Daily Archives: September 25, 2018

Study: 11,000 More Homes in Carolinas Were Damaged in Storm Due to Rising Sea Levels

Sep 25, 2018

In news on Hurricane Florence, a new study says rising sea levels in the Carolinas fueled a stronger storm surge, leading to far more destruction in the region than would have otherwise been possible. Researchers are estimating that sea level rise over the past five decades led to 11,000 homes being damaged that would not have suffered damage previously. Steven McAlpine of the First Street Foundation said, “Even though the impact of Hurricane Florence continues to be felt, we already know that sea level rise has made the damage significantly worse, as observed with other recent storms.” Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on tides for the Carolinas show an average rise in sea level of about six inches since 1970. Climate change is expected to result in even greater sea level rise in the coming years and decades.

Naomi Klein: A Year After Hurricane Maria, There Is Nothing Natural About Puerto Rico’s Disaster


Democracy Now!

Published on Sep 25, 2018

https://democracynow.org – One year since Hurricanes Maria and Irma killed thousands in Puerto Rico and caused the longest blackout in U.S. history, we are joined by Naomi Klein, author of “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists,” whose recent report for The Intercept is titled “There’s Nothing Natural About Puerto Rico’s Disaster.” Last week, President Trump generated widespread criticism when he falsely claimed on Twitter that thousands of people did not die in the two storms, even as a Harvard study estimated the death toll may top 4,600. Meanwhile on Monday, President Trump declared himself an “absolute no” on statehood for Puerto Rico as long as San Juan’s mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a major critic of his administration’s response to Maria, is in office. We also discuss the role of the unelected PROMESA fiscal control board in the island’s unfolding economic crisis, with co-host and reporter Juan González.

Tropical forests are a net carbon source based on aboveground measurements of gain and loss | Science

Abstract

The carbon balance of tropical ecosystems remains uncertain, with top-down atmospheric studies suggesting an overall sink and bottom-up ecological approaches indicating a modest net source. Here we use 12 years (2003 to 2014) of MODIS pantropical satellite data to quantify net annual changes in the aboveground carbon density of tropical woody live vegetation, providing direct, measurement-based evidence that the world’s tropical forests are a net carbon source of 425.2± 92.0 teragrams of carbon per year (Tg C year–1). This net release of carbon consists of losses of 861.7 ± 80.2 Tg C year–1 and gains of 436.5 ± 31.0 Tg C year–1. Gains result from forest growth; losses result from deforestation and from reductions in carbon density within standing forests (degradation or disturbance), with the latter accounting for 68.9% of overall losses.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6360/230
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2017/09/27/science.aam5962.DC1?_ga=2.137720884.56920385.1537901200-1334303521.1534484767

Tropical forests now emit more carbon than they soak up | PBS NewsHour

Science Sep 28, 2017 2:00 PM EDT

Tropical forests aren’t the carbon sponges they once were.

In a role reversal, today’s jungles lose more carbon to the atmosphere each year than they soak up, according to a study published Thursday in Science. The carbon released by these forested areas amounts to 425 million metric tons per year, which is more than all the emissions from U.S. cars and trucks combined.

But, the researchers said there is still time to reverse these trends.Tropical forests were known for soaking up excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The bigger the forest, the more it can hold, but every sponge has a limit…

“We actually have a lot of room to improve this,” said Alessandro Baccini, a forest ecologist at the Woods Hole Research Center, who co-led study. “The old story of ‘planting trees and stop chopping them down’ is exactly what needs to happen long term.”

For this study, Baccini and his fellow forest ecologist Wayne Walker strapped on their backpacks, laced up their hiking boots and trudged through forests in 22 countries across three continents. They were on a mission to measure the dry weight, or biomass, of the world’s tropical forests.

Alessandro Baccini and Wayne Walker during a forest measurement campaign in Vietnam. Photo by Juliana Splendore

Biomass, as it turns out, is directly related to forests’ ability to absorb carbon, reduce global warming and prevent climate change. Unlike cars, which are a one-way source of carbon to the atmosphere, plants both absorb carbon and release it.

Tropical forests were known for soaking up excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The bigger the forest, the more it can hold, but every sponge has a limit as to how much it can store. Plus, thinning forests begin to release carbon into the atmosphere, as the fallen and dead trees decompose.

Tromping deep into thick forests on tough terrain, the team collected tree height and diameter data and used it to calculate biomass. Unlike past studies that examined single factors like deforestation, the researchers wanted to estimate harder-to-measure changes, such as small-scale tree loss through drought or rising temperatures. These changes lead to thinner forests with more dead trees.

…(read more).

Tropical forests are becoming net carbon producers, instead of carbon sinks

A logging area in Gunung Lumut, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.   Credit: Jan van der Ploeg/CIFOR, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

November 04, 2017 · 9:15 AM EDT

Writer Adam Wernic

Conventional wisdom has long held that tropical forests soak up carbon dioxide and help blunt the impact of industrial greenhouse gas emissions. But new research finds that the tropics are now adding to the problem of global warming faster than they can absorb excess carbon.

In other words, tropical forests are now a net carbon source rather than the carbon “sinks” they were previously thought to be.

The new research, recently published in Science Magazine, finds that the world’s tropical forests have annual net carbon emissions of 425 teragrams. For some perspective, that is more than the total annual emissions from cars and trucks in the US and almost as much as the entire US transportation sector.

…(read more).

Tropical Forests Are Flipping From Storing Carbon to Releasing It | The Nation

Mushrooming disaster: Thanks to logging, cattle ranching, and industrial agriculture, 16 percent of the Amazon has already been deforested. (Sam Eaton)

Illegal logging and land seizures are driving this ominous yet overlooked scientific trend.

By Sam Eaton

August 30, 2018

it wasn’t until heavily armed men arrived from across the river that Cláudio José da Silva realized who was bankrolling the latest episode of illegal logging. His bare chest traced with blue-black lines of body paint, da Silva is a member of the Guajajara people in eastern Brazil, one of the country’s largest indigenous groups. Their side of the Carú River is pristine Amazon rain forest. Across the river, the rain forest has been razed and replaced by cattle ranches and farms. On paper, the Guajajaras’ nearly 700 square miles of rain forest are protected as federally recognized indigenous territory. In reality, the group lives under constant threat of theft and violence. Just the day before, da Silva’s self-defense force, the Guardians of the Forest, caught the local sheriff’s son using cattle to drag lumber from their forest. Armed with machetes, they chased him away and confiscated the cows. Now the sheriff had come bearing an ultimatum: Return the cattle or his posse would retrieve them by force.

The reporting for this project was produced in partnership with PBS NewsHour and the public-radio program PRI’s The World, with support from the Pulitzer Center and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

“This struggle, for us, is war,” da Silva says. He claims to have received dozens of death threats since founding the Guardians of the Forest in 2012. “The loggers carry arms. The farmers are armed. They want confrontation.” Indeed, on August 12, a month after I visited da Silva, the dead body of his comrade, Jorginho Guajajara, was found in a nearby river.

Violent conflicts over land and logging have spilled blood throughout the Amazon since the 1980s, when the murder of the organizer Chico Mendes made international headlines. Brazil is the deadliest country in the world for land defenders, with more than 140 killings since 2015, according to the NGO Global Witness. The state of Maranhão, where the Guajajara live, is perhaps the most dangerous: In 2016, more attacks on indigenous groups occurred there than anywhere else in Brazil, according to the Pastoral Land Commission.

Apart from the human toll, the violence in the Amazon is also driving an ominous trend in the earth’s climate system. Last October, Science published one of the most important—and least noticed—climate studies in years. Tropical forests in the Amazon and around the world have been so degraded by logging, burning, and agriculture that they have started to release more carbon than they store, according to scientists from the Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University. In the parlance of climate change, these forests are flipping from carbon sinks to carbon sources.

This is very bad news, for two reasons. First, until now, the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide via photosynthesis has been a crucial buffer against greenhouse-gas emissions: The forests’ absorption of CO2 has limited the global temperature rise to considerably less than it would otherwise be. Second, forests must absorb even more carbon going forward if humankind is to contain that temperature rise to a survivable amount. Current trends put the earth on a trajectory to an increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius, an amount that scientists have warned is “incompatible with organized society.” Minimizing future emissions is imperative, but it’s not enough. To meet the Paris Agreement’s commitment to hold the temperature rise “well below” 2°C, humankind must also “go negative.” That is, we must extract the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere and store it where it can no longer trap heat, notably in the earth’s trees and soil. And that means growing more trees, not cutting them down.

….

This is very bad news, for two reasons. First, until now, the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide via photosynthesis has been a crucial buffer against greenhouse-gas emissions: The forests’ absorption of CO2 has limited the global temperature rise to considerably less than it would otherwise be. Second, forests must absorb even more carbon going forward if humankind is to contain that temperature rise to a survivable amount. Current trends put the earth on a trajectory to an increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius, an amount that scientists have warned is “incompatible with organized society.” Minimizing future emissions is imperative, but it’s not enough. To meet the Paris Agreement’s commitment to hold the temperature rise “well below” 2°C, humankind must also “go negative.” That is, we must extract the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere and store it where it can no longer trap heat, notably in the earth’s trees and soil. And that means growing more trees, not cutting them down.

“This is really very serious,” says Carlos Nobre, Brazil’s leading climatologist, in an interview at his home in a tree-lined suburb outside São Paulo. Nobre has the tired expression of someone who’s been ringing the alarm bell for too long while society looks away. He says the world’s forests have been absorbing roughly 30 percent of the CO2 emissions generated by human activities. But Nobre’s research, conducted with Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University, has found that deforestation, combined with rising temperatures and the droughts and fires they encourage, is taking a heavy toll.

“We’re dangerously approaching a point where the convergence of all these drivers might reach irreversibility,” Nobre says. Cross that threshold, and much of the Amazon rain forest will begin to die. The Amazon could reach that tipping point if 20 to 25 percent of its original forest cover is destroyed, Nobre estimates. In that case, more than half the Amazon would transition from rain forest to savannah, releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere as the trees die and burn. Such a “dieback” is one of the scenarios that could trigger runaway global warming, according to the “hothouse Earth” study published by the Potsdam Climate Impacts Institute in August.

…(read more).

And view Science article:


http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6360/230

Abstract

The carbon balance of tropical ecosystems remains uncertain, with top-down atmospheric studies suggesting an overall sink and bottom-up ecological approaches indicating a modest net source. Here we use 12 years (2003 to 2014) of MODIS pantropical satellite data to quantify net annual changes in the aboveground carbon density of tropical woody live vegetation, providing direct, measurement-based evidence that the world’s tropical forests are a net carbon source of 425.2 ± 92.0 teragrams of carbon per year (Tg C year–1). This net release of carbon consists of losses of 861.7 ± 80.2 Tg C year–1 and gains of 436.5 ± 31.0 Tg C year–1. Gains result from forest growth; losses result from deforestation and from reductions in carbon density within standing forests (degradation or disturbance), with the latter accounting for 68.9% of overall losses.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6360/230
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2017/09/27/science.aam5962.DC1?_ga=2.137720884.56920385.1537901200-1334303521.1534484767

NASA Has Discovered Arctic Lakes Bubbling With Methane—and That’s Very Bad N ews

https://www.newsweek.com/arctic-permafrost-lakes-bubbling-methane-nasa-1119624

Lakes across Alaska and Siberia have started to bubble with methane, and the release of this highly potent greenhouse gas has scientists worried.

Last month NASA released footage showing the bubbling Arctic lakes, which are the result of a little known phenomenon called “abrupt thawing.” It occurs when the permafrost—ground that has been frozen for potentially thousands of years—thaws faster than expected.

Scientists have long known that the thawing permafrost has the potential to release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. As the organic matter that has been locked up in the ground defrosts it decomposes, releasing carbon and methane (a hydrocarbon) in the process.

If all this was released into the atmosphere, the impact on climate change would be huge. In total there is about 1,500 billion tons of carbon locked up in the permafrost—almost double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere right now.

…(read more).