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SPECIAL: What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today

 Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning
The retreat of the West Antarctic ice masses after the last Ice Age was reversed surprisingly about 10,000 years ago, scientists found. This is in stark contrast to previous assumptions. In fact, it was the shrinking itself that stopped the shrinking: relieved from the weight of the ice, the Earth crust lifted and triggered the re-advance of the ice sheet. However, this mechanism is much too slow to prevent dangerous sea-level rise caused by West Antarctica’s ice-loss in the present and near future. Only rapid greenhouse-gas emission reductions can. Read more...

How new coal power plants let climate goals go up in smoke

How new coal power plants let climate goals go up in smoke

09/17/2015 - The window of opportunity for a global fossil fuel phase out is closing faster than expected. In particular poor but fast-growing developing countries are currently investing heavily in the construction of new coal power plants. However, one reason why this source of fuel is so cheap is that its price does not incorporate the social costs, such as health. This is the topic of the article “King Coal and the Queen of Subsidies” by Ottmar Edenhofer, chief-economist at the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research and Director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), now published in the journal Science.

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Burning all fossil energy would raise sea-level by more than 50 meters – and eliminate all ice of Antarctica

Burning all fossil energy would raise sea-level by more than 50 meters – and eliminate all ice of Antarctica

09/11/2015 - Burning all of the world’s available fossil-fuel resources would result in the complete melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, a new study to be published in Science Advances shows. The Antarctic ice masses store water equivalent to more than 50 meters of sea-level rise. The new calculations show that Antarctica’s long-term contribution to sea-level rise could likely be restricted to a few meters that could still be manageable, if global warming did not exceed 2 degrees. Crossing this threshold, however, would in the long run destabilize both West and East Antarctica – causing sea-level rise that would reshape coastal regions around the globe for millennia to come.

Burning all fossil energy would raise sea-level by more than 50 meters – and eliminate all ice of Antarctica - Read More…

"Facing Natural Hazards" – the Second international Potsdam Summer School will Start on 14 September 2015

"Facing Natural Hazards" – the Second international Potsdam Summer School will Start on 14 September 2015

09/11/2015 - The growing world population, climate change, rapid urbanisation, and the international interdependence of economies are all increasing our vulnerability to natural hazards. Such major global challenges are the focus of the second Potsdam Summer School on "Facing Natural Hazards". From 14 to 23 September 2015, 40 young professionals from 28 countries will meet with renowned scientists from Potsdam's Earth and Environmental Science institutions as well as with international experts. Participants will discuss the most pressing scientific and socially relevant issues concerning natural hazards. Earth and climate scientists, oceanographers, and mathematicians will exchange ideas and personal perspectives with social scientists, industry representatives, and politicians. Why do we tend to play down certain natural hazards while we dramatise others? What can we do in future to protect us from natural hazards? These questions will not only be discussed among the participants, but will also be addressed in a public lecture by the risk researcher Prof. Dr. Ortwin Renn on 21 September in Potsdam's Hans Otto Theatre.

"Facing Natural Hazards" – the Second international Potsdam Summer School will Start on 14 September 2015 - Read More…

Debate in the run-up to Paris

Debate in the run-up to Paris

09/10/2015 - What´s in store at the next climate conference, COP21, later this year? This week, staff of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research gathered for an exchange of insights and perspectives. There were a number of contributions from post-docs and senior scientists on the latest research that stimulated a vibrant discussion.

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Yearbook Ecology on global environment policy

Yearbook Ecology on global environment policy

09/01/2015 - From planetary boundaries to the impacts of a four-degree world to COP21 in Paris: experts take stock of international environment policies in the recently published Yearbook Ecology entitled: “Wanted: a global environment policy”. Among the authors are Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and other specialists from PIK.

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Snowball Earth: algae triggered cooling millions of years ago

Snowball Earth: algae triggered cooling millions of years ago

08/27/2015 - The advance of certain algae was probably one key contribution to an almost complete glaciation of the Earth millions of years ago. The consequent rise in emissions of organic cloud-condensation nuclei led to increased cloudiness. Thereby, they likely contributed crucially to the cooling of the climate, because clouds reduce solar radiation on the Earth´s surface. This was discovered by a team of scientists in a new study to be published today in the renowned journal Nature Geoscience.

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How network dynamics shape collaboration

How network dynamics shape collaboration

08/25/2015 - From the Earth System to the human brain, from families to Facebook – complex networks can be found everywhere around us. Describing the structure of socio-economic systems, the analysis of complex networks can improve our understanding of interactions and transformations within our society. A team of researchers now used this approach to explore the development of large coalitions in a network of acquaintances, when cooperation promises the highest economic or social advantages. For the first time, they focused on how social relations interact with this process. Published in the journal Scientific Reports of the renowned Nature group, their results show that full cooperation is most probable when the network adapts only slowly to new coalition structures. If the network adapts faster than new coalitions form, its fragmentation might prevent the formation of large-scale coalitions.

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