Region: Antarctica and the Arctic


 An Unusually Warm Arctic Year: <br />Sign of Future Climate Turmoil?

Interview

An Unusually Warm Arctic Year:
Sign of Future Climate Turmoil?

by fen montaigne
This year will almost certainly go down as the warmest on record in the Arctic, with autumn temperatures soaring 36 degrees F above normal. In a Yale e360 interview, climatologist Jennifer Francis explains why a swiftly warming Arctic may have profound effects on global weather.
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Full Speed Ahead: Shipping <br />Plans Grow as Arctic Ice Fades

Report

Full Speed Ahead: Shipping
Plans Grow as Arctic Ice Fades

by ed struzik
Russia, China, and other nations are stepping up preparations for the day when large numbers of cargo ships will be traversing a once-icebound Arctic Ocean. But with vessels already plying these waters, experts say the time is now to prepare for the inevitable environmental fallout.
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The Methane Riddle: What Is <br />Causing the Rise in Emissions?

Analysis

The Methane Riddle: What Is
Causing the Rise in Emissions?

by fred pearce
The cause of the rapid increase in methane emissions since 2007 has puzzled scientists. But new research finds some surprising culprits in the methane surge and shows that fossil-fuel sources have played a much larger role over time than previously estimated.
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High Stakes on the High Seas: <br />A Call for International Reserves

Report

High Stakes on the High Seas:
A Call for International Reserves

by nicola jones
Marine protected areas in national waters have proven successful in helping depleted fish stocks to recover. Now, there is growing momentum for the creation of extensive reserves on the high seas as a way of reversing decades of rampant overfishing.
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How Climate Change Could Jam <br />The World's Ocean Circulation

Analysis

How Climate Change Could Jam
The World's Ocean Circulation

by nicola jones
Scientists are closely monitoring a key current in the North Atlantic to see if rising sea temperatures and increased freshwater from melting ice are altering the “ocean conveyor belt” — a vast oceanic stream that plays a major role in the global climate system.
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What Would a Global Warming <br />Increase of 1.5 Degrees Be Like?

Analysis

What Would a Global Warming
Increase of 1.5 Degrees Be Like?

by fred pearce
The Paris climate conference set the ambitious goal of finding ways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than the previous threshold of 2 degrees. But what would be the difference between a 1.5 and 2 degree world? And how realistic is such a target?
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Interview

Why CO2 'Air Capture' Could Be
Key to Slowing Global Warming

by richard schiffman
Physicist Klaus Lackner has long advocated deploying devices that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to combat climate change. Now, as emissions keep soaring, Lackner says in a Yale Environment 360 interview that such “air capture” approaches may be our last best hope.
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After Paris, A Move to Rein In <br />Emissions by Ships and Planes

Analysis

After Paris, A Move to Rein In
Emissions by Ships and Planes

by fred pearce
As the world moves to slash CO2 emissions, the shipping and aviation sectors have managed to remain on the sidelines. But the pressure is now on these two major polluting industries to start controlling their emissions at last.
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Abrupt Sea Level Rise Looms <br />As Increasingly Realistic Threat

Analysis

Abrupt Sea Level Rise Looms
As Increasingly Realistic Threat

by nicola jones
Ninety-nine percent of the planet's freshwater ice is locked up in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Now, a growing number of studies are raising the possibility that as those ice sheets melt, sea levels could rise by six feet this century, and far higher in the next, flooding many of the world's populated coastal areas.
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How Nations Are Chipping <br /> Away at Their Protected Lands

Analysis

How Nations Are Chipping
Away at Their Protected Lands

by richard conniff
Winning protected status for key natural areas and habitat has long been seen as the gold standard of conservation. But these gains are increasingly being compromised as governments redraw park boundaries to accommodate mining, logging, and other development.
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Climate Change Adds Urgency <br /> To Push to Save World’s Seeds

Report

Climate Change Adds Urgency
To Push to Save World’s Seeds

by virginia gewin
In the face of rising temperatures and worsening drought, the world’s repositories of agricultural seeds may hold the key to growing food under increasingly harsh conditions. But keeping these gene banks safe and viable is a complicated and expensive challenge.
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Can We Reduce CO2 Emissions<br /> And Grow the Global Economy?

Analysis

Can We Reduce CO2 Emissions
And Grow the Global Economy?

by fred pearce
Surprising new statistics show that the world economy is expanding while global carbon emissions remain at the same level. Is it possible that the elusive “decoupling” of emissions and economic growth could be happening?
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How Satellites and Big Data<br /> Can Help to Save the Oceans

Opinion

How Satellites and Big Data
Can Help to Save the Oceans

by douglas mccauley
With new marine protected areas and an emerging U.N. treaty, global ocean conservation efforts are on the verge of a major advance. But to enforce these ambitious initiatives, new satellite-based technologies and newly available online data must be harnessed.
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Interview

For James Hansen, the Science
Demands Activism on Climate

by katherine bagley
Climate scientist James Hansen has crossed the classic divide between research and activism. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he responds to critics and explains why he believes the reality of climate change requires him to speak out.
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Interview

How Ocean Noise Pollution
Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

by richard schiffman
Marine scientist Christopher Clark has spent his career listening in on what he calls “the song of life” in the world’s oceans. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains how these marine habitats are under assault from extreme—but preventable—noise pollution.
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Is Climate Change Putting <br /> World's Microbiomes at Risk?

Report

Is Climate Change Putting
World's Microbiomes at Risk?

by jim robbins
Researchers are only beginning to understand the complexities of the microbes in the earth’s soil and the role they play in fostering healthy ecosystems. Now, climate change is threatening to disrupt these microbes and the key functions they provide.
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Food Insecurity: Arctic Heat<br /> Is Threatening Indigenous Life

Report

Food Insecurity: Arctic Heat
Is Threatening Indigenous Life

by ed struzik
Subsistence hunters in the Arctic have long taken to the sea ice to hunt seals, whales, and polar bears. But now, as the ice disappears and soaring temperatures alter the life cycles and abundance of their prey, a growing number of indigenous communities are facing food shortages.
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The Carbon Counters: Tracking <br /> Emissions in a Post-Paris World

Report

The Carbon Counters: Tracking
Emissions in a Post-Paris World

by nicola jones
In the wake of the Paris climate agreement, developing countries find themselves in need of analysts capable of monitoring their emissions. It’s a complex task, but organizations are stepping in with online courses to train these new green accountants.
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The Rapid and Startling Decline<br /> Of World’s Vast Boreal Forests

Report

The Rapid and Startling Decline
Of World’s Vast Boreal Forests

by jim robbins
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the huge boreal forest that spans from Scandinavia to northern Canada. Unprecedented warming in the region is jeopardizing the future of a critical ecosystem that makes up nearly a third of the earth’s forest cover.
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Northern Forests Emerge <br />As the New Global Tinderbox

Report

Northern Forests Emerge
As the New Global Tinderbox

by ed struzik
Rapidly rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and increased lightning strikes are leading to ever-larger wildfires in the northern forests of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, with potentially severe ecological consequences.
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Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean: <br />A Push into Uncharted Waters

Analysis

Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean:
A Push into Uncharted Waters

by ed struzik
As the U.S. and Russia take the first steps to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, experts say the harsh climate, icy seas, and lack of infrastructure means a sizeable oil spill would be very difficult to clean up and could cause extensive environmental damage.
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Loss of Snowpack and Glaciers<br /> In Rockies Poses Water Threat

Report

Loss of Snowpack and Glaciers
In Rockies Poses Water Threat

by ed struzik
From the Columbia River basin in the U.S. to the Prairie Provinces of Canada, scientists and policy makers are confronting a future in which the loss of snow and ice in the Rocky Mountains could imperil water supplies for agriculture, cities and towns, and hydropower production.
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Interview

Examining How Marine Life
Might Adapt to Acidified Oceans

by elizabeth grossman
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Gretchen Hofmann discusses how well mollusks and other shell-building organisms might evolve to live in increasingly corrosive ocean conditions caused by soaring CO2 emissions.
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Scientists Focus on Polar Waters <br />As Threat of Acidification Grows

Report

Scientists Focus on Polar Waters
As Threat of Acidification Grows

by jo chandler
A sophisticated and challenging experiment in Antarctica is the latest effort to study ocean acidification in the polar regions, where frigid waters are expected to feel most acutely the ecological impacts of acidic conditions not seen in millions of years.
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Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on <br />Russia and the Climate Struggle

Interview

Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on
Russia and the Climate Struggle

by diane toomey
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, the outspoken executive director of Greenpeace discusses why his organization’s activists braved imprisonment in Russia to stop Arctic oil drilling and what needs to be done to make a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward a green energy economy.
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No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers<br /> The Remote Shores of Alaska

Opinion

No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers
The Remote Shores of Alaska

by carl safina
A marine biologist traveled to southwestern Alaska in search of ocean trash that had washed up along a magnificent coast rich in fish, birds, and other wildlife. He and his colleagues found plenty of trash – as much as a ton of garbage per mile on some beaches.
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China’s New Arctic Presence<br /> Signals Future Development

Report

China’s New Arctic Presence
Signals Future Development

by ed struzik
China’s recent admission to the Arctic Council under observer status reflects a new reality: the world’s economic powers now regard development of natural resources and commerce in an increasingly ice-free Arctic as a top priority.
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Will Bold Steps Be Needed to<br /> Save Beleaguered Polar Bears?

Report

Will Bold Steps Be Needed to
Save Beleaguered Polar Bears?

by ed struzik
In a new paper, the world’s leading polar bear scientists say the time has come to consider drastic measures to save these iconic animals, including supplemental feeding by humans during ice-free periods and relocating more southerly populations to the High Arctic.
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An Obsessive Quest to Document<br /> Earth’s Disappearing Glaciers

Report

An Obsessive Quest to Document
Earth’s Disappearing Glaciers

For the past six years, photographer James Balog has deployed dozens of time-lapse cameras around the world to chronicle one of the starkest examples of global warming — melting glaciers. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Balog talks about his passion to capture these vanishing landscapes.
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As Arctic Melts, Inuit Face<br /> Tensions with Outside World

Report

As Arctic Melts, Inuit Face
Tensions with Outside World

by ed struzik
With Arctic summer sea ice rapidly disappearing, the native Inuit of Canada are encountering not only unsettling changes in their subsistence way of life, but also a growing number of outsiders who will further transform their once-isolated homeland.
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Arctic Tipping Point:<br /> A North Pole Without Ice

Report

Arctic Tipping Point:
A North Pole Without Ice

by fen montaigne
Scientists say this year’s record declines in Arctic sea ice extent and volume are powerful evidence that the giant cap of ice at the top of the planet is on a trajectory to largely disappear in summer within a decade or two, with profound global consequences.
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Melting Sea Ice Could Lead<br /> To Pressure on Arctic Fishery

Report

Melting Sea Ice Could Lead
To Pressure on Arctic Fishery

by ed struzik
With melting sea ice opening up previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean, the fishing industry sees a potential bonanza. But some scientists and government officials have begun calling for a moratorium on fishing in the region until the true state of the Arctic fishery is assessed.
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Linking Weird Weather to<br /> Rapid Warming of the Arctic

Analysis

Linking Weird Weather to
Rapid Warming of the Arctic

by jennifer francis
The loss of Arctic summer sea ice and the rapid warming of the Far North are altering the jet stream over North America, Europe, and Russia. Scientists are now just beginning to understand how these profound shifts may be increasing the likelihood of more persistent and extreme weather.
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As Arctic Sea Ice Declines,<br /> Polar Bear Patrol Gets Busy

Report

As Arctic Sea Ice Declines,
Polar Bear Patrol Gets Busy

by ed struzik
Polar bears have long come ashore in Churchill, Manitoba, the self-styled ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World.’ But as summer sea ice steadily disappears in Hudson Bay, bears are being marooned on land for longer periods of time — and that is generating a lot of work for the Polar Bear Alert Team.
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Mysteries of Killer Whales<br /> Uncovered in the Antarctic

Dispatch

Mysteries of Killer Whales
Uncovered in the Antarctic

by fen montaigne
Two of the world’s leading experts on the world’s top marine predator are now in Antarctica, tagging and photographing a creature whose remarkably cooperative hunting behavior and transmission of knowledge across generations may be rivaled only by humans.
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A Vast Canadian Wilderness<br /> Poised for a Uranium Boom

Report

A Vast Canadian Wilderness
Poised for a Uranium Boom

by ed struzik
Canada’s Nunavut Territory is the largest undisturbed wilderness in the Northern Hemisphere. It also contains large deposits of uranium, generating intense interest from mining companies and raising concerns that a mining boom could harm the caribou at the center of Inuit life.
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A World Centered on Sea Ice<br /> Is Changing Swiftly at the Poles

Analysis

A World Centered on Sea Ice
Is Changing Swiftly at the Poles

by fen montaigne
For eons, the polar marine food chain has been closely linked to the seasonal formation and retreat of sea ice. Now, as that ice rapidly melts in the Arctic and along the Antarctic Peninsula, this intricate web of life is undergoing major shifts, benefiting some creatures and putting others at risk.
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As Arctic Sea Ice Retreats,<br /> Storms Take Toll on the Land

Report

As Arctic Sea Ice Retreats,
Storms Take Toll on the Land

by ed struzik
For millennia, the blanket of ice covering the Arctic Ocean protected the shore from damaging storms. But as that ice buffer disappears, increasingly powerful storm surges are eroding the coastline and sending walls of seawater inland, devastating Arctic ecosystems that support abundant wildlife.
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Arctic Roamers: The Move of<br /> Southern Species into Far North

Report

Arctic Roamers: The Move of
Southern Species into Far North

by ed struzik
Grizzly bears mating with polar bears. Red foxes out-competing Arctic foxes. Exotic diseases making their way into once-isolated polar realms. These are just some of the worrisome phenomena now occurring as Arctic temperatures soar and the Arctic Ocean, a once-impermeable barrier, melts.
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As the Arctic Ocean Melts,<br /> A Refuge Plan for the Polar Bear

Interview

As the Arctic Ocean Melts,
A Refuge Plan for the Polar Bear

With the Arctic Ocean heading toward a largely ice-free state in summer, scientists are looking for areas that may help preserve ice-dependent creatures. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, geologist Stephanie Pfirman talks about the need for a refuge north of Canada and Greenland that researchers say could be a kind of Noah’s Ark in the age of global warming.
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The Warming of Antarctica:<br /> A Citadel of Ice Begins to Melt

Report

The Warming of Antarctica:
A Citadel of Ice Begins to Melt

by fen montaigne
The fringes of the coldest continent are starting to feel the heat, with the northern Antarctic Peninsula warming faster than virtually any place on Earth. These rapidly rising temperatures represent the first breach in the enormous frozen dome that holds 90 percent of the world’s ice.
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A Troubling Decline in the<br /> Caribou Herds of the Arctic

Report

A Troubling Decline in the
Caribou Herds of the Arctic

by ed struzik
Across the Far North, populations of caribou — an indispensable source of food and clothing for indigenous people — are in steep decline. Scientists point to rising temperatures and a resource-development boom as the prime culprits.
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For Hudson Bay Polar Bears,<br /> The End is Already in Sight

Interview

For Hudson Bay Polar Bears,
The End is Already in Sight

The polar bear has long been a symbol of the damage wrought by global warming, but now biologist Andrew Derocher and his colleagues have calculated how long one southerly population can hold out. Their answer? No more than a few decades, as the bears’ decline closely tracks that of the Arctic’s disappearing sea ice.
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High Above the Earth,<br /> Satellites Track Melting Ice

Report

High Above the Earth,
Satellites Track Melting Ice

by michael d. lemonick
The surest sign of a warming Earth is the steady melting of its ice zones, from disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to shrinking glaciers worldwide. Now, scientists are using increasingly sophisticated satellite technology to measure the extent, thickness, and height of ice, assembling an essential picture of a planet in transition.
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As the Far North Melts,<br /> Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty

Analysis

As the Far North Melts,
Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty

by ed struzik
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a warning, conservationists say, of what could happen in the Arctic as melting sea ice opens the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas drilling. Many experts argue that the time has come to adopt an Arctic Treaty similar to the one that has safeguarded Antarctica for half a century.
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Unlocking Secrets from the Ice<br /> In a Rapidly Warming Region

Interview

Unlocking Secrets from the Ice
In a Rapidly Warming Region

Earlier this year, climatologist Ellen Mosley-Thompson led an expedition to drill into glacial ice on the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the world’s fastest-warming regions. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Mosley-Thompson explains what the Antarctic ice cores may reveal and describes what it’s like working in the world’s swiftly melting ice zones.
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How High Will Seas Rise?<br /> Get Ready for Seven Feet

Opinion

How High Will Seas Rise?
Get Ready for Seven Feet

by rob young and orrin pilkey
As governments, businesses, and homeowners plan for the future, they should assume that the world’s oceans will rise by at least two meters — roughly seven feet — this century. But far too few agencies or individuals are preparing for the inevitable increase in sea level that will take place as polar ice sheets melt.
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Climate Threat to Polar Bears:<br /> Despite Facts, Doubters Remain

Analysis

Climate Threat to Polar Bears:
Despite Facts, Doubters Remain

by ed struzik
Wildlife biologists and climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that the disappearance of Arctic sea ice will lead to a sharp drop in polar bear populations. But some skeptics remain unconvinced, and they have managed to persuade the Canadian government not to take key steps to protect the animals.
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Tracking the Fallout<br /> of the Arctic’s Vanishing Sea Ice

Interview

Tracking the Fallout
of the Arctic’s Vanishing Sea Ice

Julienne Stroeve, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, has been closely monitoring the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains how the repercussions of that disappearance will be felt throughout the far north and, eventually, the entire hemisphere.audio
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As Effects of Warming Grow,<br /> UN Report is Quickly Dated

Analysis

As Effects of Warming Grow,
UN Report is Quickly Dated

by michael d. lemonick
Issued less than two years ago, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a voluminous and impressive document. Yet key portions of the report are already out of date, as evidence shows the impacts of warming intensifying from the Arctic to Antarctica.
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Keeping a Watchful Eye<br /> on Unstable Antarctic Ice

Interview

Keeping a Watchful Eye
on Unstable Antarctic Ice

NASA’s Robert Bindschadler, a leading expert on glaciers and ice sheets, is part of an international team monitoring a large and fast-moving glacier in West Antarctica. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains the dramatic impact this unstable mass of ice could have on global sea levels.
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Melting Arctic Ocean Raises Threat of ‘Methane Time Bomb’

Report

Melting Arctic Ocean Raises Threat of ‘Methane Time Bomb’

by susan q. stranahan
Scientists have long believed that thawing permafrost in Arctic soils could release huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Now they are watching with increasing concern as methane begins to bubble up from the bottom of the fast-melting Arctic Ocean.
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Saving the Seeds of the<br /> Next Green Revolution

Analysis

Saving the Seeds of the
Next Green Revolution

by fred pearce
With food prices skyrocketing and climate change looming, the world needs a green revolution like the one a generation ago. But many valuable seed varieties have been lost – and scientists now are scrambling to protect those that remain before they vanish down the genetic drain.
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The Arctic Resource Rush is On

Report

The Arctic Resource Rush is On

by ed struzik
As the Arctic's sea ice melts, energy and mining companies are moving into previously inaccessible regions to tap the abundant riches that lie beneath the permafrost and the ocean floor. The potential environmental impacts are troubling.
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Opinion

The Ethics of Climate Change

by richard c. j. somerville
When it comes to setting climate change policy, science can only tell us so much. Ultimately, a lead report author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes, it comes down to making judgments about what is fair, equitable, and just.
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Interview: Unusually Warm Arctic
May Have Impact on Global Weather

This year will almost certainly go down as the warmest on record in the Arctic, with autumn temperatures soaring 36 degrees F above historic norms.
Jennifer Francis

Jennifer Francis
Among the climate scientists attempting to make sense of the rapid changes sweeping the Arctic is Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University. Francis has propounded the widely discussed theory that swiftly rising temperatures in the Arctic, which are closely intertwined with the loss of sea ice, are changing the shape of the jet stream and altering the weather of the northern hemisphere. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Francis explains why large portions of the Arctic are experiencing temperatures more typical of New York City and warns that we ignore climate upheaval at the North Pole at our own peril. "The speed of the change is what is very disturbing to me," says Francis, "because it's such an indicator of what's happening to the planet as a whole."
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

30 Nov 2016: Soils Could Release 55 Trillion
Kilograms of Carbon By Mid-Century

The world’s soils act as critical storage for carbon, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to fuel plant and microbial activity.

Permafrost in Greenland.
But scientists warned this week that as soils warm in response to climate change, they could release 55 trillion kilograms of carbon by mid-century — roughly equivalent to the projected emissions of the United States, or 17 percent of all countries, during that same period. The largest losses will be from high-latitude ecosystems, the new study, led by scientists at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and published in the journal Nature, said. This includes Arctic and sub-Arctic permafrost, where colder temperatures and slow microbial activity have led to the buildup of massive carbon reserves over thousands of years. The scientists found that for every 1 degree Celsius of global warming, soils will release approximately 30 trillion kilograms of carbon into the atmosphere, or twice the annual emissions from human activities.
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22 Nov 2016: Freakishly Warm Weather
Is Preventing Sea Ice Formation in Arctic

Scientists are watching with growing alarm as exceptionally warm air and ocean temperatures are effectively holding winter at bay throughout much of the Arctic, leading to record low sea ice conditions. Researchers in the U.S., Britain, and Denmark say that air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean have been about 10 to 20 degrees C (18 to 36 F) above normal this fall, while sea temperatures have been nearly 4 C (7 F) higher than usual in October and November. As a result, sea ice simply isn’t forming in much of the Arctic basin, which further heats up the atmosphere and ocean since dark, open water absorbs far more solar radiation than the reflective white surface of ice and snow. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University said the region’s temperatures are now “literally off the charts.” Danish satellite remote sensing expert Rasmus Tonboe said the situation in the Arctic is both “surprising and alarming” because sea ice is disappearing faster than climate models had forecast.
PERMALINK

 

11 Nov 2016: Just 1 Degree C of Warming Has
Altered Nearly Every Aspect of Life on Earth

Climate change has already impacted nearly every aspect of life on earth, according to a new study in the journal Science.

A bearded seal near Monaco Glacier, Svalbard.
Warming global temperatures have altered everything from entire ecosystems down to the individual genes of species. Some 80 percent of key ecological processes examined by the scientists show signs of change and distress. The disruptions could lead to unpredictable fisheries yields, reduced agricultural productivity, worsening pests and disease outbreaks, and “point toward an increasingly unpredictable future for humans,” the authors wrote. "There is now clear evidence that, with only a ~1 degree C of warming globally, very major impacts are already being felt," said lead author Brett Scheffers, an ecologist at the University of Florida. "Species' physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are rapidly moving to keep track of suitable climate space, and there are now signs of entire ecosystems under stress."
PERMALINK

 

28 Oct 2016: Nations Create World’s Largest
Marine Protected Area Near Antarctica

Two dozen nations and the European Union have agreed to set aside 600,000 square miles of ocean for protection near Antarctica,

Adelie penguins in the Southern Ocean.
creating the world’s largest marine park. The international agreement, which took more than five years to broker, will protect a large portion of the Ross Sea, located in the Southern Ocean. Scientists estimate that the Southern Ocean generates 75 percent of nutrients in the world’s oceans; it is also home to more than 10,000 species. Commercial fishing will be banned in the new marine park for 35 years, though scientists will be able to catch limited krill and other species in designated research zones. "The Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet — home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
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19 Sep 2016: Arctic Sea Ice Extent in 2016 Ties
As Second Lowest in the Satellite Record

Arctic sea ice extent shrank to 1.6 million square miles earlier this month — tying 2016 with 2007 as the second lowest sea ice minimum since satellite records began.

Sea ice extent in September 2016.
The lowest year remains 2012. The new measurements follow a decades-long trend of declining sea ice extent in the Arctic as global temperatures rise. According to NASA, “September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.” The ten lowest sea ice extents have all happened in the last ten years. Since 2016 is considered likely to be the warmest year on record, scientists had anticipated an even worse year for sea ice. But “unusually cool, cloudy conditions” in the region for much of the summer helped reduce ice melt, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
PERMALINK

 

01 Sep 2016: Newly Discovered Fossils Break
Record, Dating Back 3.7 Billion Years Ago

Geologists have found fossils in Greenland dating back 3.7 billion years — the oldest evidence of life on earth discovered to date. The layers of stromatolites, which are made up of fossilized microbes,

3.7 billion-year-old fossils found in Greenland.
were found in the world’s oldest sedimentary rocks, the Isua supracrustal belt along the edge of the Greenland ice cap. They predate the previous fossil record holder by roughly 220 million years, according to Allen Nutman, a geologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia and lead author of the new findings, published in the journal Nature this week. The fossils “indicate that as long as 3.7 billion years ago, microbial life was already diverse,” said Nutman. “This diversity shows that life emerged within the first few hundred millions years of Earth’s existence, which is in keeping with biologists’ calculations showing the great antiquity of life’s genetic code.”
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24 Aug 2016: How Elephant Seals Are
Helping Scientists Study Climate Change

A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitor how climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent.

An elephant seal wearing a data tracker.
Most recently, data from the seals — which routinely dive to depths of 1,000 to 2,000 feet — showed that water melting off the Antarctic ice sheet is causing the surrounding seas to become less salty, disrupting a conveyor belt-like system that transfers heat and nutrients around the globe. The new findings were published this week in the journal Nature Communications. The elephant seal data, as well as records from monitoring devices on other marine mammals, have generated more than 500,000 vertical profiles of temperature and salinity in the world’s oceans and helped inform nearly 100 scientific studies. “"At the moment it's all about filling gaps” in the environmental records, lead author Guy Williams of the University of Tasmania told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “The [seals] have gone to areas where we've never had an observation before."
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16 Aug 2016: July Was the Hottest Month on
Record, Continuing Steak of High Temps

July was the world’s hottest month since modern temperature record keeping began in 1880, according to new NASA data released this week.

July 2016 temperatures compared to average.
July measured 1.27 degrees F above the 1951-1980 average, and 0.2 degrees F above July 2015, the previous record. This year has seen a streak of record-breaking monthly temperatures, fueled by a strong El Niño and climate change. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said on Twitter that 2016 now has a 99 percent chance of being the hottest year on record. If that happens, it will be the third such year in a row, reported Climate Central. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since the start of the 21st century.
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05 Aug 2016: Melting Ice Sheet Could Expose
Abandoned U.S. Arctic Military Base

The rapidly melting Greenland ice sheet could unearth a secret, Cold War-era military base as early as next century, according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Camp Century was built in 1959 to

Entrance to Camp Century.
explore whether the U.S. could covertly deploy ballistic missiles from within the ice sheet, a mission known as Project Iceworm. By 1967, the military had abandoned the base with little clean up, expecting it would be naturally entombed as snow and ice continued to accumulate on the Greenland ice cap. But warming global temperatures mean that ice loss in this frigid area of northwestern Greenland could exceed gains from new snowfall within 75 years, the study found. The hidden base could be exposed just a few decades later, along with all of the “physical, chemical, biological, and radiological wastes abandoned at the site,” the authors wrote.
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04 Aug 2016: UNESCO Moves To Expand
World Heritage Sites Into the Deep Ocean

UNESCO has launched a campaign to include deep-sea ecosystems in its list of World Heritage Sites. Previously, only sites within national jurisdiction,

A Dumbo octopus in the deep sea.
either on land or close to shore, could be given heritage status and UNESCO protection. But ecosystems within the open ocean, which covers more than half the planet, deserve similar classification, UNESCO says. In a new report, World Heritage in the High Seas: An Idea Whose Time Has Come, the organization presents five biodiversity hotspots—many of which are at risk from climate change, pollution, over-fishing, and deep-sea mining—worthy of recognition: the Costa Rica Thermal Dome; the White Shark Café, a shark gathering point in the Pacific Ocean; the Sargasso Sea; the Lost City Hydrothermal Field, with its 200-foot carbonate towers, in the Atlantic Ocean; and the Atlantis Bank, a sunken fossil island, in the Indian Ocean.
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02 Aug 2016: Anthrax Outbreak in Northern
Russia Linked to Rising Global Temperatures

Soaring Arctic temperatures have released anthrax long frozen in the Russian tundra, sickening scores of nomadic herders, including 50 children, and killing one 12-year-old boy, according to news reports. More than 2,300 reindeer have also died from the disease, known locally as the “Siberian plague.” Anthrax spores can lie dormant in frozen permafrost, animals, and human remains for hundreds of years, and eventually seep into groundwater during a thaw. The last anthrax outbreak in northern Russian happened 75 years ago, in 1941. Temperatures in the Yamal Peninsula, located 1,200 northeast of Moscow, reached 95 degrees F this past month. “Such anomalous heat is rare for Yamal, and that’s probably a manifestation of climate change,” Alexei Kokorin, head of WWF Russia’s climate and energy program, told The Guardian.
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01 Aug 2016: Bacteria in Sea Ice Could Play
Role in Mercury Pollution in Oceans

Scientists have discovered bacteria living in Antarctic sea ice that could play a role in mercury contamination of fish, birds, and other marine species.

Antarctic sea ice.
The bacteria, Nitrospina, can transform mercury found in sea ice — originating from sources such as coal-fired power plants — into the more toxic methylmercury. The heavy metal pollutant—which impacts brain development and can cause mental and physical ailments—accumulates in higher concentrations in marine life as it moves up through the food chain. The findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology by scientists at the University of Melborne, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lawrence Livermore National Lab. John Moreau, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Melbourne who helped lead the study, said in a statement that the findings beg further study into the sources and behavior of mercury in the oceans, "particularly in a warming climate and when depleted fish stocks means more seafood companies are looking south."
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29 Jul 2016: Changing Arctic Tundra Could
Radically Alter Shorebird Breeding Grounds

A new study projects that global warming could dramatically affect the tundra breeding habitat of 24 shorebird species, with 66 percent to 83 percent losing most of their suitable nesting territories.

Shifts in Arctic shorebirds.
Researchers modeled breeding conditions for these migratory shorebird species — some of which travel more than 10,000 miles from Antarctica or southern South America to breed in the Arctic — and compared projected 21st century conditions to the last major warming event more than 6,000 years ago. The study, published in Global Change Biology, concluded that a warming and drying tundra could force many species to shift their breeding territories to the Arctic coastline by 2070, causing some birds to completely change their migration routes. “Climate change is also opening up the Arctic to threats such as mining and tourism, and we must make sure we protect key places for all Arctic species, including these amazing migratory birds,” lead author Hannah Wauchope said in a University of Queensland press release.
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20 Jul 2016: Global Temperatures Continue
To Shatter Heat and Arctic Ice Records

June marked the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat, with global temperatures measuring 1.62 degrees F above the 20th-century average, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week.

Global 2016 temperatures.
The first half of 2016 was 1.89 degrees F above last century’s average, breaking the previous January-June record set in 2015 of 0.36 degrees F above average. “2016 has really blown [2015] out of the water,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters. Five of the first six months of this year have also set records for the smallest Arctic sea ice extent since satellite records began in 1979. Scientists said the recent record-breaking heat could be partly attributed to last year’s strong El Nino, but not entirely. “While the El Niño event… this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers,” Schmidt said.
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12 Jul 2016: Climate Change Has Shifted
The World’s Cloud Cover Over Past 30 Years

Warming global temperatures have altered the distribution of clouds across the Earth in recent decades, according to new research published in the journal Nature.

Global cloud cover.
Mid-latitude storm clouds have shifted polewards, dry subtropical zones have expanded in size, and the tops of clouds have gotten higher as a result of a warmer troposphere and cooler stratosphere, according to the study, which relied on satellite images taken between 1983 and 2009. Researchers said these shifts in cloud cover could further exacerbate climate change. As cloud systems shift toward the poles, where there’s less solar radiation, more sunlight will reach the Earth’s surface near the equator, boosting temperatures. Also, taller, thicker clouds trap more heat. “We now have a thicker blanket, which is also a warming effect,” said Joel Norris, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego who helped lead the study.
PERMALINK

 

08 Jun 2016: Sea Ice Hits New Spring Low
In the Arctic, Says Federal Agency

Sea ice extent in the Arctic hit a new record spring low last month, measuring 537,000 square miles below average — an area twice the size of Texas, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced this week.

NASA/GSFC
Sea ice breaking up in the Beaufort Sea in May.
Last month’s Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest May sea ice measurement since satellite monitoring began 38 years ago and follows a string of record low ice this winter. “We didn’t just break the old May record, we’re way below the previous one,” NSIDC Director Mark Serreze told Climate Central. The Arctic’s snow cover also hit record lows this year, with April having the lowest snow cover for that month on record and May the fourth lowest. The Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world in recent decades, but scientists say that this year’s strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean could be ramping up temperatures even more. Temperatures at the pole have been 4 to 11 degrees F above average this winter. “Will we end up with very low sea ice extent this September?” Serreze said. “I think pretty much absolutely.”
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06 Jun 2016: Fish Choose Plastic Over
Zooplankton in Polluted Waters

Fish that grow up in waters full of plastic particles develop a taste for trash, choosing to eat plastic over zooplankton, their natural food source, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Oona Lönnstedt
The research, by ecologists at Uppsala University in Swedish, found larval perch from the Baltic Sea exposed to microplastic pollution (less than 5mm in size) had stunted growth, were less active, ignored the smell of predators, and experienced increased mortality rates. Plastic pollution has become a major problem in the world’s oceans, but scientists are just beginning to understand how these fragments can affect the health of marine species. “If early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound,” said ecologist Oona Lönnstedt, lead author of the study.
PERMALINK

 

23 May 2016: World Could Warm 8 Degrees
Celsius If All Fossil Fuel Reserves Burned

As nations meet in Bonn, Germany this week to hash out how to achieve the 2-degree Celsius goal they set in Paris, new research is providing policymakers a glimpse of what would happen if the world does nothing to curb climate change.

NASA
What if nations chose instead to burn through all of their remaining fossil fuel reserves, equal to 5 trillion tons of CO2 emissions? According to the new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the world would warm an average 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees F), or up to 17 degrees Celsius (30 degrees F) in the Arctic. The research was conducted by a team of climate scientists at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who wanted to understand the worst-case scenario. “Such climate changes, if realized, would have extremely profound impacts on ecosystems, human health, agriculture, economies, and other sectors,” the researchers write.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: CO2 'Air Capture' Could
Be Key to Slowing Global Warming

For two decades, Klaus Lackner has pioneered efforts to combat climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Klaus Lackner

Klaus Lackner
Now, after years of watching the global community fail to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control, Lackner — director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University — is delivering a blunt message: The best hope to avoid major disruptions from global warming is to launch a massive program of CO2 "air capture" that will begin to reverse the buildup of billions of tons of carbon in our atmosphere. "We need to have the ability to walk this backwards," says Lackner. "I'm saying this is a war, and we need to use all the weapons at our disposal. You don't want to get into this fight with one hand tied behind your back."
Read the interview.
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