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Disaster-Prone Deltas Next Climate Risk - Ecologist
Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
Some of the world's most productive and populous places -- river deltas from the Mekong to the Mississippi -- are ripe for disasters made worse by climate change, an ecological catastrophe expert said.
In fact, said marine biologist Deborah Brosnan, these disasters are already occurring.
Brosnan pointed to Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta, ravaged by Cyclone Nargis in May. A couple centuries of human-generated transformation -- dams, rice paddies, the withdrawal of water -- combined with a dense, poor population and the effects of global warming created a triple threat, she said.
(16 June 2008)
Conflicts fuelled by climate change causing new refugee crisis, warns UN
Julian Borger, Guardian
Climate change is fuelling conflicts around the world and helping to drive the number of people forced out of their homes to new highs, the head of the UN's refugee agency said yesterday. After a few years of improvement, thanks mainly to large-scale resettlement in Afghanistan, the numbers of civilians uprooted by conflict is again rising. During 2007 the total jumped to 37.4 million, an increase of more than 3 million, according to statistics published today.
The figures, described as "unprecedented" by the UN, do not include people escaping natural disasters or poverty - only those fleeing conflict and persecution. But Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said that climate change could also uproot people by provoking conflicts over increasingly scarce resources, such as water.
In an interview with the Guardian, Guterres said: "Climate change is today one of the main drivers of forced displacement, both directly through impact on environment - not allowing people to live any more in the areas where they were traditionally living - and as a trigger of extreme poverty and conflict."
(17 June 2008)
Climate chaos is inevitable. We can only avert oblivion
Mark Lynas, The Guardian
Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable, particularly when dealing with a problem as dangerous as climate change - there is no room for dogma when considering the future habitability of our planet. It was in this spirit that I and a panel of other specialists in climate, economics and policy-making met under the aegis of the Stockholm Network thinktank to map out future scenarios for how international policy might evolve - and what the eventual impact might be on the earth's climate. We came up with three alternative visions of the future, and asked experts at the Met Office Hadley Centre to run them through its climate models to give each a projected temperature rise. The results were both surprising, and profoundly disturbing.
We gave each scenario a name. The most pessimistic was labelled "agree and ignore" - a world where governments meet to make commitments on climate change, but then backtrack or fail to comply with them. Sound familiar? It should: this scenario most closely resembles the past 10 years, and it projects emissions on an upward trend until 2045.
(12 June 2008)
Global Warming Could Release Trillions Of Pounds Of Carbon Annually From East Siberia's Vast Frozen Soils
East Siberia's permafrost contains about 500 Gigatons (1100 trillion pounds) of frozen carbon deposits that are highly susceptible to disturbances as the climate warms.
Called the Yedoma, this permafrost has not undergone much alteration by soil microorganisms since its formation, which took place between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. To investigate how easily this huge carbon stock could be degassed in future warming scenarios, Khvorostyanov et al. use a model of heat transfer and soil organic matter decomposition in frozen soils and find that specific conditions trigger the irreversible thawing of Yedoma, which is maintained by heat production by soil microbial activity.
Once started, irreversible thawing could release 4.4-6.2 trillion pounds of carbon per year into the atmosphere between the years 2300 and 2400, transforming 74 percent of the initial carbon stock into carbon dioxide and methane.
(12 June 2008)