Loss of sea ice is affecting some polar bear populations as they depend on it for hunting and mating.
Image: Kathy Crane/NOAA
By Alex Kirby
As climate change increasingly affects the Arctic, some polar bear populations are suffering because rising temperatures are reducing the sea ice vital for their survival.
LONDON, 19 December, 2014 − The Arctic is changing faster under the influence of the warming climate than anywhere else on Earth, scientists have confirmed.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says Arctic air temperatures continue to rise more than twice as fast as they do globally − a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. >>read more»
An island left high and dry in the English Lake District when water levels fell drastically during the 2003 heat wave.
Image: Chris Tomlinson via Wikimedia Commons
By Tim Radford
Scientists predict that lethal heat waves in Europe, and ice storms and big freezes across the globe, could become regular events if greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled.
LONDON, 18 December, 2014 − Global average temperatures continue to rise, but new research shows that the extremes of heat and cold are rising even faster.
Scientists report that heat waves have got hotter and cold snaps have got colder at a more extreme rate – and that continuing greenhouse gas emissions will mean that, in another two decades, Europe could experience once every two years the sort of lethal heat waves that occurred once in a thousand years. >>read more»
Bright orange sea urchins in the waters off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Image: British Antarctic Survey
By Tim Radford
As climate change adds to the threat of extinction faced by many species, new research shows how sea urchins can adapt to the increasing temperature and levels of acidity in Antarctic waters.
LONDON, 17 December, 2014 − The sea urchins of the Southern Ocean could be safe from the threat of extinction. They may not enjoy global warming and the increasingly acid oceans, but new research indicates that they can adapt to climate change.
Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Bangor University in Wales − in what they describe as the largest study of its kind − collected 288 urchins of the species Sterechinus neumayeri from waters off the Antarctic Peninsula, carried them to Cambridge in the UK, and tested them in aquarium tanks over a two-year span, covering two full reproductive cycles. >>read more»
The scarred landscape of a vast open cut coal mine in Australia.
Image: CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons
By Kieran Cooke
The current government in Australia has made no secret of its doubts about the scientific evidence of climate change – but new research confirms that the country’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising fast.
LONDON, 16 December, 2014 − Australia’s emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases are going up and up – and are set to rise by more than 50% over 1990 levels by 2020, according to new research.
Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent science-based programme that analyses the emission commitments and actions of countries around the world, says Australia’s present emission levels are about 31% higher than in 1990 and continue to rise. >>read more»
A rocket launches a TV satellite from Cape Canaveral on the Florida coast.
Image: Hendrik Scholz via Wikimedia Commons
By Tim Radford
Rising sea levels and repeated storm damage to natural coastal defences pose an increasing threat to the famous Cape Canaveral rocket launch site in Florida.
LONDON, 15 December, 2014 − Climate change has begun to make its mark on one of America’s most iconic sites – the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Within a decade, according to geologists, the combination punch of rising sea levels and increasing wave energy could start to affect operations at the site where, more than five decades ago, astronauts were launched towards a landing on the Moon. >>read more»
Peru’s Amazon forest is vulnerable to a warming climate
Image: Roosevelt Garcia via Wikimedia Commons
By Paul Brown
The UN climate talks in Lima have ended with the setting of deadlines for the world to come up with plans to curb emissions and adapt to climate change.
LONDON, 14 December, 2014 − A deal struck in Lima between 196 nations today leaves open the possibility of saving the planet from dangerous overheating. But its critics say the prospects of success are now slim.
The talks − which ran two days longer than scheduled − set a series of deadlines which mean that every nation is charged with producing its plans to cap and reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. >>read more»
An iceberg floating in the Amundsen Sea, where glaciers are shedding ice faster than in any other part of Antarctica.
Image: NASA/Jane Peterson via Wikimedia Commons
By Tim Radford
As ocean temperatures rise, warmer currents are attacking the Antarctic ice sheet from below and adding to the threats posed by a melting rate that has trebled in the last two decades.
LONDON, 13 December, 2014 − The Antarctic ice shelf is under threat from a silent, invisible agency – and the rate of melting rate of glaciers has trebled in the last two decades.
The ocean waters of the deep circumpolar current that swirl around the continent have been getting measurably warmer and nearer the ocean surface over the last 40 years, and now they could be accelerating glacier flow by melting the ice from underneath, according to new research. >>read more»
Large-scale logging operations have had a devastating effect on Amazonia.
Image: Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons
By Jan Rocha
Brazilian climate expert proposes five-point “battle plan” in a war against the Amazon deforestation that is having increasingly dire impacts on the regional and global climate.
SÃO PAULO, 12 December, 2014 − The relentless destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest will endanger the global climate unless it can be stopped and restored, says a new report by a leading climate scientist.
In an eloquent, hard-hitting scientific assessment report entitled The Future Climate of Amazonia, Dr Antonio Donato Nobre, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), traces the climatic potential of the world’s greatest remaining rainforest. >>read more»
A vast open-pit coal mine in China, which has pledged to cap coal consumption from 2020.
Image: Herry Lawford via Wikimedia Commons
By Alex Kirby
Climate change analysts say latest commitments by China, the US and Europe on emissions cuts could mean significant progress towards ensuring that global average temperatures this century will rise less than predicted.
LIMA, 11 December 2014 − This really does appear to be a good news story about climate change − and even the not-so-good qualification that accompanies it still leaves something to celebrate.
Researchers say the post-2020 plans announced recently by China and the US and the European Union mean projected warming during this century is likely to be less than expected. The downside is that, even then, the world will still not be doing enough to limit the increase in average temperatures to below 2˚C. >>read more»
The huge India One solar thermal power plant in Rajasthan.
Image: Bkwcreator via Wikimedia Commons
By Nivedita Khandekar
While the political spotlight focused on the world’s two biggest polluters − China and the US − in the run-up to the Lima climate talks, pressure is mounting on India to set emissions targets to help prevent the planet overheating.
NEW DELHI, 10 December, 2014 − India’s contribution to global carbon emissions was only 7% last year, yet there are fears being expressed in the western world that rapid population growth and development will mean this vast country will soon be a major polluter − like its neighbour, China.
For the world, it is a continued worry that if the country soon to have the largest population in the world develops − as China has − by burning coal, climate change will surely get out of control. >>read more»
An abandoned oil drilling platform in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Image: Adam Jones via Wikimedia Commons
By Kieran Cooke
Investors are wondering whether putting money into fossil fuels makes sense – and the same question is now being asked by heavy hitters in the banking industry.
LONDON, 9 December, 2014 − In a move that’s likely to cause consternation in some of the world’s most powerful corporate boardrooms, the Bank of England has disclosed that it is launching an inquiry into the risks fossil fuel companies pose to overall financial stability.
Mark Carney, governor of the UK’s central bank, has written to British Members of Parliament telling them that his officials have been discussing whether or not coal, oil and gas reserves held by the fossil fuel industry are, in fact, unburnable. >>
A mother uses a makeshift raft to get her daughter and goats to safety from floods in Bangladesh.
Image: Balaram Mahalder via Wikimedia Commons
By Saleem Shaikh
South Asia, one of the world’s most populous and disaster-prone regions, faces dire impacts from climate change. So why are its nations not working together to tackle the many shared threats they face?
LIMA, 8 December, 2014 − The countries of South Asia need to stand together in their efforts to push for more finance from the developed world to help them adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, a prominent regional expert says.
Saleemul Huq, from Bangladesh, a lead negotiator for the group of Least Developed Countries told a fringe meeting at the UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru, that South Asia countries face a range of climate-related events. >>read more»
Gas rings first heat up the pot and kettle, and then the planet.
Image: Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons
By Tim Radford
Scientists have determined the precise time lag before warming from newly-released greenhouse gases starts to show up on the planet’s thermometer – and it’s much shorter than previously suspected.
LONDON, 7 December, 2014 − Start the car, turn on the gas under the kettle, shovel some coal on the fire. Each time that happens, another pulse of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere − and in just 10 years, that newly-released gasp of greenhouse gas turns into global warming.
Scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science in the US have calculated for the first time a precision figure for the average lag between a carbon emission and its effect on the planetary thermometer. >>
Solar panels installed on the roofs of beach huts on the south coast of England.
Image: Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons
By Alex Kirby
While critics argue that solar energy has no immediate future in the UK’s famously grey and wet climate, a new report says it could be thriving and commercially competitive there by 2020 without government.
LONDON, 6 December, 2014 − Solar energy is sometimes dismissed as a fanciful idea with little to offer so far in such a cloudy country as the UK, but a new report says power from the sun could thrive in Britain in around five years’ time − without the need for any subsidy.
The report – published on the website of Thema1, a Berlin-based group that works to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon society − says solar energy is leading changes in the power market as hardware costs have fallen relentlessly over the last decade, recalling the boom in the semiconductor industry. >>read more»
Indigenous tribes live in harmony with the Amazon rainforest, but their precious land is increasingly under threat.
Image: Gleilson Miranda/Governo do Acre via Wikimedia Commons
By Tim Radford
As land rights of indigenous peoples are increasingly being violated, new research shows that destruction of Amazon rainforest is a major threat not only to cultural identity but also to the global climate.
LONDON, 5 December, 2014 − Scientists in the US and Latin America have once again confirmed the importance of the Amazon rainforest as a planetary resource and as a carbon sink to store carbon drawn down from the atmosphere. Sadly, they have also confirmed, once again, that it is at risk.
New research, released in time for the UN climate conference being held in Lima, Peru, shows that 55% of the Amazon’s carbon is in the indigenous territories that are home to the regions’s 385 tribal peoples, or in formally-designated protected natural areas. >>read more»