Painfully slow hurricanes, deadly heat, and cities without water: What the climate crisis will look like in the next 10 years, according to experts

venice flood
A woman walks in a flooded street during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 11, 2012. The water level in the canal city rose to 149 cm (59 inches) above normal. 
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
  • In the last few years, we’ve seen record-breaking temperatures, intense hurricanes and wildfires, and unprecedented ice melt.
  • All of these are predicted consequences of climate change and are expected to get worse in the coming years.
  • Addressing this threat in the next 10 years is critical: Scientists say the world must slash its carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avoid catastrophic warming.
  • Here’s what we can expect in the next decade.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more.

We only have a decade to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

That’s the warning the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out last year. But so far, nations are not slashing emissions enough to keep Earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the threshold established in the Paris climate agreement.

“What we know is that unabated climate change will really transform our world into something that is unrecognizable,” Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute’s climate program, told Business Insider.

That transformation has already begun. The last few years saw record-breaking temperatures, catastrophic and bizarre storms, and unprecedented ice melt. That’s all likely to get worse by 2030.

Here’s what we can expect in the next 10 years.

Scientists attribute the increasing frequency of record-breaking temperatures, unprecedented ice melt, and extreme weather shifts to greenhouse-gas emissions.

greenland ice melt
Ice melts during a heatwave in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019. 
Caspar Haarloev from “Into the Ice” documentary via Reuters

Fossil fuels like coal contain compounds like carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat from the sun. Extracting and burning these fuels for energy releases those gases into the atmosphere, where they accumulate and heat up the Earth over time.

“As long as we burn fossil fuels and load the atmosphere with carbon pollution, it all gets worse,” climate scientist Michael Mann told Business Insider in an email.

Last year, the IPCC warned that we only have until 2030 to act in order to avoid the worst consequences of severe climate change.

IPCC climate change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Hoesung Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, October 8, 2018. 
Ahn Young-joon/AP

According to the IPCC, the world’s carbon emissions have to fall by 45% by 2030 to keep the world’s average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

So the next 10 years are crucial for any efforts to slow this trend.

If Earth warms more than 1.5 degrees, scientists think the world’s ecosystems could start to collapse.

arctic sea ice melting
The 2015 Arctic sea ice summertime minimum was 699,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, shown here as a gold line in a visual representation of a NASA analysis. 
NASA via Reuters

“The choices that we make today are going to have profound impacts,” Levin said.

Even if nations stick to the goals they set under the Paris climate agreement, emissions will still likely be too high, according to the IPCC.

Reuters paris agreement
President Donald Trump departs after announcing his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, in Washington D.C., June 1, 2017. 
Reuters

Under the voluntary goals set in the Paris agreement, the world would still emit the equivalent of 52 to 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, according to the report. (This is measured as an “equivalent” in order to factor in other greenhouse gases, like methane, which is 84 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.)

So far, most countries are not on track anyway.

Regardless of what actions we take, there are a few changes scientists know we’ll see in the next 10 years.

greenland ice melt
Satellite image shows meltwater ponding on the surface of the ice sheet in northwest Greenland near the sheet’s edge on Monday, July 30, 2019. 
NASA via Associated Press

That’s because the world will keep getting warmer even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases immediately.

In the worst case scenario, we might even the 1.5-degree temperature-rise mark by 2030.

global warming temperature climate change 2014 to 2018
This map shows Earth’s average global temperature from 2014 to 2018, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980, according to a NASA analysis. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline. 
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The globe’s ice caps will continue to melt, and crucial ice sheets like the one in Greenland might start down an irreversible path toward disappearing completely.

greenland ice melt
Ice melt formed gushing white water in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019. 
Caspar Haarloev from “Into the Ice” documentary via Reuters

“Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 degrees, there’s a tipping point after which it will no longer be possible to maintain the Greenland Ice Sheet,” Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told Inside Climate News. “What we don’t have a handle on is how quickly the Greenland Ice Sheet will be lost.”

Greenland’s ice is already approaching that tipping point, according to a study published in May. Whereas the melting that happened during warm cycles used to get balanced out when new ice formed during cool cycles, warm periods now cause significant meltdown and cool periods simply pause it.

That makes it difficult for the ice sheet to regenerate what it’s losing.

That will lead to more sea-level rise — about 0.3 to 0.6 feet on average globally by 2030, according to the US’ National Climate Assessment.

venice flood sea level rise
People walk in the flooded street during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 15, 2019. This week saw the city’s worst flooding in 50 years. 
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

In addition to melting ice, rising ocean temperatures cause seas to rise because warm water takes up more volume. As the globe heats up, scientists expect that simple fact of physics to account for about 75% of future sea-level rise.

The risk of high-tide flooding (which happens in the absence of storms or severe weather) is rapidly increasing for communities on the US Gulf and East Coasts.

king tide flooding florida
A motorbike navigates through floodwater caused by a seasonal king tide, October 17, 2016, in Hollywood, Florida. 
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

In 2018, the US Northeast saw a median of one major sunny-day flood per year. By 2030, projections suggest the region will see a median of five such floods per year. By 2045, that number could grow to 25 floods.

The rising seawater won’t be distributed evenly across the globe.

new orleans climate change
A Climate Central plug-in for Google Earth shows how New Orleans could disappear underwater by 2100. 
Google Earth/Climate Central

Low-lying countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Seychelles are especially vulnerable. Rising oceans have already begun to threaten cities like Miami, New Orleans, Venice, Jakarta, and Lagos.

Some areas could see sea levels up to 6 feet higher by the end of the century.

Extra warmth and water means hurricanes will become slower and stronger. In the next decade, we’re likely to see more cyclones like Hurricane Dorian, which sat over the Bahamas for nearly 24 hours.

hurricane dorian satellite 130pm mon
Hurricane Dorian ground to a halt over the island of Grand Bahama on September 2, 2019. 
NOAA GOES-East

That’s because hurricanes use warm water as fuel, so as Earth’s oceans and air heat up, tropical storms get stronger, wetter, and slower.

Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, according to a 2018 study.

When storms are slower, their forceful winds, heavy rain, and surging tides have much more time to cause destruction. In the Bahamas, Dorian leveled entire towns.

Hurricane Dorian
Aliana Alexis of Haiti stands on the concrete slab of what is left of her home after destruction from Hurricane Dorian on Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, September 5, 2019. 
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

“The slower you go, that means more rain. That means more time that you’re going to have those winds. That’s a long period of time to have hurricane-force winds,” National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham said in a Facebook Live video as Dorian approached the Bahamas.

A study published earlier this month found that the frequency of the most damaging hurricanes has increased 330% century-over-century.

To make matters worse, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. The peak rain rates of storms have increased by 30% over the past 60 years.

hurricane harvey
People evacuated their Houston homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. 
David J. Phillip/AP

That means up to 4 inches of water per hour. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was a prime example of this: After it made landfall, Harvey weakened to a tropical storm then stalled for days, dumping unprecedented amounts of rain on the Houston area. Scientist Tom Di Liberto described it as the “storm that refused to leave.”

Hurricanes are likely to intensify more rapidly as well.

Hurricane Dorian
A woman seeks cover from wind, blowing sand, and rain whipped up by Hurricane Dorian as she walks in Cocoa Beach, Florida, September 2, 2019. 
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“It’s pretty well understood that if the water is warmer and it’s causing more moist air to come up, you have the potential of a storm to grow quickly and intensely,” Brian Haus, a researcher who simulates hurricanes at the University of Miami, previously told Business Insider.

Overall, extreme weather is expected grow more common and intense.

Screaming heat skull of death
In June 2019, France faced its worst heat wave since 2003. The heat map looked like a screaming skull. 
Meteoceil

“Certain types of extreme events in the US have already become more frequent and intense and long-lasting,” Levin said. “There’s no reason to think that we’re not going to start to see an amplification of what we’ve been seeing.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that, overall, climate change will kill an additional 241,000 people per year by 2030.

Rio Grande drought
Sandbars fill the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, after sparse rainfall in the US Southern Plains caused drought conditions to worsen, February 18, 2018. 
Susan Montoya Bryan/Associated Press

The WHO expects that heat-related illnesses will be a major culprit, killing up to 121,464 additional people by 2030.

In the coming years, experts expect to see “day zeros” — the term for the moment when a city’s taps run dry.

chennai india water day zero
Residents gather to fill empty containers with water from a municipal tanker in Chennai, India, as the city faces a “day zero” water crisis, June 25, 2019. 
P. Ravikumar/Reuters

In January 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, got dangerously close to this reality: The government announced the city was three months from day zero. Residents successfully limited their water use enough to make it to the next rainy season, however.

The IPCC projects severe reductions in water resources for 8% of the global population from 2021 to 2040.

Dry vegetation in hot regions lights up easily, which means more frequent, bigger wildfires.

Kincade Fire firefighter
Firefighter Joe Zurilgen passes a burning home as the Kincade Fire rages in Healdsburg, California, on October 27, 2019. 
Noah Berger / AP

“Climate change, with rising temperatures and shifts in precipitation patterns, is amplifying the risk of wildfires and prolonging the season,” the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a July release.

2016 study found that climate change nearly doubled the amount of forest that burned in the western US between 1984 and 2015, adding over 10 billion additional acres of burned area. In California in particular, the annual area burned in summer wildfires increased fivefold from 1972 to 2018.

We’re also likely to see more wildfires in the Arctic, which is warming almost twice as fast as the global average. That means Arctic sea ice is also disappearing.

greenland wildfire
Satellites detected the infrared signal of a wildfire near Sisimiut, Greenland on July 10, 2019. 
Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

Rapid warming means that crucial sea ice is melting, which accelerates warming even more.

“You take what was a reflective surface, the white ice, and you expose darker oceans underneath it,” Levin said. “That can lead to a much greater absorption of solar radiation, and knock-on warming impacts as well as change of weather patterns.”

The Amazon rainforest is in trouble as well, largely because farmers and loggers are cutting it down so rapidly.

Amazon fire
An aerial view of a tract of the Amazon jungle burning as it gets cleared by loggers and farmers, August 23, 2019. 
REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

A 2008 study projected that humans would clear away 31% of the Amazon by 2030. Another 24% would be damaged by drought or logging, the study found.

People have already cut down 20% of the Amazon. If another 20% disappears, that could trigger a feedback loop known as a “dieback,” in which the forest could dry out and become a savannah.

“The risk of transforming the Amazon to a savannah-like state — it could have a tremendous impact for our ability worldwide to get a handle on the climate-change problem,” Levin said.

amazon deforestation in brazil
A September 15, 2009 photo shows a deforested area of the Amazon rainforest near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para. 
AP Photo/Andre Penner

That’s because the Amazon stores up to 140 billion tons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of 14 decades’ worth of human emissions. Releasing that would accelerate global warming.

“You have a vital carbon sink no longer acting as a carbon sink, but instead acting as a carbon source,” Levin added.

Other crucial ecosystems face collapse in the next decade as well. At present rates, it’s expected that 60% of all coral reefs will be highly or critically threatened by 2030.

bleached coral
Bleached coral in Tahiti, French Polynesia, late-May 2019. 
Luiz Rocha, California Academy of Sciences

High ocean temperatures can cause coral to expel the algae living in its tissue and turn white, a process called coral bleaching.

It’s an increasingly dire problem, given that oceans absorb 93% of the extra heat that greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere. Recent research revealed that the seas are heating up 40% faster, on average, than the prior estimate.

The consequences of coral bleaching extend beyond the coral itself, since reefs house 25% of all marine life and provide the equivalent of $375 billion in goods and services each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

About 55% of the world’s oceans could suffer due to rising temperatures, acidification, decreasing oxygen, and other symptoms of climate change by 2030.

sea turtle coral reuters
A green turtle lies on a bed of corals off the Malaysian island of Sipadan in the Celebes Sea, December 7, 2008. 
David Loh/Reuters

These largely irreversible changes will eventually force mass migrations of marine life, upend ocean ecosystems, and threaten human livelihoods that depend on the ocean, according to a 2017 study. Many species that can’t adapt could die out.

“Climate impacts are also going to exacerbate social inequality,” Levin said.

California Drought Farm
A farm worker picks table grapes in Maricopa, California, United States, July 24, 2015, during the fourth year of a drought. 
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

That’s because people with fewer resources will be less able to avoid the worst impacts.

“That National Climate Assessment shows that residents, for example, in rural communities who often have less capacity to adapt, are going to be especially hard-hit given their dependence on agriculture,” Levin explained.

She added: “You can think also of the scenario of the poor who live in cities who could be at greater exposure to heat stress if they lack air conditioning and heat waves increase in frequency and duration.”

 More: https://www.businessinsider.com/climate-change-in-the-next-decade-2019-11#climate-impacts-are-also-going-to-exacerbate-social-inequality-levin-said-24

120-year-old photo sparks Greta Thunberg conspiracy theories

https://nypost.com/2019/11/19/120-year-old-photo-sparks-greta-thunberg-conspiracy-theories/

Well, she’s impressive, but she’s not that impressive.

Conspiracy theorists are at it again over a 120-year-old photo depicting a girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

The photo, unearthed from archives at the University of Washington, shows three children working at a gold mine in Canada, including a girl wearing Thunberg’s signature braid and stoic expression.

Historians believe it was taken around 1898.

Thunberg, 16, took the world by storm when she arrived at the UN Climate Action Summit from her native Sweden this year via sailboat — having sworn off airplanes because of their environmental impact.

She spoke bluntly to US policymakers at the summit for not having stricter emissions standards.

“How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said at the time.

Enlarge Image
See the resemblance?Getty Images

Thunberg is currently looking to hitch another low-carbon ride across the Atlantic after protests in Chile forced a venue change for an environmental summit.

And while her activism is powerful — nabbing her a cover slot on Time magazine — her ability to time-travel is not, contrary to the Twitter conspiracy mill.

Record high global debt of $250 trillion ‘could curb efforts to tackle climate risk,’ report warns

PHOTO: Euro, Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, pound and Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in this picture illustration.Jason Lee/Reuters, FILE
WATCHNews headlines today: Nov. 15, 2019

The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF), which warned that this massive debt could impact international efforts to mitigate climate change.

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Worldwide debt surged by $7.5 trillion in the first half of 2019, urging researchers to predict that the global debt would exceed $255 trillion by the end of the year.

“Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement. “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”

The bulk of the global debt — or more than 60% — is from the U.S. and China, the report released on Thursday found. Meanwhile, emerging markets debt also hit a new record high of $71.4 trillion.

PHOTO: Euro, Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, pound and Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in this picture illustration.Jason Lee/Reuters, FILE
Euro, Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, pound and Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in this picture illustration.

The biggest increase in global debt over the past decade has been driven by governments and the non-financial corporate sector, according to the report.

At the end of their report, the economists warned that “high debt burdens could curb efforts to tackle climate risk.”

“Global climate finance flows remain far short of what’s needed for an effective transition to a low-carbon economy,” the IIF reported.

Citing the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s estimation in 2010 that an average of $3.5 trillion is needed annually to prevent global temperatures from increasing 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, the report said that “public and private finance flows will have to be scaled up rapidly.”

“This is a growing source of concern for high-debt countries that also have high exposure to climate risk,” the report added, listing Japan, Singapore, Korea “and even the U.S.”

Hidden debt and other “poorly understood contingent liabilities” can create additional uncertainty, the report said, “and could leave some sovereigns struggling to source international and domestic capital — including to combat climate change.”

Why some hydropower plants are worse for the climate than coal

Patrick Civello / Getty Images
HELL AND HIGH WATER

According to a new study published in Environmental Science Technology, hundreds of active hydropower plants are making a worse impact on the climate than fossil fuels.

Yup, you read that right: Hydropower, popularly seen as a green energy source — and a major clean energy source in a lot of emission-reduction plans — can release more greenhouse gases than coal- or oil-burning power plants, under certain conditions.

Scientists have known for a while now that hydropower facilities release greenhouse gases — mostly methane, but also CO2 and nitrous oxide. But the way they’ve historically calculated a facility’s climate impact has obscured methane’s heat-trapping potency. The new study, which looks at data from thousands of hydropower plants to compare their long- and short-term climate impacts, found that hundreds of active facilities around the world are worse for the climate than coal.

“It’s pretty alarming,” Ilissa Ocko, the study’s lead author, told Grist.

Setting up a hydropower facility means building a dam and creating a reservoir, often submerging plants and other organic matter in the process. Traditional calculations of hydropower’s environmental impact take this destruction into account. But as the drowned plants decompose, they release methane, which bubbles out of the reservoir and into the atmosphere. Ocko’s study was the first to take into account how these methane emissions change over time.

Exactly how much methane is released varies widely depending on a wide range of factors, from temperature to precipitation to the depth of the pool — methane production can vary from year to year and even season to season. Ocko’s team was able to identify a few indicators that a hydropower facility plant would likely produce more greenhouse gases than others, such as a large surface-area-to-depth ratio of the reservoir and warmer temperatures. But it’s a lot more complicated than that, and each facility’s exact emissions profile — and the causes of that emissions profile — all vary, widely.

None of this means that hydropower is “bad”: Some facilities have negative emissions, and some are more warming than fossil fuels in the short term but better in the long term (even as the opposite is also sometimes true).

Since hydropower still has the potential to be a low-emissions power source, the most important thing is for planners to choose locations and design facilities with emissions in mind, so that the plants either minimize greenhouse gas emissions or divert them before they enter the atmosphere.

This is going to be crucial for industry and policymakers alike in coming years as governments turn to hydropower to meet their sustainability goals. Hydropower electricity production is expected to grow by up to 70 percent by 2040, with 3,700 new facilities currently planned or under construction. New York City is a prime example — Mayor Bill de Blasio recently recommitted to a pipeline to bring hydroelectricity to the city from Canada. With this and similar plans, the devil is in the details.

“We need to be really careful that new facilities we develop don’t fall into the category that have emissions that lead to climate impacts that are worse than fossil fuels,” said Ocko.

Climate Change Threatens Arizona’s Forest Birds

New Audubon report shows about half of Arizona’s birds are vulnerable.

When most folks think of Arizona, they think of the saguaro cactus and red rocks. But the ecology of the 48th state is actually much more diverse—it’s home to spruce and fir trees on the  highest mountains and is home to the largest ponderosa pine forest on the planet.

So, what will a warming planet mean to these forests and the birds that live there?

The Arizona section of Audubon’s latest report, Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink features the Painted Redstart, a colorful summer resident and breeding bird in the state’s pine forests. But the Painted Redstart is vulnerable to a changing climate.

In Arizona, 102 out of 242 species are climate vulnerable in summer under a 3 degrees Celsius temperature increase. Of those 102 species, the 44 species that summer in Arizona’s forests will be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The greatest climate-related threats to Arizona forests are wildfire and drought. Drought results in bark beetle outbreaks that kill trees, and a smaller snowpack in the winter. Higher temperatures may also prevent the return of forest trees, which will be replaced by more heat and drought tolerant plants such as fire prone shrubs.

In addition to the Painted Redstart, other forest birds at high risk are Dusky Grouse, Spotted Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Red Crossbill, Acorn Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, Western Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Pygmy Nuthatch, Red-faced Warbler, Olive Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, Cassin’s Finch, Hepatic Tanager, and more.

As we know, water is life in the arid West, and Arizona’s forests are the watersheds for our water supplies. Fire and drought threaten our water supplies because soils and sediments end up in the streams and rivers that provide drinking water to Phoenix and nearby cities. Beyond Arizona, the drying and loss of forests in the Rocky Mountains means quicker snowmelts in spring. These snowpacks are the life-blood of the Colorado River basin water supply and we rely on them to melt slowly so we can have drinking water and flowing rivers year-round.

In addition to protecting our forests, we must act to limit the increase in global temperature to only 1.5 degrees C (as opposed to the more dire 3.0 C scenario) by taking action locally and at the federal level to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The birds will thank you and so will future generations.

Help Audubon track what the birds are telling us by joining Audubon’s Climate Watch bird surveys for bluebirds and nuthatches. https://www.audubon.org/conservation/climate-watch

Climate Change Might Hit the Economy Harder and Faster Than Thought

  • Oxford Economics report reviews latest scientific data
  • Global warming may shave off up to 7.5% of global GDP by 2050

How Rising Temperatures Can Fry the Economy

The economic effects of global warming may arrive sooner and with a bigger impact than previously thought, according to Oxford Economics in a report that compares recent scientific research with the economic literature on the costs of climate change.

In the absence of efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the earth could warm by 2 degrees celsius by 2050, cutting global gross domestic product by 2.5% to 7.5%, Oxford estimates, with the worst affected countries being in Africa and Asia. Longer term, a rise in temperatures of 4 degrees by 2100 could cut output by as much as 30%.

Economist James Nixon partly based his analysis on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. Older studies tended to predict the effects of even 4 or 5 degree of warming at no more than a few percent of global GDP and becoming significant only in the second half of the century, Nixon said, yet latest scientific findings show profound climate alterations already happening, including drought, flooding and extreme weather that affect economic activity.

Fighting Climate Change Will Help Economic Growth, Study Finds

“While over a 10-year horizon the costs seem unlikely to be significant enough to affect our forecasts, the window of indiscernibility looks to be closing rapidly,” Nixon said in the report. The effects are “big enough to be considered in our short-term economic forecasts for the first half of this century.”

Global greenhouse-gas pollution has risen for a second year, ending a lull in emissions and putting the world on track for further increases through 2040 unless governments take radical action.

Natural Solutions to Climate Change

We’re starting a new campaign to fight climate change the natural way

Audubon’s new report, Survival by Degrees, offers a jarring look at the impacts of climate change on the birds we love. In Washington state, over half of bird species will be vulnerable to extinction by the end of the century if we continue down our current path. But the most important takeaway from our latest report isn’t that birds are facing a crisis – it’s that we have the power in our hands to protect birds and people from the worst impacts of a changing climate.

By taking action – personally and politically – we can hold our planet’s increasing thermostat to 1.5 degrees Celsius. By doing so, we’ll protect 76% of bird species in North America. That’s a pretty big deal.

Combating climate change can seem like a daunting challenge, and it is, but we have the solutions we need to move the needle and make a difference, for birds and people. We know how to not only reduce emissions, but also how to leverage nature’s ability to sequester carbon, while also supporting healthy rural landscapes and economies.

Thanks in part to Audubon’s advocacy, Washington state is already on its way to 100% clean electricity and we’re continuing our efforts to ratchet down our state’s transportation emissions. We’re excited to continue this work, but starting in 2020, we’re also turning our attention to what’s called natural climate solutions, policies that protect and enhance Washington’s farms, fields, forests, and coastal habitat in order to sequester carbon emissions.

Our goal is to do what the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is necessary: reach net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. And here’s some good news: when we adopt policies that protect the birds of tomorrow by sequestering more carbon emissions, we also protect the habitat that birds need today.

We’re still working out the precise details of a policy that would set strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions and incorporate natural climate solutions into our state’s targets. For now though, Audubon Washington is working with stakeholders to refine and support legislation that would set up a “sustainable farm and fields” program. This program serves as an example of how our state can help support farmers and landowners who want to do what’s necessary to combat climate change, but just need a bit of support to make it happen.

Together, we’ve already achieved so much, setting an example of bold, aggressive climate action for other states and the federal government. But we can’t afford to slow down. Survival by Degrees shows us that there’s still time to act, but we must act quickly and aggressively, leveraging every solution we have to protect birds and people from our changing climate.

Join us in embracing natural solutions to climate change and we’ll help you understand how you can mobilize your community around natural solutions to climate change that will protect birds, now and into the future.

Deadly Arctic blast breaks records set more than 100 years ago

USA TODAY

It was literally freezing in Florida and Alabama while parts of Maine, Michigan and New York were digging out from a foot of snow Wednesday as a historically early and deadly Arctic air mass gripped much of nation.

Records, some dating back more than 100 years, were toppled as the front continued its ferocious roll for a third day.

The entire state of Alabama was under a freeze warning as temperatures dipped into the 20s and below, breaking records at more than 100 locations. The National Weather Service in Mobile citing the “widespread, significant freeze” for Alabama and Florida’s Panhandle, urged residents to protect exposed pipes, keep pets warm and check on neighbors.

In Florida, the average low temperature for November in Pensacola is 50 degrees. It was 20 degrees colder Wednesday morning.

“30 here near Pensacola Beach,” tweeted resident Robert Pooley. “Hate it!”

Also in Florida:Red tide, the toxic algae bloom that kills wildlife, returns to gulf beaches

Record lows were recorded Wednesday morning from Birmingham, Alabama, to Burlington, Vermont. Birmingham’s low of 18 degrees bested by 4 degrees a record that stood since 1911.

New York City and Buffalo, New York, as well as parts of Ohio, have set records. In Kansas alone, at least six cities, including Wichita, set cold records for the date Tuesday.

In Missouri, St. Louis dropped to 11 degrees, breaking a record for the date that stood for more than 100 years.

It snowed in Texas just 60 miles from the Mexican border – and more intensely farther north. Parts of Michigan were digging out from up to 30 inches of snow. Buffalo set records with more than 11 inches. Parts of Maine and Vermont were hit with a foot of snow as the system roared into its third day.

“Visibility dropped as low as one-fourth of a mile at times … as heavy lake-effect snow squalls continued moving through northeastern Ohio,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Derek Witt said.

Authorities in Ohio were investigating two fatal wrecks on snowy roads, and a passenger bus toppled on its side in Syracuse, New York, although no serious injuries were reported.

How often should you start my car in cold weather? Answer: Don’t

Record-challenging low temperatures were everywhere. Single-digit temperatures descended on much of the Midwest, where Detroit sank to 7 degrees, breaking a record of 12 degrees for the day.

Cristen Hamilton, who lives in Chicago’s northside neighborhood of Lakeview, had no problems with the early winter weather.

“I’m a transplant from Northern California, so I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “I’m very happy with Chicago at 20 degrees.”

Drastically colder than normal temperatures stretched all the way to the Atlantic Coast. Temperatures dipped into the low 20s in Atlanta and in Jackson, Mississippi. Similar numbers swept across the East Coast – New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.

Many of these cities often see temperatures that low, just not very often two weeks before Thanksgiving, said AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys.

“We will be challenging records everywhere,” he said.

Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

‘Brutal’ Arctic blast affecting 200 million people:And it isn’t over yet

Climate may have helped crumble one of the ancient world’s most powerful civilizations

https://phys.org/news/2019-11-climate-crumble-ancient-world-powerful.html

Climate may have helped crumble one of the ancient world's most powerful civilizations
Adam Schneider during fieldwork in Jordan. Credit: Adam Schneider/CIRES

New research suggests it was climate-related drought that built the foundation for the collapse of the Assyrian Empire (whose heartland was based in today’s northern Iraq)—one of the most powerful civilizations in the ancient world. The Science Advances paper, led by Ashish Sinha at California State University, Dominguez Hills and coauthored by CIRES affiliate Adam Schneider, details how megadroughts in the 7th century BC triggered a decline in Assyria’s way of life that contributed to its ultimate collapse.

Q: What role did the Assyrian Empire play in global history?

A: There are people in the archaeological community who say Neo-Assyria was the first super power in the history of the world. The Neo-Assyrian empire (912-609 BC) was the third and final phase of Assyrian civilization. It was by far the largest empire in the region up to that time, controlling much of the territory from the Persian Gulf to Cyprus. The Assyrians were basically like the Empire in Star Wars, they are the all-devouring machine.

They also had incredible skill as hydro-engineers. The Assyrians were largely responsible for the way that the Tigris River Basin drainage now works, they completely remade the natural water flows of that landscape using aqueducts and other hydraulic infrastructure. Amazingly, some of these features are still functioning today.

Q: How did a culture this powerful collapse?

A: In the final decades of the Neo-Assyrian empire, the civilization was littered with , civil wars, and invasion by outside armies. Our study shows that climate-related factors were underlying all of this.

The Assyrian empire was built during a time of heavy precipitation and successful harvests. But now we can tell, from , that the civilization experienced a series of megadroughts that likely triggered the collapse of the empire—weakening agriculture and amplifying conflict. The impact of drought in this region was dependent on where the Assyrians were located in northern Iraq. The Tigris River is so deeply cut into the surrounding soil that you can’t do large scale-irrigation there. That’s why rainfall was so crucial to their lives. The Assyrians were much more vulnerable to the impacts of prolonged and  than people downriver.

Q: How are these findings different than previous research?

A: Our team analyzed drip water that got fossilized in two stalagmites in Kuna Ba Cave in northern Iraq. Because the oxygen and carbon isotope composition in different layers of the cave formations can be used to infer changes in precipitation at a high temporal resolution, we get a much better proxy than anything else we had previously. And because the isotope record went all the way up to 2007 CE, we were able to correlate the stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios with modern instrumental climate information from the region. This has enabled us to compare the modern isotope data with ancient layers. We now know that the Assyrian droughts started decades earlier than we had previously thought, and also that the period prior to the onset of drought was one of the wettest in the entire roughly 3800-year sequence. It changes some of the hypotheses we have made.

For example: King Sennacherib, who ruled from 705 to 681 BC, was well-known for building massive canals and other structures. In our earlier work on the question of drought in ancient Assyria, I and my colleague Dr. Selim Adali had initially viewed him as a short-sighted ruler who had pursued short-term political goals at the expense of long-term drought resilience, and set in motion a catastrophic chain of events as a result. But with this new data, we now think thatSennacherib probably was already experiencing drought when he was king, and in fact he may well have been trying to do something about the environmental calamity during that time. So my colleagues and I have joked about issuing an apology letter to Sennacherib for the misunderstanding!

Q: How did you find yourself in this area of research: the crossroads between climate and history?

A: Archeology has been my passion since I was a small child. The climate angle I wanted no part of it, because that was the family business—my father was a climatologist, and I didn’t want to compete. But in the summer of 2010 he suddenly passed away. At that point I was without a clear dissertation project and started to rethink the idea of looking at climatic impacts on ancient people. So it started as a tribute to my father. I ended up going to a research center in Turkey and I got hooked. In fact, I very quickly earned the nickname “Climate Guy” as historians would come ask me if their research had any climatic basis.

Q: Have there been other times in history, in other places, where climate events impacted political structure like in Assyria?

A: The French Revolution is one example. In the two years prior to the French Revolution, poor weather led to a series of bad harvests, which alongside other factors helped to cause the price of bread to skyrocket, especially in Paris. Another example is the U.S. Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. We saw a mass migration resulting from both climatic and economic factors during the Great Depression, causing huge changes. It drove the development and agriculture in southern California. The question is not, “Did climate have an impact?”—it’s: “How, why, and how important was climate alongside the other factors?”

Q: What about modern day?

A: If you look at the record, the Assyrian Megadrought and what I have called the Late Assyrian Dry Phase is one of two of the most extreme periods of dry conditions in the entire 3800 year sequence for northern Iraq. The other one is the present day. Our working assumption here is that the latter is being driven at least in part by anthropogenic climate change.

Obviously, today Iraq is a very different place than it was in 700 B.C. But it’s not hard to look at that country’s problems with internal political stability and sectarian strife to think about the additional issue of drought leading to further trouble in that region.

Global Inaction on Climate Change Could Wipe Out Emperor Penguins

The concept of a canary in a coal mine — a sensitive species that provides an alert to danger — originated with British miners, who carried actual canaries underground through the mid-1980s to detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide gas. Today another bird, the Emperor Penguin, is providing a similar warning about the planetary effects of burning fossil fuels.

As a seabird ecologist, I develop mathematical models to understand and predict how seabirds respond to environmental change. My research integrates many areas of science, including the expertise of climatologists, to improve our ability to anticipate future ecological consequences of climate change.

Most recently, I worked with colleagues to combine what we know about the life history of Emperor Penguins with different potential climate scenarios outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. We wanted to understand how climate change could affect this iconic species, whose unique life habits were documented in the award-winning film “March of the Penguins.”

Our newly published study found that if climate change continues at its current rate, Emperor Penguins could virtually disappear by the year 2100 due to loss of Antarctic sea ice. However, a more aggressive global climate policy can halt the penguins’ march to extinction.

Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Atmosphere

As many scientific reports have shown, human activities are increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere, which is warming the planet. Today atmospheric CO2 levels stand at slightly over 410 parts per million, well above anything the planet has experienced in millions of years.

If this trend continues, scientists project that CO2 in the atmosphere could reach 950 parts per million by 2100. These conditions would produce a very different world from today’s.

Emperor Penguins are living indicators whose population trends can illustrate the consequences of these changes. Although they are found in Antarctica, far from human civilization, they live in such delicate balance with their rapidly changing environment that they have become modern-day canaries.

A Fate Tied to Sea Ice

I have spent almost 20 years studying Emperor Penguins’ unique adaptations to the harsh conditions of their sea ice home. Each year, the surface of the ocean around Antarctica freezes over in the winter and melts back in summer. Penguins use the ice as a home base for breeding, feeding and molting, arriving at their colony from ocean waters in March or April after sea ice has formed for the Southern Hemisphere’s winter season.

In mid-May the female lays a single egg. Throughout the winter, males keep the eggs warm while females make a long trek to open water to feed during the most unforgiving weather on Earth.

When female penguins return to their newly hatched chicks with food, the males have fasted for four months and lost almost half their weight. After the egg hatches, both parents take turns feeding and protecting their chick. In September, the adults leave their young so that they can both forage to meet their chick’s growing appetite. In December, everyone leaves the colony and returns to the ocean.

Throughout this annual cycle, the penguins rely on a sea ice “Goldilocks zone” of conditions to thrive. They need openings in the ice that provide access to the water so they can feed, but also a thick, stable platform of ice to raise their chicks.

Penguin Population Trends

For more than 60 years, scientists have extensively studied one Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica, called Terre Adélie. This research has enabled us to understand how sea ice conditions affect the birds’ population dynamics. In the 1970s, for example, the population experienced a dramatic decline when several consecutive years of low sea ice cover caused widespread deaths among male penguins.

Over the past 10 years, my colleagues and I have combined what we know about these relationships between sea ice and fluctuations in penguin life histories to create a demographic model that allows us to understand how sea ice conditions affect the abundance of Emperor Penguins, and to project their numbers based on forecasts of future sea ice cover in Antarctica.

Once we confirmed that our model successfully reproduced past observed trends in Emperor Penguin populations around all Antarctica, we expanded our analysis into a species-level threat assessment.

Climate Conditions Determine Emperor Penguins’ Fate

When we used a climate model linked to our population model to project what is likely to happen to sea ice if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their present trend, we found that all 54 known Emperor Penguin colonies would be in decline by 2100, and 80% of them would be quasi-extinct. Accordingly, we estimate that the total number of Emperor Penguins will decline by 86% relative to its current size of roughly 250,000 if nations fail to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

However, if the global community acts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and succeeds in stabilizing average global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Faherenheit) above pre-industrial levels, we estimate that Emperor Penguin numbers would decline by 31% — still drastic, but viable.

Less-stringent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, leading to a global temperature rise of 2°C, would result in a 44% decline.

Our model indicates that these population declines will occur predominately in the first half of this century. Nonetheless, in a scenario in which the world meets the Paris climate targets, we project that the global Emperor Penguin population would nearly stabilize by 2100, and that viable refuges would remain available to support some colonies.

In a changing climate, individual penguins may move to new locations to find more suitable conditions. Our population model included complex dispersal processes to account for these movements. However, we find that these actions are not enough to offset climate-driven global population declines. In short, global climate policy has much more influence over the future of Emperor Penguins than the penguins’ ability to move to better habitat.

Our findings starkly illustrate the far-reaching implications of national climate policy decisions. Curbing carbon dioxide emissions has critical implications for Emperor Penguins and an untold number of other species for which science has yet to document such a plain-spoken warning.