links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

arctic icedroughtsstormsoceans

 
The New Climate:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Is the tide turning for oceans?
by Aban Marker Kabraji | International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Establishing marine protected areas could be a key means of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and curbing climate impacts.

Covering more than 70 percent of our earth’s surface and home to 700,000 to 2 million species, the ocean is the lifeblood of our planet. Besides bringing a sense of serenity through the gentle — albeit sometimes roaring — rhythm of its waves, the deep blue employs millions of workers, feeds billions of people and generates trillions of dollars of the world’s economy.

However, despite having such a profound impact on our lives, oceans are often taken for granted. As vast as they may seem, the resources provided by our oceans are finite.

In recent decades, threats such as unsustainable and illegal fishing, tourism and climate change have increasingly threatened coastal and marine resources.

In Asia, where over 30 million people rely on these resources for their livelihoods, the stakes are high.

While the region’s exponential economic growth has benefitted its communities through higher incomes and a better quality of life, ever-increasing commercial, agricultural and industrial activity has also exacerbated threats to the region’s ecosystems. 95 percent of Southeast Asian coral reefs are at risk of being destroyed and over 80 ocean species in the region are listed as Critically Endangered and Endangered.

Scientists have warned that, as increasing amounts of CO2 are absorbed by our oceans, seawater is becoming more acidic, threatening aquatic ecosystems and organisms.

But tides might actually be turning.

The Paris Climate Agreement has united many nations in the common cause of tackling climate change by limiting global carbon emissions and thereby protecting our oceans.

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has made it crystal clear that a commitment to the conservation of oceans is necessary to secure a better future for all, through Sustainable Development Goal 14 — ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’.

One way to protect our vital ocean ecosystems is to increase the number, size and management effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

MPAs are established to preserve not only coastal and marine terrain, water and the genetic diversity of associated flora and fauna, but also historical and cultural heritage.

It is important that the boundaries of MPAs are delineated through multi-stakeholder consultation and consensus, so that encroachment becomes less likely and enforcement becomes more effective. Local communities, who have traditional knowledge of their natural resources, also need to be involved in the governance of their ecosystems, to relieve the pressure on both nature and governments.

Mangroves for the Future (MFF), a regional coastal programme co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP and spanning 11 countries across Asia and the Indian Ocean, has developed Marine Protected Area (MPA) frameworks for Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia and Myanmar.

MFF’s overall approach is to identify needs at priority sites. These needs are then addressed through grants and other activities that generate knowledge, empower local communities, and strengthen the governance of coastal ecosystems.

In Pakistan, Astola Island is shaping up to be the first MPA in the country. At the IUCN World Conservation Congress last September, a motion was adopted to declare the island an MPA. Since then, MFF has collaborated with the Pakistan Navy to undertake a situational analysis of the island. The next steps will be to ensure that local communities and other stakeholders at the grassroots level are included in the governance and decision-making processes related to the establishment of the new MPA.

This week, at the UN Ocean Conference in New York, IUCN will be joining the government of Pakistan as it reaffirms its pledge to protect Astola Island, thereby fulfilling its commitment at the Congress to designate at least one site in Pakistan’s territorial waters as an MPA by 2020.

Studies have shown that small MPAs that are well-managed and well-enforced are facilitating resources recovery, sustaining fisheries, improving livelihoods and promoting sustainable tourism. Yet, while MPAs can be very effective in the conservation and management of our oceans, they cannot address all threats to marine life. Complementary actions need to be implemented in parallel to make fishing and aquaculture sustainable, address climate change and reduce marine pollution.

IUCN aims to build on lessons learned from MFF – notably the effectiveness of a partnership-based focus and a governance structure that invites country-level ownership – and scale up the programme, to further improve the resilience of coastal ecosystems, support the livelihoods of millions of people, and increase carbon storage capacity by protecting and restoring mangrove habitats.

This year’s theme for World Oceans Day is “Our oceans, our future.” Despite recent setbacks such as the US administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, many other nations remain committed to the Paris Accord. Through progressive and forward-thinking policies, commitments from industrialised and developing nations alike, and a multi-sectorial approach that harnesses advancements in science, finance and development, we actually stand a chance to make our oceans truly great again.

Aban Marker Kabraji is the regional director for IUCN Asia.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The 6th International Conference on Deserts, Drylands & Desertification
November 6-9, 2017 Sede Boqer Campus, Israel

The central theme of the 2017 conference is “Combating desertification and dryland management-theory and practice” with particular emphasis on the natural sciences, but without neglecting planning and policy issues.

Early Bird Registration opens in May 2017.
More information on abstract submission guidelines will be published during May 2017
Abstracts should be submitted online by June 30th, 2017.

Prof. Pedro Berliner and Prof. Arnon Karnieli, Chairs of the Organizing Committee
Ms. Dorit Korine, Conference Coordinator and the Conference Team

The International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification (DDD) has emerged as an important global gathering of scientists, practitioners, industry and government representatives and decision-makers, members of CSOs, NGOs, and international development aid agencies and other stakeholders from over 60 countries concerned about land and environmental degradation in drylands and living conditions in and around them, as well as their sustainable use and development.

The program combines plenary lectures and panels, parallel sessions, workshops, field trips and social events. The four-day conference provides an opportunity for a diverse group of experts, policy makers and land managers to consider a range of theoretical and practical issues associated with combatting desertification and living sustainably in the drylands.

The 6th DDD conference will focus on Combating Desertification and Dryland Management—Theory and Practice. Additional sessions will be held considering a broad range of topics associated with sustainable living in the drylands and means to address desertification, as well as achieving the target of a zero net rate of land degradation.

————————————————————-

The 6th International Conference on Deserts, Drylands & Desertification
November 6-9, 2017 Sede Boqer Campus, Israel

Following the success of the previous five international biennial conferences (2006-2014) on Drylands, Deserts, and Desertification, the organization of the 2017 DDD Conference is now underway and the conference is scheduled to take place at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus, from November 6-9, 2017.

In particular, sessions with the following themes are already confirmed to be held during the conference*:

• Afforestation in Drylands: Native And Non-Native Trees • Patterns and Processes in the Ecology of Drylands• Carbon Sequestration by Combating Desertification • Dating Drylands and Deserts • Plant Abiotic Stress Tolerance Mechanisms for Coping with Arid and Semi-Arid Environments • NGOs for Water: Activities in Rural Communities • On-site Waste Sanitation, Wastewater Treatment and Reuse • Remote Sensing Applications for Drylands• Soil and Land Restoration • Indigenous Dryland Techniques to Combat Desertification • Modeling and Measurement of Non-Rainfall Water Inputs • Self-Organized Vegetation Patchiness • Fairy Circles as a Self-Organization Phenomenon • Geodiversity in Drylands • Pattern Formation in the Geomorphology of Arid Regions • Pattern Formation in Wind Blown Sand • Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Interactions in Drylands • Root Quantification and Modelling • Efficient Use of Water in Dryland Agriculture • Multi-Source Land Imaging for Studying Desertification and Land Degradation • Viticulture in a changing climate • Urban Form of Dryland Cities – Mitigating Effects of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation • Land Degradation Neutrality • Landscape Restoration and Renewable Household Energy • Practice and Theory of Combating Desertification in Rural Areas • UNCCD Special Session •

* Some themes may be merged with others, or canceled, depending on the number of presentations

We look forward to seeing you in Israel in November 2017!

———————————————

? International Advisory Committee
Name Organization
Castillo, Victor UNCCD
Chasek, Pamela International Institute for Sustainable Development, USA
Gnacadja, Luc UNCCD
Grainger, Alan University of Leeds, UK
Gutman, Garik NASA, USA
Lal, Rattan The Ohio State University, USA
Mathai, Wanjira The Greenbelt Movement, Kenya
Mutekanga, David Uganda National Academy of Sciences, Uganda
Santamouris, Mat University of Athens, Greece

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev > Drylands, Deserts and Desertification
Session Descriptions

1. Geodiversity in drylands: pedogenic and ecological implications

?Conveners: Golan Bel, Ilan Stavi and Shimon Rachmilevitch

Over the last decade, the importance of geodiversity has been recognized by soil scientists, geographers, hydrologists, ecologists, and others. Geodiversity—defined as the natural range of geologic, geomorphic, and pedogenic features—impacts biodiversity and affects a range of ecosystem functions and services. Geodiversity applies to a wide range of spatial scales, ranging from patch to landscape. Specific aspects related to geodiversity in drylands include those that determine water availability for different ecosystem components. The session will cover a range of inter-related topics, including the question of scale, hydrological modeling, ecological implications, anthropogenic impacts, and the establishment of indices for evaluating geodiversity.

2. Pattern formation in the geomorphology of arid regions

Conveners: Ido Regev, Roiy Sayag, Yosef Ashkenazy and Hezi Yizhaq

The geomorphology of arid regions is shaped by several physical processes that act at different spatial and temporal scales, such as erosion and sedimentation due to water flow, glacial movement and aeolian processes. These processes give rise to complex large-scale patterns such as sand and snow dunes, fractal river basins and glacial erosion patterns. This set of sessions will focus on the recent progress in understanding the physical mechanisms behind these processes and patterns, and on the current open questions in the field.

3. Pattern formation in windblown sand

Conveners: Ido Regev, Roiy Sayag, Yosef Ashkenazy and Hezi Yizhaq

The geomorphology of arid regions is shaped by several physical processes that act at different spatial and temporal scales, such as erosion and sedimentation due to water flow, glacial movement and aeolian processes. One of the most interesting erosive forces is the transport of sand and dust by wind which creates sand dunes and ripples, and loads the atmosphere with suspended dust aerosols. This session will focus on the recent progress obtained in understanding the physical mechanisms behind these processes and patterns, and on the current open questions in the field.

4. Vegetation patterns and processes in dryland regions in relation to land use and climate change (As part of Patterns and processes in the ecology of drylands)

Conveners: Yael Lubin, Michal Segoli and Hadas Hawlena

Climatic factors and, in particular, desertification, as well as changing land use, influence individual plant traits, demography and population dynamics, and consequently, the structure of communities and patterns of diversity. This session will focus on effects of desertification, grazing and other human interventions on the performance of desert plants and subsequent changes in vegetation diversity and composition.

5. Animal distribution, abundance and interactions in drylands and in response to desertification

(As part of Patterns and processes in the ecology of drylands)

Conveners: Yael Lubin, Michal Segoli and Hadas Hawlena

Harsh desert conditions may have important implications for interactions between organisms in both natural and human-impacted environments. Low water and nutrient availability may intensify the impact of exploitative interactions and promote specialized mutualistic adaptations. Low productivity also increases the severity of anthropogenic effects (e.g. settlements and agricultural fields) on the surrounding natural environment, with implications for animal movement, abundance and interactions. In this session, we will focus on the uniqueness of desert environments in shaping these effects.

6. The environmental change-biodiversity-disease triangle: host-parasite interactions in the era of global changes in land use, temperatures, and aridity, with implications for disease ri
(As part of Patterns and processes in the ecology of drylands)

Conveners: Yael Lubin, Michal Segoli and Hadas Hawlena

Global changes in land use, in the averages and variability of temperatures, and in desertification have dramatic direct and indirect impacts on host-parasite interactions, with implications for disease risk to wild animals and people. These changes affect parasite replication and the development, survival, and mobility of vectors, as well as the geographical distributions of vectors and hosts. Changes in temperature, humidity, and habitat structure also affect the network of biotic interactions and biodiversity, which in turn influence the dynamics and evolution of host-parasite interactions. We will focus on this cascade of changes and their implications for the emergence, spread, and virulence of infectious diseases.

7. Soil component of regional and global climate models
(as part of Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in drylands)

Conveners: Naftali Lazarovitch and Golan Bel

Approximately 40% of the earth’s terrestrial surface comprises drylands, making a better understanding of the soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in these regions crucial for correct modeling of ecosystem and climate dynamics. In particular, soil models are crucial for capturing long-term memory effects in climate fluctuations due to the soil and vegetation large storage capacity and relatively slow dynamics. Often, there is a gap, in the complexity and spatio-temporal scales, between local models of soil-water flow and the land component of global climate models. This gap in scales also exists in measurements. Large scale measurements are usually derived from infrequent satellite imagery, while local measurements, used to develop and validate soil models, are captured locally and often continuously.

8. Water flow and heat transport in dryland soils: modeling and measurements
(as part of Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in drylands)

Conveners: Naftali Lazarovitch and Golan Bel

The simultaneous movement of liquid water, water vapor, and heat in the soil plays an important role in the water and energy balance of the near surface environment of arid regions. Simulating water fluxes in unsaturated soils from complete saturation to complete dryness is challenging due to high nonlinearity and the hysteretic nature of the soil hydraulic functions. These functions describe the relation between the soil water potential, water content, and the hydraulic conductivity. Classical capillary-based functions typically hold between saturation and some residual water content. Recent models accounting for capillary and adsorptive water retention, but also for capillary and film conductivities. The success of the parameter determination of such functions depends on how well the water status is measured in extremely dry soils.

9. Soil-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases
(as part of Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in drylands)

Conveners: Naftali Lazarovitch and Golan Bel

The soil-plant-atmosphere interactions and, in particular, the exchange of water, gas and energy play crucial roles in climate and ecosystem dynamics. These interactions have inspired a great deal of scientific research, and we possess a sophisticated understanding of these processes in mesic environments. However, in arid environments, where only a small fraction of the surface is covered by vegetation, the soil-atmosphere exchanges are much less understood. Soils provide the largest terrestrial carbon store, the largest atmospheric CO2 source and the largest terrestrial N2O source. A change in land use or management can alter these soil processes such that net greenhouse gas exchange may increase or decrease. Soil properties interact in complex ways with the biological processes responsible for the production and consumption of greenhouse gases.

10. Root quantification and modelling

Convener: Jhonathan Ephrath

This session will target the root zone. The main objective of this session will be to identify knowledge gaps related to the various physical, biological and chemical aspects of water and nutrient flow, transport and uptake in this important region that is believed to control both agronomic production and environmental aspects related to water. The session will be a gathering for researchers who study roots in different disciplines and at different scales, seeking both pure scientific understandings of the processes and their application for the benefit of society. Special emphasis will be given to novel measurement and modeling tools at the various scales, as well as to interdisciplinary research. The session will promote a fundamental understanding of the diverse aspects of root biology and will assemble researchers from multiple disciplines in order to facilitate the exploration of novel approaches and investigation of complex processes and mechanisms. The intersections of root physiology, root development, root architecture and root interactions with the environment will be addressed. Basic research at multiple scales (proteins, cells, tissues and the root system as a whole) and cutting-edge methodologies will be highlighted as important means to advancing agriculture.

11. Efficient use of water in dryland agriculture

Convener: Nurit Agam

In arid regions, crop productivity is limited by scarce rainfall, which is often supplemented by irrigation. In both rain-fed and irrigated cropping, the actual availability of water to the crops is largely dictated by the fraction of water that is lost to the atmosphere or to deep drainage. The magnitude of these fluxes is strongly affected by the sources of energy (radiation and advection). In drylands, irrigated row crops are common and are characterized by heterogeneous soil surface wetness that may lead to micro-advection, an additional complicating factor.

Monitoring and/or modeling of the various components of the water balance are necessary in order to improve the efficiency with which this scarce resource is used.

Presentations relevant to the aforementioned topics (theoretical or applied) are welcomed.

12. Afforestation in drylands: native and non-native trees

Convener: Ornea Reisman-Berman

Dryland afforestation constitutes a unique ecosystem that aims at increasing ecosystem services on degraded lands in harsh environments. Therefore, the selection of woody plant species for dryland afforestation actions must be an educated decision. In the past, species were selected mainly for their drought-resistant and fast-growth traits, and the selected species were mainly non-native. However, today there is a growing awareness of increasing the similarities between the novel ecosystem and the surrounding natural ecosystem by integrating native woody species into afforestation. This session will present various topics related to the function and the effects of integrating both native and non-native species into dryland afforestation, such as: novel ecosystems, assisted migration, physiology, ecology, and the genetics of the tree species, as well as the management of the individual tree and the landscape.

13. Multi-Source Land Imaging for Studying Desertification and Land Degradation

Conveners: Garik Gutman and Arnon Karnieli

Desertification and land degradation represent a global challenge to billions of people on the Earth. Land-cover change is one of the most obvious and detectable indicators of land-surface characteristics and associated human-induced and natural processes. Due to evolving technology, it has become increasingly feasible to derive land-cover change information from a combination of in situ surveys and earth observation satellite data at regional, national, and global scales. Regional analyses of desertification processes are the key to the understanding of causes and impacts of degradation. To be useful for sustainable, local combating strategies, regional analyses must provide spatially explicit information at sufficient detail. NASA- and ESA-affiliated scientists have been developing appropriate information services based on satellite observations to assess and monitor desertification and degradation trends over time. A synergistic use of spectral data with moderate to high spatial resolution from more than one source is getting momentum due to successful launches under the ESA Sentinel program. Landsat and Sentinel-2 optical data are now used synergistically by many researchers, sometimes combined with Sentinel-1 radar data. Efficient and synergistic use of these sensor data increases the number of observations available for studies. The proposed session aims at bringing together experts working on arid regions who study desertification/degradation issues by applying moderate-to-high (1-30m) resolution data. New ideas on synergistic use of data from various sensors, including moderate-to-high resolution thermal IR sensors, are welcome.

14. Remote Sensing – Tools and Implications in Dryland

Convener: Arnon Karnieli

Environmental problems of drylands such as desertification processes, land degradation and rehabilitation, land cover and land use change, climatic change, droughts, early warning, and more, are characterized by both spatial and temporal dimensions. Therefore, remote sensing techniques, based on long-term monitoring and repetitive data, over vast expanses of unsettled regions, are applicative and powerful tools for research and implementation in these areas.

Special sessions on REMOTE SENSING – TOOLS AND IMPLICATIONS IN DRYLAND will take place as part of the conference to promote scientific exchange between experts who work on remote sensing and geoinformation issues of the above drylands-related aspects with special intention to restoration actions and processes.

15. Role and function of organic matter in dryland soils: Carbon sequestration by combating desertification

Convener: Gilboa Arye

Soil organic carbon accounts for over 50% of soil organic matter and is commonly considered as a key indicator for soil quality with regard to its agricultural and environmental function. With increased organic matter content, aggregation stability and soil structure are improved and, consequently, water retention, the infiltration rate and resistance to soil erosion. The lack of or low organic matter content in agricultural dryland soils is traditionally compensated for by the artificial addition of organic matter from different origins. The use of marginal irrigation water, such as treated wastewater in dryland agriculture, provides continuous inputs of dissolved and particulate organic matter to the soil.

The proposed session will address issues that are related to the role and function of soil organic matter from different origins in agricultural dryland soils. In this regard, the subjects that will be presented are: surface activity, aggregate stability, soil erosion, soil amendment, and carbon sequestration.

16. On-site sanitation, wastewater treatment and reuse

Convener: Amit Gross

In the modern world, the use of natural resources and the production of domestic wastes and contaminated effluents have significantly increased, and they now pose severe health and environmental risks in many regions, specifically in arid regions. There is an urgent need to remedy already contaminated sites and to find means for minimizing these trends. A fairly new field of research, called Ecological Sanitation (ECOSAN), is a modern, usually on-site, alternative to conventional sanitation techniques. The objective is to protect human health and the environment. Unlike traditional sanitation methods, ecological sanitation processes on-site human waste (in addition to traditional waste, such as animal manure) to recover nutrients that would otherwise be discarded.

This session invites papers involving a range of on-site waste solutions, such as wetlands, biogas and other methods for small agro-waste operations, human wastes, wastewaters, greywater and more. It also seeks papers that evaluate the risks and environmental issues that are associated with such practices.

17. NGOs for water: activities in rural communities

Convener: Noam Weisbrod

Approximately 1.1 billion people in developing countries are currently living without an adequate supply of and access to potable water. In a world with slightly over 7 billion people, this is an outrageously high fraction of the global population. In order to ensure the water security of the world as a whole, it is necessary to start with these 1.1 billion impoverished people whose governments lack the funding necessary to help them. In developing countries, most of the population lives in rural areas where governmental involvement is often very limited. These communities often heavily depend on local agriculture and, in many cases, are limited to rain-fed agriculture. The outcome is that these rural communities are severely dependent on the activities of local or international NGOs (now also known as Civil Society Organizations: CSOs). This session aims to bring people together from organizations that are involved, in the past, present or future, in water-related activities in rural communities to share their ideas, methods, approaches, successes and failures. Representatives from both Israeli and international organizations are welcome, as well as scientists and officials who are interested in this topic.

18. Dating drylands and deserts: what palaeoenvironmental variation can tell us about current conditions

Convener: Berry Pinshow

The common denominator for deserts, drylands and desertification is the dynamics of rainfall and evapotranspiration (e.g. seasonality). Rainfall and evapotranspiration can be directly quantified in a modern context, but how does one estimate how much rainfall fell in the past and what annual abiotic conditions may have applied? By definition, deserts and drylands are unlikely to contain open sources of water, such as lakes and swamps associated with major rivers, while the growth of most of the trees in such areas exploit stochastic rainfall events rather than reflect annual variation regardless of rainfall. Even river discharge into desertified areas is affected by rainfall. Lake, swamp and fluvial deposits, as well as tree-rings, may therefore provide information of stochastic events from outside desertified areas that may be used to evaluate general conditions, but are not directly relevant to understanding environmental variation WITHIN such areas.

19. Indigenous dryland techniques to combat desertification

Convener: Pedro Berliner

Over the centuries, desert dwellers developed techniques that allowed them to produce, under conditions of low and variable rain, food and fodder. These techniques can be improved and adapted to various desertification-endangered soil-crop-climate configurations. Even though the techniques tend to be simple and thus easy to implement in developing countries, the biophysical interactions are extremely complicated and require in-depth studies to allow their modeling; the latter an essential tool necessary to implement these techniques in areas in which they have not been used hitherto. In the present session, field and modeling studies will be presented and discussed.

20. Modeling and measurement of non-rainfall water inputs

Convener: Nurit Agam (and Pedro Berliner)

Non-rainfall water inputs (NRWIs), i.e., a gain of water to the surface soil layer that is not caused by rainfall, comprise fog deposition, dew formation, and water vapor adsorption. In drylands, the annual amount of NRWIs can exceed that of rainfall and, in many areas, NRWIs are the sole source of liquid water during the long dry summer, and can therefore have a large effect on dryland ecosystems and crops.

We welcome contributions on the measurement and modeling of physical, chemical, and biological processes related to the NRWI phenomenon.

21. Self-organized vegetation patchiness: observations, modeling and model analysis

Convener: Ehud Meron

There is increasing evidence that spatial self-organization induced by water-vegetation feedbacks plays an important role in shaping dryland landscapes. Model studies have provided much insight into the mechanisms by which positive feedbacks can render uniform vegetation unstable and lead to the formation of vegetation patterns. Yet, the mechanisms at work in specific systems and the interplay between different mechanisms have remained largely unexplored. This session will bring together experts in modeling and in model analysis, as well as field and remote sensing experts, to present recent progress in understanding vegetation pattern formation and the implications it bears on ecosystem processes and function.

22. Fairy circles as a self-organization phenomenon

Convener: Ehud Meron

Fairy circles are circular gaps of bare soil in grasslands that form strikingly ordered patterns on large, landscape scales. They have been observed in western Namibia and recently also in northwestern Australia. Two main hypotheses have been proposed for the cause of their formation: termite colonies, which have been found in many circles, and water-vegetation interactions. This session will bring together entomologists, ecologists and physicists who will present recent empirical and model studies that shed new light on the controversial fairy-circle phenomenon. The interest in fairy circles goes beyond the mechanisms of their formation; whatever these mechanisms turn out to be, fairy circles provide excellent empirical case models to study the impact of spatial self-organization on ecological processes and ecosystem function.

23. Plant abiotic stress tolerance mechanisms for coping with arid and semi-arid environments

Conveners: Vered Tzin and Shimon Rachmilevitch

Plants growing in arid areas confront a number of abiotic stress-causing factors including drought, extreme temperatures, high winds, low humidity, high radiation, salinity and specific ion toxicity. These factors become tangible both as direct physiological stresses in the plants and as indirect stress components, via alterations to the physical environment. This session will provide a platform to understand and discuss some of the dominant abiotic stress-causing factors in the context of desert agriculture and to investigate methods to contend with them sustainably.

24. Vineyard-environment interactions

1. (as part of Viticulture in a changing climate)

Conveners: Nurit Agam, Naftali Lazarovitch and Aaron Fait

Environmental conditions optimal for quality wine-grape production are of a complex nature and are not easily defined. For example, a sufficient amount of radiation is required, but overexposure deteriorates yield quality. Similarly, a correct water balance is necessary for optimal grape development. The vast expansion of wine consumption worldwide and the increasing demand for quality wine, along with apparent signs of climate change and repeated droughts in many wine vineyard growing areas, make a better understanding of the vineyard-environment interactions necessary.

25. Viticulture/agronomy practices in relation to climate

1. (as part of Viticulture in a changing climate)

Conveners: Nurit Agam, Naftali Lazarovitch and Aaron Fait

Farmers have selected plant materials (variety, rootstock) and viticultural practices in accordance with local climatic conditions in order to optimize yield and quality. Common practices include irrigation, fertilization, soil tillage, disease control, pruning, trellising and harvesting. These viticultural practices can be modified to adapt to climatic variability and to optimize grape yield, aroma and flavor. In recent years, strategies applied in arid land viticulture were introduced into central Europe as a means of buffering the impact of climate change. The development of ad-hoc practices is thus becoming pivotal in facing the upcoming uncertainties in relation to the environment.

26. Vine molecular physiology and genetics

1. (as part of Viticulture in a changing climate)

Conveners: Nurit Agam, Naftali Lazarovitch and Aaron Fait

The economic value of grape as an agricultural crop relates not only to the yield but also to the quality of the berry as reflected by its chemical composition. A fundamental strategy to ameliorate fruit quality in a changing climate by optimizing viticulture practices lies in the (i) understanding of the mechanisms modulating the molecular physiology of the vine and the grape, (ii) dissecting the regulation of polyphenol and aroma potential, and the (iii) identification of candidate gene regulators of key biochemical pathways.

27. Urban form of dryland cities – mitigating effects of climate change and environmental degradation

Convener: E. Erell and D. Pearlmutter

Rapid urbanization in dryland countries is partly the result of land degradation in rural areas. Dryland cities often suffer from water shortages and inefficient use of energy resources, subjecting their inhabitants to poor environmental conditions that are exacerbated by global climate change as well as the urban heat island. Mitigating the consequences of these processes will require a better understanding of the effects of urban form on the energy-water-land nexus. The session will provide a forum for research on issues such as water-sensitive urban design, the urban forest, pedestrian thermal comfort in outdoor spaces and the interaction between the urban microclimate and building energy consumption.

28. Scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality: a report of the Science-Policy Interface Committee

Conveners: Pam Chasek and Barron Orr

29. Land degradation neutrality: will Africa achieve it?: Institutional solutions to land degradation and restoration in Africa

Convener: Luc Gnacadja

Land degradation neutrality (SDG target 15.3) is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems” to address land stewardship at all levels for the sake of sustainability.

More than half of the additional two billion people who will live on Earth by 2050 will be born in Africa. The population of sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) is predicted to grow from 900 million in 2013 to about 1.4 billion by 2030 (UN, 2013), while the region is the world’s champion in poverty, hunger and food insecurity, land degradation and agriculture vulnerability to climate change.

But Africa is also a global hotspot for success stories in land restoration with innovations mostly occurring at local level. The institutional aspects are among the major hurdles to scaling up.

The proposed session aims to involve policy-makers, on-farm land managers and scientists to discuss the following:

What triggers land improvement processes and how can these triggers be mainstreamed?

How to support farmers to make SLM decisions and secured investments, while ensuring that they receive a fair share of the benefits generated downstream by their restoration efforts?

How to overcome the institutional challenges to scaling up restoration and furthering climate change adaptation in the agricultural sector in SSA? What enabling environment for achieving LDN? What is the role of the private sector?

30. Land degradation neutrality: the physical and geographical dimension

Convener: Alan Grainger

================================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

CLIMATE – The New York Times

More Permafrost Than Thought May Be Lost as Planet Warms

By HENRY FOUNTAIN, APRIL 11, 2017


As global warming thaws the permafrost, the frozen land that covers nearly six million square miles of the earth, a big question for scientists is: How much will be lost?


The answer, according to a new analysis: more than many of them thought.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that as the planet warms toward two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, each degree Celsius of warming will lead to the thawing of about 1.5 million square miles of permafrost.

That figure is at least 20 percent higher than most previous studies, said Sarah E. Chadburn, a researcher at the University of Leeds in England and the lead author of the study.

“Previous estimates of global changes in permafrost were done using climate models,” Dr. Chadburn said. “Our approach is more based on using historical observations and extrapolating that to the future. It’s a very simple approach.”

GRAPHIC
How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps
Americans overwhelmingly believe that global warming is happening, and that carbon emissions should be scaled back. But fewer are sure that it will harm them personally.

OPEN GRAPHIC
Permafrost thaws slowly over time, but it is already causing problems in the Arctic, as slumping ground affects building foundations, roads and other infrastructure in places like the North Slope of Alaska, Yukon and parts of Siberia. The thawing also contributes to climate change, as warmed-up organic matter is decomposed by microbes, releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Dr. Chadburn and her colleagues looked at how much permafrost would thaw if temperatures were to stabilize at a warming of two degrees Celsius, long a target of climate accords, or at 1.5 degrees, which the 2015 Paris agreement set as an ambitious goal.

A two-degree increase, the researchers found, would lead to a loss of about 2.5 million square miles of permafrost compared with a 1960-90 baseline, or about 40 percent of the current total.

The study showed the advantages to be gained from limiting warming to 1.5 degrees: Thawing would be reduced by about 30 percent, or 750,000 square miles.

Graphic: How 2016 Became Earth’s Hottest Year on Record
But the research also shows the potentially devastating consequences of missing either of those targets. Warming of five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) would leave at most about a million square miles of permafrost, or less than 20 percent of the current total.

Edward A. G. Schuur, a permafrost expert at Northern Arizona University, said the study was “an important and interesting calculation of where permafrost will be at some distant point in the future as we undergo climate warming.”

“What’s really important is this is based on totally different assumptions,” Dr. Schuur said. “It’s useful because it gives us a different perspective.”

Dr. Chadburn said her study did not delve into the details of how different permafrost areas might be affected. Dr. Schuur said that as the planet warms, more southerly regions, where the permafrost occurs in discontinuous patches, would be expected to thaw first.

But there will still be changes even in areas of extensive permafrost in the far north, Dr. Schuur said. “There will be surface changes that affect everyone who lives there,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any place in the permafrost zone that’s remote enough to escape changes.”

=======================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

NOV 23, 2016 @ 02:38 PM 60,058
Why Clean Energy Can Withstand Changing Political Winds

Morgan StanleyVoice:
Capital Creates Change – Clean-energy-election-hero.


When President Obama first took office in 2008, it was hard to imagine how solar and wind would ever stand on their own as viable alternative sources of energy. Today, solar and wind are so price-competitive that players in the renewables industry were among the few that could afford to be cavalier about who won the U.S. election.


“The increasingly favorable economics of renewables are more important than the presidential election’s impact on the industry, in our view,” says Stephen Byrd, a senior analyst with Morgan Stanley. “Wind and solar are price-competitive in many parts of the U.S. It’s the economics and not the politics that’s driving the use of renewables.”

Over the past seven years, the cost of wind power has dropped from $60-$100 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to around $15-$25/MWh in the middle third of the U.S., and for large solar installations, it’s gone from $100-$300 to $40-$70 per MWh. Wind power is currently the cheapest source of energy in the middle third of the country, with its all-in cost of $15-$25/MWh, comparing with the $55-$65/MWh for a new natural-gas-fired plant.


Improving Economics

Driving their growing competitiveness are improvements in wind and solar technology, as well as some technical efficiency gains. Product Tax Credits, passed by Congress in 2015, will now provide the next bridge to ever-improving solar and wind economics going into 2020, although Morgan Stanley’s analysts argue in a recent report that neither depend on tax credits for survival.

“By the next decade, we project that wind and solar will be the cheapest resources in certain parts of the country, without any subsidies,” they state in the report. “Even without the Production Tax Credit, wind would be cheaper than gas-fired power by a wide margin. And by 2017, we project that large-scale solar projects in Texas will require revenue of about $45/MWh, lower than that required for a natural-gas-fired power plant.”

Changing Political Winds

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to lay out a comprehensive energy policy, although his comments during campaign speeches reveal his position on climate-change regulation. In May, he told audiences in North Dakota that he was opposed to the Obama Administration’s regulations “that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants.”

On the same day, he added: “We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions, including the Climate Action Plan. We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to UN global-warming programs.”

Analysts say it isn’t clear whether a new president can cancel U.S. signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. But the climate-change views of Trump’s coming appointment of the ninth Supreme Court Justice could be crucial, should pending legal challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan ever reach the high court.

Yet, even the failure of the Clean Power Plan wouldn’t slow the growth of renewables, according to the Morgan Stanley report. “Given the favorable economics relative to coal-fired generation of wind power in the middle third of the U.S.; solar in the West and Southwest U.S. and gas-fired generation throughout most of the U.S., we view the impact of the EPA Clean Power Plan as being relatively modest,” says the report.


For more Morgan Stanley Research on clean energy and the impact of changing politics, ask your Morgan Stanley representative or Financial Advisor for the full report, “The US Election: Impacts to Clean Tech and Utilities Skew Positive” (Jul 27, 2016). Plus, more Ideas.

===============================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


10th – 11th August 2017: North American Symposium on Climate Change and Coastal Zone Management, Montreal, Canada


Climate change is known to impact coastal areas in a variety of ways. According to the 5th Assessment Report produced by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), coastal zones are highly vulnerable to climate change and climate-driven impacts may be further exacerbated by other human-induced pressures.

In North America, multiple pressures – including urbanization and coastal development, habitat loss and degradation, pollution, overexploitation of fish stocks and natural hazards- affect the coastal ecosystems, hence exacerbating the impacts of climate change in coastal zones. In particular, sea level rise changes the shape of coastlines, contributes to coastal erosion and leads to flooding and salt-water intrusion in aquifers.

Climate change is also associated with other negative impacts to the natural environment and biodiversity, which include damages to important wetlands, and to the habitats that safeguard the overall ecological balance, and consequently the provision of ecosystem services and goods on which the livelihoods of millions of people depend. These impacts are particularly acute in North America, which endeavors to become more resilient to damages caused by hurricanes, floods and other extreme events.

The above state of affairs illustrates the need for a better understanding of how climate change affects coastal areas and communities in North America, and for the identification of processes, methods and tools which may help the communities in coastal zones to adapt and become more resilient. There is also a perceived need to showcase successful examples of how to cope with the social, economic and political problems posed by climate change in coastal regions in North America.

It is against this background that the North American Symposium on Climate Change and Coastal Zone Management is being organized by the Research and Transfer Centre “Applications of Life Sciences” of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany), the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP) and the Université du Québec à Montréal. The Symposium will be a truly interdisciplinary event, mobilizing scholars, social movements, practitioners and members of governmental agencies, undertaking research and/or executing climate change projects in coastal areas and working with coastal communities in North America.

The North American Symposium on Climate Change and Coastal Zone Management will focus on “ensuring the resilience of coastal zones” meaning that it will serve the purpose of showcasing experiences from research, field projects and best practice to foster climate change adaptation in coastal zones and communities, which may be useful or implemented elsewhere.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

It is known that the world produces enough food for everyone but why do 800 million in the world still go to bed hungry?

GODAN has the answer to end this suffering – opening data on agriculture and nutrition – which will also stimulate global GDP by $6 trillion

What does the climate mean for food security?

In December 2015, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement –the agreement that nations around the world would be committed to keeping the average global temperature increase at well below 2 ºC and at no more than 1.5 ºC from 2020 onwards. As of August 2016, 180 countries have signed the agreement – but average global temperatures have already reached 1.3 ºC. Coupled with the occurrence of the El-Nino, it is undeniable that the climate is having a huge impact on our planet, as more countries are affected by record breaking and unusual weather. But what impact is this weather having on our food supplies? And if there is more to come, what can we do about it?

To see the impact that climate has on food one only has to look at the spate of droughts that multiple parts of the world have been experiencing in the last decade. Ethiopia experienced its worst drought in decades earlier this year, causing crop failure and the loss of livestock. This was followed by heavy rains that further aggravated the agricultural disruption.

Ethiopia has made great strides since the famine of the 1980s. It has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and thanks to working with the information and expertise of international aid organisations was able to build a food security system which, despite the desperate situation of the drought, has allowed the country to stay out of famine. Given that 43% of the country’s economy[1] relies on agriculture and it forms the livelihood of much of the country’s rural population, food security for Ethiopia has meant more than food reserves.

The government, with the help of aid groups, have made a sustained effort to support farmers over the last decade, which has included launching open data for agriculture and socio-economic wellbeing in early 2015. This open data included detailed agricultural practices, information on health and data on food consumption and security. Ethiopia’s recent drought has been devastating –but the government’s attempt to mitigate its effects through years of investment in food security and making agricultural data available has allowed the country to escape the worst.

Meanwhile, a long drought over the past six years in California has caused water shortages, cost farmers billions of dollars with serious concerns over food security. Within California, residents have felt the impact of reducing water consumptions, and given that the state alone accounts ¼ of the USA’s fruit and vegetable produce[2], the implications of continued drought are concerning.

California has the benefit of being a state within the richest and most powerful country on Earth. The citizens of California have had access to public information giving them guidance on how best to cope throughout. The US Department of Agriculture has been monitoring the progress of the drought and its effect on everything from Californian farms to food prices, the results of which is open data that is publically available to all who need it. Although thousands of farmers[3] have lost their livelihood, and the drought continues, the data and information made available by the US government has been invaluable in keeping the farmers of California informed of the drought’s progress and in allowing them to maintain food security through substitution and diversification of their produce.

The impacts of both droughts are having a drastic effect on the availability of food. As the climate continues to become more extreme, the issue of food security will become more urgent. But as Ethiopia and California have shown, open data on agriculture, weather trends and more can help farmers and governments alike prepare and adapt to some of the worst conditions for agriculture imaginable. That’s why it is so important to make vital agricultural data available for all who could use it.

GODAN (Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition) aims to do just that. In New York City on September 15-16, the GODAN Summit 2016 is taking place, lobbying world leaders to open up their agricultural and nutrition data. Government ministers from Kenya and the UK will be in attendance, alongside open data activists, scientists and other leading figures, all of whom will be discussing the benefits of making relevant data available to everyone. There will also be a hackathon that will see the brightest and most disruptive young minds doing their bit to come up with innovative new open data solutions.

But GODAN needs your support. We have launched a petition in association with Global Citizen. Once complete, the petition will be presented to the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, calling on them to make agricultural and nutrition data open. Help secure food security for the world by signing the petition today: summit.godan.info/register/

Key Questions:

· Why are governments hiding this data that could end world hunger?

· How can data truly better agriculture and farming in 3rd world countries?

· There is enough food in the world so why are 800 million people hungry?

· Technology really is saving the world, but how?

· How will open data affect health issues globally?

· What does this mean for the agriculture industry?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

NEWSWEEK — Tech & Science

Scientists Plan to Freeze a Ship into the Arctic Icepack

By Zoë Schlanger On 4/2/16 at 10:22 PM

Multi-year sea ice with drainage channels is seen on August 23, 2012 in a photo taken at Nunavut, Canada. Ice floes are in Larsen Sound, part of the Northwest Passage. (Pat and Rosemarie Keough/Corbis)

Winter in the Arctic is changing rapidly—scientists recently broke the news that the sea ice in the far north covered the puniest area of ocean ever recorded this winter. But it’s still unclear how, exactly, these changes are taking place. That’s partly because most research voyages can only be made in the summer, when waters are navigable and temperatures bearable. But the long, dark days of winter, when weather is erratic and temperatures can drop to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, and massive ice floes make navigation dangerous, are exactly when Matthew Shupe wants to be there most.

So Shupe, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and a team of experts from several countries and multiple disciplines are working on a plan to freeze a ship full of researchers into the winter ice itself. They’ll arrive at a spot in the northern latitudes in a warmer month and let the winter ice freeze around them. Then they’ll float with the ice pack for an entire year, taking a wide range of measurements from within, beneath and above the ice block as they go. They hope to assemble a comprehensive set of data that would be impossible to collect from anywhere but within the ice itself.

There are dozens of questions for which the scientific world still doesn’t have answers about what’s going on in the Arctic now, Shupe says. “We know very little about clouds, about aerosols in the atmosphere, and the biological activity that’s happening in winter,” all elements that have the potential to change the way models about sea ice are built. Plus there’s the question of the changing ice itself: “If the ice pack is thinner, does it crack in the same way? Does it move in the same way? And does it transfer more heat down to the ocean?”

Shupe hopes to study the impact of clouds on the ice from aboard the frozen-in ship, dubbed the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). “Clouds are one of the huge uncertainties we have, because they’re a very strong control on what energy [from the sun] reaches the surface,” he says. In one respect, more cloud cover could act as a shield, preventing sun from reaching the ice. But on the other hand, it might act as a blanket, keeping the heat trapped closer to the ice. The bright white surface of Arctic ice is “very reflective,” he says, which helps the ice stay colder; but if the sun’s energy bounces off the ice and then gets trapped below the clouds, that cooling mechanism could be sabotaged.

The team is currently planning the trip, slated for 2019, and securing the approximately $65 million in funding it will take to deploy a ship full of 90 people in the hostile Arctic for 13 months. Some pieces are already coming together; The Alfred Wegener Institute, a German research institute, has already committed their icebreaker vessel to the mission, with a medical team and a kitchen staff. (“We’ll be eating some good German food,” Shupe says.)
Plus the U.S. Department of Energy plans to provide a suite of instruments to take measurements.

Another research team, from Norway, froze a converted fishing vessel in the Arctic Ocean’s sea last year, but MOSAiC will be involve the largest research vessel to embark on a mission like this, and be the most comprehensive in terms of the scope of information it hopes to collect. MOSAiC will have everyone from oceanographers, to physicists, to biogeochemists, to sea ice scientists on board. “There’s a lot of different people with different perspectives,” he says, and it might just help solve the long list of mysteries about an Arctic in flux.

——————————————-

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II

The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)

To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:
 www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me…

Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.


“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.

But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.

The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.

Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.

Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.

First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.

And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.

That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

———————————————————-

Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

ALSO:

California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

And yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. “It’s unbelievable,” Thomas told a local paper. “Whales are all over
the place.”

Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented “haul out” of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.

No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.

Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.

But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.

“You talk to fishermen, and they all say: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’?” says Peterson. “So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’?”

Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year’s, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven’t yet figured out precisely what’s behind them and why they happen when they do. It’s not a permanent change — the ocean’s temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.

“The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature,” says Peterson, “but the main problem we’ve had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can’t keep up with it, and neither can the animals.” Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: “At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over.”

Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean’s food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a “quite traumatic” impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means “the whole food chain is going to be different.”

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.

Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t. The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”

For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling “the blob” — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that’s thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.

Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what’s happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.

A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.

What’s increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world’s oceans, it’s not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world’s reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.

Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it’s also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it’s been blamed on accelerated beach erosion “almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.” A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”

Thanks to the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here’s what could happen next.

The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.

Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.

Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the “Great Dying,” when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered “Great Dying” took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.

With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans’ most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. “Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today,” Moffitt said.

As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.

For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she’s seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: “A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good indicator of change.”

Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: “This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then?.?.?.?everything could change, right?”

Alin’s frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins “heightened the whole issue,” she says. “I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she’s already planning her exit strategy: “If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don’t have an exit strategy.?.?.?.?So that’s who I’m here trying to help.”

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That’s because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children’s Trust, a legal advocacy organization that’s filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it’s also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that’s enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill barring fines for dead lawns during drought.

By Melanie Mason

July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.

Cities and counties will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of “lawn maintenance” ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.

Cheryl Brown has said she’s aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.

The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns “fade to gold.” Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners’ associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.

With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25%.

This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29% in May.

—————————————————————————————
Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?

Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015

With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.

“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.

Related:
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year


One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.

As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low

Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.

Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.

class=”wp-caption-text”

Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.

Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.

IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:

“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.

Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.

Sea ice in decline

Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“

The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.

“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.

He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet

Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:


“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”

At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:

“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”


Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:

“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal

Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.

Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.

“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “

The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:

“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”

Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.

Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:

“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?

The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.

“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.

This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:

“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.

Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.

Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:

“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost

This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:

“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.

Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now

“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.

The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.

In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.

“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.

Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.

——————–
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


IPCC Expert Meeting: Climate research community looks into future scenarios.
IPCC Press Release

GENEVA, May 18 – Climate experts will meet in Laxenburg near Vienna, Austria, on 18-20 May 2015 at an Expert Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to discuss and further develop new socioeconomic scenarios as shared tools for climate research.

Experts from the climate change research community will meet with representatives of the IPCC at the meeting hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

“We use scenarios much like testing probes to explore future societal developments and their consequences for climate and the environment,” said Keywan Riahi, who leads IIASA’s energy program and is convening the Expert Meeting. He is also a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the mitigation of climate change. “The scenarios that were assessed by the IPCC have proven vital for the AR5. This expert meeting will have a detailed look at a new generation of scenarios and framework that the climate change research community has adopted to facilitate the integrated analysis of future climate impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation, and mitigation,” said Riahi.

Scenarios, as used in research with integrated assessment models, are stories about potential ways that the future might develop. They feature specific quantitative elements and details about how sectors such as the economy, climate, and the energy sector interact. By looking at scenarios, researchers look for insights into the paths and circumstances that might lead to specific objectives.

“The scenarios from the research community form the backbone of our analysis of potential climate change impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation solutions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, which deals with the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC facilitated the development of the new scenarios in AR5 and assessed their results in the report, but the process is coordinated by the research community.

The Expert Meeting is being convened to continue the dialogue with the research community, to take stock of the achievements of the process during the AR5 cycle, to share available information across scientific disciplines, and to discuss the role of scenarios in future IPCC products.

With the meeting the IPCC intends to bring together scientific groups with diverse expertise and backgrounds to share experiences and expectations related to the scenario community’s activities and to facilitate further development of common scenarios in climate change research. This will allow a more integrated assessment of mitigation, adaptation, and climate change impacts across the entirety of IPCC work in the future.

The development of the new socioeconomic scenarios, called ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’ (SSPs) complements the Representative Concentration Pathways already used in AR5; these are previously developed trajectories for future levels of greenhouse gases that are being explored in experiments by the climate modeling community.

The SSPs enable researchers to conduct related studies across a broad range of topics. Just before the IPCC meeting a new generation of SSP scenarios has been made publicly available for review by the community (see below). The research communities will continue to investigate the implications of various socioeconomic developments on the local, regional, or global scale for the impacts of climate change and the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of possible policies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

It released the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in four stages over 2013 and 2014, finishing with the AR5 Synthesis Report in November 2014.

The IPCC organizes Expert Meetings and Workshops to facilitate discussions of topics relevant to the assessment process and to receive early input from the scientific community. In order to enhance coordination across the Working Groups in the preparation of the IPCC Assessment and Special Reports, topics of a cross-cutting nature are of particular interest. Proposals for Expert Meetings and Workshops are approved by the IPCC Plenary. The nomination process for the two kinds of events differs, as governments nominate experts for Workshops, while for Expert Meetings, attendees are nominated by the Working Group Co-Chairs.

———————————————-
Database for the SSPs:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…

Scenario database of the IPCC AR5:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…
———————————————-

About IIASA The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Most of Public and About Half in GOP Back Climate Action

By Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly, The New York Times, 30 January 2015


An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group (“Natural Resources for Industry” Oriented – this is our editor’s addition) “Resources for the Future”.

In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science that determined that humans caused global warming.

Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called “the most powerful finding” in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.> “It recruits more Tea Partyers than it repels,” Mr. Krosnick said.

READ MORE AT:  www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/us/pol…


Some of the Comments:

+3 # Dust 2015-01-30 16:44
The question becomes one primarily of world view. Interestingly enough, nobody wants to be considered “unscientific”, so they begin with an a-prior view and look for evidence that that can classify as “science” to support it. (Most people do this, regardless of viewpoint, but people who are truly interested in science refer to science and change their views accordingly).

The parallels to the “creation science / intelligent design” paradigm are fairly clear. Nobody wants to outright dismiss science, so they define the only valid sources of scientific research in increasingly limited and constrained ways. CS/ID people produce NO science of their own; the only thing they do is use their modified version of science to produce what appear to be legitimate questions or holes in the field of evolutionary biology. (FWIW – they also confuse the fields of evolutionary biology and physics). They then assert that ANY lack of perfect understanding in evolutionary theory is clearly grounds to dismiss the entire thing.

A similar parallel can be found in the field of encryption and cryptanalysis. Folks read a standard reference like Applied Cryptography in C and set out to write their own encryption algorithm. Now – THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!! But when their lack of understanding comes to the fore and their work is not taken seriously by cryptanalysts, the intelligent thing to do is learn more about the field, not scream that there is a conspiracy against you.

+2 # Ken Halt 2015-01-30 16:45
Interesting to read some of the uninformed comments in the article. The MSM and Koch affiliates have been very effective with their propaganda

Refresh comments list
RSS feed for comments to this post

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.
You Are Not Logged In

Forgot Username?
RSNRSN

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

While on his way to Saudi Arabia, Obama released his opposition to drilling in a sensitive area of he Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Could this allay some Saudi worries?

————————————————————-

Obama’s Arctic Refuge Drill Ban Won’t Change Much, For Now
January 26, 2015

by John Ydstie of NPR

President Obama says he will ask Congress to give wilderness status to protect more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The president announced his intention Sunday in a video, describing the area as a pristine habitat with abundant wildlife:

“It’s very fragile. That’s why I’m very proud that my Department of Interior has put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure that we’re protecting the refuge and that we’re designating new areas, including coastal plains, for preservation,” he said.

But Obama’s action could put billions of barrels of oil beneath the wilderness out of reach of energy companies. Industry representatives are criticizing the decision, but also say Obama’s request will have little immediate effect.

Obama’s request for wilderness status reverses a recommendation by the Reagan administration in 1987 to allow drilling in a small area of the ANWR. In the intervening quarter of a century Democrats and Republicans have continuously sparred over the issue and no drilling has taken place.

Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry’s views, says despite the glut of oil on the market today because of the U.S. shale boom, the country will eventually need the oil from ANWR.

“If you look at Department of Energy forecasts, we’re gonna need oil and natural gas to fuel this economy for decades to come,” Milito says. “So, we gotta plan well ahead so we have the ability to fuel this economy for future generations.”

He points to a U.S. Geological Survey estimate that projects ANWR contains between 5 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. He says the industry would likely find even more once it begins drilling.

Fadel Gheit, a managing director and oil expert at Oppenheimer & Co., says he believes the president’s decision does not change the outlook for developing the ANWR reserves significantly.

“It will make life more difficult for the industry; it will put another hurdle — but technology will always bring the hurdle down,” Gheit says.

He says the shale revolution reduces the urgency of tapping the ANWR oil.

“There’s really no need to take a chance on ANWR, since ANWR is still a very sensitive area,” he adds.

Gheit says the shale oil glut gives the oil industry five to 10 years to develop the technology it needs to convince the public that it can drill safely in such an environmentally sensitive place.

It’s virtually certain the new Republican-controlled Congress will reject the president’s recommendation. But Obama’s request does effectively block drilling for the next two years and he could veto a congressional bill to allow it.

But if Republicans keep control of Congress and the country elects a Republican president, Obama’s effort to protect ANWR from drilling could be swept aside.

=====================================================


Battle Over Offshore Drilling In Arctic Dwarfs ANWR

April 15, 2009

by Elizabeth Arnold of NPR

Melting ice in the Arctic may not be good for species that live there, but it does mean those icy waters are much more accessible and cost-effective places to drill for oil and gas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Alaska this week as part of an “information gathering” tour to help craft a new Outer Continental Shelf drilling policy. After two days of public testimony from those for and against offshore drilling, Salazar pronounced Alaskans passionate and divided.

Just over a year ago, the oil and gas industry bid $2.6 billion for drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, located in the Arctic between Alaska and Russia. It’s the largest oil and gas lease sale in history, and it’s staggering when compared with the $7 million that the same leases went for in 1991.

Though rapidly retreating sea ice makes it easier and more cost-effective to drill in the Chukchi Sea, it also means the area is more fragile. Just about every marine mammal and seabird in the Chukchi Sea is already endangered or a candidate for listing. And, the opposition from native villages that rely on fish, walrus, seals and whales for subsistence dwarfs the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


Melting Ice Could Mean More Drilling, More Controversy

The biggest lease of the most recent sale went to Shell Gulf of Mexico, which spent $105 million for rights in the Chukchi Sea. Shell already had bought leases even further north and was ready with rigs when then-President George W. Bush lifted the ban on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf.

“We are drill-bit ready to move in the Arctic right now, and this is stuff that can happen right now, and with a few things going our way, we will be ready to go in 2010,” says Pete Slaiby, Shell’s Alaska general manager.

But those few things are now largely in the hands of Salazar, who went to Alaska this week as part of the process of developing this administration’s offshore energy plan. He has called a time out on new leasing, for more public input, and he got plenty Tuesday.

Whaling captain and mayor of the North Slope Borough Edward Itta advised slowing down: “Mr. Secretary, like all Alaskans, the people of the North Slope depend on the economic engine of oil and gas development. We have supported onshore for well over 30 years now. But, Mr. Secretary, offshore is a different matter.”

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin advised speeding up: “Delays or major restrictions in accessing our needed resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the nation’s or our state’s best interest.”

Passionate Protests From Both Sides

From laborers in hard hats chanting “jobs, jobs, jobs” to environmentalists dressed as polar bears and puffins, division and emotion over offshore drilling was apparent.

Shell’s Slaiby says the industry has learned from problems like the Exxon Valdez spill. Of the total volume of oil, less than 1 percent ends up in the oceans, he says. And, he says, more than 100 exploratory wells have been drilled in U.S. and Canadian Arctic waters without a single accident.

But concern over offshore drilling in Arctic waters doesn’t just center on spills. The Interior Department is also responsible for endangered species. An increasing number of marine mammals and seabirds in the arctic are in decline, and the fear is that the impacts of a warming climate will be compounded by new development.

Species At Risk

Traveling on an icebreaker in the northern Bering Sea, University of Wyoming researcher Jim Lovvorn studies seabirds that breed in the Arctic, including the spectacled eider. On both hands, he counts off other species in danger: Steller’s eiders, king eiders, common eiders, red-throated loons, yellow-billed loons, four species of ice seal, walruses and bowhead whales.

“You could not find a more sensitive habitat,” Lovvorn says.

On the same ship, USGS research ecologist Chad Jay is tracking the Pacific walrus, which is also under consideration for listing as a threatened or endangered species. Reductions in the extent of ice over the past few years have forced walruses onto small pieces of remnant ice.

In 2007, there was no ice at all near the shelf.

“As a result of [ice shelf melting] we saw upwards of 6,000 walruses hauling out along the shore of northwest Alaska, which is the first ever,” Jay says. “It means that a greater number of animals are using a smaller space to forage in and to haul out on — probably not a good thing.”

But the very thing that is cause for concern with regard to walrus and other species in the Arctic is what’s made drilling in these waters more attractive to industry: less sea ice.

Whether and how to balance development of a what is a fragile ecosystem — and what some believe is the next best answer to America’s thirst for oil — poses a major policy decision for the new Department of Interior. Salazar says he doesn’t expect to make everybody happy.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Martin Indyk <foreign_policy@brookings.edu>
please reply to:  foreign_policy at brookings.edu

Subject: Brookings Search for a New Energy Security and Climate Initiative Director

THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION – FOREIGN POLICY
 www.Brookings.edu – a Washington DC based Think Tank.

Dear Colleague,

We hope you can help spread the word about an exciting career opportunity at The Brookings Institution. We are currently searching for a new director of our Energy Security and Climate Initiative, who will also serve as a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings. The candidate should have expertise in energy security, energy economics or climate policy, as well as a detailed knowledge of U.S. and international energy markets. An expertise in the geopolitics of energy, energy sustainability and/or climate change are essential, and regional expertise in Asia or the Middle East is preferred. Outstanding written and oral communication skills in English are required; fluency in relevant regional languages is desirable.

Applicants must apply online, submitting a full resume complete with a list of publications plus a description of research interests and priorities. For more information about this position, go to: www.brookings.edu/about/employmen….

Please share this job posting with qualified candidates. We appreciate your help in getting the word out to qualified candidates in the energy security and climate policy communities.

Best Regards,

Martin Indyk
Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
The Brookings Institution

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Hilton St Petrsburg Bayfront


A Global Convergence of the Ocean Arts & Sciences

November 3 – 9, 2014 / St. Petersburg / Tampa Bay, Florida

RESERVE NOW

Ocean all-stars to converge at 2014 BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit

Once a year, BLUE convenes a diverse ecosystem of ocean all-stars focused on the promotion of the ocean through film and media. Heads of state, celebrities, filmmakers, media scientists and global leaders have turned to BLUE as a platform for collaboration and progress, catalyzed by the dazzling, stunning and provocative films. From all walks of life, and from around the world, they arrive to be inspired by the content, get the scoop on new technology, hear about projects, share ideas and form partnerships that can change the tide.

“Our mission is to inspire people everywhere to connect with ocean conservation, and to serve as a catalyst for important discussions,” said BLUE Co-founder and CEO Debbie Kinder.

BLUE alternates between Tampa Bay and Monaco each year, attracting movie stars, explorers, governments, scientists, and filmmakers like no other ocean event to date. Among the film actors (subject to change) who plan to attend BLUE 2014 in person, or join Google Hangouts or participate by skype this year are Jeremy Irons, Richard Branson, Susan Sarandon and others – just the tip of the ice berg. It’s virtually a BLUE Who’s Who.

If you plan to attend BLUE, rooms are still available (for a limited time) at the BLUE Headquarters located at the Hilton Saint Petersburg Bayfront. Enjoy the surroundings as BLUE 2014 immerses in this vibrant ocean community of oceanographic institutions and museums located on one of the nation’s most strategic coastlines.


If you cannot attend the event, attend online – live broadcast, Google Hangouts and the EXPLOREBLUE2014 App will help you follow BLUE events throughout the week. Download the App for the latest schedule and update on speakers at BLUE.

UPDATED EVENT SCHEDULE AND SPEAKER LIST – CLICK HERE

BLUE – The Film Festival
Screenings of winning films and Q & A with film makers, ocean photography, marine technology and art exhibits.

The Industry Conference
Production and communication skills, underwater filmmaking technical expertise through hands-on master classes. The latest information on ocean issues and film projects, networking among commissioners and other media funding organizations.

The Conservation Summit
Lectures and panels impart the latest science, share insight, debate issues, and challenge audiences to be proactive. Some of the most dramatic and inspiring moments at BLUE.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Making the SDGs Relevant.

From Emily Benson  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or…

From Sustainable Development Announcement List of IISD.
London, UK, October 13, 2014

Dear friends,

With less than a year to go until the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are agreed, the big question now is implementation. Specifically, how do we make the SDGs relevant to businesses as well as national and local level decision makers?

As part of the Measure What Matters initiative, we are bringing together statisticians from corporate reporting with national and international statistical bodies to explore how we align data frameworks at different scales (global, national, corporate, local).

Our first consultation is focused on WATER: How might global Goal(s) on water sustainability be operationalised at local, corporate and national levels? How do we ensure that the data frameworks are aligned?

If you are involved in water – then we want to hear from you! We need your expertise.

We will feed the results of this consultation directly into the implementation working groups for the SDGs, discussions at the national level on alternative GDP measurements, and consultations for strengthening corporate reporting.

The dialogue is available here. Please also see our one-page guidance note on taking part.

Measure What Matters is an initiative aiming to generate dialogue amongst diverse stakeholder groups on the case for operationalising global sustainability goals at the national and corporate levels. Please do see our website for more information. The initiative is led by the Green Economy Coalition in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative, Accounting for Sustainability, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Stakeholder Forum.

Do contact us for more information or help:  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or….
Emily Benson
Programme Manager
Green Economy Coalition

E:  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or…

T: +44 (0)203 463 7399

M: +44 (0) 7771 915 591

Come join the debate: www.greeneconomycoalition.org

IIED is a company limited by a guarantee and incorporated in England. Reg. No 2188452. Registered office: 80-86 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8NH, UK. VAT Reg. No. GB 440 4948 50. Charity No. 800066. OSCR No 039864 www.iied.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

In the run-up to the 2014 June 4th celebration of Earth Day – which is also the UNEP birthday, the UN Information Service Vienna (UNIS) showed last night the documentary film “CHASING ICE” – by Jeff Orlowski who worked with material supplied to him by The National Geographic.

It was in the spring of 2005 when acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed with a team of heroes to capture visual evidence that the Arctic and an assortment of  glaciers are melting as Planet Earth’s Climate is changing – this as the biggest human effect on the physical aspects of the planet.

They did this by setting up cameras to capture on film – on single shots once a month – and on video cameras ongoing calving of the ice.  These are actual scenes of mountains of ice disappearing under our eyes and visual evidence of the receding glaciers. The pictures were shown to country delegates at the Climate Convention in Copenhagen – UNFCCC 15.

At the end of the showing, the best panel Austria could offer – discussed the meaning of what we saw, and from the audience the subject was enlarged with observations that in real life today there are factors within the Arctic Circle Council that view positively the melting of the ice caps, as this allows for access to riches of oil, gas, minerals … and the opening up of important navigation channels. On the other hand, Small Island States in the Pacific might just vanish like the glaciers do. All this as the water that originates from the melting ice swells the seas and changes patterns of rains and storms affecting the whole planet.

The members of the panel chaired by Mr. Martin Nesirky, Acting Director of  the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna – that discussed the movie – included:

Mr. Harald Egerer, UNEP Vienna – Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention ,
Mr. Helmut Hojesky, Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management,
Prof. Helga Kromp-Kolb, University of Natural Resources and  Applied Life Sciences (BOKU).

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 31st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Environment

 

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come.

 

 

Photo

Greenland’­s immense ice sheet is melting as a result of climate change. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported Monday, and they warned that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said.

Photo

Rajendra K. Pachauri, center, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Credit Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

 

And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty. In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference here on Monday.

The report was among the most sobering yet issued by the intergovernmental panel. The group, along with Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to clarify the risks of climate change. The report released on Monday in Yokohama is the final work of several hundred authors; details from the drafts of this and of the last report in the series, which will be released next month, leaked in the last few months.

The report attempts to project how the effects will alter human society in coming decades. While the impact of global warming may actually be outweighed by factors like economic or technological change, the report found, the disruptions are nonetheless likely to be profound.

It cited the risk of death or injury on a widespread scale, probable damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations.

“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger,” the report declared.

The report also cites the possibility of violent conflict over land or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”

The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just some problem of the distant future, but is happening now. For instance, in much of the American West, mountain snowpack is declining, threatening water supplies for the region, the scientists reported. And the snow that does fall is melting earlier in the year, which means there is less meltwater to ease the parched summers.

In Alaska, the collapse of sea ice is allowing huge waves to strike the coast, causing erosion so rapid that it is already forcing entire communities to relocate.

“Now we are at the point where there is so much information, so much evidence, that we can no longer plead ignorance,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.

The experts did find a bright spot, however. Since the group issued its report in 2007, it has found growing evidence that governments and businesses around the world are starting extensive plans to adapt to climate disruptions, even as some conservatives in the United States and a small number of scientists continue to deny that a problem exists.

“I think that dealing effectively with climate change is just going to be something that great nations do,” said Christopher B. Field, co-chairman of the working group that wrote the report, and an earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif.

Talk of adaptation to global warming was once avoided in some quarters, on the grounds that it would distract from the need to cut emissions. But the past few years have seen a shift in thinking, including research from scientists and economists who argue that both strategies must be pursued at once.

Photo

Tracks were flooded at Grand Central Station in Oct. 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit New York. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

 

A striking example of the change occurred recently in the state of New York, where the Public Service Commission ordered Consolidated Edison, the electric utility serving New York City and some suburbs, to spend about $1 billion upgrading its system to prevent future damage from flooding and other weather disruptions.

The plan is a reaction to the blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy. Con Ed will raise flood walls, bury some vital equipment and launch a study of whether emerging climate risks require even more changes. Other utilities in the state face similar requirements, and utility regulators across the United States are discussing whether to follow New York’s lead.

But with a global failure to limit greenhouse gases, the risk is rising that climatic changes in coming decades could overwhelm such efforts to adapt, the panel found. It cited a particular risk that in a hotter climate, farmers will not be able to keep up with the fast-rising demand for food.

“When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the new report. “When some people don’t have food, you get starvation. Yes, I’m worried.”

The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.

The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a dayslong editing session in Yokohama.

The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private.

The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

Two decades of international efforts to limit emissions have yielded little result, and it is not clear whether the negotiations in New York this fall will be any different. While greenhouse gas emissions have begun to decline slightly in many wealthy countries, including the United States, those gains are being swamped by emissions from rising economic powers like China and India.

For the world’s poorer countries, food is not the only issue, but it may be the most acute. Several times in recent years, climatic disruptions in major growing regions have helped to throw supply and demand out of balance, contributing to price increases that have reversed decades of gains against global hunger, at least temporarily.

The warning about the food supply in the new report is much sharper in tone than any previously issued by the panel. That reflects a growing body of research about how sensitive many crops are to heat waves and water stress.

David B. Lobell, a Stanford University scientist who has published much of that research and helped write the new report, said in an interview that as yet, too little work was being done to understand the risk, much less counter it with improved crop varieties and farming techniques. “It is a surprisingly small amount of effort for the stakes,” he said.

Timothy Gore, an analyst for Oxfam, the anti-hunger charity that sent observers to the proceedings, praised the new report for painting a clear picture. But he warned that without greater efforts to limit global warming and to adapt to the changes that have become inevitable, “the goal we have in Oxfam of ensuring that every person has enough food to eat could be lost forever.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages|Contributing Op-Ed Writer

Days of Desiccation

The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir in San Jose, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The bathtub rings in the reservoirs that hold California’s liquid life have never been more exposed. Shorelines are bare, brown and bony. Much of the Sierra Nevada is naked of snow. And fields in the Central Valley may soon take to the sky. A Dust Bowl? Not yet. Though this drought will surely go down as the worst in the state’s recorded history. Until next year.

But something else is evident in this cloudless winter: when you build a society with a population larger than Canada’s, and do it with one of the world’s most elaborate plumbing systems, it’s a fragile pact. California is an oasis state, a hydraulic construct. Extreme stress brings out the folly of nature-defiance.

The whole fantasy of modern California has long been dependent on an audacious feat of engineering. You could drain the Owens Valley to allow Los Angeles to metastasize. (See “Chinatown.”) You could grab water from Yosemite to keep San Francisco alive. And you could move all that snowmelt up north to the south, and feed the world.

When it works, it’s a marvel. Golden Gate Park is green. Los Angeles has a river (sort of). The fragrance of fruit trees fills Fresno. But what if there is no snow, no rain, and nothing left in the aquifers underground? To date, going back to the start of its water year last July, Los Angeles has received 1.2 inches of rain. Yes, for the year. San Diego will soon notch its driest winter ever. And 80 percent of the state is in extreme drought.

California will get through it, though not without significant pain. And while there will be some reordering of power, nothing will put to lie the old line about the arid West: Water flows uphill to money.

But at the least, these days of desiccation call for some honesty — to look at this state and see, in all its dimensions, the fragility of this kind of pact. And beyond that, to see in California a precursor of what could happen elsewhere if we think we can out-engineer a fevered planet. The drought itself may not be a result of climate change, but it is made worse by all the meteorological complications.

Media myopia tends to feed a one-sided narrative: There’s no global warming because, after all, much of the United States is cold and snowy. The West is the exception, but it’s a long way from Al Roker’s studio at 30 Rock. Even farther is Australia, where the warmest winter on record has been followed by a summer of wildfires and heat waves pushing 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The Millennial Drought, which lasted from 1995 to 2012, now looks like the new normal down under.

No surprise, some of the worst deniers of the obvious come from places where it pays to look the other way. Let me introduce Representative Devin Nunes, Republican from Fresno. Like most elected members of his party, Nunes apparently skipped out of science class.

“Global warming is nonsense,” he said last week, when President Obama visited the Central Valley. “We want water, not welfare.”

They’ve certainly got plenty of welfare. The Central Valley Project is a tangle of aqueducts, pumps, canals and dams, the largest water development project in the United States. Yes, we taxpayers built it, and still subsidize it. Its 20 reservoirs hold enough water to irrigate three million acres.

But Nunes prefers the myth, firmly planting himself with the fact-denial majority of Republican lawmakers. He took to the floor of Congress a few days ago to explain. “Our ancestors in California built an amazing irrigation system that can deliver a reliable water supply even during severe droughts,” he said.

Our ancestors! You know, those long-dead wise ones, the socialists from the New Deal and the bureaucrats of the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Better not to name them.

Then, more explanation: You see, he said, holding up a large sign with a picture of the sun, snow and a droplet of water, “Government doesn’t create water.” Oh, of course not. Then let’s just take government out of the picture and watch what happens to farms in the congressman’s district.

The enemy, he concluded, is nature. Fish in particular — “stupid little fish,” he said. Some pretty smart big fish, Pacific salmon, are in trouble as well. He didn’t mention them. Nunes was referring to the delta smelt, a key link in keeping the hydraulic heart of California healthy, but small and imperiled by the switcheroo of the smelt’s habitat to Nunes’s home. As for stupid, the fish yields its time to the congressman from California.

Following his lead, the Republican House has passed a bill moving precious water from the north to big farmers in the Republican-rich lower Central Valley. Government may not create water, but Congress can dole it out. The bill is dead in the Senate.

California’s big urban areas, after years of smart conservation measures, will get by. But in a state where agriculture consumes 75 percent of the water, farms will go fallow. This drought for the ages should prompt some imaginative thinking on what foods grow best in an arid land.

The congressman from Fresno could take his cue from another ancestor, William Randolph Hearst. Up high on a dry perch overlooking the Pacific, Hearst built his Mediterranean castle. Last month, the keepers of the compound started draining the big Neptune Pool and many of its fountains, a concession to the drought. Fantasy has its limits.

###