Continued global warming will set off five climate ‘tipping points’

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Grace Smith | September 9, 2022

Failure to stop the continuation of global warming will set off five major climate tipping points if warming surpasses 1.5 degrees Celsius, per a new study. Currently, the earth is warming at a level of 1.1 degrees, but if that number hits over 1.5, those disastrous changes will become irreversible.  

The study estimates that 1.5 degrees Celsius warming will trigger extreme ice melt for Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which could lead to over 30 feet of sea level rise. Coral reef deaths will occur from 1.5 to 2 degrees, and an important current in the North Atlantic will also stop circulating, impacting weather in Europe. The study also found that larger ocean currents will stop circulating above 2 degrees of global warmth and the Amazon Rainforest will die. 

“Since I first assessed tipping points in 2008, the list has grown and our assessment of the risk they pose has increased dramatically,” Tim Lenton told The Guardian. “Our new work provides compelling evidence that the world must radically accelerate decarbonizing the economy.”

To limit warming from 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius – a 2015 Paris agreement policy that the study indicated is crucial to abide by – all countries must complete promises of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, for there is no leeway or flexibility in not following through.

33 million affected by climate change-induced intensity of Pakistan monsoon season

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Grace Smith | September 2, 2022

Pakistan is experiencing its worst monsoon season in over a decade. Over 33 million citizens have been impacted and over 1,100 people have been killed by the strong winds and increased rainfall that has submerged one-third of the country underwater. 

Although scientists are still determining how climate change has specifically affected the monsoon season, it is clear that global warming is increasing the likelihood of severe rain in South Asia

From June through September, rain falls and winds normally blow from the southwest, but, with global warming increasing, the warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture, creating a large increase in rainfall. Rainfall in Pakistan this year is three times the nation’s average in the past 30 years.

The monsoon-induced disasters have worsened the risk of diseases and caused 20,000 people in dire need of food and medical support. 

The United Nations established a joint appeal with Pakistan for $160 million. “The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during the appeal’s launch. “…Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change.”

UN panel warns time is short to stop climate change

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 6, 2022

A new road to limiting climate change appeared from a new major scientific report from the United Nations, however it shows there is very little time to stop the effects of global warming.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conducted the report. The document warns that countries across the globe must drastically accelerate efforts in the near future to slash coal, oil, and natural gas emissions to limit global warming in the next decade. The report once again places the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is projected that countries will reach that mark by the end of the decade.

Holding down warming will cause nations to work together and collectively reduce emissions by 43 percent by 2030, according to The New York Times. It also calls for the end of carbon dioxide emissions by the 2050s. While the goals are tall orders, the panel and report say it is possible for countries to make the changes necessary to limit the biggest effects of climate change.

The report was approved by 195 governments across the globe. Climate scientists are clear in the report, stating there is an extremely small margin for delay. Any additional extensions would cause global warming to go past relatively tolerable levels.

Climate change makes Iowa hospitable to potentially virulent new host

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Simone Garza | March 28,2022

The effects of climate change in Iowa has caused an unintentional import of Asian tiger mosquitoes to rise.

Since the 1980s, imports from Southeast Asia left traces of Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito in southeastern states like California. The harshness of winters in states like Iowa assumed to end the reproducing of the insect. However, an Iowa State University team found the mosquito making a home in Des Moines, Lee, and Polk counties in central Iowa. 

With warmer climates emerging, the Asian tiger mosquito is able to broaden its relocation rate. Characteristics of the mosquito are described as “pretty”, colored black with an white abdomen and white bands on its legs

The Asian tiger mosquito can carry Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue viruses, which all can lead to health issues for humans. Women infected with Zika in South and Central America who are pregnant can have microcephaly, a birth defect where babies have smaller brains and are less developed compared to other infants. 

Chikungunya virus can threaten humans with underlying health issues associated with diabetes or hypertension. The Chikungunya virus can also cause joint pain and fever within one week of an infection. The Dengue virus is surrounded by 4 billion people, roughly half the earth’s population. Typical symptoms include rashes, joint pain, and high fever.

To spread these viruses, the mosquito would need to bite someone already infected with them. Since this is rare in Iowa due to low infection rates, it would be difficult to transfer the virus into another person.

In 2020, four cases of Zika were detected amongst travelers with no reports from Iowa residents. Currently, the West Nile Virus is still a primary threat to Iowans, with its first reported case from mosquitoes in June 2020. 

Coral remains resilient regardless of warming oceans

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | March 16, 2022

New research suggests several coral species are weathering warming oceans better than previously thought.

Scientists spent 22 months studying various species of coral in Hawaii and the north Pacific Ocean and found several species can survive warmer oceans, absent of other variables. The species can survive if global temperatures warm up by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature mark set by the Paris Agreement.

The research comes after warnings that coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be hit by massive bleaching events in 2022. When coral reefs die, essential food sources, shelter, and spawning grounds for several aquatic species. If coral die off in massive amounts due to warming ocean temperatures, marine biodiversity will suffer immensely.

The study’s results does have some limitations, according to NBC News. The study only looks at Hawaiian waters, so its results might not be applicable for all oceans and coral.

Artificial Snow Heightens Risks For Skiers

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Simone Garza | January 13, 2022

As climate change increases, athletes encounter safety concerns when skiing. With differences between Alpine and Nordic skiing, challenges arise from artificial snow. Artificial snow is used for outdoor winter sports due to limited snowfall.

With lessening snowfall, artificial snow that is used for racing tends to be more dangerous for athletes. The artificial snow is known to have an increase in moisture content. Skiers claim that man made snow can quickly turn into ice. The artificial snow also has increased the number of falls when racing. Interacting with the artificial snow makes skiers race faster than usual. 

The process of creating the man-made snow is done by water that is blown through nozzles in order to break down the water to small droplets which then freeze up. The larger density and water content of the artificial snow. 

With smaller amounts of natural snowfall, race courses have also shortened. Another factor to consider is the prediction of avalanches. Due to climate change, severity of dryness and heat accumulate wildfires that also trigger avalanche hazards. Climate change has also put a strain on traveling through uncontrolled terrain in growing a section during colder seasons with the decrease of natural snow.

Due to warmer climate, the prediction of shorter snowfall will likely double by the year of 2050. 

The International Ski Federation, keeps track of global reports of injuries such as snow boarding, ski jumping, Alpine skiing and freestyle skiing. The organization has declined to give information on reports made at this time.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions up in 2021

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 19, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions rose more than six percent in 2021 after a nearly 10 percent drop in 2020.

Emissions rose as the economy began bouncing back from the initial economic decline from the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the U.S. As in-person work returned, in several sectors, coal plants came back. Estimates published in early January by the Rhodium Group, the emissions remain five percent below 2019 levels regardless of the increase. The 10 percent drop in 2020 was the biggest plummet on record, according to the New York Times.

Coal, the fossil fuel that pollutes the most, made a strong comeback in 2021. Last year there was 17 percent rise in emissions from coal-fired power plants. In 2020, there was a 19 percent decline.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in the next eight years. The goal matches what most climate scientists say is needed to keep the Earth from warming more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and minimizing catastrophic climate events. As of the newest report, the U.S.’s emissions are 17.4 percent below 2005 levels.

Other reports, however, suggest the Biden administration’s efforts will not be met. The World Resources Institute reported in December 2021that the world must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions to be successful in climate cooling goals. WRI’s findings show the Biden administration’s goals are not enough.

Scientists say 2021 was Earth’s fifth-hottest year on record

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 11, 2022

2021 was the Earth’s fifth hottest year according to European scientists, indicating global warming is here to stay.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said the average global temperatures over the year were 1.1 to 1.2 Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial era, according to Voice of America News. The scientists used satellite measurements for 2021 temperatures. The hottest years on record remain 2020 and 2016. A consequence of higher temperatures according to the scientists is the air absorbing more moisture, leading to increased amounts of rainfall and flooding.

The past seven years are all within the top seven hottest years on record. 2021 beat our 2015 and 2018 to get the fifth place spot, according to the New York Times. Freja Vamborg, a senior climate scientist at Copernicus, said the last seven years are quite close together in warming trends and were well off from the temperatures of years prior.

Copernicus has been keeping temperature records since 1950, but can go back even further with additional analyses of historic documents. The team’s analysis also found the rate of increasing carbon dioxide levels appear to have been down in 2021, while methane concentrations have grown at their fastest pace in the last 20 years.

Major weather events, like the La Niña early on in 2021, helped lower the overall temperature of 2021, allowing it to secure a lower spot on Copernicus’s rankings.

Albatrosses “divorce” due to climate change

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By Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 30, 2021

Albatrosses, large seabirds that are known for mating for life, are “divorcing” because of global warming according to a new study conducted by New Zealand’s Royal Society.

The study looked at thousands of breeding pairs. The findings discovered show birds are more likely to divorce when the oceans are warmest. When the ocean is at warmer temperatures in the summer, divorce rates jump nearly 5 percent. The overall rates still remain under 10 percent, but the increase of pairs separating limits fertility of the birds and their reproduction. With the oceans warming more due to climate change, these divorce rates are likely to continue increasing.

Regardless of divorce rates and fewer birds reproducing, albatrosses have been endangered for years. 22 subspecies of the bird are being threatened with extinction as of 2013. Other concerns include oil spills, loss of habitat, and climate change. The species has the largest wingspan of any bird, and they drink salt water. Many albatrosses feed on squid and other marine wildlife, according to the Pacific Beach Coalition. They are essential to the food chain.

According to the New Zealand’s Royal Society, the stress of these warmer waters is disrupting the balance of the species, which can lead to faster extinction. Another reason for potential extinction is the decline in fish populations, leaving the birds with fewer food sources.

Newly passed infrastructure bill invests in climate action

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By Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 9, 2021

With the passing of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the U.S. Congress, the largest environmental spending package ever is waiting on President Joe Biden’s signature.

$47 billion is designated by the federal government to invest in climate resistance within the country, starting with helping multiple communities prepare for extreme floods, fire, natural disasters, and droughts. The bill passed with bipartisan support. According to The New York Times, the bill’s passing is an indication that at least some Republicans in the federal government believe in human-caused climate change and its economic impacts.

A second bill looking to fund climate change mitigation in the United States is still waiting on a congressional vote. The legislation would give an additional $555 billion to global warming mitigation.

The House of Representatives passed the infrastructure bill on Friday, but it has yet to be signed by the president. The portion of the legislation focusing on climate change mitigation was partially written by Republican lawmakers, including Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. Louisiana will see more funding regarding hurricanes.

In 2020 alone, 22 climate disasters struck the U.S. that cost over $1 billion. This broke a 2011 and 2017 tie at 16. These events included the derecho that hit Iowa in August 2020, wildfires on the west coast, tornados across Tornado Alley, and six hurricanes hitting the southeastern coast.

The legislation also looks to reduce emissions, according to Forbes, alongside backing clean energy provisions. The bill provides more than $200 million to tribal nations who have disproportionately been impacted by climate change.