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Reading Recommendations

October 2019

How climate change is melting, drying and flooding Earth — in pictures

On thin ice. This aerial view of the sea ice in East Greenland was captured by photographer Florian Ledoux using a drone 250 metres above sea level. Scientists have estimated that 2019 could be a record year for ice loss in Greenland. The melt season began weeks earlier than usual, and ice thawed faster than normal for the spring and summer months. During a summer heatwave, inland temperatures rose 12 °C above average and about 55 billion tonnes of ice melted in just 5 days.



World’s oceans are losing power to stall climate change

Water, liquid and frozen, occupies most of Earth’s surface, with oceans covering two-thirds of it and ice another 10th. All is being transformed by climate change, posing greater threats to life and human society than scientists had realized, according to a special assessment of climate science focused on oceans and ice released this week by the United Nations.



What Type Of “Smart City” Will Help Most When Climate Change Hits?

The “smart city” has captured the world’s imagination, but policymakers and innovators have not yet built cities that are “smart” enough to survive the challenges of the 21st century. Our cities are unprepared for the future because three megatrends are poised to change the nature and purpose of urban life in the next 30 years.



Managing the impacts of climate change: risk management responses – second edition

Whilst many solutions for the highly interconnected risks from climate change will need to be sought at a multistakeholder level, there are specific actions businesses can take and tools they can use, and you can now access to these new insights in this new report from Zurich Insurance Group.


Financial Times

A round Earth for climate models

Early climate and weather models, constrained by computing resources, made numerical approximations on modeling the real world. One process, the radiative transfer of sunlight through the atmosphere, has always been a costly component. As computational ability expanded, these models added resolution, processes, and numerical methods to reduce errors and become the Earth system models that we use today.



The hard truths of climate change — by the numbers

A set of troubling charts shows how little progress nations have made toward limiting greenhouse-gas emissions.



Making chemicals with electricity


Vast amounts of energy are needed to synthesize the hundreds of millions of tons of chemicals used in everyday life each year. To meet that demand, the chemical industry uses the energy released during fuel combustion, thereby producing a seventh of the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Climate change makes it mandatory to replace fossil fuels in chemical production processes and reduce their climate impact. Wismann et al.  focus on reducing the CO2 emissions created during the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), a key building block for ammonia-derived fertilizers, through steam reforming of methane. This industrial process releases 9 kg of CO2 per kg of H2, a quarter of which comes from fuel combustion.



Magnitude of urban heat islands largely explained by climate and population

Urban heat islands (UHIs) exacerbate the risk of heat-related mortality associated with global climate change. The intensity of UHIs varies with population size and mean annual precipitation, but a unifying explanation for this variation is lacking, and there are no geographically targeted guidelines for heat mitigation. We introduce a coarse-grained model that links population, background climate, and UHI intensity, and show that urban–rural differences in evapotranspiration and convection efficiency are the main determinants of warming.



An Increasingly Urbanized Latin America Turns to Electric Buses

From Colombia to Argentina, major cities in Latin America are starting to adopt electric bus fleets. In a region with the highest use of buses per person globally, officials believe the transition will help meet climate targets, cut fuel costs, and improve air quality.


Yale Environment 360

Monitoring air pollution from fires

The wildfires that have been devastating the Amazon rainforest have been international headline news over the last weeks. These fires are not only an environmental tragedy in terms of lost forest and biodiversity, but they are also leaving their mark on the atmosphere, affecting air quality and, potentially, the global climate.

Challenges to natural and human communities from surprising ocean temperatures

Based on historical and lived experience, people expect certain conditions to prevail in the ecosystems they depend upon. Climate change is now introducing strong trends that push conditions beyond historic levels. Using ocean ecosystems as a case study, we show that the frequency of surprising temperatures is increasing faster than expected. We then use these events as motivation to develop a theory for how temperature trends and events will impact natural and human communities.



Arctic sea ice is at a near-record low — but that’s just one of the north’s problems

From raging wildfires to melting ice in Greenland, the top of the world is screaming for help. Smoke from wildfires across the state had darkened the skies, and Anchorage was in the midst of a heatwave that saw temperatures soar past 32 °C for the first time in recorded history.



Low emission zones cut NO2 emissions by up to 32%, analysis shows

The campaign group studied scientific publications from across the continent which it says provides strong health and social arguments that LEZs work, but say they could do more to encourage greener and more sustainable alternatives


Air Quality

Land–atmosphere feedbacks exacerbate concurrent soil drought and atmospheric aridity

Soil drought and atmospheric aridity can be disastrous for ecosystems and society. This study demonstrates the critical role of land–atmosphere feedbacks in driving co-occurring soil drought and atmospheric aridity. The frequency and intensity of atmospheric aridity are greatly reduced without the feedback of soil moisture to atmospheric temperature and humidity.



A new scenario logic for the Paris Agreement long-term temperature goal

To understand how global warming can be kept well below 2 degrees Celsius and even 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate policy uses scenarios that describe how society could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, current scenarios have a key weakness: they typically focus on reaching specific climate goals in 2100. This choice may encourage risky pathways that delay action, reach higher-than-acceptable mid-century warming, and rely on net removal of carbon dioxide thereafter to undo their initial shortfall in reductions of emissions. Here we draw on insights from physical science to propose a scenario framework that focuses on capping global warming at a specific maximum level with either temperature stabilization or reversal thereafter.



Climate and air-quality benefits of a realistic phase-out of fossil fuels

Because aerosol levels respond much more rapidly to changes in emissions relative to carbon dioxide, large near-term increases in the magnitude and rate of climate warming are predicted in many idealized studies that typically assume an instantaneous removal of all anthropogenic or fossil-fuel-related emissions



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