12/08/2016 - 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.
01/19/2017 - 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.
10/21/2016 - To mobilise the means of science and innovation for implementing the Paris Agreement and supporting EU climate action, the European Commission establishes a High Level Panel on Decarbonisation Pathways. Physicist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), was appointed chair of the panel at its first meeting on Friday in Brussels. The independent group of nine renowned expert - hosted by the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas - will deliver science-based policy-relevant advice to the European Commission in the form of intermediate policy briefs, and of a final report after three years.
13/10/2016 - From the Baltic Seat to the Alps, from the Rhineland to Brandenburg – global climate change also has an impact across Germany. A new educational platform created by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact (PIK) offers students and teachers a concise package of information and scenarios on climate change and its impacts across various sectors in Germany. Information stretches from agriculture to tourism and significantly scales all the way down to the district-level. Besides offering interactive climate projection tutorials, the platform (www.KlimafolgenOnline-Bildung.de) encompasses a glossary on basic climate change concepts as well as teaching materials and course guidelines.
26/09/2016 - When the summer rains in China are weak, they are strong in Australia, and vice versa – scientists have discovered a previously unknown see-saw relationship between these two monsoon regions. This effect does not occur from one year to another, but on decadal and centennial time scales. To detect the pattern, the team developed a novel mathematical method to analyze traces of climatic events of the past 9000 years archived in ancient dripstones from caves. The regional monsoon has huge effects on agriculture and hence on the livelihoods of half of the world’s population, including India and Indonesia. Understanding how seasonal periods of rainfall in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of our planet are linked is important for assessing possible long-distance effects of climate change.
29/08/2016 - A forest with greater diversity of plants can better adjust to climatic stress. Now for the first time, a team of scientists can show this in computer simulations of the Amazon region by accounting for its amazing diversity of trees. Biodiversity can hence be an effective means to mitigate climate risks and should not only be seen in the context of nature conservation.
Dealing with Climate Change Impacts – the Potsdam Summer School starts with young talents from all over the world
From global sea level rise to extreme events like floods or droughts – even with ambitious climate mitigation, some impacts of climate change will be felt within this century. How to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable will be the focus of the Potsdam Summer School from September 5-14, bringing together more than 40 early-career scientists and young professionals from all around the globe.
08/25/2016 - Global warming could create substantial economic damage in agriculture, a new study conducted by a team of scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) finds. Around the globe, climate change threatens agricultural productivity, forcing up food prices. While financial gains and losses differ between consumers and producers across the regions, bottom line is that consumers in general will likely have to pay more for the same basket of food. As the additional expenditure for consumers outweighs producers’ gains, increasing net economic losses will occur in the agriculture and food sector towards the end of the century. However, economic losses could be limited to 0.3 percent of global GDP – depending on agricultural trade policies.
08/16/2016 - When hurricanes like Katrina in 2005 or Sandy in 2012 impact on highly populated regions they bring about tremendous damages. More than 50 percent of all weather-related economic losses on the globe are caused by damages due to tropical cyclones. Researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now analyzed the magnitude of future hurricane losses in relation to economic growth. Showcasing the United States they found that financial losses per hurricane could triple by the end of the century in unmitigated climate change, while annual losses could on average rise by a factor of eight. Most importantly and contrary to prevalent opinion, they conclude that economic growth will not be able to counterbalance the increase in damage.
07/26/2016 - Climate disasters like heat-waves or droughts enhance the risk of armed conflicts in countries with high ethnic diversity, scientists found. They used a novel statistical approach to analyze data from the past three decades. While each conflict is certainly the result of a complex and specific mix of factors, it turns out that the outbreak of violence in ethnically fractionalized countries is often linked to natural disasters that may fuel smoldering social tensions. This finding, to be published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, can help in the design of security policies – even more so since future global warming from human-made greenhouse-gas emissions will increase natural disasters and therefore likely also risks of conflicts and migration.
07/20/2016 - Banks and insurers can play a crucial part in stabilizing the climate, while at the same time safeguarding their clients’ assets. Leading representatives of finance and climate research will discuss the best strategies for a turnaround in investing this Thursday in Berlin. The event is hosted by the Swiss global bank UBS, the French multinational insurance firm AXA, CDP, the European innovation initiative Climate-KIC, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Divestment – the diversion of capital from fossil fuel industries to green innovation and sustainable businesses – is a new approach to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which could turn out to be a global “game changer”.
07/19/2016 - Flood-related losses can be expected to increase considerably in Germany as a result of climate change, a new study shows. Extreme events like the severe floods along the river Elbe have already illustrated the potentially devastating consequences of certain weather conditions such as severe rainfall events, when continuing intense rain can no longer be absorbed by the soil and water levels in the rivers rise. Without appropriate adaptation, flood-related damage of currently about 500 million euros a year could multiply in the future, the comprehensive expert analysis published in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences highlights.
06/23/2016 - While some criticize the Paris climate target as impracticable, a team of scholars argues that it is – on the contrary – a triumph of realism. First, and most importantly, adhering to the Paris target of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius is necessary in view of the massive risks that unchecked climate change would pose to society. A crucial type of threats, associated with the crossing of tipping points in the Earth system, is summarized in a landmark map for the first time. Second, implementing the Paris target is feasible through the controlled implosion of the fossil industry, instigated by a technological explosion related to renewable energy systems and other innovations. Third, the target is simple enough to create worldwide political momentum, the scientists say in their comment published in Nature Climate Change.
06/10/2016 - The susceptibility of the global economic network to workers' heat-stress has doubled in the last decade, a new study published in the journal Science Advances finds. The analysis by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Columbia University shows for the first time how enhanced connectivity of the global network of supply can amplify production losses, as these losses can be spread more easily across countries.
04/20/2016 - The Indian monsoon’s yearly onset and withdrawal can now be forecasted significantly earlier than previously possible. A team of scientists developed a novel prediction method based on a network analysis of regional weather data, and will propose this approach to the Indian Meteorological Department. The heavy summer rains are of vital importance for millions of farmers feeding the subcontinent’s population. Future climate change will likely affect monsoon stability and hence makes accurate forecasting even more relevant.
04/15/2016 - Disastrous floods in the Balkans two years ago are likely linked to the temporary slowdown of giant airstreams, scientists found. These wind patterns, circling the globe in the form of huge waves between the Equator and the North Pole, normally move eastwards, but practically stopped for several days then – at the same time, a weather system got stuck over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia that poured out record amounts of rain. The study adds evidence that so-called planetary wave resonance is a key mechanism for causing extreme weather events in summer. Further, the scientists showed that extreme rainfall events are strongly increasing in the Balkans, even more than the globally observed rise.
04/07/2016 - About a tenth of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture could be traced back to food waste by mid-century, a new study shows. A team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the first time provides comprehensive food loss projections for countries around the world while also calculating the associated emissions. Currently, one third of global food production never finds its way onto our plates. This share will increase drastically, if emerging countries like China and India adopt Western nutrition lifestyles, the analyses shows. Reducing food waste would offer the chance to ensure food security, which is well known. Yet at the same time it could help mitigate dangerous climate change.
03/17/2017 - On a school field trip to Potsdam’s Telegraph Hill, Alice runs after a white rabbit – and falls into a hole, sliding down the ventilation shaft of a climate research institute’s supercomputer. From here on follows a journey through the virtual world of computer models, from tropical rainforests to the ice of Antarctica. This is the rather unusual beginning of a new publication from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in very free adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s philosophical children’s book classic “Alice in Wonderland”. More than 50 scientists provided their expertise for this work by Margret Boysen, which is being presented at this year's Leipzig Book Fair and is now available in German book shops. An English version is in planning.
03/10/2016 - Future sea-level rise is a problem probably too big to be solved even by unprecedented geo-engineering such as pumping water masses onto the Antarctic continent. The idea has been investigated by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact. While the pumped water would certainly freeze to solid ice, the weight of it would speed up the ice-flow into the ocean at the Antarctic coast. To store the water for a millenium, it would have to be pumped at least 700 kilometer inland, the team found. Overall that would require more than one tenth of the present annual global energy supply to balance the current rate of sea-level rise.
02/29/2016 - Damages from extreme events like floods are even more relevant than the mean sea level itself when it comes to the costs of climate impacts for coastal regions. However, while it is now rather well understood how sea-levels will rise in the future, only small progress has been made estimating how the implied damage for cities at the coasts will increase during the next decades. A team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now provides a method to quantify monetary losses from coastal floods under sea-level rise. For the first time, the scientists show that the damage costs consistently increase at a higher rate than the sea-level rise itself.