Environmental social sciences

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Flooding may cause loss of life and economic damage, therefore temporal changes need assessment. Here, the authors show that since 1870 there has been an increase in area inundated by floods in Europe, but a reduction in fatalities and economic losses, although caution that smaller floods remain underreported.

    • Dominik Paprotny
    • , Antonia Sebastian
    •  & Sebastiaan N. Jonkman
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The rapid growth of South–South trade reflects a new phase of globalization. Here the authors show that some energy-intensive production activities, particularly raw materials and intermediate goods, and related CO2 emissions are relocating from China and India to other developing countries.

    • Jing Meng
    • , Zhifu Mi
    •  & Steven J. Davis
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Speaking at a scientific conference helps spread scientific results and is also fundamental for career advancement. Here the authors show that at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, the largest Earth and space science conference, women are offered speaking opportunities less often than men overall.

    • Heather L. Ford
    • , Cameron Brick
    •  & Petra S. Dekens
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Previous studies of Pre-Columbian earthworks in the Amazon basin have left a gap in the Upper Tapajós Basin (UTB). Here, the authors detect 104 Pre-Columbian earthworks in the UTB, suggesting continuous occupation across southern Amazonia and higher population densities than previously estimated.

    • Jonas Gregorio de Souza
    • , Denise Pahl Schaan
    •  & José Iriarte
  • Article
    | Open Access

    To achieve the climate target of the Paris Agreement substantial emission reductions will be required across economic sectors. Here the authors show that agriculture can make a significant contribution to non-CO2 mitigation efforts through structural change in the livestock sector and the deployment of technical options.

    • Stefan Frank
    • , Robert Beach
    •  & Michael Obersteiner
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Marine spatial planning is used to co-ordinate multiple ocean uses, and is frequently informed by tradeoffs and composite metrics. Here, Lester et al. introduce an approach that plans for multiple uses simultaneously whilst balancing individual objectives, using a case study of aquaculture development in California.

    • S. E. Lester
    • , J. M. Stevens
    •  & C. White
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Expansion of rubber plantations threatens tropical forest carbon stocks and biodiversity, but may be dis-incentivised using carbon finance. Here, Warren-Thomas et al. use forest and agricultural data for Cambodia to show that carbon prices of $30–$51 per tCO2 are needed to match forest protection costs.

    • Eleanor M. Warren-Thomas
    • , David P. Edwards
    •  & Paul M. Dolman
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The development of sustainable food systems requires an understanding of potential trade-off between various objectives. Here, Chaudhary et al. examine how different nations score on food system performance across several domains, including environment, nutrition, and sociocultural wellbeing.

    • Abhishek Chaudhary
    • , David Gustafson
    •  & Alexander Mathys
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Inundation and erosion could make many atoll islands uninhabitable over the next century. Here the authors present an analysis of change in the atoll nation of Tuvalu that shows a 2.9% increase in land area over the past four decades, with 74% of islands increasing in size, despite rising sea levels.

    • Paul S. Kench
    • , Murray R. Ford
    •  & Susan D. Owen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Aerosol pollution from shipping contributes to cooling but also leads to premature mortality and morbidity. Here the authors combine emission inventories, atmospheric models and health risk functions to show how cleaner marine fuels will reduce premature deaths and childhood asthma but results in larger warming.

    • Mikhail Sofiev
    • , James J. Winebrake
    •  & James J. Corbett
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Modulation of ambient PM2.5 exposure and premature mortality burden in India under climate change scenarios is unclear. Here the authors show that the premature mortality burden is projected to decrease in 2100 relative to present day under all possible combined climate change and socioeconomic pathways scenarios.

    • Sourangsu Chowdhury
    • , Sagnik Dey
    •  & Kirk R. Smith
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Prioritising areas for conservation is hindered by disagreements over ecological targets. Here, Armsworth et al. combine a simulation approach and case study to test if considering economic return on investment aids in prioritisation, and find that its impact on reaching agreements varies greatly.

    • Paul R. Armsworth
    • , Heather B. Jackson
    •  & Nathan A. Sutton
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Human activity and related land use change are the primary cause of soil erosion. Here, the authors show the impacts of 21st century global land use change on soil erosion based on an unprecedentedly high resolution global model that provides insights into the mitigating effects of conservation agriculture.

    • Pasquale Borrelli
    • , David A. Robinson
    •  & Panos Panagos
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Climate change impacts in models used to calculate the social cost of carbon (SCC) are either poorly documented or based on a small number of dated studies. Here, the authors estimate new damages for the agricultural sector and find that updating this sector alone causes the SCC to increase substantially.

    • Frances C. Moore
    • , Uris Baldos
    •  & Delavane Diaz
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Organic agriculture requires fewer inputs but produces lower yields than conventional farming. Here, via a modeling approach, Muller et al. predict that if food waste and meat consumption are reduced, organic agriculture could feed the world without requiring cropland expansion.

    • Adrian Muller
    • , Christian Schader
    •  & Urs Niggli
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The consequences of poverty eradication on limiting warming to 2 °C are not fully clear. Here, Hubacek et al. find that while ending extreme poverty does not jeopardize the climate target, moving everybody to a modest expenditure level increases required mitigation rate by 27%

    • Klaus Hubacek
    • , Giovanni Baiocchi
    •  & Anand Patwardhan
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The impacts of carbon capture and storage (CCS) on subsurface microorganisms are poorly understood. Here, the authors show that deep ecosystems respond quickly to CO2 injections and that the environmental consequences of their metabolic activities need to be properly assessed for sustainable CCS in basalt.

    • Rosalia Trias
    • , Bénédicte Ménez
    •  & Emmanuelle Gérard
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Globally diarrheal disease through contaminated water sources is a major cause of child mortality. Here, the authors compile a database of 293,362 children in 35 countries and find that upstream tree cover is linked to a lower probability of diarrheal disease and that increasing tree cover may lower mortality.

    • Diego Herrera
    • , Alicia Ellis
    •  & Taylor H. Ricketts
  • Article
    | Open Access

    To suppress the polysulfide shuttling effect in Li-S batteries, here the authors report a carbon/sulfur composite cathode with a wrapping layer that overcomes the trade-off between limiting polysulfide diffusion and allowing electrolyte infiltration, and affords extraordinary cycling stability.

    • Chenji Hu
    • , Hongwei Chen
    •  & Liwei Chen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The health consequences of exposure to pesticides are uncertain and subject to much debate. Here, the effect of exposure during pregnancy is investigated in an agriculturally dominated residential area, showing that an increase in adverse birth outcomes is observed with very high levels of pesticide exposure.

    • Ashley E. Larsen
    • , Steven D. Gaines
    •  & Olivier Deschênes
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The impact of climate change on phosphorus (P) loss from land to water is unclear. Here, the authors use P flux data, climate simulations and P transfer models to show that only large scale agricultural change will limit the effect of climate change on average winter P loads in three catchments across the UK.

    • M. C. Ockenden
    • , M. J. Hollaway
    •  & P. M. Haygarth
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Current national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions track to a temperature rise of about 3 °C. Here the authors use future projections to show that 3 °C warming under a business as usual scenario would result in large increases in ozone concentrations, off-setting any benefits from mitigation policies.

    • A. Fortems-Cheiney
    • , G. Foret
    •  & M. Beekmann
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The biofuel ethanol has been introduced into urban transportation in many countries. Here, by measuring aerosols in São Paulo, the authors find that high ethanol prices coincided with an increase in harmful nanoparticles by a third, as drivers switched from ethanol to cheaper gasoline, showing a benefit of ethanol.

    • Alberto Salvo
    • , Joel Brito
    •  & Franz M. Geiger
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Uncertainties in contemporary extreme sea levels (ESL) from mean sea level rise (SLR) projections have been overlooked in broad-scale risk and adaptation studies. Here, the authors quantify the uncertainties in present-day global ESL estimates and find that they exceed those from global SLR projections.

    • T. Wahl
    • , I. D. Haigh
    •  & A. B. A. Slangen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    A Low Carbon Fuel Standard seeks to regulate indirect land use change by including its related carbon emissions in the carbon intensity of biofuels. Khannaet al. show the economic cost of abatement achieved by including this factor is much larger than the social cost of carbon.

    • Madhu Khanna
    • , Weiwei Wang
    •  & Evan H. DeLucia
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The pledges put forward by each country to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement are ambiguous. Rogeljet al. quantify the uncertainty arising from the interpretation of these pledges and find that by 2030 global emissions can vary by −10% to +20% around their median estimate of 52 GtCO2e yr−1.

    • Joeri Rogelj
    • , Oliver Fricko
    •  & Keywan Riahi
  • Article
    | Open Access

    COP21 led to a global commitment to decarbonization before 2100 to combat climate change, but leaves the timing and scale of mitigation efforts to individual countries. Here, the authors show that global carbon emissions need to peak within a decade to maintain realistic pathways for achieving the Paris Agreement.

    • Brian Walsh
    • , Philippe Ciais
    •  & Michael Obersteiner
  • Article
    | Open Access

    An ongoing elephant poaching crisis is threatening not only elephant populations but also the local economies that rely on nature-based tourism. Here, Naidoo and colleagues use an economic model to estimate the financial contribution of elephants to tourism and the possible consequences of their loss.

    • Robin Naidoo
    • , Brendan Fisher
    •  & Andrew Balmford
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Protected areas are intended to safeguard wildlife, but their effectiveness has at times been questioned. Barnes, Craigie, and colleagues show that protected areas do offer refuge—maintaining their bird and mammal abundances—but with greater success for larger-bodied species and in more developed nations.

    • Megan D. Barnes
    • , Ian D. Craigie
    •  & Stephen Woodley
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Delimiting populations is crucial for conserving threatened species. Using genome-wide data from the whole of Antarctica, Cristofari et al.show that Emperor penguins are organised into a single global population that have shared demography since the late Quarternary.

    • Robin Cristofari
    • , Giorgio Bertorelle
    •  & Emiliano Trucchi
  • Article |

    It is widely acknowledged that some form of carbon capture will be necessary to limit global warming to less than 2 °C, but to what extent remains unclear. Here, using climate-carbon models, the authors quantify the amount of negative emissions and carbon storage capacity required to meet this target.

    • T. Gasser
    • , C. Guivarch
    •  & P. Ciais
  • Review Article |

    Carbon mitigation is considered an important and viable pathway towards climate stabilization, but competition for land is high. Here, Canadell and Schulze consider the sustainable implementation of a number of land-based biological carbon mitigation activities and assess the carbon savings achievable by 2050.

    • Josep G. Canadell
    •  & E. Detlef Schulze
  • Article |

    As global population and food demand rises, it is increasingly unclear how reactive nitrogen pollution will be mitigated. Bodirsky et al.run a series of model simulations and show that even under ambitious mitigation, reactive nitrogen pollution is likely to exceed critical environmental thresholds in the year 2050.

    • Benjamin Leon Bodirsky
    • , Alexander Popp
    •  & Miodrag Stevanovic
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The risks of flooding to coastal communities are increasing due to coastal development and climate change. Here, the authors use meta-analyses to quantitatively show that coral reefs can significantly reduce risks from natural hazards, and that reef defences can be enhanced cost effectively.

    • Filippo Ferrario
    • , Michael W. Beck
    •  & Laura Airoldi
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Discards from fishing vessels are food for scavenging species, so ending the practice may have ecological consequences. Here, Heath et al. show that improving selectivity so that unwanted fish are not caught, achieves conservation benefits, while simply requiring that vessels land their entire catch, does not.

    • Michael R. Heath
    • , Robin M. Cook
    •  & Douglas C. Speirs
  • Article |

    Humans have greatly altered the distribution of forests across the world. Here, the authors use estimates of tree cover from remote-sensing data to reveal that human impact has produced a strong tendency for forest remnants to persist primarily on sloped terrain.

    • Brody Sandel
    •  & Jens-Christian Svenning
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The storage in soils of biochar, the product of biomass pyrolysis, has been proposed as an attractive option to mitigate climate change. Amonette and co-workers model the potential impact of biochar and find that it could eliminate more carbon from the atmosphere than using the same biomass for biofuel.

    • Dominic Woolf
    • , James E. Amonette
    •  & Stephen Joseph