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SPECIAL: Amazon forest can be trained by higher rainfall variability – but may be no match for climate change

Arctic Sea IceThe Amazon rainforest has evolved over millions of years and even through ice ages. Yet today, human influences and global climate change put this huge ecosystem at risk of large-scale dieback – with major consequences for its capability as a global CO2 sink. New research published in Nature Geoscience now reveals a key player in shaping the resilience of the Amazon, and finds that regions with generally higher rainfall variability are more resilient to current and future climate disturbances. However, despite this 'training effect', the Amazon rainforest might not be able to keep up with the pace of ongoing climate change, the study shows. Read more...

The living lab experiment "Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" takes stock: Everyone can contribute to climate stabilization, but without politics it won’t succeed

The living lab experiment "Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" takes stock: Everyone can contribute to climate stabilization, but without politics it won’t succeed

31/01/2019 - "Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" – for one year, more than 100 Berlin households have tried to shift to a more climate-friendly everyday life, from families with children, partners, flatmates to singles. In the living lab experiment headed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), households were reducing their climate footprint by an average of around 10 percent, even though they had, on average, already started the project 25 percent below the German average. The results of the project: in all sectors, from nutrition and consumption to electricity, heating and mobility, there is great potential for each and every one to reduce their CO2 emissions. But the experiment also shows where the limits of individual contributions to climate protection are, and where a political framework is necessary to set the stage for a more climate-friendly everyday life.

The living lab experiment "Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" takes stock: Everyone can contribute to climate stabilization, but without politics it won’t succeed - Read More…

Rainfall extremes are connected across continents: Nature study

Rainfall extremes are connected across continents: Nature study

31.01.2019 - Extreme rainfall events in one city or region are connected to the same kind of events thousands of kilometers away, an international team of experts finds in a study now published in one of the world’s leading scientific journals, Nature. They discovered a global connection pattern of extreme rainfall – this could eventually improve weather forecasts and hence help to limit damages and protect people. Extreme rainfall events are on the rise due to human-caused climate change, which makes the study even more relevant. The researchers developed a new method rooted in complex systems science to analyze satellite data. The revealed extreme rainfall patterns are likely linked to giant airflows known as jetstreams that circle the globe high up in the atmosphere, forming huge waves between the Equator and the Poles.

Rainfall extremes are connected across continents: Nature study - Read More…

Germany phases out coal to help stabilize our climate

Germany phases out coal to help stabilize our climate

27/01/2019 - The Coal Commission established by the German government recommends to phase out coal - with an end date in the 2030s. It is highly likely that political decision-makers will act upon this recommendation now and indeed put an end-date to coal-use in the world's fourth biggest economy Germany. The Coal Commission consisted of representatives from industry, trade unions, environmental associations, and academia. Experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) were closely involved in the difficult negotiations. Physicist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, PIK's Director Emeritus, was a member of the Commission. PIK's acting Director and chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer had been invited to provide advice to the committee.

Germany phases out coal to help stabilize our climate - Read More…

Lancet report: Healthy lives and a liveable planet for all require major changes in what we eat and how we produce it

Lancet report: Healthy lives and a liveable planet for all require major changes in what we eat and how we produce it

17.01.2019 - Feeding a growing population of 10 billion by 2050 is possible if we shift towards a planetary health diet, a major new report by the EAT Lancet commission shows. International experts worked with the leading medical journal to develop the first comprehensive and detailed science based targets for improving our food system in a way that ensures healthy lives and a liveable planet for all. This includes doubling the amount of vegetables in what we eat every day, and halving red meat and sugar. Current diets are one of today's greatest causes for ill-health worldwide and in the same time threaten climate stability. Leading planetary boundaries researcher Johan Rockström, Director Designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and former Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is one of the report's lead authors.

Lancet report: Healthy lives and a liveable planet for all require major changes in what we eat and how we produce it - Read More…

Global warming didn’t pause - researchers disentangle “hiatus” confusion

Global warming didn’t pause - researchers disentangle “hiatus” confusion

19.12.2018 - The reality of ongoing climate warming might seem plainly obvious today, after the four warmest years on record and a summer of weather extremes in the whole northern hemisphere. A few years back however, some media and some experts were entangled in debates about an alleged pause in global warming – even though there never has been statistical evidence of any “hiatus”, as new research now confirms. In two recent studies, a group of international scientists joined forces to thoroughly disentangle any possible “hiatus” confusion, affirming that there was no evidence for a significant pause or even slowdown of global warming in the first place.

Global warming didn’t pause - researchers disentangle “hiatus” confusion - Read More…

Climate plan for Germany and Europe: Economists propose CO2 price reform

Climate plan for Germany and Europe: Economists propose CO2 price reform

03.12.2018 - A few days ago the UN Environment Agency advocated an international green tax reform - now economists have presented a new concept for a CO2 price reform in Germany and Europe right before the start of the climate summit in Katowice, Poland. SPIEGEL magazine was reporting on this issue in advance this weekend. Christoph Schmidt, Chair of the German Council of Economic Experts from RWI Essen, Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, and Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), have jointly drafted the cornerstones for a market-based way out of coal. Climate-damaging CO2-emissions would need to become more expensive, while at the same time the electricity tax could be lowered. A socially just and efficient transition to a sustainable economy is possible, according to the professors, who both belong to the Leibniz Association. If, on the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions were not reduced, there would be the risk of economic climate damage of unprecedented proportions.

Climate plan for Germany and Europe: Economists propose CO2 price reform - Read More…

Record-wet and record-dry months increased in regions worldwide: climate change drives rainfall extremes

Record-wet and record-dry months increased in regions worldwide: climate change drives rainfall extremes

12.12.2018 - More and more rainfall extremes are observed in regions around the globe – triggering both wet and dry records, a new study shows. Yet there are big differences between regions: The central and Eastern US, northern Europe and northern Asia have experienced heavy rainfall events that have led to severe floods in recent past. In contrast, most African regions have seen an increased frequency of months with a lack of rain. The study is the first to systematically analyze and quantify changes in record-breaking monthly rainfall events from all over the globe, based on data from roughly 50,000 weather stations worldwide. Climate change from fossil fuel greenhouse gases has long been expected to disturb rainfall patterns.

Record-wet and record-dry months increased in regions worldwide: climate change drives rainfall extremes - Read More…

Planetary Boundaries and Global Commons - managing risks and solutions

Planetary Boundaries and Global Commons - managing risks and solutions

11.12.2018 - Weather extremes, food security, migration: people's livelihoods depend on climate stabilization. The joint side event of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) at the UN climate summit COP24 highlighted how a safe operating space for humanity within Planetary Boundaries and the sustainable use of Global Commons like the atmosphere are key concepts combining natural and social sciences to safeguard our future. Based on these fundamental concepts, sound options for managing risks and solutions were explored by the new joint PIK leadership Johan Rockström and Ottmar Edenhofer.

Planetary Boundaries and Global Commons - managing risks and solutions - Read More…

Joint call for swift and just climate action: the Katowice Memorandum

Joint call for swift and just climate action: the Katowice Memorandum

10/12/2018 - Researchers, intellectuals and spiritual leaders jointly call for swift and just climate action. Together, they formulate the Katowice Memorandum at a symposium co-organized by the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) during the 24th UN Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland.

Joint call for swift and just climate action: the Katowice Memorandum - Read More…

A Greentech Race towards Climate Stabilization: European Expert Group Publishes Landmark Innovation Report

A Greentech Race towards Climate Stabilization: European Expert Group Publishes Landmark Innovation Report

28.11.2018 - Zero-carbon solutions, i.e. technologies and lifestyles completely free of fossil-fuel use, must be the foci of European investments into research and innovation. Conventional low-emission options have very limited potential to contribute in time to avoiding dangerous global warming, an independent group of eminent experts concludes. By way of contrast, ambitious innovation programs can kick-start a greentech race to the top, while boosting the competitiveness of the European economies and securing our prosperity. The “High-Level Panel on Decarbonization Pathways” report is published today, together with the European Commission Communication Strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emission reductions, in the run-up to the UN climate summit (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.

A Greentech Race towards Climate Stabilization: European Expert Group Publishes Landmark Innovation Report - Read More…

Winter weather extremes in the US and Europe: messing with giant airstreams in the stratosphere

Winter weather extremes in the US and Europe: messing with giant airstreams in the stratosphere

22/11/2018 - Over Thanksgiving, arctic air masses are predicted to bring record-cold temperatures and frigid winds to the Northeast of the United States. Driver for such winter weather extremes is often the stratospheric polar vortex, a band of fast moving winds 30 kilometers above the ground. In winter, when the polar vortex is disturbed by upward-blowing air masses, this can bring cold spells over Northeastern America or Eurasia, a new study now shows. And paradox as it might seem, climate change might further disrupt the complex dynamics in the atmosphere – bringing us not only more hot extremes in summer but potentially also cold spells in winter.

Winter weather extremes in the US and Europe: messing with giant airstreams in the stratosphere - Read More…

Extreme weather will likely become more frequent due to stalling of giant waves in the atmosphere

Extreme weather will likely become more frequent due to stalling of giant waves in the atmosphere

01/11/2018 - Computer simulations predict a strong increase of events in which the undulations of the jet stream in the atmosphere stop moving along and grow very large. This can favor more frequent extreme weather events on the ground: the westerly winds stop pushing forward weather systems which hence become more persistent – a few sunny days grow into heatwaves, extended rains lead to floods. An international team of scientists links this to human-caused warming specifically in the Arctic.

Extreme weather will likely become more frequent due to stalling of giant waves in the atmosphere - Read More…

Overcoming barriers for climate policy: Short-term policies can bring long-term targets in reach

Overcoming barriers for climate policy: Short-term policies can bring long-term targets in reach

15.10.2018 - To make climate policy more stringent, a smart sequencing of measures is a promising option. An international team of researchers now proposes a framework for doing so using policy sequencing – experiences from Germany and California serve as examples. Specific policy options at early stages enable more ambitious policies at later stages by removing or relaxing barriers that prevented their implementation. This might be a usefull approach for for the design of long term policies such as the currently debated German coal phase out.

Overcoming barriers for climate policy: Short-term policies can bring long-term targets in reach - Read More…

Sustainable and healthy food to feed the world in 2050: Nature study

Sustainable and healthy food to feed the world in 2050: Nature study

10/10/2018 - “Feeding a world population of 10 billion people is possible - yet only if we change the way we eat, and the way we produce food, our research shows. Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today,” says Johan Rockström, Director Designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He’s one of the authors of a new study now published by an international team of scientists in the journal Nature.

Sustainable and healthy food to feed the world in 2050: Nature study - Read More…

Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” state

Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” state

06/08/2018 - Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed. An international team of scientists has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of the planet entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions. A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.

Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” state - Read More…

Nice sunny days can grow into heat waves – and wildfires: summer weather is stalling

Nice sunny days can grow into heat waves – and wildfires: summer weather is stalling

20/08/2018 - Be it heavy downpours or super-hot spells, summer weather becomes more persistent in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. When those conditions stall for several days or weeks, they can turn into extremes: heatwaves resulting in droughts, health risks and wildfires; or relentless rainfall resulting in floods. A team of scientists now presents the first comprehensive review of research on summer weather stalling focusing on the influence of the disproportionally strong warming of the Arctic as caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Evidence is mounting, they show, that we likely meddle with circulation patterns high up in the sky. These are affecting, in turn, regional and local weather patterns – with sometimes disastrous effects on the ground. This has been the case with the 2016 wildfire in Canada, another team of scientists show in a second study.

Nice sunny days can grow into heat waves – and wildfires: summer weather is stalling - Read More…

Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education

Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education

07/16/2018 - While health systems, clean water and education are a plain given in many parts of the world, millions of people still do not have sufficient access to these basic public goods. In fact, carbon prices could make substantial financial resources available for succeeding with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, a team of scientists now finds. At the same time, carbon pricing could be a central contribution to meet global climate targets and limit global warming to well below 2°C until the end of the century.

Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education - Read More…

What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today

What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today

06/14/2018 - The retreat of the West Antarctic ice masses after the last Ice Age was reversed surprisingly about 10,000 years ago, scientists found. This is in stark contrast to previous assumptions. In fact, it was the shrinking itself that stopped the shrinking: relieved from the weight of the ice, the Earth crust lifted and triggered the re-advance of the ice sheet. However, this mechanism is much too slow to prevent dangerous sea-level rise caused by West Antarctica’s ice-loss in the present and near future. Only rapid greenhouse-gas emission reductions can.

What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today - Read More…

Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets

Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets

06/25/2018 - Coal power versus wind and solar energy – debates about the Paris climate targets often centre around electricity supply. Yet, even in a world of stringent climate policies and a clean power generation, the remaining use of fossil fuels in industry, transport and heating in buildings could still cause enough CO2 emissions to endanger the climate targets agreed on by the international community, an international team of researchers finds. Published in Nature Climate Change, their elaborate study is the first to focus specifically on the residual fossil fuel emissions from sectors that are not as easily decarbonized as power generation.

Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets - Read More…

Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment

Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment

06/20/2018 - Deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, nitrogen pollution – today’s agricultural feed cultivation for cattle, pigs and chicken comes with tremendous impacts for the environment and climate. Cultivating feed in industrial facilities instead of on croplands might help to alleviate the critical implications in the agricultural food supply chain. Protein-rich microbes, produced in large-scale industrial facilities, are likely to increasingly replace traditional crop-based feed. A new study now published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology for the first time estimates the economic and environmental potential of feeding microbial protein to pigs, cattle and chicken on a global scale. The researchers find that by replacing only 2 percent of livestock feed by protein-rich microbes, more than 5 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, global cropland area and global nitrogen losses could each be decreased.

Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment - Read More…

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