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SPECIAL: “We need you”: UN climate chief to Potsdam climate scientists

Impacts world 201710/13/2017 - Hundreds of millions of people will be affected by climate change impacts and their implications for health or migration already within the next few decades, sectors that so far often get overlooked in this context. This is one of the insights of the Impacts World Conference organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany this week. About 500 scientists from 67 countries were gathering at the conference with the title “Counting the true costs of climate change” to push climate impact research to the next level by better integrating socio-economic factors. At the same time, the institute celebrated its 25th anniversary hosting this meeting of the global impacts research community, in the spirit of its mission followed for a quarter century: further advancing scientific progress and communicating insights to stakeholders. Read more ...

Counting the true costs of climate change: Impacts World Conference in Potsdam

Counting the true costs of climate change: Impacts World Conference in Potsdam

10/11/2017 - Destabilizing the climate can also destabilize societies. Global warming impacts cause substantial economic damages, hurts human health in many ways, influences the drivers of human migration, and it can jeopardize development for many of the world’s poor. To investigate effects in these four areas, close to 500 researchers will meet on 11-13 October in Potsdam, Germany. Counting the true costs of climate change – this is the conference title – is quite a challenge since the social costs in particular are sometimes hard to calculate and also come in terms of human suffering. It is as part of this conference that the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) will also celebrate its 25th anniversary, a quarter of a century of advancing insights into the interaction between humankind and the Earth System.

Counting the true costs of climate change: Impacts World Conference in Potsdam - Read More…

Formation of coal almost turned our planet into a snowball

Formation of coal almost turned our planet into a snowball

2017/10/10 - While burning coal today causes Earth to overheat, about 300 million years ago the formation of that same coal brought our planet close to global glaciation. For the first time, scientists show the massive effect in a study published in the renowned Proceedings of the US Academy of Sciences. When trees in vast forests died during a time called the Carboniferous and the Permian, the carbon dioxide (CO2) they took up from the atmosphere while growing got buried; the plants’ debris over time formed most of the coal that today is used as fossil fuel. Consequently, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere sank drastically and Earth cooled down to a degree it narrowly escaped what scientists call a ‘snowball state’.

Formation of coal almost turned our planet into a snowball - Read More…

Winter cold extremes linked to high-altitude polar vortex weakening

Winter cold extremes linked to high-altitude polar vortex weakening

09/22/2017 - When the strong winds that circle the Arctic slacken, cold polar air can escape and cause extreme winter chills in parts of the Northern hemisphere. A new study finds that these weak states have become more persistent over the past four decades and can be linked to cold winters in Russia and Europe. It is the first to show that changes in winds high up in the stratosphere substantially contributed to the observed winter cooling trend in northern Eurasia. While it is still a subject of research how the Arctic under climate change impacts the rest of the world, this study lends further support that a changing Arctic impacts the weather across large swaths of the Northern Hemisphere population centers.

Winter cold extremes linked to high-altitude polar vortex weakening - Read More…

Ending tax breaks after the diesel scandal

Ending tax breaks after the diesel scandal

09/19/2017 - In response to the diesel scandal, the diesel tax advantage should be completely abandoned within the European Union (EU). In Germany, for example, diesel would then be about 20 cents per liter more expensive at the pump. In return, however, this measure would allow Germany but also France to reduce the emissions of CO2 and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by about 10 percent over five years. This is because diesel drivers in particular are much more sensitive to fuel price changes than previously assumed: a price hike of 20 cents per liter would lower their overall consumption by an estimated 14 percent.

Ending tax breaks after the diesel scandal - Read More…

Electricity consumption in Europe will shift under climate change

Electricity consumption in Europe will shift under climate change

28.08.2017 - Rising temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions will fundamentally change electricity consumption patterns in Europe. A team of scientists from Germany and the United States now analyzed what unchecked future warming means for Europe’s electricity demand: daily peak loads in Southern Europe will likely increase and overall consumption will shift from Northern Europe to the South. Further, the majority of countries will see a shift of temperature-driven annual peak demand from winter to summer by the end of this century. This would put additional strain on European power grids, the study now published in the renowned US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests.

Electricity consumption in Europe will shift under climate change - Read More…

Unabated climate change would reverse the development gains in Asia: report

Unabated climate change would reverse the development gains in Asia: report

14/07/2017 - Unabated climate change would bring devastating consequences to countries in Asia and the Pacific, which could severely affect their future growth, reverse current development gains, and degrade quality of life, according to a report produced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

Unabated climate change would reverse the development gains in Asia: report - Read More…

From dry to wet: Rainfall might abruptly increase in Africa’s Sahel

From dry to wet: Rainfall might abruptly increase in Africa’s Sahel

06/07/2017 - Climate change could turn one of Africa's driest regions into a very wet one by suddenly switching on a Monsoon circulation. For the first time, scientists find evidence in computer simulations for a possible abrupt change to heavy seasonal rainfall in the Sahel, a region that so far has been characterized by extreme dryness. They detect a self-amplifying mechanism which might kick-in beyond 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of global warming – which happens to be the limit for global temperature rise set in the Paris Climate Agreement. Although crossing this new tipping point is potentially beneficial, the change could be so big, it would be a major adaptation challenge for an already troubled region.

From dry to wet: Rainfall might abruptly increase in Africa’s Sahel - Read More…

Why Climate Policy matters for the G20 finance ministers’ agenda

Why Climate Policy matters for the G20 finance ministers’ agenda

06/30/2017 - In order to stay below the 2 °C guardrail set in the Paris Agreement, climate policy should be integrated with the G20 finance ministers’ agenda. Finance ministers should consider the merits of carbon pricing for sound fiscal policy and thereby stimulate investments in carbon-free infrastructure. “It is rational for G20 finance ministers to embrace climate policy, even if climate change is not their primary concern,” writes a team of authors led by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in an article published in the new issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. In their article “Aligning climate policy with finance ministers’ G20 agenda”, Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Director of MCC, together with MCC Secretary General Brigitte Knopf and colleagues from other institutions argue that investments in fossil fuels have become more risky in the post-Paris world.

Why Climate Policy matters for the G20 finance ministers’ agenda - Read More…

Turning the Climate Tide by 2020

Turning the Climate Tide by 2020

06/28/2017 - The world needs high-speed climate action for an immediate bending-down of the global greenhouse-gas emissions curve, leading experts caution. Aggressive reduction of fossil-fuel usage is the key to averting devastating heat extremes and unmanageable sea level rise, the authors argue in a comment published in the renowned scientific journal Nature this week. In the run-up to the G20 summit of the planet’s leading economies, the article sets six milestones for a clean industrial revolution. This call for strong short-term measures complements the longer-term 'carbon law' approach introduced earlier this year by some of the current co-authors, including the Potsdam Institute’s Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, in the equally eminent journal Science. Thus a full narrative of deep decarbonization emerges.

Turning the Climate Tide by 2020 - Read More…

Blue Planet Prize awarded to Potsdam climate scientist Schellnhuber

Blue Planet Prize awarded to Potsdam climate scientist Schellnhuber

06/14/2017 - The world's most important award for pioneers in sustainability research will be given to the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. This has been announced today in Tokyo by the Asahi Glass Foundation. The Blue Planet Prize of 50 million Yen honours thinkers and doers for major contributions to solving global environmental problems. Schellnhuber receives the award for establishing the 2 degrees Celsius guardrail of global warming agreed by the governments of all countries at the UN climate summit in Paris. Furthermore, the physicist Schellnhuber shaped the science of Earth System Analysis and developed the most influential concept of tipping elements.

Blue Planet Prize awarded to Potsdam climate scientist Schellnhuber - Read More…

Fires, storms, insects: climate change increases risks for forests worldwide

Fires, storms, insects: climate change increases risks for forests worldwide

05/31/2017 - Droughts, fires and wind as well as insects and fungal attacks: all of them result in stress for the forests of the Earth – and they are all influenced by climate change. About a third of worldwide land surface is covered by forests, but knowledge about how disruptive factors that affect them interact with one another in the context of global climate change is still lacking, as these are often analyzed separately and on a local scale. Now for the first time, an international team of scientists has comprehensively examined possible climate impacts on disturbances in forests. The team did this on a basis of more than 600 research papers of the last 30 years. Published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, their results show that increasing risks for forests have to be expected in the future.

Fires, storms, insects: climate change increases risks for forests worldwide - 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…

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

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

03/24/2017 - 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. “A carbon law applies to all sectors and countries at all scales and encourages bold action in the short term,” say Johan Rockström and colleagues. Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, argue that a “carbon law” that links short-term targets to long-term goals will “provide key elements for national and international climate strategies.” Such a broad decadal roadmap would focus on four dimensions: innovation, institution, infrastructure, and investment, and it would encompass sectors such as agriculture, construction, finance, manufacturing, and transport.

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

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