worse than we thought – time running out!

Australia may need to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90% by 2050 as part of a massive global effort to avert the most devastating effects of climate change, the Rudd Government has been warned.

In an alarmingly pessimistic assessment of what is happening to the world, Canberra’s chief adviser on climate change, Ross Garnaut, has declared that time is running out faster than almost anyone predicted.

Releasing his interim report, Professor Garnaut said existing targets for reducing greenhouse emissions may not be enough to save the situation.

The Age (Australia), 22 Feb 2008

worse than we thought – sea ice melt, glacier retreat!

Every few years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the world’s leading climate scientists, is tasked with explaining the causes and effects of climate change in a comprehensive report. Yet the science of climate change is evolving more rapidly than the reports can be published.

Since the IPCC’s latest assessment was released a mere 14 months ago, in November 2007, studies suggest that sea-ice melt, glacier retreat, and food insecurity are all more dire than the IPCC predicted.

W.L. Hare, a lead author of the 2007 IPCC report, considers the “master risk” of climate change to be sea-level rise, caused by the melting of land-based ice (such as the Greenland ice cap) and the thermal expansion of sea water.

We will be lucky to keep sea-level rise below one meter rise within this century, and two meters rise can’t be ruled out, said Hare, an environmental scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a contributing author of the new Worldwatch Institute report State of the World 2009: Into A Warming World.

Worldwatch Institute, January 2009

worse than we thought – global water cycle!

It is difficult, though not impossible, to say how individual events are influenced by climate change. It is simpler to tell whether the overall numbers are increasing.

Even at the time of the last IPCC report in 2007, the trends for extreme heat, droughts and intense rainfall were already clearly upward. Not only are these trends continuing, but the weather is also becoming even more extreme than was predicted.

For instance, a study this year of ocean-salinity data from between 1950 and 2000 by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that the global water cycle – the rate at which water evaporates and falls as rain – has increased at double the pace projected by models that aim to simulate the global climate.

New Scientist, 14 Nov 2012

worse than we thought – temperature increase!

World will warm faster than predicted in next five years, study warns. The world faces record-breaking temperatures as the sun’s activity increases, leading the planet to heat up significantly faster than scientists had predicted for the next five years, according to a study.

The research, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, was carried out by Judith Lean, of the US Naval Research Laboratory, and David Rind, of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The Guardian, 28 Jul 2009

worse than we thought – melting polar ice caps!

Climate scientists are saying that global warming, as evidenced by melting polar ice caps, is worse than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and that global emissions must peak by 2015 if climate chaos, and resulting human social chaos is to be avoided.

Green-labour alliances can inspire the broad-based community campaigns needed to make a just transition to renewable energy and new green jobs.

Geoff Evans is an environmental scientist and social ecologist, researching transitions to sustainability. He is a former Director of the Mineral Policy Institute, now working with Greenpeace on their Climate and Energy campaign.

A Just Transition to a clean, renewable energy economy is urgent – and possible, 1 Nov 2008

worse than we thought – global warming effects!

One of those trying to give the polar bears a break and settle the argument is James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography and an internationally known authority on climate change.

McCarthy was among a handful of top scientists who coordinated a remarkable report by the world scientific community this year that said global warming is real, it’s here, and it’s going to be worse than we thought.

“We already see effects that [indicate] the change in climate has occurred, And the projection of some of those [effects] into the future are not a pretty scene.”

Harvard University Gazette, 22 Mar 2001

worse than we thought – greenhouse gas emissions!

It seems the dire warnings about the oncoming devastation wrought by global warming were not dire enough, a top climate scientist said on Saturday.

It has been just over a year since the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a landmark report warning of rising sea levels, expanding deserts, more intense storms and the extinction of up to 30 per cent of plant and animal species.

But recent climate studies suggest that report significantly underestimates the potential severity of global warming over the next 100 years, a senior member of the panel said.

“We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected,” said Chris Field, who was a co-ordinating lead author of the report.

Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb 2009

worse than we thought – warming in the Arctic!

A new study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), released today, says that the effects of warming in the Arctic are “dire… far worse than previous projections.”

Dr Martin Sommerkorn, senior climate change advisor for WWF’s Arctic program (who works on this stuff everyday) says: “What they found was a truly sobering picture.” The report released by WWF today, Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications, is an “unprecedented peer-reviewed report.”

James Leape, director general of WWF International, says: “We need to listen now to these signals from the Arctic, and take the necessary action in Copenhagen this December to get a deal that quickly and effectively limits greenhouse gas emissions.”

Simply Green, undated article

worse than we thought – tropical forests ignited!

Without decisive action, global warming is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than predicted, says Stanford scientist Chris Field, a leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Field warns that higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and melt the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gas that could raise temperatures even more — a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control.

Science Daily, 15 Feb 2009

worse than we thought – greenhouse gas levels!

Conservation scientist and Australian of the Year Tim Flannery has warned that huge industrial and economic changes need to be implemented quickly to slow the growth of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Speaking on the ABC’s Lateline program, Professor Flannery has revealed the contents of a crucial Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which will be released in November.

He says the report shows that greenhouse gas levels are at levels far higher than has ever been publicly admitted before.

yourdemocracy.net.au, 15 Nov 2007

worse than we thought – acidity of Great Barrier Reef!

Waters around the Great Barrier Reef are becoming acidic at a higher-than-expected rate.

Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the Australian National University said the findings were worrying. It appears this acidification is now taking place over decades rather than centuries as originally predicted, he said.

Researchers studied a type of reef coral called porites off Cairns and found pH levels were falling faster than previously thought, meaning acidity levels were increasing. This new data on the Great Barrier Reef suggests the effects are even greater than forecast, Professor McCulloch said.

The Age (Australia), 18 Oct 2007

worse than we thought – climate challenge!

A book launched in Melbourne last night, Climate Code Red, argues that the climate change challenge is far worse than officially acknowledged by the Government or modeling undertaken by Government advisor Professor Ross Garnaut.

By economist David Spratt and Philip Sutton, the book warns that glaciologists are convinced the summer Arctic ice will disappear within five years, returning as only a thin layer during winter.

It says the question is not whether this can be stopped, but whether it can be reversed over coming decades to avoid sea level rises much worse than predicted by the comparatively conservative Nobel-prize-winning Intergovernmental Panal on Climate Change – probably between two and five metres.

The Age, (Australia), 18 Jul 2008 – screen copy held by this website

worse than we thought – the tropics!

Climate change is causing the world’s tropical regions to grow, according to a new sientific paper that warns of a significant impact on southern Australia.

The report, a review of five recent studies, found the tropics had expanded by about 2.5 degrees latitude since 1979, faster than the clmate models predicted for the 21st century. Andrew Ash, director of the CSIRO’s climate adaptation flagship, described the rate of expansion of the tropics as “disturbing”.

“This paper is another bit of evidence showing that the rate of climate change is perhaps much faster than we have been expecting,” he said.

The Age (Australia), 3 Dec 2007 – screen copy held by this website

worse than we thought – atmospheric concentration of CO2!

jaw_droppingThe MIT Integrated Global System Model is used to make probabilistic projections of climate change from 1861 to 2100.

Since the model’s first projections were published in 2003 substantial improvements have been made to the model and improved estimates of the probability distributions of uncertain input parameters have become available.

The new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.1°C compared to 2.4°C in the earlier study.

Their median projection for the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2095 is a jaw-dropping 866 ppm. ClimateProgress, 23 Feb 2009

worse than we thought – the measures of climate change!

Climate experts are increasingly worried though. More than 2000 will meet in Copenhagen this week for an emergency summit to emphasise that the shift is happening much faster than expected.

Hosted by the University of Copenhagen, the climate congress has two main goals – to update the science since the 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to develop and promote policy solutions.

The key findings will be transformed in a new and improved report to lobby leaders in the run-up to a critical UN conference in December, when a new Kyoto-stye agreement is to be signed.

UNSW Climate Change Research Centre co-director Matthew England, one of the summit’s key backers, says it is likely to find that the raw measures of climate change – global average air temperature, global sea-level rise and amospheric carbon dioxide concentrations – are all happening at or above the worst-case IPCC scenario.

The Age (Australia), 9 Mar 2009 – screencopy held by this website

worse than we thought – too hot for coral!

“The oceans are becoming too hot for coral, and sooner than we expected…..The problem is, I was only accounting for a doubling of greenhouse gases, as opposed to the tripling or more under the current business-as-usual approach, and the models used for estimating future sea temperatures didn’t account for more frequent extreme El Niño.

And if so, then my original projections of when the oceans become too hot for coral reefs are too optimistic!…..I am compelled to question whether the negotiators headed for meeting in Paris in a month or so really appreciate the urgency.

Do they know that we need to pull the plug immediately on this crazy experiment? Given that the current pledges going into Paris are so woefully inadequate, it would seem not.”

– Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland –

The Conversation, 9 Oct 2015

worse than we thought – impact on birds!

Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the huge boreal forest that spans from Scandinavia to northern Canada. Unprecedented warming in the region is jeopardizing the future of a critical ecosystem that makes up nearly a third of the earth’s forest cover.

The boreal is also home to some 5 billion birds. Many species have shifted their ranges north.

“Climate change is having an impact much more quickly than we thought,” said Jeff Wells, a senior scientist with the International Boreal Campaign who focuses on birds. “Shifts that researchers thought would take place over 50 or a hundred years have taken place over a decade.”

Yale Environment 360, 12 Oct 2015

worse than we thought – CO2 release from peat!

Climate change effect on release of CO2 from peat far greater than assumed.

Writing in Nature Geosciences (doi 10.1038 NGEO1323), Dr Nathalie Fenner and Professor Chris Freeman of Bangor University explain how the drought causes an increase in the rate of release of CO2 for possibly as long as a decade.

It was originally assumed that most of the CO2 was released from the dry peat. Now scientists realise that the release of CO2 continues, and may even increase, when the peat is re-wetted with the arrival of rain.

“As our global climate and rainfall patterns change, our peatlands may not have sufficient opportunity to recover between these drought-induced episodes of CO2 loss,” explains the paper’s lead author, Dr Nathalie Fenner.

Bangor News, 21/11/11

worse than we thought – air pressure!

Climate predictions for many regions of the world may have to be rethought, following the discovery that global warming may have a bigger effect on air pressure than anyone thought.

Nathan Gillett at the University of East Anglia, UK, compared observed changes in air pressure in the northern hemisphere over the past 50 years with simulations from nine modern climate models.

The models only simulated around 10 per cent of the pressure changes actually observed. Even when Gillett factored in external influences such as ozone depletion, the changes were underestimated.

New Scientist, 24 Sep 2005

worse than we thought – temperatures!

While the world’s leaders continue their negotiations in Paris, attempting to iron out a deal that will limit greenhouse gas emissions and keep temperatures from rising to potentially dangerous levels, a newly-published study indicates that things may be worse than we imagined.

In fact, as Professor Roy Thompson from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences explained in the latest edition of the journal Earth and Environmental Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his research found that unless more is done to counteract climate change, land surface temperatures could rise by an average of nearly 8 degrees Celsius by 2100.

RedOrbit, 10 Dec 2015

worse than we thought – methane holes!

New research shows the Arctic is warming faster than previously believed. Russian scientists have found about 700 “methane holes” in the Arctic shelf.

The scale of emissions shows that the permafrost has degraded severely, and researchers think the thawing is irreversible. Because of the increasing permafrost thawing in West Siberia, the bigger thermokarst lakes could soon break up into numerous smaller ones.

“This could lead to a tenfold increase of greenhouse gases and dissolved organic carbon emissions into rivers and the Arctic,” said Sergei Kirpotin, head of TSU’s BioKlimLand research center.

Russia Beyond The Headlines, 11 Sep 2015

worse than we thought – health of the oceans!

In the starkest warning yet of the threat to ocean health, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: “This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.”

Alex Rogers, professor of biology at Oxford University, said: “The health of the ocean is spiralling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

The Guardian, 3 Oct 2013

worse than we thought – climate change!

Since an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas pollution was signed in Kyoto, in 1997, the level of CO2 in the air has increased 6.5 per cent.

From 1997 to 2008, world CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have increased 31 per cent; U.S. emissions of this greenhouse gas rose 3.7 per cent. Since the 1997 international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated — beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made back then.

“The latest science is telling us we are in more trouble than we thought,” said Janos Pasztor, climate adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The Hindu, 23 Nov 2009

worse than we thought – average temperatures!

thermometerPredictions by international scientists that global warming will lead to a sharper rise in temperatures than previously thought made sobering reading yesterday.

The warning came in a major report on climate change published yesterday that suggests average temperatures could rise more than expected – by as much as 6.4C by 2100, unless greenhouse gas emissions are reined in.

The report, from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has upgraded its 2001 estimate that temperatures would rise by at most 5.8C, because at the time the feedback mechanisms were either unknown or poorly understood.

The Guardian, 3 Feb 2007

worse than we thought – sea level!

underwater_furnitureBINDSCHADLER: Yeah, I think there’s sort of an unspoken consensus in my community that if you want to look at the very largest number in the IPCC report, they said 58 centimeters, so almost two feet by the end of the century. That’s way low, and it’s going to be well over a meter. We may see a meter by the middle of the century.

e360: Oh my gosh.

interview with a leading glaciologist, Richard Bindschadler – A Change In The Wind, 16 Feb 2009

worse than we thought – carbon storage in forests!

One more example of how we’ve understimated climate change: New Scientist is reporting that researchers in Australia have found that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has wrongly estimated the carbon storage potential of pristine temperate forests.

According to this data, intact forests store 60% more carbon than plantation forests. Brendan Mackey of the Australian National University] and colleagues used remote sensing and direct sampling to study eucalyptus trees at 240 sites across a 14.5-million hectare swathe of natural forest in south-east Australia.

Plugging the data into a computer, the team calculated that trees in areas untouched by logging store on average 640 tonnes of carbon per hectare, compared with an IPCC estimate for temperate forest of 217 tonnes.

Treehugger, 5 Aug 2008

worse than we thought – potency of heroin!

Greater concentrations of carbon dioxide in a warming world may have a drastic effect on the potency of opium poppies, according to a new study.

While this increase might mean more morphine available for legal pharmaceutical uses, the painkiller is also the main ingredient in heroin.

The speed of the biological changes affecting plants’ alkaloid levels suggests that the climate may have a greater impact on plant life than computer models had generally predicted, Ziska says Lewis Ziska of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory.

The net result, according to Ziska, is that climate change’s impacts on plants are likely to be chaotic and difficult to predict. For example, he says, “wheat may make more seeds, but we may have stronger poison ivy and poppies.”

Science Line, 3 Aug 2009

worse than we thought – the absorptive capacity of the planet!

GEORGE NEGUS: You originally said that unless we invest in something like 1% of global GDP per annum fighting climate change it could ultimately cost us up to 20% of global GDP. Now in your new work you are calling for an investment of 2%. Does that mean the situation is worsening?

LORD NICHOLAS STERN: I raised the number because I think, looking back, the targets that were proposed in the Stern Review were not ambitious enough, given the kinds of risk which we’re now seeing. The risks are actually still worse than we saw in the Stern Review because greenhouse gases are growing faster than we assumed, the absorptive capacity of the planet – particular the oceans – to absorb greenhouse gases is less than we thought, and some of the effects – for example, Greenland ice melting – are coming through faster than we thought.

interview SBS, 15 Nov 2009

worse than we thought – carbon dioxide concentrations!

Research news about climate change and its expected effects has, if anything, become more alarming since the 2001 IPCC report which projected possible temperature increases by 2100 of up to 5.8 degrees Celcius (IPCC 2001).

For example, two different studies from the UK Hadley Centre have suggested that increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may lead to higher temperature rises than those reported in IPCC’s work (Clarke 2003; Murphy et al 2004).

In addition, there are concerns that the effects of climate change are beginning to be seen before scientists had expected, and even that positive feedbacks in the climate system, which could accelerate global warming are starting to be detected (Vidal 2004).

CARBON RATIONING AND PERSONAL ENERGY USE, Tina Fawcet, Fawcett, T. 2004 Carbon rationing and personal energy use. Energy and Environment. 15(6) pp 1067-1083

news stories about climate change to be not only bad news but “worse than we thought”

worse than we thought – small islands swallowed!

Low-lying island atolls—which are home to half a million people around the world—are some of the places most immediately threatened by rising sea levels.

Now an unsettling new study from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that these vulnerable places could disappear at rates almost double what scientists had previously realized.

It appears that many atoll islands will be flooded annually, salinizing the limited freshwater resources and thus likely forcing inhabitants to abandon their islands in decades, not centuries, as previously thought, the paper, published in Nature Scientific Reports, says.

CoExist, 13 Oct 2015

worse than we thought – worlds oceans!

A group of 17 scientists with varied backgrounds, including noted climatologist James Hansen has written a paper describing a scenario where the world’s oceans rise much faster than other models have predicted—they have uploaded it to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics—an open access site created to allow for public peer review of researcher ideas.

The authors argue that such a rise will result in much faster ice melting than other models have suggested, resulting in a rise of the world’s oceans to dangerous levels…….

The researchers are hoping their work will cause more than just a change in the standards that have been set—that it might also wake the human race to the cataclysmic changes that really are coming and cause us to change our ways before it is too late—if it is not already.

Phys Org, 24/07/2015

worse than we thought – animal life!

Climate change is happening far faster than predicted, and it’s causing a huge decline in animal life, according to a recent report released by Boston-based asset management firm Grantham Mayo van Otterloo (GMO).

The total amount of animal life on Earth has halved in the last 35 years, and bird populations have decreased by 40%, a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates.

Animal populations plummeted by 52% between 1970 and 2010, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Index, which is calculated using trends in 10,380 populations of over 3,038 vertebrate species (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals).

Birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals have all seen some of their populations decline over the past few decades.

Business Insider (Australia), 6 Aug 2015

see also new category – the tendency for news stories about climate change to be not only bad news but “worse than we thought”

worse than we thought – by just about any measure!

As climate change exceeds the worst projections, scientists underscore the urgency of reducing emissions.

By just about any measure, global warming is matching or exceeding experts’ worst projections, and could bring drastic change to our planet, including a 19-foot sea level rise and the extinction of many species, according to a new report released today.

We are in the lead-up to an historic climate summit — the Copenhagen climate summit — and it is absolutely essential that any policy making regarding climate change be based on the best and most up-to-date science, said co-author Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in State College.

Discovery.com, 11 Feb 2013

worse than we thought – potential damages!

Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of the world’s most comprehensive study of the economic impact of climate change, says fresh research into the planet’s carbon sink suggests his report probably underestimated the potential dmages.

New research indicated a weakening of the so-called carbon cycle, in particular the ability of the planet’s oceans to absorb carbon dioxide, Sir Nicholas said. And the risks threatening forests, another type of carbon sink, “are stronger than we thought”, he said. “So I think we are seeing early signs that some risks are bigger than the ones we included.”

The Age, 28 Mar 2007 – screen copy held by this website

worse than we thought – global warming acceleration!

Without decisive action, global warming in the 21st century is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than predicted, according to a leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected, primarily because developing countries, like China and India, saw a huge upsurge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal,” said IPCC scientist Chris Field of Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Stanford News, 18 Feb 2009

worse than we thought – destruction of sea life!

Rising acid levels in the Southern Ocean will start destroying sea life within 30 years, three decades earlier than previously thought, Australian climate change researchers warned yesterday.

Scientists had previously predicted that when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 550 parts per million – compared with about 383 parts per million today – the oceans would become so acidic that the calcium in the shells of sea creatures would start dissolving. However, it was thought it would take 60 to 100 years for such a “tipping point” to be reached.

But new findings by Ben McNeil, of the University of NSW, and the CSIRO’s Dr Richard Matear, suggest rising acidity may trigger “irreversible” destruction of shell creatures far sooner.

Sydney Morning Herald, 17 Nov 2008

worse than we thought – carbon emissions!

stunned_crowdThe cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as a scientist pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world.

So much extra pollution is being pumped out that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and “dangerously misguided” at worst, said Kevin Anderson, an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University. The Guardian, 9 Dec 2008

see also new category – the tendency for news stories about climate change to be not only bad news but “worse than we thought”

worse than we thought – plants flowering!

Scientific models are failing to accurately predict the impact of global warming on plants, says a new report. Researchers found in long-term studies that some are flowering up to eight times faster than models anticipate.

The authors say that poor study design and a lack of investment in experiments partly account for the difference.

“If a whole plant community starts growing a week earlier than we expect according to these experiments, it’s going to take up a lot more water over the growing season and if you add to that many years of the model projections, you are going to see big changes in the water supply,” said Dr Elizabeth Wolkovich, who is now at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

worse than we thought – speed of climate change!

The conference at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter, called by Tony Blair to inform world leaders about the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, was told of a series of new research findings which showed that climate change was speeding up and would be worse than hitherto expected.David Griggs, director of the centre, said the meeting was “an ideal opportunity for the scientific community to identify emission levels, especially of carbon dioxide, at which the Earth’s climate could be thrown into irreversible change.”

Only five years ago the scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were confident that Antarctica and its vast ice sheets were so cold that they would not begin to melt for centuries even if climate changed elsewhere.

Science Direct, Current Biology: Volume 15, Issue 4, 22 February 2005, Pages R109–R110