• Emerging threatsParis pledges, if implemented ad followed, can avert severe climate change

    More than 190 countries are meeting in Paris this week to create a durable framework for addressing climate change and to implement a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time. A key part of this agreement would be the pledges made by individual countries to reduce their emissions. Scientists say that if implemented and followed by measures of equal or greater ambition, the Paris pledges have the potential to reduce the probability of the highest levels of warming, and increase the probability of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

  • Emerging threatsGlobal climate shift in the 1980s largest in 1,000 years

    Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fueled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research. Scientists say that a major step change, or “regime shift,” in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from the Arctic to Antarctica, was centered around 1987. The scientists document a range of associated events caused by the shift, from a 60 percent increase in winter river flow into the Baltic Sea to a 400 percent increase in the average duration of wildfires in the Western United States. It also suggests that climate change is not a gradual process, but one subject to sudden increases, with the 1980s shift representing the largest in an estimated 1,000 years.

  • DisastersHow bad will this El Niño be? Worse than you may think

    By Marc A. Levy

    Last week, Columbia University Earth Institute’s International Research Institute on Climate and Society convened a 2-day workshop reflecting on efforts over the past twenty years to improve responses to climate variability, especially risks associated with El Niño. Concerns that the current El Niño has the potential to exceed in severity the devastating El Niño of 1997-98 permeated the discussion. At the conference, Marc A. Levy of the Earth Institute presented a brief overview of the social, economic, and political changes that will have a large effect on human impacts from El Niño. He amplifies those remarks here.

  • ClimateRecords: October, year-to-date hottest in human history

    October 2015 was the hottest October in modern history, and the first ten months of the year have also set new records for worldwide warmth, U.S. government scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said last week. The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2015 was the highest for October in the 136-year period of record, at 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the twentieth century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F). The first ten months of 2015 comprised the warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, at 0.86°C (1.55°F) above the twentieth century average, surpassing the previous record of 2014 by 0.12°C (0.22°F).

  • WaterSmall landscape changes can yield big freshwater gains

    A typical bird’s-eye view of the Midwest offers a patchwork landscape covered mostly by agriculture but mottled with forest, wetland, grassland, buildings, and pavement. This pattern influences the quality and supply of the many natural benefits the landscape provides people, including freshwater. A new opportunity for improving the health and supply of Wisconsin’s lakes, waterways, and groundwater has emerged from a recent study showing that making small tweaks to how large some of those patches in the pattern are could mean big freshwater benefits, especially where making drastic changes to the landscape would be hard, as is the case throughout much of the state.

  • ResilienceGlobal climate finance increases to $391 billion

    A new report about the world’s inventory of climate finance shows that more money than ever before — at least $391 billion — was invested in low-carbon and climate-resilient actions in 2014. Private actors invested $243 billion in renewable energies, a surge of 26 percent from 2013, which resulted in record solar PV and onshore wind deployment. Public finance reached at least $148 billion continuing its steady growth over the past three years. Also, 74 percent of total climate finance ($290 billion) and 92 percent ($222 billion) of private investment was raised and spent in the same country. The domestic preference of climate finance highlights the importance of domestic investment policy and support frameworks.

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  • SustainabilityInvestment portfolios may take short-term hits as a result of climate change sentiment

    A new report reveals that global investment portfolios could lose up to 45 percent as a consequence of short-term shifts in climate change sentiment. The report concluded that about half of this potential loss could be avoided through portfolio reallocation, while the other half is “unhedgeable,” meaning that investors cannot necessarily protect themselves from losses unless action on climate change is taken at a system level.

  • Water securityDeclining snow packs put many nations' water supplies at risk

    Gradual melting of winter snow helps feed water to farms, cities, and ecosystems across much of the world, but this resource may soon be critically imperiled. Scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins across the northern hemisphere currently serving two billion people that run the risk of declining supplies as a result of global warming. “Water managers in a lot of places may need to prepare for a world where the snow reservoir no longer exists,” one scientist says.

  • ClimateGreenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere hit another record

    The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached yet another new record high in 2014, continuing a relentless rise which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The pre-industrial level of CO2 — of about 278 ppm — represented a balance between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the biosphere. Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels has altered the natural balance, and in spring 2015, the global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 ppm barrier. The global annual average is likely to pass 400 ppm in 2016.

  • ResilienceClimate change adaptation – from local initiatives to national policies

    We all know that the climate is changing, but how can we best prepare for some of the changes that lie ahead? Should coastal cities change their building codes to accommodate rising sea levels? Should we allocate more resources to tree-planting to reduce urban heat islands? These are examples of local initiatives that can make a difference to climate change adaptation. Indeed, climate adaptation is a rapidly growing concern for the international community.

  • Climate & extreme eventsHuman-caused climate change increased severity of many extreme events in 2014

    Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released the other day. The report, Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica.

  • ClimateGlobal temperatures set to reach 1 °C marker for first time

    Met Office, the U.K. official weather service, says that data for 2015 so far shows that, for the first time, global mean temperature at the Earth’s surface is set to reach 1 °C above pre-industrial levels. This represents an important marker as the world continues to warm due to human influence. It is estimated that up to 2,900 Gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) can be emitted to have a likely (more than 66 percent) chance of limiting warming to below 2 °C. The Met Office notes that as of 2014, about 2,000 GtCO2 had already been emitted, meaning society has used about two thirds of the 2 °C budget. This gives an indication that we are already committed to some level of further warming.

  • Coastal resilienceGame for climate adaptation

    By Peter Dizikes

    An MIT-led project takes the adage “think globally, act locally” to heart by demonstrated a new method for getting local citizens and leaders to agree on the best ways of managing the immediate and long-term effects of climate change. The project got local citizens and officials in four coastal towns to engage in role-playing games about climate change tailored to their communities — which in coastal communities may include rising sea levels and increased storm surges that can lead to flooding.

  • Climate & financeIn the world of finance, consideration of climate change is now mainstream

    As climate changes become impossible to dismiss, how does the mainstream investor community respond? Are financial decisions taking full account of risks and opportunities related to climate change, or is the topic still virtually ignored in financial decision-making?    

  • Emerging threatsBlitz spirit needed to meet challenges like climate change: Dr. Hugh Hunt

    Today’s engineers will need the kind of drive and determination shown by the great wartime innovators such as Sir Barnes Wallis and Sir Frank Whittle if they are to respond effectively to challenges such as climate change, Dr. Hugh Hunt told the Royal Academy of Engineering on Tuesday. Hunt compared today’s challenge of adapting to future climate change with the imperative to develop new technologies to tip the balance of military capability in favor of the Allies during the Second World War.