More people will be exposed to floods, droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather associated with climate change over the next century than previously thought, according to a new report in the British medical journal The Lancet.
The report, published online Monday, analyzes the health effects of recent episodes of severe weather that scientists have linked to climate change. It provides estimates of the number of people who are likely to experience the effects of climate change in coming decades, based on projections of population and demographic changes.
The report estimates that the exposure of people to extreme rainfall will more than quadruple and the exposure of people to drought will triple compared to the 1990s. In the same time span, the exposure of the older people to heat waves is expected to go up by a factor of 12, according to Peter Cox, one of the authors, who is a professor of climate-system dynamics at the University of Exeter in Britain.
Climate projections typically are expressed as averages over large areas, including vast expanses, like oceans, where people do not live. The report calculates the risk to people by overlaying areas of the highest risk for climate events with expected human population increases. It also takes into account aging populations — for example, heat waves pose a greater health risk to old people.
The report is part of a series of efforts to analyze how climate change might affect human health. Other major climate reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global document, and the National Climate Assessment in the United States, have addressed the issue. But Professor Cox said the new report was the first large-scale effort to quantify the effects that different types of extreme weather would have on people.
“We are saying, let’s look at climate change from the perspective of what people are going to experience, rather than as averages across the globe,” he said. “We have to move away from thinking of this as a problem in atmospheric physics. It is a problem for people.”
The Lancet first convened scientists on the topic in 2009, and produced a report that declared climate change was “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” Monday’s report notes that global carbon emission rates have risen above the worst-case scenarios used in 2009, and that in the absence of any major international agreement on cutting those rates, projections of mortality and illness and other effects, like famine, have worsened.
“Everything that was predicted in 2009 is already happening,” said Nick Watts, a public health expert at the Institute for Global Health at University College London, who led the team of more than 40 scientists from Europe, Africa and China that produced the report. “Now we need to take a further step forward. The science has substantially moved on.”
For years, climate change was presented in terms of natural habitats and the environment, but more recently, experts have been looking at how it might change life on earth for people. Scientists and some governments are trying to frame the dangers of climate change in health terms in order to persuade people that the topic is urgent, not simply a distant matter for scientists. Governments around the world are preparing for a United Nations summit meeting on climate change in Paris in December to discuss new policies to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
The report measures the increase over time in “exposure events,” which it defines as the number of times people experience any given extreme weather event.
By the end of the century, the report estimates, the exposure to heat waves each year for older people around the world is expected to be around 3 billion more cases than in 1990. The number of times people of all ages are exposed to drought would increase by more than a billion a year. The rise in exposures to extreme rain would be around 2 billion a year by the end of the century, in part because populations are growing.
Even without climate change, the health problems that come along with economic development are significant, the authors note. About 1.2 million people died from illnesses related to air pollution in China in 2010, the report said.
Most broad climate reports do not go further than explaining the science, but much of the Lancet report is dedicated to policy prescriptions to slow or stop climate change and mute its effects on health. It notes that using fewer fossil fuels “is no longer primarily a technical or economic question — it is now a political one,” and urges governments to enact changes that would accomplish that.
Drag your cursor (on a computer) or swipe your finger (on a phone or tablet) across each photo below. The 2005 Hurricane Katrina photo will dissolve into a picture from the identical vantage point nine years later. CANAL STREET...
In this special issue, Nature examines the end of the 1997 Kyoto climate treaty — and the path ahead.
In practice, the 1997 treaty did little to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Most of the parties to the treaty met their commitments easily but, because the Kyoto Protocol did not set limits for developing countries, the total emissions of greenhouse gases are rising faster than ever, thanks mainly to massive growth in coal consumption by China. A graphic view of the world's energy resources shows just how difficult it will be to wean the planet off fossil fuels. Many nations are acknowledging the inevitable and scrambling to gird themselves against stronger and more frequent floods, droughts, heat waves and other climate threats.
Just a decade ago, 'adaptation' was something of a dirty word in the climate arena — an insinuation that nations could continue with business as usual and deal with the mess later. But greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing at an unprecedented rate and countries have failed to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty. That stark reality has forced climate researchers and policy-makers to explore ways to weather some of the inevitable changes.
Climate change poses such a threat to human health that it could undermine all the gains in global development during the past 50 years, an independent international commission reports on Tuesday. The review, led by experts on medicine and economics
For centuries people have tried to predict earthquakes-with no success. Magnetic signals from rocks deep inside the earth are the latest prospect.
The dream is to be able to forecast earthquakes like we now predict the weather. Even a few minutes' warning would be enough for people to move away from walls or ceilings that might collapse or for nuclear plants and other critical facilities to be shut down safely in advance of the temblor. And if accurate predictions could be made a few days in advance, any necessary evacuations could be planned, much as is done today for hurricanes.
Scientists first turned to seismology as a predictive tool, hoping to find patterns of foreshocks that might indicate that a fault is about to slip. But nobody has been able to reliably distinguish between the waves of energy that herald a great earthquake and harmless rumblings.
Seismologists just can't give a simple yes or no answer to the question of whether we're about to have a large earthquake, said Thomas Jordan, director of the University of Southern California's Southern California Earthquake Center at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco in December.
So some scientist have turned their attention to other signals, including electricity, that might be related to activity occurring below ground as a fault prepares to slip
One theory is that when an earthquake looms, the rock "goes through a strange change," producing intense electrical currents, says Tom Bleier, a satellite engineer with QuakeFinder, a project funded by his parent company, Stellar Solutions, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"These currents are huge," Bleier said at the AGU meeting. "They're on the order of 100,000 amperes for a magnitude 6 earthquake and a million amperes for a magnitude 7. It's almost like lightning, underground."
The controversial and ineffective Kyoto Protocol's first stage comes to an end today, leaving the world with 58 per cent more greenhouse gases than in 1990, as opposed to the five per cent reduction its signatories sought.
As the climate shifts, rivers will both flood and dry up more often, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Shortages are especially likely in parts of the world already strapped for water, so political scientists expect feuds will become even more intense. To track disputes worldwide, researchers at Oregon State University spent a decade building a comprehensive database of international exchanges—-both conflicts and alliances—over shared water resources. They found that countries often begin disputes belligerently but ultimately reach peaceful agreements. Says Aaron Wolf, the geographer who leads the project, “For me the really interesting part is how even Arabs and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, are able to resolve their differences and find a solution.”
More than 1,700 American cities and towns – including Boston, New York, and Miami – are at greater risk from rising sea levels than previously feared, a new study has found.
By 2100, the future of at least part of these 1,700 locations will be "locked in" by greenhouse gas emissions built up in the atmosphere, theanalysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday found. For nearly 80 US cities, the watery future will come much sooner, within the next decade even.
The survey does not specify a date by which these cities, or parts of them, would actually fall under water. Instead, it specifies a "locked-in" date, by which time a future under water would be certain – a point of no return.
Because of the inertia built into the climate system, even if all carbon emissions stopped immediately, it would take some time for the related global temperature rises to ease off. That means the fate of some cities is already sealed, the study says.
"Even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level," said Benjamin Strauss, a researcher at Climate Central, and author of the paper. Dramatic cuts in emissions – much greater than Barack Obama and other world leaders have so far agreed – could save nearly 1,000 of those towns, by averting the sea-level rise, the study found.
"Hundreds of American cities are already locked into watery futures and we are growing that group very rapidly," Strauss said. "We are locking in hundreds more as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere."
A recent study, also published in PNAS by the climate scientist Anders Levermann found each 1C rise in atmospheric warming would lead eventually to 2.3m of sea-level rise. The latest study takes those figures, and factors in the current rate of carbon emissions, as well as the best estimate of global temperature sensitivity to pollution.
For the study, a location was deemed "under threat" if 25% of its current population lives below the locked-in future high-tide level. Some 1,700 places are at risk in this definition. Even if bar is set higher, at 50% of the current population, 1,400 places would be under threat by 2100.
Many small eruptions over the past decade or so have helped restrain climate change.
On Valentine's Day, Indonesia's Mount Kelud blew its top and coated villages up to 500 kilometers away with ash. At the same time, the eruption injected a small but consequential amount of sulfur dioxide 28 kilometers up into the stratosphere. Tiny droplets of sulfuric acid then reflected away incoming sunlight, helping to cool the planet. Such “small” eruptions—along with others at places like Manam, Soufrière Hills, Jebel at Tair and Eyjafjallajökull, to name a few of the 17 between 2000 and 2012—have helped slow the pace of global warming, according to work published in Nature Geoscience.
“The uptick in early 21st-century volcanism clearly was a contributing factor to the hiatus,” says atmospheric scientist Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, lead author of the report. The volcanoes did not act alone. There was also an unusually quiescent sun, air pollution from China's coal-fired power plants and the mysterious workings of the ocean. Santer adds, “The net impact was to offset part of the human-caused greenhouse gas warming.”
In the meantime, global warming continues to gather strength, hidden behind volcanoes that may shutter their tops at any moment. Based on supersized eruptions such as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, reflective aerosols would then fall to Earth within a few years at most, leaving the planet exposed to the full heat-trapping effects of greenhouse gases from human activities.
If the volcanoes do not do their part, a last resort may be required—bring our own aerosols. Advocates of one form of geoengineering want to step in, injecting sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere to augment or replace eruptions. Such deliberate tinkering with planetary-scale systems has been proposed as a fallback plan if climate change were to turn catastrophic, though at the cost of the stratospheric layer that helps to shield life from ultraviolet light. Sulfuric acid high in the sky has the unfortunate side effect of eliminating ozone. But given the inertia in reducing greenhouse gas pollution, the debate around geoengineering will undoubtedly linger longer than the aftermath of these small volcanic eruptions.
This is a really great infographic, laying out where oil comes from, who’s using it, what we’re using it for, and the ever-important topic of… peak oil. Check it out (CLICK TO ENLARGE): Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/13hcI)
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