Archive for Climate Change

Climate Change and Human Health

The National Library of Medicine has recently released Climate Change and Human Health, a guide to open access resources. Sites range from medical blogs to IPCC documentation to governmental agencies. Much valuable data can be extracted from this guide. An important tool given the publication of the 800+ page National Climate Assessment report that states “Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised.”(Northeast regional report) Highlights of this tome can also be perused.

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Newest Climate Change Report from the IPCC

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability – is presented in two volumes comprising thirty chapters. Volume one deals with global/sectoral aspects such as natural resources, food security, and human settlements; volume two examines climate change through geographical perspectives (here is the chapter on North America). No matter how you look at it, the reports paints a dire pictures. The summary digests the massive amount of data and distills it into a forty-four page abstract. Among its points are: “Human interference with the climate system is occurring and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems”(1); “Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts”(7); “Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions”(15); and “A first step towards adaptation to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability”(23). A valuable review of the IPCC and its assessments is at The Guardian.

 

 

 

 

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Status of the Global Climate

The World Meteorological Organization has just issued its latest annual report of the state of the world’s climate. It ain’t pretty: “…it is clear that the planet is experiencing an overall warming trend. Thirteen of the fourteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the twenty-first century….”(Foreword) It reviews the severe weather that impacted the world in 2013 from a record number of tropical cyclones to abnormally cold weather. And so it goes.

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What We Know, And Don’t Know, About Climate Change

This short booklet – Climate Change: Evidence and Causes – co-published by The Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences – explains in a Q&A format the present state of scientific knowledge about the underlying causes of climate change. Helpful visuals aid in understanding this complex topic; additional readings are suggested. If you want an informative overview of climate change, written in clear English, this is surely the document to read. To this end, the U.S. government has released a storehouse of information at data.gov/climate. Numerous datasets and resources are now available, and more will be added over time. Whereas previously you had to search multiple sites to retrieve relevant information, these disparate sources (maps, tools, updates, challenges) have now been compiled into a single site. And this valuable report is also of interest: Climate Change Legislation in the 113th Congress.

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Recent Climate Change Legislation from Around the World

The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study (4th edition) provides information on the various legislative processes that 66 countries, as well as the EU, use to mitigate the effects of climate change. Each country profile opens with its approach to climate change, an historical overview. This is then followed by the various policies implemented, whether it involved carbon pricing, biofuels, energy policy, or transportation policy to name a few areas of concern. Each national profile is then rounded off by a listing of the flagship legislation enacted to address climate change concerns.

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Is Recent Bad Weather Here and Abroad Caused by Climate Change?

We have of late been battered by cold, ice, sleet, snow and thunder snow. Great Britain has had its hare of weather woes as well – gale force winds, torrential rains (the most in 248 years), river flooding, etc. Can climate change be the cause of all this bad weather on both sides of the Atlantic? Maybe, according to The Recent Storms and Floods in the UK from the UK Meteorological Office. As this report states: “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding.”(2) But it does go on to request that: “More research is urgently needed to deliver robust detection of changes in storminess and daily/hourly rain rates. The attribution of these changes to anthropogenic global warming requires climate models of sufficient resolution to capture storms and their associated rainfall. Such models are now becoming available and should be deployed as soon as possible to provide a solid evidence base for future investments in flood and coastal defences.”(26) Charts and references are provided. Reportage is found courtesy of The Guardian and Scientific American.

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Environmental Risks Among Highest in WEF Report

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just issued its Global Risks 2014. Environmental concerns appear three times in the top ten risk list: water crises (#3); failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation (#5); and greater incidence of extreme weather events (#6). As the report states: “This illustrates a continued and growing awareness of the global water crisis as a result of mismanagement and increased competition for already scarce water resources from economic activity and population growth. Coupled with extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, which appears sixth on the list, the potential impacts are real and happening today.” (5) This is followed by an analysis from the Global Agenda Council on Water Security.(Its site is here.) This document just reinforces the importance of water security in the world. TowersWatson issued its Extreme Risks Report in 2013 where water scarcity was at the top of its list as well.

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What is a Polar Vortex?

Down in these parts of the United States, a polar vortex or cyclone is a rare event indeed. For an explanation of this phenomenon, please peruse this NASA page – What is the Polar Vortex? Additional information can be obtained at: Patterns in Arctic Weather and Climate (National Snow & Ice Data Center); Polar Vortex (Encyclopedia of the Arctic); Polar Vortex (American Meterological Society); Frigid air from the North Pole: What’s this polar vortex? (CNN); and The Polar Vortex (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics). And this occurrence is not limited to Earth; from NASA comes this photo and video of a polar vortex on Saturn’s moon Titan.

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Abrupt Climate Change

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises from the National Academies Press focuses on the possibility that climate change will not only be a drawn-out process, but that there will come a “tipping point” when sudden changes will have a significant effect on the environment. The report advocates the establishment of an Abrupt Climate Change Warning System (ACEWS) that would that would monitor certain natural processes, such as the growth of coral reefs, the Gulf Stream, the melting of ice caps, etc. and alert us when these detectors drastically change for the worse. (Chapter 4) The report ends thusly: “An ACEWS need not be overly expensive and need not be created from scratch, as many resources now exist that can contribute, but the time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points so as to better anticipate and better prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.”(131) It is supplemented by a 47-page bibliography. Other sites of relevance: Abrupt Climate Change (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute); How Abrupt Can Climate Change Be? (USGS); and Abrupt Climate Change (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory). Reportage at:  NPR; National Geographic; The New York Times; and Science Daily.

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Scarcity of Water Considered Top Risk in 2013

Towers Watson, a risk management company, has just issued its Extreme Risks 2013 report that lists “resource scarcity” (food/water/energy) as the most pressing problem of the day. As the report states: “At the top of our ranking is food/water/energy crisis (S2). This is primarily driven by our assessment that this is one of the most likely risks and that there is relatively little uncertainty attached to either the likelihood or the consequences.”(14) This category of “resource scarcity” jumped from tenth place on the previous list to the first.

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New Jersey A Year After Superstorm Sandy

According to this Rutgers report – The Impact of Superstorm Sandy on New Jersey Townships and Households - “…in the long term, New Jersey municipalities remain as vulnerable, if not more, to the next disaster due to the lack of investment in hazard mitigation and repair of aging infrastructure much of which was further impaired by Sandy; the total bill for these items is $25 billion.”(5-6) This report pinpoints what communities suffered the most (the Community Hardship Index, 73+) and which populations were most impacted (the Household Hardship Index, 67+).  An interactive version of both these indexes is found here along with other socioeconomic data. The report does show that those families below, at, or just above the poverty level were harmed the most.(30+)This is a comprehensive report that should be used for future planning. Speaking of future planning, a coalition of environmental groups has issued report cards on the main players in the state’s response to Sandy; the Governor gets an “F”. And why are households still waiting for promised help? Please look at this report from WNYC. The Bergen Record’s  Superstorm Sandy: One Year Later  is must reading. Climate Central ‘s Surging Seas site shows the Jersey shore and points inland have a 1 in 6 chance of flooding by 2020.

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Climate Change and Extreme Weather

This report – Explaining Extreme Events of 2012 From a Climate Perspective – examines twelve weather events, such as the Iberian drought, Hurricane Sandy, and the Australian heavy rainfall, to see what impact climate change may have played. International research teams, using differing methodologies, analyzed each event and came to the conclusion that “…different events had very different causes. Approximately half the analyses found some evidence that anthropogenically caused climate change was a contributing factor to the extreme event examined, though the effects of natural fluctuations of weather and climate on the evolution of many of the extreme events played key roles as well.” (iv) How this report impacts our area can be read about at Climate Central.

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Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Report

More formally titled as Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, this document essentially tells us that more superstorms are on the way, and that a combination of federal, state, and local agencies is necessary to coordinate recovery, rebuilding, and reshaping of the landscape. A term repeatedly used is “resilience,” or the ability to bounce back from horrific damage to infrastructure, housing, and the environment.  Recommendations are made in many areas, from strenghtening the electrical grids and internet connectivity to providing for a hold on foreclosure activities in devastated areas. Each recommendation is accompanied by background information, the lead agency/agencies, and current status. A valuable planning document. Analyses/reports can be found at: The Wall Street Journal, The Star-Ledger, Brookings Institution, Sierra Club – New Jersey Chapter, and New Jersey Future.

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2012 One of the Warmest Years on Record

That’s according to the  State of the Climate in 2012 report (37+MB)  based on the work of hundreds of scientists from 52 countries. Some observations as culled from the abstract: “…frigid conditions in parts of northern Africa, eastern Europe, and western Asia. A lack of rain during the 2012 wet season led to the worst drought in at least the past three decades for northeastern Brazil. Central North America also experienced one of its most severe droughts on record….Overall, the 2012 average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces ranked among the 10 warmest years on record. The global land surface temperature alone was also among the 10 warmest on record. In the upper atmosphere, the average stratospheric temperature was record or near-record cold, depending on the dataset.” (Highlights of the report are available.) Many countries and areas of the globe have their own section, many with sidebars such as “billion dollar weather  and climate disasters: 2012 in context” in the United States section.(151) Filled with graphs, charts, bibliography, and statistical analyses, this document makes a powerful case for validating  anthropogenic climate change mechanisms.(31) Reportage is at: Earth Scientists Pin Climate Change Squarely on “Humanity”(NPR); and For U.S., 2012 Was Hottest Year on Record: NCDC (Weather Channel).

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Middle East Rapidly Losing Its Freshwater Supplies

A combination of drought, less runoff from decreased amounts of snow, and a growing population have all resulted in the Middle East losing a tremendous amount of water over the past decade. This has been discovered by NASA’s GRACE satellites.(UPDATE: the full text of the study is available online.) This Yale site provides additional information as do these sites: Smithsonian, Utilities-me.com (read this article posted there – “UAE bans export of groundwater”), and Phys.org.

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July 2012 is the Hottest Month Since Records Have Been Kept

And that is going back over 100 years! For the contiguous United States, this past month has been exceedingly hot according to this report – State of the Climate, July 2012 – from NOAA. In New Jersey, July 2012 proved to be the 6th hottest July on record, while the Jan-July 2012 period is the hottest in New Jersey ever. As far as drought conditions in New Jersey go, 47% of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S.Drought Monitor. Weather extremes for New Jersey monitoring stations are here, with some records going to the late 19th century.

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The Vanishing Arctic

This special issue of The Economist – The Melting North – makes for grim reading indeed. The northern polar cap is melting at an unprecedented rate and alien species are encroaching this territory. Graphs and charts supplement this section, and it is accompanied by a source list, some of which are directly accessible in full text online. The report ends with these words: “… the worst outcomes of a warmer Arctic can still be avoided. The shrinking ice cap may find a new equilibrium. Most of the permafrost may remain frozen. But the Arctic will nonetheless be radically changed, to the detriment of a unique polar biome. This much is already inevitable.” Some recent work on climate change include: A Brief History of Climate Change and Conflict (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists); Insights from past millennia into climatic impacts on human health and survival (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences);  Sea level rise, storms, and global warming’s threat to the U.S. coast (Climate Central); and The Heat is On: U.S. Temperature Trends (Climate Central).

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Is Jersey City Going Underwater?

If you read these two research articles in conjunction with this interactive map, and if you consult various state reports ( here is New Jersey), you will see that selected lower parts of  Jersey City have an “Over 1 in 6 chance sea level rise + storm surge + tide will overtop+1ft by 2020 at nearest flood risk indicator site: The Battery – New York Harbor, 2.8miles away. ” And by 2030, many cities face an increased risk of  catastropic flooding. You can search for thousands of coastal cities to find the impact of rising seas. A very informative basics section takes you through the research and methodologies involved; the “links” take you to among other sites, a special issue on sea level from the June 2011 issue of Oceanography. This article from The New York Times provides a good overview.

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Climate Change (Especially in Africa) and U.S. Security

In a entry more than three years ago, we wrote of the effects of climate change, especially in Africa, on national security. Our observations have now been reinforced by the release of Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security from the Defense Science Board. This report does not deal with stopping or combating climate change, but rather concentrates “on the need to manage consequences”(vii) The devastating results of climate change are readily apparent in Africa where the inability to secure adequate amounts of potable water have led to destabilizing conflicts.(47) Water, or more precisely, the lack of water, is highlighted on pages 51-57; a list of recommendations will be found on pages xvi-xxii. A sobering read. Suggested additional readings: Africa Water Atlas (United Nations, 2010); Africa’s Water Crisis and the U.S. Response  (House Hearings, 2007); Africa (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007); Water Security for Development: Insights from African Partnerships in Action (Global Water Partnership, 2010); Conflict, Climate Change, and Water Security in Sub-Saharan Africa (Peace and Conflict Monitor, 2011); Climate Change and Africa (African Partnership Forum, 2007); “Water Sector Governance in Africa,” volume 1 and volume 2 (African Development Bank, 2010); and The Brewing Storm? Climate Change, Rainfall, and Social Conflict in Africa (Strauss center, 2011).

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Flooding in Thailand and Its Implications

As floodwaters inundate Bangkok, with more than a third of the country underwater, and with basic water/sanitation facilities rapidly deteriorating, it would do us well to re-read this important document, Climate Risks and Adaptation in Asian Coastal Megacities: A Synthesis Report. A joint report from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and Japan International Cooperation Agency, it examines the climate-related risks and remediation projects which cities along the coast or at sea level need to undertake; three megacities are included in the analysis: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. Another coastal megacity, Shanghai, is already sinking, and islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean have already vanished. And these problems are not limited to foreign lands; please read the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force: Report to the Legislature. (FYI, online maps of the flooding from various sources are available.)

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