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Global Context

CLIMATE ADAPTATION / USE PLAIN LANGUAGE: “A lot of fantastic studies are misinterpreted outside of scientific circles because the language, style and meaning of science writing is very different to non-specialists,” stated Charles Axelsson, PhD candidate, University of Venice


“I have re-evaluated how I discuss my own research. I was taking some of the terminology for granted as it is repeated in the literature time and time again but words like ‘stormwater’, ‘rainwater’ and ‘drainage’ can have such powerful unconscious effects on how you interpret the discussions and they can mean different things to different stakeholders in the system. These terminology choices ultimately have a large effect in science communication and the message you intend to convey,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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AN UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCE OF A CHANGING CLIMATE: “The influence of plants has been overlooked before. This study highlights the vegetation impacts on Arctic warming under an elevated CO2 world,” said study co-author Jin-Soo Kim, a scientist at the University of Edinburgh


The Arctic is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet —and scientists still aren’t completely sure why. This is an emerging area of research, with the exact magnitude of the effects still unclear. As a result, the effect is not well-represented —if at all —in most climate models. “There’s a chance that some model projections could be underestimating future climate change, particularly in the Arctic. More research may clarify whether that’s actually the case and exactly how much plants are contributing to the warming that’s happening all over the globe,” stated Jin-Soo Kim.

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PREPARE FOR TOMORROW: “Stopping the spread of coronavirus is paramount, but climate action must also continue. And we can draw many lessons and opportunities from the current health crisis when tackling planetary warming,” stated Dr. Natasha Chassagne, University of Tasmania


“In many ways, what we’re seeing now is a rapid and unplanned version of economic ‘degrowth’ – the transition some academics and activists have for decades said is necessary to address climate change, and leave a habitable planet for future generations. Degrowth is a proposed slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits,” stated Dr. Natasha Chassagne.

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SINKING LAND AND RISING SEAS: Architects and planners from the Netherlands are advising coastal cities worldwide on how to live with water


‘For the Dutch, consulting with cities about their response to relative sea-level rise has become a growth industry. They’re the Silicon Valley of water management, a laboratory testing strategies that have evolved over the centuries. No wonder. Water has been both a daily threat and a national identity for a country about the size of Maryland. More than half the nation’s 17 million people live on land below sea level,” wrote Jim Morrison. “Rising seas threaten 10 percent of the world’s urban population so there’s never-ending demand.”

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AMAZON FIRES ARE CAUSING GLACIERS TO MELT EVEN FASTER: “Currently, the climate models used to predict the future melting of glaciers in the Andes do not incorporate black carbon; this is likely causing the rate of glacial melt to be underestimated in many current assessments,” wrote Matthew Harris, PhD Researcher, Keele University Ice Lab


“Despite being invisible to the naked eye, black carbon particles affect the ability of the snow to reflect incoming sunlight, a phenomenon known as “albedo”. Similar to how a dark-coloured car will heat up more quickly in direct sunlight when compared with a light-coloured one, glaciers covered by black carbon particles will absorb more heat, and thus melt faster,” stated Matthew Harris. “With communities reliant on glaciers for water, work examining complex forces like black carbon is needed more now than ever before.”

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WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM SEA LEVELS 125,000 YEARS IN THE PAST: “Our research reveals that ice melt in the last interglacial period caused global seas to rise about 10 metres above the present level. The ice melted first in Antarctica, then a few thousand years later in Greenland,” stated Dr. Fiona Hibbert, Australian National University


“What is striking about the last interglacial record is how high and quickly sea level rose above present levels. Temperatures during the last interglacial were similar to those projected for the near future, which means melting polar ice sheets will likely affect future sea levels far more dramatically than anticipated to date,” stated Fiona Hibbert. “This means that if climate change continues unabated, Earth’s past dramatic sea level rise could be a small taste of what’s to come.”

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EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA IS ABLAZE: “Whatever the successes and failures in this crisis, it is likely that we will have to rethink the way we plan and prepare for wildfires in a hotter, drier and more flammable world,” conclude Ross Bradstock and Rachael Helene Nolan (November 2019)


Large fires have happened before. But this latest extraordinary situation raises many questions. It is as if many of the major fires in the past are now being rerun concurrently. What is unprecedented is the size and number of fires rather than the seasonal timing. Typically wet parts of the landscape have literally evaporated, allowing fire to spread unimpeded. It is no coincidence current fires correspond directly with hotspots of record low rainfall and above-average temperatures.

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HOW SCIENTISTS GOT CLIMATE CHANGE SO WRONG: “Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios,” wrote Eugene Linden in an opinion piece in the New York Times (November 2017)


“The word ‘upended’ does not do justice to the revolution in climate science wrought by the discovery of sudden climate change. The realization that the global climate can swing between warm and cold periods in a matter of decades or even less came as a profound shock to scientists who thought those shifts took hundreds if not thousands of years,” wrote Eugene Linden. “Even if scientists end up having lowballed their latest assessments….climate change is already here. And it is going to get worse. A lot worse.”

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Planting 1 Billion Hectares of Forest Could Help Check Global Warming: “Action is urgent, and governments must now factor this into their national strategies to tackle climate change,” stated Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (July 2019)


The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store. Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, also suggests that there is further potential to regrow trees in croplands and urban areas, highlighting the scope for agroforestry and city trees to play a significant role in tackling climate change.

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CARING FOR TOMORROW: Why haven’t we stopped climate change? We’re not wired to empathize with our descendants, says Dr. Jamil Zaki, director of the Stanford University Social Neuroscience Laboratory


“Empathy evolved as one of humans’ vital survival skills. It is only through our foray into the modern world that we have lost touch with our evolutionary empathy. Deeply empathic people tend to be environmentally responsible, but our caring instincts are short-sighted and dissolve across space and time, making it harder for us to deal with things that haven’t happened yet. Touching the past can connect us to the future, especially when we look back fondly,” wrote Jamil Zaki.

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