The Daily PlanetWatch for Thursday, July 25

Thomas Schueneman

Thinking about the latest environmental news headlines every afternoon from the Daily PlanetWatch
  • There is "no doubt left". A 2013 study in Environmental Research Papers found a 97 percent consensus that human activity is the main driver of climate change since the industrial revolution. What little scientific doubt remained focused in part on past events like the "Little Ice Age" starting in the 15th century and the Medieval Climate Anomaly, a period of unusual warming lasting from about 950 to 1250AD.

    Three new research papers (here, here, and here) published in Nature and Nature Geoscience examined past climate changes over the past 2000 years using 700 proxy records for temperature. The studies found that climate swings have never occurred as quickly and globally as what we are now experiencing. These studies suggest that consensus among climate scientists is no better than 99 percent. "The pushback has been political rather than scientific," writes Jonathan Watts in The Guardian. 
    Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, says of the research: “This paper should finally stop climate change deniers claiming that the recent observed coherent global warming is part of a natural climate cycle. This paper shows the truly stark difference between regional and localized changes in climate of the past and the truly global effect of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions.”
  • Environmental damage should be a war crime. “The brutal toll of war on the natural world is well documented, destroying the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and driving many species, already under intense pressure, towards extinction,” says Professor Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London. Durant is one of 24 signatories of an open letter published on Nature calling for a 5th Geneva Convention to recognize damage to the environment as a war crime.
  • 12 years? Make that 18 months. Last year's report from the International Panel on Climate Change says we have until 2030 to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent if there is any hope of containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius through the end of the century. That in itself is a daunting task. According to many observers, whatever chance we have of meeting that deadline depends on "political steps" taken in the next 18 months to force the initiative required to drastically cut emissions. Truly the fate of the world as we know it, particularly its livability, depend on what we all do, the choices we make, and the leaders we support through 2020. By 2021, it may all be too late. 

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