Climate change is altering seasonal patterns, making our summers hotter, and fueling increased flooding from coastal storms. As a result, we face more heat-related illnesses, air quality issues, food and water contamination, traumatic injuries, threats to our mental health, and infectious diseases. These threats will only get worse as big polluters continue to pump carbon from coal, oil, and natural gas into the air. The good news is that we can protect ourselves from these impacts by moving to cleaner energy strategies and preparing more effectively for future disasters.
It’s important to closely monitor how climate change and our increasing use of the oceans are affecting important marine resources and ecosystems. A new Global Change Biology paper identifies “biological essential ocean variables” that can be measured to provide key information to help effectively mitigate or manage the detrimental effects we may be having.
The variables may help simplify communication among stakeholders around the globe and galvanize support for implementing a valuable global observing system.
“We need robust, sustained, and coordinated observations focused on specific measurements to assess changes in marine ecosystems. This will help meet the requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals and other critical international agreements and platforms that are related to climate change, biodiversity, and ecosystem services,” said lead author Dr. Patricia Miloslavich, of the University of Tasmania in Australia and the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela.
About 250 million years ago, when the Earth had no ice caps and the water around the equator was too hot for reptiles, sea level still rose and fell over time. Now, an international team of researchers has developed a way to track sea-level rise and fall and to tease out what caused the changes in the absence of ice sheets.
“Today’s models suggest .3 to 2.5 meters (1 to 8 feet) of sea-level rise during the 21st century, mainly due to ice sheet melting and thermal expansion,” said Mingsong Li, postdoctoral fellow in geoscience, Penn State. “However, we know that sea level fluctuated even during times when there were no ice sheets on Earth. The question is, what caused the fluctuation?”
The researchers reported in a recent issue of Nature Communications that the effects of the Earth’s tilt on the amounts of water in the oceans and in groundwater account for the changes in sea levels during this period, the Early Triassic.
Rising anthropogenic, or human-caused, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have up to twice the impact on coastal estuaries as it does in the oceans because the human-caused CO2 lowers the ecosystem’s ability to absorb natural fluctuations of the greenhouse gas, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon State University found that there was significant daily variability when it comes to harmful indices of CO2 for many marine organisms in estuaries. At night, for example, water in the estuary had higher carbon dioxide, lower pH levels, and a lower saturation state from the collective “exhale” of the ecosystem.
These night-time harmful conditions are changing about twice as fast as the daily average, the researchers say, meaning the negative impacts on shell-building animals, including oysters, clams and mussels, may manifest more quickly than expected from simply observing the daily average.
Results of the study are being published April 2 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was funded and led by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development and Region 10, through a Regional Applied Research Effort grant. The project was coordinated by Stephen Pacella, an EPA scientist who also is a doctoral student in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.
One common way that residents of flood-prone communities rationalize their choice to stay is by scapegoating–or placing blame elsewhere.
“On Smith Island, for example, many people blame the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not doing a better job of preventing erosion,” says Casagrande. “There is an erosion problem, but that is not the only challenge.”
Another tactic to resolve inconsistencies is social comparison, which states that individuals tend to evaluate their own situation by comparing it to others.
In other words, according to Casagrande, residents justify their decision to stay by believing that other places are so much worse.
When Casagrande, working on a separate project, interviewed a resident of an area along the Mississippi River that had recently experienced severe flooding and a simultaneous tornado–he asked: Do you think is a dangerous place to live?
Paraphrasing the resident’s response, Casagrande says: “‘No! Look at California – the earthquakes, the forest fires, mud slides…’ It’s always worse somewhere else.”
Many fast-developing cities with populations of many millions are located in low-lying delta regions that are extremely susceptible to changes in sea level, as well as land subsidence. Without adaptation, these megacities will most likely suffer from increasing economic losses and loss of human life in the near future. Scussolini et al.  present an extremely well performed case study that combines modelling of future sea level and storm surge probabilities with sophisticated hydrodynamic modelling, projected socio-economic developments, economic analysis, and the theory of adaptive pathways to select optimal sets measures to adapt to increasing flood risk. As such it will serve as an example for many cities around the world facing similar challenges.
Citation: Scussolini, P., Tran, T. V. T., Koks, E., Diaz-Loaiza, A., Ho, P. L., & Lasage, R. (2017). Adaptation to sea level rise: A multidisciplinary analysis for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Water Resources Research, 53, 10,841–10,857. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017WR021344
Improve your soil and monitor the changing climate as a citizen scientist
Did you know satellites are constantly monitoring soil moisture, even in your garden? Monitoring the moisture in soil can help predict floods, fires and droughts.
On this course, you will learn about the ESA’s Sentinel-1 Missions, and how citizens can validate satellite data locally with sensors.
You’ll discover sensing, and become part of the GROW Citizen Observatory. You will collaborate with other growers and scientists to learn about soil sensors and make sense of the data to improve your growing practice.
Now is the time to make a difference! Join us and become a citizen scientist.
“Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”
“To say that ‘human activity impacts our changing climate ‘in some manner’, is analogous to saying the Germans were involved in WW II ‘in some manner’,” David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and retired U.S. Navy admiral, said in an email.
Climate change will be the fastest-growing cause of species loss in the Americas by midcentury, according to a new set of reports from the leading global organization on ecosystems and biodiversity.
Climate change, alongside factors like land degradation and habitat loss, is emerging as a top threat to wildlife around the globe, the reports suggest. In Africa, it could cause some animals to decline by as much as 50 percent by the end of the century, and up to 90 percent of coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean may bleach or degrade by the year 2050.
The reports, released last week by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), included a sweeping set of biodiversity assessments for four major regions around the world, with contributions from more than 500 experts. A separate report on global land degradation, which was launched yesterday, included more than 100 authors. Both were approved by IPBES’s 129 member states at an ongoing plenary session in Medellín, Colombia.
Sixty-nine percent of Republicans surveyed in a Gallup poll released Wednesday said they think the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated, up from 66 percent a year ago.
That compares with only 4 percent of Democrats who think concerns are exaggerated, down from 10 percent in 2017.
Other key measures of climate change opinions showed similarly growing partisanship, Gallup said.
Among Republicans, only 42 percent said that most scientists think global warming is occurring, 11 percentage points lower than last year. Democrats’ opinions on that question are the same as last year, with 86 percent agreeing.