Climate Change ☀️
Countries must ramp up climate pledges by 80 percent to hit key Paris target, study finds
The study found that even if countries were to meet their existing pledges, the world has only about a 5 percent chance to limit the Earth’s warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels — a key aim of the international agreement.

Raftery and a colleague calculated that global emissions would need to fall steadily — about 1.8 percent each year on average — to put the world on a more sustainable trajectory. While no two countries are alike, that amounts to overall emissions reductions roughly 80 percent more ambitious than those pledged under the Paris agreement, he said.

In many respects, the race to slow the Earth’s warming is a daunting math problem. Emissions have risen about 1.4 percent annually on average over the past decade, not including the abnormal plunge in 2020 driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2019, the world logged the highest emissions ever recorded, at 59 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, a category that includes not only carbon dioxide but also methane and other climate-warming agents. If that trend continues unabated, scientists say, the world could begin to cross troubling climate thresholds within the coming decade.

The architects of the Paris accord and numerous world leaders have long underscored that the pledges made in 2015 were not enough to limit warming to acceptable levels. The expectation was always that nations would grow more ambitious with time, and there is evidence that is happening.

But as global emissions have continued to rise, as countries have failed to hit even modest targets and as the consequences of a warming world have become more tangible, the push for leaders to act more aggressively has become only more urgent.

“Time is running out,” Niklas Höhne, a German climatologist and founding partner of NewClimate Institute, said in an interview. “The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to turn emissions downward.”

Höhne is also part of the team behind Climate Action Tracker, an effort that tracks what cuts countries have vowed to take and how they are, or aren’t, living up to those promises. He said that with the pledges countries have made, the world is currently on pace to reach 2.6 Celsius (4.7 Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century. But based on measures they have actually put into place, the figure is closer to 2.9 Celsius (5.2 Fahrenheit).

At either level, scientists say humans would be forced to grapple with ever more extreme weather events, crippling heat waves and wildfires, and disastrous levels of flooding that could leave some coastal communities uninhabitable.

... U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has continued to press nations to go further and faster, as the world has already surpassed 1 degree Celsius of warming.

“The drive for net-zero emissions must become the new normal for everyone, everywhere,” Guterres said in a speech Monday. “At the same time, all commitments to net zero must be underpinned by clear and credible plans to achieve them. Words are not enough.”

Raftery said that while the findings of Tuesday’s study might initially seem discouraging, he sees glimmers of optimism. Major countries are promising bold action, markets are moving away from fossil fuels, businesses are paying attention to climate concerns and upcoming stimulus funding could prioritize greener investments.

“I’m a bit surprised in a way to see it’s not as hopeless as I would have felt three years ago,” he said of the changes needed to alter the world’s trajectory. “It’s a heavy lift, but it’s not impossible.”
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/02/09/countries-must-ramp-up-climate-pledges-by-80-percent-hit-key-paris-target-study-finds/

Coal and COVID-19: How the pandemic is accelerating the end of fossil power generation
COVID-19 has not only caused a temporary drop in global carbon dioxide emissions, it has also reduced the share of power generated by burning coal -- a trend that could in fact outlast the pandemic, according to a new study that looked at COVID-19's impact on the energy system and demand for electricity.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208085454.htm

A billion years in 40 seconds: video reveals our dynamic planet
Geoscientists have released a video that for the first time shows the uninterrupted movement of the Earth's tectonic plates over the past billion years.

We have created the first continuous plate model with evolving plate boundaries spanning 1 Ga to the present-day, that includes a revised and improved model for the Neoproterozoic–Cambrian (1000–520 Ma)
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208094608.htm

Ditching the car for walking or biking just one day a week cuts carbon footprint
Swapping the car for walking, cycling and e-biking even just one day a week makes a significant impact on personal carbon emissions in cities.

'Active transport' -- cycling, e-biking or walking -- can help tackle the climate crisis according to a new study led by the University of Oxford's Transport Studies Unit and including researchers from Imperial's Centre for Environmental Policy as part of the EU-funded project PASTA: Physical Activity Through Sustainable Transport Approaches.

Meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets requires a significant move away from motorised transport. The team found that shifting to active transport could save as much as a quarter of personal carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport.

... "This is one more piece of evidence on the multiple benefits of active travel, alongside our previous studies showing cycling is the best way to get around cities for both physical and mental health, and that promoting cycling helps tackle obesity. This should encourage different sectors to work together to create desirable futures from multiple health, environmental and social perspectives."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208104624.htm

Uncovering how some corals resist bleaching
Colorful coral reefs have suffered from 'bleaching' due to climate change, but researchers have now uncovered why some were resistant to this effect in the hopes to preserve these oceanic wonders.

This threat hit extreme levels in 2015, when high temperatures were turning corals white around the globe. Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii was hit hard; nearly half of its corals bleached.

Hidden in the aftermath of this extreme event, however, were biochemical clues as to why some corals bleached while others were resistant, information that could help reefs better weather warming waters in the future. These clues have now been uncovered by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

... The researchers discovered chemical signatures in the corals' biology, or biomarkers, that are present in organisms that were most resistant to the bleaching. This previously hidden insight could help researchers and conservationists better restore and protect reefs around the world.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208114257.htm

Better understanding the reasons behind Arctic's amplified warming
A professor is calling on scientists to conduct dedicated process studies and to share their data and research findings on Arctic warming. She stresses the importance of studying how aerosols and clouds interact, as these highly complex and poorly understood mechanisms play a key role in climate change, but are also strongly affected by it. According to her, the region is in rapid transition and scientists need to act to not run behind.

It's clear that rising greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of global warming. But on a regional level, several other factors are at play. That's especially true in the Arctic -- a massive oceanic region around the North Pole which is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet. One consequence of the melting of the Arctic ice cap is a reduction in albedo, which is the capacity of surfaces to reflect a certain amount of solar radiation. Earth's bright surfaces like glaciers, snow and clouds have a high reflectivity. As snow and ice decrease, albedo decreases and more radiation is absorbed by the Earth, leading to a rise in near-surface temperature.

The other regional, yet much more complex factor that scientists need to pay detailed attention to relates to how clouds and aerosols interact. Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air; they come in a wide range of sizes and compositions and can occur naturally -- such as from sea spray, marine microbial emissions or forest fires (like in Siberia) -- or be produced by human activity, for exemple from the combustion of fossil fuels or agriculture. Without aerosols, clouds cannot form because they serve as the surface on which water molecules form droplets. Owing to this role, and more specifically to how they affect the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth surface, and the terrestrial radiation that leaves the Earth, aerosols are an essential element in regulating the climate and Arctic climate in particular.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208114312.htm

Climate change: Erratic weather slows down the economy
If temperature varies strongly from day to day, the economy grows less. Through these seemingly small variations climate change may have strong effects on economic growth. Researchers juxtaposed observed daily temperature changes with economic data from more than 1,500 regions worldwide over 40 years - with startling results.

Particularly affected are economies in low-income regions of the global South, as co-author Leonie Wenz from PIK explains: "We find that familiarity with temperature variations is important: Economies in Canada or Russia, where average monthly temperature varies by more than 40°C within a year, seem better prepared to cope with daily temperature fluctuations than low-latitude regions such as parts of Latin America or Southeast Asia, where seasonal temperature differences can be as small as 3°C. This is likely because farmers and small business owners have cultivated resilience against temperature variability."

"Furthermore, income protects against losses," Wenz adds. "Even if at similar latitude, economies in poor regions are more strongly affected when daily temperature fluctuates than their counterparts in rich regions." If the daily temperature deviates from seasonal expectations, fundamental elements of the economy are negatively impacted -- including crop yields, human health, sales and operational costs.

... "The real problem caused by a changing climate are the unexpected impacts, because they are more difficult to adapt to. Farmers and other businesses around the world have started to adapt to climate change. But what if weather becomes simply more erratic and unpredictable? What we have shown is that erratic weather slows down the economy. Policy makers and industry need to take this into account when discussing the real cost of climate change."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208114314.htm

Radiative cooling and solar heating from one system, no electricity needed
Study describes passive cooling system that aims to help impoverished communities, reduce cooling and heating costs, lower CO2 emissions

Passive cooling, like the shade a tree provides, has been around forever.

Recently, researchers have been exploring how to turbo charge a passive cooling technique -- known as radiative or sky cooling -- with sun-blocking, nanomaterials that emit heat away from building rooftops. While progress has been made, this eco-friendly technology isn't commonplace because researchers have struggled to maximize the materials' cooling capabilities.

... The research team will continue to investigate ways to improve the technology, including examining how to capture enough solar power to boil water, making it suitable for drinking.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208134425.htm

How rocks rusted on Earth and turned red
How did rocks rust on Earth and turn red? A new study has shed new light on the important phenomenon and will help address questions about the Late Triassic climate more than 200 million years ago, when greenhouse gas levels were high enough to be a model for what our planet may be like in the future.

"All of the red color we see in New Jersey rocks and in the American Southwest is due to the natural mineral hematite," said lead author Christopher J. Lepre, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "As far as we know, there are only a few places where this red hematite phenomenon is very widespread: one being the geologic 'red beds' on Earth and another is the surface of Mars. Our study takes a significant step forward toward understanding how long it takes for redness to form, the chemical reactions involved and the role hematite plays."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208161945.htm

Biologists uncover forests' unexpected role in climate change
Biologists shows that trees around the world are consuming more carbon dioxide than previously reported, making forests even more important in regulating the Earth's atmosphere and forever shift how we think about climate change.

"This study really highlights the role of forests and their ecosystems in climate change," said Thomas, interim associate provost for graduate academic affairs. "We think of forests as providing ecosystem services. Those services can be a lot of different things -- recreation, timber, industry. We demonstrate how forests perform another important service: acting as sinks for carbon dioxide. Our research shows that forests consume large amounts of carbon dioxide globally. Without that, more carbon dioxide would go into the air and build up in the atmosphere even more than it already is, which could exacerbate climate change. Our work shows yet another important reason to preserve and maintain our forests and keep them healthy."

Previously, scientists have thought that trees were using water more efficiently over the past century through reduced stomatal conductance -- meaning trees were retaining more moisture when the pores on their leaves began closing slightly under rising levels of carbon dioxide.

... "We've shown that over the past century, photosynthesis is actually the overwhelming driver to increases in tree water use efficiency, which is a surprising result because it contradicts many earlier studies," Mathias said. "On a global scale, this will have large implications potentially for the carbon cycle if more carbon is being transferred from the atmosphere into trees."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208185117.htm

New factor in the carbon cycle of the Southern Ocean identified
The Southern Ocean is one of the key regions for understanding the climate system. The photosynthesis-performing plankton there contribute significantly to controlling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. But which factors favor or limit plankton growth? Researchers have now published a study showing for the first time that, in addition to the micronutrient iron, manganese can play an important role. Among other things, the results have implications for understanding ice ages in the past.

The term plankton describes usually very small organisms that drift with the currents in the seas and oceans. Despite their small size, they play an important role for our planet due to their immense quantity. Photosynthesizing plankton, known as phytoplankton, for example, produce half of the oxygen in the atmosphere while binding huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Since the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is very rich in nutrients, phytoplankton can thrive there. It is therefore a key region for controlling atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

As other nutrients are abundant, scientists have so far assumed that the amount of the available "micronutrient" iron determines how well phytoplankton thrives or not in the Southern Ocean. Researchers from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and the UK's National Oceanography Center have now published a study in the international journal Nature Communications showing for the first time that in some areas of the Southern Ocean, manganese, not iron, is the limiting factor for phytoplankton growth.

... Indeed, along with iron, manganese is another essential "micronutrient" required by every photosynthetic organism, from algae to oak trees. In most of the ocean, however, enough manganese is available to phytoplankton that it does not limit its growth.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210209083451.htm

Climate change shrinks and shifts juvenile white shark range
Unprecedented sightings of juvenile white sharks at the northern end of Monterey Bay signal a significant shift in the young white sharks' range. Researchers conclude the northward range shift demonstrates the young sharks are being subjected to a loss of suitable thermal habitat, meaning water temperatures within their preferred temperature range are becoming harder to find.

"Nature has many ways to tell us the status quo is being disrupted, but it's up to us to listen," said Monterey Bay Aquarium Chief Scientist Dr. Kyle Van Houtan. "These sharks -- by venturing into territory where they have not historically been found -- are telling us how the ocean is being affected by climate change."

Aquarium scientists and their research partners began using electronic tags to learn about juvenile white sharks in southern California two decades ago when they were preparing to display the young white sharks to the public.

... "After studying juvenile white shark behavior and movements in southern California for the last 16 years, it is very interesting to see this northerly shift in nursery habitat use," said Dr. Chris Lowe, a co-author of the study and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach. "I think this is what many biologists have expected to see as the result of climate change and rising ocean temperatures. Frankly, I'll be surprised if we don't see this northerly shift across more species."

... "White sharks, otters, kelp, lobsters, corals, redwoods, monarch butterflies -- these are all showing us that climate change is happening right here in our backyard," says Dr. Van Houtan. "It's time for us to take notice and listen to this chorus from nature. We know that greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly disrupting our climate and this is taking hold in many ways. Our study showed one example of juvenile white sharks appearing in Monterey Bay. But let's be clear: The sharks are not the problem. Our emissions are the problem. We need to act on climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210209083504.htm

Arctic permafrost releases more CO2 than once believed
There may be greater CO2 emissions associated with thawing Arctic permafrost than ever imagined. An international team of researchers has discovered that soil bacteria release CO2 previously thought to be trapped by iron. The finding presents a large new carbon footprint that is unaccounted for in current climate models.

... The amount of stored carbon that is bound to iron and gets converted to CO2 when released is estimated to be somewhere between two and five times the amount of carbon released annually through anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions.

Iron doesn't bind organic carbon after all.

Researchers have long been aware that microorganisms play a key role in the release of CO2 as permafrost melts. Microorganisms activated as soil thaws convert dead plants and other organic material into greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

What is new, is that the mineral iron was believed to bind carbon even as permafrost thawed. The new result demonstrates that bacteria incapacitate iron's carbon trapping ability, resulting in the release of vast amounts of CO2. This is an entirely new discovery.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210209113807.htm

Ecological interactions as a driver of evolution
Understanding the interaction of organisms in the evolution of species is an important topic in ecology. Insects and plants, for example, are two large groups on earth that are linked by a variety of interactions. Since the mid-20th century, theories linking this diversity and specific interactions have proliferated.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210209113822.htm

High greenhouse gas emissions from Siberian Inland Waters
Rivers and lakes at high latitudes are considered to be major sources for greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, but these losses are poorly constrained. Researchers quantify carbon emissions from rivers and lakes across Western Siberia, finding that emission are high and exceed carbon export to the Arctic Ocean.

High latitude regions play a key role in the global carbon cycle and climate system. An important question is the degree of mobilization and atmospheric release of vast soil carbon stocks, partly stored in permafrost, with amplified warming of these regions. A fraction of this carbon is exported to inland waters and emitted to the atmosphere, yet these losses are poorly constrained and seldom accounted for in assessments of high latitude carbon balances. This is particularly relevant for Western Siberia, with its extensive peatland carbon stocks that are expected to be affected by climate warming.

... The high significance of inland waters in the carbon cycle of Western Siberia is likely a result of the overall flat terrain, which lead to relatively high water coverage and long water transit times, and thus favorable conditions for decomposition and outgassing of land derived carbon in inland waters. The authors stress that further studies on the coupled land-water carbon cycle are needed in order to improve the understanding of regional differences in the contemporary carbon cycle and predictions of future conditions in these understudied and climate-sensitive areas.

"Ignoring carbon outgassing from inland waters will likely largely underestimate the impact of warming on these regions and overlook their weakening capacity to act as terrestrial carbon sinks."
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210209113848.htm

Relaxed precautions, not climate, the biggest factor driving wintertime COVID-19 outbreaks
Wintertime outbreaks of COVID-19 have been largely driven by whether people adhere to control measures such as mask wearing and social distancing, according to a new study. Climate and a lack of population immunity are playing smaller roles during the pandemic phase of the virus, but will become more impactful as infections slow.

"Although we have witnessed a substantial number of COVID-19 cases, population-level immunity remains low in many locations," Baker said. "This means that if you roll back enforcement or adherence to control measures, you can still expect a large outbreak. Climate factors including winter weather play a secondary role and certainly don't help."

The researchers found that even maintaining rigid control measures through the summer can lead to a wintertime outbreak if climate factors provided enough of a boost to viral transmission. "If summertime controls are holding the transmissibility of coronavirus at a level that only just mitigates an outbreak, then winter climate conditions can push you over the edge," Baker said. "Nonetheless, having effective control measures in place last summer could have limited the winter outbreaks we're now experiencing."


... Gabriel Vecchi, a professor of geosciences and the High Meadows Environmental Institute and co-author of both studies, said that the virus currently spreads too quickly and that people are too susceptible for climate to be a determining factor.

"The influence of climate and weather on infection rates should become more evident -- and thus a potentially useful source of information for disease prediction -- as growing immunity moves the disease into endemic phases from the present epidemic stage," Vecchi said.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210209151912.htm

Climate change, periodic modification of Earth’s climate brought about as a result of changes in the atmosphere as well as interactions between the atmosphere and various other geologic, chemical, biological, and geographic factors within the Earth system.

Source: Climate change - Evidence for climate change | Britannica
Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

Source: Climate Change | United Nations