The Planet's Shrinking Wilderness -- Ignored at Our Peril
December 18, 2017
Wildlife Conservation Society & Science Daily
The majority of remaining wilderness areas are in the deserts of Central Australia, the Amazon rainforest in South America, the Tibetan plateau in central Asia, and the boreal (snow) forests of Canada and Russia. These ecosystems play a key role in regulating local climates, sequestering and storing large amounts of carbon and supporting many of the world's most culturally diverse and marginalized communities. Maps of these critically important wilderness areas are now freely available online.
Shrinking Wilderness Ignored at Our Peril
Wildlife Conservation Society & Science Daily
Scroll to view: These new maps show shrinking wilderness being ignored at our peril.
(December 12, 2017) -- Maps of the world's most important wilderness areas are now freely available online following a University of Queensland and Wildlife Conservation Society-led study published today. The authors have made the maps available to assist researchers, conservationists and policy makers to improve wilderness conservation.
UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student James Allan said these wilderness areas were strongholds for endangered biodiversity and critical in the fight to mitigate climate change.
"These ecosystems play a key role in regulating local climates, sequestering and storing large amounts of carbon and supporting many of the world's most culturally diverse -- but politically and economically marginalized communities," Allan said.
The maps show that the majority of remaining wilderness areas are in the deserts of Central Australia, the Amazon rainforest in South America, the Tibetan plateau in central Asia, and the boreal (snow) forests of Canada and Russia.
"Despite their importance, wilderness areas are being destroyed at an alarming rate and need urgent protection with almost 10 per cent being lost since the early 1990s. Their conservation is a global priority," Allan said.
Wildlife Conservation Society and UQ Associate Professor James Watson said he anticipated the maps would be important for identifying places where conservation actions must occur, and as indicators of progress towards United Nations commitments such as Sustainable Development Goals.
Said Watson: "Environmental policy almost completely ignored wilderness conservation but this has to change. National governments and multilateral environmental agreements such as the World Heritage convention need to step up and protect wilderness before it is too late."
Materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
James R. Allan, Oscar Venter, James E.M. Watson. "Temporally inter-comparable maps of terrestrial wilderness and the Last of the Wild," Scientific Data, 2017; 4: 170187 DOI: 10.1038/sdata.2017.187
1. Wildlife Conservation Society. "Shrinking wilderness ignored at our peril." ScienceDaily, 12 December 2017.
More-severe Climate Model Predictions
Could Be the Most Accurate
Carnegie Institution for Science
The climate models that project greater amounts of warming this century are the ones that best align with observations of the current climate, according to a article. Their findings suggest that the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on average, may be underestimating future warming.
(December 6, 2017) -- The climate models that project greater amounts of warming this century are the ones that best align with observations of the current climate, according to a new paper from Carnegie's Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira published by Nature. Their findings suggest that the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on average, may be underestimating future warming.
Climate model simulations are used to predict how much warming should be expected for any given increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
"There are dozens of prominent global climate models and they all project different amounts of global warming for a given change in greenhouse gas concentrations, primarily because there is not a consensus on how to best model some key aspects of the climate system," Brown explained.
Raw climate model results for a business-as-usual scenario indicate that we can expect global temperatures to increase anywhere in the range of 5.8 and 10.6 degrees Fahrenheit (3.2 to 5.9 degrees Celsius) over preindustrial levels by the end of the century -- a difference of about a factor of two between the most- and least-severe projections.
Brown and Caldeira set out to determine whether the upper or lower end of this range is more likely to prove accurate. Their strategy relied on the idea that the models that are going to be the most skillful in their projections of future warming should also be the most skillful in other contexts, such as simulating the recent past.
Brown and Caldeira's study eliminates the lower end of this range, finding that the most likely warming is about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) greater than what the raw model results suggest.
The researchers focused on comparing model projections and observations of the spatial and seasonal patterns of how energy flows from Earth to space. Interestingly, the models that best simulate the recent past of these energy exchanges between the planet and its surroundings tend to project greater-than-average warming in the future.
"Our results suggest that it doesn't make sense to dismiss the most-severe global warming projections based on the fact that climate models are imperfect in their simulation of the current climate," Brown said. "On the contrary, if anything, we are showing that model shortcomings can be used to dismiss the least-severe projections."
The uncertainty in the range of future warming is mostly due to differences in how models simulate changes in clouds with global warming. Some models suggest that the cooling effect caused by clouds reflecting the Sun's energy back to space could increase in the future while other models suggest that this cooling effect might decrease.
"The models that are best able to recreate current conditions are the ones that simulate a reduction in cloud cooling in the future and thus these are the models that predict the greatest future warming," Brown explained.
"It makes sense that the models that do the best job at simulating today's observations might be the models with the most reliable predictions," Caldeira added. "Our study indicates that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93 percent chance that global warming will exceed 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Previous studies had put this likelihood at 62 percent."
Materials provided by Carnegie Institution for Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
1. Patrick T. Brown, Ken Caldeira. ?Greater future global warming inferred from Earth's recent energy budget," >i>Nature, 2017; 552 (7683): 45 DOI: 10.1038/nature24672
2. Carnegie Institution for Science. "More-severe climate model predictions could be the most accurate." ScienceDaily, 6 December 2017.
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