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In Sign of Global Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years, says research led by Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson
April 4, 2013
Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance.
The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago.
Dating of those plants, using a radioactive form of carbon in the plant tissues that decays at a known rate, has given scientists an unusually precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins.
Lonnie G. Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist whose team has worked intermittently on the Quelccaya ice cap for decades, reported the findings in a paper released online Thursday by the journal Science.
The paper includes a long-awaited analysis of chemical tracers in ice cylinders the team recovered by drilling deep into Quelccaya, a record that will aid scientists worldwide in reconstructing past climatic variations.
Such analyses will take time, but Dr. Thompson said preliminary evidence shows, for example, that the earth probably went through a period of anomalous weather at around the time of the French Revolution, which began in 1789. The weather presumably contributed to the food shortages that exacerbated that upheaval.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday said climate change was a “fundamental threat” to global economic development as he called for a major new push to reduce extreme poverty over the next 17 years.
The bank is in the middle of an internal debate over how to reshape its role in a world where the major developing nations — the core “customers” for its loans and programs — have become increasingly middle class and where states caught in civil war pose an intractable development problem. At the same time, the impact of climate change disproportionately threatens the African and Asian nations that would find it hardest to cope.
Kim said the bank, a sprawling institution that lends to everything from power plants to local governance projects, would try to tailor its work to focus on the elimination of extreme poverty and on easing inequality in countries that are doing better economically. Finding ways to avoid or lessen potential climate effects, he said, are central to that effort.
National survey conducted by George Mason Univ. finds most Republicans seek action on climate change
This short report is based on a January 2013 national survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents. We found that they prefer clean energy as the basis of America’s energy future and say the benefits of clean energy, such as energy independence (66%) saving resources for our children and grandchildren (57%), and providing a better life for our children and grandchildren (56%) outweigh the costs, such as more government regulation (42%) or higher energy prices (31%).
By a margin of 2 to 1, respondents say America should take action to reduce our fossil fuel use. Also, only one third of respondents agree with the Republican Party’s position on climate change, while about half agree with the party’s position on how to meet America’s energy needs.
James E. Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, will retire from NASA this week, giving himself more freedom to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases.
His departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.
At the same time, retirement will allow Dr. Hansen to press his cause in court. He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.
“As a government employee, you can’t testify against the government,” he said in an interview. Dr. Hansen had already become an activist in recent years, taking vacation time from NASA to appear at climate protests and allowing himself to be arrested or cited a half-dozen times.
March 28, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Images told the story: lower Manhattan in darkness, coastal communities washed away, cars floating in muck. Superstorm Sandy, a harbinger of future extreme weather intensified by climate change, caught the U.S. off guard this past October. Unprepared for the flooding and high winds that ensued, the East Coast suffered more than $70 billion in property damages and more than 100 related deaths. Going forward, Americans face a stark choice: prepare and invest now to minimize the impact of disasters such as Sandy, or deal with storms and rising sea levels when they occur.
A new survey commissioned by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Center for Ocean Solutions finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans want to prepare in order to minimize the damage likely to be caused by global warming-induced sea-level rise and storms. A majority also want people whose properties and businesses are located in hazard areas – not the government – to foot the bill for this preparation. Specifically, 82 percent of the Americans surveyed said that people and organizations should prepare for the damage likely to be caused by sea level rise and storms, rather than simply deal with the damage after it happens. Among the most popular policy solutions identified in the survey are strengthening building codes for how to build new structures along the coast to minimize damage (favored by 62 percent) and preventing new buildings from being built near the coast (supported by 51 percent).
“People support preventive action,” said survey director Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, “and few people believe these preparations will harm the economy or eliminate jobs. In fact, more people believe that preparation efforts will help the economy and create jobs around the U.S., in their state and in their town than think these efforts will harm the economy and result in fewer jobs in those areas. But people want coastal homeowners and businesses that locate in high-risk areas to pay for these measures.”
March 27, 2013
Energy subsidies cost governments from the U.S. to Egypt $1.9 trillion, discourage private investment and help wealthy consumers more than the poor, according to a study by International Monetary Fund staff.
In the report published today that covers 176 countries, the Washington-based IMF advocates a progressive increase in energy prices, accompanied by targeted measures to protect the poorest. Getting rid of subsidies could also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 13 percent, it estimated.
“Energy subsidies are large and they’re harmful,” Carlo Cottarelli, the IMF’s director of fiscal affairs, said on a conference call with reporters. “They lead to excessive consumption of energy, they absorb public-sector resources that could be used for more useful purposes” and they “benefit the rich more than the poor,” he said.
The report gives the IMF ammunition for what it describes as a “frequent topic of discussion” with member countries. Policy makers’ reluctance to let energy prices increase has stalled or derailed loans in nations such as Ukraine and Pakistan, countries the report shows spend more of their wealth on subsidies than on public health and education.
March 26, 2013
In partnership with State and Tribal agencies, the Obama Administration today released the first nationwide strategy to help public and private decision makers address the impacts that climate change is having on natural resources and the people and economies that depend on them. Developed in response to a request by Congress, the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy is the product of extensive national dialogue that spanned nearly two years and was shaped by comments from more than 55,000 Americans.
Fish, wildlife, and plant resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism and recreation. For example, hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreation contribute an estimated $120 billion to our nation’s economy every year, and marine ecosystems sustain a U.S. seafood industry that supports approximately 1 million jobs and $116 billion in economic activity annually.
The Climate Adaptation Strategy provides a roadmap of key steps needed over the next five years to reduce the current and expected impacts of climate change on our natural resources, which include: changing species distributions and migration patterns, the spread of wildlife diseases and invasive species, the inundation of coastal habitats with rising sea levels, changing productivity of our coastal oceans, and changes in freshwater availability.
The Climate Adaptation Strategy builds upon efforts already underway by federal, state, tribal governments and other organizations to safeguard fish, wildlife and plants and the communities that depend on them, and provides specific voluntary steps that agencies and partners can take in the coming years to reduce costly damages and protect the health of our communities and economy. The strategy does not prescribe any mandatory activities for government or nongovernmental entities, nor suggest any regulatory actions.
March 13, 2013
In the predawn darkness in the heart of winter, as most of their classmates are still in bed, four University of Colorado Boulder undergraduates ready themselves for an often brutal and bone-chilling ski uphill to research sites in the snow-encrusted Indian Peaks high above Boulder.
It’s Friday morning. And as they do every Friday throughout the winter — regardless of snowstorms, bitter cold, or worse, the biting and unrelenting winds that are near-constant companions in the high mountains — a rotation of four of the six interns at CU-Boulder’s Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research make the hour’s drive from Boulder to the university’s Mountain Research Station, tucked in the trees at 9,500 feet above the tiny hamlet of Ward.
From there, the students attach “climbing skins” to the bottom of their skis, strap on backpacks, step into bindings and begin a grueling three-mile, 1,500-foot climb to the first of the two research sites. If the conditions are safe, they’ll carry on another “hard mile” and 500 feet higher to the final site on the gentle, rounded spine of Niwot Ridge.
Gathering data at the two sites is a valuable hands-on — and rare — learning experience for snow hydrology students. But perhaps more importantly, the data they collect by digging snow pits down to the grassy earth below is critical for helping scientists understand how the delicate high-altitude ecosystem is changing in the face of a warming climate.
March 21, 2013
NOAA issued the three-month U.S. Spring Outlook today, stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. Spring promises little drought relief for most of these areas, as well as Florida, with below- average spring precipitation favored there. Meanwhile, river flooding is likely to be worse than last year across the country, with the most significant flood potential in North Dakota.
"This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA's National Weather Service.
"We produce this outlook to help communities prepare for what's likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather's impacts on lives and livelihoods. A Weather-Ready Nation hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst."
The U.S. Spring Outlook identifies the likelihood of spring flood risk and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought. The outlook is based on a number of factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensus among climate forecast models.
March 20, 2013
For polar bears that pad and paddle around Hudson Bay, the trend toward an earlier melt and later freeze of Arctic sea ice is altering the timing of their seasonal migration in ways that leave the animals less time to feed.
Ice floes on the open water serve as hunting platforms for the bears, whose wintry diet of seals, snagged as they come up for air through breaks in the ice, builds the fat reserves polar bears need to survive on land during the sea-ice melt season.
The migration changes likely bode ill for the ability of the population to reproduce and to survive over the long term as global warming continues to build, say researchers who conducted a study published this week on the impact of climate on the area's polar bear migration patterns. The study appeared in Tuesday’s issue of the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Moreover, because the bears appear to have a strong sense of home turf, the researchers say the animals are likely getting off the melting ice earlier in order to return to familiar turf. If they stay on the moving ice to feed longer, they risk disembarking where they will have to spend more time and energy either returning to their usual range or exploring the new location for the best places to hunker down for the melt season.