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Trump has reheated debate with US withdrawal from Paris Agreement, former UN climate chief says

Speaking on sidelines of three-day World Sustainable Built Environment Conference in Hong Kong, Christiana Figueres insisted the global shift towards reducing carbon emissions would not be shaken.

The United Nations’ former climate chief has struck a defiant note against US President Donald Trump [1]’s pullout from the landmark Paris accord, insisting the global shift towards reducing carbon emissions will not be shaken.

In an interview with the Post, Christiana Figueres, who formerly headed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, even “thanked” Trump for effectively reinvigorating the discussion over global warming and making it headline news again. But she admitted it was sad to see the US give up its leading role.

“The announcement was a political message that Mr Trump wanted to give out, geared toward his political base,” said Figueres, who headed the negotiations leading to the Paris agreement in 2015 [3]

“Most of the US economy, most cities, states and corporations, will continue because they know its in their own interest.”

She was speaking on the sidelines of the three-day World Sustainable Built Environment Conference in Hong Kong on Monday, the city’s largest ever conference on sustainable buildings and urban development. Tackling climate change [4] in the face of rapid urbanisation is the key theme.

Trump’s politically-motivated gesture, Figueres said, would have limited impact on America, given that more than 175 US mayors, a growing number of states and more than 1,000 corporations had pledged to continue upholding commitments to the Paris Agreement.

“It is the White House which stepped out of [Paris], not the US economy,” she said. “That’s actually a sad statement to make as under normal conditions, a president should speak for the economy and the majority.”

Figueres brushed off Trump’s announcement as one riddled with inaccuracies, not least because there was no legal basis for it – no country can withdraw from the accord until three years after ratification – and his claims of bringing back coal industry jobs.

“It is not feasible and Mr Trump knows it,” she said, adding that most coal jobs had already been killed by cheap natural gas as a result of the recent shale revolution, and mining jobs had been taken over by mechanisation and automation.

“It will be increasingly difficult for other heads of state to take Mr Trump seriously,” she added, suggesting that Trump had undermined his country’s credibility.

Figueres said it would be inevitable that China – the world’s biggest carbon emitter – continued the charge as its leaders recognised decarbonisation was “good for their economy”.

Figueres, who now vice-chairs the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, said built-up environments contributed to one-fifth of global emissions. The conference was being held in Hong Kong as it was a gateway to Asia, she said.

“Asia marks whether the world is going to succeed in climate change actions or not.”

Tobacco To Fossil Fuels: Tracing the Roots of Trump’s Claims on Paris Climate Deal

To understand why President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the global Paris climate agreement, we might start by looking at the sources he relied on to justify his decision.

https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/06/01/tobacco-fossil-fuels-tracing-roots-trump-s-claims-paris-climate-deal

But we’re not going to start there, but we will end there.

Instead, let’s go back to the early 1990s. The tobacco industry was facing multiple bans on advertising its products in countries around the world.

So the tobacco industry took ownership of a study that reviewed a bunch of other studies about the claimed impacts of tobacco advertising on actual tobacco consumption.

In short, the study, handed to Phillip Morris International, concluded there was no real link between tobacco advertising and smoking levels. Studies that had found a link were probably flawed, the report claimed.

The reports, the letters, and the memos back and forth, are all buried away in the Tobacco Industry Documents Archive at the University of California – San Francisco.

Clearly, the report would help the tobacco industry to argue there was no need to regulate the advertising of its products, because that advertising didn’t make a difference to smoking levels one way or the other.

National Economic Research Associates

The company that carried out that tobacco study was National Economic Research Associates.

Why is this relevant to Donald Trump and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement?

When Trump spoke of the “onerous energy restrictions” he claimed the Paris deal placed on the United States, he cited figures from a report by the very same National Economic Research Associates (NERA).

According to the NERA study, the Paris agreement would cut coal and gas production, and “cost” America 2.7 million jobs.

Fossil Fuel Interests

Two groups, namely the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) and the U.S Chamber of Commerce, sponsored the NERA report (incidentally, a New York Times investigation described the chamber as Big Tobacco’s Staunch Friend in Washington, due to its advocacy for the industry).

NERA has also produced reports supporting the LNG industry and the coal industry.

The ACCF has, over the years, accepted funds from a string of major corporations and industry groups, including ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and foundations linked to the billionaire petrochemical brothers Charles and David Koch.

As a fact check by the Associated Press on the part of Trump’s speech citing the NERA study published points out:

“The study makes worst-case assumptions that may inflate the cost of meeting U.S. targets under the Paris accord while largely ignoring the economic benefits to U.S. businesses from building and operating renewable energy projects.

Academic studies have found that increased environmental regulation doesn’t actually have much impact on employment. Jobs lost at polluting companies tend to be offset by new jobs in green technology.”

A separate team of economists and scientists has also checked the claims made in the NERA report, which has previously been cited by failed Republican Presidential candidate (and climate science denier) Ted Cruz. They come to similarly unflattering conclusions to the AP fact check.

So in the end, we have President Trump relying on a questionable report paid for by groups with a clear vested interest in undermining the Paris agreement.

Cigarette, Anyone?

When reporters were being briefed in the hours before Trump walked out to the White House Rose Garden, it was Trump’s energy aide Mike Catanzaro making the calls.

As DeSmog’s Steve Horn has pointed out, Catanzaro is a former fossil fuel and energy lobbyist with a history of attacking climate science.

He also spent time working with Senator James Inhofe – the Republican who claims global warming is the greatest hoax ever. Catanzaro is just one of a parade of former industry lobbyists now in top positions in the Trump administration.

The Paris climate deal, struck in late 2015, was rightly declared a historic moment.

No doubt too, Trump’s declaration that he will join Nicaragua and Syria outside the deal will also be seen as historic.

It was a decision to delay action to regulate an industry, based on tired old propaganda techniques and the self-serving analysis of a polluting industry under attack.

Cigarette, anyone?

Fasten your seat belts: Climate change could add to turbulence during air travel

Flight turbulence could increase significantly under climate change, a study warns, potentially upping the risk of injury — or at least flight anxiety — for future airline passengers. Furthermore, fuel and maintenance costs for carriers could rise.

http://www.bendbulletin.com/nation/5214806-151/fasten-your-seat-belts-climate-change-could-add

An increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations could cause changes in the jet stream over the North Atlantic flight corridor, leading to a spike in air turbulence, suggests the research conducted by atmospheric scientist Paul Williams of the University of Reading.

By the middle of the century, with no effort to reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the volume of airspace experiencing light turbulence would increase by about 59 percent.

Airspace experiencing severe turbulence could increase by anywhere from 36 percent to 188 percent, the study found.

“We’re particularly interested in severe turbulence, because that’s the kind of turbulence that’s strong enough to hospitalize people,” Williams told The Washington Post.

Forecasting algorithms can help pilots anticipate and avoid turbulent patches. But the research does suggest that future fliers could be in for a bumpier ride.

The paper builds on a 2013 study in the journal Nature Climate Change by Williams and colleague Manoj Joshi of the University of East Anglia, which found an increase in moderate-to-severe turbulence in the North Atlantic as a result of climate change.

The study did not investigate the effects on lighter or more severe degrees of turbulence. In the new paper, Williams expanded the study to light turbulence, and more severe conditions.

Light turbulence typically comes with only minor discomfort for passengers, perhaps an increase in nausea or anxiety. Severe turbulence has been known to cause injuries and even hospitalizations.

Williams focused on an area in the North Atlantic known for heavy air traffic, particularly between Europe and North America, and limited his simulations to winter, when turbulence is known to be at its highest.

He examined 21 different wind-related characteristics known to be indicators of air turbulence levels, including wind speed and changes in air flow direction.

The study found an increase in turbulence across the spectrum. Light turbulence was projected to increase by an average of 59 percent, light-to-moderate by 75 percent, moderate by 94 percent, moderate-to-severe by 127 percent and severe by 149 percent, although there’s substantial uncertainty associated with the more severe categories.

Williams stressed that severe turbulence would remain rare — even with the increase. But even an increase in light turbulence can cause greater wear and tear on planes or force pilots to use extra fuel redirecting their flight paths to avoid rough patches.

The increase in air turbulence may apply only to the North Atlantic, researchers not involved in the study said.

“Regional variations of this increase may be quite uncertain, particularly in the higher latitudes where other aspects of circulation change that are less well understood and more model-dependent may dominate,” said Isla Simpson, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in an emailed comment to The Post.

Kristopher Karnauskas, an atmospheric and oceanic sciences expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the behavior of the jet stream over the Pacific may respond differently to climate change.

The study builds on an area of climate science that increasingly suggests rising global temperatures can cause changes in atmospheric airflow, including shifts in major air currents known as jet streams.

Because the equator is the warmest part of the planet, and warm air takes up more space than cold air, the atmosphere tends to be thicker around the center of Earth than at the poles. As a result, there’s a kind of downhill atmospheric slope from the equator to the poles over which air flows. While this is happening, Earth is constantly spinning, pushing airflow eastward. In the North Atlantic, the result is a jet stream — a meandering, wavy current flowing around the planet from west to east.

As the planet grows hotter, however, warming air near the surface could bring about changes in the atmospheric slope between equator and poles. Models such as the one used in Williams’ new paper have suggested that the jet stream could become stronger as a result, bringing about an increase in the types of wind patterns that lead to increased air turbulence.

Some research has already begun to detect changes in large-scale atmospheric currents. Other scientists have suggested that rapid warming in the Arctic is actually causing the jet stream to weaken.

There remains considerable uncertainty about how airflow near Earth’s surface might change in the future, Simpson said. But she said scientists are becoming more confident about the changes “that we expect to happen higher up, near the altitude where planes fly.”

Examining these issues can lead to a better understanding of the effects of climate change on aviation, Karnauskas said.

“I think it’s been decades that all of the attention has been on the impact of such industries like aviation on climate, but this is something that’s flipping it around and looking at the impact of climate on aviation,” he said. “If we can really understand the two-way street that we’re dealing with, that’s really going to help us understand ultimately how the climate will change in the future as a coupled system between the people and the atmosphere.”

Combined effect of brighter sun and CO₂ emissions could lead to unprecedented warming

The same carbon concentrations will cause more warming in future than in previous periods of high carbon dioxide due to the sun becoming stronger, experts warn

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/co-sun-emissions-global-warming-a7667401.html

Carbon dioxide concentrations are heading towards values not seen in the past 200 million years. The sun has also been gradually getting stronger over time. Put together, these facts mean the climate may be heading towards warmth not seen in the past half a billion years.

A lot has happened on Earth since 500,000,000BC. Continents, oceans and mountain ranges have come and gone, and complex life has evolved and moved from the oceans onto the land and into the air. Most of these changes occur on very long timescales of millions of years or more. However, over the past 150 years global temperatures have increased by about 1°C, ice caps and glaciers have retreated, polar sea ice has melted, and sea levels have risen.

Some will point out that Earth’s climate has undergone similar changes before. So what’s the big deal this time?

Scientists can seek to understand past climates by looking at the evidence locked away in rocks, sediments and fossils. What this tells us is that yes, the climate has changed in the past, but the current speed of change is highly unusual. For instance, carbon dioxide hasn’t been added to the atmosphere as rapidly as today for at least the past 66m years.

In fact, if we continue on our current path and exploit all convention fossil fuels, then as well as the rate of CO₂ emissions, the absolute climate warming is also likely to be unprecedented in at least the past 420m years. That’s according to a new study we have published in Nature Communications.

In terms of geological time, 1°C of global warming isn’t particularly unusual. For much of its history the planet was significantly warmer than today, and in fact more often than not Earth was in what is termed a “greenhouse” climate state. During the last greenhouse state 50m years ago, global average temperatures were 10-15°C warmer than today, the polar regions were ice-free, palm trees grew on the coast of Antarctica, and alligators and turtles wallowed in swamp-forests in what is now the frozen Canadian Arctic.

In contrast, despite our current warming, we are still technically in an “icehouse” climate state, which simply means there is ice on both poles. The Earth has naturally cycled between these two climate states every 300m years or so.

Just prior to the industrial revolution, for every million molecules in the atmosphere, about 280 of them were CO₂ molecules (280 parts per million, or ppm). Today, due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels, concentrations are about 400 ppm. In the absence of any efforts to curtail our emissions, burning of conventional fossil fuels will cause CO₂ concentrations to be around 2,000ppm by the year 2250.

This is of course a lot of CO₂, but the geological record tells us that the Earth has experienced similar concentrations several times in the past. For instance, our new compilation of data shows that during the Triassic, around 200m years ago, when dinosaurs first evolved, Earth had a greenhouse climate state with atmospheric CO₂ around 2,000-3,000ppm.

High concentrations of carbon dioxide don’t necessarily make the world totally uninhabitable: the dinosaurs thrived, after all.

But that doesn’t mean this is no big deal. For a start, there is no doubt that humanity will face major socio-economic challenges dealing with the dramatic and rapid climate change that will result from the rapid rise to 2,000 or more ppm.

But our new study also shows that the same carbon concentrations will cause more warming in future than in previous periods of high carbon dioxide. This is because the Earth’s temperature does not just depend on the level of CO₂ (or other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere. All our energy ultimately comes from the sun, and due to the way the sun generates energy through nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium, its brightness has increased over time. Four and a half billion years ago when the Earth was young the sun was around 30 per cent less bright.

What really matters is the combined effect of the sun’s changing strength and the varying greenhouse effect. Looking through geological history we generally found that as the sun became stronger through time, atmospheric CO₂ gradually decreased. On average, both changes cancelled each other out.

But what about in the future? We found no past time period when the drivers of climate, or climate forcing, was as high as it will be in the future if we burn all the readily available fossil fuel. Nothing like it has been recorded in the rock record for at least 420m years.

A central pillar of geological science is the uniformitarian principle: that “the present is the key to the past”. If we carry on burning fossil fuels as we are at present, by 2250 this old adage is sadly no longer likely to be true. It is doubtful that this high-CO₂ future will have a counterpart, even in the vastness of the geological record.

Gavin Foster is a professor of isotope geochemistry at the University of Southampton, Dana Royer is a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan University and Dan Lunt is a professor of climate science at the University of Bristol. This article first appeared on The Conversation (theconversation.com)

Our Cataclysmic Planet

How mass extinctions inform our understanding of human-caused climate change

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/clams-totally-have-it-figured-out/519432/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-031517

If you could have been there, somewhere in Siberia at the end of the Paleozoic Era nearly 252 million years ago, you would have witnessed an apocalyptic horror that rarely visits our planet.

Also, I mean, you would have been doomed. Almost certainly. It was a bad scene. Mass extinction is a real shitshow.

But let’s say, somehow, you could have watched this madness unfold—without succumbing to the monstrous cloud of carbon dioxide belched up from the volcanoes of the Siberian Traps, without being incinerated by an ocean of lava, without starving in the ruins of the global acid rain that destroyed the ecosystems on land, and without being burned alive in the wildfires that scorched the earth.

If you could have lived through all of this, which, by the way, you wouldn’t have, you would have been among the few creatures to survive what paleontologists now refer to as the Great Dying. It’s a good name for what happened.

There have only been five mass extinction events, that we know of, on Earth. The mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs was the most recent—but it wasn’t the most devastating. The Great Dying, which preceded the demise of the dinosaurs by about 180 million years, was by far the worst: The planet warmed rapidly— roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit over a 60,000-year period. Some 90 percent of all living creatures went kaput. It then took 10 million years for life on Earth to bounce back, which was a curiously long recovery period, even for an extinction of that magnitude.

“What interested us was how long it took life to recover afterward,” said William Foster, a professor of geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin and the lead author of a new study about the Great Dying, published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday. “Because not only was this the worst mass-extinction event, but recovery took millions of years.”

Foster wanted to know: Did the recovery of life on Earth take so long after the Great Dying because the extinction event itself was so cataclysmic? Or was something else going on?

To find out, he and his colleagues traveled to the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy that’s known for its long geologic record of the Triassic, the period that came just after the Permian, which was capped by the Great Dying. The team examined marine invertebrate fossils, and from that work produced the most continuous dataset ever collected from the region.

The fossils they found showed that there were two additional extinction events in the recovery period after the Great Dying—not so major as to be deemed “mass extinctions,” but bad enough to slow the recuperation of life on Earth. Foster and his colleagues found that during that 10 million year recovery period marine invertebrates peaked then died off two times in association with carbon isotope shifts, which correlated with volcanic pulses from the Siberian Traps. In other words, just as life seemed to be bouncing back from the Great Dying, another extinction event derailed it—twice.

“This is not only interesting from an evolutionary point of view,” Foster says, “but also because those environmental conditions that life had to adapt to, to survive back then, are similar to those predicted for future climate warming scenarios.”

Similar, maybe, but not the identical. And thank goodness for that.

The volcanic eruptions that marked the start of the Great Dying were absolutely monstrous. The entire area of what is now China was covered in some 40 feet of lava. Those same volcanoes released a huge amount of gas, which set off the atmospheric deoxygenation that led to dramatic climate change. For context, it’s borderline ridiculous to compare the magnitude of this event to the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, one of the deadliest and most violent volcanic eruptions in recorded history. “Krakatoa is very, very, very small compared to what happened at the Siberian Traps,” Foster said. Krakatoa killed some 36,000 people.

The magnitude of the volcanic eruptions 252 million years ago may be difficult to comprehend today, but what’s happening to the atmosphere is familiar.

“This is what makes it so interesting,” Foster told me, “Because you have this huge volcanic eruption that releases all these gases, and then you look at what’s happening today [with climate change] and they’re all the same gases. They’re causing the same effects. So we can say, ‘This is what it did in the past and this is what we might be looking at for the future.’”

The natural next question is: Where’s the threshold, in terms of planetary warming, for setting off a mass extinction like the Great Dying? “For most animals we don’t know the threshold,” Foster said. “It’s really, really hard to reconstruct values that far back in the past, but it’s what we’re trying to develop: What are our thresholds? What sorts of temperatures are we talking about?”

Looking at the human activity that is spiking global temperatures today, we’re still nowhere near the deoxygenation that took place 252 million years ago. “We don’t think we will reach the threshold we reached in the Great Dying,” Foster told me. “Or, we hope we won’t, anyway.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, average global temperatures are likely to increase by at least 3 degrees within the next 80 years. In some places, they might increase by nearly 9 degrees—still substantially below the 50-degree increase that began after the eruptions of the Siberian Traps. (Even a difference of one or two degrees, however, can yield extraordinarily different outcomes for the planet.) There’s clear scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change today. What happens to our species as a result is less certain.

The Earth has reinvented itself at least five times before. In each mass extinction, planetary life was very nearly wiped clean. Microscopic organisms, insects, furry beasts, and reptilian land monsters have all been destroyed at one point or another.

There are survivors, of course. Even the Great Dying spared some clams, sea snails, urchins, brittle stars, and seed shrimp. These creatures didn’t just survive, they also became the most abundant animals in our oceans, a reminder that the story of life on our planet isn’t the story of a single species at the top of the food chain, but ultimately a tale of relentless adaptability.

“Big cool things like dinosaurs are pretty rare to find compared with clams,” says Peter Brannen, the author of The Ends of the World. And from one mass extinction to the next, there’s remarkably constancy on one hand—same magmatic systems on the same planet orbiting the same ole star. Yet there’s staggering newness, too.

“The world looks totally different before and after a mass extinction,” Brannen told me. “Sixty-seven million years ago, you had mosasaurs and big non-bird dinosaurs, and 15 million years later you have whales and giant land-mammals.”

“In one way it’s scary that we’re even in the same conversation as major mass extinction events,” Brannen added, referring to climate change. “But the Earth has seen way worse than we could ever dish out and it still recovers. The Earth, in the long run? The Earth will be fine.”

Humans, maybe not so much.

Climate Science Denier Myron Ebell Explains How the Trump Team Will Gut the EPA, Abandon the Paris Agreement

https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/01/31/myron-ebell-epa-transition-how-trump-gut-epa-abandon-paris-agreement

As senators get set to vote Wednesday on the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, the man who was charged with leading the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team gave some clues as to how it might be run.

Myron Ebell is one of the country’s most prominent climate science deniers, is the Director of Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and until inauguration day was leading the EPA transition team at the behest of the then president-elect.

At a press event in London on Monday, attended and covered by DeSmog UK’s Mat Hope, Ebell admitted that he had never actually spoken to Trump, and that he was recruited to the transition team by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

What did Ebell’s transition team actually do?

“We did produce an action plan and an advisory document,” he said, but refused to discuss the contents of the “confidential” document. Coincidentally, in December, the CEI released a set of policy proposals called “Free to Prosper: A Pro-growth agenda for the 155th Congress,” which included a 26-page chapter on energy and the environment, though there is no way of knowing for sure if there is any overlap between the CEI proposal and Ebell’s action plan.

Although Ebell is no longer involved with the administration in any way, he made bold predictions and spoke confidently about how the Trump team would work to dismantle the EPA and pull out of the Paris Agreement, while finding plenty of time to bash the “climate industrial complex” and deny the consensus of climate scientists.

“The people of America have rejected the ‘expertariat’ about one thing after another including climate policy… climate scientists are in this for the glamour and the fame.”

“If we’re going to have some warming it should have started… it has been vastly exaggerated.”

Ebell indicated that Trump’s trust in Steve Bannon, the controversial former manager of Breitbart News who is now one of Trump’s closest advisors, was proof enough that Trump’s administration would take a torch to international climate action.

When pressed by reporters on the Paris Agreement, who brought up the fact that Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson said in his confirmation hearing that “it’s important that the U.S. maintains its seat at the table,” Ebell seemed confident that Tillerson wouldn’t get his way. “If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the president — who will win that? The president was elected and Rex Tillerson was appointed. I’d say the president was odds on to win.”

He also said that even if the U.S. wasn’t able to ditch the Paris Agreement immediately, the “cleanest” way to abandon the deal would be to “withdraw from the framework convention” entirely. Ebell was referring to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body that holds the annual climate conferences and serves as the overarching body under which all international climate diplomacy is conducted.

Speaking specifically about the EPA, Ebell suggested that after Pruitt is confirmed, the agency will make a priority of stripping “harmful” air and water pollution regulations, and that the web of climate-related rules and actions would be systematically dismantled. Of the Climate Action Plan in particular, Ebell said, “There are numerous grounds that it should be undone and I hope that it will be undone.”

Ebell did not mention, however, that the EPA’s climate regulations stem from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants that should be covered by the Clean Air Act.

Ebell was speaking as a man no longer serving in the administration, as he resigned when Trump took office and presumably wasn’t asked to stay on board to lead the “beachhead” teams that are now lining the agency up for Pruitt’s likely arrival.

Some are speculating that Ebell’s move away is a sign that the Trump team is shifting away from the extreme climate deniers of the far right, and replacing them with personnel, like Tillerson, who at least publicly acknowledge the existence of manmade climate change. Regardless, it will be critical to track the early actions of the EPA after Pruitt presumably takes the helm, to see how they align with proposals that CEI put forth in December. For his part, Ebell is back at the fossil fuel industry–funded CEI full time.

Review of the Draft Climate Science Special Report

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Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan Report

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Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+

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Nature already impacted by climate change: Study

http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1295949-20161111.htm?spTabChangeable=0

climate-fish

Professor David Dudgeon says we can envisage that endemic species, such as the short-legged toad (bottom right) and Hong Kong paradise fish (bottom left) will be unable to adjust their ranges due to intense urbanisation. The Hong Kong newt (top right) and giant spiny frog (top left) will be threatened by warmer temperatures. Photos: Courtesy of the University of Hong Kong

Professor David Dudgeon speaks to RTHK’s Richard Pyne

A new study, published in the journal Science on Friday morning, says climate change is already affecting every aspect of life on Earth.

The research team, led by the University of Florida and with participation from the University of Hong Kong, examined 94 core ecological processes globally for evidence of impact from climate change.

These processes include things like species’ physiological and physical features, the time of year that animals breed and migrate, and the time of year plants flower and fruit. The researchers found 82 percent of these processes showed evidence of climate change.

They say the impact on people could range from increased pests and disease outbreaks to unpredictable changes in fisheries and decreasing agricultural yields.

Professor David Dudgeon, a co-author of the paper, told RTHK’s Richard Pyne that almost everything they’ve measured has shown a change as a result of the planet recording a one-degree rise in temperature.

“What you’re finding is that virtually everything that you look at is beginning to shift, and you would probably guess that as temperature rise increases the rate at which these shifts will take place will also increase,” he said. “We can imagine that perhaps the effects of climate change that will be felt soon have actually been underestimated and we’ll be seeing a lot more changes, more profound changes, than we would have expected.”

He said with this new research, we can begin to predict with some degree of confidence what’s likely to happen to certain species in Hong Kong. Species sensitive to temperature, for example, will shift their distribution to stay within a safe temperature zone.

Professor Dudgeon said mountain-top animals such as the giant spiny frog, which is already confined to the top of Tai Mo Shan, would have nowhere to go as temperatures rise.

He said projections for current carbon emissions would see temperatures rise by three to four degrees by the end of the century, which would mean the outlook for many species would be bleak and conservation intervention may be needed.