A University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric-led study challenges the prevailing wisdom by identifying the atmosphere as the driver of a decades-long climate variation known as the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO).
The findings offer new insight on the causes and predictability of natural climate variations, which are known to cause wide-ranging global weather impacts, including increased rainfall, drought, and greater hurricane frequency in many parts of the Atlantic basin.
For decades, research on climate variations in the Atlantic has focused almost exclusively on the role of ocean circulation as the main driver, specifically the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which carries warm water north in the upper layers of the ocean and cold water south in lower layers like a large conveyor belt.
“The idea of the ocean as the driver has been a powerful one.” said UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement, the lead author on the study. We used computer models in a new way to test this idea, and find that in fact there is a lot that can be explained without the ocean circulation.”
While the overall rise in average temperature of the Atlantic is caused by greenhouse gases, this study examines the fluctuations occurring within this human-related trend. Identifying the main driver of the AMO is critical to help predict the overall warming of the North Atlantic Ocean in coming decades from both natural and human-made climate change. Recent research suggests that an AMO warm phase has been in effect since the mid-1990s, which has caused changes in rainfall in the southeastern US, and resulted in twice as many tropical storms becoming hurricanes than during cool phases.
Using multiple climate models from around the world, Clement’s research team removed the ocean circulation from the analysis to reveal that variations in the Atlantic climate were generally the same. The AMO results in a horseshoe-shaped pattern of ocean surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean that have been naturally occurring for the last 1000 years on timescales of 60-80 years. This new analysis shows that the pattern of the AMO can be accounted for by atmospheric circulation alone, without any role for the ocean circulation.
“These results force us to rethink our ability to predict decade-scale temperature fluctuations in the Atlantic and their associated impacts on land. It may be that many of the changes have limited predictability, which means that we should be prepared for a range of climate outcomes associated with global warming,” said Clement. More
The work was support by grants from the Department of Energy and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
7 October 2015: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has elected Hoesung Lee, Republic of Korea, as its new Chair. Lee was elected by 78 votes to 56 in a run-off with Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of Belgium.
Speaking after the vote, Lee said he was "honored and grateful" to have been elected. He underscored the need for more information regarding existing options for preventing and adapting to climate change.
Lee further noted that the next phase of the IPCC's work will see an increased understanding of regional impacts, especially in developing countries, and an improvement in the manner in which the IPCC's findings are communicated to the public.
Various UN officials congratulated Lee on his election, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
The election took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on 6 October, where the IPCC is holding its 42nd session (IPCC 42). Six candidates had been nominated for the position: Ogunlade Davidson, Sierra Leone; Chris Field, US; Hoesung Lee, Republic of Korea; Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Austria and Montenegro; Thomas Stocker, Switzerland; and Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Belgium.
Elections for other IPCC Bureau positions also took place during the course of IPCC 42. On 7 October, Thelma Krug, Brazil, Ko Barrett, US, and Youba Sokona, Mali, were elected IPCC Vice-Chairs.
Lee is a professor of the economics of climate change, energy and sustainable development at Korea University's Graduate School of Energy and Environment in the Republic of Korea, and is currently one of the IPCC's three vice-chairs. The election of the new IPCC Bureau, which will have 34 members including the Chair, paves the way for work to begin on the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, expected to be completed in 5-7 years.
The IPCC was established by the WMO and UNEP in 1988 to provide a clear scientific assessment of the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts, and to identify possible responses. [IPCC Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [WMO Press Release] [UN Press Release] [Statement of the UN Secretary-General] [UNFCCC Press Release][IISD RS coverage of IPCC 42]
Indigenous communities are perhaps the most impacted by Climate Change and the least responsible for causing it. Indigenous elders and environmental specialists have also been the first to warn of changes and offer viable suggestions for response strategies yet their critical messages have usually gone unheeded by dominant societies. The International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy provided a forum for Indigenous thinkers from around the world to gather in a retreat setting to discuss how Indigenous Environmental Philosophy is distinct from Western Environmental Philosophy. Following much discussion and compromise, the following consensus statement was unanimously approved:
Redstone Statement, 1 May 2010
We are Indigenous environmental philosophers who have come from the four corners of the earth to Redstone, Oklahoma, to discuss the future of the planet.
Indigenous environmental philosophy respects a mutually supportive network of interconnected physical and spiritual entities that is sustainably maintained, and which connects the ancestral past with the distant future. The vision of our Indigenous peoples is to reach spiritual and material well-being through conscious action. Mother Earth is a living, dynamic being with inherent value, and her principles must be actively embodied in order to remain in harmony and balance.
Today, we are at a tipping point at which humanity is in danger of being removed from the cycles of Mother Earth. We bring this urgent message in response to Indigenous women, youth and children from around the world who have consistently asked us to leave them a more balanced planet.
We come as individuals from cultures whose authority originates from our unique relationships with nature and the environment. Our ways of living, and very existence, are threatened by the resistance of nation-states to include our institutions as part of the solutions that can save our planet. Consequently, we issue this call to the world.
Environmental, social, economic, and political conflicts over natural resources and access rights, climate change concerns, and other significant issues threatening international and local communities did not suddenly erupt on the global landscape. Rather, they are an outcome of the historical process that today affects every area of creation. Spiritual, cultural, social, economic, and political structures and values lost their connections to the communities and now focus exclusively on the individual. The world shifted from the circle of community to the ascendancy of the individual, resulting in a dangerous environmental imbalance with significant spiritual and health consequences. Balance must be restored in order to heal the earth, and it must include the participation of all ages, races, genders and cultures.
Effective mechanisms necessary for restoring balance include implementing the following:
1. Recognition of the interdependence of all things;
2. Indigenous self-determination;
3. Indigenous land, air, water, territory, and natural resource management;
4. Protection and preservation of Indigenous traditional knowledge, lifeways and languages, cultures, sacred sites, and folklores/oral traditions;
5. Indigenous authority over all actions impacting Indigenous communities;
6. Respect for, and protection of, traditional agricultures and genetic resources;
7. Seed sovereignty and food security;
8. Rights of movement, rights of access, rights of participation and communication in the exchange of environmental knowledge and culture.
We must assure the well-being of both humanity and nature. This requires a unification of diverse people who are open to ideas; people who are wise, clear, and profoundly human; and people who can transcend the self-imposed limits of their minds, reaching deep into their conscience and spirit for solutions.
All governments, communities, leaders, individuals, industries, and corporations must immediately act together to restore the balance that is essential for continued existence.
We call for a review of existing commercial practices and an end to any further non-sustainable exploitation and degradation of natural resources- for all generations to come. We also call for a portion of profits to be invested in the development of renewable energy resources.
We as Indigenous environmental philosophers breathe life into this statement and commit to implementing the provisions contained in it. More
For millennia, the people of Kiribati have lived off the land, dwelling on their small islands located in the central Pacific Ocean.
|President Anote Tong|
But over the last several decades, rising sea levels due largely to climate change have slowly eaten away at the country’s 313 square miles. Without action, the country of 102,000 people may disappear altogether over the next few decades.
Kiribati President Anote Tong has been advocating for bold action to address climate change for years, making his pleas around the world. Now, Tong says his country’s citizens won’t be able to remain on the physical islands of Kiribati much longer without drastic change on global warming. Whatever happens, his country won’t look the same in 50 years.
“We have constantly been calling the international community to do something about reducing emissions, but the reality for us is that it really does not matter,” Tong told TIME in a recent interview. “The gas is already in the atmosphere… either we leave or we spend a lot of resources to build up the islands.”
Around the world, sea levels have risen nearly 3 inches since the early 1990s due to ice melt caused by global warming. Even if countries are able to reduce emissions as much as policymakers have promised, global sea levels will still rise by one to two feet by 2100. Without carbon cuts, that rise could top three feet. In Kiribati, where land is rarely more than few feet above sea level, even a moderate rise could be catastrophic. And the island nation is also at risk from an expected increase in the number of extreme weather events, such as storms and typhoons.
Tong’s plan for dealing with this is two-fold. First, he wants to fortify at least one island in the Kiribati chain so the country’s physical presence doesn’t disappear in its entirety. The president is light on details on how exactly he plans to save an island, but he says the technology exists (he has reportedly considered employing a Japanese company that has proposed engineer islands floating). The exact shape of the plans may depend on the support offered by other countries, Tong said. He’s met with representatives of the Netherlands and other flood-prone regions about how to best protect the islands.
But even if some of the country can be saved from the rising seas, Tong doesn’t expect to be able to accommodate all of the country’s residents. For those forced to leave, Tong says there must be “migration with dignity.” Last year, Kiribati purchased 5,000 acres of land in nearby Fiji as insurance policy and world leaders have indicated that they would be willing to support Kiribati refugees if it becomes necessary.
Catastrophic one-off events like hurricanes and tsunamis tend to prompt international sympathy. (Think of the $14 billion donated to relief efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.) Kiribati has benefited from some of that support, primarily from other Pacific island countries and development groups. But development commitments have measured in the millions, far from the hundreds of millions, if not billions Tong says his country needs to fully adapt to climate change.
Other countries have been less eager to offer support. In a moment that startled many Pacific Islanders, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was captured on tape last month laughing at a joke about how Kiribati would soon have “water lapping at [its] doors.” Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who made the off-color remark, apologized but not before Tong had earned the world’s sympathy condemning the joke as “morally irresponsible.”
Despite the attention his country’s plight has received, Tong doesn’t like to linger on the topic. Instead he emphasizes the damage caused by the policies of Australia and other developed countries that have emitted the carbon that is endangering the very existence of Kirbati, where the average resident emits less than 1 ton of carbon dioxide each year or 7% of the global average. “Climate change is not an issue that really respects any sovereignty,” he said. “If it’s a national issue, keep your emissions within your borders, which you cannot do.”
In December, negotiators from around the world will gather in Paris at a United Nations conference aimed at creating a binding agreement for countries of the world to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. Asked about his hopes for the conference, Tong said his goal was simple: “Give us a proposition that will guarantee that our people will remain above the water.” More
Antigua and Barbuda and Malta have pledged to work together in advancing the interests of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), according to an Antigua and Barbuda government statement issued in New York.
“As Small Island Developing States and with our nations poised to take up leading roles on the international stage, I believe that we have an obligation to put the interests of SIDS at the forefront,” said Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne in a meeting in New York, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, with the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat.
Both leaders expressed gratitude at the warm relations between the two countries and agreed that both nations face similar challenges regarding development and climate change, the statement said.
Muscat thanked Antigua and Barbuda for its commitment to climate change and its leadership role regarding climate change initiatives within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the statement said.
It said that Muscat hopes Antigua and Barbuda will continue that leadership role into the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.
Browne also utilized the opportunity to introduce Ambassador to the United States Sir Ronald Sanders to Muscat and Sir Ronald’s candidature for the secretary general of the Commonwealth.
Browne also highlighted his desire that the incoming Secretary General of the Commonwealth be “a catalyst for change in reforming the grouping into an organization that can serve to assist the development of member states and generate investment opportunities,” the statement said.
“The secretary general must have this vision, and I believe that Sir Ron is up to the challenge,” Browne said.
The Antiguan leader noted Muscat will become the European Union chair and that he can use this opportunity to further put the interests of SIDS at the forefront.
Additionally, both leaders discussed their respective countries’ Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) and expressed congratulations at the successes of each program, “noting that Malta has the leading CIP in Europe, and Antigua and Barbuda has the leading program in the Caribbean,” the statement said.
It said Malta expressed interest in partnering with the Antiguan government and also investing in the growing energy sector in Antigua and Barbuda, particularly regarding sustainable and green energy. More
Not so long ago, it was science fiction. Now, it’s hard science -- and that should frighten us all. The latest reports from the prestigious and sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make increasingly hair-raising reading, suggesting that the planet is approaching possible moments of irreversible damage in a fashion and at a speed that had not been anticipated.
Scientists have long worried that climate change will not continue to advance in a “linear” fashion, with the planet getting a little bit hotter most years. Instead, they fear, humanity could someday experience “non-linear” climate shifts (also known as “singularities” or “tipping points”) after which there would be sudden and irreversible change of a catastrophic nature. This was the premise of the 2004 climate-disaster film The Day After Tomorrow. In that movie -- most notable for its vivid scenes of a frozen-over New York City -- melting polar ice causes a disruption in the North Atlantic Current, which in turn triggers a series of catastrophic storms and disasters. At the time of its release, many knowledgeable scientists derided the film’s premise, insisting that the confluence of events it portrayed was unlikely or simply impossible.
Fast forward 11 years and the prospect of such calamitous tipping points in the North Atlantic or elsewhere no longer looks improbable. In fact, climate scientists have begun to note early indicators of possible catastrophes.
Take the disruption of the North Atlantic Current, the pivotal event in The Day After Tomorrow. Essentially an extension of the Gulf Stream, that deep-sea current carries relatively warm salty water from the South Atlantic and the Caribbean to the northern reaches of the Atlantic. In the process, it helps keep Europe warmer than it would otherwise be. Once its salty water flows into sub-Arctic areas carried by this prolific stream, it gets colder and heavier, sinks to lower depths, and starts a return trip to warmer climes in the south where the whole process begins again.
So long as this “global conveyor belt” -- known to scientists as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC -- keeps functioning, the Gulf Stream will also continue to bring warmer waters to the eastern United States and Europe. Should it be disrupted, however, the whole system might break down, in which case the Euro-Atlantic climate could turn colder and more storm-prone. Such a disruption might occur if the vast Greenland ice sheet melts in a significant way, as indeed is already beginning to happen today, pouring large quantities of salt-free fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its lighter weight, this newly introduced water will remain close to the surface, preventing the submergence of salty water from the south and so effectively shutting down the conveyor belt. Indeed, exactly this process now seems to be underway. More
The repercussions of climate disruption are still not being acknowledged fully, warned climatologist Dr. James Hansen, addressing an audience of Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation climate activists on September 9.
|Dr. Jim Hansen|
“We’ve now got an emergency,” he told about 150 “elder activists” at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, who were participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day.
Hansen — formerly NASA’s head climate scientist, now adjunct professor at Columbia University — is probably best known for bringing definitive evidence of global warming to Congress in testimony in 1988. In July of this year, he released a report with sixteen co-authors studying glacier melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Unlike previous models, the new report takes into account some feedback loops which may be hastening the loss of ice sheet mass far faster than anticipated.
Time is running out to transition to renewable energy, Hansen said, yet the most “relevant” people in power aren’t aware of the situation’s gravity. “Even people who go around saying, ‘We have a planet in peril,’ don’t get it. Until we’re aware of our future, we can’t deal with it.”
Mass species extinction, extreme weather events, dry spells and fires are climate change impacts which are happening now. A warmer atmosphere and warmer oceans can lead to stronger storms, he explained. Superstorm Sandy, for example, remained a hurricane all the way up the Eastern seaboard to New York because Atlantic waters were abnormally warm.
“Amplifying impacts” and feedback loops will accelerate the changes, according to Hansen. “It will happen faster than you think,” he said. If major coastal cities become “dysfunctional” because of sea level rise, as he believes is possible, the global economy could be in peril of collapse.
It is therefore imperative to stop using coal, oil and gas as energy sources now. “We’ve already burned as much as we can afford,” he said. Fossil fuels already burned will continue to have impacts, because the climate system “has inertia.” “We’ve only felt the warming for half of the gases that are up there,” he said.
The use of fossil fuels is still on the rise in spite of the dangers, he said, because governments subsidize them and don’t make companies bear the real costs to society. The only viable way to make the price of fossil fuels “honest,” in his opinion, is to implement a “fee and dividend” system.
While Hansen denounced “unfettered capitalism”and “scary” trade agreements in the works, he believes government regulation can steer captains of industry onto the right path. “We’ve got to make the system work for us,” he said. “If you properly harness the market, it will work for you.”
He gave an example of incentives and tax breaks for solar panels, which he has on his own home, and how he contributes electricity to the grid. Yet one audience member took issue with a corruption-free scenario. “Come to Virginia, I dare you!” he said. (In Virginia, where Dominion Virginia Power has a stranglehold on state politics, “standby” fees and other barriers stifle solar panel installation by individuals.)
Hansen, a grandparent himself, was the keynote speaker at Grandparents Climate Action Day, an event to mobilize elder activists and promote a policy agenda aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Hansen believes elders possess resources and wisdom which, combined with the zeal of youth, can help find solutions to climate change. “Older people have a lot of clout, a lot of votes, and time,” he said. With more older people getting involved, there will be more pressure to make needed changes.
Fellow speaker John Sorensen, co-founder of the Conscious Elders Network, echoed this point. The 80 million elders in the U.S. — 25 percent of the population — are living longer and healthier lives with more time and resources to devote to activism.
Hansen is supporting a lawsuit in which 21 young people are suing the U.S. government. (One of the plaintiffs is his granddaughter Sophie.) The lawsuit alleges that the federal government knew decades ago that burning fossil fuels and climate were linked, but continued on the same course anyway.
In his testimony for Youth v. Obama, Hansen said, “In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”
The judiciary, he believes, is the only viable recourse left for the younger generation, “because the courts will be less under the thumb of the fossil fuel industry.”
“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.
Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.”
“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.
Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.” More