The science laid out in a new U.N. report is clear and stark: Our fossil-fueled economy has irreversibly changed the global climate. Less certain is whether we’ll change lifestyles to confront rising seas and supercharged storms, according to scientists and policy analysts.
Global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide notched up 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatonnes in 2012, a move in the opposite direction of an international climate goal to limit global warming, the International Energy Agency said in a report released Monday.
Instead of limiting warming to a long-term rise of no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), the report said the world is currently on a path toward a rise of as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5.3 degree Celsius) above pre-industrial levels.
Such a rise would come “with potentially disastrous implications in terms of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and the huge economic and social costs that these can bring,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said at the report’s launch.
Summer storms may create new holes in our protective ozone layer as Earth heats up—bringing increased solar ultraviolet radiation to densely populated areas, a new study says.
What’s more, if more sunlight reaches Earth, skin cancer could become the new marquee risk of global warming.
In the fight against global warming, most innovations have been targeting the greenhouse gas “supervillain” carbon dioxide.
Meanwhile, several “henchmen” gases—some even more potent than CO2—have also been building up in Earth’s atmosphere.
For now, none of these gases is as big a worry as CO2, due to its higher levels in the atmosphere. But if left unchecked, experts warn, these other compounds could create major new climate change battlefronts.
Air trapped in ancient Greenland ice has yielded some good, but not great, news about the future on a warming planet, according to a new study.
Wetlands were responsible for a substantial increase in the potent greenhouse gas methane in the atmosphere at the end of the last ice age about 11,600 years ago, the study shows.
The finding is cast as “good news” for the planet because it indicates methane clathrates, an even greater source of methane, remained stable in ocean sediments and permafrost.
“The amount of carbon locked up in methane clathrates is about equal to all the fossil fuels combined, so all of oil, gas, and coal,” study lead author Vasilii Petrenko of the University of Colorado at Boulder told me.
“We can no longer avoid significant warming during this century,” Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said in a news release Tuesday announcing a new analysis of future climate scenarios churned out by supercomputers.
Left unchecked, global greenhouse gases are on track to reach concentrations of 750 parts per million in the atmosphere by 2100. This would push sea levels up 8.7 inches from thermal expansion; melt nearly all the Arctic sea ice; raise global temperature at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit; and cause dramatic shifts in rainfall patterns around the world, according to the analysis.
The good news is if nations cut greenhouse gases by 70 percent this century “we could stabilize the threat of climate change and avoid catastrophe,” Washington said. Sea levels, not counting melting ice sheets and glaciers, would rise just 5.5 inches; the Arctic ice would shrink another quarter but no more; temperature would rise a degree above current levels, and the worldwide precipitation changes would be half as severe.
Grassland ecosystems found in higher altitudes throughout Western Europe may be resistant to climate change, according to new results from a long-term experiment.
The finding is in sharp contrast to similar research conducted in an alpine meadow in North America that suggests mountain wildflowers will all but disappear in a warming world.