How a Seed Bank, Almost Lost in Syria’s War, Could Help Feed a Warming Planet
By Somini Sengupta
TERBOL, Lebanon — Ali Shehadeh, a seed hunter, opened the folders with the greatest of care. Inside each was a carefully dried and pressed seed pod: a sweet clover from Egypt, a wild wheat found only in northern Syria, an ancient variety of bread wheat. He had thousands of these folders stacked neatly in a windowless office, a precious herbarium, containing seeds foraged from across the hot, arid and increasingly inhospitable region known as the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of farming.
Mr. Shehadeh is a plant conservationist from Syria. He hunts for the genes contained in the seeds we plant today and what he calls their “wild relatives” from long ago. His goal is to safeguard those seeds that may be hardy enough to feed us in the future, when many more parts of the world could become as hot, arid and inhospitable as it is here. But searching for seeds that can endure the perils of a hotter planet has not been easy...
A Battle to Save the World’s Favorite Treat: Chocolate
By Myles Karp
TURRIALBA, Costa Rica — The trees of the International Cacao Collection grow here in an astonishing diversity of forms, bearing skinny cacao pods with scorpion-stinger protrusions, spherical green pods that could be mistaken for tomatillos, oblong pods with bumpy skin resembling that of the horned lizard — all in colors ranging from deep purple to bright yellow.
Within each of these pods are seeds that yield something beloved by billions: chocolate.
But despite this diversity, few cacao varieties are widely cultivated, and that’s a problem: Like many other crops, cacao is under constant threat from diseases and environmental challenges exacerbated by our tendency to grow only a few varieties with similar or identical genetic traits and defects...
Climate change threatens uninhabitable conditions for the Middle East and North Africa
By Lina Yassin, Climate Tracker
Climate change means colder winters, heavy rains and lots of environmental hazards for many people, writes Lina Yassin of Climate Tracker.
But for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), climate change means uninhabitable weather conditions, forced migration and loss of traditional income. It is a real threat that might make the region uninhabitable...
The Seri adapt to climate change in the desert
In September 2014, Hurricane Odile barreled across the Baja California Peninsula, sending 30,000 tourists to evacuation shelters and killing 11 people. Odile weakened as it swept into Sonora, Mexico, but its torrential rains still washed out the dirt road connecting the tiny coastal village of El Desemboque to the highway. Local residents, all members of the Seri Indigenous group, were stranded for three days without food or water. Finally, someone managed to charge a computer with a car battery and posted a plea for help to Facebook.
That message reached Laura Monti, a research associate in arid lands cultural ecology...
Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.
By Justin Gillis
We know. Global warming is daunting. So here’s a place to start: 17 often-asked questions with some straightforward answers.
Climate change? Global warming? What do we call it?
Both are accurate, but they mean different things.
You can think of global warming as one type of climate change. The broader term covers changes beyond warmer temperatures, such as shifting rainfall patterns.
President Trump has claimed that scientists stopped referring to global warming and started calling it climate change because “the weather has been so cold” in winter. But the claim is false. Scientists have used both terms for decades...
Building climate resilience in coastal communities of the caribbean
By Zadie Neufville
Ceylon Clayton is trying to revive a sea moss growing project he and friends started a few years ago to supplement their dwindling earnings as fishermen.
This time, he has sought the support of outsiders and fishermen from neighbouring communities to expand the operations and the ‘unofficial’ fishing sanctuary. Clayton is leading a group of ten fishers from the Little Bay community in Westmoreland, Jamaica, who have big dreams of turning the tiny fishing village into the largest sea moss producer on the island...
Algae Blooms & Climate Change
By Climate Central
Algae occur naturally in most bodies of freshwater and saltwater. It’s normally fairly harmless, but the right combination of warm water, high nutrient levels, and adequate sunlight combined can cause a harmful algae bloom. These blooms can damage aquatic ecosystems by blocking sunlight and depleting oxygen that other organisms need to survive. Some algae, like red algae and blue-green algae, can produce toxins that damage the human nervous system and the liver (and they also stink — literally).
Recently, there has been an increase in algae blooms globally, and climate change may be playing a role...
7,000 massive methane gas bubbles under the Russian permafrost could explode anytime
By Joe Romm
Russian scientists have recently discovered some 7,000 underground methane bubbles in Siberia that could explode anytime.
‘Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost,” explained a Russian Academy of Science spokesperson, “which is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during last several decades.”
This discovery is especially worrisome for three reasons. First, methane traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. Thawing permafrost creates both CO2 and methane (CH4), but most models of thawing permafrost assume only CO2 is created. If, as it appears, a lot of methane is being generated, then we’ll see even more extra warming than scientists have projected...
Featured: Ecothropic Founder Britt Basel
Do you want to learn more about Ecothropic's work? In this video, Britt Basel discusses our philosophy and our recent work at the AREDAY conference in Snowmass.
Community based adaptation: under african skies
By Doug Parsons and America Adapts
Let's change the tag to Doug Parsons and America Adapts bring us to the Community Based Adaption conference in Kampala, Uganda - CBA11 - giving us the chance to really understand what the global players are doing to address the daily reality of climate change around the world.
Visit their website here:
See How Six Communities Around the World Are Adapting to Climate Change
Under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Programme, the Equator Initiative supports the work of local and indigenous communities in creating sustainable development solutions worldwide. They have found innovative ways to combat the effects of climate change, and the Equator Prize—awarded to 20 communities this year—recognizes these efforts. This short from Perspective Film Production highlights the work of six of the recipients.
The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of the National Geographic Society...
Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report
A final draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years
Why We Shouldn’t Think of Climate Change as Only a “Global” Issue
By Sarah van Gelder
You’re sweltering in the summer heat. Or maybe you saw photos of the giant chunk of ice that broke off Antarctica. Or you read about the climate Armageddon as described in a recent New York magazine article, and wrapped your mind around hot, belching seas, famine, massive waves of climate refugees, and even the possibility of human extinction. But climate change is a global crisis, and only national and international leaders can do anything about it, right?
Actually, some of the most powerful work to combat global warming is happening close to home. With the fossil fuel industry exerting so much power at the national level, much of our strength is in taking a stand together, where we live.
Here’s a success story that convinced me of this. I visited a quiet valley in southeastern Montana on the road trip that resulted in my book, The Revolution Where You Live. The Otter Creek Valley is made up of ranches, a small river, and the rocky outcroppings of the Custer National Forest. Nearby is the reservation of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. The area is also rich in coal, and Arch Coal and its partners wanted to dig the largest strip mine in the state to get at it.
Ditching diesel won’t clear the air
Arguments about the environmental benefits of petrol or diesel engines are outdated
By Nature Magazine
In Arizona, you can do it for 5 minutes, and longer when it gets warm. If it’s cold, then in Connecticut you can stay at it all night. Do it in London and you will now be fined £80 (US$104). And please do keep it away from schools.
To sit in a stationary vehicle with the engine running might seem a pointless waste of fuel, but a surprisingly high number of drivers do it for hours on end. From truck drivers who want to keep the lights and air conditioning running while they rest to commuters in Alaska who need their car to start in the morning, engine idling is a traditional and beneficial part of many road users’ routines.
But now it’s time to stop, say health officials in the United Kingdom. They are starting to crack down on parents who idle away in their cars at the kerbside as they wait for children to emerge from school. It’s an unnecessary source of air pollution, the officials argue, and part of the reason why 59% of people in the United Kingdom live in areas where nitrogen dioxide pollution is above legal levels.
Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize
By Justin Gillis
CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — On the best days, the wind howling across this rugged promontory has not touched land for thousands of miles, and the arriving air seems as if it should be the cleanest in the world.
But on a cliff above the sea, inside a low-slung government building, a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale.
For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.
Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions...
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL IS THE ORIGINAL FAKE NEWS
The great struggle of our era will be fact versus deliberate fiction. Americans have watched this battle unfold in the 2016 presidential election and the early days of the Donald Trump Administration, as a leader who plays fast and loose with the facts begins to erode the very idea of evidence-based public debate.
For those fighting to solve climate change, this is an old story. Professional climate-change denial is the original fake news.
I’m not talking about your grumpy uncle’s doubts about whether climate change is real. I’m talking about the fossil fuel-funded, decades-long, under-the-radar public-relations campaign that helped sow those doubts.
In the 1990s, as climate change became a prominent issue, industry associations like the American Petroleum Institute organized an ambitious to confuse the public about the facts of climate science. Their campaign was based on the tobacco industry’s work to obscure the link between smoking and cancer, using fringe think tanks to spread junk science. Late last year, one of the architects and chief spokesmen for that campaign, a professional denier named Myron Ebell, was put in charge of President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Fake science was infiltrating the new administration.
The goal of the professional deniers is to spread doubt about facts that have been established through decades of research. Knowing that most people reasonably enough don’t have the time or training to investigate scientific claims, they toss out random theories and see what gains traction. Water vapor, suns spots and the Medieval Warm Period have all had a turn...
Climate change's small but significant consequences
By World News
US Energy Secretary Rick Perry was accused of lacking a "fundamental understanding" of science this week after he said climate change was not primarily caused by mankind.
In a letter quoted by the New York Daily News, the American Society of Meteorologists told the politician it was "critically important" that he understood that emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases were "the primary cause".
It added: "This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence. It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world."
Scientists say climate change could displace hundreds of millions of people by 2050 through increased droughts, floods and hurricanes. In addition, the cost of redressing climate problems could reach £550bn globally each year by 2030, reports Business Insider.
Alongside these apocalyptic predictions, smaller effects are expected - and, in some cases, are already being felt.
Here are five unexpected results of global warming...
Trump’s Withdrawal From the Paris Agreement Challenges Latin America
By Lisa Viscidi
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s announcement on June 1 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement was met with widespread dismay and fears that the decision would put the entire global agreement in peril. For Latin American countries, which overwhelmingly support global efforts to tackle climate change, the move will make it more difficult to meet climate objectives, and it will put a strain on relations with the United States.
Latin American countries are among the most committed to tackling climate change. About three-quarters of citizens in the region consider climate change a very serious problem, among the highest percentage in the world.
Latin American and Caribbean countries are highly vulnerable. A significant rise in global temperatures could lead to reduced arable land, the loss of low-lying islands and coastal regions, and more extreme weather events in many of these countries. Latin America holds one-third of the world’s freshwater and almost 30 percent of potential new arable land, making it an important center for global food production. Many urban centers — 60 of the 77 largest cities in the region — are situated along coasts, and Caribbean islands are susceptible to rising sea levels that would damage infrastructure and contaminate freshwater wetlands. Central America, the Caribbean and eastern Mexico are threatened with a growing frequency of high-intensity tropical storms. In South America, climate change already appears to be altering rainfall patterns and increasing glacier melt, threatening watersheds that supply water for drinking, agricultural production and hydropower to tens of millions of people...
Phoenix heat, Tropical Storm Cindy show how climate change is a threat to our infrastructure
By Rachel Cleetus
Rachel Cleetus is the lead economist and climate policy manager with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Much of the Southwestern United States is reeling under a heat wave so severe that it has forced airlines to ground flights. On the Gulf Coast, millions of people were put on emergency alert ahead of Tropical Storm Cindy, which caused widespread flooding and power outages. Climate change is already affecting our economy and safety, with risks to critical infrastructure — roads, bridges, dams, water and energy infrastructure and military sites.
The nation’s infrastructure is already in a precarious state, consistently earning a near-failing grade of D-plus from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Much of it was built assuming past climate and weather patterns, with some margin of safety. But now, climate change — in the form of more frequent and severe heat waves; floods exacerbated by sea-level rise and increased heavy rainfall; droughts; wildfires; and other impacts — is adding an extra layer of risk.
Growing development in high-risk areas increases the potential damage. The number of billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters is on the rise. Already this year, five events across the country have each caused losses exceeding $1 billion...
Solar energy is killing coal, despite Trump's promises
By Matt Egan
The rapidly falling cost of solar energy is going to make it difficult for President Trump to deliver on his promise to put coal miners back to work.
Trump has taken steps to ease the burden on coal country by ripping up environmental rules and pledging to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.
But those deregulatory steps do little to offset the mounting long-term challenge that coal faces from cleaner forms of energy, especially solar.
By 2040, U.S. power generation from renewable energy is likely to skyrocket by 169%, according to a recent forecast from the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Coal-fired power is projected to plunge by 51% in the United States over the same period.
"The greening of the world's electricity system is unstoppable," wrote Seb Henbest, the lead author.
Despite Trump's promises, more and more electric utilities are expected to dump coal as businesses and individuals adopt solar panels. That's because of a simple economic reality: Renewable energy costs are poised to continue dropping thanks to a gush of investment.
By 2100, Deadly Heat May Threaten Majority of Humankind
By Stephen Leahy
A new study has found that 30 percent of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more—and like a growing forest fire, climate change is spreading this extreme heat.
Without major reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, up to three in four people will face the threat of dying from heat by 2100. However, even with reductions, one in two people at the end of the century will likely face at least 20 days when extreme heat can kill, according to the analysis, published on Monday in Nature Climate Change.
“Lethal heatwaves are very common. I don’t know why we as a society are not more concerned about the dangers,” says Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study’s lead author. “The 2003 European heatwave killed approximately 70,000 people—that’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks.”
Dangerous heatwaves are far more common than anyone realized, killing people in more than 60 different parts of the world every year. Notable deadly heatwaves include the 2010 Moscow event that killed at least 10,000 people and the 1995 Chicago heatwave, where 700 people died of heat-related causes.
Heatwaves have also claimed victims more recently. In the last two weeks, dozens have died in India and Pakistan’s current heatwave, with temperatures spiking to a record 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius). And there have been heat-related deaths already in the U.S.this summer...
The Trump administration can’t entirely roll back progress on climate change. Here’s why.
By Jessica F. Green
Environmentalists are not happy with the Trump administration. There are rumors that Trump may withdraw from the landmark Paris agreement on climate change. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, is probably unlikely to champion U.S. environmental priorities in his diplomatic agenda.
U.S. cities are leading the way on climate change policy
Here’s the good news: States, cities and many companies in the United States realize that sensible climate policy is, well, sensible. Having rational policies in place provides important health benefits, such as reducing smog, and helps authorities prepare for climate-induced changes, such as floods and droughts. For companies, planning for the future is just good business.
A number of cities around the world have been at the vanguard of climate action. The C40 Cities initiative is a network of more than 80 cities, including 13 in the United States, and represents 600 million people around the globe. Their governments are collaborating on climate efforts, and they have committed to mandatory measurement and reporting of emissions and other policy measures. C40’s nifty interactive dashboard provides data on participants’ emissions...
Modern agriculture cultivates climate change – we must nurture biodiversity
By Olivier De Schutter and Emile Frison
As a new year dawns, it is hard not to be dazzled by the current pace of technological change in food and agriculture. Only last month, news emerged of a crop spray with the potential to increase the starch content in wheat grains, allowing for yield gains of up to 20%. This development comes hot on the heels of major breakthroughs in gene-editing technologies – using a powerful tool known as Crispr – over the course of 2016.
A future of continually increasing food supplies and ever more sophisticated manipulation of agro-ecosystems seems to be upon us. However, there is a risk that these technologies blind us to the very real problems facing modern agriculture – problems that are rapidly undermining the previous round of technological advances.
While global crop yields rose rapidly in the early decades of the “green revolution”, productivity is now plateauing in many regions of the world. A 2012 meta-study found that in 24%-39% of areas growing maize, rice, wheat and soybean, yields either failed to improve, stagnated after initial gains, or collapsed.
Only slightly more than half of all global rice and wheat areas...
The irreversible momentum of clean energy
By Barack Obama
The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to human activity is increasing global average surface air temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, and acidifying the ocean (1). Left unchecked, the continued growth of GHG emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations (1). Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy—a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition. But putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow...
Climate Change Is Now
By David Leonhardt
The damage from climate change isn’t just coming in the future. It’s part of the present, as this weekend’s issue of The New York Times Magazine points out.
“Last year, melting permafrost in Siberia released a strain of anthrax, which had been sealed in a frozen reindeer carcass, sickening 100 people and killing one child,” Jon Mooallem writes. “Parts of Washington now experience flooding 30 days a year, a figure that has roughly quadrupled since 1960. In Wilmington, N.C., the number is 90 days.”
Yet in the face of this urgent challenge — one that affects all of humanity, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, America and the rest of the world — President Trump has chosen to accelerate climate change. He and his aides are encouraging pollution.
What can you do about it?
Can marine reserves help counteract climate change?
By Kim Smuga-Otto
Even if all the world’s nations fully cooperated to reduce carbon emissions and limit climate change, elevated carbon dioxide levels will continue to harm our oceans in the coming decades. A new paper makes the case that marine protected areas (MPAs) are a cost-effective way to mitigate the worst oceanic consequences of climate change.
MPAs, where fishing and human development are prohibited or greatly reduced, are usually touted for their ability to improve fish stocks and marine biodiversity. But the new paper, published this week in the journal PNAS, examines a different suite of positive effects.
It points to evidence that MPAs decrease seawater acidification and buffer the effects of rising sea levels and storm intensification. They can also provide safe havens for species whose original habitats no longer suit them and nurseries to repopulate areas damaged by low oxygen and lack of nutrients. The paper also highlights how MPAs store and sequester carbon, helping to offset global carbon emissions...
A Bumblebee Gets New Protection on Obama’s Way Out
By Tatiana Schlossberg and John Schwartz
The Obama administration, rushing to secure its environmental legacy, has increased protection for a humble bumblebee.
The rusty-patched bumblebee, once common across the continental United States, has been designated an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service: the country’s first bumblebee, and the first bee from the lower 48 states, to be added to the register. Seven bees were previously listed as endangered, but they are found only in Hawaii.
Since the late 1990s, the population of the rusty-patched bumblebee has declined by nearly 90 percent, a result of a combination of factors, including exposure to pesticides, climate change, habitat loss and disease, federal wildlife officials said. The species, once found in 28 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces, is found today only in small pockets of its once-sprawling habitat. The designation will accelerate efforts to protect the bees’ habitat and to reduce the use of pesticides that are killing them.
It is the latest in a flurry of last-minute efforts to protect the environment and preserve President Obama’s legacy on climate change...
This chart perfectly explains what’s at stake in the quest to stop climate change
By Chris Mooney
Here at the Energy and Environment blog, we cover, regularly, the tipping points of climate change — how, for instance, the glaciers of West Antarctica may already have passed a key threshold that leads to unstoppable melt.
We cover the history of the Earth’s climate — including why the Holocene era, which began some 11,700 years ago and we lived in up until fairly recently (when many researchers believe an “Anthropocene” began), was so stable and conducive to human civilization.
And of course we cover the quest to keep warming below the Paris climate targets, 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius, and the scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions that might be capable of doing that — and also those that can’t...
Birds Sing to Their Eggs, and This Song Might Help Their Babies Survive Climate Change
By Joshua Rapp Learn
Birds feeling the heat from warming weather may be able give their offspring an early weather advisory right through the eggshell—which could in turn help baby birds prepare for the forecast.
A new study shows that the songs zebra finches sing to their eggs late in development may give the young a head start in dealing with warm weather once they hatch...
Giant Coral Reef in Protected Area Shows New Signs of Life
By Karen Weintraub
In 2003, researchers declared Coral Castles dead.
On the floor of a remote island lagoon halfway between Hawaii and Fiji, the giant reef site had been devastated by unusually warm water. Its remains looked like a pile of drab dinner plates tossed into the sea. Research dives in 2009 and 2012 had shown little improvement in the coral colonies.
Then in 2015, a team of marine biologists was stunned and overjoyed to find Coral Castles, genus Acropora, once again teeming with life. But the rebound came with a big question: Could the enormous and presumably still fragile coral survive what would be the hottest year on record?
This month, the Massachusetts-based research team finished a new exploration of the reefs in the secluded Phoenix Islands, a tiny Pacific archipelago, and were thrilled by what they saw. When they splashed out of an inflatable dinghy to examine Coral Castles closely, they were greeted with a vista of bright greens and purples — unmistakable signs of life.
70% More Cities Report on Climate Change in 2016
By Andrea Vittorio
Aug. 4 — Seventy percent more cities are now measuring and disclosing data on climate change compared to a year ago, according to the nonprofit CDP.
A record 533 of the world's cities told CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, how they are managing emissions and other related risks in the year after nations agreed to a historic climate accord.
“This is welcome and encouraging news,” as governments ratify and implement the agreement reached at the end of 2015, Patricia Espinosa, the new executive secretary of the United Nations body that oversaw the climate negotiations, said in a statement.
The Long View: Edward Burtynsky's quest to photograph a changing planet
By Raffi Khatchadourian
Our helicopter was heading over the Niger Delta, across a vast and unstable sky, with gray clouds surging above. I was sitting behind the pilot, and behind me, gazing out a starboard window, was Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer known for his sweeping images of industrial projects and their effects on the environment. For three decades, he has been documenting colossal mines, quarries, dams, roadways, factories, and trash piles—telling a story, frame by frame, of a planet reshaped by human ambition. For one seminal project, sixteen years ago, he travelled to Bangladesh to shoot decommissioned oil tankers that were being ripped apart by barefoot men with cutting torches. Those images of monumental debris—angular masses that appear to emerge from sediment like alien geology—remain transfixing. Carefully choreographed, shot in hazy and ethereal light, they echo the sublime power of a Turner landscape even as they portray a reckoning with garbage.