Sea Levels Will Rise Faster Than Ever



Scientific research indicates sea levels worldwide have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches (3.5 millimeters) per year since the early 1990s. The trend, linked to global warming, puts thousands of coastal cities, like Venice, Italy, (seen here during a historic flood in 2008), and even whole islands at risk of being claimed by the ocean. Photograph by Andrea Pattero/AFP/Getty Images (National Geographic)

By Scott Waldman, ClimateWire on November 8, 2016

Source: Scientific American The Atlantic coast will be one of the hardest hit regions

Sea levels across the globe will rise faster than at any time throughout human history if the Earth’s warming continues beyond 2 degrees Celsius.

The Atlantic coast of North America will be one of the worst-hit areas as melting glaciers cause the sea level to rise over the next century, a new study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds.

However, that rise is not expected to be uniform, as gravity and the movement of the ocean will play a role in how the water is distributed, and some areas will be hit worse than others. New York and other cities along the East Coast could see seas rise by more than 3 feet by the end of the century if the Earth warms by 4 or 5 degrees beyond pre-industrial levels.

If the rate of carbon emissions continues unabated, the authors said, the globe would warm by 2 degrees and cause significant sea-level rise by 2040. It would be worse along the East Coast of North America and Norway, which are expected to experience a sea-level rise of about a foot. The relative speed of the sea’s rise means many areas won’t have time to adapt, researchers found. And from there, warming would accelerate even faster.

“The coastal communities of rapidly expanding cities in the developing world and vulnerable tropical coastal ecosystems will have a very limited time to adapt to sea-level rises after the ‘2 degrees Celsius’ threshold is likely to be reached,” said Svetlana Jevrejeva, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool, England, and lead author of the study.

The sea-level rise comes as the Earth’s record-breaking warmth is expected to become the “new normal,” according to another study published this week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. While 2015 was the hottest year on record, it could be the average within the next decade if carbon emissions continue to rise at their current rate, it found. And even if countries take action to limit carbon dioxide, humanity may have already locked in the increased warmth by 2040.

But limiting emissions now will mean some of the regions of the globe are not locked in for the new levels of warmth, and that they can still have significant variability.

“It gives us hope to know that if we act quickly to reduce greenhouse gases, seasonal extremes might never enter a new normal state in the 21st century at regional levels for the Southern Hemisphere summer and Northern Hemisphere winter,” said Sophie Lewis, a researcher at the Australian National University.

Millions of urban dwellers at risk

Nations that signed the Paris Agreement limiting warming to a maximum of 2 degrees are meeting this week in Morocco to put the accord into motion. Meanwhile, the United Nations has already cautioned that the emission targets countries voluntarily set may not be strict enough to meet the 2-degree goal.

Two degrees of warming is expected to cause an average global sea-level rise of 8 inches, but virtually all coastal areas will see more of a rise, Jevrejeva found. If warming exceeds 2 degrees by 2100, as some climate scientists worry it might, about 80 percent of the global coastline could experience a rise in sea levels of 6 feet. Such a rapid rise in sea levels is unprecedented since the dawn of the Bronze Age about 5,000 years ago, according to the study.

The research takes further the potential for sea-level rise posed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which argued that sea-level rise of 11 to 38 inches is possible by 2100. Many climate scientists have since claimed that estimate is too conservative.

Absent a concerted effort to limit warming, cities and island nations across the globe are at risk, researchers found.

“Coastal communities, notably rapidly expanding cities in the developing world; small island states; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Cultural World Heritage sites; and vulnerable tropical coastal ecosystems will have a very limited time after mid-century to adapt to these rises,” they wrote.

The rise for New York is predicated on a warming of 5 degrees by 2100, which some researchers have contested may be too high. But at the upper scale of that level of warming, tens of millions of people around the world would be displaced. That includes “2.5 million living in low-lying areas of Miami; 2.1 million in Guangzhou [in China]; 1.8 million in Mumbai; and more than 1 million each in Osaka [in Japan], Tokyo, New Orleans, New York, and [Vietnam’s] Ho Chi Minh City,” researchers contended.

The study is part of a growing body of research that looks for possible scenarios that involve the potential for catastrophic sea-level rise, but more attention should be paid to the loss of land ice, as well, said Tad Pfeffer, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While researchers typically focus on the loss of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland, the loss of land ice in other spots across the globe is now contributing to sea-level rise at almost the same rate as the Arctic’s melting ice, he said. It’s the full scope of the current glacial loss that concerns political leaders and policymakers because it has already presented a pressing need to be addressed, he said.

“This near-term time scale is the time of greatest concern to decision makers,” he said. “Research that reaches out to 2100 and beyond is scientifically exciting, but really of secondary importance to the people who are trying to make sense of the science for decision-making.”

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at

The Sick Ocean

A major new scientific report, “Explaining Ocean Warming” was released on September 5th. It is grim. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, the findings are based upon peer-reviewed research compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries. It is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken on the subject of warming of the ocean.

Significantly, the ocean has absorbed more than 90% of “enhanced heating from climate change since the 1970s.” In other words, the ocean has been “shielding us” from the extensive affects of global warming. And, the consequences for the ocean are “absolutely massive.”

The “seasons in the ocean” are actually changing as a result.

“The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with the numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend,” D. Laffoley, et al, ed. Explaining Ocean Warming, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, Sept. 2016.

“A useful analysis undertaken by the Grantham Institute in 2015 concluded that if the same amount of heat that has gone into the top 2000m of the ocean between 1955-2010 had gone into the lower 10km of the atmosphere, then the Earth would have seen a warming of 36°C.”

In other words, humanity would be toast.

Here’s one of many dangerous “hooks” mentioned in the report: “Crucially, as evident in the past two years, the heat and CO2 accumulated in the ocean are not permanently locked away, but can be released back into the atmosphere when the ocean surface is anomalously warm, giving a positive rapid feed-back to global warming,” which would entail a decidedly harsh blow to life on the planet.

The 500-page report is all-inclusive with several subsections dealing with individual oceanic issues. Yet, a general overview of the “chain of impacts” is perhaps most relevant to an understanding of the dire consequences of failure to act by halting CO2 fossil fuel emissions as soon as possible.

The “chain of impacts” clearly demonstrates the linear interrelated behavior of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise. Due to a domino effect of one problem cascading into others, key human sectors are now threatened, e.g. fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risks management, general health, and coast tourism.

In point of fact, scientific studies show rapid deterioration throughout the “change of impacts” statement such that an all-out alarm is necessitated. In short, the ole public clarion bells need to start ringing hard and loud because “the impacts on key marine and coastal organisms, ecosystems and ecosystem services are already detectable from high to low latitudes transcending the traditional North/South divide.”

In other words, the entire world oceanic ecosystem is already showing signs of severe stress or oceanic sickness.

Furthermore, the latency affect of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming means the impact of today’s carbon emissions shows up years and years down the line such that, assuming carbon emissions drop to zero tomorrow, global warming continues cruising along for many years to come.

All-important, the ocean is a “climate integrator” that regulates the entire planetary biosphere by absorbing 26% of human-caused CO2 and 93% of additional planetary heat. “Without the ocean, present climate change would thus be far more intense and challenging for human life.”

Meanwhile, the regulating function of the ocean comes with heavy costs, for example, ocean acidification and availability of carbonate ions are disrupted, which are building blocks for marine plants and animals to make skeletons, shells, etc.

This acidification impact is already a factor at the base of the food chain, as tiny pea-sized pteropods, which serve as food stock for everything from krill to salmon to whales, show ultra-thinning of their protective shells necessary for both reproduction and maturation, a problem especially found in the Southern Ocean. This early stage risk to disruption of the food chain is caused by excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed into the ocean emitted by fossil fuels.

Astonishingly, sea level rise, the most noticeable oceanic impact, has already dramatically increased its rate of increase over the 1901-2010 period as the rate of rise from 1993-2010 accelerated by an astounding 88%. This sea level rise is already felt in cities like Miami where streets are being raised and additional pumping systems installed (Miami Beach is Raising Streets by 2 Feet to Combat Rising Seas, miamibeachrealtor displays a photo of newly raised streets).

Assuming business-as-usual anthropogenic climate change, sources of dietary protein and income for tens of millions of people will likely be severely impacted by mass mortalities. Wherefore, the ole clarion bell needs to ring even louder, waking up citizens to the threat of impending serious food shortages. Fisheries and aquaculture, which are both key for survival for millions, are already at high risk.

Meanwhile, and unfortunately, climate change contemporaneously continues to negatively affect land agriculture, which will likely exacerbate food shortages with the ocean simultaneously stressed. In all, ocean warming is synergistic with other human-induced stresses such as over-exploitation, like drift net fishing, and habitat destruction, e.g., bleached coral, and chemical pollution, for example, Ag runoff.

The report has suggested solutions to ocean stress, as for example: (1) mitigating CO2 emissions by getting off fossil fuels is number no. 1 on the hit list, followed by (2) protecting marine and coastal ecosystems by governmental regulation of “protected areas” and (3) repairing damaged ecosystems with, for example, coral farming, and (4) adapting economic diversification zones and activities.

Importantly, the landmark study emphasizes the fact that “unequivocal scientific evidence shows that impacts on key marine and coastal organisms, ecosystems, and services are already detectable and that high to very high risks of impact are to be expected,” Ibid, page 53.

That statement is as straightforward, pulling no punches, as scientific papers ever get. The evidence is crystal clear that climate change is disrupting the ocean, which is the only ocean we’ve got.

There are no backups.

Here’s hoping Mr. Trump reassesses his “global warming is a hoax” statement. After all, he has a big audience.

Source: Counter Punch

Oil Companies Want to Get in on the Action in Cuba


By Katie Herzog, Grist -23 March 16

It’s a new day for Cuba and the U.S.

A little more than a year after relations between the two nations officially started to thaw, President Obama on Sunday became the first U.S. president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge. During a two-and-a-half-day visit, Obama is meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro to discuss lifting the 1962 embargo as well as economic opportunities and human rights abuses, according to the White House. He’ll also attend a baseball game.

Obama isn’t the only one interested in Cuba. Big Business, including the oil industry, is eyeing the island nation as well. One hundred and twenty business leaders converged upon the country to discuss offshore oil development last October. While American companies are still barred from owning oil assets in Cuba, U.S. firms can be involved in drilling and safety operations. Cuba might welcome that, as Bloomberg Government reports:

Cheap oil has forced Venezuela to scale back its support for Cuba, and that’s prodding the officially Communist nation to open up to foreign investment and build on its rapprochement with the U.S., according to a Moody’s report in December. And opening up may mean boosting the 50,000 barrels a day of oil now produced there. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil are lurking in the North Cuba Basin, with most of it within 50 miles of Cuba’s coast; that’s one-fifth of what USGS estimated to exist in the Arctic seas off Alaska. But this oil — if it’s really there — wouldn’t need to be produced in some of the world’s harshest conditions, and would be just a short barge voyage away from U.S. Gulf-area refineries.

Of course, the prospect of more offshore development in Cuban waters isn’t exactly comforting to environmentalists. Drilling could happen as close as 50 miles off the coast of Florida, so a big oil spill there could certainly reach American shores. Plus there’s the whole climate change thing to worry about. Cuba, a low-lying island, is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise.

An official White House fact sheet about Obama’s trip to Cuba mentions climate change and the two countries’ intentions to work together on fighting and adapting to it — and makes no mention of oil or gas. “The United States and Cuba recognize the threats posed by climate change to both our countries,” it reads, “including worsening impacts such as continued sea-level rise, the alarming acidification of our oceans, and the striking incidence of extreme weather events. Cooperative action to address this challenge is more critical than ever.”

Addressing this challenge may be critical, as both Washington and Havana are aware, but as oil companies show an increased interest in Cuba’s oil reserves, we may, once again, see the triumph of profit over progress. It’s happened everywhere else. Why not Cuba as well?

The Scientist Who First Warned of Climate Change Says It’s Much Worse Than We Thought


Oceans are warming. (photo: Shutterstock)

Oceans are warming. (photo: Shutterstock)

By Amelia Urey, Grist – 23 March 16

The rewards of being right about climate change are bittersweet. James Hansen should know this better than most — he warned of this whole thing before Congress in 1988, when he was director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. At the time, the world was experiencing its warmest five-month run since we started recording temperatures 130 years earlier. Hansen said, “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”

Fast forward 28 years and, while we’re hardly out of the Waffle House yet, we know much more about climate change science. Hansen is still worried that the rest of us aren’t worried enough.

Last summer, prior to countries’ United Nations negotiations in Paris, Hansen and 16 collaborators authored a draft paper that suggested we could see at least 10 feet of sea-level rise in as few as 50 years. If that sounds alarming to you, it is — 10 feet of sea-level rise is more than enough to effectively kick us out of even the most well-endowed coastal cities. Stitching together archaeological evidence of past climate change, current observations, and future-telling climate models, the authors suggested that even a small amount of global warming can rack up enormous consequences — and quickly.

However the paper, publicized before it had been through peer review, elicited a mix of shock and skepticism, with some journalists calling the news a bombshell but a number of scientists urging deeper consideration.

Now, the final version of the paper has been published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. It’s been reviewed and lightly edited, but its conclusions are still shocking — and still contentious.

So what’s the deal? The authors highlight several of threats they believe we’ll face this century, including many feet of sea-level rise, a halting of major ocean circulatory currents, and an outbreak of super storms. These are the big threats we’ve been afraid of — and Hansen et al. say they could be here before we know it — well before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sanctioned climate models predict.

Here we help you understand their new paper:

Sea-level rise

The scientists estimate that existing climate models aren’t accounting well enough for current ice loss off of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Right now, Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets both contribute under or near 1 millimeter to sea-level rise every year; they each contain enough stored ice to drive up ocean levels by 20 and 200 feet, respectively.

This study suggests that, since the rate of ice loss is increasing, we should think of it not as a straight line but as an exponential curve, doubling every few years. But how much time it takes to double makes a big difference. Right now, measurements of ice loss aren’t clear enough to even make a strong estimate about how long that period might be. Is it 10 years or is it 40? It’s hard to say based on the limited data we have now, which would make a big difference either way.

But then again, we don’t even know that ice loss is exponential. Ian Joughin — a University of Washington researcher unaffiliated with the paper and who has studied the tipping points of Antarctic glaciers — put it this way: Think about the stock market in the ’80s. If you observed a couple years of accelerating growth, and decided that rate would double every 4 years — you’d have something like 56,000 points in the Dow Jones Industrial by now.

Or if stocks aren’t your thing, think about that other exponentially expanding force of nature: bacteria. Certain colonies of bacteria can double their population in a matter of hours. Can they do this forever? No, or else we’d be nothing but bacteria right now (and while we’re certainly a high percentage of bacteria, there’s still room for a couple other things).

Nature tends to put limits on exponential growth, Joughin points out — and the same probably goes for ice loss: “There’s only so fast you can move ice out of an ice sheet,” Joughin explained. While some ice masses may be collapsing at an accelerating rate, others won’t be as volatile.

This means, while some parts of ice sheet collapse may very well proceed exponentially, we can’t expect such simple mathematics to model anything in the real world except the terror spike of the Kingda Ka.

Ocean turnover

Mmm mm, ocean turnover: Is it another word for a sushi roll or a fundamental process that keeps the climate relatively stable and moderate?

That’s right — we’re talking the Atlantic Meridonal Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, and other currents like it.

As cold meltwater flows off of glaciers and ice sheets at enormous rates, it pools at the ocean’s surface, trapping the denser but warmer saltwater beneath it. This can seriously mess with the moving parts of the ocean, the so-called “conveyor belts” that cycle deep nutrient-rich water to the surface. These slow currents are driven by large-scale climate processes, like wind, and drive others, like the carbon cycle. But they also rely on gradients in temperature and density to run; if too much cold water from the glaciers pools at the surface, the whole conveyor belt could stutter to a stop.

In the North Atlantic, this would mean waters get colder, while the tropics, denied their influx of colder water, would heat up precipitously. Hansen says we’re already seeing the beginnings of AMOC’s slowdown: There’s a spot of unusually cool water hanging out off of Greenland, while the U.S. East Coast continues to see warmer and warmer temperatures. Hansen said it plainly in a call with reporters: “I think this is the beginning of substantial slowdown of the AMOC.”


Pointing to giant hunks of rock that litter the shore of the Bahamas, among other evidence of ancient climates, the study’s authors suggest that past versions of Earth may have featured superstorms capable of casually tossing boulders like bored Olympians.

And as the temperature gradient between the tropic and the polar oceans gets steeper, thanks to that slowing of ocean-mixing currents, we could see stronger storms, too.

This is surprisingly intuitive: Picture a temperature gradient like a hill, with the high temperatures up at the top and the low temperatures down at the bottom. As the highs get higher and the lows get lower, that hill gets a lot steeper — and the storms are the bowling balls you chuck down the hill. A bowling ball will pick up a lot more speed on a steep hill, and hurt a lot more when it finally runs into something. Likewise, by the time these supercharged storms are slamming into coasts in the middle latitudes, they will be carrying a whole lot of deadly force with them.

So what does it all mean?

Whether other scientists quibble over these results or not — and they probably will — the overall message is hardly new. It’s bad, you guys. It might be really, truly, deeply bad, or it might be slightly less bad. Either way, says Hansen, what we know for sure is that it’s time to do something about it. “Among the top experts, there’s a pretty strong agreement that we’ve reached a point where this is truly urgent,” he said.

So Hansen is frustrated once more with the failure of humanity to respond adequately. The result he’d hoped for when he released an early version of the paper online last summer was to get world leaders to come together in Paris to agree on a global price on carbon. As he told Grist’s Ben Adler at the time, “It’s going to happen.” (It didn’t happen, but some other stuff did.)

Still, true urgency would require more of us than just slowing the growth of emissions — it requires stopping them altogether. In a paper published in 2013, Hansen found that we have to cut 6 percent of our use of carbon-based fuels every year, if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

Carbon prices and emissions cuts are more the purview of politicians and diplomats, but if anything, Hansen has shown he is unafraid to stray beyond the established protocol of academic science.

“I think scientists, who are trained to be objective, have something to offer by analyzing the problem all the way to the changes that are needed in order to address it,” he said on a press call. “That 6 percent reduction — that’s not advocacy, that’s science. And then I would advocate that we do that!”

And to pre-empt the haters, Hansen wants you to remember one thing. “Skepticism is the life blood of science. You can be sure that some scientists will find some aspects in our long paper that they will think of differently,” he said. “And that’s normal.”

So while scientists continue their debate over whether the ice sheets are poised to collapse in the next 50 years or the next 500, the prognosis is the same: The future is wetter, stranger, stormier unless we make serious moves to alternative energy sources now. Will we? Maybe. We’ve started but we still have a long, long way to go. If it’s a race between us and the ice sheets, neither I nor James Hansen nor anyone else can tell you for sure who will win.

Hey, no one said telling the future was easy.

The Arctic is “unraveling” due to climate change, and the consequences will be global

Calved icebergs from Greenland's Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water on July 30,2013 in Quaqortoq, Greenland (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Calved icebergs from Greenland’s Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water on July 30,2013 in Quaqortoq, Greenland (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Source: The Washington Post

April 16 2015

We often hear that climate change is radically reshaping the Arctic, a place many of us have never visited. As a result, it can be pretty hard to feel directly affected by what’s happening up in a distant land of polar bears, ice floes and something odd called permafrost.

A new booklet from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council wants to change that. Synthesizing much past academy work on the Arctic region, the booklet– being released just before the United States assumes the chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council later this month — blazons this message: “What Happens in the Arctic Doesn’t Stay in the Arctic.”

Here are four potential ways, drawing both upon the new report and much of our prior reporting here, that changes in the Arctic will reverberate well beyond it and, in some cases, have planet wide consequences:

1. Changing Your Weather.

The National Research Council booklet also notes that warming oceans could have a substantial effect on the fishing industry, which prowls the Arctic and sub-Arctic for a crucial part of its catch. “About half of the U.S. fish catch comes from subarctic waters,” notes the report.

Fishermen and fishing boats may have new routes open to them due to a less icy Arctic, the report acknowledges. But at the same time, the composition and distribution of species could change with warming waters:

Atlantic cod, for example, have been displacing the endemic polar cod in the waters surrounding the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. In addition, rising temperatures and an influx of fresh water from melting ice can cause rippling effects through the marine food chain. In the North Atlantic, for example, scientists project that ocean warming will cause shifts in the spawning and feeding grounds of several economically-important fish populations, including Arctic cod, herring, and capelin.

Granted, we shouldn’t be alarmist about this. As we’ve previously reported, contrary to a number of press accounts, global warming is not going to take away your fish and chips.

3. Raising Sea Levels.



The melting of ice on land in the Arctic — whether from glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic, or the Greenland ice sheet — contributes to sea level rise that does not stay in the Arctic, but rather, spreads around the world. Greenland is of course the biggest potential contributor, since if it were to melt entirely, it would cause 20 feet of sea level rise.

And there’s also a less known Arctic contributor to sea level changes: the way polar melting could weaken the great overturning circulation of the oceans.

There is suggestive evidence that the melting of Greenland is already contributing to a freshening of the waters of the north Atlantic. This, in turn, may be slowing down the so-called Atlantic meridional overturning circulation — which carries a tremendous amount of warm water northward in the Atlantic.

[Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences]

If the circulation weakens, then it affects sea level on either side of it. That’s for two reasons (explained in more depth here): Warmer waters lie to the right or east of the Gulf Stream, and warm water expands and takes up more area — leaving sea level lower on the U.S. coast side of the circulation. A weakening would thus raise our sea level.

There’s also the fact that in the northern hemisphere, “sea surface slope perpendicular to any current flow, like the Gulf Stream, has a higher sea level on its right hand side, and the lower sea level on the left hand slide,” according to Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. So again, a weaker Gulf Stream evens that out, and you’d see sea level rise on the U.S. coast.

4. Worsening Global Warming Itself.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Finally, changes in the Arctic are expected to amplify global warming itself. The principal way this could happen is through the thawing of frozen ground or permafrost, which covers much of the Arctic, and which contains huge stores of frozen carbon.

[The Arctic climate threat that nobody’s even talking about yet]

Recent scientific analysis has affirmed that Arctic permafrost is packed with carbon — some 1,330 and 1,580 gigatons worth, and that may be a low end estimate — and that over the course of the century, a substantial fraction will get released to the atmosphere. It would probably happen slowly and steadily, but it could amount to a significant contribution to overall global warming.

Why will this occur? As the National Research Council explains:

Plants are essentially made of carbon. When a plant dies in a temperate area, it decomposes, releasing some of its carbon into the air and some into the soil. But when a plant dies in a place too cold for decomposition, it simply stays put, locking its carbon in place.

Until permafrost thaws, anyway. If enough of it does so, the volume of carbon emissions could be enough to set back worldwide efforts to reduce emissions from fossil fuel burning by adding an entire new source of greenhouse gases beyond the usual suspects, like fossil fuels and deforestation.

Last month, when we learned that Arctic sea ice had reached a new record low for its winter maximum ice extent, former deputy assistant secretary of state Rafe Pomerance said: “The Arctic is unraveling, warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.”

It’s a powerful quotation, and as the United States takes chairmanship of the Arctic Council on April 24, you shouldn’t assume that “unraveling” is irrelevant to you. We’re all invested in the Arctic, because we’re all invested in the planet.

5 Terrifying Facts From the Leaked UN Climate Report

How many synonyms for “grim” can I pack into one article? I had to consult the thesaurus: ghastly, horrid, awful, shocking, grisly, gruesome.

This week, a big report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was leaked before publication, and it confirmed, yet again, the grim—dire, frightful—reality the we face if we don’t slash our global greenhouse gas emissions, and slash them fast.

This “Synthesis Report,” to be released in November following a UN conference in Copenhagen, is still subject to revision. It is intended to summarize three previous UN climate publications and to “provide an integrated view” to the world’s governments of the risks they face from runaway carbon pollution, along with possible policy solutions.

As expected, the document contains a lot of what had already been reported after the three underpinning reports were released at global summits over the past year. It’s a long list of problems: sea level rise resulting in coastal flooding, crippling heat waves and multidecade droughts, torrential downpours, widespread food shortages, species extinction, pest outbreaks, economic damage, and exacerbated civil conflicts and poverty.

But in general, the 127-page leaked report provides starker language than the previous three, framing the crisis as a series of “irreversible” ecological and economic catastrophes that will occur if swift action is not taken.

Here are five particularly grim—depressing, distressing, upsetting, worrying, unpleasant—takeaways from the report.

1. Our efforts to combat climate change have been grossly inadequate.
The report says that anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase from 1970 to 2010, at a pace that ramped up especially quickly between 2000 and 2010. That’s despite some regional action that has sought to limit emissions, including carbon-pricing schemes in Europe. We haven’t done enough, the United Nations says, and we’re already seeing the effects of inaction. “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history,” the report says. “The climate changes that have already occurred have had widespread and consequential impacts on human and natural systems.”

2. Keeping global warming below the internationally agreed upon 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (above preindustrial levels) is going to be very hard.
To keep warming below this limit, our emissions need to be slashed dramatically. But at current rates, we’ll pump enough greenhouse gas into the atmosphere to sail past that critical level within the next 20 to 30 years, according to the report. We need to emit half as much greenhouse gas for the remainder of this century as we’ve already emitted over the past 250 years. Put simply, that’s going to be difficult—especially when you consider the fact that global emissions are growing, not declining, every year. The report says that to keep temperature increases to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, deep emissions cuts of between 40 and 70 percent are needed between 2010 and 2050, with emissions “falling towards zero or below” by 2100.

3. We’ll probably see nearly ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean before mid-century.
The report says that in every warming scenario it the scientists considered, we should expect to see year-round reductions in Arctic sea ice. By 2050, that will likely result in strings of years in which there is the near absence of sea ice in the summer, following a well-established trend. And then there’s Greenland, where glaciers have been retreating since the 1960s—increasingly so after 1993—because of man-made global warming. The report says we may already be facing a situation in which Greenland’s ice sheet will vanish over the next millennium, contributing up to 23 feet of sea level rise.

4. Dangerous sea level rise will very likely impact 70 percent of the world’s coastlines by the end of the century.
The report finds that by 2100, the devastating effects of sea level rise—including flooding, infrastructure damage, and coastal erosion—will impact the vast majority of the world’s coastlines. That’s not good: Half the world’s population lives within 37 miles of the sea, and three-quarters of all large cities are located on the coast, according to the United Nations. The sea has already risen significantly: From 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.62 feet.

5. Even if we act now, there’s a real risk of “abrupt and irreversible” changes.
The carbon released by burning fossil fuels will stay in the atmosphere and the seas for centuries to come, the report says, even if we completely stop emitting CO2 as soon as possible. That means it’s virtually certain that global mean sea level rise will continue for many centuries beyond 2100. Without strategies to reduce emissions, the world will see 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming above preindustrial temperatures by the end of the century, condemning us to “substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, [and] consequential constraints on common human activities.”

What’s more, the report indicates that without action, the effects of climate change could be irreversible: “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

Grim, indeed.
Climatechangeplanet comment:
It’s  both sad and alarming that no one (except the usual few) has paid attention to all the previous (five I think) reports of the IPCC. And it’s absurd that states like Canada, Norway and others, see the melting of the arctic ice only as an opportunity to exploit the fossil fuels, indifferent to the consequences.

Relative articles:


Report: Climate Change Already Impacting ‘All Continents’


By Jeff Spross, ThinkProgress 30 March 14

The next big report from an ongoing international effort to nail down the science of climate change will be released on Monday. According to the Guardian, the report’s language concludes that climate change has already “caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”

An early draft was actually leaked in November. The biggest danger it sees is apparently coastal flooding driven by sea level rise — which could shave 10 percent off global economic production by the end of this century, according to previous research. Climate change also threatens widespread damage to marine life and fish populations worldwide, as both warming seas and ocean acidification throw off ecosystems’ natural balances.

Much of the report’s language has already been finalized, including a warning that “both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts.”

The report also sees the potential for droughts, floods, and shifting patterns of rainfall to endanger global food production — again, a finding backed by other studies. Climate change is also cutting down on the globe’s supply of fresh drinking water, and stronger storms pose a danger to human infrastructure.

The latest report is a product of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international project aimed at providing the world a kind of grand summary and assessment of the known science on climate change. It put out its last big finding — the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) — in 2007. Now the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is rolling out in a series of stages over the next few months.

The Working Group I report was the first stage, and covered how climate change arises from the basics of physical science. It was released in September of 2013. The report proposed, for the first time, an overall “carbon budget” that humanity cannot exceed if we’re to stay under 2°C of warming — what most scientist consider the safe upper limit. In short, the world can afford to release only 1,000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere if it wants to stay under the 2°C threshold, and 531 gigatons have already been emitted as of 2011.

Right now representatives and scientists from around the world are hold up in Yokohama, Japan, finalizing the language for the Working Group II report, which will come out on Monday. It will cover the impacts of climate change, which populations and societies are the most vulnerable, and how governments can adapt. According to the Guardian, almost 500 people must approve the Working Group II language, including 66 experts authors, 57 observers, 271 officials representing 115 countries around the world.

The IPCC’s Working Group III report is scheduled to be released in April, and will cover climate change mitigation. That will be followed by the final Synthesis Report in October. At that point, the AR5 release will be complete, setting the stage for the next big international meeting in 2015, where the world’s governments hope to develop some sort of coordinated strategy to actually tackle climate change and cut global carbon emissions.

Source: Reader Supported News

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