Archive for ‘Tipping Points’

Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

In this video presentation, Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, World Preservation Foundation Senior Scientist, puts forward the case for how, with the devastating effects of climate change being felt ever-more quickly and with increasing intensity, the importance of embracing fast-acting solutions to mitigate climate change has increased dramatically.

In recent years, greater understanding of climate science has advanced considerably, and scientists and even policy makers now recognise that climate change in the short term is being driven by extremely potent, shorter-lived climate forcers. By reducing these climate forcers — namely black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone — cooling begins rapidly.

Globally, the production of meat and dairy are significant contributors of these fast warming agents with far reaching consequences on planetary warming and environmental devastation. These include the major effects of black carbon due to biomass burning, on West Antarctica as well as the tropical monsoons; deforestation; soil carbon loss; and, food and water security. It’s estimated that 47% to 60% of the black carbon reaching West Antarctica and causing rapid melting is due to biomass burning resulting from livestock pasture management.

CO2 from pasture maintenance fires, reforestation of pastures and soil carbon uptake on relief of grazing pressure may also play a part in a fast-acting solution to the climate crisis.

This video is a synopsis of the paper Gerard wrote that examines the contributions of agriculture, namely livestock farming, to planetary warming through the shorter-lived climate forcers, and the effect of animal agriculture abatement on alleviating global warming and environmental collapse. We also propose four policy measures to immediately reduce the shorter-lived warming agents.

(By: Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop: Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation )

Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A rare Madagascan wetland bird has been declared extinct in what scientists believe may herald the beginning of a global catastrophe only recorded five times in Earth’s history.

The dying out of the Alaotra grebe, found only in Madagascar and not seen for 25 years, has led biologists to claim we are on the verge of the ‘sixth great extinction’.

The previous five cataclysmic events during Earth’s prehistory, such as the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago possibly caused by a meteorite hitting Earth, were naturally caused. This is the first time humans have been implicated in causing mass global extinction.

The Alaotra grebe has been declared extinct due to the introduction of carnivorous fish into its habitat and the use of fishing nets that caught and drowned the bird.

The disappearance of yet another type of bird has led scientists to believe that the rate at which species are vanishing from the planet could point to a period of mass global extinction.

Scientists now claim we could be on the verge of the next great extinction.

The RSPB’s international director Dr Tim Stowe said:

‘The confirmation of the extinction of yet another bird species is further evidence that we are not doing enough in the fight to protect the world’s wildlife. ‘Although there are some key successes, overall the trend is downward, bringing more species year on year to the brink of extinction and beyond.’

The inclusion of the Alaotra grebe on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which is the most comprehensive inventory of extinct species, comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

Bird species alone seem to be disappearing at the rate of one per decade.

The wetland bird was last seen in 1985 and its disappearance comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

The number of birds threatened with global extinction now stands at 1,240 species, according to the latest assessment.

The IUCN Red List’s update for birds, carried out by Birdlife International, said 25 species had been added to the list of those at risk.

Other wetland birds are under increasing pressure from the introduction of invasive species, as well as from drainage and pollution of their habitats, the conservationists warned.

Dr Stuart Butchart, Birdlife’s global species programme officer, said:

‘Wetlands are fragile environments, easily disturbed or polluted, but essential not only for birds and other biodiversity but also for millions of people around the world as a source of water and food.’

Along with the Azores bullfinch, the yellow-eared parrot from Colombia and the Chatham albatross have been downlisted from critically endangered to endangered.

Dr Butchart said:

‘These successes show what is possible, and they point the way forward to what needs to be done by the global community. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity; world leaders failed to stem the decline of biodiversity. We cannot fail again.’


  • 65 million years ago: Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T extinction). About 75% of species became extinct, possibly caused by a meteorite hitting the earth. Wiped out dinosaurs.
  • 205 million years ago: Triassic-Jurassic extinction. Most non-dinosaurs were eliminated, leaving dinosaurs with little terrestrial competition.
  • 440-450 million years ago: Ordovidician-Silurian. Two linked events that are considered together to have been the second worst extinction on the list.
  • 360-375 million years ago: Late Devonian. A prologued series of extinctions that may have lasted 20 million years.
  • 251 million years ago: Permian-Triassic. Known as ‘The Great Dying’ after about 96% of marine species and 70% of land species disappeared.

Source: Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’ - Mail Online

Date: 26 May 2010

Small mammals at risk as world warms

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The biodiversity of small mammals in North America may already be close to a “tipping point” causing impacts “up and down the food chain” according to a new study by U.S. scientists.

Examining fossils excavated from a cave in Northern California, biologists from Stanford University, California uncovered evidence that small mammal populations were severely depleted during the last episode of global warming around 12,000 years ago.

The research, which was recently published in the science journal, Nature, underlines the effects climate change could have on all types of biodiversity, not just the “eye-catching species.”

“The temperature change over the next hundred years is expected to be greater than the temperature that most of the mammals that are on the landscape have yet witnessed as a species,” Hadly said in a statement.

“The small-mammal community that we have is really resilient, but it is headed toward a perturbation that is bigger than anything it has seen in the last million years.” she added.

Source: Small mammals at risk as world warms – CNN

Date: 26 May 2010

U.N. report: Eco-systems at ‘tipping point’

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The world’s eco-systems are at risk of “rapid degradation and collapse” according to a new United Nations report.

The third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) published by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) warns that unless “swift, radical and creative action” is taken “massive further loss is increasingly likely.”

Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the CBD said in a statement: “The news is not good. We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate never before seen in history.”

The U.N. warns several eco-systems including the Amazon rainforest, freshwater lakes and rivers and coral reefs are approaching a “tipping point” which, if reached, may see them never recover.

The report says that no government has completely met biodiversity targets that were first set out in 2002 — the year of the first GBO report.

Executive Director of the U.N. Environmental Program Achim Steiner said there were key economic reasons why governments had failed in this task.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged governments to give biodiversity a “higher priority in all areas of decision making and in all economic sectors” and called for a “new vision for biological diversity.”

The CBD — an international treaty designed to sustain diversity of life on Earth — was set up at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Source: U.N. report: Eco-systems at ‘tipping point’ – CNN

Date: 10 May 2010

UN fears ‘irreversible’ damage to natural environment

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The UN warned on Monday that “massive” loss in life-sustaining natural environments was likely to deepen to the point of being irreversible after global targets to cut the decline by this year were missed.

As a result of the degradation, the world is moving closer to several “tipping points” beyond which some ecosystems that play a part in natural processes such as climate or the food chain may be permanently damaged, a United Nations report said.

The third “Global Biodiversity Outlook” found that deforestation, pollution or overexploitation were damaging the productive capacity of the most vulnerable environments, including the Amazon rainforest, lakes and coral reefs.

“This report is saying that we are reaching the tipping point where the irreversible damage to the planet is going to be done unless we act urgently,”

Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, told journalists.

Source: UN fears ‘irreversible’ damage to natural environment – Google

Date: 10 May 2010

2009 was the Fifth-Warmest Year on Global Record since the Beginning of Instrumental Climate Records in 1850

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

The year 2009 is nominally ranked as the fifth warmest year on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records around 1850.

On the decadal scale, the analysis shows that the 2000s decade (2000–2009) was warmer than the 1990s (1990–1999), which in turn were warmer than the 1980s (1980–1989) and earlier decades.

Global temperature assessment is provided with an uncertainty margin that affects the global surface temperature figures and consequently their ranking, mainly as a result of the existing gaps in data coverage. The magnitude of the uncertainty in assessing the global surface temperature in 2009 is estimated at 0.10°C. Therefore, the most likely value of the global surface temperature anomaly for 2009 is between +0.34°C and +0.56°C.

The southern hemisphere was particularly warmer than the long-term average, especially during the austral winter and late spring.

Source: WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 2009 (PDF) – World Meteorological Organization

Date: 23 March 2010

Posted via web from World Preservation Foundation

‘Paltry’ Copenhagen carbon pledges point to 3C world

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Chances of a 3C rise are higher than 50%, the team calculates (simplified from Potsdam Institutes Nature paper)

Chances of a 3C rise are higher than 50%, the team calculates (simplified from Potsdam Institute's Nature paper)

Pledges made at December’s UN summit in Copenhagen are unlikely to keep global warming below 2C, a study concludes.

Writing in the journal Nature, analysts at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany say a rise of at least 3C by 2100 is likely.

The team also says many countries, including EU members and China, have pledged slower carbon curbs than they have been achieving anyway.

They say a new global deal is needed if deeper cuts are to materialise.

“There’s a big mismatch between the ambitious goal, which is 2C… and the emissions reductions,” said Potsdam’s Malte Meinshausen.

“The pledged emissions reductions are in most cases very unambitious,” he told BBC News.

In their Nature article, the team uses stronger language, describing the pledges as “paltry”.

“The prospects for limiting global warming to 2C – or even to 1.5C, as more than 100 nations demand – are in dire peril,” they conclude.

Between now and 2020, global emissions are likely to rise by 10-20%, they calculate, and the chances of passing 3C by 2100 are greater than 50%.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this implies a range of serious impacts for the world, including

  • significant falls in crop yields across most of the world
  • damage to most coral reefs
  • likely disruption to water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.

More than 120 countries have now associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord, the political document stitched together on the summit’s final day by a small group of countries led by the US and the BASIC bloc of Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

The accord “recognises” the 2C target as indicated by science. It was also backed at last year’s G8 summit.

Many of those 120-odd have said what they are prepared to do to constrain their greenhouse gas emissions – either pledging cuts by 2020, in the case of industrialised countries, or promising to improve their “carbon intensity” in the case of developing nations.

Some of the pledges are little more than vague statements of intent. But all developed countries, and the developing world’s major emitters, have all given firm figures or ranges of figures.

The EU, for example, pledges to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020; China promises to improve carbon intensity by 40-45% by 2020 compared against 2005; and Australia vows an emission cut of 5-25% on 2000 levels by 2020.

The Potsdam team concludes that many of the detailed pledges are nowhere near as ambitious as their proponents would claim.

They calculate that the EU’s 20% pledge implies an annual cut of 0.45% between 2010 and 2020, whereas it is already achieving annual reductions larger than that.

China’s 40% minimum pledge also amounts to nothing more than business as usual, they relate; and among developed countries, only pledges by Norway and Japan fall into the 25-40% by 2020 range that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends as necessary to give a good chance of meeting the 2C target.

Hot air

Whereas many countries, rich and poor, have indicated they are willing to be more ambitious if there is a binding global deal, the Potsdam team notes that in the absence of a global deal, only the least ambitious end of their range can be counted upon.

Writing in the BBC’s Green Room this week, Bryony Worthington from the campaign group Sandbag argues that the EU can easily move to its alternative higher figure of 30% – and that it must, if it wants to stimulate others to cut deeper.

“Many countries are looking to Europe to show how it is possible to achieve growth without increasing emissions,” she said.

“Only when they see that this is possible will they be inclined to adopt absolute reduction targets of their own.”

An additional factor flagged up in the analysis is that many countries have accrued surplus emissions credits under the Kyoto Protocol.

Countries such as Russia and other former Eastern bloc nations comfortably exceeded their Kyoto targets owing to the collapse of Communist economies in the early 1990s.

Without a binding global agreement preventing the practice, these nations would be allowed to put these “banked” credits towards meeting any future targets – meaning they would have to reduce actual emissions less than they promised.

These “hot air” credits could also be traded between nations.

Source: ‘Paltry’ Copenhagen carbon pledges point to 3C world – BBC

Date: 21 April 2010

Posted via web from World Preservation Foundation

And the heat goes on: March 2010 warmest on record

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Last month was the warmest March on record worldwide, based on records back to 1880, scientists reported Thursday.

The average temperature for the month was 56.3 degrees Fahrenheit (13.5 degrees Celsius), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

That was 1.39 degrees F (0.77 C) above the average for the month over the 20th century.

NOAA researchers said the warmer-than-normal conditions were especially notable in northern Africa, South Asia, Tibet, Delhi, India and Canada.

Cooler-than-normal regions included Mongolia and eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, Mexico, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States.

Contributing to the record month was El Nino, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that, combined with changes in winds and air pressure, can affect weather worldwide.

In addition, climate researchers have been reporting rising global temperatures for several years as a result of what is called the “greenhouse effect,” in which rising levels of carbon dioxide and others gases in the atmosphere trap heat instead of allowing it to escape into space.

NOAA also reported that in March Arctic sea ice, which normally reaches its maximum in that month, covered an average of 5.8 million square miles (15.1 million square kilometers).

That was 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average expanse, and the fifth-smallest March coverage since records began in 1979.

Source: And the heat goes on: warmest March on record – PhysOrg

Date: 15 April 2010

Three of the thresholds for key environmental processes set by scientists have been exceeded

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Scientists have set thresholds for key environmental processes that, if crossed, could threaten Earth’s habitability. Ominously, three of the thresholds -  biodiversity loss, nitrogen pollution, and concentration of carbon dioxide – have already been exceeded.

Although climate change gets ample attention, species loss and nitrogen pollution exceed safe limits by greater degrees. Other environmental processes are also headed toward dangerous levels.

Promptly switching to low-carbon energy sources, curtailing land clearing and revolutionizing agricultural practices are crucial to making human life on Earth more sustainable.

Source: Boundaries for a Healthy Planet – Scientific American Magazine

Date: April 2010

Earth close to critical tipping point with dangerous consequences

Friday, March 5th, 2010

NASA and Columbia University Earth Institute research finds that human-made greenhouse gases have brought the Earth’s climate close to critical tipping points, with potentially dangerous consequences for the planet.

Source: Research Finds That Earth’s Climate is Approaching ‘Dangerous’ Point – NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Date: 30 May 2007

Results 1-10 of overall 23
REPORTS see all

Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change


Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers


Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis


Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010


Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report


Livestock's Climate Impact


Livestock & Sustainable Food


Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change


The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)


Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)



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