Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Science team identifies tipping point in climate change: 2047

If you’ve been wondering when global warming will show up on your doorstep, Camilo Mora has an answer for you.

Dr. Mora, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, leads a team that has tackled the challenging question of when the climate will shift entirely beyond what could be considered natural.

Their result: The turning point arrives in 2047 as a worldwide average if fossil fuel consumption continues unabated; as late as 2069 if carbon emissions are curbed. Broken down by city the numbers are a bit more revealing. In Montreal, for example, the new normal will arrive a year sooner. For Toronto it’s 2049 and for Vancouver not until 2056. But the real spotlight of Dr. Mora’s study is what happens in the tropics, where profound changes could be entrenched within little more than a decade.

“By looking at timing we’ve come up with an entirely new set of implications on climate change,” Dr. Mora said.

Dr. Mora is not a climate scientist but an expert in dealing with huge amounts of data to pull out hidden information – a skill he honed over six years at Dalhousie University in Halifax, working with the likes of the late Ransom Myers. It was Dr. Myers’ number crunching skills that turned the plight of the world’s fish stock into headline news in 2003.

Ten years later, Dr. Mora is following in his mentor’s footsteps with a study that seems certain to grab attention.

“I want to let the numbers do the talking,” he said.

Climate scientists have long expressed high confidence that the planet is warming as a result of the heat trapping action of greenhouse gasses. The latest assessment from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts that confidence at 95 per cent. Where scientists have been less confident is on the timing of the change. Different models show the global temperatures rising at different rates and the hundreds of scientists behind the IPCC assessment can’t say which model will turn out to be the best predictor of what actually happens over the course of this century.

Starting with an idea that came out of a course he was teaching last spring, Dr. Mora decided to address the gap with some nuts and bolts analysis.

His team combined data from all 39 currently available global climate models and went back nearly 150 years to see what the range of normal climate variability was over that time period.

“We looked at the minimum and maximum values that occurred in that 150-year window and that’s how we set our bounds of recent historical variability,” said Ryan Longman, a doctoral student who worked on the analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Then the team tracked the combined predictions of the models forward at different points on the globe to watch how soon the predictions drifted completely out of their normal range. Once the coldest year at any given location was consistently warmer than the hottest year prior to 2005 the team considered the climate to have changed completely. The dates when this happens are different for different locations and they depend on the emissions scenario.

“I think this analysis is valuable and sheds new light on impacts,” said Jane Lubchenco, the former administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an e-mail.

Dr. Lubchenco, who was not involved in the study, stepped down earlier this year to return to academic research at Oregon State University. She said “no one has gone to the immense effort they did to really look critically at the data from so many places and over the entire period of time for which records are reliable.”

The key result of the finding, Dr. Mora said, is that tropical locations will leave the range of normal climate variability much sooner because they typically experience a narrow range of temperature and precipitation levels. That’s a worry Dr. Mora said, because species there are not well adapted to living outside those ranges. Similarly, cities and nations found along Earth’s equator are among the poorest and least equipped to deal with the health and environmental burden of climate change.

“Today when people talk about climate change the images that come to mind are melting ice and polar bears,” Dr. Mora said. “People might infer from this that the tropics will be less affected.”

Instead, he said, the new analysis showed that species and ecosystems in the tropics would soon be experiencing “unprecedented climate stress.” The trend also goes for marine ecosystems where the study shows that ocean acidification has already departed from the normal range with a disastrous outlook for coral reefs.

Ken Caldeira, an expert in global ecology at the Carnegie Institution in Stanford added that while the timing and global breakdown from Dr. Mora’s analysis represent solid science, what matters more is the response.

“Whether an ecosystem goes a decade or two earlier or later doesn’t really matter that much,” Dr. Caldeira said. “We must stop using the atmosphere as a waste dump for our greenhouse-gas pollution. Everything else is nuance.” More


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Passing the National Conservation Law

Passing the National Conservation Law, enhancing our Marine Parks, adopting a Climate Change Policy and updating CITES legislation - discussed in the Premier’s speech yesterday: The long-awaited National Conservation Bill will be brought to this honourable House before the end of this year.

This important legislation has the support of my caucus, and we have ensured that the Department of Environment, or DoE, will be in a position to support this legislation once it is passed. The draft Bill being presented is substantially the 2009 version prepared by the former PPM administration, updated to address concerns raised by the past UDP administration and independent Members. While Government plans to allow Members of the House and the public significantly more time than the required 21 days to review the draft Bill, we do not anticipate significant amendments, and we look forward to unanimous support for this seminal legislation.

The Government also is committed to continuing the consultation on proposals to enhance our current system of marine parks. DOE research shows that, while the marine parks are providing some protection, a confluence of factors has caused serious changes to our reefs, and the current protections therefore are no longer enough. These factors include population increase (resident and tourist), overfishing, coastal development, invasive species, disease of coral and other marine organisms, and climate change. The future for our marine resources is bleak without decisive and timely corrective action.

An appropriately configured and enhanced system of marine parks is the best tool available for actively managing our marine resources in order to achieve fisheries sustainability, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem resilience, in the face of the existing and emerging threats. Further, we recognise the importance of addressing climate change. We acknowledge the sobering message of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a summary of which was released on Friday, 27 September: Climate change is real, it is caused by human actions, and it continues unabated.

Cayman simply cannot afford to ignore the conclusions of this worldwide committee of eminent scientists, as the implications for the continued rise in sea levels will have severe consequences for future generations if left unchecked. The Government therefore intends to adopt the draft climate policy, produced in 2011 by a multidisciplinary public/private sector initiative led by the DoE, and to begin urgent work on an implementation plan. And lastly, in an effort to honour our commitments made under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna,

Government will take all necessary steps to bring into force the updated, local CITES-implementing legislation – the Endangered Species Trade and Transport Law – which was passed by this honourable House in 2004. Madam Speaker, we must do all that we can to protect the environment on all three Islands to ensure that we preserve paradise for future generations of residents and tourists alike. Just as we are protecting our flora and fauna, we are making moves to improve the infrastructure to make our visitors’ stays more comfortable and accommodating. (Photo:


ECLAC Launches Database on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Zones

2 October 2013: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) launched an interactive, web-based database aimed at helping Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries in planning coastal management and preventive measures to adapt to the effects of climate change on their coastal zones.

The database was launched on 2 October 2013 during the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Ibero-American Network of Climate Change Offices being held at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

The database was developed as part of a multi-year project, titled 'Effects of Climate Change on the Coast of Latin America and the Caribbean,' which is being implemented by ECLAC in cooperation with Spain's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment and the University of Cantabria. This project has produced several reports since 2012, examining the vulnerability of the LAC coastline to projected climate change impacts.

The database provides data on LAC coastal dynamics, climate variability, coastal vulnerability and exposure to climate change, current impact and a projection of predictable risks in the future. Outputs of projected impacts are geo-referenced, with details available for blocks of coastline 5 kilometers (km) wide and 30 km long. Among the variables taken into account by the database are annual sea level rise, changes in wave heights, shifts in wind direction, and erosion and changes in sediment dynamics. The database and associated tools are targeted to LAC planners and policymakers with the aim of improving territorial planning in coastal zones and estimated engineering requirements, as well as to put into place appropriate environmental impact procedures. [ECLAC Press Release] [IISD RS Story on ECLAC Report on LAC Coastal Vulnerability to Climate Change] [Publication: Database web viewer]

read more:


Monday, October 7, 2013

MPs pass cruise ship casino law

Visiting cruise ships are set to be allowed to keep their casinos open when in port after MPs passed the Cruise Ship (Casino) Act 2013 early this morning.

The concession — allowing on-board casinos to operate between 9pm and 5am — would ensure Bermuda remained competitive as a cruise destination, according to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell.

He said such a move would economically benefit both the cruise companies, which would increase their on-board revenue, and the Island, which would collect licence fees.

Presenting the Act for its second reading yesterday afternoon, Mr Crockwell said the ships would have to be in port for one night or more to qualify for permission.

“The use of the casino is to be limited to passengers on board the ship only. No local residents or visitors to the ship will be allowed to participate in casino activities.”

He said the key concern for many would be the impact on local retailers, restaurateurs and entertainers, but he believed it would be “minimal”.

Mr Crockwell said: “Our research has indicated that the majority of visiting cruise passengers return to their ship by 9pm and, by this time, most of our retail shops are closed.

“However, and I want to emphasise the word however, if the destination provides good products that include good entertainment and amenities that goes beyond the traditional offerings, the passenger will stay ashore to take in the local experience and spend money.

“Not all cruise passengers purchase their tickets at a discounted price. Many of the passengers are well-heeled and high-income earners and these new ships have one and two bedroom suites with butler services on their upper decks that have a price point comparable to high-end resorts.

“These high net income passengers choose to cruise because of the product and service that is offered and similarly they will patronise local businesses if we have the products on offer that they desire.

“Therefore, the impact to local businesses will be minimal and our Ministry will closely monitor and analyse the impact to this segment of our local businesses and enterprise.”

The Minister said smaller ships capable of berthing in Hamilton and St George’s, with a passenger capacity not exceeding 2,000, would not be charged a licence fee.

“In our discussions with the operators of these smaller, and often older ships, they have shared with us that they are at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “Not charging them a permit fee will assist in placing them in a more competitive position.”

Mr Crockwell reiterated a commitment to hold a referendum on gaming in Bermuda before the next Budget but said the issue of cruise ship casino opening was a “separate and distinct matter”. More


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

High-Level Event Raises Visibility of 2014 SIDS Conference

26 September 2013: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly (UNGA) President John Ashe met with 11 Heads of State and Government at a high-level breakfast on 26 September 2013, in New York, US.

The gathering aimed at raising the profile of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which will convene in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September 2014.

The theme of the conference, 'The Sustainable Development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships,' not only applies to SIDS but also to “the effective delivery of all our broader development goals, which will require empowered partnerships based upon mutual trust, equality, respect and accountability,” said Ashe in his remarks. He said partnerships can play a key role in addressing issues of importance to SIDS, including climate change, energy, oceans and seas, waste management, sustainable tourism, environmental audits and indicator systems, and stakeholder engagement. Ashe said he will devote "considerable time and personal commitment to the success of the SIDS 2014 Conference, in particular to facilitate the identification of practical, strategic and concrete partnerships." He concluded that while SIDS have long been associated with vulnerability, "they are not helpless or hopeless."

In his address, Ban encouraged the use of both traditional forms of communication and new media to raise the Conference's profile and to call attention to the issues facing SIDS. He said much has changed since the first SIDS conference in Barbados in 1994, that climate change is now a "household term," and the "communications revolution" has provided many more tools for raising awareness. In 2014, "every participant can use social media to tell the story."

Other speakers at the breakfast included Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, EU President Joao Manuel Barroso, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, and Secretary-General of the Conference and UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo.

The breakfast took place on the sidelines of the 68th UN General Assembly (UNGA). [Third International SIDS Conference Website] [Remarks of UN Secretary-General] [Remarks of PGA] [UN Press Release]

read more: