Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

www.pik-potsdam.de
Potsdam, Germany

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research , is a government-funded research institute addressing crucial scientific questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development. Ranked among the top environmental think tanks worldwide, it is one of the leading research institutions and part of a global network of scientific and academic institutions working on questions of global environmental change. It is a member of the Leibniz Association, whose institutions perform research on subjects of high relevance to society. Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 23, 2017
Site: www.sej.org

"Scientists are expressing increasing skepticism that we’re going to be able to get out of the climate change mess by relying on a variety of large-scale land-use and technical solutions that have been not only proposed but often relied upon in scientific calculations. Two papers published last week debunk the idea of planting large volumes of trees to pull carbon dioxide out of the air — saying there just isn’t enough land available to pull it off — and also various other strategies for “carbon dioxide removal,” some of which also include massive tree plantings combined with burning their biomass and storing it below the ground. “Biomass plantations are always seen as a green kind of climate engineering because, you know, everybody likes trees,” said Lena Boysen, a climate researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, who led one of the new studies while a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “But we just want to show that that’s not the complete story. They cannot do that much.”" Chelsea Harvey reports for the Washington Post May 22, 2017.


News Article | May 28, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

U.S. President Donald and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Scott Pruitt both share the belief that the United States should exit the climate agreement, despite scientific evidence showing the country's huge contribution to carbon dioxide emissions. It is no secret that the Trump administration is not a fan of the Climate Change Agreement, which was signed by almost 200 countries in 2015, and Trump is already close to officially withdrawing from the deal. The pending decision is a cause for concern to many, especially scientists and experts who worked on models and predictions on what could really happen if Trump turns his back on climate change. The climate change agreement seeks to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels but, if the United States exits the deal, scientists and experts believe that the country could undo what other parts of the world are working hard to prevent. According to reports, the world already warmed more than half of the target and the United States is responsible for one-fifth of the emissions that led to the temperature rise. Scientists predict that the exit could lead to an additional 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, enough to ensure that the ice sheets and glaciers would melt faster and weather would become more extreme. Expert groups ran several simulations that would show the possible effects of the said exit. One group came up with a worst case scenario showing every other country but the United States lowering their emissions. The model showed that, by the end of the century, the country will have contributed a 0.3° C (0.54° F) temperature rise. Other similar simulations resulted between 0.1°C (0.18°F) and 0.2°C (0.36°F). "Developed nations - particularly the U.S. and Europe - are responsible for the lion's share of past emissions, with China now playing a major role... This means Americans have caused a large fraction of the warming," Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University climate scientist, claims. Some fear that more than the country's direct effect, Trump's actions could create a domino effect and other countries could follow suit. Not all agree with this, however. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Director John Schellnhuber believes that a U.S. exit would not have a great impact on the decision of other countries. "Ten years ago (a U.S. exit) would have shocked the planet... Today if the U.S. really chooses to leave the Paris agreement, the world will move on with building a clean and secure future," Schellnhuber said. While this could be true, Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe believes the United States is still a major influence because the country's choices after an exit would create ripple effects that will affect the world. Both make good points but, perhaps we should not forget that there are already many people within the United States who actively fight climate change, such as the state of California, which is keen on upholding its strict auto emission standards. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


Here’s what happened to global temperatures after the dinosaur-killing asteroid struck The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs wreaked apocolyptic havoc on Earth due to circumstance rather than size, scientists have argued. New research suggests the relatively minor nine-mile wide asteroid — equivalent to a grain of sand hitting a bowling ball — smashed into a huge lode of sulphur-rich rock, subsequently plunging the planet into a global winter and pulverising numerous species. Trending: 'Bureaucratic, weak and ineffective': How we can reform the World Health Organisation Scientists drilled a mile down into the 20-mile deep impact crater, located in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Yucatan peninsula, in a bid to further understand how the catastrophic end to the dinosaurs' 150 million year reign on earth came to such an abrupt end 68 million years ago.. The site, dubbed Chicxulub after its discovery by geologists in 1991, has long baffled scientists, who have so far unable to explain the ill-fitting scale of the impact — known to be 110 miles wide — compared to its catastrophic consequences. But, after analysing extract samples from the crater, the team, led by Sean Gulick, professor of geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin and Professor Joanna Morgan, of Imperial College London, believe an answer may have been found. "That asteroid struck Earth in a very unfortunate place," Gulick told The Sunday Times. Most popular: Uganda's iconic tree-climbing lions forced out in search for food "Had the asteroid struck moments earlier or later, it might have hit deep water in the Atlantic or Pacific. That would have meant much less vaporised rock. Sunlight could still have reached the planet's surface, meaning what happened next might have been avoided." Morgan added: "The samples suggest more than 100bn tons of sulphates were thrown into the atmosphere, plus soot from the fires that followed. "That would be enough to cool the planet for a decade and wipe out most life." As a consequence the global surface air temperature decreased by at least 26C, with three to 16 years of subfreezing temperatures and a recovery time longer than 30 years, a recent research paper from Julia Brugger, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, concludes. The results are to be revealed in the BBC2 documentary The Day the Dinosaurs Died, scheduled to air on Monday (15 May). This theory mirrors a hypothesis put forward by Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at Edinburgh University. In a 2014 report in the Biological Reviews, Brusatte found dinosaurs were faring well over at the time of impact. However, the strike coincided with a period in the dinosaur biodiversity timeline that reduced the plant eating herbivore types who could have survived the impact. Programme presenters, Professors Alice Roberts and Ben Garrod, gained unique access, in part due to being scientists themselves. Garrod, an evolutionary scientist, added: "Had the asteroid struck moments earlier or later, it might have hit deep water in the Atlantic or Pacific. That would have meant much less vaporised rock. Sunlight could still have reached the planet's surface, meaning what happened next might have been avoided." You may be interested in:


Gerten D.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | Year: 2013

This paper argues that the interplay of water, carbon and vegetation dynamics fundamentally links some global trends in the current and conceivable future Anthropocene, such as cropland expansion, freshwater use, and climate change and its impacts. Based on a review of recent literature including geographically explicit simulation studies with the process-based LPJmL global biosphere model, it demonstrates that the connectivity of water and vegetation dynamics is vital for water security, food security and (terrestrial) ecosystem dynamics alike. The water limitation of net primary production of both natural and agricultural plants - already pronounced in many regions - is shown to increase in many places under projected climate change, though this development is partially offset by water-saving direct CO2 effects. Natural vegetation can to some degree adapt dynamically to higher water limitation, but agricultural crops usually require some form of active management to overcome it - among them irrigation, soil conservation and eventually shifts of cropland to areas that are less water-limited due to more favourable climatic conditions. While crucial to secure food production for a growing world population, such human interventions in water-vegetation systems have, as also shown, repercussions on the water cycle. Indeed, land use changes are shown to be the second-most important influence on the terrestrial water balance in recent times. Furthermore, climate change (warming and precipitation changes) will in many regions increase irrigation demand and decrease water availability, impeding rainfed and irrigated food production (if not CO2 effects counterbalance this impact - which is unlikely at least in poorly managed systems). Drawing from these exemplary investigations, some research perspectives on how to further improve our knowledge of human-water-vegetation interactions in the Anthropocene are outlined. © Author(s) 2013. CC Attribution 3.0 License.


Muller C.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Annual Review of Nutrition | Year: 2013

Climate change impact assessments on agriculture are subject to large uncertainties, as demonstrated in the present review of recent studies for Africa. There are multiple reasons for differences in projections, including uncertainties in greenhouse gas emissions and patterns of climate change; assumptions on future management, aggregation, and spatial extent; and methodological differences. Still, all projections agree that climate change poses a significant risk to African agriculture. Most projections also see the possibility of increasing agricultural production under climate change, especially if suitable adaptation measures are assumed. Climate change is not the only projected pressure on African agriculture, which struggles to meet demand today and may need to feed an additional one billion individuals by 2050. Development strategies are urgently needed, but they will need to consider future climate change and its inherent uncertainties. Science needs to show how existing synergies between climate change adaptation and development can be exploited. © 2013 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


Feulner G.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Reviews of Geophysics | Year: 2012

For more than four decades, scientists have been trying to find an answer to one of the most fundamental questions in paleoclimatology, the "faint young Sun problem." For the early Earth, models of stellar evolution predict a solar energy input to the climate system that is about 25% lower than today. This would result in a completely frozen world over the first 2 billion years in the history of our planet if all other parameters controlling Earth's climate had been the same. Yet there is ample evidence for the presence of liquid surface water and even life in the Archean (3.8 to 2.5 billion years before present), so some effect (or effects) must have been compensating for the faint young Sun. A wide range of possible solutions have been suggested and explored during the last four decades, with most studies focusing on higher concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, or ammonia. All of these solutions present considerable difficulties, however, so the faint young Sun problem cannot be regarded as solved. Here I review research on the subject, including the latest suggestions for solutions of the faint young Sun problem and recent geochemical constraints on the composition of Earth's early atmosphere. Furthermore, I will outline the most promising directions for future research. In particular I would argue that both improved geochemical constraints on the state of the Archean climate system and numerical experiments with state-of-the-art climate models are required to finally assess what kept the oceans on the Archean Earth from freezing over completely. Copyright 2012 by the American Geophysical Union.


Feulner G.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Geophysical Research Letters | Year: 2011

Estimates for the total solar irradiance (TSI) during the 17th-century Maunder Minimum published in the last few years have pointed towards a TSI difference of 0.2-0.7 W m-2 as compared to the 2008/2009 solar minimum. Two recent studies, however, give anomalies which differ from this emerging consensus. The first study indicates an even smaller TSI difference, placing the Maunder Minimum TSI on the same level as the 2008/2009 minimum. The second study on the other hand suggests a very large TSI difference of 5.8 W m-2. Here I use coupled climate simulations to assess the implications of these two estimates on Northern-hemisphere surface air temperatures over the past millennium. Using a solar forcing corresponding to the estimate of the first study, simulated Northern-hemisphere temperatures over the past millennium are consistent with reconstructed surface air temperatures. The large TSI differences between times of high and low solar activity as suggested by the second study, however, yield temperatures during all past grand solar minima that are too low, an excessive variance in Northern-hemisphere temperature on timescales of 50-100 years as compared to reconstructions, and temperatures during the first half of the 20th century which are too low and inconsistent with the instrumental temperature record. In summary this suggests a more moderate TSI difference of less than 1 W m-2 and possibly as low as 0-0.3 W m-2. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.


Hinkel J.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Global Environmental Change | Year: 2011

The issue of " measuring" climate change vulnerability and adaptive capacity by means of indicators divides policy and academic communities. While policy increasingly demands such indicators an increasing body of literature criticises them. This misfit results from a twofold confusion. First, there is confusion about what vulnerability indicators are and which arguments are available for building them. Second, there is confusion about the kinds of policy problems to be solved by means of indicators. This paper addresses both sources of confusion. It first develops a rigorous conceptual framework for vulnerability indicators and applies it to review the scientific arguments available for building climate change vulnerability indicators. Then, it opposes this availability with the following six diverse types of problems that vulnerability indicators are meant to address according to the literature: (i) identification of mitigation targets; (ii) identification of vulnerable people, communities, regions, etc.; (iii) raising awareness; (iv) allocation of adaptation funds; (v) monitoring of adaptation policy; and (vi) conducting scientific research. It is found that vulnerability indicators are only appropriate for addressing the second type of problem but only at local scales, when systems can be narrowly defined and inductive arguments can be built. For the other five types of problems, either vulnerability is not the adequate concept or vulnerability indicators are not the adequate methodology. I conclude that both the policy and academic communities should collaboratively attempt to use a more specific terminology for speaking about the problems addressed and the methodologies applied. The one-size-fits-all vulnerability label is not sufficient. Speaking of " measuring" vulnerability is particularly misleading, as this is impossible and raises false expectations. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Fussel H.-M.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Global Environmental Change | Year: 2010

While it is generally asserted that those countries who have contributed least to anthropogenic climate change are most vulnerable to its adverse impacts some recently developed indices of vulnerability to climate change come to a different conclusion. Confirmation or rejection of this assertion is complicated by the lack of an agreed metric for measuring countries' vulnerability to climate change and by conflicting interpretations of vulnerability. This paper presents a comprehensive semi-quantitative analysis of the disparity between countries' responsibility for climate change, their capability to act and assist, and their vulnerability to climate change for four climate-sensitive sectors based on a broad range of disaggregated vulnerability indicators. This analysis finds a double inequity between responsibility and capability on the one hand and the vulnerability of food security, human health, and coastal populations on the other. This double inequity is robust across alternative indicator choices and interpretations of vulnerability. The main cause for the higher vulnerability of poor nations who have generally contributed little to climate change is their lower adaptive capacity. In addition, the biophysical sensitivity and socio-economic exposure of poor nations to climate impacts on food security and human health generally exceeds that of wealthier nations. No definite statement can be made on the inequity associated with climate impacts on water supply due to large uncertainties about future changes in regional water availability and to conflicting indicators of current water scarcity. The robust double inequity between responsibility and vulnerability for most climate-sensitive sectors strengthens the moral case for financial and technical assistance from those countries most responsible for climate change to those countries most vulnerable to its adverse impacts. However, the complex and geographically heterogeneous patterns of vulnerability factors for different climate-sensitive sectors suggest that the allocation of international adaptation funds to developing countries should be guided by sector-specific or hazard-specific criteria despite repeated requests from participants in international climate negotiations to develop a generic index of countries' vulnerability to climate change. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Coumou D.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research | Rahmstorf S.,Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Nature Climate Change | Year: 2012

The ostensibly large number of recent extreme weather events has triggered intensive discussions, both in- and outside the scientific community, on whether they are related to global warming. Here, we review the evidence and argue that for some types of extreme - notably heatwaves, but also precipitation extremes - there is now strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. For other types of extreme, such as storms, the available evidence is less conclusive, but based on observed trends and basic physical concepts it is nevertheless plausible to expect an increase. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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