Official NOAA Climate Prediction Center estimates peg the odds of El Niño’s return at 50 percent, but many climate scientists think that is a lowball estimate. And there are several indications that if it materializes, this year’s El Niño could be massive, a lot like the 1997-98 event that was the strongest on record.
“I think there’s no doubt that there’s an El Niño underway,” said climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The question is whether it’ll be a small or big one.”
On top of some late-’90s nostalgia, a strong El Niño would bring pronounced changes to weather patterns around the globe, and possibly relief from some of the less-pleasant weather trends that have dominated headlines this year. After a Polar Vortex-fueled, unbearably cold winter in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast, a strong El Niño could bring warmer, drier weather in late 2014. And to parched California and its prolonged drought, El Niño might provide drenching rainstorms to fill up reservoirs. But the news won’t all be good. Rainstorms in California could mean floods and mudslides and, coupled with climate change, El Niño could bring harsher droughts to parts of Australia and Africa.
Beyond general outlines, it can be tough to say exactly what will happen with El Niño, so we’re going to break down some potential scenarios.
On Friday the government of Lanzhou, China, informed its 3.6 million residents that their drinking water would be carcinogenic for the next 24 hours. Benzene, a chemical used in plastics manufacture, was the immediate cause, but that wasn’t even the most horrifying revelation to come from this crisis. Today, reports from state media revealed that the benzene had been released into the environment as a result of oil pipeline explosions — in 1987 and 2002. The pipelines, owned by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, were repaired at the time. Some 34 tons of contaminated soil, however, were left in place, the benzene allowed to migrate into an underground water duct that empties out via household faucets.
Global trends are reshaping how businesses approach sustainability. On one hand, consumers and investors are pushing businesses to raise their standards. On the other hand, technological shifts are generating more and better information faster, enabling unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability.
Nowhere is this clearer then when it comes to management of the world’s forests.
Forests are a vital resource. But, today, they are under tremendous pressure, owing to growing demand for food, fuel, and fiber. Over the past 13 years, the world has lost an average of 50 soccer fields of forests every minute. Poor quality, out-of-date information often poses challenges even for companies with the best intentions.
Nature in as a whole tends to be a profoundly beautiful thing, but there are few things more magical than finding yourself under a canopy of trees in a tree tunnel on some warm summer evening. Whether they’re formed naturally, accidentally, or with a little help from some patient and talented gardeners, these tree tunnels are sure to enchant anyone lucky enough to walk below their verdant boughs.
The beautiful forms of many of these tree tunnels and the ways in which we’ve copied them goes to show just how much we’ve borrowed from nature. I’m sure that magical spaces like these inspired more than one historical architect to design the gorgeous vaulted ceiling of a gothic cathedral or the arches of some other grand structure. Many ancient societies considered trees to be sacred and maintained holy groves of old trees, and with places this beautiful, it’s not hard to understand why.
Despite how slowly trees grow, they are remarkably receptive to various methods of altering their growth. With strong, persistent and very patient force, trees can be sculpted into a variety of forms. Some of these tree tunnels have been formed and sculpted by careful gardeners to ensure that they conform with their urban surroundings.
A few of the tree tunnels are happy coincidences. The Tunnel of Love in Ukraine, a popular photo spot for married couples, is also part of an operational railway system. The married couples have to schedule their photoshoots behind the times when freight trains are scheduled to pass through. Even unintentionally, these tree tunnels can work their magic on us.
Many cities face increasing pressure. The urban population has increased five-fold since 1950. Vehicle ownership is on course to double by 2050, while traffic accidents lead to 1.3 million deaths each year. Cities emit approximately 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. All of this is even more staggering when you consider that 1.5 billion people will move into cities in the next two decades, bringing the total to 5 billion worldwide.
The reality is that well-designed cities can generate jobs, innovation, and economic growth for all. But when designed poorly—with too much sprawl, waste, and inefficiency—they can divide cities and exacerbate pollution, inequality, and political instability. Moreover, poor design has long-term consequences given that urban infrastructure often lasts decades.
Against this backdrop, some 25,000 people have gathered in Medellin, Colombia, for the UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum this week. The key question they face is: How can cities drive growth that is inclusive and sustainable at the same time?
The first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)—released in September--confirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that the world is warming, largely due to human activities. The Working Group II (WGII) report, released today, takes this finding a step further: Not only is climate change happening, but every continent on earth is now experiencing its impacts.
Four major takeaways from the report showcase the impacts we’re already seeing, as well as those projected to occur if the world continues to warm. And more importantly, they reveal a critical message: As John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, put it, the report “underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.
1) Climate change now affects every part of the planet.
2) Climate change will increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather.
3) Meeting the scale of the challenge requires adaptation and mitigation.
4) Rapid and steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can reduce risks and costs—and the timing matters.
Climate Imbalance - Disparity in the Quality of Research by Contrarian and Mainstream Climate Scientists
IT’s the Guardian, but this article is straightforward.
Despite the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming supported by peer-reviewed research, expert opinion, the IPCC reports, and National Academies of Science and other scientific organizations from around the world, a large segment of the population remains unconvinced on the issue. A new commentary by Edward Maibach, Teresa Myers and Anthony Leiserowitz in Earth’s Future notes that most people don’t know there is a scientific consensus about human-caused climate change, which undermines public engagement on the subject.
This ‘consensus gap’ is in large part due the media giving disproportionate coverage to climate contrarians. In our paper, we sought to evaluate whether that disproportionate media coverage was justified by examining how well contrarian hypotheses have withstood scientific scrutiny and the test of time. The short answer is, not well.
LOS BANOS — Flat as a tabletop, the furrowed, brown farm fields east of this San Joaquin Valley town are some of the most productive on Earth.
Every spring, they are planted with a smorgasbord of crops that in one form or another are trucked to grocery stores across America, from fresh juicy tomatoes to freeze-dried onion flakes, honeydew melons to tortilla chips.
Now that bounty is threatened by a crisis of geological proportions: The land is sinking - crippling the region’s irrigation and flood control infrastructure and damaging aquifers that are buffers against climate change.
Nature, though, is not to blame. This problem is self-inflicted, driven by the frontier-style exploitation of the last unregulated resource in California: groundwater.
“We are looking at a material impact of a magnitude that is potentially catastrophic,” said Cannon Michael, a sixth-generation farmer who grows tomatoes, onions and other crops near Los Banos.
Increase in Cancer Unlikely following Fukushima Exposure - says UN Report
Low Risk of Thyroid Cancer Among Children Most Exposed
VIENNA, 2 April (UN Information Service) - Cancer levels are likely to remain stable in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power accident, according to a new UN report released today.
The report is titled Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 great east-Japan earthquake and tsunami, by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).
It finds that no discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident; and, that no increases in the rates of birth defects are expected.
Nevertheless, it notes a theoretical possibility that the risk of thyroid cancer among the group of children most exposed to radiation could increase and concludes that the situation needs to be followed closely and further assessed in the future. Thyroid cancer is a rare disease among young children, and their normal risk is very low.
“People are rightly concerned about the impact on their health and their children’s health,” said Carl-Magnus Larsson, Chair, UNSCEAR. “Based on this assessment, however, the Committee does not expect significant changes in future cancer statistics that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the accident,” he said.
The findings are based on estimates of the exposure of various population groups - including children - as well as scientific knowledge of health impacts following radiation exposure.
According to the study, the expected low impact on cancer rates of the population is largely due to prompt protective actions on the part of the Japanese authorities following the accident.
The Committee analyzed reported worker doses and also independently assessed doses for some of the workers. The Committee’s assessments are broadly consistent with reported doses, but uncertainties remain for exposures during the early phase of the accident. “The Committee concluded that no discernible increase in cancer or other diseases is expected; however, the most exposed workers will receive regular health checks,” said Wolfgang Weiss, Chair of the Assessment.
The Committee also evaluated the effects of radiation exposure on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, finding that any effects would have been transient.
For marine ecosystems, the possibility of effects on flora and fauna was limited to the shoreline area adjacent to the power station and the potential for effects over the long term was considered insignificant.
Fukushima Meltdown Unlikely to Lead to Large Number of Cancers
April 2, 2014
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA (Reuters) - Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster is unlikely to lead to a large number of people developing cancer like after Chernobyl in 1986, even though the most exposed children may face an increased risk, U.N. scientists said on Wednesday.
In a major study, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said it did not expect “significant changes” in future cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the reactor meltdowns.
The amounts of radioactive substances such as iodine-131 released after the 2011 accident were much lower than after Chernobyl, and Japanese authorities also took action to protect people living near the stricken plant, including evacuations.
Continue reading at Scientific American.