Climate Change News December 26, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
December 26, 2011


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Climate Change, Drought, Killing Millions of Trees World-Wide

On Monday, the Texas Forest Service released a statement reporting that 100 million to 500 million trees died during the 2011 state-wide drought. Ashe junipers, loblolly pines, cedars, and post oaks trees were among the hardest hit by the prolonged drought. 1.5 million trees in Texas also died in a 4 million acre wildfire that encompassed a large portion of the state, adding to the total amount of trees killed over a one-year period.

In related news, independent studies lead by scientists at the University of California – Berkeley and Stanford University find that a hotter climate, coupled with an increased number of prolonged droughts, are killing a large number of trees around the world. Trembling aspen trees are dying off in North America, due to several droughts between 2000 and 2004, and one in six trees in Africa have died from droughts between 1954 and 2002. “Rainfall in the Sahel has dropped 20-30 percent in the 20th century, the world’s most severe long-term drought since measurements from rainfall gauges began in the mid-1800s,” said Patrick Gonzalez, lead author on the study at University of California – Berkeley. “Previous research already established climate change as the primary cause of the drought, which has overwhelmed the resilience of the trees.”

For additional information see: Science Daily, Berkeley University, New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post

World Health Organization Declares Climate Change an Emerging Health Issue

At the United Nations Conference of Parties meeting in Durban, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that effects of climate change are creating world-wide health issues, including increased bacterial diseases caused by contaminated water, increased asthma and heart attacks caused by ground-level ozone, and allergies brought on by changes in pollen. Various health professionals, advocates, and policy makers assembled in Durban on December 4 at the first Global Climate and Health Summit, and asked the United Nations to “recognize the health benefits of climate mitigation and take bold and substantive action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect and promote public health.” While attending the Global Climate and Health Summit, Dr. Rajen Naidoo of the Nelson Mandela Medical School in Durban said, "Just as the HIV epidemic caused us to have a reversal in recent gains in public health in this country, so too does climate change now."

For additional information see: Scientific American, Durban Declaration on Climate and Health

Study: Climate Change Shifts Global Ecosystems

A recent study by NASA reports that by 2100, global warming will convert nearly 40 percent of ecosystems from one type to another; converting forests to grasslands, and grasslands to deserts. The study also states that climate change will disrupt the balance between endangered species, and affect the world’s water, food, and energy supplies. "For more than 25 years, scientists have warned of the dangers of human-induced climate change," said Jon Bergengren, lead scientist on the study. "Our study introduces a new view of climate change, exploring the ecological implications of a few degrees of global warming. While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it's the ecological consequences that matter most." Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadenafound their results by using computer models to project 10 different climate simulations using data from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Report Finds ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ Regarding the Public and Climate Change Politics

A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that people insulate their ignorance about a complex issue by deferring to government and scientists. Participants in the study rejected complex negative information and opted to rely on politicians to handle complicated issues. "Climate change is a global issue that, seemingly, is beyond the efforts of any one individual. . . . I think a lot of people feel unable to do anything about it," said Steven Shepherd, author of the report. "The next best thing is to either deny it, or defer the issue to governments to deal with it. . . . In our research we find that one easy way to maintain that psychologically comforting trust that an issue is being dealt with is to simply avoid the issue." Researchers also found that a person’s views change due to pressure from society, often changing their views to escape any stigma from one’s community.

For additional information see: E&E Publishing

'Green Routing' Can Reduce Car Emissions

New research from the University at Buffalo found that by rerouting cars from highways to surface streets will help reduce overall emissions by 27 percent, and only lengthens the total time of the trip by an average of 11 percent. Researchers also found that by rerouting only one fifth of the highways’ drivers to the alternate surface street route, they could reduce emissions by almost 20 percent. Adel Sadek, one of the project leads, said, "We're not talking about replacing all vehicles with hybrid cars or transforming to a hydrogen-fuel economy that would take time to implement. . . But this idea, green routing, we could implement it now." Researchers believe that GPS navigation systems can use the knowledge of ‘green routing’ to offer drivers more environmentally-friendly options when they plan their driving route.

For additional information see: Science Daily

Climate Change Alters Precipitation Patterns of New Zealand

Mountain rainfall specialist, Dr. Tim Kerr, is closely watching changing weather patterns in New Zealand. Dr. Kerr is concerned that current snow patterns could change with global warming, causing less snow to fall in the mountains, and more rain to fall on the already damp Western Coast. New Zealand receives over 560 billion cubic meters of precipitation a year, and is home to some of the wettest places on earth; some areas receiving over 13.4 meters of annual rainfall a year. "To date the assumption has been that in a warmer climate the hydro lakes will get more rainfall, but if this temperature-spillover relationship is significant, the hydro lakes may actually get drier,” Kerr said. Kerr collected rainfall measurements in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and then used computer programs to stimulate a warmer or cooler climate to see how the atmospheric temperature affected the precipitation patterns.

For additional information see: TVNZ

Other Headlines

Writers: Alison Alford, John-Michael Cross

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