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Environment
New research reveals the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions may be impeded by climate change. If an eruption is forceful enough, volcanoes spew sulfur gases about 10 to 15 kilometres above the Earth’s atmosphere, reaching a layer called the Stratosphere. The gases then react with water to form aerosol particles which stick around for one or two years. These particles reflect sunlight and heat from the sun and as a result cool the planet. On average there are three to five eruptions that make their way to the stratosphere every year. Previous research has shown that the warming of the planet causes the atmosphere to expand, making it more difficult for the gases to reach the stratosphere. At lower altitudes, in the troposphere, the gases change into aerosols and clouds and come back to earth as rain or snow. volcano_prof “Volcanic eruptions tend to counteract global warming but as the planet heats up and our atmosphere changes, we’ve found that fewer eruptions will be able to reflect the sun’s radiation,” said Thomas Aubry, a PhD student studying climate and volcanoes. “It will be harder for the volcanic gasses to reach high enough into atmosphere to help cool the planet.” Aubry said scientists have noticed a slight drop in the rate of global warming in the last 10 to 15 years while the planet continues to warm. Scientist believe this decline is due to the number of large eruptions over the last decade that have sent sulfur gases high up into the stratosphere. Aubry and his co-authors found that according to climate model projections and global warming, the amount of volcanic sulfur gases in the stratosphere will decline in the next century some where between two to 12 percent. This could result in reduction of sulfur gas in the atmosphere between 12-25 percent by the 22nd and 23rd centuries Nonetheless, further studies are needed in order to determine the precise impact on temperature change on the Earth. To determine the precise impact on the Earth’s surface temperature in the future, further studies are required. It also raises interesting questions about Earth’s history. “Understanding this positive feedback loop has provocative implications for understanding climate variability in Earth’s past,” said Professor Mark Jellinek, whose lab Aubry works in at the department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences. “In particular, this mechanism may have contributed to Earth’s entry into a long period of global glaciation around 700 million years ago, a theory known as the Snowball Earth hypothesis.”
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Environment
New UBC study finds global fisheries are at a risk of loosing close to $10 billion of their annual income by 2050, if climate change is left unchecked. According to the study the countries most dependent on fisheries for food will be the ones most effected. In a previous study, UBC’s Institute for Oceans and Fisheries found the effects of climate change including rise in temperatures, changes in ocean salinity, acidity and oxygen levels will likely result in decreased catches. “Developing countries most dependent on fisheries for food and revenue will be hardest hit,” said Vicky Lam, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and the study’s lead author. “It is necessary to implement better marine resource management plans to increase stock resilience to climate change.” To compensate the financial losses of fishing under climate change and to improve food security, many communities are leaning toward aquaculture, also known as fish farming, as a solution. However,  researchers found it may aggrevate the existing economic losses by further decreasing the price of seafood. “Climate adaptation programs such as aquaculture development may be seen as a solution,” said William Cheung, associate professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and a study co-author. “However, rather than easing the financial burden of fishing losses and improving food security, it may drive down the price of seafood, leading to further decreases in fisheries revenues.” Co-author Rashid Sumaila, professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and fisheries said global fisheries revenues add up to about $100 billion annually. Sumaila further added that their modelling shows that high emission scenario could result in an average 10 percent reduction in global fishing revenue, while a low emissions scenario could lead to a 7 percent decrease. Scientists found the most vulnerable countries to be the ones that highly rely on fish including island countries like Tokelau, Cayman Islands and Tuvalu. However, many developed countries like Greenland and Iceland could see increase in revenues as fish migrate to colder waters.
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Environment
New UBC study finds, a 10 percent increase in fish catches in coastal waters when high seas are closed off to fishing. This increase could help the most vulnerable cope with the expected losses of fish caused by climate change. “Many important fish stocks live in both the high seas and coastal waters. Effective management of high seas fisheries could benefit coastal waters in terms of productivity and help reduce climate change impacts,” said lead author William Cheung, associate professor and director of science of the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. The high seas cover close to two-thirds of the ocean’s surfaces and are outside the jurisdiction of any country. By using computer models, researchers used three different management scenarios to predict catches of 30 important fish stocks in 2050, living in both the high seas and coastal waters. The three different scenarios were as followed: international cooperation to manage fishing, closing the high seas to fishing, and maintaining the status quo. Strengthening governance and closing the high seas to fishing were found to increase resilience of coastal countries to climate change. This effect was especially noticed in tropical countries which are highly dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood. “The scenarios of closing the high seas may greatly reduce the issue of inequity of benefits and impacts among different countries under climate change,” said co-author Vicky Lam, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Countries in the South Pacific, Indo-Pacific, West African coast and west coast of central America are expected to be disproportionately impacted by climate change. According to previous UBC studies, these countries could face a 30 percent decrease, if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise in a similar manner. This decrease would be due to the fish migrating to cooler waters. “The high seas can serve as a fish bank of the world by providing the insurance needed to make the whole global ocean more resilient,” said paper co-author Rashid Sumaila, professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and director of OceanCanada, one of the research funders. “By closing the high seas to fishing or seriously improving its management, the high seas can help us mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.”
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Environment
A new study proposes evolution as the driving force behind plant migration. The study also suggests scientists could be underestimating how fast species could move. The study published in the journal ‘Science’ reveals some animals and plants are moving farther north to cooler temperatures due to climate change. “We know from previous research that evolution might play a role in how fast a species can move across a region or continent,” said Jennifer Williams, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in UBC’s department of geography. “But what our study suggests is that evolution is not only a factor in movement, but that it can, in fact, accelerate the spread, and can do so predictably.” For the study the scientists used a small flowering plant (Arabidopsis thailana) to test the role of evolution in plant migration. Two sets of population were cultivated, evolution was active in one set and hindered in the other. The study showed, after six generations, evolving plant populations migrated 11 percent farther than the other non-evolving populations in favourable conditions. However, in the more challenging environment seeds dispersed 200 percent farther in the set with the evolving plants. Williams suggested, the findings show evolution accelerates the speed of migration. Nonetheless, more research is required to find the reason for the increased speed of migration in challenging conditions. “We know, for example, that there are some species of butterflies and plants that are expanding their ranges with climate change and moving north or up in elevation,” she said. “What our results suggest is that, with evolution, the species can move faster and faster because the traits that make them better at moving are becoming more common at the front of the invasion. In the case of our plants, in the evolving populations, their seeds can disperse a bit further.” In addition, she said the findings emphasize the importance for scientists to acknowledge evolutionary change when predicting how quickly native species will move as the Earth’s temperature rises.
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Science, News
Since it’s discovery in 1985, the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic has been a testament to humankind’s detrimental effects on the environment. Now however, there is cause to be hopeful. Atmospheric chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Susan Solomon is surprised to report the gap is shrinking, “I didn’t think it would be this early.” The study led by Solomon was published online by Science, it explains the deterioration of the ozone is original due to the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): chlorine contacting chemicals that built up in the atmosphere through aerosol cans and various other human made products. Scientists identifying the problem lobbied for the Montreal Protocol of 1987, an international agreement to phase out the use of the harmful chemicals. With the combined use of satellite measurements, ground based instruments and weather balloons Solomon and her team determined that since 2000 the hole has shrunk by 4 million square kilometres. Paul Newman, who runs NASA’s Arctic Ozone Watch website is sceptical of Solomon’s findings.  Attributing the reduction of chlorine and bromine as the only factor in the ozone layer mending does not seem plausible to him. Instead citing the shifting climate as a major factor contributing to at least 50% of why the hole is shrinking. Solomon has some vested interest in the studies outcome as she led the initial study in 1986 that identified the stratospheric clouds as chlorine reaction sites and the status reports following the Montreal Protocol. She remains optimistic, “The fact that we’ve made a global choice to do something different and the planet has responded to out choice can’t help but be uplifting,” she says. According to Solomon’s predictions the hole in the ozone will not close completely until 2050 at the earliest.
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Sustainability, Environment, World
UN member countries, non-governmental organizations, lobbyist groups and UN agencies represented their interests in the development of a universal agreement on climate change at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris, with many expecting great results. Fairtrade International, one of the largest fair trade certification groups – part of a movement asking consumers to pay a little more for a product to help the people who produce it – is one such organization. In a short video series featuring farmers from across the globe, from Kenya to Peru to India, Fairtrade sparks a discussion on the monumental importance of reducing climate change.

What’s so important about COP21?

Climate change has begun to be a front and centre issue for both developed and developing countries today; meetings like COP serve as valuable opportunities for the global community to work together towards a common goal of reducing the effects of global warming. Within COP21 is the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), a platform where countries and non-governmental actors discuss their respective interests in order to reach an agreement on cooperative climate change action. The LPAA highlights in a statement both the mounting threat of climate change against agriculture and the fact that agriculture accounts for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions, major contributors to global warming. This is a key concern for Fairtrade because many of their partners’ livelihoods are agricultural. The LPAA proposed initiatives focusing on four areas: soils in agriculture, food losses and waste, sustainable production, and resilience of farmers. Partnerships developed within the LPAA will commit money and technical knowledge towards supporting farmers in developed and developing countries to become key actors in the global drive to reduce climate change.

Fairtrade farmers

The farmers featured in Fairtrade’s video series are members of cooperatives – jointly-owned businesses that share profits with members, in their countries – partnering with Fairtrade to ensure that members receive fair payment for their goods. Generally, Fairtrade partners are farmers or artisans who partner with the organization as a way to combat the highly competitive nature of free trade that would pay them very low prices for their work. These competitive prices are not enough for them to survive on. With agriculture as their livelihoods, they understandably have many concerns about climate change and how COP21 decisions will directly affect them.

Their thoughts on COP21

The farmers in Fairtrade’s videos express a sense of urgency about COP21. From Kenya to India to Mexico, climate change is affecting small-scale farmers in devastating ways. “It doesn’t rain when it should, and it rains when it shouldn’t,” says Luis Martínez Villanueva, a representative from Mexico. Changing weather patterns are problematic for farmers, driving down production by causing droughts and crop diseases. With falling production, farmers’ incomes are falling, too. Facing such grim realities, farmers set their hopes high for COP21. Victor Biwot, a tea farmer from Kenya, says he’d like to see more activities spearheaded by developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to support African farmers to adopt energy efficient methods. A representative of the Suminter India Organic Farmers Consortium, Benny Mathew, demonstrates that solar power allows farmers to dry 500g of seeds using 250kg instead of 1500kg of firewood. By using a more sustainable energy source, farmers in Kerala, India are able to do more work at less cost to the environment. Making moves towards greener energy use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions may seem like moving a mountain, but to small-scale farmers, it will be life-changing. “We need to have high expectations even if we don’t reach them,” Villanueva continues, “small changes in big countries mean that small countries can have high hopes.”     
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Environment, Politics
Thousands attended the Global Climate March in Vancouver filling the streets with messages to world leaders who have arrived in Paris. The UN climate summit kicks off on Monday where discussions on national limits of greenhouse gas emissions will arise. People began gathering in the early afternoon in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery then marched throughout the downtown core. Climate change activists held protests across many cities. Check out how some people described the events on Twitter:    
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Environment, Science
Warnings of a “mini ice age” have circulated the media. The news came after researcher Valentina Zharkova, a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, looked further into variations in solar radiations predicting a significant drop of 60% in solar activity between 2030 and 2040. It was first noticed by scientists about 170 years ago that the Sun’s activity varies over a cycle lasting around 10 to 12 years. Cycles do vary, but researches have yet to create a model that fully explains these fluctuations. “The waves fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that out predictions showed an accuracy of 97%,” said Zharkova in a statement. During Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030 to 2040, the two waves will become out of sync – causing a significant reduction in solar activity. “When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is a full phase separation, we have conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago,” explains Zharkova. The Maunder minimum was a period in the 1600’s and early 1700’s of the “Little Ice Age” – a period that coincided with Europe and North America experiencing cooler than average temperatures. Professor at the University of British Columbia Dr. John Innes, doesn’t think we should be jumping to any conclusions, “the direct link between the minimum in sunspot activity and the temperature cooling is not quite so definite.” Innes explains in an email statement that there may have been other factors at work during the Maunder minimum, such as increased volcanic activity, which would have generated ash that reduced the amount of energy reaching the Earth’s surface. “They are virtually all based on models, and models are often wrong …  the idea is interesting, and worth looking at more carefully,” says Innes.
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