'Oceans Are Sending Us so Many Warning Signals': New UN Climate Change Report
It's time for low-level coastal communities to head for the hills. Once-in-a-hundred-years sea level events will be an annual occurrence by 2050.
The oceans will rise three feet by 2100, fish will struggle to survive, ocean currents will weaken, snow and ice will start to vanish, and we will need to brace for stronger and wetter hurricanes and harsher El Niño weather systems, according to a new UN report released Tuesday, as the AP reported.
The report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking, warns that warming seas are contributing to a drop in fish populations, and ocean oxygen levels are dropping while acidity levels are starting to spike, which threatens fragile marine ecosystems. The warming waters are also fueling wetter and more intense hurricanes and cyclones, as The New York Times reported. The fact is ocean surface temperatures have been warming steadily since 1970, and for about the past 25 years, they've been warming twice as fast.
"The oceans are sending us so many warning signals that we need to get emissions under control," said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a marine biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and a lead author of the report, to The New York Times. "Ecosystems are changing, food webs are changing, fish stocks are changing, and this turmoil is affecting humans."
The IPCC's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate includes contributions from more than 100 scientists from 36 different countries. It highlights the bleak state of the most remote parts of the world, where rapid thawing of ice sheets and glaciers is changing the landscape of the polar regions and will affect people and animals all around the globe for decades.
This report is unique because for the first time ever, the IPCC has produced an in-depth report examining the furthest corners of the earth — from the highest mountains in remote polar regions to the deepest oceans," said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the IPCC, as CNN reported. "We've found that even and especially in these places, human-caused climate change is evident."
Half of the world's largest cities and nearly 2 billion people around the world live on the coasts. If global heating is restricted to just 2 degrees Celsius, scientists still predict $7 trillion in damage every year and millions of migrants, according to a new study published last week, as The Guardian reported.
"The future for low-lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak," said Jonathan Bamber at Bristol University in the UK, who is not one of the report's authors, to The Guardian. "But the consequences will be felt by all of us. There is plenty to be concerned about for the future of humanity and social order from the headlines in this report."
The report found that of the major ice sheets, Greenland is melting the fastest. When it melts completely, it can add 17-23 feet to sea levels, according to a NASA study published earlier this year. The report found that Greenland has averaged an annual ice loss of 275 gigatons from 2006 to 2015. The Anatarctic ice sheet also saw its ice loss mass triple from 2007 to 2016 compared to the previous decade, as CNN reported.
The IPCC scientists say that changes they see in parts of Antarctica could be the first signs the ice sheet there has reached a point of no return, but they warn that more research is needed.
"If this is true, then there is a chance of a multi-meter sea level rise within the next two to three centuries," said Regine Hock, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a coordinating lead author on chapter two of this IPCC report, as CNN reported. "That is very substantial."
The IPCC report does have suggestions that leaders should take to slow ocean warming and sea level rise. Not surprisingly, the scientists called on world leaders to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, which is the main culprit in the climate crisis. The scientists said the global economy must shift dramatically to reduce emissions, as NPR reported.
The report does say that if greenhouse gas emissions are curtailed immediately, some impacts of ocean acidification could be avoided, according to NPR.
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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