Environment

  • Coastal infrastructureIPCC sea-level rise scenarios insufficient for high-risk coastal areas management

    The sea-level rise scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) do not necessarily provide the right information for high-risk coastal decision-making and management, according to new research. Researchers warn that the IPCC scenarios are often inappropriate or incomplete for the management of high-risk coastal areas as they exclude the potential for extreme sea-level rises. This missing information is also crucial for a number of policy processes, such as discussions by G7 countries to establish climate insurance policies and allocations of adaptation funding by the Green Climate Funds.

  • Coastal floodingA 2-year spike in sea level along NE North America

    Sea levels from New York to Newfoundland jumped up about four inches in 2009 and 2010 because ocean circulation changed, new research has found. Independent of any hurricanes or winter storms, the event – which stands out in its time extent as well as its spatial extent — caused flooding along the northeast coast of North America. Some of the sea level rise and the resulting flooding extended as far south as Cape Hatteras. The spike was the result of a change in the ocean’s Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and also a change in part of the climate system known as the North Atlantic Oscillation. The researchers found that at the current rate that atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, such extreme events are likely to occur more frequently. The research also confirmed that, as others have reported, sea level has been gradually rising since the 1920s and that there is some year-to-year variation.

  • Food securityOcean acidification threatens U.S. coastal communities

    Coastal communities in fifteen states that depend on the $1 billion shelled mollusk industry (primarily oysters and clams) are at long-term economic risk from the increasing threat of ocean acidification, a new report concludes. The Pacific Northwest has been the most frequently cited region with vulnerable shellfish populations, the authors say, but the report notes that newly identified areas of risk from acidification range from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, to the bayous of Louisiana.

  • Food securityClimate change may dramatically reduce wheat production: Study

    A recent study involving Kansas State University researchers finds that in the coming decades at least one-quarter of the world’s wheat traded will be lost to extreme weather from climate change if no adaptive measures are taken. Based on the 2012-13 wheat harvest of 701 million tons worldwide, the resulting temperature increase would result in 42 million tons less produced wheat per degree of temperature increase. To put this in perspective, the amount is equal to a quarter of the global wheat trade, which reached 147 million tons in 2013.

  • Coastal infrastructureBay of Bengal: Rising seas to force 13 million to evacuate to higher grounds

    Within the next thirty years, a substantial area — called the Sundarbans — in the Bay of Bengal will be underwater as a result of climate change-induced rising sea levels. The roughly thirteen million people living in the region, which consists of approximately 200 delta islands in India and Bangladesh, will be forced to abandon their homes, making their displacement the largest exodus in modern history. The migration of eight million Bangladeshis and five million Indians inland will create the largest group of “climate refugees,” challenging social, agricultural, logistical, and governmental structures.

  • Food securityEuropean grain yield stagnation partially caused by climate change

    The European Union led the world in wheat production and exports in 2014-15. Yet Europe is also the region where productivity has slowed the most. Yields of major crops have not increased as much as would be expected over the past twenty years, based on past productivity increases and innovations in agriculture. Finding the causes of that stagnation is key to understanding the trajectory of the global food supply. Stanford University’s researchers say climate trends account for 10 percent of that stagnation.

  • DroughtsWhat historic megadroughts in the western U.S. tell us about our climate future

    By Jason E. Smerdon

    In an important paper published in Science Advances last week, scientists found that future droughts driven by human-induced global warming could surpass even the driest periods in North America over the past 1,000 years. The scientists combined knowledge of past droughts and future projections in order to compare the projected twenty-first-century states of aridity in the western United States to the megadrought periods over the last millennium. They stitched 1,000 years of paleoclimatic estimates of soil moisture variability derived from tree rings, together with an ensemble of state-of-the-art climate model simulations for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. When they compared the future projections of drought to the past they found that they were more severe and persistent than at any time during the last thousand years, even if they considered only the driest megadrought periods. The findings are sobering, but they are consistent with past experience, the researchers write: “When it comes to drought in the American West, particularly in the Southwest and Central Plains, expect more, worse, and longer events.”

  • Infrastructure protectionNASA scientists issue New York City climate change 2015 report

    A new report by NASA and Columbia University researchers details significant future increases in temperature, precipitation, and sea level in the New York metropolitan area. The report aims to increase current and future resiliency of the communities, citywide systems, and infrastructure in the New York metropolitan region to a range of climate risks. “Climate change research isn’t just something for the future,” said the NASA scientist who chaired the panel which produced the report. “It’s affecting how key policy decisions are being made now.

  • DroughtsWarming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years

    Study warns of unprecedented risk of drought in twenty-first century. Today, eleven of the past fourteen years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma. The current drought directly affects more than sixty-four million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions. A new study predicts that during the second half of the twenty-first century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming.

  • GeoengineeringGeoengineering not a substitute for reducing carbon emissions: Scientists

    There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change, a National Research Council committee concluded in a two-volume evaluation of proposed climate-intervention techniques. Strategies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are limited by cost and technological immaturity, but they could contribute to a broader portfolio of climate change responses with further research and development. Albedo-modification technologies, which aim to increase the ability of Earth or clouds to reflect incoming sunlight, pose considerable risks and should not be deployed at this time.

  • GeoengineeringGeoengineering solutions to climate change not likely to be ready in time

    Governments have been slow to adopt measures to deal with climate change, so it is not surprising that scientists and engineers have been offering different technologies which would help slow down, or even reverse, global warming. These different technologies are called “geoengineering.” Some scientists have now concluded that even if a technological solution is found, it may not be developed and implemented quickly enough to affect the change required.

  • Nuclear powerRoyal commission into nuclear will open a world of possibilities

    By Ben Heard and Barry W. Brook

    Discussion of nuclear energy in Australia has matured in recent years with greater focus on factual arguments, the relativity of risks and the need for robust scientific sourcing of claims. South Australia’s potential to merge prosperity, clean energy and good global citizenship can barely be overstated. Globally, there are around 240,000 metric tons heavy metal (MtHM ) in spent nuclear fuel, much of which was dug from South Australian ores. By 2040 this will be around 700,000 MtHM. Robust dry-cask storage is now a demonstrated, reliable and recognized solution for holding this material. It can be quickly, readily implemented by South Australia. Importantly, such a facility would mean the material is retrievable, to enable the extraction of further value through recycling. A secure, multinational destination for spent fuel, located in a politically and geologically stable country such as Australia, would spur more rapid expansion of current generation reactors. This would displace coal as the fuel of choice in rapidly growing economies.

  • Carbon captureMicrocapsules stop greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

    Current carbon capture technology uses caustic amine-based solvents to separate CO2 from the flue gas escaping a facility’s smokestacks. State-of-the-art processes, however, are expensive, result in a significant reduction in a power plant’s output, and yield toxic byproducts. Scientists have developed a novel class of materials – microcapsules — which enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power plant emissions. The microcapsules offer a new approach to carbon capture and storage at power plants.

  • Coastal infrastructure”Nuisance flooding” becoming problem for many U.S. coastal communities

    Scientists say that floods and surges will become a regular feature of life in many coastal U.S. cities, even when the weather is not particularly bad or stormy. Some communities along the East Coast are flooding even in calm, clear weather, indicating a trend of “nuisance floods” which will increasingly plague many parts of the U.S. coast in the future. Annapolis, Maryland, is but one example: From 1957 to 1963, flooding hit the city about 3.8 days a year. From 2007 to 2013, that average had increased to 39.3 days a year.

  • Coastal infrastructureCoastal communities can lower flood insurance rates by addressing sea-level rise

    City leaders and property developers in Tampa Bay are urging coastal communities to prepare today for sea-level rise and future floods in order to keep flood insurance rates low in the future. FEMA, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP), is increasing flood insurance premiums across the country, partly to offset losses from recent disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Cities can reduce insurance premiums for nearly all residents who carry flood coverage by improving storm-water drainage, updating building codes to reflect projected rise in sea-levels, moving homes out of potentially hazardous areas, and effectively informing residents about storm danger and evacuation routes.