Scientists race to analyze Austria’s rapidly disappearing glaciers
Jeck Deocampo • September 23, 2019 • 348
Scientists are racing to read a rapidly melting archive of climate data going back thousands of years – the inside of Austria’s glaciers, which are falling victim to climate change.
Glaciers are threatened the world over as the average global temperature continues to rise, a phenomenon that is likely to be described in even more vivid detail than before in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week.
But glaciers in Austria, on the eastern edge of the Alps, are particularly sensitive to climate change and have been shrinking even more rapidly than most, making it all the more urgent to examine their contents before they disappear, Andrea Fischer, a scientist conducting that work, said.
Fischer, part of the research team from the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research in Innsbruck, is analysing a layer of ice at the top of the Weisseespitze, a peak more than 3,500 metres high.
At the top of this mountain, Fischer and her colleagues have drilled to the bottom of the comparatively undisturbed glacier to extract samples of its ice, which is being analysed for information on the local climate thousands of years ago.
Fischer believes the ice could be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, with the extracted samples being sent for lab testing to date them.
The lower layers are more densely packed than those at the top, meaning that one metre of ice could include thousands of years of data.
“At Weisseespitze several metres of ice disappeared, the ice there is just a few metres thick. So, in a few years, this peak will be totally without ice,” Fischer said.
While analysis of other materials, such as tree trunks, can provide information on the air temperature in summer, glaciers’ ice is a rare source of information on precipitation, she said.
The team’s challenge is to take current data on how the climate is changing and compare how the climate changed over it previous centuries and millennia to determine how exceptional or usual the current process is. (REUTERS)
Geneva – The average global temperature will rise 3.2C by the end of the century even if countries fulfill their commitments to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which sought to limit the increase to under 1.5C above preindustrial levels, according to the United Nations on Tuesday.
“The summary of the findings are bleak,” the UN Environment Programme said in the introduction to its annual Emission Gap Report, which analyses current climate change policies and how they diverge from the kind of measures that need to be adopted to curb global warming.
According to the report, there must be a collective effort to reduce emissions by 7.6 percent a year between 2020 and 2030 to keep global temperatures under 1.5C above preindustrial levels, a fivefold increase in the efforts initially set out by the Paris Agreement.
UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Anderson, said: “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 percent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade.”
“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”
According to the report, if current unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions are fully implemented, there was still only a 66 percent chance that warming would be limited to 3.2C by the end of the century.
It concluded that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases increased 1.5 percent annually in the last decade and reached historical levels of 55.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2018.
China was responsible for 13 of those gigatons but the Asian giant, the world’s second-largest economy, is not yet obliged to reduce its emissions in absolute terms as per the Paris Agreement due to its status as a developing country.
Second in regards to emissions was the United States with six gigatons. President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement in 2017.
Emissions must be curbed by 15 gigatons by 2030 to achieve the 2C goal or 32 gigatons to hit the 1.5C target, the report said.
UNEP said that if current trends continued, then global temperatures could rise by 3.9C, although pledges to reduce emissions, such as the European Union’s target to curb them by 40 percent by 2030, could limit it to 3.2C, which is still insufficient.
The UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”
Recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special reports said there would be dire consequences of inaction if the global temperature rises are not held below the 1.5C target.
The UNEP report on the emissions gap will be used as a template for discussions at the upcoming COP25 meeting in Madrid, conducted under the presidency this year of Chile. EFE-EPA
GENEVA – Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2018 despite international pledges to tackle the causes of climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said in a report Monday.
In its annual report published just before the COP25 summit in Madrid, the United Nations agency said the Carbon Dioxide levels reached 407.8 parts per million, up from 405.5ppm the previous years, which represents a 0.56 percent jump.
These figures show that CO2 emissions stood at 147 percent more than the preindustrial level in 1975.
“This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems,” it warned.
The report said there were “multiple indications” that the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere was linked to the burning of fossil fuel.
“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
“We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.
“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3C warmer, sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now.”
According to the statement, the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere between 2017-18 was similar to that recorded between 2016-17 and just above the average for the last 10 years.
The report said that concentrations of other greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide have surged in the last decade, according to the Global Atmosphere Watch, which has stations from the Arctic to the Topics.
It said that atmospheric methane levels had reached a record high of 1869 parts per billion last year, 259 percent of the preindustrial level.
Some 40 percent of methane emissions come from natural sources while the remaining 60 percent comes from human activity like farming.
The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Anderson, said: “The findings of WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin and UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report point us in a clear direction – in this critical period, the world must deliver concrete, stepped-up action on emissions.
“We face a stark choice: set in motion the radical transformations we need now, or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.”
The report comes just a week before the UN Climate Change Conference, which this year will be presided over by Chile but will be held in the Spanish capital Madrid due to unrest in the South American country. EFE-EPA
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has pledged its support to the country’s first Green Climate Fund (GCF) project.
According to the DILG, the GCF aims to establish multi-hazard impact-based forecasting and early warning system (MH-IBF-EWS) in the local government units (LGUs).
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said this aims to translate hazard forecasts into warnings which will provide the location and specific impacts directly to the LGUs and communities on the ground.
“Climate change has been a global issue that we can’t just take for granted. We must acknowledge it and fortify our country with safety measures like the MH-IBF-EWS. As one of the most vulnerable countries that can fall victim to climate change, we should be proactive in developing counter-measures,” he said.
Año said areas including Tuguegarao City, Legazpi City, the town of Palo in Leyte, and New Bataan in Davao de Oro will be the target local government units (LGUs) of the GCF project.
The said project has been approved by the Green Climate Fund Board during its recent meeting in Songdo, Korea and is worth $10 million.—AAC
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