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News articles on impact of climate change

Mongabay.com news articles on impact of climate change in blog format. Updated regularly.









Droughts lasting centuries in West Africa are commonplace

(04/16/2009) New evidence shows that sub-Saharan West Africa has experienced megadroughts in recent history lasting hundreds of years, far worse than the Sahel drought of the 1970s and 80s which left 100,000 dead. To uncover West Africa’s past drought patterns, researchers compiled a year-by-year record of the last 3,000 years of climate in West Africa by looking at annually-occurring layers of sediment in Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana.


Bird migrations lengthen due to global warming, threatening species

(04/15/2009) Global warming is likely to increase the length of bird migrations, some of which already extend thousands of miles. The increased distance could imperil certain species, as it would require more energy reserves than may be available. The new study, published in the Journal of Biogeography, studied the migration patterns of European Sylvia warblers from Africa to breeding grounds in Europe every spring. They discovered that climate change would likely push the breeding ranges of birds north, causing migrations to lengthen, in some cases by a total of 250 miles.


Cutting greenhouse gases now would save world from worst global warming scenarios

(04/14/2009) If nations worked together to produce large cuts in greenhouse gases, the world would be saved from global warming's worst-case-scenarios, according to a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study found that, although temperatures are set to rise this century, cutting greenhouse gases by 70 percent the globe could avoid the most dangerous aspects of climate change, including a drastic rise in sea level, melting of the Arctic sea ice, and large-scale changes in precipitation. In addition such cuts would eventually allow the climate to stabilize by the end of the century rather than a continuous rise in temperatures.


Trees in trouble: massive die-offs predicted with global warming

(04/13/2009) An experimental study of pinon pines at Biosphere 2 in Arizona shows that an increase in temperature makes the species more susceptible to die-off during drought. When temperatures were increased by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), the piñon pines died 28 percent faster than trees which experienced drought-conditions at current temperatures, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


Global warming will hit corn yields, costing US over a billion dollars annually

(04/10/2009) Corn is the staple crop of the US. Its annual yield is more than twice that of any other American crop, covering an astounding 125,000 square miles. However, this behemoth crop is currently threatened. A new analysis by Environment America, shows that lower yields of corn due to global warming will cost farmers 1.4 billion every year.


Arctic ecosystem in danger as ice thins

(04/07/2009) Recent dramatic news points to both poles undergoing transformation due to climate change. This weekend an ice bridge disintegrated on the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, leaving the whole shelf vulnerable to melting, and then yesterday new evidence was released of the impact of warming in the Arctic. Younger thinner ice has become the dominant type in the Arctic over the past five years, reports a new study led by Research Associate Charles Fowler of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research. The thinner ice does not bode well for the Arctic ecosystem, as the ice is more prone to summer melting.


Black carbon linked to half of Arctic warming

(04/05/2009) Black carbon is responsible for 50 percent of the total temperature increases in the Arctic from 1890 to 2007 according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. Since 1890 the temperature in the Arctic has risen 1.9 degrees Celsius, linking black carbon to nearly an entire degree rise in Celsius or almost two degrees Fahrenheit.


Plant communities changing across the globe, says scientist Sasha Wright

(03/29/2009) Having studied plant communities across three continent and within widely varied ecosystems—lowland tropics, deciduous forests, grasslands, and enclosed ecosystems on hill-tops—graduate student Sasha Wright has gained a unique understanding of shifts in plant communities worldwide as they respond to pressures from land use and global climate change. “Plant communities are certainly changing,” Wright told Mongabay.com in a March 2009 interview. “These changes are undoubtedly affected by an increased occurrence of extreme weather events, temperature fluctuations, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, human land use, and in some cases urbanization of populations.”


Experts forecast probability of global warming tipping points

(03/16/2009) The probability of Earth's climate passing a "tipping point" that could result in large impacts within the next two centuries is greater than 50 percent, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


85% of the Amazon rainforest may be lost due to global warming

(03/14/2009) Warming climate could decimate up to 85 percent of the Amazon rainforest by 2150, according to a new computer model.


Drought threatens the Amazon rainforest as a carbon sink

(03/05/2009) Drought in the Amazon is imperiling the rainforest ecosystem and global climate, reports new research published in Science. Analyzing the impact of the severe Amazon drought of 2005, a team of 68 researchers across 13 countries found evidence that rainfall-starved tropical forests lose massive amounts of carbon due to reduced plant growth and dying trees. The 2005 drought — triggered by warming in the tropical North Atlantic rather than el Niño — resulted in a net flux of 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Japan and Europe — relative to normal years when the Amazon is a net sink for 2 billion tons of CO2.


Climate change could devastate lizards in the tropics

(03/04/2009) With help from data collected thirty years ago, scientists have discovered that tropical lizards may be particularly sensitive to a warming world. Researchers found that lizards in the tropics are more sensitive to higher temperatures than their relatives in cooler, yet more variable climates. "The least heat-tolerant lizards in the world are found at the lowest latitudes, in the tropical forests. I find that amazing," said Raymond Huey, lead author of a paper appearing in the March 4 Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Largest US protest on climate change today

(03/02/2009) At 1 PM EST activists from across the US plan to engage in civil disobedience at Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC. Organizers from 90 different groups estimate that more than 2,500 people will be joining in the protests making it the largest US protest on climate change to date. Owned by congress, Capital Power Plant is seen by activists as a longtime symbol of the US government’s consistent support for the use of coal, the leading source of CO2 emissions in the US.


Amazon rainforest in big trouble, says UN

(02/19/2009) Economic development could doom the Amazon warns a comprehensive new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report — titled GEO Amazonia [PDF-21.3MB] — is largely a synthesis of previously published research, drawing upon studies by more than 150 experts in the eight countries that share the Amazon.


Climate change doubles coastal erosion in Alaska over 5-year period

(02/18/2009) Coastal erosion along a 64-kilometer (40-mile) stretch of Alaska's Beaufort Sea doubled between 2002 and 2007, report researchers, who link the development to "declining sea ice extent, increasing summertime sea-surface temperature, rising sea level, and increases in storm power and corresponding wave action."


Climate change to have a big impact on marine fisheries

(02/18/2009) Climate change will have a big impact on marine fisheries, report scientists writing in the journal Fish and Fisheries.


Photos: 13,000 species found in Arctic, Antarctic Oceans

(02/16/2009) A marine census has documented more than 13,000 species in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans, including several hundred that may be new to science. Conducted over a two-year period under often perilous conditions — including monster waves and dangerous polar bears — the series of 18 surveys turned up a wealth of information on the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life. The research will also help establish a baseline for measure changes in polar ecosystems.


Burning rainforests, melting tundra could accelerate global warming well beyond current projections

(02/16/2009) Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) likely underestimate the scale and rapidity of climate change, warned a Stanford University scientist presenting Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.


Mass media ‘screwing up’ global warming reporting says renowned climatologist

(02/15/2009) Stanford scientist and climate-specialist Stephen Schneider has called out media organizations for the quality of their reporting on climate change and other scientific issues. "Business managers of media organizations,” he said, “you are screwing up your responsibility by firing science and environment reporters who are frankly the only ones competent to do this."


Global warming drives birds north

(02/11/2009) Nearly 60 percent of the 305 species found in North America in winter have shifted their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles, according to an assessment by the Audubon Society.


Global warming may drive the Amazon rainforest toward seasonal forests rather than savanna

(02/11/2009) Changes in rainfall resulting from climate change may drive the parts of Amazon rainforest toward seasonal forests rather than savanna, argue researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Salamander populations collapse in Central America

(02/09/2009) Salamanders in Central America — like frogs, toads, and other amphibians at sites around the world — are rapidly and mysteriously declining, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Disturbingly, salamanders are disappearing from protected areas and otherwise pristine habitats.


As sea ice retreats, swathe of Arctic closed to fishing

(02/06/2009) The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) voted unanimously to close off more than 150,000 square nautical miles of the Arctic sea to commercial fishing. The decision, welcomed by an array of environmentalists and industry groups, is a preventative measure to protect fisheries that have become more accessible as a result of declining sea ice in the Arctic. It is the first time that the federal government has closed a fishery due to climate change instead of over-fishing, says supporters of the ban.


Gravitational effects may boost sea level rise by 25% along U.S. coast

(02/05/2009) The melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could cause sea level to rise more than previously predicted for some regions, including the U.S. coastline, report researchers writing in the journal Science.


Secretary of Energy warns of dire future for agriculture in California

(02/05/2009) Secretary of Energy Steven Chu warned climate change could severely impact California agricultural industry by the end of the century, reported the Los Angeles Times.


Global warming to strengthen Arctic storms

(02/05/2009) Arctic storms could worsen due to climate change, putting fisheries, oil and gas exploration, and sea lanes at risk, warn researchers writing in the journal Climate Dynamics.


Monstrous prehistoric snake provides glimpse of warmer tropical forests

(02/04/2009) On Wednesday scientists announced the discovery of the world’s largest snake, a prehistoric beast which preyed on giant turtles and crocodile-like reptiles in South America after the demise of the dinosaurs. As amazing as the discovery is, its greatest importance may be the clues it provides conservationists about the future of tropical forests under various global warming scenarios.


Nemo at risk from CO2 emissions? Ocean acidification may hurt baby fish

(02/02/2009) Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may have an unexpected impact on marine ecosystems: disorienting fish larvae. Research published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that ocean acidification disrupts the olfactory sense of clownfish larvae, making it difficult for the fish to find a habitat, which for clownfish is a sea anemone.


Glaciers decline in ice mass for 18th straight year

(01/30/2009) Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980.


Many global warming impacts may be irreversible in next 1000 years

(01/27/2009) Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to cease today, many of the forecast impacts of climate change are already irreversible for at least the next 1000 years, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Global warming may doom emperor penguins to extinction

(01/27/2009) Disappearing sea ice around Antarctica may put emperor penguins at risk of extinction within the next century, warn scientists writing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Deadly ‘brown cloud’ over South Asia caused by wood and dung burning

(01/23/2009) Long a subject of debate, the cause of the infamous brown cloud that hovers over the Indian Ocean and South Asia every winter has finally been discovered. Researchers led by Dr Orjan Gustafsson from the University of Stockholm in Sweden announced in Science that 70 percent of the cloud is made up of soot from the burning of biomasses, largely wood and animal dung used for cooking.


Climate change killing forests in the western U.S.

(01/22/2009) Tree death rates in old-growth forests of the western United States have more more than doubled in recent decades likely because of regional climate warming, report researchers writing in the journal Science.


Antarctica shows net warming over past 50 years

(01/22/2009) Despite a cooling trend in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Antarctica has experienced net warming over the past 50 years, report researchers writing in the January 22 edition of Nature. Analyzing data from satellites and weather stations authors led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington (UW) found that "warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica", according to a statement from UW.


Fish may help fight ocean acidification

(01/19/2009) Fish are a major source of calcium carbonate production in marine ecosystems, a finding that has implications for ocean acidification, report scientists writing in the journal Science.


Symposium tackles big question: how many species will survive our generation

(01/16/2009) Nine scientists dusted off their crystal balls Monday at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, weighing in on the future of the world’s tropical forest. Despite the most up-to-date statistics, prognosis for the future of tropical forests varied widely. In the last few years a schism has occurred among biologists regarding the future of the tropics. No tropical scientist denies that rainforests and the species which inhabit them face unprecedented threats; neither do they argue that some of these forested regions and species will likely not survive the next fifty years. What has sparked debate, sometimes heated, is how bad will is it really? When the dust settles, what percentage of species will survive and how much forest will remain?


What is the greatest threat to rainforests: habitat destruction or climate change?

(01/13/2009) A symposium from the Smithsonian Institution meant to debate the level of threat by deforestation posed to the tropics shifted topic slightly near its end as scientists began to discus which was the most significant threat for rainforests and the species that inhabit them: habitat destruction or climate change?


Ocean acidification is killing the Great Barrier Reef

(01/01/2009) Since 1990 the growth of coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef has slowed its lowest rate in at least 400 years as a result of warming waters and ocean acidification, report researchers writing in Science. The finding portends a bleak near-term future for the giant reef ecosystem as well as calcifying marine organisms around the world.


Observed sea level rise, ice melt far outpaces projections

(12/17/2008) Sea levels will rise faster than previously estimated due to rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, according to a U.S government report released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The report, titled Abrupt Climate Change, incorporates research published since last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which drew largely from studies dating up to 2006. Most significantly, Abrupt Climate Change suggests that IPCC estimates for future sea level rise (18-58 cm) are conservative, noting that recent observations on sea level rise and loss of sea ice are far outpacing previous projections.


Greenland melting much faster than last year

(12/16/2008) Greenland is losing ice three times faster than last year, report researchers presenting at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.


Climate change, ocean acidification may doom jumbo squid

(12/15/2008) Ocean acidification — driven by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere — may hurt the Humboldt squid, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Climate change will transform the chemical-makeup of the ocean

(12/11/2008) By studying the ocean’s past, scientists have discovered that climate change has a much larger affect on ocean chemistry than expected. The study, published in Science, reveals that 13 million years ago climate change significantly altered the chemical composition of the oceans. Such changes in the ocean’s chemical makeup today could have a great impact on marine life, already stressed by overfishing and pollution.


Fear and conservation

(12/10/2008) How does fear shape the behavior and conservation of deer, moose and antelope, not to mention carnivores such as wolves, bears, and even tigers? What is the natural state of wildlife, and how do animals know or learn which species to ignore or fear? Should we reintroduce predators to former habitats, even though the prey animals may be unprepared for their return?


Why do different species of bird lay different numbers of eggs?

(12/10/2008) Clutch size varies greatly between bird species. Researchers now have a better idea why. Analyzing data on clutch size, biology, and habitat for 5,290 species of birds, a team of biologists — Walter Jetz (UC San Diego), Cagan H. Sekercioglu (Stanford University), and Katrin Böhning-Gaese (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität) — developed a model to predict variations in the number of eggs a species lays. They found clutch sizes are consistently largest in cavity nesters and in species occupying seasonal environments. The findings add depth and complexity to previous research that has shown short-lived species — ones that face high predation or have low survival rates among offspring — tend to lay more eggs than longer-lived species, which invest more resources in raising their offspring.


Climate change will damage forests, creating hardship for rural communities

(11/28/2008) Climate change will transform forests that directly sustain nearly one billion people, warns a report to be released next week at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Poznán, Poland.


Tropical ocean dead zones could increase 50 percent by 2050

(11/18/2008) If carbon dioxide levels continue to rise as expected, marine dead zones in the tropics are expected to increase by 50 percent in just over four decades, according to a new study from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Germany. The expansion of marine dead zones in tropical seas could have devastating impacts on ocean ecosystems and fisheries.


Group may sue EPA under Clean Water Act to address ocean acidification

(11/14/2008) An environmental group plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to uphold water standards in the face of ocean acidification.


Climate change will cost California billions

(11/14/2008) $2.5 trillion of real estate assets in California are at risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise and wildfires expected to result from climate change over the course of a century, according to a new assessment from UC Berkeley researchers.


Coral reefs and mangroves worth $395-559 M per year in Belize

(11/14/2008) Services provided by coral reefs and mangroves in Belize are worth US$395 million to US$559 million per year, or 30 to 45 percent of the Central American country's GDP — according to a new report released by the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).


Limiting global warming to 2-degree rise will require $180/t carbon price says energy think tank

(11/13/2008) In a report released Wednesday the International Energy Agency warned that a business-as-usual approach to energy use would result in a 6°-degree rise in temperatures putting hundreds of millions at risk from reduced water supplies and diminished agricultural production. But the agency said that limiting temperature rise to 2-3°-rise by the end of the century would be "possible, but very hard."



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