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

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

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

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

UN climate chief to UK: ‘Stay calm and transform on’ | Climate Home – climate change news

By Adam Vaughan and Anna Menin Britain must continue to be a world leader when it comes to acting on global warming despite the EU referendum result last week, the UN’s climate chief has urged. Christiana Figueres warned that should article 50 be triggered it would bring uncertainty for two years but cooperation on climate change could be one area of continuity between the UK and EU. “Should that be the case [article 50 being triggered], there is going be quite a lot of uncertainty, transition, volatility for at least two years,” she told an audience of business leaders in London on Tuesday. “However, let us remember that the Brexit vote was not about climate change, it was not about should the UK continue to modernise its industry and its manufacturing, and it was certainly not a vote about innovation, which is fundamentally the opportunity that we have by acting on climate change,” said the outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Figueres, who played a key role in forging the Paris climate deal last December and is believed to be considering running for UN secretary general, riffed on the world war two poster “keep calm and carry on”. “Over these next two years, my suggestion would be to use the proverbial UK [message]: ‘stay calm and transform on [to a low-carbon economy]’. It’s not ‘stay calm and do nothing’, it’s ‘stay calm and transform on’ because the UK and EU have had a very important leadership on climate change, there’s no reason to change that whatsoever.” Asked if the Brexit vote would become an obstacle to action on climate change, she said: “No. Climate change action is by now unstoppable. It is global.” Weekly briefing: Sign up for your essential climate politics update A pre-referendum poll found that leave voters were more likely to be climate sceptics than remain voters, and green groups have raised fears that the Brexit vote could lead to “the climate change-denying wing of the Conservative party” being strengthened.

Source: UN climate chief to UK: ‘Stay calm and transform on’ | Climate Home – climate change news

BREAKING: Brexit Vote Roils UK, EU Climate and Energy Policy | The Energy Mix

… Britain was a staunch European leader in offshore wind production that nevertheless “firmly opposed the EU Commission’s interference in determining the national energy mix in favour of renewables. That was clearly a step backwards, since shifting towards renewable energy is an inevitable component of an effective climate mitigation strategy that is capable of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Now, however “to achieve a positive European future, characterized by a green and low-carbon economy, state sovereignty and national self-interests are going to have to recede,” Bosak wrote. “Purely national solutions are simply not going to be enough to solve complex environmental problems, such as climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss which often pay no heed to national borders.” But Canadian energy journalist Andrew Nikiforuk counters that the Union’s size and unwieldiness has been its own undoing. “In the end, bigness—like any empire—concentrates power and delivers misery, corruption, and waste,” he writes. “And that’s the problem today with the European Union, with big corporations, large governments, and a long parade of big trade pacts.” In a “global labyrinth of bigness,” he adds, the EU “has become another symbol of oversized ineptness, along with a technological deafness that ignores locality, human temperament, culture, ecology, tradition, democracy, and diversity.” Nikiforuk cites a recent open letter that recalled the Union’s original positive promise. “There is nothing about freedom, solidarity, or friendship in the European Union. The European Union has proven to act on behalf of the interest of banks, multinational enterprises, and groups in the shadow, as advised by professional think tanks and lobbyists, not in favour of its people,” a group of Greek citizens wrote to Britons last week. “The European Union is designed as a cartel and typically, there is a lack of democratic structures and processes: democracy becomes a disturbing factor.”

Source: BREAKING: Brexit Vote Roils UK, EU Climate and Energy Policy | The Energy Mix

Grief and Carbon Reductionism | Charles Eisenstein

The environmentalist Michael Mielke just wrote to me the following, “We came back over-and-over to the realization that the climate movement must proceed through the several stages of grief to get to Acceptance.” I am happy to see the growing recognition of what he is talking about. The grief is essential in order to integrate on a deep level the reality of the situation we face. Otherwise it remains, to most people, theoretical. After all, our social infrastructure insulates us pretty well from the tangible effects of climate change (so far). For most people, compared to say their mortgage payment or their teenager’s addiction problem, climate change seems quite remote and theoretical — something that is only happening in the future or on the news. As long as that is the case, they will not take meaningful action either, and it won’t change through persuasion. Persuasion does not penetrate deeply enough. No one is ever “persuaded” to make major changes in their life’s commitments, unless that persuasion is accompanied by an experience that impacts them on a physical and emotional level. As long as grief is not fully experienced, then normal still seems normal. Even if one is intellectually persuaded of the reality and gravity of climate change, the felt reality is still, “It isn’t real,” or “It’s gonna be fine.” Of course, by the time that the impact of climate change penetrates the structures of normalcy and causes food shortages, catastrophic weather events, etc. that impact modern Western society, it will probably be too late. So far the elite nations are able to insulate themselves from the harm that ecological destruction causes. Therefore it seems unreal. The air conditioner still works. The car still runs. The credit card still works. The garbage truck takes away the trash. School is open at 8am and there is medicine in the pharmacy. The narratives that define normal life are still intact. If we wait for those narratives to be demolished by external events — by geopolitical and ecological catastrophe — it will be too late. That defines the challenge before us. How do we bring people to care as much about climate change as the residents of Flint, Michigan care about the lead in their water? Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear:

Source: Grief and Carbon Reductionism | Charles Eisenstein

More climate refugees from Middle East and North Africa | Max Planck Society

Are we prepared for this? Are we prepared to address the fact that global warming is happening faster and more intensely than was predicted five, three, two years ago? Are we prepared to address the fact that a gradual transition from fossil fuel dependence s no longer an option, than carbon credits and other such mechanisms are impotent to address accelerating carbon emissions, and that building more pipelines to ‘finance the transition to a green economy” is morally and environmentally unacceptable?

Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa Part of the Middle East and North Africa may become uninhabitable due to climate change May 02, 2016 The number of climate refugees could increase dramatically in future. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have calculated that the Middle East and North Africa could become so hot that human habitability is compromised. The goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, agreed at the recent UN climate summit in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent this scenario. The temperature during summer in the already very hot Middle East and North Africa will increase more than two times faster compared to the average global warming. This means that during hot days temperatures south of the Mediterranean will reach around 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-century. Such extremely hot days will occur five times more often than was the case at the turn of the millennium. In combination with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, the environmental conditions could become intolerable and may force people to migrate. Zoom Image Plagued by heat and dust: Desert dust storms such as here in Kuwait could occur more often in the Middle East and North … [more] © Molly John, Flickr, Creative Commons. More than 500 million people live in the Middle East and North Africa – a region which is very hot in summer and where climate change is already evident. The number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970. “In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute. Lelieveld and his colleagues have investigated how temperatures will develop in the Middle East and North Africa over the course of the 21st century. The result is deeply alarming: Even if Earth’s temperature were to increase on average only by two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times, the temperature in summer in these regions will increase more than twofold. By mid-century, during the warmest periods, temperatures will not fall below 30 degrees at night, and during daytime they could rise to 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit). By the end of the century, midday temperatures on hot days could even climb to 50 degrees Celsius (approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit). Another finding: Heat waves could occur ten times more often than they do now. By mid-century, 80 instead of 16 extremely hot days Zoom Image Unbearably hot: In the Middle East and North Africa, the average temperature in winter will rise by around 2.5 degrees … [more] © MPI for Chemistry In addition, the duration of heat waves in North Africa and the Middle East will prolong dramatically. Read more…

Source: More climate refugees from Middle East and North Africa | Max Planck Society

Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian

In 2003 the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term solastalgia to mean a “form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change”. Albrecht was studying the effects of long-term drought and large-scale mining activity on communities in New South Wales, when he realised that no word existed to describe the unhappiness of people whose landscapes were being transformed about them by forces beyond their control. He proposed his new term to describe this distinctive kind of homesickness. Where the pain of nostalgia arises from moving away, the pain of solastalgia arises from staying put. Where the pain of nostalgia can be mitigated by return, the pain of solastalgia tends to be irreversible. Solastalgia is not a malady specific to the present – we might think of John Clare as a solastalgic poet, witnessing his native Northamptonshire countryside disrupted by enclosure in the 1810s – but it has flourished recently. “A worldwide increase in ecosystem distress syndromes,” wrote Albrecht, is “matched by a corresponding increase in human distress syndromes”. Solastalgia speaks of a modern uncanny, in which a familiar place is rendered unrecognisable by climate change or corporate action: the home become suddenly unhomely around its inhabitants. Albrecht’s coinage is part of an emerging lexis for what we are increasingly calling the “Anthropocene”: the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record. And what a signature it will be. We have bored 50m kilometres of holes in our search for oil. We remove mountain tops to get at the coal they contain. The oceans dance with billions of tiny plastic beads. Weaponry tests have dispersed artificial radionuclides globally. The burning of rainforests for monoculture production sends out killing smog-palls that settle into the sediment across entire countries. We have become titanic geological agents, our legacy legible for millennia to come. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Rainforest burning in Brazil, 1989. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features The idea of the Anthropocene asks hard questions of us. Temporally, it requires that we imagine ourselves inhabitants not just of a human lifetime or generation, but also of “deep time” – the dizzyingly profound eras of Earth history that extend both behind and ahead of the present. Politically, it lays bare some of the complex cross-weaves of vulnerability and culpability that exist between us and other species, as well as between humans now and humans to come. Conceptually, it warrants us to consider once again whether – in Fredric Jameson’s phrase – “the modernisation process is complete, and nature is gone for good”, leaving nothing but us. There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through. Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Read more…

Source: Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian