December 5, 2011

New Climate Change Studies Published As U.N. Talks Persist

A Swiss team has found that about three-quarters of the global warming seen since 1950 is due to human influences.

These findings, as well as a second report about increasing glacier loss in the Himalayas, comes as U.N. climate talks in South Africa goes underway.

Some of the main tasks facing U.N. members is to find an agreement on a 143-page draft text covering issues like speeding up emission cuts, safeguarding forests and helping the poorest countries protect themselves against climate impacts.

One European Union official suggested that the majority of governments favored beginning discussions on a new legally-binding agreement as soon as possible.

However, a number of other countries, including China, India and the U.S., are not on the same page.

As U.N. officials plan out their talks, new research published in the journal Nature Geoscience provides a new analysis of factors driving the Earth's warming since 1950.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are using information about the Earth's "energy balance" to provide new estimates of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and other human-induced factors.

They found that it is extremely likely that at least 74 percent of the observed warming since 1950 has been caused by man-made factors.

They also found that greenhouse warming has partially been offset by the cooling effect of aerosols.

Observations of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas region have been hard to come by due to the difficulty of doing science in remote areas.

However, the Kathmandu-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has released reports setting out what is known and unknown about climate change in the region.

The number of glaciers identified has risen above 54,000 due to satellite observations.  However, the report said that only 10 of these have been regularly and rigorously studied.

The study said that in these 10 that have been studied, the rate of ice loss has doubled since the 1980s.

The report concludes that more observations need to be made in order to make better projections of the future for the estimated 210 million people living in the region and the 1.3 billion living in river basins supplied by Himalayan meltwater.

Nature Climate Change journal has also published a new assessment of how greenhouse gas emissions have changed in recent years.

The Global Carbon Project conducted an international research collaboration that confirmed other analyses in showing that the financial crisis made but a small blip in the rising trend of emissions.

They found that during 2010, emissions grew by 5.9 percent, which compensated for the drop in emissions of 1.4 percent in 2009.

According to the research, emissions have risen faster in the past decade than any other time in the last 50 years.


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