Soil Microbes Speed up Global Warming

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

As the world warms so does much of the planet’s basic matter, thanks to its subterranean citizens, the soil microbes, intent on putting more energy into the important business of decay and recycling.

As a consequence, everywhere, more carbon dioxide escapes into the atmosphere, according to a new study. And since there is at least twice as much carbon in the soil – mostly in the form of plant detritus – as there is in the atmosphere, the discovery is ominous.

With more of the greenhouse gas escaping from soil to air, so the rate at which the world warms picks up speed, to accelerate yet further soil respiration.

US researchers report in the journal Nature that they looked at results from more than 1,500 studies and data from more than 500 monitoring towers around the world that measure temperature, rainfall and other evidence, to conclude that between 1990 and 2014 the rate of soil respiration has increased by 1.2%.

“It’s important to note that this is a finding based on observations in the real world. This is not a tightly controlled lab experiment,” said first author Ben Bond-Lamberty of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, partnered by the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland.

“With rising soil respiration rates, you won’t have an intact land carbon sink forever”

“Soils around the globe are responding to a warming climate, which in turn can convert more carbon into carbon dioxide which enters the atmosphere. Depending on how other components of the carbon cycle might respond due to climate warming, these soil changes can potentially contribute to even higher temperatures due to a feedback loop.”

The role of soil microbes remains one of the great unknowns in the climate conundrum. A microbe – bacterium or fungus – is tiny but vital. Single-celled creatures managed the living world for two billion years before the first complex animals and plants, turning carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen, and then converting dead lifeforms back into new raw materials for life.

And their numbers are huge: so vast that terrestrial bacteria add up to 70 billion tons of living carbon, and fungi another 12 billion tons, according to a recent estimate. Together these microbes weigh 40 times as much as all the animals on the planet.

And for years climate scientists have puzzled about the impact of warming on the silent living things under foot and out of sight. They identified the microbial world as key to the puzzle of the carbon budget and wondered about the rate at which soils could absorb carbon and store it. They have also warned that, in a warmer world, soil microbes might become more active.

Research vindicated

The latest study seems to suggest that they are right. Carbon dioxide is being exhaled back into the atmosphere at a faster rate. Around 25 years ago, microbes accounted for 54% of soil respiration. Now they account for 63%.

If correct, this is a case of what engineers call positive feedback: humans burn fossil fuels, emit carbon stored deep underground 100 million years ago, and raise planetary temperatures. And as this happens, carbon once buried in the shallow soils – some that might otherwise in many millions of years become fossilised as coal – escapes to the surface as greenhouse gas, to create even more warming.

“We know with high precision that global temperatures have risen,” Dr Bond-Lamberty said. “We’d expect that to stimulate microbes to be more active. And that is precisely what we’ve detected.

“Land is thought to be a robust sink of carbon overall, but with rising soil respiration rates, you won’t have an intact land carbon sink forever.”

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Climate Strategy Needs Tailoring to the World’s Poorest

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

An effective climate strategy to protect everyone on Earth, and the natural world as well, is what the planet needs. But Austrian-based scientists have now confirmed something all climate scientists have suspected for more than a decade: there can be no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to the twin challenges of climate change and human poverty.

That catastrophic climate change driven by “business as usual” fossil fuel energy reliance will by 2100 impose devastating costs worldwide, and drive millions from their homes and even homelands,  has been repeatedly established.

So has the need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources, almost certainly by imposing some kind of “carbon tax” worldwide.

But a new study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis warns that if agriculture is included in stringent climate mitigation schemes, there will be higher costs in the short term.

If humans don’t act, then climate change driven by global warming will create conditions that will put an extra 24 million people, or perhaps 50 million extra, at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

Crop yields could fall by 17%, and market prices could rise by 20% by 2050. And if they do act with a global carbon tax or its equivalent, then by 2050 an extra 78 million – or perhaps 170 million, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa and India – could be priced out of the food market.
So for many of the poorest people on the planet, the cure could be worse than the disease.

“The findings are important to help realize that agriculture should receive a very specific treatment when it comes to climate change policies,” said Tomoko Hasegawa, a systems engineer and researcher at IIASA, and of Japan’s National Institute for Environment Studies. He added:

Carbon pricing schemes will not bring any viable options for developing countries where there are highly vulnerable populations. Mitigation in agriculture should instead be integrated with development policies.

Thinking Ahead

Studies such as these should not be taken as excuses for doing nothing: they are precautionary exercises in foresight. All human acts impose some kind of environmental and social costs. Rich nations can absorb the price of climate mitigation. The poorest communities, ironically the ones most at risk from climate change, cannot.

Dr Hasegawa and her co-authors report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they looked at eight global agricultural models to analyze a range of outcomes for 2050.

Their scenarios contemplated socio-economic development options. These included the one in which the world actually pursued the sustainable programme implicitly agreed in 2015 in Paris, when 195 nations vowed to contain warming to “well below” 2°C by 2100.

They also included one in which the world followed current development trends, along with various levels of global warming, and various mitigation policies.

Possible Solutions

And the researchers concluded that, instead of simply focusing on reducing emissions, policymakers would have to look at the big picture.

Carbon taxes will in various forms raise the prices of food, in some models by 110%. But the same study offers potential solutions. Right now, grazing animals in the developing world produce three-fourths of the world’s ruminant greenhouse gases, but only half its milk and beef. So techniques used in the developed world could if introduced at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote economic growth, reduce poverty and improve health in the poorest nations.

There are other options: money raised from carbon taxes could be used for food aid programmes to help those areas hardest hit. The point the researchers make is that when it comes to mitigation policies, governments and international organizations need to think carefully.

“Although climate change is a global phenomenon, its specific impacts and efforts to mitigate its impacts will be realized at national and local levels,” the scientists conclude. “As such, future research will be required to assess the unique local and national challenges to adapting to and mitigating climate change while also reducing food insecurity.”

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Humans Damaged Most of the World’s Oceans, Even Before Climate Change

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

Humans huddle on a small part of the Earth’s surface, but our activity on the rest will leave our descendants only diminished oceans. Thanks to us, the wilderness of the world’s wide seas has shrunk drastically.

Earth is a waterworld: 70% of it is swept by ocean. And 87% of this waterworld has been to some degree fouled, polluted, poisoned or impoverished by the actions of one almost entirely terrestrial mammal. That is, according to a new survey, only 13% of the high seas can now be considered true wilderness.

Terrestrial life is smeared thinly. It is concentrated almost entirely in an altitude bounded by tree roots and canopy. But all the ocean is habitable, from the tidal shallows to the abyssal plain. It is home to the greatest mountain chain on the planet and to the deepest chasms, and in all it makes up 99% of the living space on Earth.

Researchers who looked at 16 different kinds of watery realm and tested them for 15 different kinds of human impact – among them commercial shipping, sediment and fertiliser run-off, and overfishing – report in the journal Current Biology that humans had left their mark almost everywhere.

“We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” said Kendall Jones, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia, and also of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Huge extent

“The ocean is immense, covering over 70% of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.”

The surviving watery wilderness is estimated at an area of 54 million square kilometres. Although this is seemingly an enormous tract – think of the land areas of Russia, China, Canada, the US and Australia rolled up together – it is still less than a seventh part of the sea surface.

Most of this “untouched” ocean is concentrated in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and around the more remote Pacific islands. Hardly any marine wilderness survives along the continental coastlines.

The study comes only weeks after a survey of land conservation areas – once again, led by researchers from the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society – found that even those stretches of mountain, savannah, forest and wetland formally recognized by governments as nature reserves or conservation zones were in many cases significantly disturbed or degraded by human intrusion.

The plight of the high seas has been disturbing marine scientists and oceanographers for some time. They have repeatedly warned that human-driven climate change is affecting ocean temperatures and compromising the health of the ecosystems on which, for instance, commercial fisheries depend.

“Pristine wilderness areas hold massive levels of biodiversity and endemic species and are some of the last places on earth where big populations of apex predators are still found”

Human actions have created “dead zones” and great tracts of toxic algal growths fed by nutrients from the landPlastic waste has been found almost everywhere, and changes in water chemistry threaten many species at all depths.

But the Queensland study looks only at those measurable human impacts that are not connected with climate change: the implicit message is that acidification, sea level rise, and ocean temperature increase, all of them driven by profligate human combustion of fossil fuels, will ultimately affect even those areas of ocean defined as surviving wilderness.

Research of this nature is inevitably a matter of meticulous accounting: scientists comb through huge numbers of studies, and identify the data on which they can rely, and then find ways to test their hypothesis. This involved, for instance, checking the range and distribution of more than 21,000 marine species, and separately considering submarine kelp forests, coastal reefs, warm and temperate zones, the deep ocean and the polar waters.

Little protection

The researchers found that more than 8% of the wilderness was in the warm Indo-Pacific and that only 5% of the remaining marine wilderness enjoyed any formal governmental or international protection.

“Pristine wilderness areas hold massive levels of biodiversity and endemic species and are some of the last places on earth where big populations of apex predators are still found,” Kendall Jones said.

“This means the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before.

“Thanks to a warming climate, even some places that were once safe due to year-round ice cover can now be fished.”

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The Planet Could Be 1 Degree Celsius From Catastrophe, Major Study Finds

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jon Queally / Common Dreams.

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity’s future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

“I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene.”

As Rockström explains, the “tipping elements” examined in the research “can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.” And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  “What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium.”

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose “severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans.”

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

“In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,” said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. “The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late.”

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that “collective human action is required” to steer planet’s systems away from dangerous tipping points. “Such action,” they write, “entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”

Read more

The Planet Could Be 1 Degree Celsius From Catastrophe, Major Study Finds

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jon Queally / Common Dreams.

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity’s future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

“I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene.”

As Rockström explains, the “tipping elements” examined in the research “can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.” And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  “What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium.”

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose “severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans.”

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

“In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,” said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. “The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late.”

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that “collective human action is required” to steer planet’s systems away from dangerous tipping points. “Such action,” they write, “entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”

Read more

The Planet Could Be 1 Degree Celsius From Catastrophe, Major Study Finds

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jon Queally / Common Dreams.

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity’s future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

“I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene.”

As Rockström explains, the “tipping elements” examined in the research “can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.” And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  “What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium.”

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose “severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans.”

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

“In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,” said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. “The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late.”

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that “collective human action is required” to steer planet’s systems away from dangerous tipping points. “Such action,” they write, “entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”

Read more

The Planet Could Be 1 Degree Celsius From Catastrophe, Major Study Finds

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jon Queally / Common Dreams.

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity’s future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

“I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene.”

As Rockström explains, the “tipping elements” examined in the research “can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.” And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  “What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium.”

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose “severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans.”

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

“In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,” said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. “The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late.”

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that “collective human action is required” to steer planet’s systems away from dangerous tipping points. “Such action,” they write, “entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”

Read more

The Planet Could Be 1 Degree Celsius From Catastrophe, Major Study Finds

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jon Queally / Common Dreams.

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity’s future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

“I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.”

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene.”

As Rockström explains, the “tipping elements” examined in the research “can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.” And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  “What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium.”

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose “severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans.”

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

“In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,” said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. “The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late.”

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that “collective human action is required” to steer planet’s systems away from dangerous tipping points. “Such action,” they write, “entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”

Read more

Where Extreme Heat and Humidity Will Hit the Hardest

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Tim Radford / Climate News Network.

By the close of the century, the two-fisted assault of extreme heat and humidity could make the North China plain a deadly zone.

As water vapour rises from irrigated farmland, in heat extremes which are likely if humans go on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuels, then air temperatures and moisture conditions could become such that outdoor workers could no longer cool by perspiration.

In such circumstances no normal healthy person could survive more than six hours. And since 400 million people already live on the North China plain, by 2070 the consequences of ever-greater temperatures could be devastating, according to new research in the journal Nature Communications.

Simultaneously, a second study in a separate journal confirms that by 2080 excess deaths from extremes of heat will have risen in the tropics, subtropics and even the temperate zones.

In three of Australia’s great cities, deaths from heat waves will have risen by more than 470%.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer”

The warning for China – which already emits more greenhouse gases than any other nation – is based on what meteorologists call “wet bulb” temperature, the combination of heat and humidity. When this climbs towards the natural body temperatures of humans and other mammals, conditions become dangerous. The North China plain covers 400,000 square kilometres of fertile floodplain irrigated by three great rivers.

The alarm is sounded by Elfatih Eltahir and a colleague at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

Professor Eltahir first identified the additional hazard of humidity in extremes of heat with a simulation of close-of-the-century temperatures that pinpointed the Gulf region, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, as the zone where temperatures could become lethal. But the worst extremes would be over water.

A second examination of likely conditions under what climate scientists call the “business-as-usual” scenario, in which nations go on burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases in ever-increasing quantities, pinpointed Asia as the continent most at risk of lethal heat extremes for the greatest numbers of people.

The latest study is a refinement of the projections, and is based on evidence from the most recent three decades. Warming in the North China region has been double the global average – 0.24°C per decade compared to 0.13°C for the rest of the world. In 2013 there were extremes of heat that lasted for up to 50 days, and maximum temperatures topped 38°C (around the accepted limit for humans).

Irrigation key

And the potential lethal factor for the region is likely to be irrigation: rainfall in the north is low, and evaporation from the soil moisture adds around another 0.5°C to local temperatures. Water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas.

“This spot is just going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future, especially under climate change,” said Professor Eltahir.

That extremes of heat combined with higher hazards from humidity are already on the increase, and will continue with ever-greater ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is firmly established. A second international study, in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, looks at the risks for more than 400 communities in 20 countries for the decades 2031 to 2100, and once again it is based on a business-as-usual scenario, and data from recent decades.

If the world goes on warming according to the gloomiest predictions, the levels of heat-related excess mortality, the statistician’s phrase for death by heatstroke or heat exhaustion, then deaths in Colombia will by 2080 have risen by 2,000%. Even in Moldova, the sample country with the lowest risk, they will have risen by 150%. In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, the hazard will have soared by 470%.

Inexorable rise

That heat can kill has been known for decades, and the tens of thousands of extra deaths during heatwaves in Europe in 2003, and Russia in 2010, were harsh reminders. More extremes of temperature are inevitable.

Research of this kind is intended to encourage thinking about ways in which health authorities and city bosses could act to reduce the hazard. But for a global problem, a global solution could be the surest answer.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” said Yuming Guo of Monash University in Australia, who led the research.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heat waves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in poor countries located around the equator.”

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As Media Obsesses Over Russia, Here’s How The World Is On The Brink Of Destruction

Read more of this story here from AnonHQ by EV.

While Donald Trump targets the media as “fake news” for saying things he doesn’t like, many U.S. citizens started to realize decades ago the media is corrupt. From upholding government narratives, to ignoring the issues that matter most, all trust in the media has been lost. Noam Chomsky recently sat down with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to discuss the most crucial issues the mainstream media is currently ignoring.

 

 

Transcript:

In general I think the media… First of all, “Fox News” is by now basically a joke. It’s as you said; state media. The other media, I think, are focusing on issues which are pretty marginal. There are much more serious issues that are being put to the side.

Even on the case of immigration. Once again, I think the real question is dealing with the roots of immigration – our responsibility for it, and what we can do to overcome that. And that’s almost never discussed, but I think that’s the crucial issue.

I think we find the same across the board. So of all Trump’s policies, the one that is the most dangerous and destructive, in fact, poses an existential threat, is his policies on climate change. On global warming. That’s really destructive. We’re facing an imminent threat not far removed of enormous damage. The effects are already visible, but nothing like what’s going to come.

Sea level rise of a couple of feet will be massively destructive. It will make today’s immigration issues look like trivialities. And it’s not that the administration is unaware of this. So Donald Trump, for example is perfectly aware of the dangerous effects and the short term of global warming.

 

Source: NASA

 

So for example, recently he applied to the government of Ireland for permission to build a wall to protect his golf course in Ireland from rising sea levels. And Rex Tillerson, who was supposed to be the adult in the room before he was thrown out; as CEO of ExxonMobil was devoting enormous resources to climate change denial. Although he had sitting on his desk the reports of ExxonMobil scientists who, since the 70’s in fact, were in the forefront of warning of the dire effects of this accelerating phenomenon.

I don’t know what word in the language – I can’t find one – that applies to people of that kind. Who are willing to sacrifice the, literal, the existence of organized human life not in the distant future so they can put a few more dollars in highly overstuffed pockets. The word “evil” doesn’t begin to approach it.

These are the kinds of issues that should be under discussion. Instead, what’s being… There’s a focus on what I believe are marginalia. So take, say the huge issue of interference in our pristine elections. “Did the Russians interfere in our elections?” An issue of overwhelming concern in the media.

I mean, in most of the world, it’s almost a joke. First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts, weighs in the balance, as compared with what another state does. Openly, brazenly and with enormous support.

Israeli intervention in U.S. elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done. I mean, even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress without even informing the President, and speaks to Congress with overwhelming applause to try to undermine the President’s policies. What happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015.

 

2015, Netanyahu personally address U.S. Congress to undermine Obama Administration policies. Image source: CNN

 

Did Putin come to give an address to the joint sessions of Congress calling on them to reverse U.S. policy without even informing the President? And that’s just a tiny bit of this overwhelming influence.

So if you happen to be interested in influence of foreign influence on elections, there are places to look, but even that is a joke. I mean, one of the most elementary principles of functioning democracy is that elected representatives should be responsive to those who elected them. There’s nothing more elementary than that.

We know very well that that’s simply not the case in the United States. And there’s ample literature in mainstream academic political science, simply comparing voter’s attitudes with policies pursued by their representatives, and it shows that, for a large majority of the population, they’re basically disenfranchised.

Their own representatives pay no attention to their voices. They listen to the voices of the famous 1 % – the rich and the powerful of the corporate sector. The elections; Tom (Thomas) Ferguson’s stellar work has demonstrated that, very conclusively that, for a long period, way back, U.S. elections have been pretty much bought. You can predict the outcome of a Presidential or Congressional election with remarkable precision, simply by looking at campaign spending.

 

Source: @T_P_K

 

And that’s only one part of it. Lobbyists practically write legislation in Congressional offices in massive ways. The concentrated private capital, corporate sector, super wealth, intervene in our elections massively. Overwhelmingly. To the extent that the most elementary principles of democracy are undermined.

Now of course all that is technically legal, but that tells you something about the way society functions. So if you’re concerned with our elections and how they operate, and how they relate to what would happen in a democratic society, taking a look at Russian hacking is absolutely the wrong place to look.

Well you see, occasionally, some attention to these matters in the media, but very minor as compared with the extremely marginal question of Russian hacking. And I think we find this on issue after issue.

Also on issues on which, what Trump says for whatever reason, is not unreasonable. So he’s perfectly right when he says we should have better relations with Russia. Being dragged through the mud for that is outlandish. Russia shouldn’t refuse to deal with the U.S. because the U.S. carried out the worst crime of the century in the invasion of Iraq – much worse than anything Russia’s done. But they shouldn’t refuse to deal with us for that reason, and we shouldn’t refuse to deal with them for whatever infractions they may have carried out. Which certainly exist. This is just absurd.

We have to move towards better… Right at the Russian border there are very extreme tensions that could blow up any time and lead to what would in fact be a terminal nuclear war. Terminal for the species and life on Earth. We’re very close to that, and we could ask why. First of all we should do things to ameliorate it, secondly we should ask why.

 

During a 2015 NATO exercise. (Photo: Gonzalo Alonso/flickr/cc)

 

Well, it’s because NATO expanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union in violation of verbal promises to Mikhail Gorbachev. Mostly under Clinton. Partly under first Bush, then Clinton expanded right to the Russian border. Expanded further under Obama.

The U.S. has offered to bring Ukraine into NATO. That’s the kind of the heartland of Russian geostrategic concerns. So yes, there’s tensions at the Russian border, and not, notice, at the Mexican border.

Well, those are all issues that should be of primary concern. The fate of organized human society, even of the survival of the species, depends on this. How much attention is given to these things as compared with whether Trump lied about something?

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