Portal:Climate change

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The Climate Change Portal

Average global temperatures from 2010 to 2019 compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1978. Source: NASA.

Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

The largest driver of warming is the emission of greenhouse gases, of which more than 90% are carbon dioxide (CO
2
) and methane. Fossil fuel burning (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy consumption is the main source of these emissions, with additional contributions from agriculture, deforestation, and manufacturing. The human cause of climate change is not disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing. Temperature rise is accelerated or tempered by climate feedbacks, such as loss of sunlight-reflecting snow and ice cover, increased water vapour (a greenhouse gas itself), and changes to land and ocean carbon sinks.

Temperature rise on land is about twice the global average increase, leading to desert expansion and more common heat waves and wildfires. Temperature rise is also amplified in the Arctic, where it has contributed to melting permafrost, glacial retreat and sea ice loss. Warmer temperatures are increasing rates of evaporation, causing more intense storms and weather extremes. Impacts on ecosystems include the relocation or extinction of many species as their environment changes, most immediately in coral reefs, mountains, and the Arctic. Climate change threatens people with food insecurity, water scarcity, flooding, infectious diseases, extreme heat, economic losses, and displacement. These impacts have led the World Health Organization to call climate change the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Even if efforts to minimize future warming are successful, some effects will continue for centuries, including rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification.


Many of these impacts are already felt at the current level of warming, which is about 1.2 °C (2.2 °F). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a series of reports that project significant increases in these impacts as warming continues to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) and beyond. Additional warming also increases the risk of triggering critical thresholds called tipping points. Responding to climate change involves mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation – limiting climate change – consists of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing them from the atmosphere; methods include the development and deployment of low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar, a phase-out of coal, enhanced energy efficiency, reforestation, and forest preservation. Adaptation consists of adjusting to actual or expected climate, such as through improved coastline protection, better disaster management, assisted colonization, and the development of more resistant crops. Adaptation alone cannot avert the risk of "severe, widespread and irreversible" impacts. (Full article...)

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Possible tipping elements in the climate system.

A tipping point in the climate system is a threshold that, when exceeded, can lead to large changes in the state of the system. Potential tipping points have been identified in the physical climate system, in impacted ecosystems, and sometimes in both. For instance, feedback from the global carbon cycle is a driver for the transition between glacial and interglacial periods, with orbital forcing providing the initial trigger. Earth's geologic temperature record includes many more examples of geologically rapid transitions between different climate states.

Climate tipping points are of particular interest in reference to concerns about global warming in the modern era. Possible tipping point behaviour has been identified for the global mean surface temperature by studying self-reinforcing feedbacks and the past behavior of Earth's climate system. Self-reinforcing feedbacks in the carbon cycle and planetary reflectivity could trigger a cascading set of tipping points that lead the world into a hothouse climate state.

Large-scale components of the Earth system that may pass a tipping point have been referred to as tipping elements. Tipping elements are found in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, possibly causing tens of meters of sea level rise. These tipping points are not always abrupt. For example, at some level of temperature rise the melt of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet and/or West Antarctic Ice Sheet will become inevitable; but the ice sheet itself may persist for many centuries. Some tipping elements, like the collapse of ecosystems, are irreversible. (Full article...)
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Larsen B collapse.jpg
Credit: NASA
The collapse of Larsen B Ice Shelf, showing the diminishing extent of the shelf from 1998 to 2002

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David Stuart Wratt QSO is a New Zealand climate scientist who specialises in meteorology and the science and impact of climate change. He is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington, and has had many roles at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research(NIWA), including six years as Chief Scientist Climate. His current position at NIWA is Emeritus Scientist (Climate). Wratt is a companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was the Chair of the Society's New Zealand Climate Committee. He has had advisory roles for the New Zealand Government, including Science Advisor at the Ministry for the Environment, and is currently a member of the Science Board for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. He has had input into assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), notably, contributing to its award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize through his contributions to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Wratt has worked in the United States and Australia as well as New Zealand. (Full article...)

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Vineyard at Wyken Hall - geograph.org.uk - 216836.jpg
... that global warming is cited as the main reason why southern England is becoming suitable for wine production and that it has similar soils and latitude to the Champagne region of France?

(Pictured left: A vineyard in Wyken, a suburb of Coventry, England)

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The effective rate of change in glacier thickness, also known as the glaciological mass balance, is a measure of the average change in a glacier's thickness after correcting for changes in density associated with the compaction of snow and conversion to ice. The map shows the average annual rate of thinning since 1970 for the 173 glaciers that have been measured at least 5 times between 1970 and 2004. Larger changes are plotted as larger circles and towards the back.

All survey regions except Scandinavia show a net thinning. This widespread glacier retreat is generally regarded as a sign of global warming.

During this period, 83% of surveyed glaciers showed thinning with an average loss across all glaciers of 0.31 m/yr. The most rapidly growing glacier in the sample is Engabreen glacier in Norway with a thickening of 0.64 m/yr. The most rapidly shrinking was Ivory glacier in New Zealand which was thinning at 2.4 m/yr. Ivory glacier had totally disintegrated by circa 1988. [1]

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References

  1. ^ McCurry, Justin (2020-10-26). "Japan will become carbon neutral by 2050, PM pledges". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  2. ^ Carrington, Damian (2020-03-05). "This winter in Europe was hottest on record by far, say scientists". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-03-08.

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