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Updated: 1 year 39 weeks ago

A million years ago, Greenland was ice free

Wed, 12/16/2015 - 07:34
As the Arctic warms, Greenland’s fringe of glaciers is thinning and melting—but the future of the Greenland ice sheet remains a giant question mark. Until recently, that was also true of the ice sheet’s past: Scientists have long debated whether it might have shrunk away to nothing during Earth’s warmest periods. Now, a new study suggests that Greenland was entirely ice free at some point in the last 1.25 million years.“We should be worried about the Greenland Ice Sheet,” says Joerg Schaefer, a geochemist from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, and lead author of the findings, presented yesterday at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting here.

Earth is Losing Farmland at an Alarming Rate

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 21:49
2015 has marked the International Year of Soils, an event that many members of the public missed — but they shouldn’t have, because soil is vitally important for human survival. Ominously, a study from the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures indicates that in the last 40 years, humans have chewed through 33 percent of the Earth’s topsoil, thanks to development and harmful farming practices. The grim findings are a bad sign for the future, as we rely on soil not just for sustenance, but also as a carbon trap, key component of nearly every ecosystem on Earth, and breeding ground for organisms with tremendous commercial and humanitarian applications, such as bacteria that could contribute to the development of cutting edge pharmaceuticals. We should be worshiping the ground we walk on, and this study indicates that we’ve been doing just the opposite.

Lettuce vs. Bacon: Which is Worse in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 07:07
Contrary to recent headlines — and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference — eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change. In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie. 

Lettuce vs. Bacon: Which is Worse Is in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 07:07
Contrary to recent headlines — and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference — eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change. In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie. 

Contrary to recent headlines —

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 07:07
Contrary to recent headlines — and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference — eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change. In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie. 

COP21 ends with agreement to limit and reduce emissions - will it work?

Sun, 12/13/2015 - 09:55
Climate negotiators meeting here in Paris have achieved a deal that could change the world. Conference chair and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius crowed that he had presided over a "historical turning point." Even when the hype has died down, that may turn out to be true. Even climate scientists who on Friday had sharply criticized an earlier draft of the text were convinced.  The Paris Agreement commits the world to capping global warming to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C." To achieve that, it requires the world to "reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible" and "to undertake rapid reductions thereafter, in accordance with best available science." 

The Earth's rotation is slowly slowing down and this is impacting climate predictions

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 08:03
Scientists are studying past changes in sea level in order to make accurate future predictions of this consequence of climate change, and they're looking down to Earth's core to do so. "In order to fully understand the sea-level change that has occurred in the past century, we need to understand the dynamics of the flow in Earth's core" says Mathieu Dumberry, a professor in physics at the University of Alberta.The connection is through the change in the speed of Earth's rotation. Melt water from glaciers not only causes sea-level rise, but also shifts mass from the pole to the equator, which slows down the rotation. (Picture the Earth as a spinning figure skater. The skater moves his or her arms in to spin more quickly or out to slow down.) The gravity pull from the Moon also contributes to the slow down, acting a little like a leaver break. However, the combination of these effects is not enough to explain the observations of the slowing down of Earth's rotation: a contribution from Earth's core must be added.

El Niño forecast to be extremely strong this year

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 06:37
The ongoing El Niño weather pattern in the Asia and Pacific is likely to be one of the strongest since 1998 and will continue into early 2016, according to a new United Nations advisory, which urges regional cooperation for early warning, in-season mitigation, and long-term adaptation strategies to curb climate risk.“The impact of the 2015-2016 El Niño could be even more severe in certain locations, such as the uplands of Cambodia, central and southern India, eastern Indonesia, the central and southern Philippines, central and northeast Thailand...” stated the Third Advisory Note on El Niño issued jointly by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES).

New study shows climate models over-predict climate change related precipitation increase

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 14:20
 Lawrence Livermore researchers and collaborators have found that most climate models overestimate the increase in global precipitation due to climate change.Specifically, the team looked at 25 models and found they underestimate the increase in absorption of sunlight by water vapor as the atmosphere becomes moister, and therefore overestimate increases in global precipitation.The team found global precipitation increase per degree of global warming at the end of the 21st century may be about 40 percent smaller than what the models, on average, currently predict. 

What is the future of coal power production?

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 08:14
Is Paris the beginning of the end for coal? Coal burning is declining fast in both of the world's two largest carbon dioxide emitters, China and the the United States, with resulting declines in the emissions of both countries. The fuel looks incompatible with a world that warms by no more than two degrees Celsius, bringing calls for its rapid phaseout as the world is "decarbonized." But, with or without a deal here in Paris later this week, will the calls be heeded? Has the demise of King Coal been greatly exaggerated?  In the U.S., "coal has gone from boom to bust," says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. The black stuff's share of electricity generation has sunk from 53 percent to 35 percent in just five years. 

Cloudy with a chance of warming

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 07:29
Clouds can increase warming in the changing Arctic region more than scientists expected, by delivering an unexpected double-whammy to the climate system, according to a new study by researchers at NOAA, the University of Colorado Boulder and colleagues.

Clouds can increase warming in the

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 07:29
Clouds can increase warming in the changing Arctic region more than scientists expected, by delivering an unexpected double-whammy to the climate system, according to a new study by researchers at NOAA, the University of Colorado Boulder and colleagues.

Greenland glaciers found to be melting on the fast track

Tue, 12/08/2015 - 05:21
"Two things are happening," said study co-author William D'Andrea, a paleoclimatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "One is you have a very gradual decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting high latitudes in the summer. If that were the only thing happening, we would expect these glaciers to very slowly be creeping forward, forward, forward. But then we come along and start burning fossil fuels and adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and glaciers that would still be growing start to melt back because summer temperatures are warmer."Glaciers are dynamic and heavy. As a glacier moves, it grinds the bedrock beneath, creating silt that the glacier's meltwater washes into the lake below. The larger the glacier, the more bedrock it grinds away. Scientists can take sediment cores from the bottom of glacier-fed lakes to see how much silt and organic material settled over time, along with other indicators of a changing climate. They can then use radiocarbon dating to determine when more or less silt was deposited.

Equity and Emission Trading in China, a new analysis by MIT

Mon, 12/07/2015 - 13:29
As representatives from more than 190 countries convene in France for the second week to address ways to slow global warming, an MIT-led team has published a paper outlining a set of options for incorporating equity considerations in a national Emissions Trading System (ETS) for China that could reduce carbon emissions while minimizing economic impact on poorer or less-developed regions.The paper, “Equity and Emission Trading in China,” published in the journal Climatic Change, outlines a sophisticated menu aimed at Chinese policymakers showing how the burden of reducing carbon emissions could be shared or divided across the country’s provinces under a market-based carbon pricing system.“Emission trading systems have been shown to be highly effective when they are allowed to work, but one of the toughest challenges involves how to distribute the cost,” said lead author Valerie Karplus, Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We compare alternative schemes for allocating emissions rights that can effectively de-couple who pays for reductions from where the reductions actually occur.” 

COP21 enters critical phase today

Mon, 12/07/2015 - 08:00
Government ministers arrive in Paris today as climate talks enter their second week. The ministers add high-level influence to the climate negotiations and can help unlock critical elements of a new climate deal.“It’s going to be quite a sprint for ministers to secure a strong deal by Friday,” said Tasneem Essop, head of WWF’s delegation to the COP21 climate talks. “The French presidency now has the responsibility to take us to the finish line.”

From Toilet to Tap

Mon, 12/07/2015 - 07:23
The rainfall and snowpack so far this autumn have been encouraging, but the stubborn reality is that California is still mired in drought. While farmers from Bakersfield to Fresno to Redding are screaming about water quotas, California residents say they are doing what they can, from pulling out grass lawns to capturing what little rainwater exists.

Global food system faces threats from climate change

Fri, 12/04/2015 - 07:14
Climate change is likely to have far-reaching impacts on food security throughout the world, especially for the poor and those living in tropical regions, according to a new international report that includes three co-authors from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Fires rage in Amazon Rainforest

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 07:18
It's not just Indonesia's forests and peatlands that are burning - the Amazon is suffering almost as badly, with over 18,000 fires last month in Brazil alone, write Jos Barlow & Erika Berenguer. The future is looking hot and fiery.

European climate maybe heading for a cool down

Wed, 12/02/2015 - 07:55
What is the climate waiting for Russia and Europe in 15-20 years? Will be there weather abnormalities in the coming decades? Will some areas experience more severe winter, while the others will have hot summer? It all depends on how much the climate will be affected by the dynamics of the possible onset of minimum solar magnetic activity. The Sun's behaviour in future cycles is the main theme of a publication on the forecast and explanation of the minima of solar activity. The paper was prepared with contributions from Elena Popova from the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics (Lomonosov Moscow State University) and was published in Scientific Reports.Scientists have studied the evolution of the solar magnetic field and the number of sunspots on the Sun's surface. The amplitude and the spatial configuration of the magnetic field of our star are changing over the years. Every 11 years the number of sunspots decreases sharply. Every 90 years this reduction (when it coincides with the 11-year cycle) reduces the number of spots by about a half. A 300-400 year lows reduce their numbers almost to zero. Best known minimum is the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1715. During this period, there were about 50 sunspots instead of the usual 40,000-50,000.

Should we say goodbye to cacti?

Wed, 12/02/2015 - 07:23
It’s hard not to think of a cactus as a resilient plant. Living in hot, drought-stricken climates, if it can survive there, surely it can make it through anything. Sadly, this assumption is not reality for the cactus. As an international team of researchers discovered, nearly one-third of all cactus species face a looming threat of extinction.