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William Nordhaus wins Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for work on economics and climate change

William Nordhaus wins Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for work on economics and climate change

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

On Monday 8 October, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced its decision to award William Nordhaus the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.”

Currently a faculty member of Yale University, which he joined in the late 1960s, Nordhaus has focused his research on economic growth and natural resources, and the economics of climate change. One of his main contributions are his models to determine efficient paths for coping with climate change.

While his earlier work (e.g. Reflections on the Economics of Climate Change, 1993) somewhat underestimates climate change impacts on booming economies like the United States of America or Japan, his integrated assessment model (IAM) was groundbreaking. In the mid-1990s Nordhaus became the first to create a quantitative model that described the global interconnectivity and mutual influence of physics (climate module), chemistry (carbon-circulation module), and economics (economic-growth module).

The model, also known as the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy model, or DICE model, allows a weighing of the costs and benefits to curb climate change. It is used to simulate how the economy and climate co-evolve, and what the consequences of different climate policy interventions are (see figure below).

CO2 emissions over time for four climate policies (explanations in the text). Predictions from the DICE-2016R2 model, according to Nordhaus’ own simulations. Source: Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Popular Information: Integrating nature and knowledge into economics (PDF).

The Nobel Prize announcement came on the same day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its special report on the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Nordhaus is sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with Paul Romer, who is receiving it for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences sees both their contributions as crucial additions towards addressing central questions of our time and adds “we do not yet have conclusive answers to these questions, but the laureates’ methods have been fundamental in allowing current and future researchers to improve our understanding of the best way to progress towards sustained and sustainable global economic growth.”


Cover photo by BBVA Foundation: Professor William Nordhaus.
New report by IPCC finds world faces huge risks if warming is not kept below 1.5C

New report by IPCC finds world faces huge risks if warming is not kept below 1.5C

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special landmark report on the impacts of 1.5 °C warming above pre-industrial levels. The report finds unprecedented changes would be necessary worldwide to keep warming below 1.5 °C but that it would massively decrease global climate risks.

The half-degree difference between 1.5 °C and 2 °C, the target range set out in the Paris Agreement during COP21, is a significant one. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” Hans-Otto Pörtner said, who leads the working group on impacts and adaptation.

At the current rate of warming, we could reach the 1.5 °C target as early as 2030 and 2052. Keeping to that ambitious warming target would significantly lower the risks of droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for millions of people across the globe. For example, the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress would be 50% lower at 1.5 °C than at 2.0 °C.

Climate adaptation needs will be much lower at 1.5 °C, above it there are limits to adaptation and adaptive capacity for some human and natural systems, meaning losses would become inevitable.

However, keeping to that target and not exceeding it would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions across all sectors and human carbon dioxide emissions would have to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by 2050.

“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5 °C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”

At the moment the world is on track for disastrous 3 °C warming. Amjad Abdulla, IPCC board member and chief negotiator for AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) said “the report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it.”

Download the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 °C by clicking here.


Cover photo by Zooey/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Climate science faces ‘pivotal moment’ and government questions

Climate science faces ‘pivotal moment’ and government questions

By Natalie Sauer in Incheon, Climate Home News

The UN’s climate science body began one of its “most important meetings” on Monday, as it presents to governments a report on warming the world just half a degree more than today.

The authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report will meet government delegates from Monday to Friday in Incheon, South Korea.

They will attempt to broker agreement on the policy recommendations from the IPCC’s latest major report, which looks at the impacts of 1.5C warming above pre-industrial levels, together with suggestions on how to stay below that mark.

The most recent draft of the ‘summary for policy makers’, published by Climate Home News, highlighted stark differences between the impacts of warming 1.5C and the upper limit imposed by the Paris deal of 2C. The world has already warmed roughly 1C.

The key question at this meeting will be how the draft changes after this week’s intense scrutiny from diplomats who represent national interests.

Hoesung Lee, the chair of the IPCC, described the conference as “one of the most important meetings in the IPCC’s history”.

“Science alerts us to the gravity of the situation, but science also, and this special report in particular, helps us understand the solutions available to us,” he said.

“This is a critical point in history,” said Youssef Nassef, director of Adaptation at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told the opening plenary on Monday. “The window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking and we must all work together to turn things around.”

Elena Manaenkova, deputy secretary of the World Meteorological Organization, also opened the session in earnest, stressing that the world stood “at a pivotal moment”.

“We need greater ambition and a greater sense of urgency,” she said.

Some governments, including the European Union, hope the report, ordered by the 2015 Paris Agreement, will bolster calls for more rapid emissions cuts.

Others fear the report for the same reason. On Monday, India’s Business Standard reported that the US has questioned the basis for the report in the lead up to this week’s conference. Last week, authors rejected reports that they were susceptible to political pressure.

South Korean environment minister Kim Eunkyung told the conference: “I understand that are still some climate sceptics out there. But let me tell you this: truth is truth. Climate change cannot be denied, or avoided.”

Drawing from the latest research on climate change, the report is the result of a mammoth collaboration between 91 authors and 114 co-authors. In total, the IPCC received 42,000 comments on the drafts of the report. Authors are bound to address each comment as part of the review process. Manaenkova said that the work as nothing short of “heroic”.

The final report is due out on Monday 8 October.


This article was originally published on Climate Home News and can be accessed by clicking here. It is shared under a Creative Commons license.

Further reading by Climate Home News:

Cover photo by Alfonsojung/Pixabay (public domain): Incheon skyline.
Mangkhut batters Philippines and South China as Florence brings widespread flooding to the Carolinas

Mangkhut batters Philippines and South China as Florence brings widespread flooding to the Carolinas

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

It has been a rough and tragic weekend for people living in the Philippines, South China and the Carolinas. Two major storms are wreaking havoc – Florence in the USA and Mangkhut in Southeast Asia – killing several people and leaving widespread destruction. While Mangkhut was named “the strongest tropical cyclone of the year” by the World Meteorological Organisation, Florence is also likely to remembered for years to come due to catastrophic flooding and storm surge.

Typhoon Mangkhut: One of the most powerful storms to hit Southeast Asia in decades

As of Monday morning, 17 September 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut had led to the deaths of 33 miners in the Philippines and 29 people still missing after a landslide buried a mining site in Itogon. As search and rescue continues, Itogon’s mayor says the final death toll might still rise above 100.

Two further people were killed in the Chinese province Guangdong. More than 2.5 million people were evacuated from Guangdong and Hainan Island. Hong Kong was also severely impacted over the weekend, injuring more than 200 people, shattering windows, flooding streets and leading to the suspension of transport services.

Following the enormous death toll of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which killed over 7000 people, The Philippines dramatically improved preparation and evacuation procedures issuing more warnings, restricting travel, shutting schools down, and putting the army on standby. However, Mangkhut has caused extensive damage to Cagayan’s farmland, one of the major agricultural provinces in the country, threatening staple crops like rice and corn.

Hurricane Florence: Major floods and storm surge, and 50% more rain thanks to climate change

So far, Florence has killed at least 18 people and left 740,000 homes in the Carolinas without power. The coastal city of Wilmington has been completely cut off from the rest of North Caroline due to rising flood waters. Parts of North and South Carolina have seen up to one metre of rain since the hurricane – now a tropical depression – made landfall on Thursday.

According to officials in North Caroline, about 900 people were rescued from the flood waters and roughly 15,000 remain in emergency shelters. The federal administration declared a disaster in several counties of North Caroline, freeing up federal funding for recovery efforts.

The National Weather Service issued flash flooding alerts of varying degrees for all counties of North Carolina. Rainfall will continue throughout Monday, already breaking the state record set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Florence is also probably the first hurricane to have an attribution study made about it pre-landfall. The research found that the storm would bring 50% more rainfall than it would have without the influence of human-induced climate change.

Since both storms are still active, the final impact of Mangkhut and Florence is yet to be seen. However, it is clear that they will both have long lasting impacts highlighting the need to build back better.

 


Cover photo by NOAA: The animated GIF shows Tropical Depression Florence on Sunday 16 September, 2018.

 

Radiant Earth releases its open Earth imagery platform

Radiant Earth releases its open Earth imagery platform

Radiant Earth Foundation announced last week the release of its new open Earth imagery platform aimed to help policymakers, researchers, journalists, and others use satellite images to understand and serve their communities.

The platform offers instant and secure, free access to Earth observation data to help the global development community apply the data to real-world problems.

Currently, there are more than 600 Earth observation satellites orbiting the planet measuring global changes in real time which, in turn, lead to better informed interventions and investments from the public and private sectors.

While the current growing market for Earth observation data is often highly fragmented and cost-prohibitive, Radiant Earth Foundation’s platform brings together billions of dollars’ worth of satellite imagery and makes it available to the global development community. Additionally, the provision of user-friendly analytical tools and support allows for a range of users to consume and analyse the data in their everyday work. This includes non-imagery data, including air quality, population, and weather statistics.

Radiant Earth Foundation’s platform is now available to the public at app.radiant.earth through secure self-sign-up or integrated social sign-on via Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, or Google accounts.

Radiant Earth Foundation will host a webinar on September 26, 2018, at 11 a.m. EDT to demonstrate the platform’s unique features to users. To attend the webinar please register here: http://bit.ly/REFPlatfromWebinar.


Cover photo by NASA.
Over one million people told to evacuate as Hurricane Florence approaches US East Coast

Over one million people told to evacuate as Hurricane Florence approaches US East Coast

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

More than 1.25 million residents along the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate by emergency officials as Hurricane Florence churns towards the East Coast. The governors of North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland have declared states of emergency.

On Monday the hurricane rapidly intensified into a Category 4 storm (131-155 mph) with winds of 140mph and models were showing a high likelihood it might strengthen into a Category 5 storm (≥ 156 mph) today. Hurricane Florence still has a lot of unusually warm water ahead on its path meaning the storm could strike the coastline as a very powerful Category 4 storm or even a Category 5.

Starting today, state officials will reverse lanes on several major roads so that all paths lead away from the Hurricane. In South Carolina, state offices and schools in 26 counties are being shut down and repurposed as shelters.

Adding to the intensity of the storm is a strong ridge of high pressure developing off the coast of New England. This will prevent the storm from curving out to sea, as many tropical storms do, essentially getting Florence stuck in one location for several days. While the storm might lose its hurricane status rather fast after making landfall, it will still dump tonnes of rain over the same locations for potentially days. The impact could be very similar to that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana last year.

It is possible the storm will bring more than a foot of rain to the Carolinas, and even more in some areas. Given that the region has already received a lot of rain recently, the ground will be saturated making flash floods and widespread flooding a very real and worrying possibility.

For updates on the storm, visit the National Hurricane Center.


Cover photo by NOAA: This geocolour-enhanced imagery of Hurricane Florence was created by NOAA’s partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. The GOES East geostationary satellite, also known as GOES-16, provides coverage of the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific. The satellite’s high-resolution imagery provides optimal viewing of severe weather events, including thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes.
Global Center on Adaptation begins a new chapter

Global Center on Adaptation begins a new chapter

As of today, the Global Center on Excellence in Climate Adaptation will be known as the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA). With the new name and new look also comes an announcement that the Center will be co-hosting a Global Commission on Adaptation together with World Resources Institute. The Commission will be overseen by the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. It will be formally launched in The Hague on 16 October.

According to Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen, who announced the formation of the Commission in Rotterdam, it will elevate the political visibility of adaptation and will focus on solutions, catalyzing a global adaptation movement and accelerating action.

The new Chief Executive Officer of the GCA, Patrick Verkooijen, explained that in this new chapter, the Center will work on supporting recommendations made by the Commission while also pursuing practical and actionable steps that can help address policies, investments, financing, and governance needed for increased global adaptation action. Essentially, the GCA will act as a solutions broker between governments, the private sector, civil society, intergovernmental bodies, and knowledge institutions to enable adaptation action.

Secretary-General Ban, who will serve as Chairman of the Board of the Global Center, said that “the role of Global Center on Adaptation will be significant because we need all societies to learn from one another.” He noted that “under the exemplary and bold leadership of Patrick Verkooijen, the Global Center will help accelerate adaptation transformation at scale and at speed.”

The Global Center initially will work to address five challenges slowing down the implementation of scaled up, effective adaptation action. These challenges focus on:

  1. Scaling up ecosystem-based adaptation – Ecosystem-based adaptation delivers greater climate resilience and additional benefits like biodiversity conservation and the creation of greener, more livable cities. However, to date, most EbA interventions have been scattered and small-scale. The Global Center is identifying barriers to scaling up EbA and working on solutions to help overcome them.
  2. Integrating climate adaptation into financial decision-making – Many businesses do not factor potential risks of climate change into their investment decisions. The Global Center is collaborating with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and building on the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to identify how to focus greater attention on climate risks in private sector investment decisions.
  3. Measuring effective adaptation – Making decisions about which adaptation options to pursue, whether at a local, national or global level, requires proper assessment of which options most effectively build resilience. The Global Center is bringing together world-class experts to build on the growing work in this area and determine the best way of making those assessments.
  4. Creating climate resilient cities – More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. This will rise to more than two-thirds by 2050. To successfully adapt to the growing impacts of climate change, cities will need to become climate resilient. Many cities are already active, and some are taking the lead when their own national governments falter. But most people living in cities around the world are still vulnerable to climate change. The Global Center is working with leading networks of cities to catalyze scaled-up action.
  5. Leveraging deltas to address climate change – Deltas are areas where the impacts of climate change can exacerbate existing pressures from urbanization and pollution. But they are also places of opportunity that are often rich in social, economic and natural capital. The Global Center is working with a global network with common interests in deltas to use these opportunities to address climate change challenges.

As a founding partner of the former Global Center on Excellence in Climate Adaptation, Acclimatise is excited to continue to support the GCA in this new chapter.

Visit the new GCA website by clicking here.


Cover photo from Pixabay (public domain).
2018 UK summer is joint hottest summer on record

2018 UK summer is joint hottest summer on record

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The Met Office has confirmed that they are declaring 2018’s summer as the joint hottest on record together with 2006, 2003, and 1976.

At roughly 0.03 of a degree, the margin between the mean temperatures, all quoted as 15.8 degrees Celsius, of the four record breaking summers is so small that it is impossible to separate them. The reason for this is that the Met Office only quotes “statistics to the nearest 0.1C as differences smaller than this could result from small numerical differences arising from the statistical calculations.”

Provisional early statistics show that this was likely the warmest summer on record for England with a mean temperature of 17.2 C, beating the 17.0 C only marginally. However, this year’s temperatures will not break the records for Wales, Scotland, and North Ireland.

In terms of rainfall, 2018’s summer was notably dry and will likely be one of the UK’s top 15 driest summers and top 5 for England. Additionally, it is also one of the top 5 sunniest UK summers.

The above-average warm and dry trend is set to continue well into September.


Cover photo by PhilipBarrington/Pixabay (public domain): Brighton Pier Beach.
The Abnormality of Hurricane Lane

The Abnormality of Hurricane Lane

By Georgina Wade

Hurricane Lane may have passed by the volcanic archipelago over the weekend, but Hawai’i is still feeling the storm’s after effects as residents recover from days of heavy rain and remain on the lookout for even more showers.

Excessive rainfall triggered flash flooding, raging surf, as well as land and mudslides. On the island of Maui, a giant sinkhole opened in the middle of a road, uprooting trees, inundating drainage systems and causing some residents to remain stranded.

Dropping 52.02 inches of rain (about 132 cm) over a five-day period, Hurricane Lane has broken the Hawai’i tropical cyclone storm total rainfall record, previously set by Hurricane Hiki in 1950 at 52 inches. Although the figure is preliminary, forecasters are classifying Lane as the second-wettest tropical storm in the United States since 1950 following the record set by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Hurricanes seldom get close to Hawai’i and it’s even more of a rarity for a Category 5 to get in such close proximity of the islands. Hurricane Lane is the second Category 5 hurricane on record to pass within 350 miles or less of South Point, Hawai’i. The only other storm to do that was Hurricane John in 1994. Only two direct hurricane landfalls have been recorded, both on the island Kaua’i: Category 1 Dot in 1959 and Category 4 Iniki in 1992, which caused $3 billion in damage.

Typically, hurricanes weaken long before they approach Hawai’i due to a ring of deep, cool water that essentially surrounds the archipelago. As hurricanes are fuelled by warmer ocean temperatures, cool waters surrounding the islands usually serve as a protective barrier against ocean storms. Wind currents will also typically steer eastern-Pacific hurricanes back to the coast before they can make it to the central Pacific. This year, weaker than normal winds are allowing storms to stay alive.

This summer has been one of record-breaking temperatures, resulting in abnormally high water temperatures for the area. Sitting at about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warmer than normal, the warmer water served as the perfect fuel for a hurricane.

Research published in Nature Climate Change  in 2015 found that warmer ocean temperatures, caused by climate change, may be fuelling stronger hurricanes while, at the same time, creating fewer storms. The study found from 1984 to 2012, wind speeds in tropical cyclones increased by 1.3 m/s. During that same time period, there were 6.1 fewer storms than would be expected if ocean and land temperatures had not increased.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientists who studied the 2014 hurricane season around Hawai’i found it was made “substantially more likely” by climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, with a natural boost from El Niño. Additionally, a study conducted by NOAA last year connected global warming to 2015’s record number of major storms in the region, including three Category 4 hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific at the same time.

Although many climate studies are predicting that as the world warms, the globe overall and the Atlantic region will likely have fewer named storms, these can be expected to be more intense than normal. However, the central Pacific forgoes that prediction as storms that should be deemed as unusual for the region, are soon to become more common.


Cover photo by NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Hurricane Lane was pictured by an Expedition 56 crew member as the International Space Station orbited nearly 250 miles above the Central Pacific Ocean on Aug. 22, 2018.
Hurricane Lane Approaches Hawaii

Hurricane Lane Approaches Hawaii

By Kathryn Hansen, NASA Earth Observatory

Multiple threatening tropical cyclones spun over the Pacific Ocean in August 2018. In the northwest Pacific basin, typhoons Soulik and Cimaron took aim at Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Then Hurricane Lane lined up in the tropical Pacific for an encounter with the Hawaiian Islands.

At 10:45 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (20:45 Universal Time) on August 21, 2018, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of Hurricane Lane. Around that time, Lane was a powerful category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour. The storm’s center was 925 kilometers (575 miles) south-southeast of Honolulu. By that evening, Lane intensified to a category 5 storm.

Direct hits on the Hawaiian Islands are rare, but plenty of storms get close. Hurricanes Madeline and Lester threatened the islands in August 2016, but both storms weakened and passed without a direct hit.

The evolution and track of Hurricane Lane until 22 August. Credit: NASA (see high resolution image by clicking here)

The exact track that Hurricane Lane will take remains to be seen. Forecasts from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center called for the storm’s center to curve northwest then north-northwest, bringing it “very close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands” from August 23 through 25. According to the National Weather Service in Honolulu, only one other category 5 hurricane in database records passed within 560 kilometers (350 miles) of Hawaii.

The westward path of Lane’s track from August 17 to August 22 is shown above. (View the large image to see the storm track from August 15 onward.) The track is overlaid on a map of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean on August 21, 2018. Temperature data were compiled by Coral Reef Watch, which blends observations from the Suomi NPP, MTSAT, Meteosat, and GOES satellites, and computer models.

The map highlights sea surface temperatures of 27.8°C (82°F), a threshold that scientists generally believe to be warm enough to fuel a hurricane. According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, water temperatures along the forecasted track (not shown) were expected to stay between 27°C and 28°C, which is “warm enough to support a major hurricane.”


NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin and Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response, sea surface temperature data from Coral Reef Watch, cloud data from the NASA-NOAA GOES project, and storm track information from Unisys. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

This article originally appeared on NASA Earth Observatory and can be accessed by clicking here.