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:: Renewable energy: A choice, not a foregone conclusion

The future of renewable energy is a choice, not a foregone conclusion. The recently launched REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report (GFR) presents the range of credible energy options. REN21 launched its new flagship publication, the REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report (GFR) at the Abu Dhabi International Renewable Energy Conference (ADIREC), produced by REN21 in co-operation with ISEP, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policy of Japan.

:: Global warming has increased monthly heat records by a factor of five

Monthly temperature extremes have become much more frequent, as measurements from around the world indicate. On average, there are now five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide than could be expected without long-term global warming, shows a study now published in Climatic Change. In parts of Europe, Africa and southern Asia the number of monthly records has increased even by a factor of ten. 80 percent of observed monthly records would not have occurred without human influence on climate, concludes the authors-team of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Complutense University of Madrid.

:: Natural catastrophe statistics for 2012 dominated by weather extremes in the USA

The USA accounted for a higher proportion of global natural catastrophe losses than usual in 2012, due to a series of severe weather-related catastrophes. Last year, natural catastrophes caused US$ 160bn in overall losses and US$ 65bn in insured losses worldwide. Some 67% of overall losses and 90% of insured losses were attributable to the USA – the respective averages are 32% and 57%. The year's highest insured loss was caused by Hurricane Sandy, with an estimated amount of around US$ 25bn.

:: Why early Earth was no snowball

In the early history of planet Earth, the Sun was up to 25 per cent less luminous than today. Yet there is strong evidence that the Earth’s oceanic surface was not completely frozen. High concentrations of warming greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) seem to be the most obvious solution to this famous “faint young Sun paradox”.

:: More ice loss through snowfall on Antarctica

Stronger snowfall increases future ice discharge from Antarctica. Global warming leads to more precipitation as warmer air holds more moisture – hence earlier research suggested the Antarctic ice sheet might grow under climate change. Now a study published in Nature shows that a lot of the ice gain due to increased snowfall is countered by an acceleration of ice-flow to the ocean.

:: A new global map displays the functionality of ecosystems

A new study explores which continental areas have the highest functionality. These are of major relevance for the sustainability of the biosphere and they are areas, which supply most services to humanity. Especially with regard to climate change these exceptionally functional areas deserve particular protection.

:: Biologists record increasing amounts of plastic litter in the Arctic deep sea

studies confirm that twice as much marine debris is lying on the seabed today compared to ten years ago. The sea bed in the Arctic deep sea is increasingly strewn with litter and plastic waste.  As reported in the advance online publication of the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin by Dr. Melanie Bergmann, biologist and deep-sea expert at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. The quantities of waste observed at the AWI deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN are even higher than those found in a deep-sea canyon near the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

:: North America most affected by increase in weather-related natural catastrophes

A new study by Munich Re shows that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades. The publication "Severe weather in North America" analyzes all kinds of weather perils and their trends. It reports and shows that the continent has experienced the largest increases in weather-related loss events.

:: “It pays to be a forerunner”: studies explore second-best scenarios of climate policy

Industrialized countries can profit from taking early action for climate change mitigation even if the rest of the world delays greenhouse gas emission cuts. With the 2 degrees target of limiting global warming, it pays in the long term to incentivize investments into clean energy instead of fossil fuels by adopting ambitious emission reductions. This is one of the key findings of scientists exploring the economics of decarbonization in an imperfect world, in a set of seven papers now published in a special issue of Climatic Change. They will feed into the 5th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

:: Major update to Europe's 'alien' species catalogue

The key catalogue of information on ‘alien’ (non-native) species in Europe has undergone a major update. The DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventory for Europe) database allows the public and policymakers to get a comprehensive overview of which alien species are present in Europe, their impacts and consequences for the environment and society.

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