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Reading Recommendations

December 2018

The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial

The Trump administration is, it goes without saying, deeply anti-science. In fact, it’s anti-objective reality. But its control of the government remains limited; it didn’t extend far enough to prevent the release of the latest National Climate Assessment, which details current and expected future impacts of global warming on the United States.

The New York Times

Rules for a safe climate


The annual United Nations climate talks have to kick the Paris agreement up a gear. Delegates to the United Nations climate talks arrived in the old Polish coal-mining town of Katowice at the weekend to learn that the annual meeting faces an uncertain future. But it also acts as a reminder that political cooperation remains the only effective defence we have against the worst effects of climate change — which would mean a more hostile world for us all.



Emergent sustainability in open property regimes

Mark Moritz at al.

Current theoretical models of the commons assert that common-pool resources can only be managed sustainably with clearly defined boundaries around both communities and the resources that they use. In these theoretical models, open access inevitably leads to a tragedy of the commons. However, in many open-access systems, use of common-pool resources seems to be sustainable over the long term.



Put more carbon in soils to meet Paris climate pledges

Cornelia Rumpel et al.

Take these eight steps to make soils more resilient to drought, produce more food and store emissions. Soils are crucial to managing climate change. They contain two to three times more carbon than the atmosphere. Plants circulate carbon dioxide from the air to soils, and consume about one-third of the CO2 that humans produce. Of that, about 10–15% ends up in the earth.



Define the human right to science

Jessica M. Wyndham and Margaret Weigers Vitullo

The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly will mark its 70th anniversary on 10 December. One right enshrined in the UDHR is the right of everyone to “share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” Unlike most other human rights, however, the right to science has never been legally defined and is often ignored in practice by the governments bound to implement it. An essential first step toward giving life to the right to science is for the UN to legally define it.



Nations falling short of emissions cuts set by Paris climate pact, analysis finds

By Ines Kagubare, E&E

The world is now in a race against the clock, warns a new United Nations climate report. The U.N. Environment Programme report released yesterday found that Group of 20 nations will fall short of the Paris Agreement’s goals unless they take drastic measures to get back on track


Limiting fossil fuel production as the next big step in climate policy

Peter Erickson, Michael Lazarus & Georgia Piggot

Despite the current ambivalence of the United States towards the Paris Agreement, national and local jurisdictions across the globe remain committed, and they are seeking ways to increase the ambition and effectiveness of their climate policies. One way forwards could be limiting the production — not just the consumption — of coal, gas and oil. Here we describe the rationale for, and CO2 emissions implications of, limiting oil production We find that by ceasing the issuance of permits for new oil wells, California could reduce global CO2 emissions substantially and also enhance environmental justice in the state.


Nature Climate Change

Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions

Camilo Mora et al.

We found traceable evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry. By 2100, the world’s population will be exposed concurrently to the equivalent of the largest magnitude in one of these hazards if emissions are aggressively reduced, or three if they are not.


Nature Climate Change

Short-term impact of PM2.5 on contemporaneous asthma medication use: Behavior and the value of pollution reductions

Austin M. Williams, Daniel J. Phaneuf, Meredith A. Barrett, and Jason G. Su

Asthma ranks among the most costly of chronic diseases. At the same time, evidence has accumulated that fine particulate matter pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms and generate substantial economic costs. To measure these costs, we use a unique nationwide panel dataset tracking asthmatic individuals’ use of rescue medication and their exposure to PM2. concentration between 2012 and 2017.



To fulfill biofuels’ promise, scientists boost plant oils with gene editing

by Cici Zhang

Increasing the fatty acids in crops’ seeds, leaves, and stems could make biofuels more economically viable. Some studies suggest that the use of biofuels could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 94% relative to fossil fuels (Agriculture 2017, DOI: 10.3390/agriculture7040032). But some scientists doubt the sustainability of biofuels, pointing to the land, water, and other resources required to produce them.



The Environmental Cost of Inequality

James K. Boyce

IN THE FALL OF 2016 AN ENVIRONMENTAL STRUGGLE IN RURAL North Dakota made headlines worldwide. The local Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and climate activists were pitted against the corporate and government backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was being built to carry oil from the state’s Bakken shale fi elds to a terminal in Illinois. Private security guards unleashed attack dogs on protesters, and the police blasted them with water cannons in freezing weather.



Intensification for redesigned and sustainable agricultural systems

Jules Pretty

In the mid-20th century, food production from agriculture sharply increased worldwide; however, this was achieved through heavy use of agrochemicals. Extensive collateral damage from excessive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers has occurred to the wider environment. This has led to biodiversity loss, pesticide resistance and the emergence of new pests, pollution and decline of freshwater supplies, and soil degradation and erosion, as well as direct harm to health.



Air quality co-benefits for human health and agriculture counterbalance costs to meet Paris Agreement pledges

Vandy Toon

Local air quality co-benefits can provide complementary support for ambitious climate action and can enable progress on related Sustainable Development Goals.



Twentieth-century contribution to sea-level rise from uncharted glaciers

David Parkes & Ben Marzeion

From 1901 to 2015, missing and disappeared glaciers produced a rise in sea level that may enable the historical budget for global-mean sea-level rise to be closed without recourse to an undiscovered physical process.



Change in future climate due to Antarctic meltwater

Ben Bronselaer et al.

The effects of meltwater from the ice sheets and ice shelves of Antarctica are not included in the widely used CMIP5 climate models. Here we assess a large ensemble simulation that accounts for RCP8.5-projected Antarctic Ice Sheet meltwater. We find that, accounting for meltwater delays the exceedance of the maximum global-mean atmospheric warming targets of 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius by more than a decade, enhances drying of the Southern Hemisphere and reduces drying of the Northern Hemisphere, increases the formation of Antarctic sea ice (consistent with recent observations of increasing Antarctic sea-ice area) and warms the subsurface ocean around the Antarctic coast.



Creating a Road Map for a “Green New Deal”

By Osita Nwanevu

On Tuesday, the New York representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined a protest at the office of Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, in Washington, demanding that Democratic leaders take steps to draft a “Green New Deal” that would fully transition the United States away from fossil-fuel energy within a few decades. That project, though daunting, is one that climate experts say governments must take on to avoid the most destabilizing and existentially threatening impacts of climate change.


The New Yorker

Anthropogenic influences on major tropical cyclone events

Christina M. Patricola & Michael F. Wehner

There is no consensus on whether climate change has yet affected the statistics of tropical cyclones, owing to their large natural variability and the limited period of consistent observations. In addition, projections of future tropical cyclone activity are uncertain, because they often rely on coarse-resolution climate models that parameterize convection and hence have difficulty in directly representing tropical cyclones. Here we used convection-permitting regional climate model simulations to investigate whether and how recent destructive tropical cyclones would change if these events had occurred in pre-industrial and in future climates.



Urban growth and climate adaptation

Lei Zhao

Urban development induces local warming in addition to climate change. New research shows that urban growth, climate change and urban adaptation interact nonlinearly and diurnally.


Nature Climate Chnage

Impacts and mitigation of excess diesel-related NOx emissions in 11 major vehicle markets

Anenberg, C., et al

Vehicle emissions contribute to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone air pollution, affecting human health1,2,3,4,5, crop yields5,6 and climate5,7 worldwide. On-road diesel vehicles produce approximately 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are key PM2.5 and ozone precursors



Direct upstream integration of biogasoline production into current light straight run naphtha petrorefinery processes

Aron Deneyer et al.

There is an urgent need to address environmental problems caused by our transportation systems, which include the reduction of associated CO2 emissions. In the short term, renewable drop-in fuels are ideal, as they allow a direct integration into the existing infrastructure. However, preferably they would perform better than current alternatives (for example, bioethanol) and be synthesized in a more efficient way. Here we demonstrate the production of biogasoline with a direct upstream integration into processes in existing petrorefinery facilities that targets the 10% bio-based carbon in accordance with the current European Union directives (for 2020) for biofuels.


Nature Energy

Vehicle criteria pollutant (PM, NOx, CO, HCs) emissions: how low should we go?

Winkler S., et al

Over the past 30–40 years, vehicle tailpipe emissions of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbons (HCs) have decreased significantly. Advanced emission after-treatment technologies have been developed for gasoline and diesel vehicles to meet increasingly stringent regulations, yielding absolute emission reductions from the fleet despite increased vehicle travel.



Encouraging report from UN on ozone restoration

By Seth Borenstein

Earth’s protective ozone layer is finally healing from damage caused by aerosol sprays and coolants, according to a new report from the United Nations. At its worst in the late 1990s, about 10 percent of the upper ozone layer was depleted, said Newman. This year, the ozone hole over the South Pole peaked at nearly 9.6 million square miles. That’s about 16 percent smaller than the biggest hole recorded — 11.4 million square miles in 2006.


San Francisco Gate

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