the G20 economies last year, with a 3.5 per cent jump in carbon intensity, with Saudi Arabia second from bottom with a 3.2 per cent increase.

At the other end of the scale, Australia recorded a 10.9 per cent decline.

Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/hardup-uk-puts-climate-change-on-back-burner-6258246.html

Climate change : Little time left to halt warming

Connie Hedegaard, Danish politician, minister ...

Image via Wikipedia

From The Independent

A lack of international will means the chances of bringing climate change under control may already be “slipping out of reach”, scientists have warned.

 

A study by the Swiss science university ETH Zurich shows that without an early and steep cut in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures are not “likely” to remain less than 2C higher than pre-industrial levels. The 2C target, which experts say is needed to avert dangerous climate change, was agreed by the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

But countries that signed up to the Copenhagen Accord have yet to commit to measures far-reaching enough to meet it, according to experts.

A voluntary agreement hammered out in the dying hours of last December’s UN climate talks in the Danish capital is said to fall well short of the cuts required.

The new report, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, sounds a further loud warning that time is running out. It suggests that for a “likely” chance (more than 66%) of holding warming below 2C by the end of this century, emissions must peak before 2020.

Emission levels will also have to drop drastically to around 44 billion tonnes in 2020, and then keep falling. By 2050, they will need to be well below 1990 levels at around 20 billion tonnes, says the research.

This is an ambitious goal. Last year’s emission levels were estimated to be 48 billion tonnes. If no action is taken to reduce global emissions, experts fear they could grow to 56 billion tonnes in 2020.

Authors of the new study, led by Dr Joeri Rogeli, from the Swiss science university ETH Zurich, wrote: “Without a firm commitment to put in place the mechanisms to enable an early global emissions peak followed by steep reductions thereafter, there are significant risks that the 2C target, endorsed by so many nations, is already slipping out of reach.”

The scientists base their conclusions on a comprehensive risk analysis of emission scenarios.

The research takes into account results from a number of previous integrated assessment models on climate change. These incorporate data from a range of different disciplines and are designed to inform policy.

Three pathways were identified that could result in a “very likely”, or more than 90%, chance of not exceeding the 2C threshold.

All involved a peak during this decade, high post-peak reduction rates, net negative emissions, and heavy use of renewable energy sources and carbon capture technology.

Scenarios showing peak emissions around 2030 were likely to keep warming below 3C, but would miss the 2C target. Another study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the 2C threshold could be crossed between 2040 and 2060. This is well within the lifetime of many people alive today.

The research examines the idea of looking at climate change projections from a different angle, shifting the emphasis from “what” to “when”.

Lead author Dr Manoj Joshi, from the University of Reading, said: “It is not just about avoiding potentially dangerous climate change, but also about buying time for adaptation.

“This approach to communicating the impacts and uncertainties of climate change draws attention to rates of change rather than just the change itself. It complements existing methods, and should be employed more widely.”

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