Predicting floods following extreme rainfall in the central Andes is enabled by a new method. Climate change has made these events more frequent and more severe in recent decades. Now complex networks analysis of satellite weather data makes it possible to produce a robust warning system for the first time, a study to be published in the journal Nature Communications shows. This might allow for improved disaster preparedness. As the complex systems technique builds upon a mathematical comparison that can be utilised for any time series data, the approach could be applied to extreme events in all sorts of complex systems.
02/02/2015 - Clean technology support can to some extent make up for weak CO2 pricing and hence help keep the two degrees target within reach, a new study shows. Even if the world climate summit in Paris later this year is successful in striking a climate deal, it might not bring about sharp greenhouse-gas cuts in the near-term. However, emission targets could be strengthened by complementary policies, such as support for renewables, a ban on new coal-fired power plants, and an initially modest global minimum price on CO2. If such a policy package – each component of which has already been enacted in some countries – were to be put into practice globally now, this could also pave the way for a clean economy with faster long-term CO2 reductions after 2030.
01/16/2015 - Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science. The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles. The scientists say that two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are “core boundaries” – significantly altering either of these would “drive the Earth System into a new state”. The team will present their findings in seven seminars at the World Economic Forum in Davos (21-25 January).
12/19/2014 - Around the globe, forests are found to be undergoing strong changes due to human influence already today. Degradation of woods due to man-made climate change cannot be ruled out for the future, a Special Feature to be published next week in the Journal of Ecology, led by a team of scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), now shows. To understand and improve the resilience of forests, a combination of approaches from small-scale field experiments to large-scale computer simulations can help, according to the studies. Taking a risk perspective, the scientists caution that global warming puts additional pressure on some of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth.
Currently proposed climate policy pledges are an important step forward but fall short of 2 degrees Celsius
12/15/2014 - Pledges to reduce emissions in China, Europe and the US provide an important step forward for climate change action, but a more comprehensive effort is needed to stabilize the climate below critical thresholds. Climate finance can cover investment gaps and alleviate distributional tensions, a new study shows. The study looks into several key negotiation issues on the road from the climate summit in Lima to the one in Paris 2015.
11/23/2014 - Weather extremes such as heat waves that up to now were highly unusual are likely to become the new normal, according to a report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now launched by the World Bank. Climate Change impacts are already being felt today and will grow even if warming is limited below 2 degrees. However, with unabated warming of probably 4 degrees within our century, the consequences increase drastically. The report is the third in a series, entitled “Turn down the heat” by the World Bank – now focused on how climate impacts and social vulnerability interact, or how the poor are hit hardest in Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and East and Central Asia.
11/17/2014 - Global forest conservation measures meant to mitigate climate change are likely to drive massive cropland expansion into shrublands or savannahs to satisfy the ever-growing hunger for arable land. The consequent changes in land use could cause substantial greenhouse gas emissions, a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change shows. In contrast to previous assumptions, conservation schemes that focus only on forests may thus fail to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from land-use change. If ecosystem protection policies aim at climate protection, they need to cover the whole range of land types, according to comprehensive computer simulations. To compensate for such restrictions on land use, intensification of agriculture to generate higher yields is important.
11/04/2014 - Reducing emissions of non-CO2 gases and air pollutants with climate effects would bring health benefits and near-term climate co-benefits - but the impact on long-term climate change might be lower than previously estimated, according to a new study of the potential of air pollution and carbon dioxide mitigation in climate stabilization scenarios.
11/02/2014 - The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) completed its Fifth Assessment Report on Sunday in Copenhagen. Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group III ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’, and one of the authors of the now released Synthesis Report, points to the contrast between the potentially irreversible impacts of unmitigated climate change and the manageable costs of ambitious mitigation.
10/15/2014 - The recent natural gas boom due to the use of technologies such as fracking will not lead to a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions. Burning natural gas produces only half the CO2 emissions as coal per unit of energy. However, as natural gas becomes abundant and therefore cheap, it adds to the total energy supply and only partially replaces coal, a study published in the journal Nature shows. This market effect erases the advantage of lower emissions from the natural gas itself, according to an unprecedented international comparison of computer simulations.
10/14/2014 - Predicting floods following extreme rainfall in the central Andes is enabled by a new method. Climate change has made these events more frequent and more severe in recent decades. Now complex networks analysis of satellite weather data makes it possible to produce a robust warning system for the first time, a study to be published in the journal Nature Communications shows. This might allow for improved disaster preparedness. As the complex systems technique builds upon a mathematical comparison that can be utilised for any time series data, the approach could be applied to extreme events in all sorts of complex systems.
Dead ends and solutions for the climate crisis: Panel discussion with Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks
09/01/2014 – Dr. Barbara Hendricks, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Dr. Michael Otto, Chairman of the Otto Group Supervisory Board and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection, Prof. Dr. Christian Thomsen, President of the Technische Universität Berlin, Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor for Climate Economics at the Technische Universität Berlin and Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C. will discuss "Climate change and climate mitigation between global transformation and national challenges" in Hamburg on September 2, with topics ranging from Germany's energy transition to the European Union's emissions trading.
8/14/2014 - Ice discharge from Antarctica could contribute up to 37 centimeters to the global sea level rise within this century, a new study shows. For the first time, an international team of scientists provide a comprehensive estimate on the full range of Antarctica’s potential contribution to global sea level rise based on physical computer simulations. Led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the study combines a whole set of state-of-the-art climate models and observational data with various ice models. The results reproduce Antarctica’s recent contribution to sea level rise as observed by satellites in the last two decades and show that the ice continent could become the largest contributor to sea level rise much sooner than previously thought.
08/12/2014 - Weather extremes in the summer - such as the record heat wave in the United States that hit corn farmers and worsened wildfires in 2012 - have reached an exceptional number in the last ten years. Man-made global warming can explain a gradual increase in periods of severe heat, but the observed change in the magnitude and duration of some events is not so easily explained. It has been linked to a recently discovered mechanism: the trapping of giant waves in the atmosphere. A new data analysis now shows that such wave-trapping events are indeed on the rise.
06/26/2014 - Technologies that are discussed controversially today may be needed to keep the future risks and costs of climate change in check. Combining the production of energy from fossil fuels and biomass with capturing and storing the CO2 they emit (CCS) can be key to achieving current climate policy objectives such as limiting the rise of the global mean temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. This is shown by the most comprehensive study to date on technology strategies to combat climate change, published in a special issue of the journal Climatic Change. It is based on the analysis of 18 computer models by an international team of scientists under the roof of the Stanford Energy Modelling Forum (EMF 27).
06/09/2014 - Climate change mitigation strategies such as the German Energiewende require linking vast numbers of new power generation facilities to the grid. As the input from many renewable sources is rather volatile, depending on how much the wind blows or the sun shines, there’s a higher risk of local power instabilities and eventually blackouts. Scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now employed a novel concept from nonlinear systems analysis called basin stability to tackle this challenge. They found that connecting dead ends can significantly increase power grid stability. The findings are confirmed by a case study of the Scandinavian power system.
05/27/2014 - Ants are capable of complex problem-solving strategies that could be widely applied as optimization techniques. An individual ant searching for food walks in random ways, biologists found. Yet the collective foraging behaviour of ants goes well beyond that, as a mathematical study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals: The animal movements at a certain point change from chaos to order. This happens in a surprisingly efficient self-organized way. Understanding the ants could help analyze similar phenomena - for instance how humans roam in the internet.
05/13/2014 - The most important fertilizer for producing food is, at the same time, one of the most important risks for human health: nitrogen. Chemical compounds containing reactive nitrogen are major drivers of air and water pollution worldwide, and hence of diseases like asthma or cancer. If no action is taken, nitrogen pollution could rise by 20 percent by 2050 in a middle-of-the-road scenario, according to a study now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Ambitious mitigation efforts, however, could decrease the pollution by 50 percent. The analysis is the very first to quantify this.
05/06/2014 - Overlapping impacts of climate change such as drought or flooding, declining crop yields or ecosystem damages create hotspots of risk in specific parts of Africa. These are for the first time identified in a study now published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The uncertainties in assessing the impacts do not necessarily hamper but can inform development strategies, according to the scientists. Likelihood and potential severity of impacts can be weighed to decide on suitable adaptation measures.
05/05/2014 - The melting of a rather small ice volume on East Antarctica’s shore could trigger a persistent ice discharge into the ocean, resulting in unstoppable sea-level rise for thousands of years to come. This is shown in a study now published in Nature Climate Change by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The findings are based on computer simulations of the Antarctic ice flow using improved data of the ground profile underneath the ice sheet.
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.