climate change tagged posts

Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its corals since 1995

Bleached coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas in February 2017.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change, a study has found. Scientists found all types of corals had suffered a decline across the world’s largest reef system. The steepest falls came after mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. More mass bleaching occurred this year. 

“There is no time to lose – we must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions ASAP,” the researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was conducted by marine scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland.

Scientists assessed the health and size of coral colonies across the reef from 1995 to 2017.

They found populations had dropped by more than 50% in...

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The Kiwi simplifying climate science for the world

John Lang is a London-based New Zealander who makes climate graphics – including one for the IPCC.

It might have a smaller fan-base than a Parris Goebel dance routine or a Taika Waititi movie, but a New Zealander is taking a product to the masses that he hopes will go down just as easily.

John Lang has just finished an unenviable task: taking a jargon-packed, number-heavy report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and turning it into a graphic the average person might read.

The result is Worlds Apart, which leads people through three alternative futures, depending on how fast governments tackle emissions and how the planet responds. The visuals feature filling bathtubs, open doors, and an archer with a bow and arrow demonstrating humanity overshooting 1.5 degrees C of heating – or not.

While there is no single forecast that can say how a hotter world will l...

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Earth warning signs indicate need for restoration

If there ever was a warning sign from Earth, it happened this week. Siberia, a region known for its unrelenting cold and frigidly unforgiving landscape, hit a disturbing milestone: 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, this is on par for 2020. The year saw the hottest January on record, the second-hottest February on record, the second-hottest March on record, the second-hottest April on record and the hottest May on record. The year also saw the highest levels of carbon dioxide ever recorded in the atmosphere.

Together, the records are warning signs, highlighting the structural changes necessary to break our carbon-emitting habits. Fortunately, many of these changes can be incorporated in green recovery plans.

In the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have an opport...

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How will coronavirus shape our response to climate change?

London traffic before the Covid19 lockdown

The global response to the COVID-19 crisis could inform the fight against climate change, Imperial College London experts say. Imperial’s climate scientists, policy and economic experts say there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic that could put us in a better position to tackle climate change in the future.

Findings from Imperial suggest that social distancing measures to slow and suppress the spread of COVID-19 across Europe – including school closures and national lockdowns – have averted thousands of deaths.

Imperial academics reflect on what the pandemic is teaching us about responding to a global threat, and how we could apply that learning to the fight against climate change.

Known unknowns

In a blog for the Grantham Institute, Dr Ajay Gambhir argues that learning from t...

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Reefs are being transformed by climate change – undoing decades of knowledge on how to protect them

Bleached coral

Coral reefs are so fundamentally damaged by climate change that decades of research on how to protect them may not even still be applicable, scientists say.  In a study of coral over 20 years, UK scientists found that a warming climate undoes decades of knowledge on coral in protected areas, known as marine reserves.  These delicate and vital ecosystems have been used as a guide to rejuvenate biodiversity in other disrupted regions.

However, tropical coral reef marine reserves can offer little defence in the face of climate change impacts, meaning conservationists may have to ‘rethink their role’.

The team is calling for urgent reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and poor land practices that leak pollutants into coastal waters, to protect coral reefs.

‘Climate change is so f...

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Climate change: World mustn’t forget ‘deeper emergency’

Despite the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the world mustn’t forget the “deeper environmental emergency” facing the planet. That’s the view of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in remarks released to celebrate Earth Day. The toll taken by the virus is both “immediate and dreadful”, Mr Guterres says.

But the crisis is also a wake-up call, “to do things right for the future,” said the Secretary General.

Mr Guterres re-iterated his view that the coronavirus is the biggest challenge the world has faced since the Second World War.

But as the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the planet’s “unfolding environmental crisis” is an “even deeper emergency”, he says.

“Biodiversity is in steep decline,” Mr Guterres stated.

“Climate disruption is approaching a point o...

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Oceans can be successfully restored by 2050, say scientists

Despite being treated as humanity’s rubbish dump for decades, the oceans of the world are proving remarkably resilient, says a new scientific review. Building on that resilience could lead to a full recovery within three decades, the researchers argue.

Climate change, and the challenges of scaling up existing conservation efforts, are the big hurdles, they say.

The researchers caution that the window for action is now very narrow.

The oceans have been exploited by humans for centuries, but the negative impacts of our involvement have only become clear over the last 50 years or so.

Fish and other marine species have been hunted almost to extinction, while oil spills and ...

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Florida’s fight with sea level rise

Florida beach on a beautiful day

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many people are dreaming of Florida as a retreat from long days of self-isolation. Hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches, azure skies, shimmering oceans, teeming wilderness including barrier reefs and the Everglades, and strands of picturesque keys and islets. But this paradise is staring down a menace of its own — a rising sea level — and it’s time for a paradigm shift to help us save the Sunshine State. How that battle plays out will have huge implications for other coastal regions across the rest of the United States.

Floridians are experiencing the undeniable impacts of sea level rise firsthand on a daily basis. For Florida’s environment, the signs of danger and damage are everywhere. Saltwater is inundating the Florida Bay, exacerbating an...

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A new tool for identifying climate-adaptive coral reefs

Coral bleaching caused by climate change

Climate change is threatening the world’s coral reefs, and saving them all will prove impossible. A team from EPFL has developed a method for identifying corals with the greatest adaptive potential to heat stress. The research, published in the journal Evolutionary Applications, should support improved and better-targeted marine biodiversity conservation strategies.

Coral reefs are home to up to one-third of global marine biodiversity and, as such, are a high conservation priority. Yet these precious ecosystems have declined rapidly in the past 20 years, resulting in significant species loss and bringing socioeconomic hardship to tropical regions of the world that rely heavily on fishing and tourism. This decline is driven by bleaching, the process by which coral dies.

Bleaching occurs ...

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Huge Ecosystems Could Collapse in Less than 50 Years

A school of fish swims in the Coral Sea

We know this can happen because such changes have already been widely observed. But our research, now published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that the size of the ecosystem is important. Once a “tipping point” is triggered, large ecosystems could collapse much faster than we had thought possible. It’s a finding that has worrying implications for the functioning of our planet.

We started off by wondering how the size of the ecosystem might affect the time taken for these changes (ecologists call them “regime shifts”) to happen. It seems intuitive to expect large ecosystems to shift more slowly than small ones. If so, would the relationship between shift time and size be the same for lakes, corals, fisheries, and forests?

We began by analyzing data for about 40 regime...

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