State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Climate News Roundup: Week of 3/13

Untapped crop data from Africa predicts corn peril if temperatures rise, EurekAlert, Mar. 13

Stanford agricultural scientist David Lobell and researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center have found that data from 20,000 experimental crop trials in sub-Saharan Africa show a clear negative effect of warming on corn production. Their research indicates that even under optimal rainfall conditions, a 1°C increase in temperature would cause yield decreases for 65% of the areas of Africa where corn in currently grown. Previously, corn had been considered a more heat-tolerant crop.

Fewer Americans worry about climate change: poll, AFP, Mar. 14

The most recent Gallup environmental poll shows that the number of Americans who worry a great deal or a fair amount about climate change has fallen to 51%, just one percentage point higher than the historic low reached in 1998. This stands in contrast to the 2008 poll, where two thirds of Americans expressed this level of concern. Although the cause for this decline is not clear, Gallup analysts state that the economic downturn could be a factor. The poll also reveals that opinion varies widely depending on political beliefs, with Democrats around twice as likely as Republicans to be concerned about climate change and to think it is already impacting the planet.

Scripps: Warming more common than thought, The San Diego Union Tribune, Mar. 16

A new study presents that in the past, Earth has experienced regular “hyperthermal” events where around every 400,000 years, average global temperature would rise on average 3.6-5.4°F.  These events stopped taking place about 40 million years ago. The authors argue that these hyperthermals were due to the release of CO2 stored in the deep ocean into the atmosphere and present that the biological effects of these events appear to be modest. While stating that this research provides some insight into elements of the climate system such as climate sensitivity, some criticize applying these findings to modern climate change, stating that human-induced climate change will occur much faster than these past changes and that adapting will be more difficult as “people are not plankton.”

House Republicans reject climate change science, CBS News, Mar. 16

Democratic congressmen offered three amendments acknowledging the scientific consensus around climate change to the House “Energy Tax Prevention Act” bill.  While the bill itself was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, these amendments were voted down, with Democrats unanimously voting in favor, 30 out of 31 Republicans voting against, and one declining to vote either way.  While the committee’s ranking Democrat, Henry Waxman, stated that these amendments should not even be necessary as the scientific “finding is so obviously correct,” Republican Representative Joe Barton argued that the science is “not settled.”

Wind power cheaper than nuclear, says EU climate chief, Guardian, Mar. 17

EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard stated that generating energy from offshore wind turbines would be cheaper than building new nuclear power plants.  An analysis by the European commission finds that while the costs of offshore wind energy are likely to decrease, the costs of nuclear energy are opaque.  Hedegaard also told the European Wind Energy Association’s annual conference in Brussels that uncertainty surrounding future expansion of nuclear power due to the recent nuclear incidents in Japan has put traditional renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, back in the spotlight.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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