"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for March, 2016|Monthly archive page

The Arctic Is Thawing Much Faster Than Expected, Scientists Warn

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 at 2:33 pm

1

NEWTOK, AK – JULY 06: The marshy, tundra landscape surrounding Newtok is seen from a plane on July 6, 2015 outside Newtok, Alaska. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

 

Oldspeak: Yeesh. More “faster than expected” news. Especially sobering on the heels of  last week’s news that Arctic sea ice volume is nearing a record low.  Consider these realities with the findings of an influential group of scientists led by James Hansen, who recently published a dire climate study that suggests the impact of global warming will be quicker and more catastrophic than generally envisioned. When you throw in the little nugget that faster than expected thawing permafrost is likely to trigger methane releases that will offset any human attempts at “mitigation”, it gets a little more clear how proper fucked we are.  Are we beginning to see a pattern here people? Ecological change is happening far faster than climate models predict. There’s nothing we can do to stop it, in fact, we are still trying to figure out just what the fuck is going on….What a shitshow it will be when our Great Mother’s air conditioner goes Kaput.”-OSJ

Written By Chris Mooney @ The Washington Post:

Amid blowout warm temperatures in the Arctic this year, two new studies have amplified concerns about one of the wild cards of a warming planet — how quickly warming Arctic soils could become major contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, causing still greater warming.

In a major international study published last week in Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers from regions ranging from Alaska to Russia report that permafrost is thawing faster than expected — even in some of the very coldest areas.

In these regions, winter freezing cracks open the ground, which then fills with water in the summer from melting snow. When refreezing occurs in the winter, that causes large wedges of ice to form amid the icy ground. These ice wedges can extend ten or fifteen meters deep, and can in some cases be thousands of years old.

But the study, sampling high Arctic sites in Russia, Alaska, and Canada based on both field studies and satellite observations, found that across the Arctic, the tops of these wedges are melting, as the top layer of permafrost soil — which itself lies beneath a so-called “active layer” of soil that freezes and thaws regularly — also begins to thaw. “Landscape-wide ice-wedge degradation was observed at ten out of eleven sites,” the paper reported.

“At the places where we have sufficient amounts of data we are seeing this process happen in less than a decade and even after one warm summer,” says Anna Liljedahl, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

“The scientific community has had the assumption that this cold permafrost would be protected from climate warming, but we’re showing here that the top of the permafrost, even if it’s very cold, is very sensitive to these warming events,” Liljedahl continues.

The new study focuses specifically on the consequences of this ice wedge degradation for the region’s hydrology. The melting of ice wedges redistributes water on a massive scale. It can flow out of the landscape and into rivers and the Arctic Ocean, says Liledahl. Or it pools in lakes.

However, the real implication is far broader, says Liledahl’s co-author Ken Tape, also a professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. “It’s the first study where these features and changes have been documented across the Arctic,” Tape says. “We’ve had occasional studies where they look at one place. That’s a lot different than saying it’s happening across the Arctic.”

“It’s a region that we thought up until recently would hold together a little bit better because there’s so much cold permafrost, and so much cold down deep,” Tape continues. “I think the idea was that it will be more stable than this.”

The degrading of permafrost in this way won’t just affect water, but also the planet’s atmosphere, says another of Liljedahl’s co-authors, the permafrost expert Vladimir Romanovsky, also of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. “The degradation of ice wedges shows that upper part of permafrost is thawing, and thawing of the upper part of permafrost definitely is producing additional greenhouse gases,” he says.

The problem is that as these frozen soils thaw, even for part of the year, microorganisms living within them can begin to break down dead but preserved plant life from eons past, and release their carbon in the form of carbon dioxide or methane. Romanovsky says he thinks that the Earth’s atmosphere already contains more greenhouse gases than it might otherwise due to this thawing.

It has been estimated that Arctic permafrost contains roughly twice as much total carbon in its frozen depths as the entire planetary atmosphere does, because these landscapes have slowly stored it up over vast time periods.

And it’s not just carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that results — the melting of ice wedges leads to sinking ground and a bumpy, denatured landscape that impairs Arctic transportation and infrastructure. “Instead of having a relatively smooth landscape, which is really easy to drive a snowmachine on, you create this bumpy landscape, with bumps that could become a meter or two high,” says Liljedahl.

There have been at least some arguments that there may be other factors that offset permafrost carbon emissions. Some have suggested, for instance, that more plants will grow in the warmer Arctic, sequestering more carbon, and that this will help offset permafrost losses.

But in the second study, just published in Environmental Research Letters, an expert assessment of nearly 100 Arctic scientists found little reason to believe there will be any factor that offsets permafrost emissions enough to reduce the level of worry.

The expert assessment led to the conclusion that, as the paper puts it, “Arctic and boreal biomass should not be counted on to offset permafrost carbon release and suggests that the permafrost region will become a carbon source to the atmosphere by 2100 regardless of warming scenario.”

These studies of permafrost are critical because of the underlying math of the climate change problem. There is a hard limit to how many greenhouse gases can be emitted if we want to avoid a given level of warming — say, 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Researchers have even quantified the latter limit, suggesting we can’t emit more than 1,000 billion tons, or gigatons, of carbon dioxide from 2011 and on if we want a two thirds or better chance of staying below 2 degrees C. The inevitable result is an extremely tight planetary carbon budget for the coming years.

Permafrost has the potential to upend all of that. The last thing the world needs, as it creaks into action to reduce emissions, is the emergence of a major new source of them, brought on by warming itself. Yet that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

Granted, precisely how much carbon permafrost can emit and how fast that can happen remain big uncertainties. But given current scientific understanding, it could easily be well over 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide by the end of the century, or one tenth of the remaining carbon budget. In fact, it could be more than that.

“Ten percent is really something that you have to be aware and include it in any kind of projections of changes in greenhouse gases,” said Romanovsky. “And I would say at this point it is still slow, but with further warming, probably by mid-century, these emissions will be much more.”

 

 

“It’s a train running downhill, and the hill is getting steeper.” – Greenland’s Darkening Ice Is Melting Faster

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2016 at 6:26 pm
CROP-greenland-ice-sensor-800x400

A scientist launches a measuring sensor into a meltwater river on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre via Flickr

Oldspeak: “A scientist providing an eloquent metaphor for the intractable predicament that is Earth’s ongoing and accelerating 6th Mass extinction.  It’s noted in the article below that the estimates mentioned in it are conservative. Translation: expect change faster than expected. The ever speedier melting of the Greenland ice sheet is one of a constellation of irreversible non-linear positive feedback loops that have been triggered, are accelerating, and cannot be stopped. And boooy  it’s DOOSY. Melted Greenland means 20 ft of global sea level rise, and quite a bit more on the U.S. and Canadian east coast, because, well lets face it, we kinna fucking deserve to be drowned in our golden bathtub. ” -OSJ

Written By Tim Radford @ Climate News Network:

LONDON, 8 March, 2016 – Greenland is getting darker. Climatology’s great white hope, the biggest block of ice in the northern hemisphere, is losing its reflectivity.

According to new research, the island’s dusty snows are absorbing ever more solar radiation, which is likely to accelerate the rate at which the icecap melts.

The Greenland icecap covers 1.7 million square kilometres and contains enough ice to raise sea levels by seven metres. Right now, the rate of melting is on the increase, and meltwater flowing off the icecap could be raising sea levels by 0.6mm a year.

A powerful contributing factor, scientists report in The Cryosphere journal, could be that the ice has darkened over the last two decades. By 2100, the albedo – the climatologists’ term for the reflectivity of rock, sand, water or ice – could have fallen by 10%.

Feedback loop

Soot blown in from wildfires further south – already fingered as one of the suspects by previous studies – may be part of the problem, but the researchers have a more complex agency in mind: the feedback loop.

In the summer, the surface ice starts to melt. As the top layers trickle away, old impurities are exposed, darkening the surface and making it more sun-receptive. As the snow freezes again, the grains of snow get bigger – as water becomes ice, it makes a glue for the snow grains – and the bigger grains make a less reflective surface.

Greenland still looks icy and snowy, and enough optical light is reflected to make snow-blindness a danger. But in the infra-red region of the spectrum − where the global warming happens in the thickening soup of greenhouse gases − it’s a different story.

“You don’t necessarily have to have a ‘dirtier’ snowpack to make it dark,” says the study’s leader, Marco Tedesco, founder of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory, which is now based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“A snowpack that might look ‘clean’ to our eyes can be more effective in absorbing solar radiation than a dirty one. Overall, what matters is the total amount of solar energy that the surface absorbs. This is the real driver of melting.”

“As warming continues, the feedback from declining
albedo will add up. It’s a train running
downhill, and the hill is getting steeper”

The latest study is not likely to settle the question of the future of the Greenland ice cap, if only because repeated studies keep delivering different conclusions.

Overall, climate scientists are increasingly sure that global climate change, as a consequence of global warming driven by ever-higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere – itself a consequence of ever greater combustion of fossil fuels – is to blame. But big questions remain.

How much of the surface meltwater makes it to the ocean? What is going on where the ice meets the bedrock? And why have the glaciers started to accelerate on their journey towards the sea? What is the role of the warming ocean? Do clouds play a part?

Nevertheless,  the darkening of the snows remains a potentially powerful contributing factor.

Summertime changes

The Cryosphere science team used satellite information to compare summertime changes in Greenland’s albedo from 1981 to 2012. The darkening started around 1996 and the ice began absorbing 2% more radiation per decade.

On the other hand, the Global Fire Emissions Database revealed no statistically significant increase in soot released by forest fires in the northern hemisphere that could account for such darkening during that period, so questions remain.

But, over the same period, summer near-surface temperatures in Greenland increased by 0.74°C per decade to help accelerate the feedback. Computer models were used to settle the questions of grain size and albedo. Over the entire ice sheet, average albedo will fall by 8% over the rest of this century, and by as much as 10% on the western edge.

Professor Tedesco thinks these are conservative estimates. Global warming will mean more precipitation. As well as the winter snow, there will be more summer rain, which would also speed up melting. As average global temperatures creep up, higher altitudes are more likely to warm and melt.

“As warming continues, the feedback from declining albedo will add up,” he says. “It’s a train running downhill, and the hill is getting steeper.” – Climate News Network

 

 

Study: Dangerous Global Warming Of 2C Will Happen Sooner Than Previously Thought

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2016 at 5:07 pm

 

Oldspeak: ‘University of Queensland and Griffith University researchers have developed a “global energy tracker” which predicts average world temperatures could climb 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2020.

That forecast, based on new modelling using long-term average projections on economic growth, population growth and energy use per person, points to a 2C rise by 2030.

…the model suggested the surge in energy consumption was not offset by improvements in energy efficiency.

Energy use per person is on track to rise sixfold by 2050, which has dire implications for temperatures when combined with economic growth of 3.9% a year (the six-decade average) and a world population of 9 billion.

“Massive increases in energy consumption would be necessary to alleviate poverty for the nearly 50% of the world’s population who live on less than $2.50 a day,” Wagner said.

We have a choice: leave people in poverty and speed towards dangerous global warming through the increased use of fossil fuels, or transition rapidly to renewables.” -Joshua Robertson

“How bout that. Yet another instance of climate changes happening sooner than expected. Shocker. Especially interesting, given the recent data indicating global average temperatures HAVE ALREADY SPIKED TO 1.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Like last fucking month, you know, Feburary; in the middle of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. I liked the indirect admission that staying at or below is not possible, with 2c surely expected, but MUCH SOONER. I’ll wager it’ll be even sooner than these new models indicate. I’m thinkin, we’ll be at or above 2c by 202o. What I’m wondering is, where all the resources to fuel all the supposed increases in economic growth, population growth and renewable energy use will come from? We already know, despite the propaganda to the contrary, that economic growth is in the toilet, with the best indicator, the baltic dry index slipping to ever deeper record lows.We know that 4 billion people face water scarcity. Arable land is vanishing/being poisoned. We know the minerals and rare earth metals required for our technology and transition to renewables are getting harder to find and every costlier to extract as the technosphere gobbles up more and more to fabricate and power our disposable gadgets and Black Mirrors. Poverty is the probable future for all, with a civilization facing insurmountable threats to food water and other essential natural resources. Transitioning to renewables at this point will make very little difference in our fate, and may even make it worse, as global temperatures will likely spike more when the sunlight deflecting sulfate microparticles that are byproducts of fossil fuel use, decrease in intensity. And with the business as usual scenario proceeding largely unchanged, 2c by 2020 is all but assured. That’s when the block really gets HOT.” -OSJ

Written By Joshua Robertson @ The Guardian UK:

The UN conference on climate change in Paris last year agreed to a 1.5C rise as the preferred limit to protect vulnerable island states, and a 2C rise as the absolute limit.

The new modelling is the brainchild of Ben Hankamer from UQ’s institute for molecular bioscience and Liam Wagner from Griffith University’s department of accounting, finance and economics, whose work was published in the journal Plos One on Thursday.

It is the first model to include energy use per person – which has more than doubled since 1950 – alongside economic and population growth as a way of predicting carbon emissions and corresponding temperature increases.

The researchers said the earlier than expected advance of global warming revealed by their modelling added a newfound urgency to the switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

Hankamer said: “The more the economy grows, the more energy you use … the conclusion really is that economists and environmentalists are on the same side and have both come to the same conclusion: we’ve got to act now and we don’t have much time.”

Wagner said the model suggested the surge in energy consumption was not offset by improvements in energy efficiency.

He said energy use per person was on track to rise sixfold by 2050, which had dire implications for temperatures when combined with economic growth of 3.9% a year (the six-decade average) and a world population of 9 billion.

“Massive increases in energy consumption would be necessary to alleviate poverty for the nearly 50% of the world’s population who live on less than $2.50 a day,” Wagner said.

“We have a choice: leave people in poverty and speed towards dangerous global warming through the increased use of fossil fuels, or transition rapidly to renewables.”

Hankamer said: “When you think about statements like ‘coal is good for humanity’ because we’re pulling people out of poverty, it’s just not true”.

“You would have to burn so much coal in order to get the energy to provide people with a living to get them off $2.50 a day that [temperature rises] would just go through the roof very quickly.”

The researchers suggested switching $500bn in subsidies for fossil fuels worldwide to renewables as a “cost neutral” way to fast-track the energy transition.

Wagner said pulling the rug from out under the fossil fuels industry was a move of “creative destruction” and “more a political issue rather than an economic issue”.

“If we swapped those subsidies globally, of course we could have rapid improvement and deployment of renewables to cover our shift from fossil fuels,” he said.

“You’re pushing a huge amount of capital into a different sector that requires an enormous amount of growth, so you would actually see a great deal more growth from putting it into renewables than providing it for fossil fuels.”

Hankamer said the fact that about 80% of the world’s energy was for fuel, and only 20% for electricity, meant “we don’t have any easy solutions”.

“If we want to do this, we need to do things like solar fuels, or think about how we do battery technologies and fully transition to electric,” he said.

“The things that are going to be hard to replace are aviation fuels and things for heavy machinery and probably shipping.

“We can do electric cars for short runs but those things are going to be really hard to switch.”

 

Satellite Data Suggests Global Forest Loss Is Accelerating

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2016 at 4:13 pm
A view is seen from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) in Sao Sebastiao do Uatuma

A view is seen from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) in Sao Sebastiao do Uatuma in the middle of the Amazon forest in Amazonas state January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

Oldspeak: “As deforestation accelerates, we can project climate change will also accelerate.

-Dr. Do-Hyung Kim.

“Earth’s lungs are dying at an alarmingly accelerating rate, under assault on multiple fronts. The most absurd cause being human activity, via deforestation for logging, agriculture and urban development. I think it’s safe to say we’re the only species in the long history of our Great Mother, to have singlehandedly brought about a mass extinction, due in some part to our insatiably rapacious need to feed ourselves, build our homes & wipe our asses with our Earth’s lungs. Coming soon to a store near you Eviair!-OSJ

enhanced-buzz-1276-1321640966-23

UPDATED 3/24/2016:

Holy fuck. I was kidding about the Eviair coming soon, but fuck me, it’s HERE MAN! IT’S HERE!!! AIR IS BEING SOLD TO PEOPLE FOR 115 DOLLARS A BOTTLE!

serveimage

Enter a caption

Vitality Air sells canisters of fresh air collected in Banff and Lake Louise, Alta. (Vitality Air)

 

Written By Kyle Plantz @ Reuters:

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Satellite images suggest tropical forests from the Amazon to the Philippines are disappearing at a far more rapid pace than previously thought, a University of Maryland team of forest researchers say.

The annual rate of deforestation from 1990 to 2010 was 62 percent higher than in the previous decade, and higher than previous estimates, according to a study carried out of satellite maps covering 80 percent of the world’s tropical forests.

The new study questions the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) assessment, which suggested that the rate of deforestation actually decreased 25 percent from 1990 to 2010.

Until now, “the Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) report of the United Nation’s FAO was the only one available source to estimate long term forest change and its trends,” said Do-Hyung Kim, lead author of the study that is expected to be published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“However, the FAO report has been criticized for inconsistency in its survey methods and the definition of what is a forest. Our result is important in that we are providing a satellite-based alternative for the FRA,” he said.

The FAO assessment has been based in large part on self reporting from tropical forest countries, Kim said. In contrast, Kim and his University of Maryland colleagues analyzed 5,444 Landsat images from 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2010 to assess how much forest was lost or gained 34 countries, which account for about 80 percent of tropical forest land in the world.

During the 1990 to 2000 time period, the annual net forest loss across all the countries was 4 million hectares (about 15,000 square miles or 40,000 square kilometers) per year, according to the study.

From 2000 to 2010, the net forest loss increased 62 percent to 6.5 million hectares (about 25,000 square miles or 65,000 square kilometers) per year – an area of forest clearing the size of Sri Lanka each year.

BIGGEST LOSSES IN LATIN AMERICA

The study found that tropical Latin America showed the largest increase annual net forest losses — 1.4 million hectares (about 5,400 square miles or 14,000 square kilometers) per year from the 1990s to the 2000s. Brazil topped the list with an annual 0.6 million-hectare loss (about 2,300 square miles or 6,000 square kilometers) per year.

Tropical Asia showed the second largest increase in deforestation with 0.8 million hectares (about 3,100 square miles or 8,000 square kilometers) lost per year, led by countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Tropical Africa showed the least amount of annual net forest area loss, but still saw a steady increase due to cutting primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.

The U.N.’s Forest Resource Assessment reported during the same time period that there was a 25 percent decrease in deforestation in tropical forest countries.

SATELLITES OF ‘LIMITED VALUE’

However, Rodney Keenan, a University of Melbourne forest science researcher who participated in the FAO’s last forest assessment, said the agency’s report might not be as flawed as it seems.

“The Kim study uses automated remotely sensed imagery only,” he said. “This gives a picture of one aspect of forest change, while ground estimates and management information give other perspectives,” such as whether land without trees is set to be reforested.

“Most experts consider that relying on remote sensing alone, as these authors have done, is of limited value in understanding forest dynamics and management,” he said.

Keenan agreed that both approaches could be considered “complementary” and the new study presents “interesting new data”.

However, Kim said the Forest Resource Assessment missed deforestation that is obvious in satellite images. For example, the FRA reported no change of deforestation rates in 16 of 34 countries looked at in both studies, including Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The new study, however, found increasing deforestation in those countries, he said.

Drivers of increased deforestation include an increase in urban population, logging and growth of agriculture, according to research from NASA.

Deforestation contributes about 10 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming, studies suggest, which has led to a range of efforts to reduce the problem.

The UN-led Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) effort, for instance, helps channel money from richer nations to poorer tropical forest ones in exchange for efforts to protect tropical forests.

Satellite imaging is one way to hold countries more accountable for their deforestation, Kim said. He noted that “as deforestation accelerates, we can project climate change will also accelerate.”

Keenan said better understanding where and why deforestation happens can help “explore the opportunities to reduce (forest) conversion.”

“Reducing deforestation, increasing forest area and sustainably managing our forests can be an important contribution to action on climate change,” he said.

The FAO is set to issue an updated forest assessment in September at the World Forestry Congress.

————————————————————————

(Reporting by Kyle Plantz; editing by Laurie Goering)

 

 

Study: Food Scarcity Caused By Climate Change Could Cause 500,000 Deaths By 2050

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2016 at 1:05 pm

empty shelvesOldspeak : “Climate experts have long predicted severe consequences for global food security if serious steps are not taken to mitigate climate change. Rising temperatures, more frequent droughts and more severe weather events are expected to cause agriculture in certain areas to suffer, all while the global population — and its demand for food — continues to skyrocket.

The results of this study indicate that even quite modest reductions in per-person food availability could lead to changes in the energy content and composition of diets that are associated with substantial negative health implications,” the authors write in the paper. It’s a sobering look at just a single facet of the climate change dilemma. Of course, the impacts of climate change are expected to cause human deaths in a variety of other ways as well. The increased risk of infectious disease, natural disasters, forced migration and civil unrest are just a few examples.

Restriction of our view of the consequences of climate change to what might happen in the next 30–40 years is understandable in terms of conventional concerns with data quality and model stability,” it was noted, “but might underestimate the size of future risks, and therefore undervalue present actions needed to mitigate and adapt.” -Chelsea Harvey

“Yep. Sounds about right. With water scarcity affecting 4 billion humans and food scarcity affecting almost 1 billion humans already, These findings are as is suggested in the underlined sentence above,  in all probability underestimated. Par for the course. In related and equally grim news, a recent report describes the worsening, rapid and widespread die-offs of bees; the creatures responsible for 1 of every 3 bites of food eaten by humans. Consider that sobering reality in the context of an inconvenient truth elucidated by Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live, No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”  Are we noticing a pattern here people? Situation is critical. The prognosis for humanity is not good, with rapidly dwindling food and water and a climate increasingly inhospitable to life. With population projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, requiring a 60 percent increase in food production, the numbers don’t add up. It’s just not realistic to continue acting like everything is OK and we will be clever enough to make it all better. We most certainly can not. We need to start accepting the unavoidable reality that billions of people will die in relatively short order. There is no mitigating or adapting what is happening. Our technology will not save us, in fact it has contributed a great deal to the global ecological collapse we’re bearing witness to. Our goose (and most other lifeforms on earth) is cooked. Having more babies who will consume more of everything we’re rapidly running out of and accelerate the ongoing mass extinction is in my view, omnicidal at this point.” -OSJ

Written By  Chelsea Harvey @ The Washington Post:

The effects of climate change on food production around the world could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by the year 2050, according to a grim new study. Climate-related impacts on agriculture could lead to an overall global decline in food availability, the research suggests, forcing people to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and less meat. And the public health impacts of these changes could be severe.Climate experts have long predicted severe consequences for global food security if serious steps are not taken to mitigate climate change. Rising temperatures, more frequent droughts and more severe weather events are expected to cause agriculture in certain areas to suffer, all while the global population — and its demand for food — continues to skyrocket.So there’s been a great interest in recent years in using models to predict the ways climate change will affect agriculture under various scenarios and what those effects might mean for future human societies. In the new study, which was published Wednesday in the journal The Lancet, a group of scientists from the U.K. took their research a step further.

They decided to take a look at not only how climate-induced changes in agricultural production will affect human food consumption, but also how these dietary changes might influence human mortality. It’s known that diet is connected with human health in many intimate ways, and poor diet has been linked with a number of serious diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

The researchers, led by Marco Springmann of Oxford University’s Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, used an agricultural model to simulate the effects of future climate change on global food production and consumption. They assumed a severe climate change scenario, one in which global air temperature by 2050 is about two degrees higher than it was in the time period between 1986 and 2005. They then used a health model to predict the way these changes in food production and consumption would affect human health. They compared all of these effects to a reference scenario, which assumes a future with no climate change.

If no climate change were to occur, the model predicted that global food availability would actually increase by 10.3 percent by the year 2050. But under the effects of climate change, it’s a different story, and the model predicted that global food availability would be 3.2 percent lower than was predicted in the scenario with no climate change. Specifically, it found that people would eat 4 percent less fruit and vegetables and 0.7 percent less meat.

These dietary changes translate into hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths. If there were no climate change, the health model found that the projected future increases in global food availability would actually save nearly 2 million lives in 2050 compared with conditions in 2010. But the model predicted that the effects of climate change will reduce the number of lives saved by about 28 percent — this translates into about 529,000 deaths that would not have occurred if there were no climate change.

The food-related deaths would be caused by two major factors: people not getting the right type of nutrition, and people simply being underweight. The majority of all the predicted deaths were found to be caused by the nutrition factors, mostly by people being forced to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. However, the effects were somewhat variable in different regions of the world.

The fruit and vegetable-related deaths, for instance, were most prevalent in high-income countries, as well as low- or middle-income countries in the Western Pacific, Europe and Eastern Mediterranean. Deaths related to weight — in other words, insufficient calorie intake — were a bigger risk factor in Africa and Southeast Asia. Overall, the most climate-related deaths were seen in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia — particularly in China and India.

It’s worth noting that a few countries were predicted to have climate-related decreases in deaths, related to a lower caloric intake. The changes in food availability and consumption were predicted to reduce obesity in some places — a condition also linked with disease and an increased risk of mortality. Regions where lives were actually saved included Central and South America and parts of Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. But these saved lives were far outnumbered by the amount of extra deaths caused by climate change.

“The results of this study indicate that even quite modest reductions in per-person food availability could lead to changes in the energy content and composition of diets that are associated with substantial negative health implications,” the authors write in the paper. It’s a sobering look at just a single facet of the climate change dilemma. Of course, the impacts of climate change are expected to cause human deaths in a variety of other ways as well. The increased risk of infectious disease, natural disasters, forced migration and civil unrest are just a few examples.

But as far as food security goes, the paper does raise the need for more targeted public health programs in various parts of the world that can start preparing for the potential dietary impacts of a warming climate. “Strengthening of public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet and weight-related risk factors could be a suitable climate change adaptation strategy with a goal of reducing climate-related health effects,” the authors write, noting that such interventions should be tailored by region to account for the specific challenges that different parts of the world are expected to face.

In the meantime, climate mitigation efforts could prevent thousands of deaths. The researchers found that by applying a moderate climate change scenario, instead of a severe one, the number of climate related deaths fell by about 30 percent. And in a scenario that assumed highly stringent mitigation efforts, the number of deaths fell by more than 70 percent.

So the public health impact of serious mitigation efforts is clear. And in a comment published in The Lancet alongside the new study, Alistair Woodward of the University of Auckland argues that future research should look at even more long-term effects to really drive the point home.

“Restriction of our view of the consequences of climate change to what might happen in the next 30–40 years is understandable in terms of conventional concerns with data quality and model stability,” he noted, “but might underestimate the size of future risks, and therefore undervalue present actions needed to mitigate and adapt.”

He also pointed out that issues with data caused some small nations, such as the highly climate-vulnerable Pacific Island states, to be left out of the study. This means we still don’t have a complete picture of how individual nations throughout the world might suffer the effects of climate change.

And, of course, there are many questions that the study simply did not have the scope to address. Those include issues related to the ways climate change will directly affect fisheries and livestock or the nutritional quality of produce, as well as the ways that some climate mitigation practices — culling livestock to cut down on methane emissions, for instance — could also affect global food security.

Combining research of different types can help address the many interrelated questions related to climate change, its environmental impacts and their implications for human health. For now, at the very least, the new study serves as a stark reminder that taking climate change seriously is no longer a luxury, but a matter of life and death for thousands of people around the world.

————————————————————————-

Chelsea Harvey is a freelance journalist covering science. She specializes in environmental health and policy.

 

CO2 Levels Reach Highest Point in 15 Million Years; Water Scarcity Affects 4 Billion People

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2016 at 4:06 pm

2016_0229climate

Oldspeak: “While infotainment streams that pass for news media are feeding us proles wall to wall coverage of the Kabuki Theater passing for U.S. elections, the ecology upon which all life depends, continues to deteriorate at an ever accelerating pace. Dahr Jamail is back with his latest monthly postcard from the edge. 4 billion people are facing water scarcity. That reality will only get worse as temperatures rise. Seas are acidifying and rising faster than expected swallowing coastlines, polar ice is vanishing ever faster, soil productivity is decreasing, droughts expanding, the ranks of climate refuges continue to swell, oh, and there is a giant 1,400 mile swath of wildfire raging in Africa. Relentlessly and irresistibly, Earth’s 6th and fastest proceeding mass extinction rumbles along and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Buckle up kids, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Recently, a Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker ship took an interesting trip into the Arctic. The ship found no ice to break, despite the fact that it was the dead of winter and barely 800 miles from the North Pole.

Indeed, record-low levels of Arctic sea ice are becoming normal. The ice is disappearing before our very eyes.

Satellite data now shows we are witnessing a very rapid acceleration in global sea level rise. In the last six years, oceans have risen by five millimeters per year, which is a rate not seen since the ending of the last Ice Age – and it is accelerating.

One of the most alarming indicators of ever-accelerating anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) this writer has witnessed since beginning these dispatches is the fact that atmospheric carbon dioxide, in early February, reached a level not seen on the planet in the last 15 million years.

This year is already on pace to be hotter than the previous hottest year ever recorded, which was 2015.

Thanks to humans, the earth was (since the 1990s) already experiencing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in a realm not experienced on the planet since the Pliocene epoch, which was the period 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago that saw atmospheric carbon dioxide levels between 350 and 405 parts per million and average global temperatures that ranged between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warmer than the climate of the 1880s.

Now we must brace ourselves for a new world, as carbon dioxide levels exceed even that epoch – a time when global sea levels were 80 feet higher than they are today.

Reaching 405.66 parts per million has brought us into another epoch – the epoch of the Anthropocene, as ACD impacts are becoming more apparent by the day.

This year is already on pace to be hotter than the previous hottest year ever recorded, which was 2015. NASA recently reported that January 2016 was by far the hottest January on record. January 2016 blew out the previous record for hottest January (2007) by nearly 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also in January, the Arctic averaged a stunning 13.5 degrees Fahrenheit above average temperatures, which led to a new record low of Arctic sea ice extent for the month.

NASA data shows that the previous 12 months have also been the hottest 12-month period every recorded, using the space agency’s 12-month moving average.

It cannot be overstated how shockingly dramatic the changes impacting the Arctic are this winter. We should all be highly alarmed by the fact that throughout the Arctic above 70 degrees north latitude, January temperatures averaged between 7 and 23 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than usual for, most incredibly, the entire month.

What we are witnessing there is unprecedented, as the January average temperatures in the area of the Arctic above 80 degrees north latitude were the same as they usually are for April. Literally, the further north you go, the warmer it becomes.

Keep these stunning changes in the Arctic in mind, as this month’s global survey of abrupt climate disruption continues.

Earth

Evidence of ACD progressing more rapidly than ever continues to abound when we inspect what is happening on the ground.

This past December and January were filled with firsts across the United Kingdom. December 2015 proved to be both the warmest and wettest ever recorded, followed abruptly by a day that saw more than 600 species of flowers in bloom, whereas a normal (pre-ACD year) would have seen between 30 and 40 species in bloom.

Recent research published in Royal Society Open Science provided some even more disturbing news: The increasingly warm temperatures associated with ACD are causing some eggs to hatch earlier than others. In other words, ACD is removing birds’ control over when their eggs hatch.

The news is equally dismal for the beautiful snowshoe hare. A study published in Ecology Letters in January shows that animals like this particular hare, which have camouflage that changes to match the seasons, will now be much more vulnerable to their predators, thanks to later arriving winter snows and earlier spring melting.

Upwards of 20 million people in Bangladesh will likely lose their homes by 2050 due to increasingly severe storms, sea level rise and erosion.

Up in Alaska, it’s so hot now that the traditional hunt for bearded seal last summer was cut abnormally short due to melted ice, causing the Native community there to worry about losing the ability to continue with their traditional ways of acquiring food and practicing their culture. Normally, the hunt lasts an average of three weeks; this year, it lasted less than a week.

A recently released report shows that the Yukon, like the Arctic, is already experiencing dramatic ACD impacts. The Yukon’s temperature is rising twice as fast as it is elsewhere around the planet, according to the report, and the region has already lost at least 22 percent of its glacial cover.

ACD’s impacts continue to mount in the Antarctic as well. A recent study shows a “major decline” of penguins in the Antarctic. One colony will likely disappear altogether within 20 years, due to increasingly large icebergs (due to rapid warming of the ice shelf causing them to calve) cutting off penguins’ access to the sea where they feed.

ACD is also impacting soil productivity in agriculture, which is in turn making societies more vulnerable, according to a recent report. Consistent degradation of soils means that hundreds of millions of people around the globe will likely become displaced due to the lack of an ability to grow food in the coming decades.

A recent report on Bangladesh reveals that upwards of 20 million people there will likely lose their homes by 2050 due to various aspects of ACD, including increasingly severe storms, sea level rise and erosion.

Emergency response organizations, including the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are now using climate data in order to better prepare themselves to deal with weather-related disasters, which are becoming far more frequent and severe.

The US Southwest, already by far the hottest and most arid region of the country, is set to enter what experts are diplomatically calling a “drier climate state.” A recent study shows that rains and mountain snows are drying up, and many experts already believe the region has entered a multidecade megadrought.

Similarly, another report shows how experts are scrambling to figure out what is causing the tropics, and dry zones next to them, to expand rapidly toward the poles. While the heart of the tropics is lush, the northern and southern edges are quite dry, and those parched borders are now rapidly growing both to the north and south.

Water

Speaking of droughts, in Zimbabwe, drought has become so intense that the country is asking for an additional $1.6 billion in aid to help buy grains and other food to help more than 3 million people already in desperate need. The drought there is bad enough that the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, recently declared a state of emergency.

A recent study assessed the likelihood that “dust bowl” conditions will emerge in the United States in the 21st century, and found that a dust bowl similar to that of the 1930s would have just as intense an impact on agriculture – but that the next one might be even larger.

A recent analysis in the journal Science Advances shows that global water scarcity is a far, far greater problem than many had previously thought: It is already affecting 4 billion people – two-thirds of the world’s population – and will be “one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century,” as the water table “all over the world” continues to drop, according to the recent study.

Meanwhile, up in the Arctic, distressing new information from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, shows that Arctic sea ice extent has settled to its fourth-lowest level ever measured at the end of the most recent melt season. In January, the ice extent hit a new record-low average for the month. Then, in the beginning days of February, the Arctic sea ice extent and area both broke records again, as the entire global sea ice area entered the second-lowest range ever to have been recorded.

Ocean acidification (fueled by ACD) is expected to cause skeletal deformities in half of global juvenile corals.

The shrinking of the ice is having immediate and severe impacts on wildlife: A recent study shows that polar bears in Alaska, due to shrinking and faster-moving ice, are having to work harder in order to continue to live in the northern regions of that state, where they prefer to hunt. This means the bears now must catch and eat as many as four additional seals every year in order to maintain the caloric content they need to overcome the distances they must travel.

Down in the Antarctic, a recent study warns that glaciers there are increasingly vulnerable to quickening melting as water temperatures in the Southern Ocean continue to warm.

In the northeastern Pacific Ocean during 2014, millions of starfish up and down the West Coast, from Mexico all the way to Alaska, died off. That strange occurrence was recently linked to warming ocean waters. In the northeastern Pacific, waters have reached their warmest temperatures in decades – a trend driven by ACD, according to recent findings.

More distressing news about the decline of life in the oceans came in with another report, which shows that ocean acidification (fueled by ACD) is expected to cause skeletal deformities in half of global juvenile corals, making them increasingly susceptible to dying off.

Also on the ocean front, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that warming oceans are actually making coastal flooding worse. According to the study, this is because of the expansion of warming waters, which caused as much sea level rise from 2002 through 2014 as the melting of all the glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets combined.

Hence, another report revealed how the US East Coast is now considered to be a “hot spot” for rising seas driven by ACD. This is due to several ACD-linked factors, including warming water (which expands as it warms), more severe storms and a stronger Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, on which Truthout previously reported in detail.

Some interesting ramifications of these ACD impacts driving water shortages are already playing out in North Carolina, where population growth, industrial development, sea level rise and other factors are already threatening the availability of freshwater, and have kicked up competition for water rights.

The East Coast isn’t the only part of the United States that is facing freshwater availability issues. A recent report from Climate Central shows that there will be an increase in the continuing trend of more rain and less snow during US winters, which will impact the Pacific Northwest, California and other parts of the United States as well.

We recently saw the occurrence of the first ACD refugees in the United States, when Native Americans living in the marsh of Louisiana were awarded $48 million from the federal government in order to relocate off of their disappearing land, which is being swallowed by rising seas.

Lastly in this section, the impact of the ongoing drought in California continues in the state’s driest county, Tulare, where there continues to be no running water – and no solutions.

Fire

A massive outbreak of major wildfires across western and central Africa ignited recently. Spanning a half-dozen countries, the 1,400-mile-long swath of fire is visible from space. It has created an apocalyptic scene across a region of Africa that was already beset with record-breaking drought and staggering levels of hunger.

It is worth noting that wildfire incidences like this one, which are occurring across the globe now more frequently, with greater severity, and causing more damage than ever, also function as yet another feedback loop in regard to ACD: As the planet warms, arid regions dry further, causing more wildfires, which warm the planet further, and so the cycle amplifies itself.

Air

Scientists now believe that the massive blizzard that struck the US East Coast was fueled by ACD. Higher-than-normal Atlantic surface waters off the East Coast acted to fuel the storm, and hence, larger-than-ever East Coast snowstorms are now becoming the norm.

Hotter air and water temperatures in and over the Pacific caused the most powerful cyclone ever recorded, with sustained winds hitting 200 miles per hour. The cyclone hit Fiji and killed at least 19 people.

Meanwhile, as air and water temperatures around the globe continue to warm, health experts have warned that diseases like the mosquito-borne Zika virus may well become worse and more prevalent across the planet.

A record-setting heat wave in California saw stunningly warm temperatures for the middle of February. Up and down the coast of that state, record high temperatures were seen, including 89 degrees Fahrenheit in Los Angeles, 94 in Orange County and 77 in San Francisco.

Lastly in this section, a recent study shows how ACD is making westbound transatlantic flights significantly longer. Climate disruption is strengthening high altitude winds by speeding up the jet stream, as it has long since been expected to do.

Denial and Reality

There is never a dull month in the ACD-denial section, particularly when one lives in the United States.

In late January, a group of US states, led by oil-producing Texas and coal-producing West Virginia, asked the Supreme Court to put a hold on President Obama’s aims to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in order to mitigate ACD.

A 1982 report by the American Petroleum Institute shows that, even then, the group knew of ACD’s impacts. Their report states that ACD “can have serious consequences for man’s comfort and survival.”

The Heartland Institute, a think tank funded by the fossil fuel industry and infamous for backing ACD denial, recently distributed a non-science-based report denying the scientific consensus on ACD to elected officials.

Still, the proponents of a reality-based approach to climate disruption are always growing. A recent poll shows that the vast majority of Americans back government action aimed at mitigating the impacts of ACD.

Decisions around mitigation measures will have long-ranging effects: A recently published study in Nature Climate Change looks into the “deep time” implications of carbon dioxide impacts and found that government policies today that are being set to mitigate (or not) carbon dioxide impacts will have implications spanning at least the next 10,000 years.

Meanwhile, the so-called Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe that is maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, remains unchanged at three minutes until midnight. The clock’s hands “are the closest they’ve been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing” in the 1950s, largely due to the ongoing threats to the planet from ACD.