COP26 2 Days Away   Leave a comment

I’m on my way to COP26, from El Paso, after four weeks of fieldwork in four different sites in the Soutrhwest USA and northern Mexico. I’m expecting an overwhelming, maybe even chaotic, experience. So many people, so many events, so many last-minute initiatives, and so much on the line.

We continue to learn more about how the climate is changing and how it might change further in the future. This from Doug Reusch, a geologist, and my friend and colleague at the University of Maine at Farmington: “I was riveted to a presentation by Dr. Joellen Russell, a climate modeler at U Arizona, to an audience of Maine climate science folks. It was both ELECTRIFYING and TERRIFYING. . She’s identified a new tipping point, which occurs as the westerlies encroach poleward, intensify, and “part the waters” to allow the escape of CO2 from CO2-rich deep water (e.g, in as few as 5 years, we may see the ocean burp out 50 ppm CO2). Talk about motivation to do more to cut emissions now and faster.

The process of science is not perfect, but it can be wonderfully self-correcting. A 2018 paper by Stefan Klesse and colleagues provides some good news of sorts. Here’s a selection from their summary: “We show that U.S. Southwest ITRDB samples overestimate regional forest climate sensitivity by 41–59%, because ITRDB trees were sampled at warmer and drier locations, both at the macro- and micro-site scale, and are systematically older compared to the FIA collection. Although there are uncertainties associated with our statistical approach, projection based on representative FIA samples suggests 29% less of a climate change-induced growth decrease compared to projection based on climate-sensitive ITRDB samples.”

In plain speak, that means that because studies of tree rings generally selected trees that would show sensitivity to climate (trees on dry or hot sites, for example), our previous estimates of climate change impacts on trees in the Southwest were overestimated. Climate is still projected to depress tree growth, just less than we thought. Well…that’s something.

On the political front, there’s great uncertainty. Climate legislation in Congress is close but not quite there. China is holding back in upping their commitments, in part because of the tepid progress in the US, but also because of difficulty in meeting their electricity demands without using coal.

So, what are the expectations for COP26? It’s so very hard to say. Time is short for action, but maybe it’s too much to place all of our hopes on this one conference.

I’ll leave you with some good news on the climate front, from Science News:

‘Breakthrough’: IMF develops fund to help debt-laden nations address climate risks

The IMF trust fund could be worth up to $50 billion and meet vulnerable countries’ call for support to address the triple crisis of debt, Covid and climate change

Posted October 30, 2021 by changingnatureofthemainewoods in Uncategorized

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