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Reading Recommendations

July 2018

Science must help to make city living sustainable

It’s time researchers got to grips with the formidable challenge of rapidly growing urbanization. It’s well documented that humans are becoming an urban and not a rural species, and that trend is expected to continue. In 1950, less than one-third of the population lived in cities. More than 50% do so now, and by 2050 the figure is projected to be 70%. Every week, the urban population grows by around 1.5 million. By mid-century, as many people will be living in cities as occupy the entire planet today.



The global potential for converting renewable electricity to negative-CO2-emissions hydrogen

Greg H. Rau, Heather D. Willauer & Zhiyong Jason Ren

We estimate that methods of combining saline water electrolysis with mineral weathering powered by any source of non-fossil fuel-derived electricity could, on average, increase energy generation and CO2 removal by >50 times relative to BECCS, at equivalent or lower cost. This electrogeochemistry avoids the need to produce and store concentrated CO2, instead converting and sequestering CO2 as already abundant, long-lived forms of ocean alkalinity.



The ability of societies to adapt to twenty-first-century sea-level rise

Jochen Hinkel et al.

This Perspective explores societies’ abilities to adapt to twenty-first-century sea-level rise by integrating perspectives from coastal engineering, economics, finance and social sciences, and provides a comparative analysis of a set of cases that vary in terms of technological limits, economic and financial barriers to adaptation and social conflicts.


Nature Climate Change

Widespread loss of intermediate soil horizons in urban landscapes

Dustin L. Herrmann, Laura A. Schifman, and William D. Shuster

As societies move toward nature-based infrastructure to provide ecosystem services for sustainable urban environmental management, knowledge of urban soils remains a critical gap. An 11-city comparison of urban to reference preurban soil profiles revealed how urbanization modifies the presence and ordering of soil layers and its properties.



Combating deforestation: From satellite to intervention

Matt Finer et. al.

Recent years have seen major strides in documenting historical and annual tropical forest loss with satellites. Now, a convergence of satellite technologies and analytical capabilities makes it increasingly possible to monitor deforestation in near real time, on the scale of days, weeks, or months, rather than years. This advance creates greater potential for near–real-time action as well and could play a key role in achieving local, national, and international forest, biodiversity, and climate policy goals, as there is a global imperative to address deforestation.



Natural gas could warm the planet as much as coal in the short term

By Warren Cornwall

Natural gas, long promoted as a “clean” alternative to other fossil fuels, may not be so clean after all. That’s because its main ingredient, the potent greenhouse gas methane, has been leaking from oil and gas facilities at far higher rates than governmental regulators claim. A new study finds that in the United States, such leaks have nearly doubled the climate impact of natural gas, causing warming on par with carbon dioxide (CO2)-emitting coal plants for 2 decades.



Methane in groundwater before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale

E. Barth-Naftilan, J. Sohng, and J. E. Saiers

Using monitoring wells installed next to gas well pads and above gas well laterals, previously undocumented responses to drilling and a gas well casing breach were observed, although groundwater impacts arising from the process of hydraulic fracturing were not detected. We discover considerable temporal variability in methane concentrations in deeper horizons of freshwater aquifers and attribute this to persistent shifts in aquifer recharge that influence mixing between shallow freshwater and comparatively saline and methane-rich deep groundwater.



Choosing the future of Antarctica

S. R. Rintoul et al.

We present two narratives on the future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, from the perspective of an observer looking back from 2070. In the first scenario, greenhouse gas emissions remained unchecked, the climate continued to warm, and the policy response was ineffective; this had large ramifications in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, with worldwide impacts. In the second scenario, ambitious action was taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to establish policies that reduced anthropogenic pressure on the environment, slowing the rate of change in Antarctica. Choices made in the next decade will determine what trajectory is realized.



Higher CO2 concentrations increase extreme event risk in a 1.5°C world

Hugh S. Baker et. Al.

The Paris Agreement aims to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.’ However, it has been suggested that temperature targets alone are insufficient to limit the risks associated with anthropogenic emissions. Here, using an ensemble of model simulations, we show that atmospheric CO2 increase has a significant direct impact on Northern Hemisphere summer temperature, heat stress, and tropical precipitation extremes.


Nature Climate Change

We are almost certainly underestimating the economic risks of climate change

By David Roberts

The models that inform climate policymaking are fatally flawed. One of the more vexing aspects of climate change politics and policy is the longstanding gap between the models that project the physical effects of global warming and those that project the economic impacts. In a nutshell, even as the former deliver worse and worse news, especially about a temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius or more, the latter remain placid.



A low energy demand scenario for meeting the 1.5 °C target and sustainable development goals without negative emission technologies

Arnulf Grubler et al.

Scenarios that limit global warming to 1.5 °C describe major transformations in energy supply and ever-rising energy demand. Here, we provide a contrasting perspective by developing a narrative of future change based on observable trends that results in low energy demand.



Stream metabolism heats up

James B. Heffernan

Higher stream temperatures as the climate warms could lead to lower ecosystem productivity and higher CO2 emissions in streams. An analysis of stream ecosystems finds that such changes will be greatest in the warmest and most productive streams.



How Climate Change Will Make Pollution Even Worse

David Bressan

Pollution has existed as long as humans have. With the industrial revolution, the invention of plastic in 1907 and mass production of goods,  today’s piles of trash grow exponentially. Today, there is plastic in the oceans, landfills full of rubbish and even the Moon’s surface is covered by litter, like golf balls (from the Apollo 14 mission in 1971) and disposable bags.



Disclosing climate-related financial information is a game changer

By Craig Davies

Global markets need standardised, accessible information about the climate risks faced by investments and businesses, writes the EBRD’s Craig Davies.


Public Finance International

A study of air flow patterns affecting pollutant concentrations in the Central Region of Mexico

Aron D. Jazcilevich

Using a prognostic air quality model that includes actual emissions, air pollution regimes over the central region of Mexico are simulated. It is shown that due to the complex orography, vertical circular patterns develop over the metropolitan area of Mexico City

Science Direct


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