• Climate engineering, if started, would have severe consequences if stopped abruptly

    Facing a climate crisis, we may someday spray sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to form a cloud that cools the Earth, but suddenly stopping the spraying would have a severe global impact on animals and plants, according to the first study on the potential biological impacts of geoengineering, or climate intervention. “Rapid warming after stopping geoengineering would be a huge threat to the natural environment and biodiversity,” says one expert. “If geoengineering ever stopped abruptly, it would be devastating, so you would have to be sure that it could be stopped gradually, and it is easy to think of scenarios that would prevent that. Imagine large droughts or floods around the world that could be blamed on geoengineering, and demands that it stop. Can we ever risk that?”

  • Climate change will displace millions in coming decades. Nations should prepare now to help them

    By the middle of this century, experts estimate that climate change is likely to displace between 150 and 300 million people. If this group formed a country, it would be the fourth-largest in the world, with a population nearly as large as that of the United States. Yet neither individual countries nor the global community are completely prepared to support a whole new class of “climate migrants.” The scale of this challenge is unlike anything humanity has ever faced. By midcentury, climate change is likely to uproot far more people than the Second World War, which displaced some 60 million across Europe, or the Partition of India, which affected approximately 15 million. The migration crisis that has gripped Europe since 2015 has involved something over one million refugees and migrants. It is daunting to envision much larger flows of people, but that is why the global community should start doing so now.

  • Climate change will displace millions of people. Where will they go?

    The 1951 Refugee Convention defines a protected refugee as someone who leaves his or her home country due to racial, religious, or social persecution, or reasonable fear of such persecution. These refugees have the right to seek asylum and protection from participating members of the United Nations (though these countries are not obligated to take them in). However, people displaced by climate change do not fit this definition. At the international level, there is no legal mechanism in place to protect climate migrants’ rights and to ensure assistance from other countries. For climate relocation to work, governments need to care and commit to international responsibility and burden-sharing. However, in the current global political context of fear of terrorism, an increased refugee influx into Europe, and an overall rise of xenophobia, countries are more likely to opt for stricter policies on cross-border migration.

  • Long-term warming trend continued in 2017: NASA, NOAA

    Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2017 ranked as the second warmest since reliable instrumental records began in 1880, according to an analysis by NASA. Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (a little more than 1 degree Celsius) during the last century or so, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. Last year was the third consecutive year in which global temperatures were more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) above late nineteenth-century levels.

  • 2018: Critical period of intensified risks

    The Global Risks Report 2018, published this week by the World Economic Forum cautions that we are struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of change. It highlights numerous areas in which we are pushing systems to the brink, from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars. The reports says that the structural and interconnected nature of risks in 2018 threatens the very system on which societies, economies, and international relations are based – but that the positive economic outlook gives leaders the opportunity to tackle systemic fragility.

  • The bonus effects of California's water saving

    Measures to cut water use by 25 percent across California were implemented in 2015, following a four-year drought in the state that caused the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land, total economic costs of $2.74 billion, and the loss of approximately 21,000 jobs. The UC Davis researchers found that, while the 25 percent target had not quite been reached over the one-year period — with 524,000 million gallons of water saved — the measures’ impact had positive knock-on effects for other environmental objectives, leading to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and electricity consumption in the state.

  • 2017 saw the highest ever sea level on the Dutch coast

    The average sea level measured on the Dutch coast was higher than ever before in 2017. The Dutch sea level, the averaged measurements from six tide stations, rose to 11 cm above Normal Amsterdam Water Level (NAP in Dutch). The last highest measurement was in 2007, when the average sea level was 9 cm above NAP. The fact that the sea level was higher last year does not mean that the sea level is now rising faster. At present, the sea level on the Dutch coast is rising by 20 cm every century.

  • River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming

    Rainfall changes caused by global warming will increase river flood risks across the globe. Already today, fluvial floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters. Scientists have now calculated the required increase in flood protection until the 2040s worldwide, breaking it down to single regions and cities. They find that the need for adaptation is greatest in the United States, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe including Germany. Inaction would expose many millions of people to severe flooding.

  • Climate change changing Earth’s landscape

    Climate change will replace land use change as the major driver of changes in Earth’s biosphere in the twenty-first century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, new research suggests. Historically, human land use change, like urban development and agricultural expansion, has been the primary cause of anthropogenic ecosystem change. But now, due to rising greenhouse gas levels, climate change has become a growing threat to ecosystems. The rapid pace of climate change is making it difficult for species to adapt to changes in temperature, water cycles, and other environmental conditions that affect life on Earth.

  • Rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear power is a win for fact-based policymaking

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry has repeatedly expressed concern over the past year about the reliability of our national electric power grid. On 28 September 2017, Perry ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revise wholesale electricity market rules, implicitly suggesting that the federal government would give subsidies to owners of coal and nuclear power plants, to compensate them for keeping a 90-day fuel supply on-site in the event of a disruption to the grid. On Monday, the independent five-member commission – four of whose members have been appointed by President Trump — unanimously rejected Perry’s proposal. FERC’s 5-0 decision shows that policymaking based on evidence won the day. Perry’s proposal, which critics said was aiming to prop up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets, had the potential to affect millions of electricity customers, as well as power markets and the environment. FERC deserves congratulations for putting evidence before action.

  • 2017 climate, weather disasters in U.S. totaling $306 billion — a new record

    2017 will be remembered as a year of extremes for the United States as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, fires, and freezes claimed hundreds of lives and visited economic hardship upon the nation. The average U.S. temperature in 2017 was 54.6 degrees F (2.6 degrees F above average), making 2017 third warmest year in 123 years of record-keeping. The five warmest years on record for the United States all have occurred since 2006. In 2017, the United States experienced 16 weather and climate disasters each with losses exceeding $1 billion, totaling approximately $306 billion — a new U.S. record. Far more tragic was the human toll. At least 362 people died and many more were injured during the course of these disasters.

  • Studying climate effects on California water systems from headwaters to groundwater

    To address future climate change effects on water resources, scientists at five UC campuses, and Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, will study California’s water systems, from the headwaters in the Sierra Nevada, through rivers, reservoirs and groundwater in the Central Valley. The project will allow scientists to examine hydrologic sensitivities of California headwaters and agricultural demand to changing climate and will consider plausible societal adaptations.

  • With storms intensifying and oceans on the rise, Boston weighs strategies for staying dry

    As this year’s hurricanes marched across the Caribbean into the Gulf Coast or out to the North Atlantic, cities along the U.S. northeastern coast knew they were dodging bullets. If Boston gets hit by a storm like Hurricane Harvey, mayor Marty Walsh acknowledged in a radio interview, “we are wiped out as a city.” An MIT analysis suggests that a Category 1 hurricane with a few feet of surge on top of a high tide could flood a quarter of a million Boston residents. And climate change is bringing more intense storms and rising tides. A multi-billion-dollar seawall is among climate adaptation options under consideration for the iconic coastal city.

  • Geopolitical risks to U.S. oil supply lowest since the early 1970s

    The geopolitical risks to the U.S. oil supply are the lowest since the early 1970s, due to fracking, climate action and a more diverse global supply, according to a new study. America’s energy prosperity contrasts with a more fraught period for energy-exporting countries where geopolitical challenges have been compounded by fiscal stress and rising domestic energy demand, the authors said.

  • New principles to guide corporate investment toward climate goals

    Faced with climate change today, companies and investors face many complex ethical questions. Should investors continue to invest in fossil fuels or should they divest, sending a signal about the perceived illegitimacy of particular business models in a changing climate? Further, given the internationally agreed aspirations towards achieving net-zero emissions, how should investors manage the legal and financial risks of this transition?