Biodiversity & Climate Change Notes February 2016

Copy of Copy of Copy of IAS Toppers (12)


  • Flights from London to New York could take longer and be more expensive in the future due to the effects of climate change.

  • By accelerating the jet stream — a high-altitude wind blowing from west to east across the Atlantic — climate change will speed up eastbound flights but slow down westbound flights, the researchers said.

  •  The aviation industry is facing pressure to reduce its environmental impacts, but this study shows a new way in which aviation is itself susceptible to the effects of climate change.

  • “The bad news for passengers is that westbound flights will be battling against stronger headwinds. The good news is that eastbound flights will be boosted by stronger tailwinds, but not enough to compensate for the longer westbound journeys.

  • The net result is that round-trip journeys will significantly lengthen. This effect will increase the fuel costs to airlines, potentially raising ticket prices, and it will worsen the environmental impacts of aviation,” he said.

Jet-stream winds to become faster

  • The study looked at the effects of doubling the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which will occur within the next few decades unless emissions are cut quickly.

  • The average jet-stream winds along the flight route between London’s Heathrow airport and New York’s John F Kennedy International airport are predicted to become 15 per cent faster in winter, increasing from 77 to 89 km/hr, with similar increases in the other seasons.

  • As a result, London-bound flights will become twice as likely to take under five hours and 20 minutes, implying that record-breaking crossing times will occur with increasing frequency in future.

  • On the other hand, New York-bound flights will become twice as likely to take over seven hours, suggesting that delayed arrivals will become increasingly common.

  • Due to the extra time spent in the air, transatlantic flights will burn an extra $22 million worth of fuel annually, and will emit an extra 70 million kg of CO2 — equivalent to the annual emissions of 7,100 British homes.

  • This might only be the tip of the iceberg, the researchers said.

  • “The jet stream encircles the globe, and there is one in the southern hemisphere too. It is possible that flights elsewhere in the world will also suffer from a similar jet stream effect,” Dr. Williams said.


  • The El Niño that caused record temperatures, drought and floods over the last year has passed its peak strength but will continue to have humanitarian impacts for months to come, the U.N. has said.

  • The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said the event, which plays havoc with weather systems around the world, was still strong and its impacts on communities in southern Africa, the Horn of Africa and Central America were becoming increasingly apparent.

  • El Niño is a global climate phenomenon that occurs every few years when a huge warm patch of water forms in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, affecting rainfall from the western U.S. and South America to Africa, India, Indonesia, and Australia.

  •  The U.N. World Food programme warned earlier this week that 100 million people were facing food and water shortages as a result of the El Niño.

  • The WMO said that although the current episode was closely comparable in strength with the record event of 1997-98, it was too early to say whether the 2015-16 El Niño was the strongest ever. The agency’s confirmation that the peak has passed follows similar recent announcements by national science agencies.

  • The economic and human toll from drought — which by its nature is a slowly developing disaster — is becoming increasingly apparent in southern and the Horn of Africa, Central America and a number of other regions.”

  • El Niño has played a key part, along with climate change, in driving global temperatures to record levels in 2015 and January 2016. The U.N. agency said the current episode would likely fade away during the second quarter of 2016.


  • Almost a week after Fiji became the first country in the world to ratify the Paris agreement; the nation felt the devastating impact of global warming when a cyclone hit the island.

  • According to news reports, Cyclone Winston, which hit Fiji during the weekend, brought winds of over 200 miles per hour, torrential rainfall and waves of up to 40 feet. A month-long state of disaster has been declared in the country.

  • Twenty-one people have been confirmed dead so far. Experts linked the cyclone to global warming, saying that the extreme-weather event pointed to climate change.

  • In Fiji, sea-level rise and coastal erosion have already begun to displace people. More than 30 Fijian villages have been identified as vulnerable.

  • Although it represents only a tiny share of the world’s emissions, Fiji is doing its part to reduce them, reports add. The country has pledged to boost its renewable share of electricity generation from around 60 per cent in 2013 to near 100 per cent by 2030.


  • Things are heating up. With climates around the world still changing, deadly heat waves are becoming more common, especially in places like the Middle East which are already struggling with scorching summers. And the forecast isn’t looking all that cool for other places either.

  • In a paper published in Climatic Change researchers found that heat waves that currently occur only once every 20 years could occur every year in the near future.

  •  And these aren’t isolated incidents. The study predicts that by 2075, 60 percent of the land surface on the Earth could experience these dramatic events.

  • The researchers also found that those extreme heat waves were more likely to be even hotter than those experienced in the present, with heat waves across 60 percent of the land surface having temperatures 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than heat waves now.

  • Though that might not seem like much, even a few degrees can mean the difference between life and death for vulnerable populations.

  • Heat stress is a dangerous thing, and can prove fatal to the very young, the elderly, and people already suffering from illnesses.

  • Heat waves are typically most deadly for the impoverished, especially those who don’t have access to the respite offered by cooling facilities, electricity, or air conditioning.

  • Luckily, this isn’t our only possible future. The researchers point out that if we manage to cut greenhouse gases dramatically, emitting less heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we can reduce the frequency of these events.

  • “The study shows that aggressive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will translate into sizable benefits starting in the middle of the century for both the number and intensity of extreme heat events,” study author Claudia Tebaldi said. “Even though heat waves are on the rise, we still have time to avoid a large portion of the impacts.”

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