The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

Global warming to hit Asia hardest, warns new report on climate change

People in coastal regions of Asia, particularly those living in cities, could face some of the worst effects of global warming, climate experts will warn this week. Hundreds of millions of people are likely to lose their homes as flooding, famine and rising sea levels sweep the region, one of the most vulnerable on Earth to the impact of global warming, the UN states.

The report – Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – makes it clear that for the first half of this century countries such as the UK will avoid the worst impacts of climate change, triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. By contrast, people living in developing countries in low latitudes, particularly those along the coast of Asia, will suffer the most, especially those living in crowded cities.

Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper

Given that fewer than 3 percent of peer-reviewed climate science papers conclude that the human influence on global warming is minimal, climate contrarians have obviously been unable to make a convincing scientific case. Thus in order to advance their agenda of delaying climate solutions and maintaining the status quo in the face of a 97 percent expert consensus suggesting that this is a high-risk path, contrarians have engaged in a variety of unconventional tactics.

* Funding a campaign to deny the expert climate consensus.
* Harassing climate scientists and universities with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests.
* Engaging in personal, defamatory public attacks on climate scientists.
* Flooding climate scientists with abusive emails.
* Illegally hacking university servers and stealing their emails.
* Illegally hacking climate science websites
* Harassing journals to retract inconvenient research.

That final tactic has evolved, from merely sending the journal publishers a petition signed by a bunch of contrarians, to sending journals letters threatening libel and defamation lawsuits. Although to date all editors involved have resisted such unwarranted intimidation, an online journal is on the verge of retracting a paper due to worries about lawsuits.

Indonesia’s forest fires feed ‘brown cloud’ of pollution choking Asia’s cities

An acrid blanket of haze is hanging over the cities of south-east Asia, where 700,000 people a year die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. Industry and climate change are being blamed, but governments are slow to act

Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought

A study led by the University of Leeds has shown that global warming of only 2°C will be detrimental to crops in temperate and tropical regions, with reduced yields from the 2030s onwards. Professor Andy Challinor, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds and lead author of the study, said: “Our research shows that crop yields will be negatively affected by climate change much earlier than expected.”

“Furthermore, the impact of climate change on crops will vary both from year-to-year and from place-to-place — with the variability becoming greater as the weather becomes increasingly erratic.”

Deep ocean current may slow due to climate change, Penn research finds

Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe. A new study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Irina Marinov and Raffaele Bernardello and colleagues from McGill University has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet’s climate.

“Our observations are showing us that there is less formation of these deep waters near Antarctica,” Marinov said. “This is worrisome because, if this is the case, we’re likely going to see less uptake of human produced, or anthropogenic, heat and carbon dioxide by the ocean, making this a positive feedback loop for climate change.”

Global food trade can alleviate water scarcity

International trade of food crops led to freshwater savings worth 2.4 billion US-Dollars in 2005 and had a major impact on local water stress. This is shown in a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Trading food involves the trade of virtually embedded water used for production, and the amount of that water depends heavily on the climatic conditions in the production region: It takes, for instance, 2.700 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of cereals in Morocco, while the same kilo produced in Germany uses up only 520 liters. Analyzing the impact of trade on local water scarcity, our scientists found that it is not the amount of water used that counts most, but the origin of the water. While parts of India or the Middle East alleviate their water scarcity through importing crops, some countries in Southern Europe export agricultural goods from water-scarce sites, thus increasing local water stress. “Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our global freshwater consumption and therefore has a huge potential to affect local water scarcity,” lead author Anne Biewald says. The amount of water used in the production of agricultural export goods is referred to as virtual water trade. So far, however, the concept of virtual water could not identify the regional water source, but used national or even global averages instead. “Our analysis shows that it is not the amount of water that matters, but whether global food trade leads to conserving or depleting water reserves in water-scarce regions,” Biewald says.

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