Pope Francis called upon scientists to protect the world from climate change and its impacts, such as poverty and conflict. The leader of 1.3 billion Catholics addressed the bi-annual assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. During this event Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was formally introduced as a member of this most distinguished scientific body. He was already appointed by the pope in June 2015, previous to the presentation of the “green” encyclical Laudato Si in the Vatican, where Schellnhuber was speaking on behalf of the entire scientific community. Sustainability issues were at the heart of the recent assembly, which was attended by many Nobel Laureates and other eminent researchers. The Pontifical Academy has only 80 life-time members, who are chosen exclusively on the grounds of excellence and relevance, regardless of their faith or origin.
01/23/2017 - Some of the most distinguished international climate experts are gathering in Potsdam this week for a symposium of the Earth League, a self-organized initiative of leading researchers on global change. During two days, they will discuss how the Great Transformation towards sustainability can be brought about. The success of the Paris climate agreement aiming at completely decarbonizing our economies within a few decades is by no means ensured; fulfilling its objectives requires a ratcheting-up of ambitions through social, political and economic progress.
01/20/2017 - Today, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as 45th President of the United States. "His populism as a business model will not prove viable in the long term," comments Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Professor at Technische Universität Berlin.
01/19/2017 - Some of the most important crops risk substantial damage from rising temperatures. To better assess how climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions will likely impact wheat, maize and soybean, an international team of scientists now ran an unprecedentedly comprehensive set of computer simulations of US crop yields. The simulations were shown to reproduce the observed strong reduction in past crop yields induced by high temperatures, thereby confirming that they capture one main mechanism for future projections. Importantly, the scientists find that increased irrigation can help to reduce the negative effects of global warming on crops – but this is possible only in regions where sufficient water is available. Eventually limiting global warming is needed to keep crop losses in check.
2017/01/13 - 66 million years ago, the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs started the ascent of the mammals, ultimately resulting in humankind’s reign on Earth. Climate scientists now reconstructed how tiny droplets of sulfuric acid formed high up in the air after the well-known impact of a large asteroid and blocking the sunlight for several years, had a profound influence on life on Earth. Plants died, and death spread through the food web. Previous theories focused on the shorter-lived dust ejected by the impact. The new computer simulations show that the droplets resulted in long-lasting cooling, a likely contributor to the death of land-living dinosaurs. An additional kill mechanism might have been a vigorous mixing of the oceans, caused by the surface cooling, severely disturbing marine ecosystems.
23/12/2016 - Groundwater has contributed greatly to increasing food security by ensuring water availability for irrigation at critical times. Today, 43 percent of global food production depends on groundwater use. However, water reserves are not endless, and climate change puts additional pressure on groundwater management. A new transdisciplinary and international research group on Water Management in the Future Earth Framework will address these challenges, co-chaired by Anne Biewald of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). As part of the Sustainable Water Future Programme, several research groups will bring together the best international expertise to drive solutions to the world’s water problems.
12/19/2016 - Benchmarks to guide countries in ratcheting-up their ambition to remain well-below 2°C and pursue 1,5°C in an equitable manner are critical but not yet determined in the context of the Paris Agreement. A new study published in Nature Climate Change analyzes the national climate targets needed to meet the 1.5°C and 2°C goals according to five different equity principles, and how these compare with the current climate pledges.
16/12/2016 - The holiday season is in full swing and many enjoy the opportunity to feast – or to make new year resolutions for a healthier diet. What we eat is more than a private decision – the agriculture and land use sector is one of the central players in ambitious climate change mitigation efforts. Yet, mitigation policies in agriculture may conflict with food security. A team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research analyzed the impacts on food prices under mitigation policies – targeting either incentives for producers or consumer preferences. They show that policy instruments to mitigate climate change with an educational approach to change food preferences can avoid unwanted impacts of climate change mitigation measures on food security.