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Scientists, Governments Discuss Crucial IPCC Report on Climate Change

Climate
Aerial Photos of flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. S.C. Air National Guard

The United Nations' 48th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) opened its crucial meeting in Incheon, South Korea on Monday to deliver the authoritative, scientific guide for governments to stave off disastrous climate change.

"This is one of the most important meetings in the IPCC's history," chair Hoesung Lee of South Korea said in his opening remarks.


South Korea is a fitting host country for the session after experiencing its hottest summer on record, highest ever number of daytime heatwaves and tropical nights and new maximum temperature record of above 40°C (104°C) in 2018, the World Meteorological Organization noted.

The landmark Paris agreement set a warming limit of "well below 2°C" over pre-Industrial Revolution levels with an aspirational 1.5°C target to avoid dangerous climate effects such as sea level rise, extreme weather and droughts.

After adopting the Paris accord in 2015, governments commissioned the IPCC to prepare a Special Report, or SR15, on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Earlier drafts of the report warn that human-induced warming will exceed 1.5°C by around 2040 if emissions continue at their present rate. Additionally, only "rapid and far-reaching" changes in the world economy can keep global warming below the internationally agreed target barrier, the draft said.

At this week's meeting, IPCC scientists and government delegates will work together to distill the special report into a 15-page Summary for Policymakers, due for publication on Oct. 8, according to BBC News.

The diplomats might find themselves in the "awkward position of vetting and validating a major UN scientific report that underscores the failure of their governments to take stronger action on climate," Agence France Presse wrote.

Notably, this is the first IPCC report to be released since President Donald Trump's announcement to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement last year. The U.S. is one of the world's largest single emitters of greenhouse gases.

"This is the first report coming up for approval since the Trump administration took office," Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, and an IPCC author on a another report-in-progress, told AFP.

It's not clear how the U.S. government will respond to the report. However, a State Department spokesperson told AFP that veteran climate diplomat Trigg Talley will head the U.S. delegation, which another veteran IPCC author called "reassuring."

"Never in the history of the IPCC has there been a report that is so politically charged," Henri Waisman, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, and one of the report's 86 authors, added to AFP.

Last week, The Washington Post revealed that the Trump administration not only acknowledges the existence of climate change, but also predicts that Earth will inevitably warm by as much as 7°F (4°C) by 2100.

As EcoWatch wrote, the 7°F estimate is based on what scientists predict will happen if no meaningful action is taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In such a world, ocean acidification would devastate coral reefs, parts of Miami and New York City would be underwater and large parts of the world would regularly suffer from extreme heat waves.

Greenpeace International said the IPCC's special report must finally spark governments into action to avoid climate catastrophe.

"We are on the edge and the climate impacts that scientists warned us about decades ago are here. This is our new reality," the organization's executive director Jennifer Morgan said in a press release. "This IPCC report will make clear the choices and the trade-offs. For decision makers around the world, it is now their responsibility to listen and step up with real climate leadership."

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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