Despite our technological advances, we are still at the whim of the planet’s weather and climate. Hurricanes, meteorological droughts, and heat waves are largely forces of nature that we have not yet learned to control. It is thus critical for us to study the climate system so that we can better understand current conditions and predict how they may change during the next few days, weeks, months, years, or decades. This can help save thousands to millions of lives – human and otherwise – by acting preemptively in the face of natural hazards, and also to know how to adapt to climate change. This climate system includes the interactions between the oceans, atmospheres, sea ice, and the continental land masses. Events that affect one of these parts of the climate system– especially at a large scale – will have an impact on all the others.

Humans are part of the broader biosphere, consisting of the flora and fauna on the planet. The biosphere is as diverse as it is interconnected, with each species fulfilling a specific role in their own ecosystem, occupying their own niche yet contributing to the broader web of life. Through our zealous search for resources and our ardent territorial expansion, we have disrupted many ecosystems and facilitated the onset of the next Mass Extinction Event (MEE). MEEs are periods in the planet’s history when an abnormally large number of species go extinct – the difference with this one is that it is the first where anthropomorphic activities are contributing. Biodiversity is critical for sustainable development because it provides resilience to diseases, protecting our forests, crops, and cattle. Furthermore, ecosystems provide a wide variety of services that are critical for the stability of the biosphere, even if they are hard for us to monetize.

Offsetting your greenhouse gas emissions can impact more than just your carbon footprint

By Tim Treuer This Giving Tuesday, I decided to offset my 2020 carbon footprint. And help protect endangered biodiversity. And help eliminate poverty. And improve air, water, and soil quality. And support gender equality. And empower historically marginalized communities. And maybe even decrease the risk of killer diseases like COVID-19 and malaria. But I only…

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Evaluating the geoengineering treatment

Written by Xin Rong Chua Might there be a remedy for the worldwide temperature and rainfall changes caused by humanity’s emissions? If so, what would the cure cost? We watch as Mr. Human grapples with these questions with the help of Dr. Planet. Dr. Planet was about to put an end to a long, hard…

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Pulp Non-fiction

Written by Timothy Treuer A story (but careful, there’s a twist): In 1998, the Costa Rican Sala Cuarta (their highest judicial body) issued a ruling against a company that had dumped 12,000 tonnes of waste orange peels in one of the country’s flagship protected areas, Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG). The ruling came at the…

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Carbon Capture and Sequestration: A key player in the climate fight

Written by Kasparas Spokas and Ryan Edwards The world faces an urgent need to drastically reduce climate-warming CO2 emissions. At the same time, however, reliance on the fossil fuels that produce CO2 emissions appears inevitable for the foreseeable future. One existing technology enables fossil fuel use without emissions: Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). Instead of allowing…

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How Do Scientists Know Human Activities Impact Climate? A brief look into the assessment process

Written by Levi Golston On the subject of climate change, one of the most widely cited numbers is that humans have increased the net radiation balance of the Earth’s lower atmosphere by approximately 2.3 W m-2 (Watts per square meter) since pre-industrial times, as determined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their…

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Conservation Crossroads in Ecuador: Tiputini Biodiversity Station and the Yasuní oil fields

Written by Justine Atkins On an early morning boat, mist still rises off the water and the Amazonian air is thick with the characteristic dampness of tropical rainforests. We’re heading out in search of a nearby clay-lick where many parrot species congregate. In the partial slumber of any graduate student awake before 6 am, we…

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Losing the Climate War to Methane? The role of methane emissions in the global warming puzzle

Written by Dr. Arvind Ravikumar There is much to cheer about the recent climate agreement signed last December at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris, France to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise to below 2° C. Whether countries will implement effective policies to achieve this agreement is a…

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Human Impacts on Droughts: How these hazards stopped being purely natural phenomena

Written by Dr. Niko Wanders We often hear about droughts around the world including those recently in the U.S. and Brazil, which has threatened the water safety for this year’s Olympic Games. Despite their natural occurrence, there is still a lot that we do not understand fully about the processes that cause them and about how they impact our society…

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Rethinking Our Approach to Protected Areas for Conservation

Written by Justine Atkins Over the last fifty years, there has been progressively more widespread recognition that species’ biodiversity is rapidly declining. This is a huge problem, and not only ethically: biodiversity also has crucial economic returns such as ecotourism and promoting ecosystem resilience to climate change and invasive species. It is now well-established that…

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A Precarious Puzzle of Expanding Deserts: How arid Asia has varied over time and the confusion over recent desertification

Written by Jane Baldwin Inner Mongolia (Nei MengGu in Mandarin Chinese) lies right at the border of the nation of Mongolia within mainland China (see Figure 1). Pictures of yurts, traditional pony races, Mongolian wrestlers, and most of all rolling grasslands attract many Chinese tourists to this region each year (see Figure 2). In summer…

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