2016 World Ocean Day

2016 Theme: Healthy oceans, healthy planet
The ocean is the heart of our planet. Just like the heart pumps blood to every part of the human body, the ocean connects people across the Earth, no matter where they live.

The ocean regulates the climate, feeds millions of people every year, produces oxygen, is the home to an incredible array of wildlife, provides us with important medicines, and so much more!

In order to ensure the health and safety of our communities and future generations, it’s imperative that we take the responsibility to care for the ocean as it cares for us.
This year, the theme is Healthy oceans, healthy planet, and a special effort is being made to stop plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is a serious threat because it degrades very slowly, polluting waterways for a very long time. In addition, plastic pollution impacts the health of aquatic animals because animals including zooplankton mistake the microbeads for food. Scientists also fear health impacts for humans.

When will Paris Agreement come into force?

After COP21: What Needs to Happen for the Paris Agreement to Take Effect?

Now that 195 countries have signed onto a new international climate agreement at COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015, what would be some of the key steps for the Agreement to come into effect and is fully implemented.   

1) Is the Agreement in effect? 

No. At Paris, the countries took a major step to adopt. They still need to take steps so that it takes effect.  Adoption is the formal act that establishes the form and content of an agreement. The Paris Agreement comprises a number of key decisions about what’s necessary for the Agreement to enter into force. 

They also agreed on a process for how countries will finalize their current national climate plans and shift them from being Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).   

2) When will the Agreement come into effect?

Only after at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC representing at least 55 percent of total global greenhouse gases sign on and indicate their consent to be bound will the Agreement “enter into force,” meaning it will come into effect and be legally binding.

After entry into force, the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement will be held. This meeting will adopt many of the more detailed rules and procedures necessary to make the Agreement effective. 

3) What’s the timeline for countries to ratify the Agreement? 

A high level meeting on April 22, 2016 at the United Nations in New York all Heads State can sign the Agreement at a high-level signing ceremony.  The Agreement will then be open for signature for one year, until April 21, 2017. 

While signing indicates a commitment, a signature alone does not mean that a country becomes a “Party” to the Paris Agreement. Joining the Paris Agreement follows a two-step process: countries must sign the Agreement, and then also indicate their consent to join and be bound by it as Parties.  

4) What does the consent to be bound and become Parties entail?

Most countries will sign the Agreement “subject to ratification, acceptance and approval,” making their signature conditional on obtaining the required domestic approval for joining the Agreement.

When a country fulfils its necessary domestic processes, it will come back and deposit an “instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval.” This is a formal document indicating that it has completed all necessary processes and can now join the Agreement. This can be done as soon after signing as a country chooses, and there is no time limit for when countries submit these forms.  

5) Can Parties still join the Paris Agreement after April 22, 2017 if they didn’t sign it before then?

Yes. After the one-year signing period, the Agreement will be open for what is called “accession.” Accession is simply the term for when a country becomes a Party to an international agreement that other countries have already signed. Depositing an instrument of accession after April 22, 2017 will have the same legal effect as if that country had signed and deposited an instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval.

6) So when will the Paris Agreement actually enter into force?

The Paris Agreement will be in full legal force and effect when at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC that account for at least 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. 

At this point in time, it is not possible to accurately predict when this will occur, as it depends on how quickly individual countries are able to complete their domestic approval processes. 

While a range of country combinations exist, based on the most recent emissions data communicated by countries to the UNFCCC, analysis shows that the 55 percent threshold cannot be achieved without the acceptance of at least one of the top four emitting Parties, China, the United States, the European Union, or Russia. 

Paris Agreement – Some key decisions

Paris Agreement – Some key decisions

The Agreement ushers a new era of international action on climate change.

Clear pathway for future emissions

Unlike previous agreements, the Paris Agreement sets out concrete plans as part of a continuous process to “hold global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

  • As from 2020 and every five years after that, every country will submit a national climate action plan with more stringent commitments. 
  • Every five years, a collective “Global Stocktake” will assess implementation level and progress.
  • As a long-term goal, countries commit to aim for net-zero emissions in the second half of this century.
  • Universal and harmonized accounting, reporting and verification requirements will hold all countries accountable for meeting their intended emissions-reduction targets, while also building the capacity of developing countries to do so.
  • An expert committee will facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of the Agreement.

Recognition of the risks of climate impacts

Previous international climate agreements focused solely on mitigation. The Paris Agreement provides equal attention to building resilience in all countries, especially the most vulnerable.

  • A long-term goal should enhance adaptive capacity and strengthen resilience.
  • Under the Agreement, every country will engage in adaptation planning processes to address long-term impacts.
  • The Agreement mandates a balance in finance between adaptation and mitigation, ensuring that adaptation funds will grow.
  • The Agreement aims at averting and minimizing the loss and damage associated with the effects of climate change and makes permanent a mechanism to address those issues. 

Shifting finance toward low-carbon, sustainable development.

The Agreement’s key financial components provide a signal to international financial institutions, UN agencies and governments that the integration of climate risk into their business plans is now the norm.

  • Finance flows should be consistent with low–carbon, climate-resilient development. 
  • Developed countries will continue to take the lead on providing climate finance, but that the contributor pool will expand over time to include more countries. 
  • All countries will report their finance provided and received, providing greater clarity on where financial flows are going

Building on a strong foundation

The Agreement builds on recent progress as over 188 countries have put forward climate action plans. Some 114 companies have committed to set science-based emissions-reduction targets. More than 400 cities have committed to ambitious emissions-reduction efforts.  Paris is an inspiration—not just for climate action, but for international cooperation on so many issues.

El Nino should be near its peak

El Niño should be near its peak

Based on past experience, scientists predict that the 2015–2016 El Niño may have probably reached its peak. Warmer-than-average waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean should start to cool off and shift westward.
By May/June, the tropical Pacific might be back in a neutral state or La Niña cooling could kick in, as it did after major El Niños of the past, especially in 1998 and 1983. But will the ocean respond in 2016 the way it did in 1998 and 1983, given that the planet was hotter than any time in the past 135 years?
In parts of tropical Pacific Ocean, water temperatures broke a record in December 2015. Sea surface temperatures averaged 2.38° Celsius above the norm, surpassing December 1997, which was 2.24°C above normal.

The maps below show conditions in the middle of each of the past 13 months as El Niño has developed.

The measurements come from satellite altimeter showing averaged sea surface height anomalies. Shades of red indicate where the ocean stood higher than the normal sea level; warmer water expands to fill more volume. Shades of blue show where sea level and temperatures were lower than average (water contraction). Normal sea-level conditions appear in white. (NASA, January 2016)

2015 was the warmest year ever recorded on Earth

2015 was the warmest year ever recorded on Earth

The globally averaged temperatures from January through December 2015 were 0.87 degrees Celsius above the norm (defined as a 1951–1980 base period). The previous record—set last year—was 0.74°C above the norm. 2015 was more than 1°C warmer than temperatures in 1880, when consistent record-keeping began.
Regionally, 2015 was the second warmest year on record for the United States, Africa, and Europe. It was the warmest year for Asia and South America. Globally, new monthly temperature records were set in every month except January and April.
The map is drawn from data acquired from roughly 6,300 meteorological stations around the world; by ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature; and by Antarctic research stations. The global observation is coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation.
The 2015 temperature record continues a long-term warming trend that has largely been driven by increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere. Most of the warming has occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.

Phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the tropical Pacific Ocean, can contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. The graph shows temperature trends in relation to El Niño and La Niña events.
In the past, the highest global temperature records were often set in El Niño years, which suggests that 2016—with El Niño going strong as of mid-January—appears likely to be another very warm year.

Climate change is the challenge of the generation. Now is the time to act on climate. (NASA, January 2016)

Indian Ocean key in pause in global warming?

PUZZLING GLOBAL WARMING 'PAUSE' WAS ILLUSION

In its 2013 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had reported that the rate of warming was less in the latest 15 years than it was in the previous 30 to 60 years. The apparent pause in global warming might have been a temporary mirage, according to recent NOAA analysis.

Researchers using global data have found that average temperatures have continued to rise throughout the first part of the 21st century. They used data from a correction to ocean-temperature readings, to account for differences in measurements from ships and buoys as well as new land-based monitoring stations that extend into the Arctic — an area where observations are sparse. The updated NOAA dataset also includes observations from 2013 and 2014; the latter ranked as the warmest year on record. The analysis follows a series of papers that sought to explain why global temperatures seemed to level off around the turn of the millennium.

The research has confirmed that there was no true ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming.

Climate models used by the IPCC still project warming to continue, but scientists have documented various factors for which the models have not accounted, resulting in suppressed temperatures. These contributors include weak solar irradiation, volcanic aerosols that block sunlight and ocean circulation. (Nature)

INDIAN OCEAN MAY BE KEY TO GLOBAL WARMING 'HIATUS'

Upper ocean may be storing heat, giving atmosphere a break. Scientists have long suspected that oceans have played a crucial role in the so-called warming hiatus by storing heat trapped in the atmosphere by rising levels of greenhouse gases. But pinpointing exactly which ocean acts as a global air conditioner has proved challenging.

The Indian Ocean may explain the puzzling pause in global warming. A study finds that the Indian Ocean may hold more than 70% of all heat absorbed by the upper ocean in the past decade.

Prior research suggested that a significant amount of heat moves from the atmosphere into the Pacific Ocean, where La Niña-like conditions have dominated since the turn of the century.

As a result, wind patterns and ocean currents have increased the drawdown of warm surface waters in the subtropics. This process and others enhance ocean heat uptake. Scientists could not find the extra heat beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. In fact the upper 700 metres of the Pacific have actually cooled in recent years.

THE MISSING HEAT

Using computer models, scientists found that easterly trade winds have strengthened during the hiatus, causing warm water to pile up in the western Pacific. The water seeps between the islands of Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean, through the Makassar Strait bringing heat with it.

In the model, this surge of water produces dramatic warming in the upper Indian Ocean starting in the early 2000s. This explanation also fits with measurements of flow through the Makassar Strait which increased over the same period of time.

Changing patterns of trade winds and ocean currents have stored heat in the Indian Ocean which has been observed. The measurements were for the upper 700 metres of the ocean. However, there is evidence that a significant part of the heat has been going down into the mid and deeper layers which were not accounted for in the study. Other studies have also implicated warming in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. The challenge is to understand the energy imbalance of the Earth.


Indian Ocean key in pause in global warming?

PUZZLING GLOBAL WARMING 'PAUSE' WAS ILLUSION

In its 2013 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had reported that the rate of warming was less in the latest 15 years than it was in the previous 30 to 60 years. The apparent pause in global warming might have been a temporary mirage, according to recent NOAA analysis.

Researchers using global data have found that average temperatures have continued to rise throughout the first part of the 21st century. They used data from a correction to ocean-temperature readings, to account for differences in measurements from ships and buoys as well as new land-based monitoring stations that extend into the Arctic — an area where observations are sparse. The updated NOAA dataset also includes observations from 2013 and 2014; the latter ranked as the warmest year on record. The analysis follows a series of papers that sought to explain why global temperatures seemed to level off around the turn of the millennium.

The research has confirmed that there was no true ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming.

Climate models used by the IPCC still project warming to continue, but scientists have documented various factors for which the models have not accounted, resulting in suppressed temperatures. These contributors include weak solar irradiation, volcanic aerosols that block sunlight and ocean circulation. (Nature)

INDIAN OCEAN MAY BE KEY TO GLOBAL WARMING 'HIATUS'

Upper ocean may be storing heat, giving atmosphere a break. Scientists have long suspected that oceans have played a crucial role in the so-called warming hiatus by storing heat trapped in the atmosphere by rising levels of greenhouse gases. But pinpointing exactly which ocean acts as a global air conditioner has proved challenging.

The Indian Ocean may explain the puzzling pause in global warming. A study finds that the Indian Ocean may hold more than 70% of all heat absorbed by the upper ocean in the past decade.

Prior research suggested that a significant amount of heat moves from the atmosphere into the Pacific Ocean, where La Niña-like conditions have dominated since the turn of the century.

As a result, wind patterns and ocean currents have increased the drawdown of warm surface waters in the subtropics. This process and others enhance ocean heat uptake. Scientists could not find the extra heat beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. In fact the upper 700 metres of the Pacific have actually cooled in recent years.

THE MISSING HEAT

Using computer models, scientists found that easterly trade winds have strengthened during the hiatus, causing warm water to pile up in the western Pacific. The water seeps between the islands of Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean, through the Makassar Strait bringing heat with it.

In the model, this surge of water produces dramatic warming in the upper Indian Ocean starting in the early 2000s. This explanation also fits with measurements of flow through the Makassar Strait which increased over the same period of time.

Changing patterns of trade winds and ocean currents have stored heat in the Indian Ocean which has been observed. The measurements were for the upper 700 metres of the ocean. However, there is evidence that a significant part of the heat has been going down into the mid and deeper layers which were not accounted for in the study. Other studies have also implicated warming in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. The challenge is to understand the energy imbalance of the Earth.


International Day for Biological Diversity 2015

International Day for Biological Diversity 2015: Biodiversity for Sustainable Development

 

This year’s theme - Biodiversity for Sustainable Development - reflects the importance of efforts made at all levels to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda for the period of 2015-2030 and the relevance of biodiversity for the achievement of sustainable development.

 

The selection of the theme also underlines the adoption of the Gangwon Declaration, by ministers and participants to the High-level Segment of the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Gangwon Declaration called for the further integration and mainstreaming of biodiversity in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Climate change - brief history

Climate Change-Key milestones, scientific discoveries, technical innovations and political action.

1712 - British ironmonger Thomas Newcomen invents the first widely used steam engine, paving the way for the Industrial Revolution and industrial scale use of coal.

1800 - World population reaches one billion.

1824 - French physicist Joseph Fourier describes the Earth's natural "greenhouse effect". He writes: "The temperature [of the Earth] can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light finds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in re-passing into the air when converted into non-luminous heat."

1861 - Irish physicist John Tyndall shows that water vapour and certain other gases create the greenhouse effect. "This aqueous vapour is a blanket more necessary to the vegetable life of England than clothing is to man," he concludes. More than a century later, he is honoured by having a prominent UK climate research organisation - the Tyndall Centre - named after him.

1886 - Karl Benz unveils the Motorwagen, often regarded as the first true automobile.

1896 - Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius concludes that industrial-age coal burning will enhance the natural greenhouse effect. He suggests this might be beneficial for future generations. His conclusions on the likely size of the "man-made greenhouse" are in the same ballpark - a few degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2 - as modern-day climate models.

1900 - Another Swede, Knut Angstrom, discovers that even at the tiny concentrations found in the atmosphere, CO2 strongly absorbs parts of the infrared spectrum. Although he does not realise the significance, Angstrom has shown that a trace gas can produce greenhouse warming.

1927 - Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reach one billion tonnes per year.

1930 - Human population reaches two billion.

1938 - Using records from 147 weather stations around the world, British engineer Guy Callendar shows that temperatures had risen over the previous century. He also shows that CO2 concentrations had increased over the same period, and suggests this caused the warming. The "Callendar effect" is widely dismissed by meteorologists.

1955 - Using a new generation of equipment including early computers, US researcher Gilbert Plass analyses in detail the infrared absorption of various gases. He concludes that doubling CO2 concentrations would increase temperatures by 3-4C.

1957 - US oceanographer Roger Revelle and chemist Hans Suess show that seawater will not absorb all the additional CO2 entering the atmosphere, as many had assumed. Revelle writes: "Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment..

1958 - Using equipment he had developed himself, Charles David (Dave) Keeling begins systematic measurements of atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa in Hawaii and in Antarctica. Within four years, the project - which continues today - provides the first unequivocal proof that CO2 concentrations are rising.

1960 - Human population reaches three billion.

1965 - A US President's Advisory Committee panel warns that the greenhouse effect is a matter of "real concern".

1972 - First UN environment conference, in Stockholm. Climate change hardly registers on the agenda, which centres on issues such as chemical pollution, atomic bomb testing and whaling. The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) is formed as a result.

1975 - Human population reaches four billion.

1975 - US scientist Wallace Broecker puts the term "global warming" into the public domain in the title of a scientific paper.

1987 - Human population reaches five billion

The CO2 concentration, as measured at Mauna Loa, has risen steadily

1990 - IPCC produces First Assessment Report. It concludes that temperatures have risen by 0.3-0.6C over the last century, that humanity's emissions are adding to the atmosphere's natural complement of greenhouse gases, and that the addition would be expected to result in warming.

1992 - At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, governments agree the United Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its key objective is "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system". Developed countries agree to return their emissions to 1990 levels.

1995 - IPCC Second Assessment Report concludes that the balance of evidence suggests "a discernible human influence" on the Earth's climate. This has been called the first definitive statement that humans are responsible for climate change.

1997 - Kyoto Protocol agreed. Developed nations pledge to reduce emissions by an average of 5% by the period 2008-12, with wide variations on targets for individual countries. US Senate immediately declares it will not ratify the treaty.

1998 - Strong El Nino conditions combine with global warming to produce the warmest year on record. The average global temperature reached 0.52C above the mean for the period 1961-90 (a commonly used baseline).

1998 - Publication of the controversial "hockey stick" graph indicating that modern-day temperature rise in the northern hemisphere is unusual compared with the last 1,000 years. The work would later be the subject of two enquiries instigated by the US Congress.

Rajendra Pachauri's IPCC netted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007

1999 - Human population reaches six billion.

2001 - President George W Bush removes the US from the Kyoto process.

2001 - IPCC Third Assessment Report finds "new and stronger evidence" that humanity's emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause of the warming seen in the second half of the 20th Century.

2005 - The Kyoto Protocol becomes international law for those countries still inside it.

2005 - UK Prime Minister Tony Blair selects climate change as a priority for his terms as chair of the G8 and president of the EU.

2006 - The Stern Review concludes that climate change could damage global GDP by up to 20% if left unchecked - but curbing it would cost about 1% of global GDP.

2006 - Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and industry reach eight billion tonnes per year.

2007 - The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report concludes it is more than 90% likely that humanity's emissions of greenhouse gases are responsible for modern-day climate change.

2007 - The IPCC and former US vice-president Al Gore receive the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

2007 - At UN negotiations in Bali, governments agree the two-year "Bali roadmap" aimed at hammering out a new global treaty by the end of 2009.

2008 - Half a century after beginning observations at Mauna Loa, the Keeling project shows that CO2 concentrations have risen from 315 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to 380ppm in 2008.

2008 - Two months before taking office, incoming US president Barack Obama pledges to "engage vigorously" with the rest of the world on climate change.

2009 - China overtakes the US as the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter - although the US remains well ahead on a per-capita basis.

2009 - Computer hackers download a huge tranche of emails from a server at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and release some on the internet, leading to the "ClimateGate" affair.

2009 - 192 governments convene for the UN climate summit in Copenhagen with expectations of a new global agreement high; but they leave only with a controversial political declaration, the Copenhagen Accord.

2010 - Developed countries begin contributing to a $30bn, three-year deal on "Fast Start Finance" to help them "green" their economies and adapt to climate impacts.

2010 - A series of reviews into "ClimateGate" and the IPCC ask for more openness, but clear scientists of malpractice.

2010 - The UN summit in Mexico does not collapse, as had been feared, but ends with agreements on a number of issues.

2011 - A new analysis of the Earth's temperature record by scientists concerned over the "ClimateGate" allegations proves the planet's land surface really has warmed over the last century.

2011 - Human population reaches seven billion.

2011 - Data shows concentrations of greenhouse gases are rising faster than in previous years.

2012 - Arctic sea ice reaches a minimum extent of 3.41 million sq km (1.32 million sq mi), a record for the lowest summer cover since satellite measurements began in 1979.

2013 - The Mauna Loa Observatory on Hawaii reports that the daily mean concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958.

2013 - The first part of the IPCC's fifth assessment report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the "dominant cause" of global warming since the 1950s.

2015 – Negotiations towards reaching a legally binding instrument on reduction of carbon emissions. All nations have been invited to voluntarily submit their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) towards achieving the objective of the Convention. All Parties have also been invited to consider communicating their undertakings in adaptation planning or consider including an adaptation component in their intended nationally determined contributions. Switzerland was the first country to submit its INDC.

Heavy loss of species due to climate change

Heavy loss of species due to climate change

Studies found that if temperature is to rise by 2°C since pre-industrial times, global extinction risk will rise from 2.8% today to 5.2%.

At the current pace of carbon emissions, a rise of 4°C will lead to an extinction rate of 16% that is 1 in 6.

Populations of vertebrate species have halved since 1970 (WWF-UK’s Living Planet Report).
Amphibians face a number of threats to their survival

Many species will adapt to climate change by shifting their ranges but others will not either because their habitat has disappeared or because they cannot reach their habitat anymore.
Higher extinction risks are predicted for Australia, New Zealand and South America, where there are many species adapted to live in habitats not found elsewhere. In South America, the extinction risk was estimated to be 23%,

Unfortunately, this higher number projected might better reflect the number of species that might go extinct due to climate change globally.
Global extinction risk from climate change might be even higher than 16%, if we consider how the world's species are distributed, given that the majority of studies analysed were from Europe and North America, where extinction risks are lower.

(BBC, Science)