How the Antarctic Ice Sheet is affecting climate change

December 12, 2016  Oregon State University click here for ScienceDaily article

Scientists have known for decades that small changes in climate can have significant impacts on the massive Antarctic Ice Sheet. Now a new study suggests the opposite also is true. An international team of researchers has concluded that the Antarctic Ice Sheet actually plays a major role in regional and global climate variability — a discovery that may also help explain why sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere has been increasing despite the warming of the rest of the Earth.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Nature….”What we discovered, however, is that the ice sheet has undergone numerous pulses of variability that have had a cascading effect on the entire climate system.”

….”The introduction of that cold, fresh water lessens the salinity and cools the surface temperatures, at the same time, stratifying the layers of water,” Clark said. “The cold, fresh water freezes more easily, creating additional sea ice despite warmer temperatures that are down hundreds of meters below the surface.” The discovery may help explain why sea ice has expanded in the Southern Ocean despite global warming, the researchers say

…The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers an area of more than 5 million square miles and is estimated to hold some 60 percent of all the fresh water on Earth. The east part of the ice sheet rests on a major land mass, but in West Antarctica, the ice sheet rests on bedrock that extends into the ocean at depths of more than 2,500 meters, or more than 8,000 feet, making it vulnerable to disintegration.

Scientists estimate that if the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt, global sea levels would rise some 200 feet

Pepijn Bakker, Peter U. Clark, Nicholas R. Golledge, Andreas Schmittner, Michael E. Weber. Centennial-scale Holocene climate variations amplified by Antarctic Ice Sheet discharge. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature20582

Mountain glaciers are showing some of the strongest responses to climate change

December 12, 2016 University of Washington read full ScienceDaily article here

Mountain glaciers have long been a favorite poster child of climate change…But the scientific basis for their retreat has been less clear…..Now, using statistical techniques to analyze 37 mountain glaciers around the world, a University of Washington study finds that for most of them the observed retreat is more than 99 percent likely due to climate change. In the climate report’s wording, it is “virtually certain” that the retreat of these mountain glaciers is due to climate change over the past century.

Using statistical techniques to analyze 37 mountain glaciers around the world, a study finds that for most of them, observed retreat is more than 99 percent likely due to climate change.Credit: © Photosquirrel / Fotolia

Because of their decades-long response times, we found that glaciers are actually among the purest signals of climate change,” said Gerard Roe, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences….Overall, the results show that changes in the 37 glaciers’ lengths are between two and 15 standard deviations away from their statistical means. That represents some of the highest signal-to-noise ratios yet documented in natural systems’ response to climate change.

…These glaciers are stunningly far away from where they would have been in a preindustrial climate.”

Gerard H. Roe, Marcia B. Baker & Florian Herla. Centennial glacier retreat as categorical evidence of regional climate change. Nature Geoscience, December 2016 DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2863

Remote sensing is becoming increasingly important in biodiversity research

Full article here Posted: 12 Dec 2016 05:44 AM PST ScienceDaily

To measure biodiversity, researchers have been using various methods of remote sensing for about 30 years in addition to traditional field studies. An international team of researchers present current opportunities, developments and prospects of remote sensing in a new article, and highlight its enormous potential in assisting future biodiversity research…

Lausch et al. Linking Earth Observation and taxonomic, structural and functional biodiversity: Local to ecosystem perspectives. Ecological Indicators, 2016; 70: 317 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.06.022

Trump’s transition: sceptics guide every agency dealing with climate change

Oliver Millman the Guardian UK  Monday 12 December 2016 Read full article here

With at least nine senior members of transition team denying basic scientific understanding, president-elect’s choices demonstrate pro-fossil fuels agenda.

The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for Nasa, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change, in a signal of the president-elect’s determination to embark upon an aggressively pro-fossil fuels agenda.

Trump has assembled a transition team in which at least nine senior members deny basic scientific understanding that the planet is warming due to the burning of carbon and other human activity. These include the transition heads of all the key agencies responsible for either monitoring or dealing with climate change. None of these transition heads have any background in climate science….

Fossil Fuel Divestments Now Represent $5.2 Trillion

December 12th, 2016 By Brian Kahn Read full article here

…A network of local governments, pension funds, faith organizations, philanthropies and wealthy individuals representing $5.2 trillion in assets have committed to — and in some cases already started — divesting from fossil fuel companies, according to a report released on Monday.

That’s a huge sum of money for a movement that started just four years ago on U.S. college campuses and its growth is likely to continue as the world strives to reach its climate goals.

“It’s pretty clear that the growth trajectory is enormous,” said Ellen Dorsey, the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund. In the past 15 months alone, the assets represented by the fossil fuel divestment movement have doubled.

…Those divesting include Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, Germany-based financial services giant Allianz, and Amalgamated Bank, which in September became the first U.S bank to divest. Private businesses represent $4.6 trillion in assets being divested, nearly 90 percent of the overall total.

Dorsey said that the Paris Agreement, which was finalized one year ago on Monday and went into effect last month, raises the stakes of divestment and also sends a message that more money will need to flow into clean energy if the world is to stay below the 2°C threshold. That’s led firms representing $1.2 trillion in assets in the report to move toward a divest-invest strategy of taking the money they’re pulling out fossil fuels and putting it into clean energy…

What does the new federal water bill mean for California? For one, a big win for farmers

December 12, 2016 5:48 PM Sacramento Bee

Read full article here

…Upending a fragile, decades-long balance between human needs and the environment, Congress passed a wide-ranging water bill last weekend that is likely to result in greater pumping of Northern California water to farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The bill, co-authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, despite furious opposition from Feinstein’s longtime Senate ally, fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer….

If Obama signs the bill, which is no sure thing, it could put the federal government on a collision course with California regulators. The state has strong laws in place to protect endangered species and Delta water quality. The State Water Resources Control Board, which has broad authority over the allocation of water coursing through the Delta, already has begun updating its standards for water quality and restricting the amount of river flows that can get pumped south….

…A White House spokesman said last week that Obama has concerns about the language regarding Delta pumping and some other sections in the bill. But the bill also has popular provisions – such as $170 million to address the crippled drinking-water system in Flint, Mich. – that would be sacrificed if Obama issues a veto.

Along with the pumping provisions, the bill would funnel money into an array of California water projects. Among them: $415 million for watershed restoration and other environmental aid for Lake Tahoe; up to $335 million for two proposed reservoirs in California, including the Sites reservoir north of Sacramento; $880 million for flood-control projects on the American and Sacramento rivers in Sacramento; and $780 million for flood-control projects in West Sacramento….

American voters support action on climate change

George Mason University December 13 2016  Center for Climate Change Communication

…our latest national survey, conducted shortly after the election, finds that, across party lines, 69% of registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the international agreement to limit global warming, compared to only 13% who say the U.S. should not.

Likewise, 70% of registered voters support setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies increased – a core component of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Democrats (85%), Independents (62%) and Republicans (52%) all support setting strict limits on these emissions.

Other key findings include:

  • As strategies, 78% of registered voters support taxing global warming pollution, regulating it, or using both approaches. Only 10% oppose these approaches…

Supermajority in California Legislature May Save State’s Climate Program

Article link here

John Upton Dec 8 2016 Climate Central

Golden State Democrats will be trying to use their supermajorities to extend an imperilled landmark climate program — called cap-and-trade — beyond 2020. Such an extension would almost certainly require two-thirds lawmaker approval in the state assembly and senate. That’s because lawmaking rules in California are different for taxes and fees than for other kinds of bills, which can be passed with simple majority votes.

…Although it’s just a few years old, California operates the world’s second biggest cap-and-trade program (the European Union’s is bigger). Permits that are needed to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases are called allowances. They’re purchased by Californian power plants, oil refineries and factories and traded by financial speculators, raising hundreds of millions of dollars yearly for green projects while capping pollution.

Similar cap-and-trade programs are operated by China, South Korea, New Zealand, a coalition of East Coast states and elsewhere. Instead of operating cap-and-trade programs, British Columbia and some other governments impose taxes on greenhouse gas pollution.

…“An effective cap-and-trade program in California is more important than ever,” said Harvard economics professor Robert Stavins, who directs the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. “It’s crucial that California increases its reliance on its cap-and-trade system, rather than relying on conventional regulatory approaches, which are much more costly.”

The new rules will make it more difficult for utilities and other polluters to stay under the state’s carbon cap, which could cause demand for dwindling supplies of pollution allowances available each year to spike. That may push Californian cap-and-trade prices to levels never seen anywhere in the world. If that risks causing an economic shock, the governor has the power to suspend cap-and-trade….


IUCN Red List: Devastating decline for the giraffe and bird threats

from Science Daily

Posted: 08 Dec 2016 01:24 PM PST

Over 700 newly recognized bird species have been assessed for the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, and 11% of them are threatened with extinction. The update also reveals a devastating decline for the giraffe, driven by habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting. The global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40% over the last 30 years, and the species has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List….

Materials provided by International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Climate change already causing widespread local extinction in plant and animal species

December 8, 2016 PLOS – and summary from ScienceDaily

Extinctions related to climate change have already happened in hundreds of plant and animal species around the world. New research, publishing on December 8th in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, shows that local extinctions have already occurred in 47% of the 976 plant and animal species studied.

Climate change is predicted to threaten many species with extinction, but determining how species will respond in the future is difficult. Dozens of studies have already demonstrated that species are shifting their geographic ranges over time as the climate warms, towards cooler habitats at higher elevations and latitudes. The new study, by Professor John J. Wiens from the University of Arizona, used these range-shift studies to show that local extinctions have already happened in the warmest parts of the ranges of more than 450 plant and animal species. This result is particularly striking because global warming has increased mean temperatures by less than 1 degree Celsius so far.

These extinctions will almost certainly become much more widespread over time, because temperatures are predicted to increase by an additional 1 to 5 degrees in the next several decades. These local extinctions could also extend to species that humans depend on for food and resources….

John J. Wiens. Climate-Related Local Extinctions Are Already Widespread among Plant and Animal Species. PLOS Biology, 2016; 14 (12): e2001104 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001104