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SPECIAL: Use a “Carbon Law”
to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050

Photo Carbon Law03/24/2017 - To bridge the gap between science-based targets focused on cutting greenhouse gases, and national commitments to such efforts, international experts propose in the highly renowned journal ‘Science’ a decadal roadmap strategy for achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century. They base this on a simple “carbon law” of halving anthropogenic carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions each decade. Read more...

Climate stabilization: Planting trees cannot replace cutting CO2 emissions

Climate stabilization: Planting trees cannot replace cutting CO2 emissions

05/18/2017 - Growing plants and then storing the CO2 they have taken up from the atmosphere is no viable option to counteract unmitigated emissions from fossil fuel burning, a new study shows. The plantations would need to be so large, they would eliminate most natural ecosystems or reduce food production if implemented as a late-regret option in the case of substantial failure to reduce emissions. However, growing biomass soon in well-selected places with increased irrigation or fertilization could support climate policies of rapid and strong emission cuts to achieve climate stabilization below 2 degrees Celsius.

Climate stabilization: Planting trees cannot replace cutting CO2 emissions - Read More…

Weather extremes and trade policies were main drivers of wheat price peaks

Weather extremes and trade policies were main drivers of wheat price peaks

04/28/2017 - Price peaks of wheat on the world market are mainly caused by production shocks such as induced for example by droughts, researchers found. These shocks get exacerbated by low storage levels as well as protective trade policies, the analysis of global data deriving from the US Department of Agriculture shows. In contrast to widespread assumptions, neither speculation across stock or commodity markets nor land-use for biofuel production were decisive for annual wheat price changes in the past four decades. This finding allows for better risk assessment. Soaring global crop prices in some years can contribute to local food crises, and climate change from burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases is increasing weather variability.

Weather extremes and trade policies were main drivers of wheat price peaks - Read More…

Building trust, not hate: When people know each other, cooperation is more likely than conflict

Building trust, not hate: When people know each other, cooperation is more likely than conflict

03/30/2017 - When anonymity between people is lifted, they more likely cooperate with each other. Playing nice can thereby become a winning strategy, an international team of scientists shows in a study to be published in Science Advances. The findings are based on experiments with a limited number of participants but might have far-reaching implications, if confirmed. Reducing anonymity could help social networks such as Facebook or Twitter that suffer from hate and fake news. It might also help in conflicts about environmental resources.

Building trust, not hate: When people know each other, cooperation is more likely than conflict - Read More…

Weather extremes: Humans likely influence giant airstreams

Weather extremes: Humans likely influence giant airstreams

03/27/2017 - The increase of devastating weather extremes in summer is likely linked to human-made climate change, mounting evidence shows. Giant airstreams are circling the Earth, waving up and down between the Arctic and the tropics. These planetary waves transport heat and moisture. When these planetary waves stall, droughts or floods can occur. Warming caused by greenhouse-gases from fossil fuels creates favorable conditions for such events, an international team of scientists now finds.

Weather extremes: Humans likely influence giant airstreams - Read More…

Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon

Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon

03/13/2017 - Logging that happens today and potential future rainfall reductions in the Amazon could push the region into a vicious dieback circle. If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds. If however there is a great variety of tree species in a forest patch, according to the study this can significantly strengthen the chance of survival. To detect such non-linear behavior, the researchers apply a novel complex network analysis of water fluxes.

Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon - Read More…

Harvests in the US to suffer from climate change

Harvests in the US to suffer from climate change

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.

Harvests in the US to suffer from climate change - Read More…

How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs

How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs

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.

How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs - Read More…

EU Commission launches high level panel on decarbonisation chaired by Schellnhuber

EU Commission launches high level panel on decarbonisation chaired by Schellnhuber

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.

EU Commission launches high level panel on decarbonisation chaired by Schellnhuber - Read More…

A new education platform on climate impacts for Germany

A new education platform on climate impacts for Germany

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.

A new education platform on climate impacts for Germany - Read More…

Giant see-saw of monsoon rains detected

Giant see-saw of monsoon rains detected

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.

Giant see-saw of monsoon rains detected - Read More…

Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks

Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks

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.

Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks - Read More…

Dealing with Climate Change Impacts – the Potsdam Summer School starts with young talents from all over the world

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.

Dealing with Climate Change Impacts – the Potsdam Summer School starts with young talents from all over the world - Read More…

Climate change: Trade liberalization could buffer economic losses in agriculture

Climate change: Trade liberalization could buffer economic losses in agriculture

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.

Climate change: Trade liberalization could buffer economic losses in agriculture - Read More…

Can we economically outgrow climate change damages? Not for hurricanes we can't

Can we economically outgrow climate change damages? Not for hurricanes we can't

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.

Can we economically outgrow climate change damages? Not for hurricanes we can't - Read More…

Climate disasters increase risk of armed conflict in multi-ethnic countries

Climate disasters increase risk of armed conflict in multi-ethnic countries

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.

Climate disasters increase risk of armed conflict in multi-ethnic countries - Read More…

The Great Investment Turnaround: how to finance a sustainable world economy

The Great Investment Turnaround: how to finance a sustainable world economy

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”.

The Great Investment Turnaround: how to finance a sustainable world economy - Read More…

Flood damages in Germany could multiply under climate change

Flood damages in Germany could multiply under climate change

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.

Flood damages in Germany could multiply under climate change - Read More…

Controlled implosion of fossil industries and explosive renewables development can deliver on Paris

Controlled implosion of fossil industries and explosive renewables development can deliver on Paris

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.

Controlled implosion of fossil industries and explosive renewables development can deliver on Paris - Read More…

Globalization made economic production more vulnerable to climate change

Globalization made economic production more vulnerable to 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.

Globalization made economic production more vulnerable to climate change - Read More…

Indian monsoon: novel approach allows early forecasting

Indian monsoon: novel approach allows early forecasting

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.

Indian monsoon: novel approach allows early forecasting - Read More…

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