03/19/2014 - This week, the heads of the EU member states will meet in Brussels to discuss the adoption of a 40 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030. Despite the fragmented state of global climate policy, such front runner action could reduce future global warming by more than 1 degree if it induced others to join by 2030. This is shown by a study now published by an international team of scientists. Major emitting countries may have to join the EU's effort much earlier to avoid a temporary overshoot of the 2 degree target, but even if they joined only in 2030, the overshoot would be limited to roughly 0.2 to 0.4 degrees Celsius. The initial unilateral leadership could be achieved at little extra costs for the EU. Late-comers would have the benefit of lower costs while they delay action but would face higher transient costs once their turn to decarbonize comes.
03/18/2014 - International trade of food crops led to freshwater savings worth 2.4 billion US-Dollars in 2005 and had a major impact on local water stress. This is shown in a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Trading food involves the trade of virtually embedded water used for production, and the amount of that water depends heavily on the climatic conditions in the production region: It takes, for instance, 2.700 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of cereals in Morocco, while the same kilo produced in Germany uses up only 520 liters. Analyzing the impact of trade on local water scarcity, our scientists found that it is not the amount of water used that counts most, but the origin of the water. While parts of India or the Middle East alleviate their water scarcity through importing crops, some countries in Southern Europe export agricultural goods from water-scarce sites, thus increasing local water stress.
03/17/2014 - Berlin can reduce its CO2 emissions from presently about 21 million tons to 4.4 million tons in 2050 – despite economic growth and population increase. This would mean a reduction of about 85 percent compared to the basis year 1990 and complies with the ambition to make Berlin a climate-neutral city. As a positive side-effect, there could be a regional economic effect of up to 138 million euro from the shift in the energy supply from fossil to mainly renewable energy sources.
03/05/2014 - From the Statue of Liberty in New York to the Tower of London or the Sydney Opera House – sea-level rise not only affects settlement areas for large parts of the world population but also numerous sites of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is shown in a new study by Ben Marzeion from the University of Innsbruck and Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
06/02/2014 - Extreme weather events like super-typhoon Haiyan and hurricane Sandy can have major negative impacts on the world economy. So far, however, the effects on global production and consumption webs are missing from most assessments. This is a serious deficit, argues Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: “World markets as well as local economies are highly interlinked and rely on global supply chains – adaptation therefore requires a global perspective, not just a local one.” In a Nature Commentary he proposes a community effort to collect economic data on the new website zeean.net. The aim is to better understand economic flows and to thereby induce a transformation of our supply chains into a stable, climate-smart network that renders our societies less vulnerable to future climate impacts.
01/16/2014 - The costs of achieving a more ambitious EU climate target are estimated to be moderate. Upscaling greenhouse-gas emissions reduction from the current 20 percent by 2020 to 40 percent by 2030 would be likely to cost less than an additional 0.7 percent of economic activity. This is a key finding from an international multi-model analysis by the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF28) and comes at a crucial time, as the European Commission is set to announce next week its plans whether to scale up its efforts on emissions reduction in the next decade. However, beyond 2040, according to the scientists the costs risk to rise substantially. Technological innovation would be needed to counter this.
01/15/2014 - Ambitious greenhouse-gas mitigation consistent with the 2 degrees target is likely to require substantial amounts of bioenergy as part of the future energy mix. Though this does not come without risks, global food markets would be affected much more by unmitigated climate change than by an increased bioenergy demand, a study led by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now finds. Agricultural prices could be about 25 percent higher in 2050 through direct climate impacts on crop yields in comparison to a reference scenario without climate change. By way of contrast, a high bioenergy demand as part of a scenario with ambitious mitigation appears to raise prices only about 5 percent.
12/16/2013 - Water scarcity impacts people’s lives in many countries already today. Future population growth will increase the demand for freshwater even further. Yet in addition to this, on the supply side, water resources will be affected by projected changes in rainfall and evaporation. Climate change due to unabated greenhouse-gas emissions within our century is likely to put 40 percent more people at risk of absolute water scarcity than would be without climate change, a new study shows by using an unprecedented number of impact models. The analysis is to be published in a special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that assembles first results of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), a unique community-driven effort to bring research on climate change impacts to a new level.
12/16/2013 - A pioneering collaboration within the international scientific community has provided comprehensive projections of climate change effects, ranging from water scarcity to risks to crop yields. This interdisciplinary effort, employing extensive model inter-comparisons, allows research gaps to be identified, whilst producing the most robust possible findings. The results provide crucial insights for decision-making regarding mitigation efforts in the face of potential impact cascades. The analyses are to be published in a special feature of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that assembles the first results of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), which aims at bringing research on climate impacts onto a new level.
12/10/2013 - For his pioneering research on complex networks in our climate system a young scientist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) received a prestigious prize. He was awarded by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) at a meeting in San Francisco attended by more than 22,000 earth and space scientists this week. By applying mathematical analysis to, for instance, data from drills in the deep-sea, he detected how shifts in African climate some million years ago influenced the fate of modern man’s ancestors.
11/22/2013 - Sea-level rise in this century is likely to be 70-120 centimeters by 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions are not mitigated, a broad assessment of the most active scientific publishers on that topic has revealed. The 90 experts participating in the survey anticipate a median sea-level rise of 200-300 centimeters by the year 2300 for a scenario with unmitigated emissions. In contrast, for a scenario with strong emissions reductions, experts expect a sea-level rise of 40-60 centimeters by 2100 and 60-100 centimeters by 2300. The survey was conducted by a team of scientists from the USA and Germany.
11/15/2013 - Achieving a global climate agreement soon could be crucial for the objective to keep global mean temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The challenges of meeting the long-term target will otherwise increase drastically both in terms of the required emissions reductions and economic impacts. This is shown by the first comprehensive multi-model-based assessment of so-called Durban Platform scenarios, conducted by a team of international scientists led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) in Italy. The Durban Platform is the current negotiation track at the Warsaw climate talks that aims to reach a global climate agreement by 2015 to come into effect in 2020.
11/05/2013 - Revenues from global carbon emission pricing could exceed the losses fossil fuel owners suffer from this policy. Stabilizing global warming at around 2 degrees Celsius by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels would mean to leave much of coal, gas and oil unused underground. Yet the instrument of pricing global CO2 emissions could generate a revenue of 32 trillion US dollars over the 21st century, exceeding by far the 12 trillion US dollars reduction of fossil fuel owners’ profits, according to a study now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The analysis of the interference of CO2 emission pricing with fossil fuel markets adds key information to the debate on macro-economic effects of climate change mitigation.
10/08/2013 - Both freshwater availability for many millions of people and the stability of ecosystems such as the Siberian tundra or Indian grasslands are put at risk by climate change. Even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, 500 million people could be subject to increased water scarcity – while this number would grow by a further 50 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut soon. At 5 degrees global warming almost all ice-free land might be affected by ecosystem change. This is shown by complementary studies now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
12/09/2013 - Further delay in the implementation of comprehensive international climate policies could substantially increase the short-term costs of climate change mitigation. Global economic growth would be cut back by up to 7 percent within the first decade after climate policy implementation if the current international stalemate is continued until 2030 -- compared to 2 percent if a climate agreement is reached by 2015 already, a study by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) shows. Higher costs would in turn increase the threshold for decision-makers to start the transition to a low-carbon economy. Thus, to keep climate targets within reach it seems to be most relevant to not further postpone mitigation, the researchers conclude.
08/15/2013 - Extremes such as the severe heat wave last year in the US or the one 2010 in Russia are likely to be seen much more often in the near future. A few decades ago, they were practically absent. Today, due to man-made climate change monthly heat extremes in summer are already observed on 5 percent of the land area. This is projected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2040, according to a study by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). A further increase of heat extremes in the second half of our century could be stopped if global greenhouse-gas emissions would be reduced substantially.
07/17/2013 - Ottmar Edenhofer, Deputy Director and Chief Economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is co-chairing a new Energy Platform by the European Council of Academies of Applied Sciences, Technologies and Engineering (Euro-CASE), an non-profit organisation of national academies from 21 European countries. Bringing together the combined expertise of the academies, the Euro-CASE Energy Platform will provide independent science based policy advice with a focus on a European perspective for policymakers like the Directorate-General for Climate Action which implements the EU Emissions Trading System or the EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger.
07/15/2013 - Greenhouse gases emitted today will cause sea level to rise for centuries to come. Each degree of global warming is likely to raise sea level by more than 2 meters in the future, a study now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows. While thermal expansion of the ocean and melting mountain glaciers are the most important factors causing sea-level change today, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will be the dominant contributors within the next two millennia, according to the findings. Half of that rise might come from ice-loss in Antarctica which is currently contributing less than 10 percent to global sea-level rise.
07/02/13 - Irregular warming of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, dubbed El Niño by Peruvian fishermen, can generate devastating impacts. Being the most important phenomenon of contemporary natural climate variability, it may trigger floods in Latin America, droughts in Australia, and harvest failures in India. In order to extend forecasting from 6 months to one year or even more, scientists have now proposed a novel approach based on advanced connectivity analysis applied to the climate system. The scheme builds on high-quality data of air temperatures and clearly outperforms existing methods. The study will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
07/02/2013 - One out of ten people on Earth is likely to live in a climate impact hotspot by the end of this century, if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Many more are put at risk in a worst-case scenario of the combined impacts on crop yields, water availability, ecosystems, and health, according to a study now published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). It identifies the Amazon region, the Mediterranean and East Africa as regions that might experience severe change in multiple sectors. The article is part of the outcome of the Intersectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP) that will be featured in a special issue of PNAS later this year.