Category: Climate Change Impacts

Sea level rise: three visions of a future summer holiday at the coast

Sea level rise: three visions of a future summer holiday at the coast

By Nick Davies and David Jarratt

The COVID-19 pandemic will ensure summer 2020 is a washout for most. With international travel restrictions limiting holidays abroad, many people in the UK have opted to stay somewhere closer to home. As a result, there have been remarkable increases in the number of visitors to beaches across the UK. Thousands flocked to a beach in Bournemouth on a single day in June, causing the local council to declare a major incident.

But far greater disruptions to our summer holidays lie ahead. About half of all tourism takes place in coastal areas, but with global warming set to raise sea levels by somewhere around two metres over the next 80 years, how will our relationship with the coast change?

Will we commemorate the old coastal boundaries with forlorn sojourns above the sunken land? Will we recreate the beach in the heart of our cities? Or will we preserve the drowned coast as a nature reserve – a quiet memorial to what was lost?

We imagined three different versions of what a beach holiday might look like as climate change eclipses the coastline we once knew.

1. Floating in place

Sea level rise may seem a distant threat, but resorts and other tourism operators are already considering how they can stay near the coast and operate above the water. On the Caribbean island of Barbuda, resort huts have been built on stilts.

The aim is to keep tourism viable in the same place it has thrived for decades, while minimising damage from higher water levels.

Seasteading is one answer to this conundrum. The idea to build settlements on platforms at sea originated with the hope of creating more sustainable and equal societies away from land. The technology is still being developed, while researchers consider the engineering, legal and business implications.

New research suggests that coastal flooding could threaten up to 20% of global GDP by 2100, with much of it tied to the tourism industry. Tourism could instead become a new source of income for seasteads. Given the dwindling coastal space for tourists, creating new spaces out at sea might be a way to meet the problem of sea level rise head on.

A cabin raised several feet above the sea water on stilts.
Heavy engineering could keep some resorts afloat. Serge Skiba/Shutterstock

2. Bringing the beach to you

The urban beach is a concept that’s growing in popularity worldwide. It involves creating sandy areas in towns and cities by importing sand onto concrete. There may also be artificial pools and fairground rides. Each one has different features. There are family-friendly options, and those catered to adults, with cocktail bars or restaurants.

The opportunities for hedonism are still there, but instead of travelling miles to enjoy it, it’s right on your doorstep. Less travel means less carbon emissions, and urban beaches might help ease pressure on the real coast.

Perhaps the most famous urban beach is the Paris Plage. Since its opening in 2002, Parisians and summer tourists have been able to lounge under palm trees on the banks of the river Seine. It cost over two million Euros to create and has since been extended due to its popularity.

The Paris Plage – a sandy beach with potted palms overlooking the River Seine.
‘Sous les pavés, la plage!’ Efired/Shutterstock

The Nottingham Riviera is an attempt to recreate this success in the UK. The landlocked beach in the middle of the city has sand and water, amusement arcades and beach bars.

The urban beach is becoming an industry in itself, with companies specialising in fake beaches that can be built as seasonal fixtures or permanent areas. If reaching the coast becomes too arduous in the future, these examples could provide everything needed for a seaside experience without the sea.

3. Rewilding the coast

Perhaps the most pragmatic solution is to accept nature taking its course and relinquish control as rising seas reshape the terrain. Allowing the new coastline to rewild could create millions of acres of new wetlands – habitats that are very good at storing carbon and that have deteriorated by about 50% since 1900.

Examples from Hong Kong, Spain, and Wallasea Island in the UK demonstrate how turning heavily managed coastal areas into new habitats can create new opportunities for wildlife and people.

So does the Mexican island, Mayakoba. Its unique mangrove forests were damaged and polluted by the building of numerous hotel chains on the seafront, but today, only 10% of these hotels rem ain on the coast.

The local community abandoned their high-density model of tourism and protected the dunes and mangroves, which were being eroded by excessive development. New canal networks were dug to create an estuary, attracting birds and amphibians. This new wetland was designated as a nature reserve and visitors arrived to enjoy a new kind of tourist experience.

A floating jetty surrounding by mangrove swamp.
Rewilding the coast would provide new wetland habitat for threatened species. Lara Danielle/FlickrCC BY

Visitor capacity and beach activities were reduced to ensure sensitive coastal environments could remain protected. But allowing the sea back into reclaimed coastal territory allowed a more sustainable model of tourism to flourish – one which could be replicated elsewhere as sea levels rise.

But before that can happen, our views of the coast must change. Humans once saw land and sea as a continuation of one another, rather than two discrete entities. Reviving this concept could allow us to navigate a future in which once certain borders have blurred beyond recognition.

This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash.
Rising heat affects Europe’s floods and droughts

Rising heat affects Europe’s floods and droughts

By Tim Radford

Patterns of Europe’s floods and droughts are starting to change: each could be more extreme, and far likelier with rising heat.

Climate change has begun to affect the pattern of Europe’s floods. The past three decades have seen “exceptional” flooding, say Austrian scientists who have worked their way through documentary records for the last 500 years.

At the same time, heat and drought affecting the continent are on the increase. The summer of 2018 broke all records for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and by 2019 many trees in Europe’s forests were partly or entirely dead. And by 2085 rainfall could decline by a fifth, Swiss ecologists report, to alter the make-up of the forests dramatically.

Both findings are consistent with the big picture of climate change worldwide: wet seasons will become ever wetter; dry seasons too will become more extreme, according to US researchers in a third separate study.

All attempts to establish climate records involve careful interrogation of the past. Günter Blöschl of Vienna’s University of Technology and colleagues report in Nature that they sifted evidence from mountain lake beds, floodplains and 500 years of contemporary documents to identify decades more than usually rich in floods.

The floods of 1990 to 2016 in Western and Central Europe have been among the worst in history. To make sure of such a claim, the researchers identified periods of calamitous inundation across the whole region in the late 16th century and again in the 17th; and in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

“We should be preparing for the future by improving the technology to efficiently use water for crops”

If these episodes had anything in common, bygone floods happened when air temperatures were lower: fewer of them, too, happened in the summer.

“This finding seems to contradict the observation that, in some areas such as in the northwest of Europe, the recent warmer climate is aligned with larger floods,” Professor Blöschl said. “Our study shows for the first time that the underlying mechanisms have changed.

“While in the past floods have occurred more frequently under colder conditions, the opposite is the case now. The hydrological conditions of the present are very different from those in the past.”

Now, 55% of Central European floods happen in the summer, compared with 41% in previous centuries. It’s a message for planners, city chiefs and governments across the region: flood management is going to have to adapt.

So, too, is forest and woodland management, say scientists in Switzerland and Germany, who have been measuring changes in the canopies of their forests.

Growing vulnerability

For most of Europe, the single most extreme heatwave has been that of 2003: that is, until 2018. The sustained heat and aridity made temperatures in the growing season of 2018 on average 1.2°C higher than 2003, and 3.3°C higher than the average from 1961-1990.

Woodland foliage showed signs of drought stress. Leaves wilted, aged and dropped much earlier, and by 2019 many trees were dead, or partly dead. Those that survived were more vulnerable to beetle or fungal pests. Losses included beech, long considered the most drought-resistant.

Ten out of the 12 hottest growing seasons in the last 120 years have all happened this century. Climate forecasts already predict more of the same, with precipitation falling by a fifth by 2085. Foresters will have to think again about woodland design.

“Spruce was most heavily affected. But it was a surprise for us that beech, silver fir and pine were also damaged to this extent,” said Ansgar Kahmen of the University of Basel in Switzerland.

“We still need to study which tree species are good in which combinations, including from a forestry perspective. That will take time.”

Keeping Paris promise

And worldwide, farmers, foresters and water managers can also expect more of the same. As temperatures rise worldwide, dry seasons will tend to become drier, and wet seasons wetter.

US researchers report in the journal Nature Communications that they divided the world into nine land regions, and looked at annual rain or snowfall and how this fluctuated through the seasons in each of the nine from 1971 to 2000. They then looked at future temperature predictions for the rest of the century to see what happened to water availability.

The best outcome for relatively stable water supplies would be if nations could act to limit the planet’s average global temperature rise to no more than 2°C by 2100, in line with a promise made by 195 governments in Paris in 2015.

At higher temperatures the predicted scatter of flood and drought became more extreme. Once again, the message is: start planning. “We need to take precautions to optimally use how much water we have,” said Ashok Mishra of Clemson University in South Carolina.

“As the climate changes and population increases, we should be preparing for the future by improving the technology to efficiently use water for crops.” − Climate News Network

Cover photo by Villy, via Wikimedia Commons.
This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Arctic Ocean is set for more turbulent future

Arctic Ocean is set for more turbulent future

By Tim Radford

The Arctic Ocean is about to become more violent, with higher storm waves and higher frequency, across a wide region.

The Arctic Ocean is changing, and changing fast. By the century’s end, the maximum height of storm waves in the polar seas could have risen by twice or even three times the present height.

According to new research, wave heights could increase by two metres and coastal floods could become four times, or even 10 times, as frequent.

And a separate study has found that even the character of the water in the ocean is changing: warm salty water from the Atlantic is weakening the ice cover at an accelerating rate, but providing more nutrients for Arctic life, while extra river water from the Pacific has made the American-Asian part of the Arctic Ocean less likely to mix, and less biologically productive.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the planet as a whole: the ice cover has been thinning and retreating for decades. And temperatures keep on rising.

One Siberian town recorded a temperature of 38°C in June, and the region has been hit by devastating forest fires.

“In many respects, the Arctic Ocean now looks like a new ocean”

And as the oceans warm, winds become more powerful and the ocean waves respond, with prospects of ever-greater hazard for shipping and coastal settlements.

Extreme wave events that once occurred in the Arctic at average intervals of once every 20 years could by the end of the century happen every two to five years, according a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

“It increases the risk of flooding and erosion. It increases drastically almost everywhere”, said Mercè Casas-Prat, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “This can have a direct impact on communities that live close to the shoreline.”

She and a colleague used computer simulations and a range of climate predictions to work out what will happen to those ocean surfaces not covered by ice as the seas warm in response to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

They found that almost everywhere in the Arctic would experience greater wave height. The hardest-hit would be the Greenland Sea, bounded by the largest body of ice in the northern hemisphere, and the Svalbard Archipelago.

More salty water

Maximum annual wave heights could increase by as much as six metres.
“At the end of the century, the maximum will on average come later in the year and also be more extreme,” Dr Casas-Prat said.

The Arctic Ocean covers only about 3% of the planet’s surface, but it is vulnerable to change in ocean regions much nearer the Equator. US and Scandinavian scientists report in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science that they looked at 37 years of direct observation and measurement to find that not only are Arctic waters changing: they are changing in different ways.

Flows of increasingly warm salty water from the Atlantic have begun to mix at depth, weaken sea ice and bring deeper, nutrient-rich water to the surface. At the other entrance to the partly landlocked expanse of water, an increasing flow from rivers has begun to make the separation of surface and deep layers even more pronounced.

This limits the movement of nutrients to the surface, protentially making that part of the sea less biologically rich. Many marine creatures from low latitudes are moving north, in some cases replacing local species. The changes could affect fisheries, tourism, navigation and of course the people who live in the Arctic.

“In many respects, the Arctic Ocean now looks like a new ocean,” said Igor Polyakov, an oceanographer at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska, who led the research. − Climate News Network

This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo: Tuktoyaktuk in Canada’s Northwest Territories,  August 2019: Waves are growing higher and fiercer. Image: By Weronika Murray
WMO issue new warning as earth approaches 1.5˚C

WMO issue new warning as earth approaches 1.5˚C

By Lydia Messling

Last week, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced that there was around a 20% chance that one of the next five years will be at least 1.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels. The earth’s average temperature is already over 1 degree warmer than pre-industrial levels, and continues to rise as more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere. The WMO forecast is significant as, in November 2016, countries signed the Paris Agreement, which included a commitment to keep warming “to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C”.

The WMO’s finding is especially concerning as last year they issued a similar forecast which estimated the chance of exceeding 1.5 degrees in five years to be just 10%. This suggests that the world is still failing to tackle climate change with sufficient urgency and casts further doubt on the possibility of hitting the 1.5-degree target. The clear implication of this is that we must prepare for a highly unstable climate in a world where average temperatures are well above the 1.5- and 2-degree temperature targets.

One swallow does not a summer make

So does the latest WMO forecast mean we’ll miss the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree target? Whilst still a cause for concern, even if one of the next five years surpassed 1.5 degrees, we would not have breached the Paris Agreement’s target, because this is calculated as a 30-year moving average.

It’s a bit like measuring your running speed. The qualify time for the men’s marathon in the Tokyo Olympics is 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 30 seconds. That’s an average of about 5 minutes per mile. Just because you managed to run a sub-5-minute mile on your morning run does not necessarily mean that you are now ready to go for gold at the Olympics (no matter how much Strava kudos your friends give you). It could have been a fast mile for a number of reasons. Maybe it was downhill, the wind was behind you, or you were only ever running one single mile full pelt before collapsing. To think you could now run that 5-minute mile 25.219 more times, and keep that pace, might seem a bit of a stretch. Instead, in order to establish your long-term trend, you need to compare your averaged speed across a much longer distance, much closer to a marathon length, in order to fairly judge your marathon potential. One mile is not a fair judge.

The same is true here. Whilst there’s a 20% chance we might hit an annual average of 1.5 degrees warmer in the next 5 years, this is quite different to stating that we’ve crossed the threshold of the Paris Agreement, as this threshold is determined by a 30-year average. This is so that the effects of natural variability can be accounted for. For example, 2015 and 2016 were both affected by El Niño, which meant the underlying human-caused warming was amplified. Indeed, the WMO report says that there is only a small chance – 3% – that the next five-year average will exceed 1.5 degrees.

A worrying direction of travel

In 2020, the Arctic is likely to have warmed by more than twice as much as the global mean. There are also still impacts of climate change to be felt between now and 2024. In 2020, many parts of South America, southern Africa, and Australia are likely to be dryer than the recent past. Between now and 2024, high latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter. Sea-level pressure anomalies suggest that the northern North Atlantic region could have stronger westerly winds, resulting in western Europe experiencing more storms.

A single year that is 1.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels is not enough to surpass the 1.5-degree threshold as described by the Paris Agreement, but it is an indicator that it is within reach. There is still a lot of climate change to be experienced between now and the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees of warming – more than enough to motivate us in ensuring we do not exceed it. However, it remains unlikely that collectively we will act fast enough to reduce our emissions meet the target. At the moment, we are on track for qualifying for a much warmer world, with an unstable climate unlike anything experienced in human history.

Cover photo by ActionVance on Unsplash.
Antarctic melting could bring a much hotter future

Antarctic melting could bring a much hotter future

By Tim Radford

Antarctic melting can force sea ice retreat of 50 metres daily. CO2 levels are at their highest for 23 million years. Learn from the past.

Antarctic melting starts with dramatic speed. Ice shelves during the sudden warm spell at the close of the last Ice Age retreated at up to 50 metres a day.

This finding is not based on climate simulations generated by computer algorithms. It is based on direct evidence left 12,000 years ago on the Antarctic sea floor by retreating ice.

The finding is an indirect indicator of how warm things could get – and how high sea levels could rise – as humans burn ever more fossil fuels and raise atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to ever higher ratios.

And as if to highlight the approaching climate catastrophe, a second and separate study finds that the measure of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now is not just higher than at any time in human history or at any interval in the Ice Ages. It is the highest for at least 23 million years.

“Should climate change continue to weaken the ice shelves in the coming decades, we could see similar rates of retreat, with profound implications for global sea level rise”

British scientists report in the journal Science that they used an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), cruising at depth in the Weddell Sea, to read the pattern of the past preserved in ridges of the Antarctic seabed.

The original push for the expedition had been to search for the ship Endurance, commanded by the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton on his doomed voyage in 1914. The loss of the ship, crushed in the polar ice, and the rescue of his crew became one of the epic stories of maritime history.

The researchers did not find Endurance. But they did find an enduring record of past ice retreat.

Sea ice skirts about 75% of the continent’s coastline: when it melts it makes no difference to sea levels, but while it remains frozen it does serve the purpose of buttressing glacial flow from the high Antarctic interior. Brushed by increasingly warm air each summer, and swept by slowly warming ocean currents all year round, the ice shelves are thinning and retreating.

Tell-tale line

Underneath the ice, the research team’s robot submarine spotted wave-like ridges, each about a metre high and 20 to 25 metres apart: ridges formed at what had once been the grounding line – the point at which a grounded ice sheet starts to float, and evidence of ice rising and falling with the tides.

There are twelve hours between high tide and low, so by measuring the distance between the ridges, scientists could measure the pace of retreat at the end of the last Ice Age. It is estimated at 40 to 50 metres a day.

Right now, the fastest retreat measured from grounding lines in Antarctica is only about 1.6 kms a year. The implication is that it could get a lot faster.

“Should climate change continue to weaken the ice shelves in the coming decades, we could see similar rates of retreat, with profound implications for global sea level rise,” said Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, who led the research.

Faster change ahead

Past warm periods are associated only with relatively modest rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Right now, researchers have repeatedly confirmed that the present increasingly rapid rise is the highest in the last 800,000 years.

Now a team from the US and Norway report in the journal Geology that they have measured past atmospheric carbon levels in fossil plants to establish that present day carbon levels are higher currently than at any time in the last 23 million years.

This means that – unless there are drastic steps to contain global warming – the retreat will become increasingly more rapid, and the rate of glacial flow towards the sea ever faster.

Were all the ice in Antarctica to melt, sea levels would rise by about 60 metres, completely submerging many of the world’s great cities. 

This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo: View from Agulhas II, the vessel from which the AUVs were deployed.Courtesy of Julian Dowdeswell
Ribena hunts for climate-resistant blackcurrants that can cope with Britain’s mild winters

Ribena hunts for climate-resistant blackcurrants that can cope with Britain’s mild winters

By Madeleine Cuff

Cordial maker Ribena is attempting to head off the threat climate change poses to its business by developing a new variety of blackcurrant that can cope with Britain’s increasingly mild winters.

Ribena, which is owned by Lucozade Ribena Suntory, buys up 90 per cent of Britain’s £10m blackcurrant crop each year. But milder winters fuelled by climate change threatens poorer quality, less reliable fruits for its drinks business.

That is why Ribena is investing £500,000 in a five-year project with the James Hutton Institute to develop a new variety of blackcurrant that doesn’t need a cold winter to deliver good summer fruits.

“We are seeing big shifts in our climate. We’ve had an incredibly mild winter, followed by the sunniest May ever, and the driest May in 124 years,” Ribena’s blackcurrant agronomist Harriet Prosser said. “That puts us in a really difficult position.”

Warm winters

Standard blackcurrant varieties need around 2,000 “cold hours” – when the temperature drops below 7C – before they start to bud in the Spring, Ms Prosser explained. The cold spell reduces the risk of frost damage to new buds, and ensures blackcurrant shrubs flower at the right point in the season for peak pollination.

But this year, blackcurrant growers in the UK’s South East saw just 1,300 “cold hours”, raising the risk of lower yields and an unevenly ripened crop.

Long-term threat

Ribena is trying to manage Britain’s unpredictable weather patterns by sourcing blackcurrants from across the country, from Kent to Scotland. Its growers also use a range of varieties, including some better adapted to warmer climates.

But each year growing a bumper crop of blackcurrants in Britain becomes more of a challenge. This year Ribena resorted to using a specially developed nutrient-rich “energy drink” on the plants to encourage fruiting, Ms Prosser said.

Finding a blackcurrant that thrives in Britain’s warming winter conditions is crucial to the sector’s long-term prospects. “I think we would always work to keep British blackcurrants going,” Ms Prosser said. “It would get harder without this breeding programme.”

This article was originally posted on
Cover photo by Needpix.
Less rain will fall during Mediterranean winters

Less rain will fall during Mediterranean winters

By Tim Radford

A warmer world should also be a wetter one, but not for the cockpit of much of human history: Mediterranean winters will become increasingly parched. Winter rainfall – and winter is the rainy season – could see a 40% fall in precipitation.

Agriculture and human civilisation began in the Fertile Crescent that runs from eastern Turkey to Iraq: cattle, sheep and goats were domesticated there; the first figs, almonds, grapes and pulses were planted there; the progenitors of wheat were sown there.

Cities were built, irrigation schemes devised, empires rose and fell. Greece colonised the Mediterranean, Rome later controlled it and set the pattern of law and civic government for the next 2000 years in Northern Europe.

Islamic forces brought a different civilisation to the Balkans, North Africa and almost all of Spain. The grain fields of the Nile Valley underwrote the expansion of the Roman Empire.

“What’s really different about the Mediterranean is the geography. You have a big sea enclosed by continents, which doesn’t really occur anywhere else in the world”

But the pressure of history is likely to be affected by the high pressure of summers to come. In a world of rapid climate change, the already dry and sunny enclosed sea will become sunnier and drier, according to two scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They report in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate that the winter rains that are normally expected to fill the reservoirs and nourish the rich annual harvest from the orchards, vineyards and wheat fields can be expected to diminish significantly, as atmospheric pressures rise, to reduce rainfall by somewhere between 10% and 60%.

Ordinarily, a warmer world should be a wetter one. More water evaporates, and with each degree-rise in temperature the capacity of the air to hold water vapour increases by 7%, to fall inevitably as rain, somewhere.

But episodes of low pressure associated with rain clouds over the Mediterranean become less likely, according to climate simulations. The topography of the landscape and sea determines the probable pattern of the winds.

High pressure grows

“It just happened that the geography of where the Mediterranean is, and where the mountains are, impacts the pattern of air flow high in the atmosphere in a way that creates a high-pressure area over the Mediterranean,” said Alexandre Tuel, one of the authors.

“What’s really different about the Mediterranean compared to other regions is the geography. Basically, you have a big sea enclosed by continents, which doesn’t really occur anywhere else in the world.”

Another factor is the rate of warming: land warms faster than sea. The North African seaboard and the southern fringe of Europe will become 3 to 4°C hotter over the next hundred years. The sea will warm by only 2°C. The difference between land and sea will become smaller, to add to the pattern of high pressure circulation.

“Basically, the difference between the water and the land becomes smaller with time,” Tuel says.

Frequent warnings

Once again, the finding is no surprise: Europe has a long history of drought and flood, but drought tends to leave the more permanent mark. The eastern Mediterranean has already experienced its harshest drought for 900 years and this has been linked to the bitter conflict in Syria.

Researchers have repeatedly warned that the pattern of drought on the continent is likely to intensify, and at considerable economic and human cost.

What is different is that the latest research offers detailed predictions of the nature of change, and identifies the regions likeliest to be worst hit. These include Morocco in north-west Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean of Turkey and the Levant.

“These are areas where we already detect declines in precipitation,” said Elfatih Eltahir, the senior author. “We document from the observed record of precipitation that this eastern part has already experienced a significant decline of precipitation.” 

This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Image: By Mohamed Hozyen, via Wikimedia Commons
Climate impacts outside Europe pose greatest risk to German economy

Climate impacts outside Europe pose greatest risk to German economy

By Will Bugler

European countries that avoid the most severe direct impacts of climate change themselves will not be spared economic damage from climate change, so suggests a new study. The report from the German Environment Agency (UBA), shows that the effects of climate change on countries outside of Europe, pose a much larger risk to Germany’s economy that climate impacts within Europe, because of international trade networks.

COVID-19 has demonstrated clearly the impacts that global systemic risk can have on individual countries’ economies. In a similar way, climate risks that affect one region will cause damage to economies around the world. Globalised trade networks mean that climate risks are therefore shared by all nations. The report’s findings are in line with similar studies from the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

“The effects of foreign trade alone are at least as significant as the economic consequences of climate change within national borders.” The study concludes. Germany and other EU nations, therefore stand to suffer indirectly from the impact of climate change outside the EU.

Countries and regions such as China, India, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa are expected to see significant losses in welfare and GDP as a direct result of the impact of climate change on labour productivity, agricultural yields and sea levels.

“The purchasing power of the countries in these regions drops significantly compared to the reference trend without climate change, with considerable indirect negative consequences for Germany as a trading partner,” the study states.

The researchers note, however, that the transnational effects of global climate change cannot simply be cushioned by a general reduction in international trade relations. Such a move could not only lead to significant losses in prosperity in Germany, but also to a disruption in the worldwide production of goods and services and “networking that is central to the social and political stability of the world”, the researchers point out.

Instead, the study recommends that the resilience of the German economy “be improved through greater diversification or restructuring of global trade relations. This must be accompanied by targeted support for adaptation measures in the severely affected regions of the world, which are important for Germany in terms of supply and sales markets and are difficult to substitute”.

Download a copy of the report here [German].

Cover photo by  Markus Spiske on Unsplash.
First ever climate assessment for India region projects intense heat and extreme rainfall

First ever climate assessment for India region projects intense heat and extreme rainfall

By Will Bugler

The first ever regional climate assessment for the India region, to be published later this month, suggests that India must prepare for a hooter climate, characterised by extreme heat and floods. The scientific study projects that  by the end of the century, the average temperature in India will rise by around 4.5˚C, heat waves will 3-4 times more frequent, sea levels will rise by 30 cm and the intensity of tropical cyclones will increase substantially.

The study will be an open access release on July 1st. It looks in detail at the impact of climate change on the regional monsoon, the Indian Ocean and the Himalayas. It also examines the regional climate change projections based on the climate models used by the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and national climate change modelling studies.

The study provides a more detailed assessment of the regional impacts of climate change compared with the global IPCC Assessment reports which are typically published every 6-7 years. The study will provide a detailed analysis of future climate effects over the Indian subcontinent, especially relating to the Indian monsoon and other locally significant climatic phenomena.

Click here to read the report.

Cover photo by Mike Sangma on Unsplash.
Siberia dries out as forests burn and climate heats

Siberia dries out as forests burn and climate heats

By Kieran Cooke

Residents of the small Arctic town of Khatanga have never experienced anything like it: their home is changing at a gallop as Siberia dries out.

Khatanga – population around 3,500 – is well north of the Arctic Circle, with usual daytime temperatures at this time of year hovering round a chilly 0°C. On 22 May the temperature in the town reached 25°C – more than double the record to date.

Global warming is causing profound change across the Arctic, a region which acts like a giant air conditioning system regulating the Earth’s climate.

Temperatures are rising far faster than elsewhere: sea ice cover is rapidly disappearing, valuable fish stocks are moving ever further north in search of colder waters, land around the Arctic perimeter is drying out – particularly across the vast expanse of Siberia.

Permafrost is melting. This week a giant oil tank collapsed and ruptured at a nickel and palladium works near the city of Norilsk in northern Siberia, spilling thousands of tonnes of diesel into the nearby Ambarnaya river.

Worst for years

The storage tank is believed to have been built on permafrost: a state of emergency has been declared for what is being described as one of the worst environmental disasters in recent Russian history. State media say an area stretching over 350 square kilometres is polluted and will take years to clean up.

A series of wildfires, often enveloping hundreds of thousands of hectares of Siberia’s boreal forests, or taiga, have raged in many areas over recent weeks.

In early spring farmers across Siberia often light fires to clear land of dead grass and unwanted vegetation. A combination of high temperatures and strong winds has led to fires blazing out of control. Last year Siberia’s fires are estimated to have destroyed an area of forest the size of Belgium.

“2019 saw a record number of fires over the summer months in Siberia”, says Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics (LSE) and a wildfires expert.

“This year, aided by high temperatures and conditions that have promoted growth, the fires started early, though so far their incidence is about average and not as extensive as in 2019.

“Forest fires in this region of the Arctic used to happen about every hundred years and now we’re seeing them every summer”

“But what’s important are the peak summer months: the soils are dry and there’s plenty of fuel, so conditions are favourable for more widespread fires”, Dr Smith told Climate News Network.

One of the regions worst affected is in the south of Siberia, around Lake Baikal, the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake, where an estimated half a million hectares of forest were destroyed by fire earlier this year.

Evgeny Zinichev, Russia’s emergencies minister, speaks of a critical situation unfolding in Siberia and across Russia’s Far East. “The main reason, of course, is unauthorised and uncontrolled agricultural fires”, he says.

“A less snowy winter, an abnormal winter, and insufficient soil moisture are factors that create the conditions for the transition of landscape fires to settlements.”

Other factors have also led to the spread of wildfires. After weeks of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people trapped in often cramped and stiflingly hot apartment blocks have sought freedom in the countryside and forests, camping and lighting barbecues.

Hungry Chinese demand

In Soviet times the taiga was more closely monitored and policed: that system has tended to break down in recent years. The Covid crisis has also drawn attention away from the fires.

Corruption and illegal logging, driven in large part by China’s demand for forest products, is an additional threat to the taiga.

The warming and wildfires are having an impact not only across Siberia but around the world. Its forests act as an enormous carbon sink, storing millions of tonnes of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Fires and logging release the gases into the atmosphere, creating what scientists call a positive feedback loop – the more gases that are released, the warmer and drier the air becomes, so that more areas of forest are at risk from fire.

“Substantial areas of forest in Siberia are on peat soils”, says Dr Smith. “When these soils dry out, fires go underground, threatening to release large amounts of carbon which can lead to a catastrophic climate event.”

Wide impact

Smoke from the fires is carried by winds to other parts of the globe, trapping warm air near the Earth’s surface. The warm air generated by the fires is also likely to result in a further depletion in ice cover and warming of the Arctic seas.

The temperature rises and the growing incidence of wildfires in Siberia have other effects too.

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports says the fires mean that more nutrients, particularly nitrogen, leak into streams and waterways.

“Forest fires in this region of the Arctic used to happen about every hundred years and now we’re seeing them every summer”, says Bianca Rodriguez-Cardona, of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, US, one of the study’s authors.

“This increase in fires leads to more input of inorganic solutes into local streams which can alter the chemistry and trigger issues like increased algal blooms and bacteria that can be harmful to humans who depend on these waterways for drinking water, fishing and their livelihoods.” When these waters reach the Arctic they can also dramatically alter the chemistry of the surrounding seas, says the study. – Climate News Network

This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo: The Siberian taiga blazes as petroleum gas burns off in a flare. Image: By Copper Kettle, via Wikimedia Commons