TIME enivronment

This App Shows How Climate Change Is Affecting the World Around You

You may live closer to a earthquake zone than you think

You’ve heard about what climate change is doing the arctic and to the sea levels around the world. But sometimes it can be hard to understand what’s happening in your own backyard. A new app called Field Notes shows you just that.

The free app, manufactured by tech mapping company Esri, is part of a broader effort by the company to put data about people, climate and geography at your fingertips.

Take data on the location of TIME’s office in New York City. The app tells me that our office is located in a warm zone and, by 2050, it’s expected to get much warmer. The nearest earthquake zone is 240 miles (386 km) away and the nearest volcano more than 1,100 miles (1,770 km) away. Unsurprisingly, the app tell me, the soil isn’t great for growing crops. You can get the same data, and more, for any location on the globe.

“If you’re interested in engaging and understanding, this gives you a very quick basis to do that,” said Charlie Frye, chief cartographer.

The app, available for both iPhones and Androids, builds on the desktop version of the mapping technology, called the Eco Tapestry Map, which offers an even more in-depth view of world ecosystems. And while it’s fun to get a sense of what’s going on in your backyard, the map also sheds light on the impact of climate change where its effects have been most damaging.

Read More: Why Some California Cities Are Bracing for a Bear Invasion

Take the drought in California, for instance. Esri’s map shows how diverse climates co-exist in the state—from desert areas like Death Valley to temperate rainforests. And, while California is a large state, each climate exists side by side with other drastically different climates, making it difficult for endemic species to move in search of water without leaving their natural habitat.

The project originated from a partnership between Esri and a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who hoped to show how different layers like bioclimate, landforms and land cover combine to form the world’s “ecological tapestry.” Esri, which provides mapping technology for a variety of uses, helped utilize the technology to describe the whole world in quantitative terms.

“One of the things that’s been lacking before this map came out is this sort of common language way of talking about the eco-system at a higher level,” said Sean Breyer, content program manager at Esri.

Esri scientists have directed their work with Field Notes to help consumers understand the world around them, but the company’s environmental work also has implications for governments, academics and policymakers. The White House, for instance, has partnered with the company to provide tools that will allow local communities to prepare for the worst of climate change.

TIME climate change

U.S. Flood Risk Could Be Worse Than We Thought

flooding climate change
Getty Images

A new study looks at what happens when storm surge occurs at the same time as high rain fall

The way scientists have traditionally analyzed storm surge and heavy rainfall, the two main drivers of flooding in coastal communities, may underestimate flood risk in the United States, according to new research.

In the past, disaster experts have used analyzed storm surges and high rainfall separately to define flood zones and devise preparedness plans. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that this method underestimates the risk of storm surges and high rainfall occurring at the same time. The number of these so-called compound events has increased over the past 100 years, researchers found.

New York City, for instance, has experienced an increase in the number of compound events with both storm surge and high precipitation in recent years, a change researchers write can be attributed to “storm surge weather patterns that also [favor] high precipitation.” Overall, a reevaluation of potential flooding scenarios that includes the possibility of compound events more than doubled odds of flooding in the city.

“Usually it requires an extreme storm surge to cause flooding or an extreme rainfall event,” said study author Thomas Wahl, a researcher at the University of South Florida. “But the combination of two events that are not really extreme on their own may cause larger damages than one of the two events alone.”

Read More: This Factor Predicts What People Think About Climate Change

The risk of these compound events varies greatly from city to city, according to the study. Cities most prone to hurricanes and other large storms on the East and Gulf coasts are more vulnerable than their West coast counterparts, for instance.

Researchers note that while the new research looks at storm surge and precipitation, long-term sea level rise remains the biggest driver of increased flood risk. A study released last week suggests that sea levels may rise by 10 feet above current levels within the next century. The estimates, which would make places like New York City and London uninhabitable, significantly exceed those by the widely-respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and have been met with skepticism by many climate scientists.

“Continued high emissions would result in multi-meter sea level rise this century and lock in continued ice sheet disintegration such that building cities or rebuilding cities on coast lines would become foolish,” Hansen wrote in a statement accompanying his paper.

TIME climate change

Companies To Invest $140 Billion To Fight Climate Change

The White House organized this large private-sector commitment

More than a dozen leading U.S. companies have committed to investing a total of $140 billion in new funds to combat climate change in a White House-organized effort meant to demonstrate the private sector’s commitment to the issue, the White House announced Monday.

The initiative, the latest in a series of White House moves on climate change, signals the continued effort by the administration to position global warming as a major issue in the lead up to a landmark United Nations conference on climate change in Paris at the end of the year.

“They’re not just committing to support a successful outcome in Paris, they’re walking the walk,” said Brian Deese, the president’s senior climate change advisor, on a conference call for journalists. “Commitments are varied, but the thing they all share is that they’re innovative and ambitious.”

The list of companies committing money and resources to fighting climate change contains many of the country’s most prominent corporations, including retailers, banks and tech companies. And, while many have made previous efforts to combat climate change, the announcements contains new commitments from each of the 13 companies. Financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have committed to financing billions of dollars in renewable energy plants. Tech companies like Google and Microsoft committed to purchasing 100% of the energy for their power-hungry data centers from renewable energy sources, in addition to a variety of other commitments. Companies like Walmart and Pepsico have agreed to rethink elements of their supply chain in an environmentally conscious manner.

“What’s exciting about this is these commitments are new and push beyond what has been done,” said Deese. “They are accountable, measurable and verifiable.”

Read More: Here’s Where to Buy a House In the U.S. That Will Be Resilient to Climate Change

The announcement also suggests an increased acceptance in the business community to the realities of climate change. The companies total revenue topped $1.3 trillion in 2014, and they have a combined value of more than $2.5 trillion. Still, the list of companies notably lacks an oil company, and it remains to be seen whether one will join the initiative in a future round of pledges. In response to a question on that topic, Deese said that he expects to see “substantial support from across different industry sectors” in the coming months.

The announcement, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes just months before a United Nations conference on climate change in Paris that many hope will lead to the strongest international agreement on the issue yet. Obama has sought to position the U.S. a leader on climate change in the lead up to that conference, committing to cut carbon emissions in the U.S. by 26 to 28% by 2025.

“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate,” Obama said at the UN climate summit last September.

TIME climate change

This Factor Predicts What People Think About Climate Change

climate change protest
Getty Images

Education affects climate change beliefs differently if you live in the U.S.

Around the world, people with higher levels of education are more likely to understand climate change than their less-educated counterparts, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Using data collected by Gallup from 119 countries, researchers found that education level was a key determinant of climate change risk perceptions in 62% of countries around the world. But all bets are off when it comes to education and views of climate change in the United States, along with a select few English speaking countries. Political party and ideology predicted views of climate change in the U.S., not education alone. (Information on political ideology and climate change beliefs was not available for countries outside the U.S.)

“[For Americans] just having higher education does not mean that you understand or accept the science,” says study co-author Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “[Americans] who have attained higher education are better at cherry picking evidence that seems to validate what we already believe.”

Read More: How the Recession Accidentally Helped the Planet

Overall, different regions had vastly different levels of awareness of climate change. Two-thirds of people in Egypt, Bangladesh and Nigeria, for instance, had never heard of climate change, the study found. Still, many in developing countries who lacked formal knowledge of the concept said they had noticed changes in their local weather patterns indicative of climate change. The lack of climate change awareness in developing countries should be of particular concern because many of those countries have been deemed more vulnerable to environmental changes. “If you don’t know you’re at risk, you’re even more at risk because you can’t possibly be taking the actions to prepare,” says Leiserowitz.

Global public awareness about climate change could also play a role in negotiations for a global treaty on climate change at a United Nations conference on the issue later this year. Public support for an agreement will help countries to follow through on commitments made at the summit, Leiserowitz said.

“It won’t be some top-down commandment from a legally binding treaty from the UN making everybody do it,” he says. “It’s going to be national dynamics where each government commits to doing this and then they have to get people onboard to support those policies.”

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Pledges to Install 500 Million Solar Panels if Voted President

“We are on the cusp of a new era”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday made tackling climate change one of her key goals were she to enter the White House, pledging to have more than half a billion solar panels installed nationwide by the end of her first term in office.

Clinton also called for a major increase in other renewable-energy sources, saying she wants every U.S. home to be powered by clean energy within a decade, reports Reuters.

“I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency,” she said at a weekend rally in Iowa. “And I’ve got to tell you, people who argue against this are just not paying attention.”

The two goals were unveiled in a video posted to Clinton’s campaign website Sunday, and are part of a comprehensive agenda on climate change that will be laid out over the next few months.

“We are on the cusp of a new era,” she said in the campaign video. “We can have more choice in the energy we consume and produce.”

According to the former Secretary of State’s campaign, her climate-change agenda will increase output of solar energy by 700% by the end of the decade.

On Monday, the presidential candidate will explain her clean energy plan in more detail at a tour of an energy-efficient transit station in Des Moines, Iowa.

[Reuters]

TIME climate change

How the Recession Accidentally Helped the Planet

A new study finds offers new understanding of what caused the decline in carbon emissions

From the White House to the ivory tower, climate change experts have cited a 10% decline in carbon emissions in the United States as a sign that the country is on the right track to reducing emissions. Increased reliance on natural gas has been cited as the cause of the improvement.

But new research suggests carbon emissions declined largely as a result of a drop in economic activity during the Great Recession. Overall, the economic downturn led to more than 80% of the total reduction in carbon emissions between 2007 and 2009, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.

The finding casts doubt on the ability of policymakers to encourage reduced emissions while also growing the economy, says study author Dr. Klaus Hubacek, an ecological economist at the University of Maryland. Whether it’s possible to do both at the same time has been central to the debate over climate-change policy.

“The higher the income, the higher the carbon emissions per capita,” Hubacek says. “One has to think about what increase in income can we afford in a world that has a finite capacity to absorb carbon.”

Read more: Here’s Where to Buy a House In the U.S. That Will Be Resilient to Climate Change

Economic growth fueled 71% of the increase in carbon emissions between 1997 and 2007, according to the study. Researchers attribute the remainder of the emissions spike during that period to population growth. Between 2007 and 2009, 83% of the decrease in carbon emission can be attributed to economic decline. The remaining 17% was the result of changing energy sources, the study found.

Between 2009 and 2013, during the economic recovery, the decrease in carbon emissions amounted to less than 1%, a decline that can be attributed to a variety of origins.

The research casts a new light on the Obama administration’s ambitious goal of dramatically reducing carbon emissions in the coming decades. Officials frequently cite the emissions reduction of the last decade as the first step in long-lasting improvement. The White House has said the U.S. will decrease carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

In response to an inquiry about the study, the White House attributed the decline in green house emissions to “first-term policies that increased renewable energy and vehicle fuel economy, as well as energy market factors.”

TIME climate change

The First Half of 2015 Was the Hottest Ever

It's been a hot one

Correction appended, July 22, 2015

 

The average temperature around the globe was 1.58°F (0.88°C) higher than the 20th century average during the first six months of 2015, making it the hottest start to the year in the era of modern record keeping.

The announcement, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is the latest news showing record temperatures across the planet in recent years. The 2015 record easily surpassed a record for high temperatures in the first six months of the year set last year. The record highs occurred on both land and in oceans.

 

global surface temperature
Courtesy of NOAA

In the month of June, the entire world was warmer than average with the exception of the area in the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and the United Kingdom. Scientists noted record warmth in Pacific areas along the ocean, in addition to other areas.

NOAA also notes that climate phenomenon El Niño, which began earlier this year, is expected to last into spring 2016. El Niño typically brings an onslaught of rain and raises global temperatures.

Read More: 2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the average temperature increase around the world in 2015 in Celsius. It was 0.88 degrees Celsius

TIME climate change

Arnold Schwarzenegger Named Environmental Advocate Ahead of U.N. Climate Meeting

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ken Ishii — Getty Images Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the Tokyo Premiere of 'Terminator Genisys' at the Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, on July 6, 2015

"Climate change is not science fiction"

Arnold Schwarzenegger has added climate change advocate to his resume.

The actor and former California governor has been selected by the French government to join Nobel Peace Prize winners, U.N. secretary generals and Pope Francis to advocate on behalf of the environment ahead of the U.N. climate change meeting in Paris in December.

“I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction, this is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now,” Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday at the first “summit of conscience for the climate.”

Schwarzenegger addressed an audience that included spiritual leaders from many religions, as well as climate change experts.

“I believe the science is in. The debate is over and the time for action is now,” Schwarzenegger continued. “This is bigger than any movie, this is the challenge of our time. And it is our responsibility to leave this world a better place than we found it, but right now we are failing future generations.”

TIME climate change

Arctic Sea Ice Rebounded—But the Melting Hasn’t Stopped

arctic ice melting
Getty Images

But scientists say you shouldn't call it a "recovery"

Arctic sea ice volume increased by more than a quarter after the summers of 2013 and 2014 as a result of unusually cool temperatures, a deviation from the general downward trend of ice levels, according to new research published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Researchers relied on satellite data to calculate the sea ice volume across the Arctic between 2010 and 2014. (Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole is entirely ocean, albeit frozen, and the sea ice generally expands in the winter and contracts in the summer.) The ice volume decreased by 14% between 2010 and 2012, but then shot up in 2013 and 2014. Ice volume had increased by 33% and 25% when measured in the fall of those two years than in the three years prior, according to the study.

Relatively cool temperatures in 2013 and less melting during summer months led to higher levels of ice. That year the summer was cooler in the Arctic than in 2012.

Read More: Here’s Where to Buy a House In the U.S. That Will Be Resilient to Climate Change

Researchers described the finding as a significant aberration, but one that doesn’t change the long-term melting of the Arctic sea ice. Summer Arctic sea ice has declined by about 40% since satellite measurements began in the 1970s. Now, the planet is headed for a “seasonally ice-free Arctic,” according to Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

“It’s not going to be a smooth transition. It’s going to be in fits and starts,” he said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

And while the researchers said the anomalies suggest that Arctic sea ice may be “more resilient than has been previously considered,” they were also quick to emphasize that the Arctic is not undergoing a broader recovery. “We don’t want it to be seen as any kind of recovery,” said study author Rachel Tilling, a researcher at University College London. “It really is just one anomalous year.”

In addition to affecting activities like oil and natural gas operations in the area, Arctic sea ice thickness and volume have the potential to influence the climate and weather in a number of ways, including ocean circulation and weather patterns.

“We hope that these measurements can help all these models that are used to predict future climate change,” said Tilling.

TIME Vatican

World Mayors Seek ‘Bold Climate Agreement’ at Vatican

Vatican Climate mayor gathering
Gregorio Borgia—AP Mayors gather in the Synod Hall to attend a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change at the Vatican on July 21, 2015.

The mayors are expected to sign a declaration stating that dealing with climate change is a "moral imperative"

(VATICAN CITY)—Dozens of mayors from around the world demanded Tuesday that their national leaders take bold steps at the Paris climate talks later this year, saying that may be the last chance to keep the warming of the Earth at levels safe for humanity.

Some 60 mayors selected because they support Pope Francis’ environmental message gathered Tuesday at the Vatican for a two-day conference to keep the pressure on world leaders ahead of the Paris negotiations in December. Francis last month released an environmental encyclical that denounced what he calls a fossil fuel-based world economy that exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.

The mayors are expected to sign a declaration later Tuesday that states that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity,” according to the final declaration seen by The Associated Press.

In his remarks to the meeting, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new greenhouse gas emissions targets for the Big Apple and urged other cities to follow suit.

“The Paris summit is just months away,” De Blasio said. “We need to see it as the finish line of a sprint, and take every local action we can in the coming months to maximize the chance that our national governments will act boldly.”

De Blasio is a founding member of an alliance of cities around the world that have committed to reducing their emissions by 80 percent by 2050 or sooner. He said New York was taking an interim step, committing to reducing its emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

The climax of Tuesday’s inaugural session was an afternoon audience with Pope Francis, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor.

Francis’ other main priority has been to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Vatican conference is aimed at showing how both are related: The exploitation of the Earth and its most vulnerable people, with global warming often responsible for creating “environmental refugees” forced to flee homes because of drought or other climate-induced natural disasters.

“Addressing both these phenomenon, climate change and modern slavery, is a herculean task for us as city administrators,” said Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India.

The final declaration calls for financial incentives to transition from using fossil fuels to using low-carbon and renewable energies and to shift public financing away from the military to “urgent investments” in sustainable development, with wealthy countries helping poorer ones.

And it says political leaders have a “special responsibility” at the Paris talks to approve a “bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives.”

Drawing rousing applause in one of the opening speeches, California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced global warming deniers who he said are “bamboozling” the public and politicians with false information to persuade them that the world isn’t getting warmer.

Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, urged the mayors to not be complacent in opposing climate deniers. California has enacted the toughest greenhouse gas emissions standards in North America.

“We have a very powerful opposition that, at least in my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” he said.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngaard said the Paris talks must take fossil fuels off the table and focus on other energy sources. Stockholm is one of the world’s leaders in using renewable energy sources, with 75 percent of the city’s public transport network runs on renewable energy. Wanngaard’s goal is to make the Swedish capital fossil fuel-free by 2040.

“Climate negotiators must dare to push boundaries and exclude fossil fuels as an option and reward solutions that are long-term sustainable and renewable,” she said.

Other mayors attending hail from Boston; Boulder, Colorado; Oslo, Norway; San Francisco and Vancouver. Experts have long said that cities are key to reducing global warming since urban areas account for nearly three-quarters of human emissions.

In addition to the climate declaration, mayors will be asked to sign a statement against human trafficking that was first penned by religious leaders at the Vatican last year.

The conference opened with two tearful testimonies by Mexican women who were trafficked for prostitution and forced labor.

“We are human beings,” said Ana Laura Perez Jaimes, who told of the 600 scars across her body she suffered when forced to work as a slave.

 

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