Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks — PIK Research Portal

29/08/2016 – A forest with greater diversity of plants can better adjust to climatic stress. Now for the first time, a team of scientists can show this in computer simulations of the Amazon region by accounting for its amazing diversity of trees. Biodiversity can hence be an effective means to mitigate climate risks and should not only be seen in the context of nature conservation.
Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks

Amazon rainforest trees. Photo: Atelopus/thinkstock

“Plant trait diversity may enable the Amazon forests, the world’s greatest and maybe most fascinating tropical ecosystem, to adjust to some level of climate change – certain trees dominant today could decrease and their place will be taken by others which are better suited for the new climate conditions in the future,” says Boris Sakschewski from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead-author of the study to be published in Nature Climate Change. Tree survival for instance depends on what the scientists call ‘leaf economics’: their different size, thickness, longevity or density defines how well the plant can deal with higher temperatures and water scarcity. “Biodiversity shows not to be a nice-to-have but indeed a must-have,” says Sakschewski. “We find it could be functional for the long-term survival of Earth’s large reservoirs of biomass, such as the forests of the Amazon region.”

However, this depends on the level of stress. Only in a scenario of moderate climate change, high biodiversity can, after a sharp decline of biomass, contribute to substantial recovery in vast areas across the Amazon region after a few hundred years. Here, more than 80 percent of the Amazon area would show substantial regrowth, according to the study. In contrast, in a business-as-usual scenario of greenhouse-gas emissions leading to massive climate change, less than 20 percent of the area would show this positive effect.

A significant step forward in Earth system modelling

Never before have these dynamics been integrated in a biogeochemical vegetation simulation of climate effects, so this is a significant step forward in Earth system modelling. “To explain how plant trait diversity contributes to the resilience of rainforest we first investigated an experimental site in Ecuador and then extended the simulations to the Amazon basin,” says team leader Kirsten Thonicke from PIK. “We’ve been working on this for years. While it is well-known that biodiversity is relevant for ecosystem productivity and biomass storage, up to now it could not be shown in a large-scale quantitative way. We’re glad to advance previous research by closing this important gap.”

“This is good news for the Amazon forest – still, it doesn’t mean that climate change would not harm this unique ecosystem substantially, quite the contrary,” says Wolfgang Lucht, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. While high biodiversity enables the forest to eventually regain much of its biomass, there is a huge disruption in the transition and the species composition would be different afterwards even under moderate global warming. “Despite the encouraging findings on biodiversity’s functional value, the Amazon rainforest unfortunately remains one of the critical hotspots on the planet that demand very rapid decreases in CO2 emissions.”

 

Read more..Source: Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks — PIK Research Portal

but is wary of becoming sated, like one of Aristotle’s dumb grazing animals.

“Glen Bowersock, who was the head of the classics department when Nussbaum was a student, said, “I think she scared people. They couldn’t wrap their minds around this formidably good, extraordinarily articulate woman who was very tall and attractive, openly feminine and stylish, and walked very erect and wore miniskirts—all in one package. They were just frightened.”

Live & Learn

martha-nussbaum

A sixty-nine-year-old professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago (with appointments in classics, political science, Southern Asian studies, and the divinity school), Nussbaum has published twenty-four books and five hundred and nine papers and received fifty-seven honorary degrees. In 2014, she became the second woman to give the John Locke Lectures, at Oxford, the most eminent lecture series in philosophy. Last year, she received the Inamori Ethics Prize, an award for ethical leaders who improve the condition of mankind. A few weeks ago, she won five hundred thousand dollars as the recipient of the Kyoto Prize, the most prestigious award offered in fields not eligible for a Nobel, joining a small group of philosophers that includes Karl Popper and Jürgen Habermas. Honors and prizes remind her of potato chips; she enjoys them but is wary of becoming sated, like one of Aristotle’s “dumb grazing animals.” Her conception…

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Scorching Global Temps Astound Climate Scientists | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” David Carlson, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) climate research program, told Thompson Reuters Foundation late Monday. “We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.” “Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal,” Carlson added. “The ice melt rates recorded in the first half of 2016, for example—we don’t usually see those until later in the year.”

Indeed, extreme weather events are currently wreaking havoc around the world. In Southern California, firefighters are battling one of the “most extreme” fires the region has ever seen. The so-called sand fire had consumed 38,346 acres as of Wednesday morning and forced the evacuations of 10,000 homes, and one person has died.

Read more…

Source: Scorching Global Temps Astound Climate Scientists | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Deep Sea Mining: An Invisible Land Grab – Mission Blue

DEEP SEA MINING: AN INVISIBLE LAND GRAB
July 20, 2016  
By Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue
Thousands of meters beneath the azure ocean waters in places like the South Pacific, down through a water column saturated with life and to the ocean floor carpeted in undiscovered ecosystems, machines the size of small buildings are poised to begin a campaign of wholesale destruction. I wish this assessment was hyperbole, but it is the reality we find ourselves in today.

A deep sea mining machine.

After decades of being on the back burner owing to costs far outweighing benefits, deep sea mining is now emerging as a serious threat to the stability of ocean systems and processes that have yet to be understood well enough to sanction in good conscience their large-scale destruction. Machines tear up the seabed producing minerals sent up to a capture boat.

Critical to evaluating what is at stake are technologies needed to access the deep sea. The mining company, Nautilus Minerals, has invested heavily in mining machinery. However, resources needed for independent scientific assessment at those depths are essentially non-existent.

The layout of a mining operation.

China is investing heavily in submersibles, manned and robotic, that are able to at least provide superficial documentation of what is in the deep ocean. Imagine aliens with an appetite for minerals flying low over New York City taking photographs and occasional samples and using them to evaluate the relative importance of the streets and buildings with no capacity to understand (or interest) in the importance of Wall Street, the New York Times, Lincoln Center, Columbia University or even the role of taxi cabs and traffic signals. They might even wonder whether or not those little two-legged things running around would be useful for something.

The International Seabed Authority, located in Jamaica and created under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is currently issuing permits for mining exploration. At the very least, might there be ways to issue something like “restraining orders” owing to the lack of proof that no harm will be done to systems critical to human needs? Or also at the very least protecting very (very, very) large areas where no mining will be allowed?

Do you see life in this picture? I do.

The role of life in the deep sea relating to the carbon cycle is vaguely understood, and the influence of the microbial systems (only recently discovered) and the diverse ecosystems in the water column and sea bed have yet to be thoughtfully analyzed. If a doctor could only see the skin of a patient, or sample what is underneath with tiny probes, how could internal functions be understood?

The rationale for exploiting minerals in the deep sea is based on their perceived current monetary value. The living systems that will be destroyed are perceived to have no monetary value. Will decisions about use of the natural world continue to be based on the financial advantage for a small number of people despite risks to systems that underpin planetary stability – systems that support human survival?

Please read more at the link below.

Source: Deep Sea Mining: An Invisible Land Grab – Mission Blue

Companies need to come clean about climate change risk, Mark Carney says – Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News

TORONTO – Only about one-third of the world’s 1,000 largest companies provide effective disclosure of the risks they face due to climate change, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Friday.

Lack of full disclosure, Carney said, makes it difficult for investors, creditors and regulators to assess who is on top of the increasingly critical issue.

“What is your strategy for managing climate-related risk?” he said. “Longer-term strategies are going to be much more important for evaluation.”

At the same time, he said, the transition to an environmentally sustainable future in the coming decades provides an annual opportunity worth trillions of dollars for companies and financiers.

One example he cited is the development of a green bond market in China that current estimates suggest will be worth US$500 billion a year. It’s a market Beijing is keen to open up, he said.

Carney’s comments came during a session with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna at a business breakfast forum. The former Bank of Canada governor noted that the number of extreme climate events has risen threefold in the last few decades while the cost of claims paid out as a result has risen fivefold.

Still, he said, part of the issue facing regulators relates to the different views on the seriousness of the threat posed by global warming and the ways governments are addressing the problem.

“We want to be neutral, create the information set out there, so that all of those views can be expressed in a market that is an efficient market,” he said.

In response to a request from G20 leaders, Carney said a private-sector task force that includes those who have to provide disclosure and those who use that disclosure is trying to come up with the information needed to allow consistent and effective comparisons among companies about their emissions and the risks they face.

The panel is expected to produce its final report at the beginning of next year.

The reality companies must face and must deal with is that governments around the world are serious about implementing various schemes aimed at lowering emissions believed to be at the root of global warming, Carney said. “Climate policy is real,” he said. “Emissions have to be capped.”

read more…

Source: Companies need to come clean about climate change risk, Mark Carney says – Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News

China threatens reprisals on NZ dairy, wool and kiwifruit if government doesn’t back off cheap steel inquiry | Stuff.co.nz

Those seeking trading partnerships with China should be wary.
Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard says struggling farmers can’t take another hit from a trade war with China. China has threatened “retaliatory measures” against New Zealand trade, warning it will slow the flow of dairy, wool and kiwifruit imports.

The world’s biggest trading nation is angry at New Zealand inquiries into a glut of Chinese steel imports flooding the market; the Chinese believe New Zealand is part of a US-led alliance to target Chinese national interests.

The behind-the-scenes threat comes just days before the arrival of US Vice President Joe Biden in New Zealand, forcing government and commerce officials to scramble to open urgent talks with China. New Zealand is angry that China should take such a combative approach, and is asking that it desist.

Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard fears the impact of a vengeful China – but says New Zealand must stand up for its free trade principles. “The rules are the rules.”

Pacific Steel, the sister company of iron miner and processor NZ Steel, has lodged a confidential application, under local and World Trade Organisation rules, for an investigation into China dumping cut-price steel on the New Zealand market. The local industry is struggling to compete with the glut of sometimes substandard Chinese metal, which is being used in major projects like the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection and bridges on the Waikato Expressway.

Right now, lawyers for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are deciding whether the investigation should proceed, which could result in punitive anti-dumping tariffs against China.

But somehow, China learned of the application – and it is taking retaliatory action.

In the past week, representatives of New Zealand’s biggest export industries have been called in by Chinese officials, and told to exert their influence to make sure the MBIE investigation does not go ahead.

To up the ante, they have been told China has begun consulting with its local food producers about imposing reprisal tariffs to slow down the access of New Zealand dairy, wool, kiwifruit and potentially meat to the 1.35 billion-strong Chinese consumer market.

Local producers are alarmed.

“A trade war with China is definitely not in our interests,” says Andrew Hoggard, a Manawatu dairy farmer. “It’s about 20 per cent of our markets and we’re getting good market penetration with added value products in there.”

Hoggard, who chairs the Federated Farmers dairy division, said many farmers were still struggling to meet mortgage payments and a number had been forced off the land, after last year’s very low milk solid prices. The last thing they needed was to be slammed by Chinese trade barriers.

Highly-placed sources have confirmed China is applying pressure in an attempt to sway regulators away from imposing anti-dumping or countervailing duties – which are imposed when goods are subsidised – on imported Chinese steel. Zespri and Fonterra are said to have been heavied, and other exporters may have been.

Pacific Steel’s parent company BlueScope Steel has also been strongly critical of the anti-dumping protections against Chinese imports in Australia, and is said to have applied for punitive measures there, as well. In New Zealand, Pacific Steel did not respond to a request for comment, and MBIE’s acting manager of trade, Karl Woodhead, said the ministry could not confirm or deny if it had received an application.

Under World Trade Organisation rules “applications relating to anti-dumping or countervailing duties are confidential unless investigations are initiated”, begging the question of how China found out.

The world’s biggest trading nation believes the United States is leading an alliance of sycophantic nations, doing the US bidding by shutting down Chinese trade and trying to force its military out of the contested islands and atolls of the South China Sea.

Joe Biden landed on the USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier in the South China Sea on Friday, where he told crew, “we’re going to be active in the region as long as all of you are alive”.

He flies into New Zealand on Wednesday – and it seems certain relations with China will again be high on his agenda.

The US and the EU have been at the forefront of actions against Chinese steel exports. They believe China is dumping steel at prices far below the cost of production with its output far outstripping demand as its economy slows.

The US has imposed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of up to 450 per cent on corrosion-resistant steel from China in the latest move against its steel exports. China described the move as “irrational”. China would likely view any New Zealand move on steel as part of an orchestrated attack on its steel exports led by the US. However NZ industry representatives and officials have made it clear MBIE’s processes are independent and rules-based and are not influenced by foreign powers.

China’s unusual tactics have caused government and industry to close ranks. The Ministry of Commerce of China (MOFCOM) has denied consulting on retaliatory tariffs. Fonterra spokesman Phil Turner and Zespri’s chief operating officer Simon Limmer both denied any knowledge of the Chinese industry consultation.

But trade expert Charles Finny, who has worked on China-New Zealand trade issues for decades, said sources in Government confirmed at least one major exporter had been told “the Chinese Government would like pressure to be applied to MBIE”.

New Zealand was the first country to recognise China as a market economy – a fact that is likely to have sharpened China’s response to any NZ move.

China believes any anti-dumping move against its 600,000 tonnes of exports to New Zealand would be out of proportion, when the value of the imports from China were less than 6 per cent of total New Zealand imports of similar productIt has said it thought New Zealand and China were “at peace” on trade issues – but apparently not.

Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng had been expected to raise the Pacific Steel complaint at his meeting with Trade Minister Todd McClay in China this week, where McClay was attending the G20 meeting. But McClay said no competition issues were raised.

Chinese ambassador Wang Lutong said there was no issue with the imported steel quality but the embassy had been discussing the industry’s concerns with New Zealand authorities.

Speaking to TV3’s The Nation in unscreened footage this weekend, he said: “I have no idea where the media got this information from. I couldn’t possibly comment on the motivation and intention of those reports. What I can say is, we will have a very detailed investigation of any report concerning the quality of steel, and we spoke to your people about that. But I think both sides are satisfied with this procedure.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters said China was “monstering” Fonterra, Zespri and the NZ steel industry. “And as for the upgrade of the trade agreement, it’s all dependent on what stance we take on the South China Sea. That’s the reality of it now.

“I can’t believe the ministers haven’t talked. You’ve got officialdom and business operating in isolation from government.”

The Chinese Embassy had not responded to specific questions, by deadline.

– Additional reporting Gerard Hutching

 – Sunday Star Times

 

Source: China threatens reprisals on NZ dairy, wool and kiwifruit if government doesn’t back off cheap steel inquiry | Stuff.co.nz

Inside The Green Economy: Promises And Pitfalls In 9 Theses, by Barbara Unmäßig, Lili Fuhr, Thomas Father,originally published by The Leap | JUL 14, 2016

In their new book Inside the Green Economy–Promises and Pitfalls, Thomas Fatheuer, Lili Fuhr, and Barbara Unmüßig of the Heinrich Böll Foundation set out to explore the underlying assumptions, hypotheses, and propositions of the green economy and to spell out their consequences in the real world. The authors call for radical realism and the courage to recognize the complexity of the global crises. They assert that the great task will be to continue the project of modernity, embracing the latest knowledge about planetary boundaries as well as the old vision of broad democratic participation and an end to poverty and injustice.

1. The green economy is an optimistic vision of fossil-fuel phase-out in an economy assumed to become greener via technology and efficiency In the mainstream imagination, the green economy wants to break away from our fossil-fueled business-as-usual.

It’s a nice, optimistic message: the economy can continue to grow, and growth can be green. The green economy even hopes to become a driver of more growth. Yet reconciling climate change mitigation and resource conservation with economic growth in a finite and unjust world remains an illusion. With its positive associations, the term “green economy” suggests that the world as we know it can continue much as before thanks to a green growth paradigm of greater efficiency and lower resource consumption.

However, anyone making such a promise must deliberately downplay complexity and have powerful faith in hoped-for miracles of the market economy and technological innovation, while at the same time ignoring social inequality and not wanting to tackle existing economic and political power structures. The green economy is thus a matter of faith and selective blind spots.

It can only be a realistic option for the future if it recognizes planetary boundaries, overcomes social and political injustice and ensures the radical reduction and fair distribution of emissions and resource consumption.

2. Fixing the failure of the market by enlarging it: instead of rethinking business, the green economy wants to redefine nature

The green economy redefines the idea of the primacy of economics as the conclusive answer to current crises. It responds to the multiple crises with more economics. Economics has become the currency of politics, say its advocates. Consequently, they intend to correct the failure of the market economy by enlarging the market. The green economy thus wants the market to encompass things that have previously been beyond its scope by redefining the relationship between nature and economy.

The result is a new version of the concept of nature as natural capital and the economic services of ecosystems – and not a transformation of our way of doing business. Instead of rethinking business, the green economy wants to redefine nature by measuring and recording it, assigning it a value and putting it on the balance sheet – based on a global, abstract currency of carbon metrics.

This hides the many structural causes of the environmental and climate crisis from view and no longer fully takes them into account in the search for real solutions and viable pathways. The consequences of such an approach are also reflected in new market mechanisms for trading biodiversity credits. In many cases, they do not prevent the destruction of nature but merely organize it along market lines.

The green economy reduces the needed fundamental transformation to a question of economics and gives the impression that it can be implemented without major upheaval and conflict.

3. Ecological policy is about more than carbon emissions

The green economy states its central decarbonization strategy in its mantra: “put a price on carbon”. This reduction to prices and a single currency unit (carbon credits) is one-dimensional.

Read more here:

Source: Inside The Green Economy: Promises And Pitfalls In 9 Theses

What We as a People Can Do, by Richard Heinberg, David Fridley, originally published by Our Renewable Future | JUL 14, 2016

Ed. note: This is Chapter 10 of Richard Heinberg’s and David Fridley’s new book, Our Renewable Future, now available from Island Press. Post Carbon Institute’s companion website, ourrenewablefuture.org has also just been launched and contains additional content not in the book.

Sound national and international climate policies are crucial: without them, it will be impossible to organize a transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy that is orderly enough to maintain industrial civilization, while speedy enough to avert catastrophic ecosystem collapse. However, world leaders have been working on hammering out effective climate policies for nearly a quarter of a century, and during that time greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase. And the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more incontrovertible and perilous.

Clearly, individuals, households, communities, and nongovernmental organizations cannot merely stand by and hope that political leaders somehow find the wherewithal at the last moment (if it is not already too late) to halt our descent into climate chaos. We must put all possible pressure on those leaders to take politically difficult decisions to severely limit carbon emissions.

That will require collective action on a scale that has yet to be seen. The massive transformations in energy systems, government, and the economy that we have described are exceedingly unlikely to occur absent struggle and social action. Powerful interests invested in the extractive economy will not give up their advantages willingly. As Frederick Douglass eloquently said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

At the same time, we must also show that we as citizens are ready for climate policies by proactively reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, we can road-test behaviors and technologies that are needed on a broader scale. Fortunately, many people, communities, and organizations have already started doing this, but more are needed.

Individuals and Households

Tackling the energy transition, climate change, and energy inequality will require collective action and policy. So the most important thing we can do as individuals is to support equitable solutions to climate change, and support local democracy and engagement in local decisions about energy.

Read more here: What We as a People Can Do

Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy | Environment | The Guardian

The latest draft version of the TTIP agreement could sabotage European efforts to save energy and switch to clean power, according to MEPs. A 14th round of the troubled negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal between the EU and US is due to begin on Monday in Brussels.

A leak obtained by the Guardian shows that the EU will propose a rollback of mandatory energy savings measures, and major obstacles to any future pricing schemes designed to encourage the uptake of renewable energies. Environmental protections against fossil fuel extraction, logging and mining in the developing world would also come under pressure from articles in the proposed energy chapter.

Paul de Clerck, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Europe, said the leaked document: “is in complete contradiction with Europe’s commitments to tackle climate change. It will flood the EU market with inefficient appliances, and consumers and the climate will foot the bill. The proposal will also discourage measures to promote renewable electricity production from wind and solar.”

The European commission says that the free trade deal is intended to: “promote renewable energy and energy efficiency – areas that are crucial in terms of sustainability”. The bloc has also promised that any agreement would support its climate targets. In the period to 2020, these are binding for clean power and partly binding for energy efficiency, in the home appliance and building standards sectors. But the draft chapter obliges the two trade blocs to: “foster industry self-regulation of energy efficiency requirements for goods where such self-regulation is likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a less costly manner than mandatory requirements”.

Campaigners fear that this could tip the balance in future policy debates and setback efforts to tackle climate change. Jack Hunter, a spokesman for the European Environmental Bureau said: “Legally-binding energy standards have done wonders to lower energy bills for homes and offices, so much so that energy use has dropped even as the British economy has grown and appliances have become more power-hungry. Advertisement “Voluntary agreements have a place, but are generally ‘business as usual’ and no substitute for the real thing. If they became the norm, it would seriously harm our fight against climate change.” Read more..

Source: Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy | Environment | The Guardian

Ph.D. scholarships in ecology & conservation

Looks wonderful. Wish I was a potential PhD student !

Brave New Climate

phdPh.D. projects now offered in the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (D.E.E.P.) research group, based at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania. We study ecological and evolutionary dynamics, global change, and conservation biology. Our study systems include plants and animals, with a focus on the unique Australian environment.

The Ph.D. project topics include the response of biota to global change, dynamics of ecological communities, ecosystem modelling, conservation biology, threatened species management, and impacts of land-use change on biodiversity. The three major research themes are:
(i) using ‘patterns’ to understand the processes shaping ecosystem structure and dynamics;
(ii) technology and biology: never the twain shall meet? and
(iii) faunal habitat use and the impacts of disturbance (biodiversity and conservation).

We are also open to the possibility of exploring other projects and welcome students to express their own research ideas.

DEEPCandidates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds…

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