By Alex Kirby
The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.
Melt Ponds Crucial<p>"The prospect of loss of sea ice by 2035 should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."</p><p><a href="http://www.reading.ac.uk/search/search-staff-details.aspx?id=10813" target="_blank">Dr. David Schroeder from the University of Reading</a>, UK, who co-led the implementation of the melt pond scheme in the climate model, says, "This shows just how important sea ice processes like melt ponds are in the Arctic, and why it is crucial that they are incorporated into climate models."</p><p>The extent of the areas <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/characteristics/formation.html" target="_blank">sea ice</a> covers varies between summer and winter. If more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further, a cycle of warming and melting occurs during summer months.</p><p>When the ice forms, the ocean water beneath becomes saltier and denser than the surrounding ocean. Saltier water sinks and moves along the ocean bottom towards the equator, while warm water from mid-depths to the surface travels from the equator towards the poles.</p><p>Scientists refer to this process as the ocean's global "conveyor-belt." Changes to the volume of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, with consequences for global climate. </p>
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
By Tim Radford
Scientists have taken the temperature of the deep seas and found alarming signs of change: ocean warming is prompting many creatures to migrate fast.
Faster Migrants<p>The finding is indirectly supported by a second and unrelated study on the same day in the journal <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-020-1198-2" target="_blank">Nature Ecology & Evolution</a>. French scientists looked at studies of more than 12,000 kinds of the migrations of bacteria, plant, fungus and animal to find that sea creatures are already floating, swimming or crawling towards the poles six times faster than those on land, as a response to global heating driven by profligate human use of fossil fuels.</p><p>So shifts in range can be interpreted as an indicator of the stress on the ocean habitats. This creates complications for conservationists arguing for internationally protected zones – protected from fishing trawl nets, and from submarine mining operations – because, if for no other reason, not only are ocean creatures moving at different speeds at different depths; some of the shifts are in different directions.</p><p>"Significantly reducing carbon emissions is vital to control warming and help take control of climate velocities in the surface layers of the ocean by 2100," said <a href="https://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1567" target="_blank">Anthony Richardson of the University of Queensland</a> in Australia, one of the authors.</p>
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By Tim Radford
Forget about organic farming: get the best out of the best cropland, return the rest to nature and still feed the world. It could work, say researchers.
Nature under threat<p>At the same time, both <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/a-third-of-plants-and-animals-risk-mass-extinction/" target="_blank">climate change driven by global warming</a> and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/humans-put-conservation-reserves-at-risk/" target="_blank">the expansion of the cities and the surrounding farmlands</a> continue to amplify the threat to natural habitats and the millions of species – many yet to be identified and named by science – that depend upon them.</p><p>And this in turn poses a threat to human economies and even human life: almost every resource – antibiotic medicines and drugs, food, waste disposal, <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/wild-plant-ancestors-need-more-protection/" target="_blank">fabrics</a>, building materials and even fresh air and water – evolved in undisturbed ecosystems long before <em>Homo sapiens</em> arrived, and the services each element provides <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/entire-wild-systems-at-risk-from-rising-global-heat/" target="_blank">depend ultimately on the survival of those ecosystems</a>.</p><p>So the challenge is to restore and return to nature <a href="https://www.half-earthproject.org/" target="_blank">around half the land humans already use</a>, while at the same time feeding what could be an additional 2bn people, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions but still <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300" target="_blank">sustaining development</a> in the poorest nations.</p><p>Dr Folberth and his colleagues from Slovakia, France, Belgium, Spain and the UK are <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/win-win-way-to-aid-food-security-and-climate/" target="_blank">not the first to argue that it can be done</a>, and not just by <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/climate-crisis-needs-radical-food-changes/" target="_blank">changing the planetary lunch menu</a>.</p><p>The scientists looked at the data for 16 major crop species around the world to calculate that at least in theory – with careful use of the right crops on the most suitable soils, and with high fertilizer use – about half of the present cropland now cultivated could still deliver the present output.</p><p>That is, the land humans occupy is not being managed efficiently. If it were, the other half could be returned to wilderness, and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/conservation-pays-its-way-handsomely/" target="_blank">conserved as natural forest, grassland or wetland</a>.</p>
Climate benefits<p>If humans then thought about how best to slow biodiversity loss, they would do almost as well by abandoning farmland in those places where there was the greatest concentration of wild things – tropical rain forests, estuary floodplains and mangrove swamps, for instance. And just returning 20% of farmland to nature everywhere else would still reduce human farmland use by 40%.</p><p>In return, fertilizer use would remain about the same, but greenhouse gas emissions and water use would fall, while more land would become free to sequester atmospheric carbon.</p><p>There would be costs – nitrogen pollution would go up in some places, and many rural farmers would become even poorer – so more thinking needs to be done. The point the European researchers want to make is that, in principle, it should be possible to feed people, abandon farmland to the natural world and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/european-union-helped-to-cool-2003-heatwave/" target="_blank">reduce emissions</a> all at the same time.</p><p>"It shows that cropland expansion is not inevitable and there is significant potential for improving present land use efficiency," said <a href="https://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/news/2019/0520-mobersteiner.html" target="_blank">Michael Obersteiner, another author, now at the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford</a>.</p><p>"If the right policies are implemented, measures such as improved production technologies can be just as effective as demand-side measures like <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/less-meat-for-rich-can-cut-heat-and-hunger/" target="_blank">dietary changes</a>. However, in all cases, such a process would need to be steered by policies to avoid unwanted outcomes."</p>
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Cutting out coal-burning and other sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy industry, electricity production and traffic will reduce the size of the world's dead zones along coasts where all fish life is vanishing because of a lack of oxygen.
Investigation needed<p>The good news in their research was that cutting this burning would considerably reduce the size of the dead zones.</p><p>Yu Yan Yau said: "I hope our study brings more attention to the potential benefit of reducing fossil fuel burning on human and ecosystem health, but also on local economic activities like fisheries, which are severely affected by hypoxia."</p><p>Her supervisor, <a href="https://www.earthsciences.hku.hk/people/academic-staff/dr-thibodeau-benoit" target="_blank">Dr Benoit Thibodeau</a>, added: "Low levels of oxygen are observed in many coastal seas around the world and it is important to find better ways to tackle this problem.</p><p>"While we understand that sewage and nutrient input from the Pearl River drive most of the hypoxia in the Greater Bay Area, we observe low levels of oxygen in regions that are not directly under the influence of these sources. Thus it is important to investigate the impact of atmospheric deposition more locally."</p><p>These findings will be important to many countries that are trying to rescue their coastal fisheries from dead zones. There are about 400 of these globally, including <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/3/100305-baltic-sea-algae-dead-zones-water/" target="_blank">parts of Europe's Baltic Sea</a>.</p>
Industrial impact<p>The largest is in the Arabian Sea, covering about 63,000 square miles, and the second largest a vast area in the Gulf of Mexico next to the Mississippi Delta, where a dead zone devoid of marine life develops every summer.</p><p>Every year winter rains wash fertilizer from fields in the US corn belt into the river. Combined with sewage overflows, this creates a huge quantity of nutrients that sweep down the river into the sea.</p><p>Depending on the size of the winter floods, scientists try to predict the extent of the resultant dead zone. However, the banks of the lower river are also crowded with heavy industrial sites, many burning large quantities of fossil fuels and creating large amounts of NOx, something that previously has not been taken into account.</p><p>If the Hong Kong research is correct, then cutting the pollution from these industries will also reduce the size of the Mississippi's dead zone.</p>
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By Paul Brown
The amount of energy generated by tides and waves in the last decade has increased tenfold. Now governments around the world are planning to scale up these ventures to tap into the oceans' vast store of blue energy.
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By Nivedita Khandekar
After decades of concentrating on economic development and insisting that global warming was mainly a problem for the more industrially-developed countries to solve, Indian industry is at last facing up to dangers posed to its own future by climate change.
Climate Disasters<p>Although there have been many individual initiatives in India on climate change, and there has been government support for renewables, particularly solar power, efforts so far have been fragmented.</p><p>State and national governments, individual departments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and academics have all worked separately, and sometimes in opposition to each other.</p><p>The scale of the task facing India is underlined by the fact it has taken two years to get the ICC up and running. However, with India <a href="https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/20-2-01e%20Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202020_10.pdf" target="_blank">ranked fifth in the Global Climate Risk Index 2019</a> and facing one climate disaster after another — sometimes simultaneous extreme weather events — these organizations have agreed that the issue can no longer be ignored.</p>
Cross-Purposes<p>There is some concern that while the India government is represented on the ICC by <a href="https://www.icts.res.in/news/prof-k-vijayraghavan-appointed-principal-scientific-advisor-government-india" target="_blank">Prof K. VijayRaghavan</a>, its Principle Scientific Adviser, there is no representation from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC), which represents the country at the climate talks.</p><p>Critics claim that this is particularly worrying because the various government departments are already seen as not working together, or often working at cross-purposes.</p><p>There are also fears that there is lack of community involvement, particularly the farmers, who are the largest single group most affected by adverse weather conditions caused by climate change.</p><p>However, <a href="https://idronline.org/contributor/shloka-nath/" target="_blank">Shloka Nath</a>, executive director of the ICC and head of Sustainability and Special Projects at the Tata Trust, says the ICC plans to work with the MoEFCC to reach representatives of civil society and bring them into the process.</p><p>"It is through them [the ministry] that we plan to reach out to the community," she says. "The people will be very much involved."</p><p>Despite these shortcomings, <a href="https://www.chandrabhushan.net/" target="_blank">Chandra Bhushan</a>, President and CEO of the <a href="https://www.iforest.global/" target="_blank">International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology</a> (iFOREST), welcomes the idea. He says: "It is for the first time that Indian companies are understanding climate change and willing to invest in it."</p>
By Alex Kirby
If you really want to tackle the climate emergency, there's one simple but often forgotten essential: throw your weight behind schools for girls, and ensure adult women can rely on the chance of an education.
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By Tim Radford
The Texan city of Houston is about to grow in unexpected ways, thanks to the rising tides. So will Dallas. Real estate agents in Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; and Las Vegas, Nevada could expect to do roaring business.
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By Kieran Cooke
Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.
Powering Local Shops<p>Banks of old EV batteries could store power: they could be used to store energy to feed into the electricity grid or directly into buildings. In Japan the Toyota car company has pioneered <a href="https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/corporate/22833613.html?padid=ag478_from_kv" target="_blank">a scheme which hooks up old EV batteries with solar panels</a> to power convenience stores.</p><p>In 2017 more than a million EVs were sold worldwide. The study estimates that when those cars reach the end of the road they will produce 250,000 tonnes of discarded battery packs. It's vital, say the study's authors, that this problem be addressed now.</p><p>It's estimated that <a href="https://cleantechnica.com/2020/01/18/fossil-vehicle-sales-in-global-freefall-down-4-7-in-2019-electric-vehicle-sales-continue-to-grow/" target="_blank">EV global sales combined with sales of plug-in hybrid cars amounted to more than 2.2 million last year</a>. At the same time, sales of fossil fuel cars have been falling.</p><p>All the big vehicle manufacturers are <a href="https://autovistagroup.com/news-and-insights/more-evs-way-co2-targets-cause-rush-development" target="_blank">making heavy commitments to EV manufacturing</a>. Deloitte, the market research group, <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/manufacturing/deloitte-uk-battery-electric-vehicles.pdf" target="_blank">forecasts global EV sales rising to 12 million in 2025</a> and to more than 20 million by 2030. It predicts that as economies of scale are achieved and costs of manufacturing batteries decline, the price of EVs will fall.<em></em></p>
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By Paul Brown
Virtually all the world's demand for electricity to run transport and to heat and cool homes and offices, as well as to provide the power demanded by industry, could be met by renewable energy by mid-century.
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By Paul Brown
If it is to achieve its target of net zero climate emissions by 2050, all UK airports must close by mid-century and the country will have to make other drastic and fundamental lifestyle changes, says a report from a research group backed by the government in London.
By Paul Brown
The latest science shows how the pace of sea level rise is speeding up, fueling fears that not only millions of homes will be under threat, but that vulnerable installations like docks and power plants will be overwhelmed by the waves.