September 2022

1. How catastrophic is climate change?

Luke Kemp, Chi Xu, Joanna Depledge, and Timohthy M. Lenton, “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1 August 2022).  bit.ly/3p3wFXf

Prudent risk management requires consideration of bad-to-worst-case scenarios. Yet, for climate change, such potential futures are poorly understood. Could anthropogenic climate change result in worldwide societal collapse or even eventual human extinction? At present, this is a dangerously underexplored topic. Yet there are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe. Analyzing the mechanisms for these extreme consequences could help galvanize action, improve resilience, and inform policy, including emergency responses. We outline current knowledge about the likelihood of extreme climate change, discuss why understanding bad-to-worst cases is vital, articulate reasons for concern about catastrophic outcomes, define key terms, and put forward a research agenda… It is time for the scientific community to grapple with the challenge of better understanding catastrophic climate change.

2. Threats to date deficient species

Jan Borgelt, Martin Dorber, Marthe Alnes Hoiberg & Francesca Verones, “More than half of data deficient species predicted to be threatened by extinction,” Communications Biology (4 August 2022).  go.nature.com/3oVLcnV

“The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is essential for practical and theoretical efforts to protect biodiversity. However, species classified as “Data Deficient” (DD) regularly mislead practitioners due to their uncertain extinction risk. Here we present machine learning-derived probabilities of being threatened by extinction for 7699 DD species, comprising 17% of the entire IUCN spatial datasets. Our predictions suggest that DD species as a group may in fact be more threatened than data-sufficient species. We found that 85% of DD amphibians are likely to be threatened by extinction, as well as more than half of DD species in many other taxonomic groups, such as mammals and reptiles. Consequently, our predictions indicate that, amongst others, the conservation relevance of biodiversity hotspots in South America may be boosted by up to 20% if DD species were acknowledged. The predicted probabilities for DD species are highly variable across taxa and regions, implying current Red List-derived indices and priorities may be biased.”

3. Deers that beg get more food

Laura L. Griffin, Amy Haigh, Kimberly Conteddu, Maverick Andaloc, Paul McDonnell, Simone Ciuti, “Artificial selection in human-wildlife feeding interactions,” Journal of Animal Ecology (4 August 2022).  bit.ly/3P7UYy7

See also, Ciara O’Loughlin, “Feeding deer in Phoenix Park poses a threat to both humans and wildlife,” Irish Independent (5 August 2022). bit.ly/3A4CrOY

“The study by University College Dublin (UCD) found that feeding deer is linked to the artificial selection of harassment behaviour, meaning that in a few years, the country could see deer that harass people for food.

… begging behavioural trait is linked with animals with bolder personality types, so this could lead to animals becoming more aggressive in order to obtain food.

In the study, it was found that the entire deer population in Phoenix Park fell into three categories: consistent beggars, occasional beggars, and rare beggars.

The deer that begged more received the largest amount of human food, and this included bread, crisps, carrots, apples and biscuits, leading them to have a drastically different diet from those classed as rare and occasional beggars.’

4.  Monsoon rains devastating South Asia

Zoha Tunio, “After Unprecedented Heatwaves, Monsoon Rains and the Worst Floods in Over a Century Devastate South Asia,” Inside Climate News (2 August 2022).  bit.ly/3A94HzS

“Across the Indian subcontinent, floods and heavy rainfall have affected more than 7.2 million people in Bangladesh, submerged over 2,000 villages in India and caused more than 300 deaths in Pakistan.”

“… monsoon winds over the Arabian Sea are exhibiting fluctuating behaviors, “driving surges of moisture supply, leading to extreme rain episodes across the entire central Indian belt.”

“The Indian monsoon has been historically erratic, but the early onset of heavy rainfall this year is still an anomaly. “All these hazards are invariably increased because of global warming,” said Giriraj Amarnath, research group leader for disaster risk management and climate resilience at the International Water Management Institute. But while disaster management is a big piece of the puzzle, experts agree that long-term mitigation and adaptation measures are critical for preventing further loss of life as well as environmental and economic damage from catastrophic extreme weather events in a part of the world that has contributed comparatively little to global carbon emissions.”

5.  Exposure to Air Pollution Harms Brain Development in Very Young

Yu NI et al., “Associations of Pre- and Postnatal Air Pollution Exposures with Child Behavioral Problems and Cognitive Performance: A U.S. Multi-Cohort Study,” Environmental Health Perspectives (23 June 2022).  bit.ly/3zB8zYY

See also, Victoria St. Martin, “Study Underscores That Exposure to Air Pollution Harms Brain Development in the Very Young,” Inside Climate News ( 6 August 2022). bit.ly/3A6L4IC

“It’s not just about lung damage: From IQ scores to behavioral problems, researchers chart the effects of exposure to contaminants in utero and in toddlerhood.”

“Researchers have found that toddlers exposed to particulate matter score lower on IQ tests—losing as many as 2.63 points on those exams for every 2 micrograms per cubic meter of pollution exposure.

And the harm from pollution, researchers found, can begin long before birth: Children of pregnant women who were exposed to air pollution from fossil fuel exhaust and particulate matter in utero are more likely to experience behavioral problems and poor cognitive performance, they report.”

6.  What’s happening in the far north is off the scale

Ketil Isaksen et al., “Exceptional warming over the Barents area,” Scientific Reports (15 June 2022).  go.nature.com/3AixK4c

See also, Julia Kane, “Red alert: Portions of the Arctic are warming much faster than we thought,” Grist (17 June 2022). bit.ly/3BYerOM

“Scientists revealed new measurements this week that show parts of the Arctic are warming five to seven times faster than the rest of the world, warming that could bring about even more extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

… annual average temperatures there are rising by up to 2.7 degrees Celsius per decade, making it the fastest warming region known on Earth.

Extraordinary changes in the Arctic don’t just affect the far north. Earth’s climate patterns are dictated by small differences in temperature and density, which drive everything from globe-spanning atmospheric circulation patterns to ocean currents. Crank up the heat in the Arctic, and the effects reverberate elsewhere, too.”

7.  Climate change and the rise of infectious diseases

Camilo Mora et al., “Over half of known human pathogenic diseases can be aggravated by climate change,” Nature Climate Change (8 August 2022).

Abstract:  It is relatively well accepted that climate change can affect human pathogenic diseases; however, the full extent of this risk remains poorly quantified. Here we carried out a systematic search for empirical examples about the impacts of ten climatic hazards sensitive to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on each known human pathogenic disease. We found that 58% (that is, 218 out of 375) of infectious diseases confronted by humanity worldwide have been at some point aggravated by climatic hazards; 16% were at times diminished. Empirical cases revealed 1,006 unique pathways in which climatic hazards, via different transmission types, led to pathogenic diseases. The human pathogenic diseases and transmission pathways aggravated by climatic hazards are too numerous for comprehensive societal adaptations, highlighting the urgent need to work at the source of the problem: reducing GHG emissions.

See also, McKenzie Prillaman, “Climate change is making hundreds of diseases much worse: Heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms push up the number of cases, make diseases more severe and hamper people’s ability to cope,” Nature (12 August 2022).  go.nature.com/3zTeGIo

“Climate change has exacerbated more than 200 infectious diseases and dozens of non-transmissible conditions, such as poisonous-snake bites, according to an analysis1. Climate hazards bring people and disease-causing organisms closer together, leading to a rise in cases. Global warming can also make some conditions more severe and affect how well people fight off infections.

Most studies on the associations between climate change and disease have focused on specific pathogens, transmission methods or the effects of one type of extreme weather. Camilo Mora, a data scientist at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and his colleagues scoured the literature for evidence of how ten climate-change-induced hazards — including surging temperatures, sea level rise and droughts — have affected all documented infectious diseases (see ‘Climate hazards exacerbate diseases’). These include infections spread or triggered by bacteria, viruses, animals, fungi and plants (see ‘Mode of transmission’). The study was published in Nature Climate Change on 8 August.”

8.  Thanks to climate change, drought-stricken California faces a megaflood

Xingying Huang and Damiel L. Swain, “Climate change is increasing the risk of a California megaflood,” Science Advances (12 August 2022).  bit.ly/3zXNXKH

Abstract: Despite the recent prevalence of severe drought, California faces a broadly underappreciated risk of severe floods. Here, we investigate the physical characteristics of “plausible worst case scenario” extreme storm sequences capable of giving rise to “megaflood” conditions using a combination of climate model data and high-resolution weather modeling. Using the data from the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble, we find that climate change has already doubled the likelihood of an event capable of producing catastrophic flooding, but larger future increases are likely due to continued warming. We further find that runoff in the future extreme storm scenario is 200 to 400% greater than historical values in the Sierra Nevada because of increased precipitation rates and decreased snow fraction. These findings have direct implications for flood and emergency management, as well as broader implications for hazard mitigation and climate adaptation activities.

9.  Fracking and Juvenile Leukemia

Cassandra J. Clark, et al., “Unconventional Oil and Gas Development Exposure and Risk of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Case–Control Study in Pennsylvania, 2009–2017,” Environmental Health Perspectives (17 August 2022).  bit.ly/3dsDcs3

See also, Victoria St. Martin, “Study: Pennsylvania Children Who Live Near Fracking Wells Have Higher Leukemia Risk:  Researchers at Yale School of Public Health found the incidence of disease was twice as likely for children who live a mile from a well,” Inside Climate News (17 August 2022).  bit.ly/3PytEJi

“Children in Pennsylvania who grew up within roughly a mile of fracking wells are twice as likely as other young people to develop the most common form of juvenile leukemia, according to a new study by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, also found that children born to pregnant women who lived near fracking wells were nearly three times as likely as other newborns to be diagnosed with leukemia.

The research, part of a registry-based study which drew on such information as patient health histories and geographic data, was based on a review of records for about 2,500 children, roughly 400 of whom were being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most widely diagnosed form of childhood leukemia also known as ALL.”

10. Major sea-level rise caused by melting of Greenland ice cap is ‘now inevitable’

Jason E. Box et al., “Greenland ice sheet climate disequilibrium and committed sea-level rise,” Nature Climate Change (29 August 2022). go.nature.com/3Aznljc

See also, Damian Carrington, “Major sea-level rise caused by melting of Greenland ice cap is ‘now inevitable’,” The Guardian (29 August 2022).  bit.ly/3KxqIvY

“Major sea-level rise from the melting of the Greenland ice cap is now inevitable, scientists have found, even if the fossil fuel burning that is driving the climate crisis were to end overnight.

The research shows the global heating to date will cause an absolute minimum sea-level rise of 27cm (10.6in) from Greenland alone as 110tn tonnes of ice melt. With continued carbon emissions, the melting of other ice caps and thermal expansion of the ocean, a multi-metre sea-level rise appears likely.

Billions of people live in coastal regions, making flooding due to rising sea levels one of the greatest long-term impacts of the climate crisis. If Greenland’s record melt year of 2012 becomes a routine occurrence later this century, as is possible, then the ice cap will deliver a “staggering” 78cm of sea-level rise, the scientists said.”


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