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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.

Global community must unite against Trump to avoid climate catastrophe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9 November 2016
Contact:
Climate Justice Info Service
climatejustinfo@gmail.com

Global community must unite against Trump to avoid climate catastrophe

As news of Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election reached Marrakech, civil society groups gathered at the COP22 United Nations annual climate change talks reacted:

“Whilst the election of a climate denier into the White House sends the wrong signal globally. The grassroots movements for climate justice – native american communities, people of color, working people – those that are at this moment defending water rights in Dakota, ending fossil fuel pollution, divesting from the fossil fuel industry, standing with communities who are losing their homes and livelihoods from extreme weather devastation to creating a renewable energy transformation – are the real beating heart of the movement for change. We will redouble our efforts, grow stronger and remain committed to stand with those on the frontline of climate injustice at home and abroad.. In the absence of leadership from our government, the international community must come together redouble their effort to prevent climate disaster,” said Jesse Bragg, from Boston-based Corporate Accountability International.

“For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat. The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities,” said Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.

“The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a President, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the twenty-first century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments. And it’s incumbent upon U.S. communities to unite and push forth progressive climate policies on a state and local level, where federal policy does not reign,” said
Jean Su from California-based Center for Biological Diversity.

“As a young woman and first-time voter I will not tolerate Trump’s denialism of the action needed for climate justice. Our country must undergo a systemic change and just transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy within my lifetime. The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us. As young people and as climate justice movements we will be demanding real action on climate for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world and for all future generations,” said Becky Chung from the youth network SustainUS.

“Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change,” said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa.

Historic climate deal goes into force in fight versus global warming

A worldwide pact to battle global warming entered into force Friday, just a week before nations reassemble to discuss how to make good on their promises to cut planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Dubbed the Paris Agreement, it is the first-ever deal binding all the world’s nations, rich and poor, to a commitment to cap global warming caused mainly by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

“A historic day for the planet,” said the office of President Francois Hollande of France, host to the 2015 negotiations that yielded the breakthrough pact.

“Humanity will look back on November 4, 2016, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said in a joint statement.

Mezouar will preside over the UN meeting opening in Marrakesh on Monday.

“It is also a moment to look ahead with sober assessment and renewed will over the task ahead,” they said.

This meant drastically and urgently cutting emissions, which requires political commitment and considerable financial investment.

The urgency was brought home by a UN report on Thursday which warned that emissions trends were steering the world towards climate “tragedy”.

By 2030, said the UN Environment Programme, annual emissions will be 12 to 14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) higher than the desired level of 42 billion tonnes.

The 2014 level was about 52.7 billion tonnes.

The year 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere passed an ominous milestone in 2015.

Lit up in green, the Eiffel Tower in Paris proclaimed: “Accord de Paris, c’est fait!” (Paris Agreement, it’s a done deal!) — to hail the entry into force of the pact meant to stop the rot.

The historic agreement was finally endorsed in the French capital last December, after years of complex and divisive negotiations, but the ratification was reached with record speed.

At least 55 parties to the UN’s climate convention (UNFCCC), responsible for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had to ratify it for it to take effect.

It passed the threshold last month, and by Friday it had been ratified by 97 of the 197 UNFCCC parties, representing 67.5 per cent of emissions, according to France’s environment minister Segolene Royal, outgoing president of the UN talks.

“It is a magnificent day, concluding years of hard work,” Royal told journalists in Paris.

“We must maintain this extraordinary momentum by encouraging countries to continue ratifying the deal, and by moving full steam ahead with our preparations to put it into action across the world,” Europe’s climate commissioner Miguel Canete said in a statement.

A major doubt looms over the process, however, as diplomats gear up for 11 days of talks in Morocco to discuss way of putting the agreement’s political undertakings into practise.

US Republican nominee Donald Trump has threatened to “cancel” Washington’s participation in the agreement if he is elected president on November 8.

“I refuse to think along these lines,” Royal said, when asked about a possible US withdrawal under Trump. “The Paris agreement prohibits any exit for a period of three years, plus a year-long notice period, so there will be four stable years,” she said.

The pact undertakes to limit global warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and to strive for 1.5 C.

Countries submitted voluntary, non-binding carbon-cutting goals towards this goal.

According to the International Energy Agency, implementing the pledges would require investments of US$13.5 trillion in efficient and low-carbon and energy technology to 2030 — almost 40 per cent of total energy sector spending.

“The timetable is pressing because globally, greenhouse gas emissions which drive climate change and its impacts are not falling,” said Espinosa and Mezouar.
________________________________________
Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/2043216/historic-climate-deal-goes-force-fight-versus-global-warming

Climate scientists expected ‘nothing like’ this year’s record-breaking global temperatures

‘Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal’

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-global-warming-record-temperatures-nothing-like-shocked-2016-a7157891.html

Every month this year has set a new record high temperature for the month, continuing a streak that now extends over 14 months.

“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” Dr Carlson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.

“Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal.”

The WCRP was set up by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization in 1980.

Scientists have expressed concerns at a number of tipping points that could dramatically increase the rate of warming.

For example, the melting of ice at the poles reduces the amount of sunlight that is reflected with the darker water or land absorbing more of the sun’s energy and increasing the temperature. Experts have warned the warming in the Arctic – far higher than the global average – could have a “possibly catastrophic” effect on the number of dangerous storms in the northern hemisphere.

Vast amounts of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – that has been frozen for thousands of years in the tundra of Siberia has also started to be released as it melts. Methane has also been seen bubbling to the surface in the ocean off the northern coast of Russia following dramatic reductions in sea ice cover.

And Dr Carlson said the way humans react to warmer weather could make things worse.

“Also critical is the fact that people survive the heat by using more energy for cooling, thus further depleting the world’s resources,” he said.

He said the increased frequency of extreme storms was starting to attract world leaders’ attention.

“The question is shifting from ‘has the climate changed?’ to ‘by how much?’” he said.

“Statistically we need to get better at predicting not only how frequent and intense these events will be – but how long they will last.”

Six EU countries have already met their 2030 climate targets

Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania won’t be required to cut emissions in transport or farming for 15 years

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2016/07/22/six-eu-countries-have-already-met-their-2030-climate-targets/

Six EU member states do not need to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport, waste, buildings and farming for 15 years.

That is the outcome of proposals for sharing efforts towards the bloc’s 2030 climate target, published on Wednesday.

The European Commission set targets for each country from a 2005 baseline, according to their relative wealth and capacity for making reductions. Many are grumbling the obligations are too onerous.

Yet Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania were already emitting less than their 2030 allocation in 2014, analysis shows.

“While some EU governments will argue that these targets are too stringent, the reality is they are very weak,” said Damien Morris of consultancy Futureproof.

“When you have China talking about peaking its emissions before 2030, it is only fair for EU countries to make absolute cuts.”

Analysis: Damien Morris

Analysis: Damien Morris

Member states fought fiercely to minimise their obligations towards the 2020 target, but as Climate Home reported, the EU passed its 2020 emissions target six years early.

Part of that can be attributed to an economic slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis. Clean energy and efficiency policies made an impact too, putting most countries on track to easily meet their contribution.

“It makes the bust-up on effort share back in 2009 seem like wasted effort in retrospect,” said Jonathan Gaventa, director at London-based think tank E3G.

Today, some countries are concerned they could be asked to increase their contribution if and when the UK leaves the bloc. The European Commission was silent on this point.

Analysts at Thompson Reuters Point Carbon calculate each would need to make an extra 1.1% reduction if Britain’s share were to be redistributed evenly, or 2% if only rich countries do more.

Debates on the impact of Brexit will look like “a storm in a tea-cup” in 10 years’ time, added Gaventa.

The fact that six countries are already overshooting their 2030 targets underlines this.

With the exception of Greece, they were not required to make absolute emissions cuts under the 2020 package. They did so anyway. How? Why? And can we expect that trend to continue or reverse?

Let’s look at each, in order of how much they are permitted to grow emissions by 2030.

Greece (14%)

Hit by a debt crisis and economic downturn since 2008, climate policy has not been top of the agenda for Greece. Its falling emissions reflect belt-tightening more than low carbon investment.

Still, it has a number of energy efficiency initiatives that have played a part. And if financial woes have closed down polluting industries, it does not follow that reintroducing them is the best route to prosperity.

EU-wide fuel standards are likely to clean up road transport irrespective of national policies. The islands have an incentive to embrace clean energy to reduce reliance on diesel imports.

Hungary (12%)

The first EU country to ratify the Paris Agreement, Hungary is adopting a climate-friendly stance under president Janos Ader.

Its economy has modernised considerably since the Soviet era, with brown industries giving way to higher tech export sectors.

An adviser to President Ader told Climate Home public concern about climate change was increasing and Hungary is not likely to regress, whatever its official target.

Croatia (8%)

As with Greece, a six-year recession played a large part in Croatia’s emission slump, hitting industry. The country made some gestures towards green policy in its bid for EU membership, clinched in 2013.

Its direction now is uncertain. An election is coming up in September, after the five-month-old coalition government collapsed.

In a win for environmental campaigners, a planned 500MW coal plant has been shelved. State-owned utility HEP last week opened its first solar-powered electric vehicle charging point.

Recycling rates are low but increasing, while there is untapped potential for energy efficiency.

Bulgaria (7%)

The official line is that Bulgaria will struggle to meet its targets, according to former environment minister Julian Popov. He disagrees.

It has the worst energy efficiency rating in the EU, he told Climate Home – and therefore plenty of room for improvement.

A programme to renovate crumbling Communist-era pre-fab buildings is working, said Popov. “There is no reason to expect some kind of energy intensive reindustrialisation of the country.”

Romania (3%)

Neighbouring Romania has a similar profile. Home to the EU’s largest onshore windfarm, it is cleaning up a coal-heavy electricity generation mix.

With the lowest car ownership rate in the EU, however, it could see increased demand push up transport emissions.

Portugal (2%)

It made headlines in May for running on 100% renewable power for four days in a row. Portugal is quietly forging ahead with clean energy, even as its economy stutters.

Indirectly, abundant clean power can help decarbonise transport and other sectors counted in the effort sharing decision. Portugal has more than 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations across 30 municipalities and aims to get 10% of energy used for transport from renewable sources by 2020.

“The expectations of economic recovery should not contradict a low carbon trajectory,” Francisco Ferreira of Porto-based NGO Zero told Climate Home.

“There are measures planned, specifically in transport sector, that will enable Portugal to take a pathway more consistent with the Paris Agreement.”

Scientists warn of ‘global climate emergency’ over jet stream shift

Experts say drastic weather changes could cause ‘massive hits to food supply’ and ‘death of winter’

Environmental scientists have declared a “global climate emergency” after the Northern hemisphere jet stream was found to have crossed the equator, bringing “unprecedented” changes to the world’s weather patterns.

Robert Scribbler and University of Ottawa researcher Paul Beckwith warned of the “weather-destabilising and extreme weather-generating” consequences of the jet stream
shift.

The scientists said the anomalies were most likely precipitated by man-made climate change, which caused the jet stream to slow down and create larger waves.

Scribbler wrote in a post on his environmental blog on Tuesday: “It’s the very picture of weather-weirding due to climate change. Something that would absolutely not happen in a normal world.

Something, that if it continues, basically threatens seasonal integrity.

The blogger explained the barrier between the two jet streams generates the strong divide between summer and winter, and the “death of winter” could commence if it is eroded as warm weather leaks into the “winter zone” of the year.

He continued: “As the poles have warmed due to human-forced climate change, the Hemispherical Jet Streams have moved out of the Middle Latitudes more and more.

You get this weather-destabilising and extreme weather generating mixing of seasons.”

Meanwhile, Mr Beckwith confirmed the changes would usher in a sustained period of “climate system mayhem” which could prove difficult to resolve.

He said: “Our climate system behaviour continues to behave in new and scary ways that we have never anticipated, or seen before.

“Welcome to climate chaos. We must declare a global climate emergency.

“The behaviour of the jet stream suggests massive hits to the [global] food supply and the potential for massive geopolitical unrest. There’s very strange things going on on planet Earth right now.”

There are two forms of jet streams – polar and subtropical – and the northern and southern hemispheres have one of each.

The streams are the products of atmospheric heating by solar radiation and kept in place by the force of inertia.

New survey finds a growing climate consensus among meteorologists

96% of AMS members realize climate change is happening, and most understand humans are responsible

There have been multiple scientific studies that all concur: scientists know that climate change is happening and it is largely caused by humans. I recently wrote about this here, where I reviewed the studies. It turns out that the more scientists know about climate change, the more they are convinced that humans are warming the planet. In fact, the consensus is extraordinarily strong. But it isn’t just that the vast majority of scientists agree; it’s that the best scientist agree. We find that the contrarian scientists tend to be less accomplished, have had their research found to be incorrect time after time, and they produce less science.

But very recently, a study from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication was completed that adds to our knowledge on the consensus. Lead author Ed Maibach and his colleagues are very well-respected surveyors and scientists who study this topic. The study didn’t focus on what we think of as climate scientists – rather they polled meteorologists.

There were actually two surveys that were merged. In one, the authors identified 1038 professionals currently working in broadcast meteorology from the American Meteorological Society (AMS). In a concurrent study, the authors obtained a list of members from the AMS who were not broadcast meteorologists. The two groups were asked a series of questions on whether climate change is occurring, the degree to which respondents felt humans were responsible, what could be done to minimize climate change, among others. The authors also asked about the educational background of the respondents.

Not all members of the AMS are meteorologists. Additionally, someone working in meteorology is not necessarily a climate scientist. Similarly, a climate scientist is not necessarily a meteorologist. Sometimes these populations overlap but in many cases they do not.

One thing that tends to differentiate practicing meteorologists from climate scientists is that meteorologists tend to observe short-term weather more, while climate scientists tend to look at long-term trends. While this difference may sound trivially obvious, it’s an important distinction to keep in mind because it suggests meteorologists may be more likely to see differences in observed weather patterns. Climate scientists would be less likely to be swayed by changes in weather patterns.

So what did the survey find? First, nearly every meteorologist (96%) agrees that climate change is happening, and the vast majority are confident in their opinion. Only 1% felt that climate change isn’t happening (3% did not know). Next, a large majority feel that climate change is being caused by humans. For instance, 29% believe that the change is largely or entirely human caused; 38% think most of the change is from humans; 14% answered that humans and natural factors are about equally responsible. Only 5% felt that climate change is mainly natural.

Another important finding is that most meteorologists feel that some of the change can be averted, based on how we react. Small minorities felt that a large amount of change can be averted or that climate change cannot be averted.

These views have changed over the years. For instance, almost 20% of meteorologists say their opinion on climate has changed over the past five years. Of that group, the vast majority are more convinced that the climate is changing and they cite a variety of reasons including new research, seeing first-hand evidence, the consensus amongst climate scientists, or from interactions with climate scientists. A final important result is that only 37% of the AMS respondents consider themselves climate experts.

Speaking more broadly about the meteorology community beyond the AMS, that population tends to be more skeptical that the Earth’s climate is changing. I tend to believe that the skepticism is partly because meteorologists in general focus on short-term events and also because a great many non-experts are counted as meteorologists (including people who do not have degrees in any science, let alone a meteorological science). Despite this, meteorologists’ views are important not only because they are a consistent scientific presence in many households, but also because the collective weather observation record from the meteorological community is a resource that is unmatched.

With this new study, the meteorological consensus is seen to be nearly as strong as that in the climate science community. I asked author Ed Maibach for a summary and he told me:

It is not surprising that more meteorologists are now more convinced that human-caused climate change is happening. That is how science works. As the scientific evidence becomes more irrefutable, which is the case with harmful, human-caused climate change, more scientists of all types will become convinced.

Arctic sea ice extent breaks record low for winter

With the ice cover down to 14.52m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/28/arctic-sea-ice-record-low-winter

A record expanse of Arctic sea never froze over this winter and remained open water as a season of freakishly high temperatures produced deep – and likely irreversible – changes on the far north.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre said on Monday that the sea ice cover attained an average maximum extent of 14.52m sq km (5.607m sq miles) on 24 March, the lowest winter maximum since records began in 1979.

The low beats a record set only last year of 14.54m sq km (5.612m sq miles), reached on 25 February 2015.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”

It was the third straight month of record lows in the sea ice cover, after extreme temperatures in January and February stunned scientists.

The winter months of utter darkness and extreme cold are typically the time of maximum growth in the ice cap, until it begins its seasonal decline in spring.

With the ice cover down to 14.54m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice – and that is before the 2016 melt season gets underway.

“If we are starting out very low that gives a jump on the melt season,” said Rick Thoman, the climate science manager for the National Weather Service’s Alaska region.

“For the last few years, we have had extremely low ice cover in the summer. That means a lot more solar energy absorbed by the darker open water. That heat tends to carry over from year to year.”

After this winter’s record ice lows, scientists now expect more than ever that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in the summer months within 20 or 25 years.

“Sometime in the 2030s or 2040s time frame, at least for a few days, you won’t have ice out there in the dead of summer,” said Dr John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Centre.

Those changes are already evident on the ground. In 1975, there were only a few days a year when ships could move from Barrow to Prudhoe Bay off the north coast of Alaska.
Now that window lasts months.

The Arctic will always have ice in the winter months, Walsh said. But it will be thinner and more fragile than the multi-year ice, and less reliable for indigenous peoples who rely on the ice as winter transport routes or hunting platforms.

“It’s not just about how many hundreds of thousands of square kilometres covered by the ice. It’s about the quality of that ice,” Thoman said.

The extent of ice cover is a critical indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic – but the shrinking of the polar ice carries sweeping consequences for lower latitudes as well.

The bright white snow-covered ice reflects about 85% of sunlight back into the atmosphere, compared to the dark surfaces of the open water which absorb most of the heat energy.

“Basically the polar regions are the refrigerator for the Earth,” said Dr Donald Perovich, a researcher at Dartmouth University. “They are extremely important for being able to keep the Arctic colder, and in turn help keep the rest of the planet colder.”

Since 1980, however, the summer sea ice cover over the Arctic has gone into a drastic decline, from 7.8m sq km to 4.4m sq km in 2012, before rebounding slightly. “It would be as if the entire United States east of the Mississippi melted away plus the states from Minnesota down to Louisiana, past North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s huge,” Perovich said.

This winter scientists said the Arctic freeze stalled early on, across the polar seas. The sea ice extent was exceptionally low both in the Barents and the Bering seas – which in past years has been one of the most prolific producers of ice. And it was thinner, especially in the Beaufort sea north of Alaska, scientists said.

There were a number of causes, in addition to the record high temperatures and carry-over effects of earlier ice loss.

The El Niño weather system produced more warming, and the Arctic saw influxes of exceptionally warm water from the Pacific as well as the Atlantic side.

In any event, Walsh said it was becoming increasingly clear the Arctic would never return to its previous frozen state, even if there are small gains in ice cover in a single year.

“The balance is shifting to the point where we are not going back to the old regime of the 1980s and 1990s,” he said. “Every year has had less ice cover than any summer since 2007. That is nine years in a row that you would call unprecedented. When that happens you have to start thinking that something is going on that is not letting the system go back to where it used to be.”