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2011

Climate dents in humankind´s family tree: new correlations discovered

Climate dents in humankind´s family tree: new correlations discovered

12/05/2011 - Climate changes in Earth’s history have influenced the fate of modern man´s ancestors, but until now it has not been clear why some evolutionary variations developed or disappeared. Scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Potsdam University have now provided a novel view on human evolution during the past five million years. A nonlinear statistical analysis of sediments taken from the seafloor near Africa indicates that abrupt changes in climate variability could have had a significant impact on human evolution. In the first instance, the scientists have spotted three primeval tipping points.

Climate dents in humankind´s family tree: new correlations discovered - Read More…

Stiftung Mercator and PIK initiate new institute with EUR 17m budget

Stiftung Mercator and PIK initiate new institute with EUR 17m budget

11/28/2011 - Today Stiftung Mercator and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) announced the foundation of a joint institute for research and policy advice in Berlin. The Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) will address interdisciplinary research on questions of sustainable growth in a finite world. The MCC will be run by Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer, who will also remain as Deputy Director at PIK. Stiftung Mercator is providing financing of around EUR 17m over eight years. This is the largest individual funding contribution ever provided by a private foundation in the field of climate research in Germany. Up to 40 jobs will be created over the course of the coming year. The institute is likely to be located at the Euref site in Schöneberg, Berlin.

Stiftung Mercator and PIK initiate new institute with EUR 17m budget - Read More…

Growing world trade makes food production cheaper – at the expense of the environment

Growing world trade makes food production cheaper – at the expense of the environment

11/22/2011 - Further opening of the markets for agricultural products leads to lower production costs for food. This will happen at the expense of the environment though, if for example forests are turned into cropland. The conflict of interests between food production and climate protection is now shown by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in calculations for the years 2005 to 2045. For the first time, the effects of an advancing liberalization of agricultural trade were comprehensively analyzed through computer simulations, focusing both on the economic impacts and on those on land use and nature. This is one of the important issues to be discussed at the UN summit in Durban next week.

Growing world trade makes food production cheaper – at the expense of the environment - Read More…

Eliminating subsidies harmful to the climate: “We have a vast number of possibilities"

Eliminating subsidies harmful to the climate: “We have a vast number of possibilities"

11/14/2011 - With tens of billions some states subsidize fossil fuels like oil. This was dubbed “an absurdity of our economic system” by Achim Steiner, Head of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) during his Climate Lecture at Technische Universität Berlin (TUB). To stop these subsidies of more than 500 billions US$ a year could be a great chance for global climate protection; just one of many. “We have a vast number of possibilities – if we succeed to mobilize decision-makers in economy and politics,” Steiner told more than a thousand listeners. The world should listen more closely to science. It consolidates its findings more and more. Despite remaining questions and uncertainties, climate protection is simply “reasonable risk management”.

Eliminating subsidies harmful to the climate: “We have a vast number of possibilities" - Read More…

 Where does tomorrow’s energy come from? Researchers explore new pathways

Where does tomorrow’s energy come from? Researchers explore new pathways

11/09/2011 - In just a few weeks´ time the European Union will present its scenarios for tomorrow’s energy, the “Energy Roadmap 2050” – and already there is some excitement about the question of price increases. Behind such estimates, however, there are scientific models: computer simulations of real world processes. They are the tools to assess costs and benefits of a transformation of our energy system in line with climate change mitigation. This week, the most relevant developers of such models assembled under the umbrella of the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF), met for the first time at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The new analyses they are preparing are about data and formula – but in the end also about euros and cents for industry and households.

Where does tomorrow’s energy come from? Researchers explore new pathways - Read More…

More heat waves: increase of extremes due to climate change

More heat waves: increase of extremes due to climate change

10/24/2011 - The Moscow heat wave last year was, with high probability, the result of climate change – contrary to what some have assumed. With a likelihood of 80 percent, it was not natural short-term climatic variability but the long-term warming trend that caused the temperature record in the region surrounding the Russian capital in July 2010, according to scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). They developed a formula for calculating how frequently weather extremes occur in a changing climate. This week their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More heat waves: increase of extremes due to climate change - Read More…

Climate change: A risk for plants and animals worldwide

Climate change: A risk for plants and animals worldwide

10/07/2011 - Climate change entails a risk for ecosystems on all continents. Scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have now identified the scale of danger for animals and plants in a worldwide analysis. For that purpose, they developed a novel measure that for the first time systematically quantifies the impacts of changes in CO2 concentration in the air as well as in temperature and rainfall on terrestrial ecosystems. Computer simulations show that global warming could lead to an expansion of the Kazakh steppe but also lets forests grow in the presently treeless tundra. If global mean temperature rises more than two to three degrees, the impacts in many regions can be drastically amplified.

Climate change: A risk for plants and animals worldwide - Read More…

A ‘carbonizing dragon’: China’s growing CO2 emissions due to investments in construction, not just exports

A ‘carbonizing dragon’: China’s growing CO2 emissions due to investments in construction, not just exports

10/05/2011 - Constructing buildings, power-plants, roads is what drives the substantial increase in China’s CO2 emission growth, a new study finds. Fast growing capital investments in infrastructure projects have led to the expansion of the construction industry and its energy and CO2 intensive supply chain including steel and cement production. As a result of this transformation of China’s economy, more and more CO2 is released per unit of gross domestic product recently – a reversion of a long-term trend. Previously China’s greenhouse gas emission growth was driven by rising consumption and exports. Today this emission growth is offset by emission savings from efficiency increases. This now is thwarted by the building of infrastructure – which is even more important as it dictates tomorrow’s emissions, the international team of researchers concludes.

A ‘carbonizing dragon’: China’s growing CO2 emissions due to investments in construction, not just exports - Read More…

Mapping the future: new pathways for greenhouse gas concentrations

Mapping the future: new pathways for greenhouse gas concentrations

09/26/2011 - Behind grand projections of global warming’s impacts and recommendations for mitigation, there is huge not-so-glamourous research. Four new benchmark scenarios for future climate change are being presented now, ranging from – for the first time – a low emission scenario assuming ambitious mitigation action, which would keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, to a very high scenario. These so-called Representative Concentration Pathways, also for the first time, have been extended to the year 2300. This is more than just an update of the previously used scenarios.

Mapping the future: new pathways for greenhouse gas concentrations - Read More…

Technology funding makes climate protection cheaper

Technology funding makes climate protection cheaper

09/19/2011 - To cost-effectively protect the climate, not only an emissions trading scheme but also financial support for new technologies is needed. Economising on targeted funding, for example for renewable energies, makes climate protection more expensive – as scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now calculated for the first time, using a complex computer simulation that spans the entire 21st century. Without funding, energy technologies with high cost reduction potentials will hardly stand a chance, since they require a significant initial investment: a case of market failure.

Technology funding makes climate protection cheaper - Read More…

Pioneering climate researcher: Schellnhuber receives highest-ranking awards

Pioneering climate researcher: Schellnhuber receives highest-ranking awards

09/08/2011 - For his world-leading contributions to Earth system science and for the transfer of scientific insight into policy, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), will this autumn receive several awards. The Volvo Prize, considered to be the highest-ranking distinction for environmental research, will be presented to Schellnhuber in early November in Sweden. The President of Germany will bestow upon him the Federal Order of Merit, first class, in October in Berlin’s Bellevue Palace. And the renowned University of Copenhagen will honour him with an Honorary Doctorate.

Pioneering climate researcher: Schellnhuber receives highest-ranking awards - Read More…

Study on the Little Ice Age: Low solar activity just marginally cools the climate

Study on the Little Ice Age: Low solar activity just marginally cools the climate

09/01/2011 - The weakening sun was not the determinant factor for the Little Ice Age. Strong volcanic eruptions in particular, but also a smaller amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were important factors during this period of cooler climate in the 16th and 17th century, a new study shows. This implies that low solar activity, which is expected by some researchers for the coming decades, cannot considerably slow down global warming caused by humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Study on the Little Ice Age: Low solar activity just marginally cools the climate - Read More…

Penalizing free-riders: game theory could help climate negotiators

Penalizing free-riders: game theory could help climate negotiators

08/29/2011 - All international efforts to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions are hampered by "free-riding" countries. A new approach on how to deal with such countries is given by a study using economic game theory which is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. In the study, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research show how - at least on paper - a greater degree of international cooperation can be achieved.

Penalizing free-riders: game theory could help climate negotiators - Read More…

Energy from biomass pays even with forest protection in the long term

Energy from biomass pays even with forest protection in the long term

08/18/2011 - Forest protection – safeguarding woodland from being cleared and converted to fields for energy crops – reduces the global economic potential of bioenergy only in the short term. If less additional land is available for cultivation, this can be compensated by higher rates of yield-raising investments. This is shown by a new study. However, following this scenario global food production prices could rise considerably.

Energy from biomass pays even with forest protection in the long term - Read More…

Sea levels rising at fastest rate in 2000 years

Sea levels rising at fastest rate in 2000 years

06/20/2011 - The rate of sea-level rise since the beginning of industrialization is greater than ever before in the last two thousand years. After many centuries with stable or slowly increasing sea level, around the year 1900 the data curve starts to rise steeply. This is shown by an analysis of sediments from the US Atlantic coast – it is the first continuous sea-level reconstruction covering such a long time span.

Sea levels rising at fastest rate in 2000 years - Read More…

Researchers refine assessment of tipping elements of the climate system

Researchers refine assessment of tipping elements of the climate system

06/23/2011 - The West Antarctic ice sheet is a potential tipping element of the climate system that might have partially tipped already. According to a study now published in Climatic Change, experts can not rule out that ice masses in the Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica have already begun to destabilize. This is one of the results of a new assessment of the current state of six potentially unstable regions in the climate system with large direct impacts on Europe. The likelihood of climatic transitions of these elements generally increases as global mean temperature increases due to greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.

Researchers refine assessment of tipping elements of the climate system - Read More…

Exit from nuclear power is affordable – but entering a new energy system is challenging

Exit from nuclear power is affordable – but entering a new energy system is challenging

06/10/2011 - The much debated date for phasing out nuclear power in Germany has little impact on consumer prices of electricity, according to scientists. An exit before 2020, however, could push up emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 in the short term. Yet security of supply is the crucial point. This security can only be guaranteed if both renewable energies and fossil power generation along with power grids are scaled up, shows a study which for the first time presents a comprehensive calculation of the effects. Deploying power plants fired by gas instead of coal could, at an equal price, lead to less emissions and more competition.

Exit from nuclear power is affordable – but entering a new energy system is challenging - Read More…

Good progress on the road to 100 percent renewable electricity – despite obstacles

Good progress on the road to 100 percent renewable electricity – despite obstacles

05/31/2011 - Progress towards achieving one hundred percent renewable electricity in Europe and North Africa by 2050 is largely good, according to a report released on may 31st in Brussels. However, in the cross-border grid development, little progress has been made on the ground. This is due to a lack of regulatory harmonization and a lack of mechanisms to deal with growing public opposition to infrastructure projects, the report shows. The report – a collaboration of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) and the advisory firm PwC – is building a bridge between science and the business and investment community to investigate the transformation of the power sector. (Joint Press Release by PIK, IIASA, PwC, SEFEP)

Good progress on the road to 100 percent renewable electricity – despite obstacles - Read More…

Nobel Laureates hand over recommendations to UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability

Nobel Laureates hand over recommendations to UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability

05/18/2011 - The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that the planet has entered a new geological age, the Anthropocene. It recommends a suite of urgent and far-reaching actions for decision makers and societies to become active stewards of the planet for future generations. (This press release has been drafted by the Swedish organizers of the symposium - the PIK sent out it's own press release only for German language media.)

Nobel Laureates hand over recommendations to UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability - Read More…

UN High-level Panel joins Memorandum signing ceremony

UN High-level Panel joins Memorandum signing ceremony

05/16/2011 - President Tarja Halonen, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Kevin Rudd among members of the UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability to participate at the presentation of the results from the Nobel Laureate Symposium on 18 May. (This press release has been drafted by the organizers in Stockholm - the PIK sent out it's own press release only for German language media.)

UN High-level Panel joins Memorandum signing ceremony - Read More…

Vatican Science Panel Calls Attention to the Threat of Glacial Melt

Vatican Science Panel Calls Attention to the Threat of Glacial Melt

05/09/2011 - A panel of some of the world's leading climate and glacier scientists co-chaired by a Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher issued a report today commissioned by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences citing the moral imperative before society to properly address climate change. (This press release has been drafted by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego - the PIK sent out it's own press release only for German language media.)

Vatican Science Panel Calls Attention to the Threat of Glacial Melt - Read More…

Emissions from consumption may offset reported carbon emission reductions in industrialized countries

Emissions from consumption may offset reported carbon emission reductions in industrialized countries

04/26/2011 - An increasing share of global emissions is from the production of internationally traded goods and services, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Due to current reporting practices, this has allowed some countries to increase their carbon footprints while reporting stabilized emissions. (This press release has been drafted by the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo - the PIK sent out it's own press release only for German language media.)

Emissions from consumption may offset reported carbon emission reductions in industrialized countries - Read More…

 „Pioneering contributions to the development of Earth system models“: EGU awards

„Pioneering contributions to the development of Earth system models“: EGU awards

04/07/2011 - For his role in helping to understand mechanisms of glacial climate change, Andrey Ganopolski of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has been honoured by the European Geosciences Union (EGU). He was awarded the Milutin Milankovic Medal in Vienna this week “for his pioneering contributions to the development of Earth system models of intermediate complexity”, the EGU stated. These models – systems of mathematical equations representing processes in the atmosphere, oceans and other planetary compartments – show high computational efficiency. They allow scientists to perform more and longer projections, in contrast to state-of-the-art Earth system models. For the first time, Ganopolski and his collaborators made it possible to realistically simulate and explain some important aspects of transitions between glacial and interglacial periods – providing important insights which also help to assess anthropogenic global warming.

„Pioneering contributions to the development of Earth system models“: EGU awards - Read More…

Road traffic has more to contribute to climate protection

Road traffic has more to contribute to climate protection

03/30/2011 - Cars, trucks, ships and aircraft are the main driver of global oil consumption. In the EU the transport sector is the only economic sector whose greenhouse gas emissions are constantly increasing, especially with respect to road transportation. Using a well balanced mix of instruments, though, the transport sector’s contribution to climate change could be reduced, according to economic researchers of the Technical University of Berlin (TU) and of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). They especially highlight two measures: firstly, for the admission of new cars their energy consumption instead of their CO2 emissions should be the criterion for setting efficiency standards. Secondly road traffic could be incorporated into the European emissions trading scheme. (Joint press release by TU Berlin and PIK)

Road traffic has more to contribute to climate protection - Read More…

Large climate risks for African farmers: IPCC was on the right track

Large climate risks for African farmers: IPCC was on the right track

03/01/2011 - Climate change poses severe risks to food production in many African countries. This statement of the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was attacked fiercely one year ago. Critics suggested this assessment lacked scientific foundation, trying to challenge the credibility of the IPCC as a whole. But the IPCC finding has been confirmed by recent research, reported by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in the renowned US-journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “None of the agricultural regions in Africa is on the safe side,” lead-author Christoph Müller says. “This is a robust conclusion, even though we still don’t know many things as precisely as we would like to.”

Large climate risks for African farmers: IPCC was on the right track - Read More…

Climate change mitigation cost: researchers improve assessment

Climate change mitigation cost: researchers improve assessment

02/28/2011 - The assessment of climate change mitigation cost is going to be improved. Teams of researchers from twelve countries will run their energy-economy-climate computer models against each other. The aim is to make the prognoses more informative for policy-makers who want to bring about long-term emission reductions or promote low carbon technology. “Assessments of mitigation cost need a broader foundation,” says Elmar Kriegler from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). He is leading the model comparison project together with PIK’s chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer. “We will analyse in detail how a variety of assumptions – e.g. concerning future climate policy and available mitigation options – affect the mitigation scenarios, their feasibility and cost.”

Climate change mitigation cost: researchers improve assessment - Read More…

EU climate target: Less CO2-emissions could trigger more economic growth

02/21/2011 - Increasing the EU’s 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target from 20% to 30% could help boosting European investments from 18% to 22% of GDP, leading to a GDP increase of up to €620bn ($840bn) and the creation of up to 6 millions additional jobs. These are the key findings of a report launched today.

EU climate target: Less CO2-emissions could trigger more economic growth - Read More…

Expansion of energy production from biomass requires careful consideration

Expansion of energy production from biomass requires careful consideration

01/10/2011 - Energy production from plants could provide up to twenty percent of the world's energy demand in 2050, half of it from biomass plantations alone – but only at the price of a substantial expansion of land used for cultivation, to the expense of nature. This is the finding of a study carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) “which for the first time determines the potential and the risks of energy production from biomass plantations in a complex biogeochemical computer simulation,“ lead author Tim Beringer says. Human land use could increase by ten to thirty percent, depending on the scenario, and irrigation water demand could double.

Expansion of energy production from biomass requires careful consideration - Read More…

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