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SPECIAL: Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” state

Planet at risk of heading towards irreversible “Hothouse Earth” stateKeeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed. An international team of scientists has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of the planet entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions. A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy. Read more...

If a major economy takes the lead, warming could be limited to 2°C

If a major economy takes the lead, warming could be limited to 2°C

10/26/2015 - Though most countries around the globe agree that warming must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the raft of climate risks, they clash about who should do what to reach this target. Hence the issue of allocating greenhouse-gas emissions reductions will be key for the outcome of the world climate summit COP21 in Paris. Scientists now found what amount of emissions reductions it takes for a major economy to lead out of the climate gridlock. They conclude that effectively limiting climate change is possible if a major economy acts as a forerunner, while other nations follow – and, importantly, by doing so they do not have to agree on common criteria for fairness.

If a major economy takes the lead, warming could be limited to 2°C - Read More…

A visit from the White House: US science advisor meets Schellnhuber

A visit from the White House: US science advisor meets Schellnhuber

10/22/2015 - President Obama’s Science Advisor John Holdren visited the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research to discuss climate change issues with its director John Schellnhuber. Holdren is Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Policy . Before taking office, he was a Professor at Harvard University; like Schellnhuber, he is a physicist.

A visit from the White House: US science advisor meets Schellnhuber - Read More…

National contributions provide entry point for the low-carbon transformation

National contributions provide entry point for the low-carbon transformation

10/22/2015 - While the currently submitted national contributions to the new global climate agreement do not yet put the world on track to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, they imply an unprecedented acceleration and consolidation of action against climate change in major economies around the world. Moreover, they can serve as an entry point for the deep low-carbon transformation, if the Paris Agreement includes a mechanism to strengthen and broaden policy commitments by 2020 at the latest. This is shown by a report published today by a consortium of 14 research institutes. The scientists and economists provide a detailed analysis of the energy sector transformations required to implement the intended nationally determined contributions (so called INDCs), in major economies and at the global level in aggregate, and their potential for keeping the below 2 degrees goal within reach.

National contributions provide entry point for the low-carbon transformation - Read More…

Longterm Potsdam measurements confirm aerosol effect

Longterm Potsdam measurements confirm aerosol effect

10/15/2015 - Longterm measurements from the Potsdam weather station are confirming assumptions about the effects of greenhouse-gases and aerosols in the atmosphere used in current computer simulations of the climate system. Tiny particles in the atmosphere, emitted for instance from coal power plants, reduce the amount of solar radiation that hits the ground - hence they have some cooling effect. This effect is correctly represented in climate models, shows a new analysis of weather data recorded in Potsdam since 1937. This series of continued measurements is one of the longest on Earth.

Longterm Potsdam measurements confirm aerosol effect - Read More…

Rise and fall of societies linked to climatic conditions

Rise and fall of societies linked to climatic conditions

10/14/2015 - Societies seem to have been rising and falling with the stability of climatic conditions, a new study indicates. Published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A of London, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the Pennsylvania State University in the United States analyzed 2000 year old climate records of Mexican and Andean highlands and compared them to historic records. The results indicate that persistently volatile climatic conditions can contribute to the collapse of preindustrial agrarian states.

Rise and fall of societies linked to climatic conditions - Read More…

Distinguishing coincidence from causality: connections in the climate system

Distinguishing coincidence from causality: connections in the climate system

10/07/2015 - Detecting how changes in one spot on Earth – in temperature, rain, wind – are linked to changes in another, far away area is key to assessing climate risks. Scientists now developed a new technique of finding out if one change can cause another change or not, and which regions are important gateways for such teleconnections. They use advanced mathematical tools for an unprecedented analysis of data from thousands of air pressure measurements. The method now published in Nature Communications can be applied to assess geoengineering impacts as well as global effects of local extreme weather events, and can potentially also be applied to the diffusion of disturbances in financial markets, or the human brain.

Distinguishing coincidence from causality: connections in the climate system - Read More…

The warmer the higher: sea-level rise from Filchner-Ronne ice in Antarctica

The warmer the higher: sea-level rise from Filchner-Ronne ice in Antarctica

10/05/2015 - The more ice is melted of the Antarctic Filchner-Ronne shelf, the more ice flows into the ocean and the more the region contributes to global sea-level rise. While this might seem obvious, it is no matter of course for the huge ice masses of Antarctica: parts of the ice continent are characterized by instabilities that, once triggered, can lead to persistent ice discharge into the ocean even without a further increase of warming - resulting in unstoppable long-term sea-level rise. In the Filchner-Ronne region however, ice-loss will likely not show such behavior, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research now found. Published in Nature Climate Change, their study shows that in this area the ice flow into the ocean increases just constantly with the heat provided by the ocean over time.

The warmer the higher: sea-level rise from Filchner-Ronne ice in Antarctica - Read More…

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