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SPECIAL: Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs

Phasing out coal yields global net saving effect: Lignite-fired power plants in Germany. Photo: iStock. Coal combustion is not only the single most important source of CO2, accounting for more than a third of global emissions, but also a major contributor to detrimental effects on public health and biodiversity. Yet, globally phasing out coal remains one of the hardest political nuts to crack. New computer simulations by an international team of researchers are now providing robust economic arguments for why it is worth the effort: For once, their simulations show that the world cannot stay below the 2 degrees limit if we continue to burn coal. Second, the benefits of phasing out coal clearly outweigh the costs. Third, those benefits occur mostly locally and short-term, which make them useful for policy makers. Read more...

From artificial meat to fine-tuning photosynthesis: Food System Innovation – and how to get there

From artificial meat to fine-tuning photosynthesis: Food System Innovation – and how to get there

19/05/2020 - Food production has always shaped the lives of humans and the surface of the Earth. Be it plough or refrigerator, time and again innovations have transformed the ways we grow, process, and consume food over the last millennia. Today, with almost 40 per cent of all land on Earth used for food production, the food system massively impacts climate and environment – from nitrogen flows to water use, from biodiversity to greenhouse gas emissions. In a new study published in the journal NatureFOOD, an international team of researchers has now assessed and categorised key innovations with a potential to transform the food system, from artificial meat or seafood to biofortified crops or improved climate forecasts – and established what is most needed to make them succeed.

From artificial meat to fine-tuning photosynthesis: Food System Innovation – and how to get there - Read More…

 Sea level could rise more than 1 metre by 2100 if emission targets are not met, reveals survey amongst 100 experts

Sea level could rise more than 1 metre by 2100 if emission targets are not met, reveals survey amongst 100 experts

08/05/2020 - Global mean sea-level rise could exceed 1 metres by 2100 and 5 metres by 2300 with unchecked emissions, a survey among 100 leading international experts finds. The risk assessment is based on the increasing body of knowledge of the systems involved – while the scientists highlight the remaining uncertainties, they say it is clear now that previous sea-level rise estimates have been too low. The study led by scientists of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) appears today in the Nature partner journal Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Sea level could rise more than 1 metre by 2100 if emission targets are not met, reveals survey amongst 100 experts - Read More…

Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs

Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs

23/03/2020 - Coal combustion is not only the single most important source of CO2, accounting for more than a third of global emissions, but also a major contributor to detrimental effects on public health and biodiversity. Yet, globally phasing out coal remains one of the hardest political nuts to crack. New computer simulations by an international team of researchers are now providing robust economic arguments for why it is worth the effort: For once, their simulations show that the world cannot stay below the 2 degrees limit if we continue to burn coal. Second, the benefits of phasing out coal clearly outweigh the costs. Third, those benefits occur mostly locally and short-term, which make them useful for policy makers.

Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs - Read More…

Climate disasters increase risks of armed conflicts: new evidence

Climate disasters increase risks of armed conflicts: new evidence

02/04/2020 - The risk for violent clashes increases after weather extremes such as droughts or floods hit people in vulnerable countries, an international team of scientists finds. Vulnerable countries are characterized by a large population, political exclusion of particular ethnic groups, and low development. The study combines global statistical analysis, observation data and regional case study assessments to yield new evidence for policy-makers.

Climate disasters increase risks of armed conflicts: new evidence - Read More…

The Antarctica Factor: model uncertainties reveal upcoming sea level risk

The Antarctica Factor: model uncertainties reveal upcoming sea level risk

Sea level rise due to ice loss in Antarctica could become a major risk for coastal protection even in the near term, scientists say. Within this century already, due to Antarctica alone global sea level might rise up to three times as much as it did in the last century. This is a finding of an exceptionally comprehensive comparison of state-of-the-art computer models from around the world.

The Antarctica Factor: model uncertainties reveal upcoming sea level risk - Read More…

2°C ocean warming has been enough to destabilize Antarctica in the past

2°C ocean warming has been enough to destabilize Antarctica in the past

12/02/2020 - A melting of the Antarctic ice sheets would have far-reaching consequences for sea-level rise and coastal regions around the world. Based on new data from the Antarctic ice, an international team of scientists now reveals how the ice sheet reacted to rising temperatures in the past. Published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their study using data from a blue ice field shows for the first time that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet already proved to be quite unstable during the last warm period 120,000 years ago. The Eemian warm period was the last phase of climate history with global temperatures similar to those that the world is heading towards due to manmade global warming in the coming decades.

2°C ocean warming has been enough to destabilize Antarctica in the past - Read More…

Buildings can become a global CO2 sink if made out of wood instead of cement and steel

Buildings can become a global CO2 sink if made out of wood instead of cement and steel

A material revolution replacing cement and steel in urban construction by wood can have double benefits for climate stabilization, a new study shows. First, it can avoid greenhouse gas emissions from cement and steel production. Second, it can turn buildings into a carbon sink as they store the CO2 taken up from the air by trees that are harvested and used as engineered timber. However while the required amount of timber harvest is available in theory, such an upscaling would clearly need most careful, sustainable forest management and governance, the international team of authors stresses.

Buildings can become a global CO2 sink if made out of wood instead of cement and steel - Read More…

Climate costs smallest if warming is limited to 2°C

Climate costs smallest if warming is limited to 2°C

27/01/2020 - Climate costs are likely smallest if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius. The politically negotiated Paris Agreement is thus also the economically sensible one, Potsdam researchers find in a new study. Using computer simulations of a model by US Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus, they weight climate damages from, for instance, increasing weather extremes or decreasing labour productivity against the costs of cutting greenhouse gas emission by phasing out coal and oil. Interestingly, the economically most cost-efficient level of global warming turns out to be the one more than 190 nations signed as the Paris Climate Agreement. So far however, CO2 reductions promised by nations worldwide are insufficient to reach this goal.

Climate costs smallest if warming is limited to 2°C - Read More…

Tipping mechanisms could spark profound societal change towards climate stabilization: new study

Tipping mechanisms could spark profound societal change towards climate stabilization: new study

21/01/2020 - Limiting global warming to well below 2°C requires a decarbonized world by 2050 at the latest and a corresponding global transformation of the energy and land use systems of societies across the world. To achieve this goal of net-zero carbon by 2050 emissions need to be cut by half every decade from now on. An interdisciplinary team of researchers now explored tipping mechanisms that have the potential to spark rapid yet constructive societal changes towards climate stabilization and overall sustainability. These tipping elements and mechanisms could bring about a transition that is fast enough for meeting the targets of the Paris climate agreement. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the scientists identify six socio-economic tipping elements and related interventions that could bring such a transition to a deep and rapid global decarbonization on its way.

Tipping mechanisms could spark profound societal change towards climate stabilization: new study - Read More…

 Feeding the world without wrecking the planet is possible

Feeding the world without wrecking the planet is possible

20/01/2020 - Almost half of current food production is harmful to our planet – causing biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and water stress. But as world population continues to grow, can that last? A study led by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now suggests a comprehensive solution package for feeding 10 billion people within our planet’s environmental boundaries. Supplying a sufficient and healthy diet for every person whilst keeping our biosphere largely intact will require no less than a technological and socio-cultural U-turn. It includes adopting radically different ways of farming, reduction of food waste, and dietary changes. The study's publication coincides with the World Economic Forum in Davos and the International Green Week in Berlin, the world's biggest food and agriculture fair.

Feeding the world without wrecking the planet is possible - Read More…

 Planetary boundaries: Interactions in the Earth system amplify human impacts

Planetary boundaries: Interactions in the Earth system amplify human impacts

16/12/2019 - What we do to one part of our Earth system does not just add to what we do to other parts – transgressing one planetary boundary can amplify human impacts on another one. For the first time, an international team of scientists now quantified some of the planetary-scale interactions in the Earth system. These biophysical interactions have in fact almost doubled direct human impacts on the nine planetary boundaries, from climate change to freshwater use. This insight can now be applied in policy design for safeguarding the livelihoods of generations to come.

Planetary boundaries: Interactions in the Earth system amplify human impacts - Read More…

Global food production at risk of simultaneous heat waves across breadbasket regions

Global food production at risk of simultaneous heat waves across breadbasket regions

09/12/2019 - Certain patterns in the jet stream encircling the Earth can bring simultaneous heatwaves to breadbasket regions responsible for up to a quarter of global food production. Particularly susceptible are Western North America, Western Europe, Western Russia and Ukraine. Extreme weather events of such extent can significantly harm food production and thus make prices soar. In recent years, major food price spikes were associated with social unrest.

Global food production at risk of simultaneous heat waves across breadbasket regions - Read More…

Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against

Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against

28/11/2019 - From the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice sheets to coral reefs or the Amazon rainforest – a number of critical elements in the Earth system could be more likely to tip than was previously thought, a group of leading scientists warns in in the highly renowned journal Nature. Evidence is mounting that these events are also more interconnected, which could eventually lead to domino effects. A possible tipping cascade of irreversible changes might put the livelihoods of people around the world at risk and marks a state of planetary emergency, the authors argue in their comment.

Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against - Read More…

Decarbonizing the power sector: renewable energy offers most benefits for health and environment

Decarbonizing the power sector: renewable energy offers most benefits for health and environment

19/11/2019 - Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally. To keep global warming well below 2°C, several paths lead to zero emissions in the energy sector, and each has its potential environmental impacts - such as air and water pollution, land-use or water demand. Using a first-time combination of multiple modelling systems, an international team of researchers led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has now quantified the actual benefits and downsides of three main roads to decarbonisation. They show that relying mainly on wind and solar would bring most co-benefits for the health of people and planet. Switching to carbon capture and storage in combination with fossil and biomass resources, in turn, is likely to convey significant environmental costs by devouring large areas at the cost of biodiversity, and by releasing pollutants to the environment.

Decarbonizing the power sector: renewable energy offers most benefits for health and environment - Read More…

Lancet Countdown: Forschungsbericht zu Klimawandel und Gesundheit

Lancet Countdown: Forschungsbericht zu Klimawandel und Gesundheit

14.11.2019 - Bis zum Ende dieses Jahrhunderts sind jährlich bis zu fünf zusätzliche Hitzewellen in Norddeutschland und bis zu 30 in Süddeutschland zu erwarten, wenn wir mit dem Ausstoß von Treibhausgasen so weitermachen wie bisher. Damit einhergehender Hitzestress und hohe bodennahe Ozonkonzentrationen können schwerwiegende Folgen für die menschliche Gesundheit haben. Dazu zählen unter anderem Hitzschlag, Herzinfarkt und akutes Nierenversagen aufgrund von Flüssigkeitsmangel. Am stärksten gefährdet sind ältere Menschen, Säuglinge, Patienten mit chronischen Erkrankungen sowie Personen, die schwere körperliche Arbeit im Freien verrichten, etwa Bauarbeiter.

Lancet Countdown: Forschungsbericht zu Klimawandel und Gesundheit - Read More…

Just 15 years of post-Paris emissions to lock in 20 cm of sea level rise in 2300: study

Just 15 years of post-Paris emissions to lock in 20 cm of sea level rise in 2300: study

5.11.2019 - Unless governments significantly scale up their emission reduction efforts, the 15 years’ worth of emissions released under their current Paris Agreement pledges alone would cause 20 cm of sea-level rise over the longer term, according to new research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Just 15 years of post-Paris emissions to lock in 20 cm of sea level rise in 2300: study - Read More…

Early warning: Physicists from Giessen, Potsdam and Tel Aviv forecast "El Niño" for 2020

Early warning: Physicists from Giessen, Potsdam and Tel Aviv forecast "El Niño" for 2020

04/11/2019 -The serious weather phenomenon "El Niño" could soon occur again in the Pacific region. Researchers at Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, find that there will probably be another "El Niño" by the end of 2020. The prediction models commonly used do not yet see any signs of this.

Early warning: Physicists from Giessen, Potsdam and Tel Aviv forecast "El Niño" for 2020 - Read More…

PIK and MCC deliver detailed assessment of German climate package

PIK and MCC deliver detailed assessment of German climate package

14/10/2019 - The climate protection programme adopted by the Federal Government last week, which is intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions especially in the transport and heating sectors, is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve the 2030 climate targets. Policymakers need to make four particular adjustments: first, they need to raise the level of ambition for the carbon price; second, they need to improve social balance; third, they need to develop further its integration with the EU level; and fourth, they need to introduce an effective monitoring process. This is the core message of a detailed assessment of the climate package, presented by the Berlin climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

PIK and MCC deliver detailed assessment of German climate package - Read More…

PIK and MCC contribute to Climate Policy Special Report for German government

PIK and MCC contribute to Climate Policy Special Report for German government

12.07.2019 - The special report, which the German Chancellor received from the “Five Sages” of the German Council of Economic Experts today, is based to a significant extent on a comprehensive analysis by the Berlin climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). On Thursday, the so-called Climate Cabinet, with the leaders of the chancellery and six ministries, will discuss a fundamental realignment of climate mitigation measures based on the special report. MCC and PIK Director Ottmar Edenhofer and the Chairman of the Council of Experts, Christoph Schmidt, will present their proposals as scientific advisers at the meeting in the presence of the German Chancellor.

PIK and MCC contribute to Climate Policy Special Report for German government - Read More…

From avocados to apples: Producing food closer to cities could help reduce climate emissions

From avocados to apples: Producing food closer to cities could help reduce climate emissions

29.08.2019 - Millions of tons of groceries from agriculture are transported to our cities all around the globe every day to feed its dwellers. Produced anywhere in the world and transported as cargo on roads, rail or water from the farm gate into cities, this food transport is linked to a huge amount of CO2 emissions. Exploring options to reduce this “food-print”, a team of city researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now provides the first global analysis of the potential of local food production to feed hungry cities in present and future. As it turns out, a large number of urban residents in many parts of the world could be nourished by local agriculture. However, climate change might take that option off the table, if greenhouse gas emissions are not rapidly reduced.

From avocados to apples: Producing food closer to cities could help reduce climate emissions - Read More…

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