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Reading Recommendations

November 2019

Report: Flooded Future: Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood

Sea level rise is one of the best known of climate change’s many dangers. As humanity pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the planet warms. And as it does so, ice sheets and glaciers melt and warming sea water expands, increasing the volume of the world’s oceans. The consequences range from near-term increases in coastal flooding that can damage infrastructure and crops to the permanent displacement of coastal communities.

Climate Central

Attributing long-term sea-level rise to Paris Agreement emission pledges

Sea-level rise poses a threat to coastal areas and will continue for centuries, even after global mean temperature has stabilized. Research assessing the implications of current international climate mitigation efforts usually focuses on 21st century climate impacts. The multicentennial sea-level rise commitment of pledged near-term emission reduction efforts under the Paris Agreement has not been quantified yet. We here estimate this sea-level rise commitment and find that pledged emissions until 2030 lock in 1-m sea-level rise in the year 2300.



Green Climate Fund attracts record US$9.8 billion for developing nations

Despite no new contribution from the United States, several rich countries doubled their pledges compared with the last funding round. Developed nations have together pledged US$9.8 billion to replenish a United Nations fund that helps low-income countries to reduce their carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.



California biologists are using wildfires to assess health risks of smoke

As the skies above the San Francisco Bay Area in California filled with smoke last week from wildfires ripping through nearby Sonoma County, Kari Nadeau and Mary Prunicki sprang into action.



Ancient air challenges prominent explanation for a shift in glacial cycles

An analysis of air up to 2 million years old, trapped in Antarctic ice, shows that a major shift in the periodicity of glacial cycles was probably not caused by a long-term decline in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.



Methane Detectives: Can a Wave of New Technology Slash Natural Gas Leaks?

Along Colorado’s Front Range, researchers are working to develop new ways of detecting methane leaks, using everything from lasers to light aircraft to drones. Their technologies could curb a potent contributor to climate change, while saving industry billions of dollars in lost gas.


Yale Environment 360

Dilution effect of the building area on energy intensity in urban residential buildings

Urban residential buildings make large contributions to energy consumption. Energy consumption per square meter is most widely used to measure energy efficiency in urban residential buildings. This study aims to explore whether it is an appropriate indicator.



Human and climate global-scale imprint on sediment transfer during the Holocene

The analysis on the relative roles of the driving factors indicated that a significant portion of the Earth’s surface shifted to human-driven soil erosion already 4,000 y ago following land deforestation. The long-term perspective afforded by this synthesis provides evidence that human beings are a geological force that have altered lateral soil and sediment transfers globally well before the great acceleration in human activity post-World War II and before the start of the Industrial Revolution.



Grand challenges in the science of wind energy

Veers et al. review the challenges and opportunities for further expanding this technology wind energy, with an emphasis on the need for interdisciplinary collaboration. They highlight the need to better understand atmospheric physics in the regions where taller turbines will operate as well as the materials constraints associated with the scale-up. The mutual interaction of turbine sites with one another and with the evolving features of the overall electricity grid will furthermore necessitate a systems approach to future development



The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods

Agriculture is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and must feature in efforts to reduce emissions. Organic farming might contribute to this through decreased use of farm inputs and increased soil carbon sequestration, but it might also exacerbate emissions through greater food production elsewhere to make up for lower organic yields. To date there has been no rigorous assessment of this potential at national scales. Here we assess the consequences for net GHG emissions of a 100% shift to organic food production in England and Wales using life-cycle assessment.



The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole

The unexpected discovery of a hole in the atmospheric ozone layer over the Antarctic revolutionized science — and helped to establish one of the most successful global environmental policies of the twentieth century.



The 2019 ozone hole is the smallest ever recorded

Abnormally warm temperatures in the stratosphere over Antarctica dramatically limited ozone loss in September and October, resulting in the smallest ozone hole observed since 1982, NOAA and NASA scientists reported today



Cities Around the World Want to Be Resilient and Sustainable. But What Does This Mean?

Cities around the world, large and small, face common challenges, especially due to rapid urbanization and climate change. According to United Nations (UN) estimates, four billion people – more than half of the world’s population – live in urban areas today. By 2050, over two-thirds of the global population will be urban, challenging cities to meet accelerating demand for affordable housing, well-connected transport systems and other infrastructure and services, as well as jobs.


World Bank

Mapping the increased minimum mortality temperatures in the context of global climate change

Minimum mortality temperature (MMT) is an important indicator to assess the temperature–mortality relationship. It reflects human adaptability to local climate. The existing MMT estimates were usually based on case studies in data rich regions. It is still unclear what the most significant driver of MMT is and how MMT will change under global climate change. Here, by analysing MMTs in 420 locations covering six continents (Antarctica was excluded) in the world, we found that although the MMT changes geographically, it is very close to the local most frequent temperature (MFT) in the same period. Based on the MFT~MMT association, we estimate and map the global distribution of MMTs in the present (2010s) and the future (2050s) for the first time.



How fast will seas rise? A dying Greenland glacier holds clues

This summer, as meltwater streamed off the Greenland Ice Sheet in record amounts, a ramshackle research ship, the Adolf Jensen, sat idling in this fjord, icebergs near its bow and a mystery below it. Two years earlier, oceanographers had moored a sensor in the fjord’s depths to decipher how warm Atlantic Ocean waters are eroding Helheim Glacier, one of the ice sheet’s largest tongues. But now they couldn’t retrieve the 500-meter-deep mooring—or its crucial data


Bias in energy system models with uniform cost of capital assumption

Several studies have recently evaluated the feasibility of 100% renewable energy-based energy systems in different world regions. In a recent article, Bogdanov et al. contribute to this literature, by using an energy system model that takes into account the unique conditions of 145 global subregions, including factors such as renewable energy (RE) resource conditions, structure and age of existing capacities, demand patterns, etc. Based on their results, they discuss transition pathways and calculate the 2050 levelized cost of electricity generation (LCOE) of 100% RE-based energy systems in those 145 subregions.



Global ocean methane emissions dominated by shallow coastal waters

Oceanic emissions represent a highly uncertain term in the natural atmospheric methane (CH4) budget, due to the sparse sampling of dissolved CH4 in the marine environment. Here we overcome this limitation by training machine-learning models to map the surface distribution of methane disequilibrium (∆CH4). Our approach yields a global diffusive CH4 flux of 2–6TgCH4yr−1 from the ocean to the atmosphere, after propagating uncertainties in ∆CH4 and gas transfer velocity.



Addressing the challenge of carbon-free energy

This century will witness a major transformation in how energy is acquired, stored, and utilized globally. The impetus for this change comes from the deep impacts that both developed and developing societies have had on our planet’s environment during the past century, and the projections going forward of what will happen if we do not act. This paper describes the basis for a meeting held in October 2018 on the need for decarbonization in our energy landscape, and specifically the status and challenges of the science that provides the foundation for such technology.



Declining CO2 price paths

Risk and uncertainty are important in pricing climate damages. Despite a burgeoning literature, attempts to marry insights from asset pricing with climate economics have largely failed to supplement—let alone supplant—decades-old climate–economy models, largely due to their analytic and computational complexity. Here, we introduce a simple, modular framework that identifies core trade-offs, highlights the sensitivity of results to key inputs, and helps pinpoint areas for further work.



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