Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Stand in Solidarity With The 21 Youth Plaintiffs!

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    "Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom." ~Nelson Mandela   My name is Nick Robson. I am proud to be part of this generation, to be part of a global climate movement that understands what’s at stake and what is needed to protect the rights of present and future generations.    Our voices won’t be silenced.    Our rights must be protected.    From the native lands of North Dakota, to the halls of power in Washington, DC, to the courts in the US and around the world, Ro the Foreign &Commonwealth Office in London, our generation stands in solidarity, calling for rights and justice for all... More    

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“Loss and Damage” and “Liability and Compensation” – What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Loss and Damage” and “Liability and Compensation” – What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?
When wildfires become unstoppable, consuming forests, farmlands, communities, and anything else in their path, how will those affected cope? When typhoons slam coastal populations, dumping over a foot of rain in a single event, who will be there to help mop up? When seas rise up, drowning centuries-old communities, where will the displaced go?   The international community’s answers to these questions, so far, are rooted in the concepts of loss and damage, liability and compensation, risk transfer, and climate financing. The distinctions between these mechanics, which operate variously through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), individual governments, NGOs, and the private sector, are sometimes blurred.   In particular, loss and damage is a term that is often associated with liability and compensation. Both are used in the jargon of climate policy, predominantly in the context of finance transfers from polluter nations to highly impacted vulnerable nations. How are these two key terms related and why does it matter?   Loss and damage is a term that is used to describe total losses, such as death and land lost due to climate induced sea-level rise, and repairable damage, such as destroyed infrastructure. While loss and damage typically refers to the economic consequences of climate change, the term can also apply to cultural and traditional practices that are lost due to climate impacts.   Liability refers to the legal culpability of nations that have made large contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Compensation, as the word suggests, are payouts to poor and highly impacted nations. If a court determined that a nation was liable for the impacts of climate change, then that nation could be required to compensate others who are now suffering the consequences. This is a chain of events that most industrial countries have sought to avoid.     To the more casual observer the distinction between these two sets of terms is not always clear. To negotiators, however, the differences between “loss and damage” and “liability and compensation” are not only distinct, but represent embattled red lines. More

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Top conservation players unite to map, monitor and conserve vital places for life on earth

Hawaii, 3 September 2016: Today, 11 of the world’s leading conservation organisations announced an ambitious new partnership to identify, map, monitor and conserve Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) – places that include vital habitats for threatened species – with more than US$15 million committed over the next five years. 

The announcement was made at the IUCN World Conservation Congress currently taking place in Hawaiʻi, USA.

Through the KBA Partnership, resources and expertise will be mobilised to further identify and map Key Biodiversity Areas worldwide. Monitoring of these sites will enable detection of potential threats and identification of appropriate conservation actions. The Partnership will also advise national governments in expanding their protected areas network, and will work with private companies to ensure they minimize and mitigate their impact on nature.

"This is a vitally important initiative for our planet’s biodiversity," says Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. "This partnership will enhance global conservation efforts by highlighting internationally important sites in need of urgent conservation action. It will also help us reach the targets in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and allow national governments and conservation organisations to ensure that scarce resources are directed to the most important places for nature."

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has engaged with hundreds of experts and decision-makers to develop a Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas. The Standard will also be launched during the World Conservation Congress, on Monday 5 September.

"Our planet is at the crossroads and we need to take urgent action if we want to secure its ability to support us," says Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN. "Information about where and why a site is considered key for the survival of threatened species underpins all sustainable development and will be critical for achieving Sustainable Development Goals."

 

In particular, knowledge about Key Biodiversity Areas will contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – on the conservation and sustainable use the oceans - and Goal 15 – to manage forests, combat desertification, and halt land degradation. More

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Are our leaders, in both the public and private sectors, condemning humans to extinction?

Are our leaders, in both the public and private sectors, condemning humans to extinction?

 

Diamond weaved an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Moving from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking colony on Greenland, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe. Last summer however, James Hansen—the pioneer of modern climate science—pieced together a research-based revelation: a little-known feedback cycle between the oceans and massive ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland might have already jump-started an exponential surge of sea levels. That would mean huge levels of sea level rise will happen sooner—much sooner than expected. Hansen’s best estimate was 2 to 5 meters (6–15 feet) by the end of the century: five to 10 times faster than mainstream science has heretofore predicted.
The result was so important that Hansen didn’t want to wait. So he called a press conference and distributed a draft of his findings before they could be peer-reviewed—a very nontraditional approach for a study with such far-reaching consequence. Now, after months of intense and uncharacteristically public scrutiny by the scientific community, the findings by Hansen and his 18 co-authors have passed formal peer review and were published Tuesday in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.   
That’s bad news for those of us rooting for a stable planet. With Hansen’s paper now through peer review, its dire conclusions are difficult to ignore. And the scientific community, many of whom were initially wary of Hansen’s paper when it came out this summer, is starting to take serious note.   
Hansen and his co-authors describe a world that may quickly start to spin out of control if humans keep burning fossil fuels at close to our current rate. “It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization,” the study reads. And given the assumed accelerated pace of melting, all this could happen just decades from now, not centuries.   
The world Hansen and his colleagues describe reads like a sci-fi plot synopsis—and it’s now officially part of the scientific canon (though peer review doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a paper is infallible). If Hansen and his colleagues are correct, this paper is likely one of the most important scientific contributions in history—and a stark warning to world governments to speed up the transition to carbon-free energy. More      

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Climate Science: Revolution is Here

  Climate science: revolution is here PAUL ROGERS 11 August 2016     A host of innovations in energy technology is transforming the climate-change outlook – one of the world's three required paradigm shifts.
Heatwaves of more than 50⁰C in Iraq and India in recent weeks are yet further indications that climate disruption is a present-day reality, not something for the future that the world can respond to at leisure. They come in the wake of many months of increasing global temperatures and successively escalating years: 2014 the warmest on record, 2015 exceeding that, and 2016 confidently expected to be even higher (see "The climate pioneers: look south", 22 June 2016)   None of this should come as any surprise, since climate scientists have been warning repeatedly that the global climate is starting to become unstable. That judgment was reflected in the decision at the Paris climate summit in December 2015 to revise its aim for global-temperature increases: a limit of 1.5⁰C instead of the previous target of 2.0⁰C.    Many states agreed to the new objective, which was seen as the major achievement of the Paris meeting. But it has now become clear that on present trends, there is very little chance of it being achieved (see "Scientists warn mankind will miss crucial climate change target – eight months after agreeing it", Independent, 7 August 2016). Indeed, figures for February-March 2016 showed an increase of 1.38⁰C, already very near to the long-term target, even as all the indications suggest there will be major additional rises in the next few years.   In any case, many climate scientists and energy analysts argue that the current targets for reducing emissions are far too low. This is because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a slow rate of circulation, meaning that – even if the rate of emissions is brought under control – there is a considerable 'lag' phase before concentrations are reduced. More      

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Irony of climate

The Irony of Climate | Worldwatch Institute   
  Archaeologists suspect that a shift in the planet's climate thousands of years ago gave birth to agriculture. Now climate change could spell the end of farming as we know it.   High in the Peruvian Andes, a new disease has invaded the potato fields in the town of Chac­llabamba. Warmer and wetter weather associated with global climate change has allowed late blight-the same fungus that caused the Irish potato famine-to creep 4,000 meters up the mountainside for the first time since humans started growing potatoes here thousands of years ago. In 2003, Chacllabamba farmers saw their crop of native potatoes almost totally destroyed. Breeders are rushing to develop tubers resistant to the "new" disease that retain the taste, texture, and quality preferred by Andean populations.   Meanwhile, old-timers in Holmes County, Kansas, have been struggling to tell which way the wind is blowing, so to speak. On the one hand, the summers and winters are both warmer, which means less snow and less snowmelt in the spring and less water stored in the fields. On the other hand, there's more rain, but it's falling in the early spring, rather than during the summer growing season. So the crops might be parched when they need water most. According to state climatologists, it's too early to say exactly how these changes will play out-if farmers will be able to push their corn and wheat fields onto formerly barren land or if the higher temperatures will help once again to turn the grain fields of Kansas into a dust bowl. Whatever happens, it's going to surprise the current generation of farmers.   Asian farmers, too, are facing their own climate-related problems. In the unirrigated rice paddies and wheat fields of Asia, the annual monsoon can make or break millions of lives. Yet the reliability of the monsoon is increasingly in doubt. For instance, El Niño events (the cyclical warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean) often correspond with weaker monsoons, and El Niños will likely increase with global warming. During the El Niño-induced drought in 1997, Indonesian rice farmers pumped water from swamps close to their fields, but food losses were still high: 55 percent for dryland maize and 41 percent for wetland maize, 34 percent for wetland rice, and 19 percent for cassava. The 1997 drought was followed by a particularly wet winter that delayed planting for two months in many areas and triggered heavy locust and rat infestations. According to Bambang Irawan of the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Socio-Economic Research and Development, in Bogor, this succession of poor harvests forced many families to eat less rice and turn to the less nutritious alternative of dried cassava. Some farmers sold off their jewelry and livestock, worked off the farm, or borrowed money to purchase rice, Irawan says. The prospects are for more of the same: "If we get a substantial global warming, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be serious changes to the  monsoon," says David Rhind, a senior climate researcher with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.   Archaeologists believe that the shift to a warmer, wetter, and more stable climate at the end of the last ice age was key for humanity's successful foray into food production. Yet, from the American breadbasket to the North China Plain to the fields of southern Africa, farmers and climate scientists are finding that generations-old patterns of rainfall and temperature are shifting. Farming may be the human endeavor most dependent on a stable climate-and the industry that will struggle most to cope with more erratic weather, severe storms, and shifts in growing season lengths. While some optimists are predicting longer growing seasons and more abundant harvests as the climate warms, farmers are mostly reaping surprises.   Toward the Unknown (Climate) Region   For two decades, Hartwell Allen, a researcher with the University of Florida in Gainesville and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been growing rice, soybeans, and peanuts in plastic, greenhouse-like growth chambers that allow him to play God. He can control-"rather precisely"-the temperature, humidity, and levels of atmospheric carbon. "We grow the plants under a daily maximum/minimum cyclic temperature that would mimic the real world cycle," Allen says. His lab has tried regimes of 28 degrees C day/18 degrees C night, 32/22, 36/26, 40/30, and 44/34. "We ran one experiment to 48/38, and got very few surviving plants," he says. Allen found that while a doubling of carbon dioxide and a slightly increased temperature stimulate seeds to germinate and the plants to grow larger and lusher, the higher temperatures are deadly when the plant starts producing pollen. Every stage of the process-pollen transfer, the growth of the tube that links the pollen to the seed, the viability of the pollen itself-is highly sensitive. "It's all or nothing, if pollination isn't successful," Allen notes. At temperatures above 36 degrees C during pollination, peanut yields dropped about six percent per degree of temperature increase. Allen is particularly concerned about the implications for places like India and West Africa, where peanuts are a dietary staple and temperatures during the growing season are already well above 32 degrees C: "In these regions the crops are mostly rain-fed. If global warming also leads to drought in these areas, yields could be even lower." More

Monday, July 18, 2016

Reconstructing Arctic History

Reconstructing Arctic History | CIRES 
 
ARCTIC SEA ICE CHARTS
  There's little doubt that Arctic sea ice is shrinking, but a new study looking back to the 1850s reveals that today's ice loss is unprecedented in extent and rate. To understand what’s happening with the Arctic ice pack, scientists need access to as much data as they can get their hands on. But reliable satellite data on the frozen north extends back only to 1978 and most historical sources cover only the twentieth century. John Walsh, Chief Scientist at the International Arctic Research Center with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, knew they could do better. “We knew there was useful information out there that goes back into the 1800s,” he says. “We wanted to provide some benchmarks so we could place the retreat we’ve seen in Arctic sea ice in a longer context.”   Other scientists wanted to do the same. Walsh heard from climate change modelers who needed more information to reconstruct the Arctic’s atmospheric history. So, Walsh went to NOAA with a proposition: To make a data product that could be used by modelers to characterize sea ice back to 1850. And a natural partner for building this database was the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), part of CIRES, where a small team funded by NOAA was already experienced in using data from sources such as the military and old charts and maps to create a more robust picture. The final product, “Gridded Monthly Sea Ice Extent and Concentration, 1850 Onward," is described in a paper out in the July issue of Geographical Review.      This data set expands on an earlier product that begins in 1901. “We wanted to extend and improve on the data we already had,” says CIRES' Florence Fetterer, the NOAA liaison at NSIDC. “So we gathered historical sources of sea ice information and filled spatial and temporal gaps using an analog method.” More