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Climate Change Worse Than We Thought, Likely To Be ‘Catastrophic Rather Than Simply Dangerous’

“Climate change may be far worse than scientists thought, causing global temperatures to rise by at least 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, or about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature, takes a fresh look at clouds’ effect on the planet, according to a report by The Guardian. The research found that as the planet heats, fewer sunlight-reflecting clouds form, causing temperatures to rise further in an upward spiral.

That number is double what many governments agree is the threshold for dangerous warming. Aside from dramatic environmental shifts like melting sea ice, many of the ills of the modern world — starvation, poverty, war and disease — are likely to get worse as the planet warms.

“4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous,” lead researcher Steven Sherwood told the Guardian. “For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet.”

Another report released earlier this month said the abrupt changes caused by rapid warming should be cause for concern, as many of climate change’s biggest threats are those we aren’t ready for.”


Climate change exposes more tropical diseases

September 30, 2010 – Original Source: The New Nation, Bangladesh

Public health professionals from a number of countries assembled in capital Dhaka to discuss the magnitude of health problems posed by climate change and give future directions to face climate-induced health challenges.

More than 200 professionals from France, India, Indonesia, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and host Bangladesh started dialogue today as the two-day conference kicked off in the city on Wednesday morning.

Prof Dr Moazzem Hossain, director of the communicable disease control of Directorate General of Health Services and the key host of the event, said neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as filariasis, snake bite, kala’azar, and rabies were discussed on the first day of the programme.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Establishment HT Imam spoke as the chief guest while Prime Minister’s Adviser on Health Prof Dr Syed Modasser Ali inaugurated the event, hosted by government’s Communicable Disease Control department of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Dr Moazzem said the impacts of climate change on health is evident in sub-tropical Bangladesh as higher temperatures, frequent extreme weather events and sea level rise have already battered people’s lives in the country.

He said records show that the average summer temperature has risen over the years, exposing the country to tropical diseases such malaria, filariasis, dengue, helminthiasis, snake bites, rabies and several other neglected diseases.

He said a Dhaka declaration would be adopted from the conference, second of its kind, with specific programmes and suggestions to thwart the health challenges across the world, especially in poor countries.

He also said the neglected tropical diseases require more attention both from the government and the donor communities as the extent of such diseases has spread to much of the areas of the country.

Conservative studies show that Bangladesh is to lose between 17,000 and 22,000 square kilometers of land due to a sea level rise of 1-1.5 meter by 2050. The health impacts from climate change would be far-reaching in the country, with more people suffering from water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

The successes over the diseases such as malaria, filariasis, diarrhoea, cholera and dengue might be in jeopardy in near future due to climate change, organizers of the conference said, adding climate change has already posed a serious threat to the progress made in the health-related millennium development goals.

HT Imam said climate change has become a major concern of the country and the present government has been taking pragmatic steps in line with the changed situation of the globe.

He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has raised her voice in the last conference of parties (COP-15) in Denmark and has again raised Bangladesh’s concern over global warming in the just- concluded UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Syed Modasser Ali said the potential impact of global warming on the transmission of NTDs did not get due attention from researchers over decades, although the evidence shows that epidemic potential for such diseases might increase by 12-27 percent as a direct consequence of higher temperature.

Director General of DGHA Prof Dr Shah Munir Hossain chaired the inaugural session, where Prof Kazuhiko Moji presented the keynote paper and chairman of Bangladesh Medical Research Council Prof Mahmud Hasan spoke as the special guest.

Climate Change Is “A Serious Public Health Issue”

September 29, 2010 – Original Source: Alt Transport

Calling climate change a “public health issue” over a 100 leading health advocates went to Washington to ask for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, the Hill reported.

Eighteen national public health organizations including the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association, 66 state-based groups and several individual medical professionals asked policymakers to support measures that will reduce the health risks due to climate change.

“In order to prepare for changes already under way, it is essential to strengthen our public health system so it is able to protect our communities from the health effects of heat waves, wildfires, floods, droughts, infectious diseases, and other events,” the advocates wrote Tuesday to House, Senate and White House policymakers. “But we must also address the root of the problem, which means reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change.”

The group asked Washington lawmakers to allow the EPA to regulate emissions in an attempt to fight West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D.) bill which aims to delay emissions standards for power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities for two years.

The EPA is technically allowed to regulate these emissions, since a 2007 Supreme Court ruling determined that greenhouse gases qualify as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Unfortunately, several senators from coal-mining states have opposed a cap on emissions, arguing that it will raise the price of energy and cut jobs.

As we said yesterday, a shift away from fossil fuels, towards greener forms of energy will actually create more jobs (within the green energy sector) and consequently reduce pollution.

In fact, research from the University of California at Berkeley estimates that a bill cutting emissions, could create up to 61,000 new jobs in states like Ohio (another coal producing state) as the state moves towards green tech, according to The World.Org

Whether these senators believe in climate change or not, pollutants in the air, can have health consequences, and that’s something they need to consider.

An illustrated guide to the latest climate science

February 17, 2010 – Original Source: Climate Progress

Here is an update of review of the best papers on climate science in the past year.  If you want a broader overview of the literature in the past few years, focusing specifically on how unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gas emissions are projected to impact the United States, try “An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water.”

I’m adding some of the best figures from those papers, too.  For those who like their science delivered through videos, let me suggest the panel I hosted earlier this month, may I suggest Video and PPTs of “The Science of Climate Change” with Dr. Christopher Field and Dr. Michael MacCracken (which is the source of the above figure showing the decadal temperature trend, together with the annual temps).

In 2009, the scientific literature caught up with what top climate scientists have been saying privately for a few years now:

  • Many of the predicted impacts of human-caused climate change are occurring much faster than anybody expected — particularly ice melt, everywhere you look on the planet.
  • If we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are facing incalculable catastrophes by century’s end, including rapid sea level rise, massive wildfires, widespread Dust-Bowlification, large oceanic dead zones, and 9°F warming — much of which could be all but irreversible for centuries. And that’s not the worst-case scenario!
  • The consequences for human health and well being would be extreme.

That’s no surprise to anybody who has talked to leading climate scientists in recent years, read my book Hell and High Water (or a number of other books), or followed this blog. Still, it is a scientific reality that I don’t think more than 2 people in 100 fully grasp, so I’m going to review here the past year in climate science. I’ll focus primarily on the peer-reviewed literature, but also look at some major summary reports.

Let’s start with the basics. Heat-trapping greenhouse gases are at unprecedented levels, and the paleoclimate record suggests that even slightly higher levels are untenable:

Since we have record levels of heat-trapping gases, it’s not surprising that we also learned that this was the hottest decade in the temperature record and that the Arctic is the hottest in at least two millenia.

A Hockey Stick in Melting Ice

In two key papers, we learned that the planet is warming from those GHGs just where climate science said it would — the oceans, which is where more than 90% of the warming was projected to end up (see “Skeptical Science explains how we know global warming is happening.“). The key findings in the second study are summed up in this figure:

Figure [2]: Time series of global mean heat storage (0–2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.

That study makes clear that upper ocean heat content, perhaps not surprisingly, is simply far more variable than deeper ocean heat content, and thus an imperfect indicator of the long-term warming trend.

Unexpectedly, even Antarctica appears to be warming:

This global warming is driving melting at extraordinary rates every where we look, including places nobody expected:

And given that unexpectedly fast ice melt, it’s no surprise the science now projects much higher and much faster sea level rise than just a few years ago:

We continued to learn about the dangerous positive carbon-cycle feedbacks that threaten to amplify the impacts of human-caused GHGs.

Indeed, the best evidence is that the climate is now being driven by amplifying feedbacks (see, most notably:

Using the first “fully interactive climate system model” applied to study permafrost, the researchers found that if we tried to stabilize CO2 concentrations in the air at 550 ppm, permafrost would plummet from over 4 million square miles today to 1.5 million. If concentrations hit 690 ppm, permafrost would shrink to just 800,000 square miles:

High emissions levels + positive feedbacks = climate catastrophe:

This graph shows the percentage increase in area burned by wildfires, from the present-day to the 2050s, as calculated by the model of Spracklen et al. [2009] for the May-October fire season. The model follows a scenario of moderately increasing emissions of greenhouse gas emissions and leads to average global warming of 1.6 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050. Warmer temperatures can dry out underbrush, leading to more serious conflagrations in the future climate.”

And the plausible worst-case scenario is even worse than this grim “business as usual” emissions case:

This is the “plausible worst case scenario” for 2060 from the UK Met Office that occurs in 10% of model runs of high emissions with the carbon cycle feedbacks [temperature in degrees Celsius, multiple by 1.8 for Fahrenheit]:

And this is not good news for human health and welfare

So the time to act is most certainly now.

I’ll end with the best piece of scientific news I wrote about, which suggests it is not too damn late to act — a NOAA-led study, “Observational constraints on recent increases in the atmospheric CH4 burden” (subs. req’d, NOAA online news story here), which found:

Measurements of atmospheric CH4 from air samples collected weekly at 46 remote surface sites show that, after a decade of near-zero growth, globally averaged atmospheric methane increased during 2007 and 2008. During 2007, CH4 increased by 8.3 ± 0.6 ppb. CH4 mole fractions averaged over polar northern latitudes and the Southern Hemisphere increased more than other zonally averaged regions. In 2008, globally averaged CH4 increased by 4.4 ± 0.6 ppb; the largest increase was in the tropics, while polar northern latitudes did not increase. Satellite and in situ CO observations suggest only a minor contribution to increased CH4 from biomass burning. The most likely drivers of the CH4 anomalies observed during 2007 and 2008 are anomalously high temperatures in the Arctic and greater than average precipitation in the tropics. Near-zero CH4 growth in the Arctic during 2008 suggests we have not yet activated strong climate feedbacks from permafrost and CH4 hydrates.


Yes, early this year I reported that NOAA found “Methane levels rose in 2008 for the second consecutive year after a 10-year lull,” but so far that most dangerous of all feedbacks — Arctic and tundra methane releases — does not appear to have been fatally triggered.

The anti-science crowd use smoke and mirrors to distract as many people as possible, but the rest of us need to listen to the science and keep our eyes on the prize — reversing greenhouse gas emissions trends as quickly and rapidly as possible.

Climate change increasing malaria risk, research reveals

December 31, 2009 – Original Source: Guardian, UK

UK-funded research shows climate change has caused a seven-fold increase in cases of malaria on the slopes of Mount Kenya.

Rising temperatures on the slopes of Mount Kenya have put an extra 4 million people at risk of malaria, research funded by the UK government warned today.

Climate change has raised average temperatures in the Central Highlands region of Kenya, allowing the disease to creep into higher altitude areas where the population has little or no immunity.

The findings by a research team funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID), showed that seven times more people are contracting the disease in outbreaks in the region than 10 years ago.

The team from the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (Kemri) said that while similar outbreaks elsewhere have been attributed to multiple factors including drug resistance and changes in land use, the only change on Mount Kenya is a rise in temperature.

The average temperature in the Central Highlands was 17C in 1989, with malaria completely absent from the region. This is because the parasite which causes malaria can only mature above 18C.

But with temperatures today averaging 19C, mosquitos are carrying the disease into high altitude areas and epidemics have begun to break out among humans.

Kemri is using climate models to predict when epidemics might occur up to three months in advance, giving authorities time to stock up on medicine and warn the public of the dangers.

The institute is also using church meetings and local health clinics to educate people in high-altitude areas on how climate change could be leading to the spread of malaria into their area.

In the west Kenyan highlands, where malaria has been present since the late 1980s, programmes have been providing mosquito nets for people to sleep under – with DfID providing 14m bed nets since 2001.

But because malaria is a relatively new phenomenon, less than half of those who own bed nets use them, DfID said.

In areas where researchers have been encouraging people to use them the incidence of malaria has dropped markedly and epidemics have been all but eradicated.

The international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, said: "The spread of malaria in the Mount Kenya region is a worrying sign of things to come.

"Without strong and urgent action to tackle climate change, malaria could infect areas without any experience of the disease.

"That’s why we need to make sure vulnerable, developing nations such as Kenya have the support they need to tackle the potentially devastating impacts of climate change."

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