World Bank's Credibility at Stake if Climate Change Ignored

World Bank (WB) President Jim Yong Kim said: ''if we turn our backs on science and ignore climate change, we would lose all our credibility,'' prior to his meeting with the IMF.

At a press conference before the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, Kim pointed out that climate change mitigation and adaptation projects would continue to be a priority.

'The science of climate change has not changed with a particular election, and I do not see it is going to do so in the future,' he said in reference to US President Donald Trump and his doubts about global warming.

On several occasions Trump expressed his decision to revert some of the environmental regulations established by former President Barack Obama, as well as reducing his contribution to the WB, an institution to which the United States is the main shareholder.

At the press conference, IMF President Christine Lagarde stated that there was room for improvement in the global trading system. However, it should be done cooperatively.

Lagarde's statements are in opposition to the trade policy promoted by Trump to encourage isolation in favor of the economy of his country.

Lagarde proposed working on how to make trade fairer and more efficient, which should include a balanced field without resorting to protectionist measures.

  • Published in World

Climate change: ‘human fingerprint’ found on global extreme weather

Global warming makes temperature patterns that cause heatwaves, droughts and floods across Europe, north America and Asia more likely, scientists find.

The fingerprint of human-caused climate change has been found on heatwaves, droughts and floods across the world, according to scientists.

The discovery indicates that the impacts of global warming are already being felt by society and adds further urgency to the need to cut carbon emissions. A key factor is the fast-melting Arctic, which is now strongly linked to extreme weather across Europe, Asia and north America.

Rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have long been expected to lead to increasing extreme weather events, as they trap extra energy in the atmosphere. But linking global warming to particular events is difficult because the climate is naturally variable.

The new work analysed a type of extreme weather event known to be caused by changes in “planetary waves” – such as California’s ongoing record drought, and recent heatwaves in the US and Russia, as well as severe floods in Pakistan in 2010.

Planetary waves are a pattern of winds, of which the jet stream is a part, that encircle the northern hemisphere in lines that undulate from the tropics to the poles. Normally, the whole wave moves eastwards but, under certain temperature conditions, the wave can halt its movement. This leaves whole regions under the same weather for extended periods, which can turn hot spells into heatwaves and wet weather into floods.

This type of extreme weather event is known to have increased in recent decades. But the new research used observations and climate models to show that the chances of the conditions needed to halt the planetary waves occurring are significantly more likely as a result of global warming.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University in the US and who led the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Large scale wind patterns are largely driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. But global warming is altering this difference because the Arctic is heating up faster than lower latitudes and because land areas are heating up faster than the oceans.

Recent changes in the Arctic are particularly striking, with record low levels of ice cover and extremely unusual high temperatures. “Things in the Arctic are happening much faster than we expected,” said Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, also at PIK.

“It is not just a problem of nature conservation or polar bears, it is about a threat to human society that comes from these rapid changes,” he said. “This is because it hits us with increasing extreme events in the highly populated centres in the mid-latitudes. It also affects us through sea level rise, which is hitting shores globally. So these changes that are going on in the Arctic should concern everyone.”

Other climate research, called attribution, is increasingly able to calculate how much more likely specific extreme weather events have been made by global warming. For example, the heatwave in south-eastern Australia in February was made twice as likely by climate change, while Storm Desmond, which caused heavy flooding in the UK in 2015, was made 40% more likely.

Global warming: Humans responsible for 60% loss of sea ice, study shows

That human activity is a cause of global warming and changing temperatures is a fact that cannot be debated, but until now, scientists had little clue as to what was the extent of damage due to human intervention.

That human activity is a cause of global warming and changing temperatures is a fact that cannot be debated, but until now, scientists had little clue as to what was the extent of damage due to human intervention. A paper published in Nature, based on model simulations of different climate conditions, shows that humans may be responsible for 50-70% change in climate conditions, leading to melting of ice at the Arctic sea. Although the study absolved humans for air flow changes, 70% of which, it said, is due to natural variability, it pointed that 60% of sea ice decline since 1979 was caused by summer-time changes in atmospheric circulation.

While the study is expected to change how we observe climate change, it will also get us to alter our future predictions. With Arctic ice depleting fast—in January it was 1.26 million square kilometres, which was 8.6% below the 1981–2010 average—global warming would need coordinated action from governments. Policy turns in the US—Republicans have presented a bill in the Congress to do away with the country’s Environmental Protection Agency—will end up harming the environment. With global warming accompanying industrialisation, countries would need a concerted approach to tackle its ill-effects.

Arctic circle could become completely free of sea ice even if global warming limited to two degrees Celsius

Loss of sea ice could have 'catastrophic' effects on the weather in much of the northern hemisphere and speed up global warming.

The Arctic Ocean could become free of sea ice for the first time in 100,000 years even if action is taken to keep global warming to within two degrees Celsius, scientists have warned.

The region has experienced much sharper rises in temperature in recent decades that the rest of the world with temperatures in winter in Spitsbergen an astonishing 8 to 11C higher than the average between 1961 and 1990.

And this is believed to be having a significant effect on the weather in much of the northern hemisphere, increasing the number of dangerous storms. One leading expert has warned it could have a “catastrophic” effect on the Earth’s climate.

The loss of sea ice, which reflects much of the energy from sunlight, will also increase the rate of global warming.

In a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change, Dr James Screen and Dr Daniel Williamson, of Exeter University, looked at the likelihood of the ice disappearing almost completely if temperatures rose by 1.5C or 2C.

The Paris Agreement on climate change spoke of keeping global warming below 2C and as close to 1.5C as possible – in order to avoid levels considered particularly dangerous – but the world is currently on track to hit anything from 2.6C to 3.1C by the end of the century.

The researchers wrote: “We estimate there is less than a one-in-100,000 chance of an ice-free Arctic if global warming stays below 1.5C, and around a one-in-three chance if global warming is limited to 2C. 

“We suppose then that a summer ice-free Arctic is virtually certain to be avoided if the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement is met. 

“However, the 2C target may be insufficient to prevent an ice-free Arctic.”

The Arctic will be considered ice-free if it falls to below a million square kilometres. This would mean the sea around the North Pole would be clear with the remaining ice found mainly in the small islands and inlets off the north coasts of Russia and Canada, where the effect of the land, which gets colder than the sea, is more pronounced.

In September last year, Arctic sea ice fell to about 4.1 million square kilometres, the second lowest figure, compared to about 3.4 million in 2012, according to the US National Snow & Ice Data Centre.

Antarctic sea ice is currently at record low levels with 2.14 million square kilometres, compared to the average of 3.16 million between 1981 and 2010.

In December, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the situation was changing so quickly it was “outpacing our ability to understand and explain” what was happening.

They suggested the word “glacial” should not be used to mean something happening slowly but as a term for something that was “rapidly diminishing”.

Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children Each Year: WHO

Generva: Each year, environmental pollutants lead to the death of an estimated 1.7 million children under five, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a new report on Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.

The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children one month to five years old, CNN reported.

"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement.

"Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases -- such as asthma -- for the rest of their lives, the report stated.

The global body also highlighted the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer from exposure to air pollution.

However, new report highlights that the most common causes -- diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia -- of child death are preventable through interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water, are already available to the communities most affected, reports CNN.

Other potential pollution prevention solutions mentioned in the report are removing mould and pests from housing, removing lead paint, ensuring sanitation and good nutrition at schools and using better urban planning to create more green spaces in cities.

  • Published in World

Research predicts extreme fires will increasingly be part of our global landscape

Increasingly dangerous fire weather is forecast as the global footprint of extreme fires expands, according to the latest research.

University of Tasmania Professor of Environmental Change Biology David Bowman led an international collaboration - including researchers from the University of Idaho and South Dakota State University - to compile a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires between 2002 and 2013.

Of the 23 million fires, researchers honed in on 478 of the most extreme wildfire events.

"Extreme fire events are a global and natural phenomenon, particularly in forested areas that have pronounced dry seasons," Professor Bowman said.

"With the exception of land clearance, the research found that extremely intense fires are associated with anomalous weather - such as droughts, winds, or in desert regions, following particularly wet seasons.

"Of the top 478 events we identified 144 economically and socially disastrous extreme fire events that were concentrated in regions where humans have built into flammable forested landscapes, such as areas surrounding cities in southern Australia and western North America."

Using climate change model projections to investigate the likely consequences of climate change, the research found more extreme fires are predicted in the future for Australia's east coast, including Brisbane, and the whole of the Mediterranean region - Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey.

"The projections suggest an increase in the days conducive to extreme wildfire events by 20 to 50 per cent in these disaster-prone landscapes, with sharper increases in the subtropical Southern Hemisphere, and the European Mediterranean Basin," Professor Bowman said.

University of Idaho Assistant Professor Crystal Kolden said the United States had a much higher proportion of fire events become disasters than any other country in the study. Wildfire burned more than 10 million acres in the US in 2015, and cost over $2 billion to suppress.

"What is really novel about this study is that in the US, we tend to make the assumption that all large and intense fires are disasters, and that there is nothing we can do about it," Assistant Professor Kolden said.

"The projections suggest an increase in the days conducive to extreme wildfire events by 20 to 50 per cent in these disaster-prone landscapes, with sharper increases in the subtropical Southern Hemisphere, and the European Mediterranean Basin," Professor Bowman said.

University of Idaho Assistant Professor Crystal Kolden said the United States had a much higher proportion of fire events become disasters than any other country in the study. Wildfire burned more than 10 million acres in the US in 2015, and cost over $2 billion to suppress.

"What is really novel about this study is that in the US, we tend to make the assumption that all large and intense fires are disasters, and that there is nothing we can do about it," Assistant Professor Kolden said.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-extreme-increasingly-global-landscape.html#jCp

University of Tasmania Professor of Environmental Change Biology David Bowman led an international collaboration - including researchers from the University of Idaho and South Dakota State University - to compile a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires between 2002 and 2013.

Of the 23 million fires, researchers honed in on 478 of the most extreme wildfire events.

"Extreme fire events are a global and natural phenomenon, particularly in forested areas that have pronounced dry seasons," Professor Bowman said.

"With the exception of land clearance, the research found that extremely intense fires are associated with anomalous weather - such as droughts, winds, or in desert regions, following particularly wet seasons.

"Of the top 478 events we identified 144 economically and socially disastrous extreme fire events that were concentrated in regions where humans have built into flammable forested landscapes, such as areas surrounding cities in southern Australia and western North America."

Using model projections to investigate the likely consequences of climate change, the research found more extreme fires are predicted in the future for Australia's east coast, including Brisbane, and the whole of the Mediterranean region - Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-extreme-increasingly-global-landscape.html#jCp

University of Tasmania Professor of Environmental Change Biology David Bowman led an international collaboration - including researchers from the University of Idaho and South Dakota State University - to compile a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires between 2002 and 2013.

Of the 23 million fires, researchers honed in on 478 of the most extreme wildfire events.

"Extreme fire events are a global and natural phenomenon, particularly in forested areas that have pronounced dry seasons," Professor Bowman said.

"With the exception of land clearance, the research found that extremely intense fires are associated with anomalous weather - such as droughts, winds, or in desert regions, following particularly wet seasons.

"Of the top 478 events we identified 144 economically and socially disastrous extreme fire events that were concentrated in regions where humans have built into flammable forested landscapes, such as areas surrounding cities in southern Australia and western North America."

Using model projections to investigate the likely consequences of climate change, the research found more extreme fires are predicted in the future for Australia's east coast, including Brisbane, and the whole of the Mediterranean region - Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-extreme-increasingly-global-landscape.html#jCp

University of Tasmania Professor of Environmental Change Biology David Bowman led an international collaboration - including researchers from the University of Idaho and South Dakota State University - to compile a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires between 2002 and 2013.

Of the 23 million fires, researchers honed in on 478 of the most extreme wildfire events.

"Extreme fire events are a global and natural phenomenon, particularly in forested areas that have pronounced dry seasons," Professor Bowman said.

"With the exception of land clearance, the research found that extremely intense fires are associated with anomalous weather - such as droughts, winds, or in desert regions, following particularly wet seasons.

"Of the top 478 events we identified 144 economically and socially disastrous extreme fire events that were concentrated in regions where humans have built into flammable forested landscapes, such as areas surrounding cities in southern Australia and western North America."

Using model projections to investigate the likely consequences of climate change, the research found more extreme fires are predicted in the future for Australia's east coast, including Brisbane, and the whole of the Mediterranean region - Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-extreme-increasingly-global-landscape.html#jCp

Food prices hit two-year high, amid 'mixed' grain crop outlook

Food price inflation made a strong start to 2017, driving values to their highest in nearly two years, fuelled by the sharpest rise in grain prices in three years, amid "mixed" prospects for 2017 crops, the United Nations said.

World food prices rose 2.1% last month to hit their highest level since February 2015, the UN food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, said.

The rise, which took to 16.4% the rebound in food prices from a low reached in January last year, reflected largely a rise in sugar values, which "surged" 9.9% last month "underpinned by firmer expectations of a global sugar production shortfall in 2016-17".

The FAO noted "expectations of protracted supply tightness… in some of the key sugar producing regions, specifically in Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer and exporter, as well as in India, the world's second largest producer, and Thailand", which is the second biggest sugar exporter.

Record inventories

The FAO also flagged a 3.4% rise in cereal prices last month, the strongest month-on-month rise in values since early 2014, despite expectations for record grain stocks at the close of this season.

Indeed, the agency raised its forecast for global cereals inventories at the end of 2016-17 by 11.2m tonnes to 681.5m tonnes, reflecting "sizeable upward adjustments to wheat inventories in Argentina, Australia and Brazil since December".

World wheat stocks were pegged at an all-time high of 245.0m tonnes, an upgrade of 6.5m tonnes, with the forecast for inventories of coarse grains at the close of this season lifted by 5.2m tonnes to 266.3m tonnes, narrowly short of setting their on record top.

In the US, boosted by last year's record corn harvest, "coarse grain stocks are forecast at an all-time high of 64m tonnes, up as much as 32% from their opening level".

'Mixed prospects'

However, the agency also flagged "mixed… early production prospects" for 2017 harvest, with cold temperatures in Europe, for instance, potentially having "caused some damage" to winter wheat crops which had enjoyed "beneficial weather" in the autumn for establishment.

In the former Soviet Union, while production prospects in Russia "remain favourable… resting on greater winter wheat area coverage and good crop conditions", the FAO flagged "some concerns" of frost damage to Ukraine crops, although "overall conditions are satisfactory".

In Asia, while India appears poised for a "small production gain" this year in wheat, helped by larger sowings, in Pakistan, "rains during planting and reduced water supplies for irrigation have dampened early prospects".

The FAO also underlined the potential for a production drop in the US, where "large supplies and relatively low prices induced farmers to cut down winter wheat seedings to their second-lowest level on record, while less than ideal weather may constrain yields somewhat".

Rice outlook

In rice too, the FAO flagged mixed world output prospects noting, on the downside, "excess rains" in southern parts of Vietnam, the second-ranked exporter of the grain, which meant that "sowing progress has been slow.

"In Sri Lanka, more considerable challenges have been faced, with paddy plantings substantially constrained by insufficient precipitation and short water supplies for irrigation."

However, the agency also noted the prospect of higher sowings in Australia and Indonesia, "while improved growing conditions are behind positive yield expectations in important South American rice producing countries, most notably Brazil".

  • Published in World

New Study Shows No Global Warming Pause

UNITED STATES—There has not been a pause in global warming according to newly published findings. A new study in the journal “Science Advances” back an earlier NOAA study that came to similar conclusions.

According to The Washington Post, a 2015 NOAA study contradicted an argument questioning the scientific consensus on climate change.

“The skeptics had for years suggested that following the then-record warm year of 1998 and throughout the beginning of the 21st century, global warming had slowed down or ‘paused,’” the article states. “But the 2015 paper, led by NOAA’s Thomas Karl, employed an update to the agency’s influential temperature dataset, and in particular to its record of the planet’s ocean temperatures, to suggest that really, the recent period was perfectly consistent with the much longer warming trend.”

The article goes on to explain that the study caused controversy in Congress.

“It actually led to a congressional subpoena from Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Committee on Science, who charged that ‘NOAA’s decision to readjust historical temperature records has broad national implications’ and requested more information on why NOAA had made the dataset adjustment, including data and communications from the scientists involved,” the article says.

A new study published on January 4 supports the findings of the earlier NOAA study. The study’s lead authors, Kevin Cowtan and Zeke Hausfather, wrote a blog post for Scientific American on their study and the political controversy around the older NOAA findings.

“Our results suggests that the new NOAA record is likely the most accurate of the various sea surface temperature records during the past two decades, and should help resolve some of the criticism that accompanied the original NOAA study,” the Washington Post said.

“However the scientific question of how fast the Earth has been warming over the past two decades can be answered by replication from the scientific community, not by a political investigation. And the best evidence we have says that NOAA got it right,” the post says.

The new study can be found here.

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