• Record-breaking hot year may be the new normal by 2025

    The hottest year on record globally in 2015 could be just another average year by 2025 if carbon emissions continue to rise at their current rate, according to new research. And no matter what action we take, human activities had already locked in a “new normal” for global average temperatures that would occur no later than 2040. However, while annual global average temperatures were locked in, it was still possible with immediate and strong action on carbon emissions to prevent record-breaking seasons from becoming average — at least at regional levels.

  • Drowning: Warming above 2 degrees centigrade would place many coastal cities at risk

    The first predications of coastal sea level with warming of two degrees by 2040 show an average rate of increase three times higher than the twentieth century rate of sea level rise. By 2040 with 2 degrees centigrade warming, more than 90 percent of coastal areas will experience sea level rise exceeding the global estimate of 20cm, with up to 40cm expected along the Atlantic coast.

  • Natural protection: Coastal wetlands reduce cost of flood damages during hurricanes

    As communities across the Southeast United States and the Caribbean count the cost of flood and wind damage during Hurricane Matthew, a pioneering study has quantified how much protection natural coastal habitats provide during hurricanes. The study found more than $625 million in property damages were prevented during this natural catastrophe by coastal wetlands along the Northeast coast. Without wetlands, the damage bill would be much higher for Sandy and other predicted hurricanes. Where wetlands remain, the average damage reduction from Sandy was greater than 10 percent.

  • Loss of Arctic sea ice linked to personal CO2 emissions

    Three square meters of Arctic summer sea ice disappears for every ton of carbon dioxide a person emits, wherever they are on the planet. The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is one of the most direct indicators of the ongoing climate change on Earth, and the newly discovered linear relationship helps us understand our personal contribution to global climate change for the first time and highlights the importance of lowering emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

  • World on track for temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees this century: UN

    Scientists agree that limiting global warming to under 2℃ this century (compared to pre-industrial levels), will reduce the likelihood of more-intense storms, longer droughts, sea-level rise, and other severe climate impacts. To have any chance of limiting global warming to 2℃ this century, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in 2030 cannot exceed 42 gigatons. A new report finds that 2030 emissions are expected to reach 54 to 56 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent, placing the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees this century.

  • Worrisome milestone: Atmospheric CO2 levels reach 400 parts per million in 2015

    Globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached the symbolic and significant milestone of 400 parts per million for the first time in 2015 and surged again to new records in 2016 on the back of the very powerful El Niño event. CO2 levels had previously reached the 400 ppm barrier for certain months of the year and in certain locations but never before on a global average basis for the entire year. The longest-established greenhouse gas monitoring station at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, predicts that CO2 concentrations will stay above 400 ppm for the whole of 2016 and not dip below that level for many generations.

  • Risk analysis for common ground on climate loss and damage

    The Paris Agreement included groundbreaking text on the need for a mechanism to help identify risks beyond adaptation and support the victims of climate-related loss and damage — but how exactly it will work remains unclear. The question of how to deal with dangerous climate change as being experienced and perceived by developing countries and communities has been one of the most contentious questions in international climate negotiations.

  • September 2nd warmest on record for globe – but monthly record-warm streak ends

    August’s warmth spread into September, contributing to the warmest year to date for the globe, but not enough to continue the recent 16-month streak of record warmth. Even so, September 2016 ranked as the second warmest September on record.

  • Some STEM fields have fewer women than others. Why?

    Women’s relative lack of participation in science, technology, engineering, and math is well documented, but why women are more represented in some STEM areas than others is less clear. Women now earn about 37 percent of undergraduate STEM degrees in the United States, but their representation varies widely across those fields. Women receive more than 40 percent of undergraduate degrees in math, for example, but just 18 percent of degrees in computer science.

  • Cities should be made more resilient against extreme weather

    Over the past three decades, Europe has seen a 60 percent increase in extreme weather events. In Venice, there were 125 events in 2014, compared to only 35 in 1983 and 44 in 1993. Of these, seven were extreme in 2014, compared to only one in 1983. Moreover, in 2014, flooding and winter storms caused an estimated €20 billion in disruption to the economy  in the United Kingdom alone, while damage by the flash floods in Genoa amounted to €100 million.

  • Climate change has doubled Western U.S. forest fire area

    Human-induced climate change has doubled the area affected by forest fires in the U.S. West over the last thirty years. Scientists say that since 1984, heightened temperatures and resulting aridity have caused fires to spread across an additional 16,000 square miles than they otherwise would have — an area larger than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. The scientists warn that further warming will increase fire exponentially in coming decades.

  • Even if the Paris Agreement is implemented, food and water supplies remain at risk

    If all pledges made in last December’s Paris climate agreement (COP21) to curb greenhouse gases are carried out to the end of the century, then risks still remain for staple crops in major “breadbasket” regions and water supplies upon which most of the world’s population depend. Recognizing that national commitments made in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall far short of COP21’s overarching climate target — to limit the rise, since preindustrial times, in the Earth’s mean surface temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 — a new report advances a set of emissions scenarios that are consistent with achieving that goal.

  • When catastrophe strikes, who foots the bill?

    One consequence of climate change is that extreme weather events are occurring more often with the potential to cause catastrophic damage more frequently. According to the 2016 Global Risks Report of the World Economic Forum, extreme weather events rank second as the most likely threat to global stability going forward. And my research on the safety and soundness of financial institutions suggests this trend may also threaten the stability of the insurance industry. Extreme weather is expensive for insurance companies and their reinsurers, communities, taxpayers, and also, potentially, capital market investors. And it’s only getting more expensive as climate change increases the frequency of storms and their severity. While more can be done to improve risk pricing and risk management, climate change mitigation is critical for our ability to continue to survive and recover from the catastrophes that lie ahead.

  • Coal's decline driven by technology, market forces – not policy

    Many people – and many politicians — attribute coal’s decline to the clean-air policies of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through rules that the agency applied to electricity generation plants. A new study points out that largely because of court challenges, EPA clean-air regulations did not change until 2015 — twenty-five years after President G. H. W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1980. For eighteen years following new EPA rules, coal continued to thrive — until 2008, when its production peaked and then declined 23 percent in the next seven years. The study found that the decline is correlated with the shale revolution that began to be fully felt in 2007-2008, after which cheap natural gas outcompeted coal markedly.

  • As the climate warms, New Jersey “primed” for worse storms than Sandy

    With the climate warming and the sea level rising, conditions are ripe for storms deadlier and more devastating than Sandy that put more people at risk. Experts say that Sandy was not the worst possible storm in the region and they warn that as the sea rises, much weaker storms than Sandy may pack big punches. The atmosphere will hold nearly 4 percent more moisture for every 1 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, and the increased warmth and moisture will lead to a more energetic atmosphere.