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Category — Climate Change Adaptation

Climate warnings masked by propaganda

Paul Brown

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Leading scientists say most people remain unaware of the truth that climate change is a stark reality now and will continue to get worse without drastic action.

A rise in world temperatures of 1.5°C degrees can no longer be avoided, according to the world’s leading climate scientists, who say that the majority of people have yet to wake up to the stark realities and dangers of climate change.

In a devastating summary of the crisis the world faces, the seven scientists say that propaganda by the fossil fuel lobby and failure of politicians to take action in the last 10 years means changes in lifestyles and radical action is needed if catastrophe is to be avoided.

Sir Robert Watson, former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says: “Climate change is happening now and much faster than anticipated.”

A doubling or tripling of existing efforts is necessary, he says, to avoid exceeding the 2°C degree danger threshold on global temperature rise agreed by the world’s government at last year’s Paris climate conference.

In a paper titled The Truth About Climate Change, the scientists depart from the normal cautious assessment that has characterised IPCC reports. [Read more →]

September 30, 2016   No Comments

It’s the greenhouse gases, stupid!

Alex Kirby

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An anti-coal protest outside the Parliament House in Victoria last year. Image: John Englart (Takver) via Wikimedia Commons

Critics accuse Australia of showing a complete disregard for the science of climate change and its impacts by voting to repeal the country’s carbon tax.

Australia, one of the world’s principal emitters of carbon dioxide, has voted to cancel its carbon tax in what has been described as “the perfect storm of stupidity”.

The decision had cross-party support in the Senate vote, passing by 39 votes to 32, with only the Labor and Green parties voting against repealing the carbon pricing scheme they introduced, and which took effect two years ago.

By fulfilling what the prime minister, Tony Abbott, had called his “pledge in blood” to repeal the tax, Australia has left itself with no legal basis for trying to achieve its international 5% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.

The former climate change minister, Penny Wong, said Abbott had “staked his political career … on fearmongering and scaremongering”. Repealing the tax meant “this nation will have walked away from a credible and efficient response to climate change”. [Read more →]

July 20, 2014   No Comments

Help needed now for climate refugees

Paul Brown

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Somalis displaced by drought in 2011 queue at a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Image: Cate Turton/DFID via Wikimedia Commons

Governments worldwide are warned of the need to draw up plans urgently to avoid conflict and insecurity by helping populations who are being forced to move because of climate change

Hundreds of thousands of people are already migrating because of climate change, and countries urgently need adaption plans to resettle populations and avoid conflict.

Sea level rise, violent storms and more gradual disasters such as droughts will cause more unplanned mass population movements − either temporary or permanent − and governments need to manage this by planning in advance to protect vulnerable people, says a new report.

The report, by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, warns that unplanned movements will lead to conflict and insecurity. Governments need to act regionally to anticipate and facilitate the movement of people.

Ideally, for the displaced families, this would mean providing access to land and housing. They would need financial services, health, education, water and sanitation. They would also need jobs and the ability to cover the costs of living and food security. [Read more →]

June 12, 2014   No Comments

‘End high seas fishing for climate’s sake’

Tim Radford

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End of the line for the high seas fleets? It seems utopian, but there’d be benefits. Image: Sensor via Wikimedia Commons

Two scientists say fish from the high seas are too valuable to be eaten, because they lessen climate change through the carbon they consume.

Marine biologists have delivered the most radical proposal yet to protect biodiversity and sequester carbon: stop all fishing, they say, on the high seas.

The high seas are the stretches of ocean that nobody owns and nobody claims: they are beyond the 200-mile economic zones patrolled and sometimes disputed by national governments. They are also what climate scientists call a carbon sink, a natural source of carbon removal.

Life in the deep seas absorbs 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and buries half a billion tonnes of carbon on the sea bed every year, according to Rashid Sumailaof the University of British Columbia in Canada and Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford in the UK. The two researchers put the value to humanity of life in the high seas – in terms of its ability to sequester carbon – at $148 billion a year.

Only a hundredth of the fish landed in all the ports in all the world is found on the high seas alone. And around 10 million tonnes of fish are caught by high seas fishing fleets each year, and sold for $16bn.

“Countries around the world are struggling to find cost-effective ways to reduce their carbon emissions. We’ve found that the high seas are a natural system that is doing a good job of it for free,” said Professor Sumaila. [Read more →]

June 10, 2014   No Comments

Insurance leaders pack climate punch

Kieran Cooke

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Under-insured: sandbags to try to stop flooding after extreme rainfall in the US. Image: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA via Wikimedia Commons

The heavyweights of the global insurance industry, well aware of the risks posed to their finances by extreme weather events, have made a renewed commitment to use their financial clout and influence to tackle the climate impacts of a warming world

It might have the reputation of being rather a dull − some might even say boring – business, but there’s no doubting the insurance industry’s financial muscle.

The Geneva Association − a leading international insurance thinktank, whose members have total assets of nearly US$ 15 trillion − has been meeting in Toronto, Canada. And the focus has been very much on climate change.

The Association, issuing a climate risk statement calling for urgent action by governments and other bodies, said: “The prospect of extreme climate change and its potentially devastating economic and social consequences are of great concern to the insurance industry.”

Those putting their names to the document – 66 chief executives of the world’s leading insurers − commit themselves to a set of guiding principles on what they describe as the substantial role the insurance industry can play in tackling risks related to climate change. [Read more →]

May 26, 2014   No Comments

Climate worries insurers and military

 Alex Kirby

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The US Navy helps with the clean-up in New York state after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Image: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons

Powerful voices in finance and the armed forces raise concerns about the risks of increasingly extreme weather events causing billions of dollars of damage and potentially igniting humanitarian disasters and regional conflicts

The risks associated with climate change have got some very important people worried − the people who pick up the bills, and those who clear up the mess or try to prevent it happening.

The world’s biggest and oldest insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, has published a report that urges insurers to include climate risks in their models. It says: “Scientific research points conclusively to the existence of climate change driven by human activity.

“Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains on the nature and extent of the changes to our climate and the specific impacts this will generate. Many of the effects will become apparent over the coming decades and anticipating them will require forward projections, not solely historical data.”

Quoting the Munich Re insurance group , the World Bank says damage and weather-related losses around the world have increased from an annual average of $50bn in the 1980s to nearly $200bn over the last decade. [Read more →]

May 15, 2014   No Comments

US companies doze as climate change threatens

Kieran Cooke

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Corporate America is not keeping up with fast-changing economic and scientific reality, the researchers say. Image: Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

US business is failing to react fast enough to the rapidly-changing realities imposed by the facts of both scientific and economic life, researchers say.

If corporate America attended climate change college, the report card would read: “Modest progress but has to try much harder.” That’s the conclusion to be drawn from the latest report on US corporate action on environmental sustainability and climate issues.

The report, produced by Ceres and the Sustainalytics group, two organisations specialising in sustainability issues in the business sector, looks at the environmental activities of 613 companies in the US with combined assets of many billions of dollars, together representing nearly 80% of the total market capitalisation of all public companies in the country.

“The scientific and economic realities facing corporations today have shifted substantially from even just a decade ago”, says the report.

“From the risks posed to operations and the supply chain due to a changing climate, to an increasingly resource-constrained world with a growing population, to mounting human rights abuses – finding solutions to these business challenges will require collaboration, innovation and transformation.”

The report does note some progress compared with the findings of a similar survey two years ago. More companies are actively engaging investors – and their employees – on sustainability issues.

Corporate America is also being more pro-active in addressing human rights and other workplace problems, particularly in companies supplying goods to them.

There’s also been a modest improvement, says the report, in corporate commitments to increase renewable energy use, with 37% of companies surveyed having a renewable energy programme in place. [Read more →]

May 9, 2014   No Comments

Soils may absorb less CO2 than thought

Tim Radford

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Ferdynand Ruszczyc’s The Soil: The part played by the world’s soils in accounting for carbon dioxide is pivotal. Image: Via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers believe that natural processes are not as efficient in absorbing carbon dioxide and putting a brake on global warming as they had previously thought.

Scientists from the US, China and Ireland may have settled one big question about climate change: don’t rely on the soil microbes to help damp down the temperatures. They report in Sciencethat as carbon dioxide levels rise, and temperatures increase, so does the turnover of carbon in the soil.

That means the hope that global warming must mean more energetic plant growth and therefore greater carbon uptake in the soil, in a cycle that engineers like to call negative feedback, looks a bit forlorn.

Kees van Groenigen of Northern Arizona University and colleagues analysed results from 53 different studies of soil carbon measurements in forests, grasslands and farmers’ fields around the world to see how CO2 affects plant growth, soil activity and soil carbon.

They found that extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere meant more input into the soil – nearly 20% more – but it also meant more turnover, up by more than 16%.

So if more went in, more was released, because the teeming microscopic fauna that inhabit the soil, recycle nutrients and redistribute plant nourishment also became more active.

“Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Dr van Groenigen. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.” [Read more →]

May 2, 2014   No Comments