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Climate Hustle

Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

 


New MIT app: check if your car meets climate targets

Posted on 28 September 2016 by dana1981

In a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, with an accompanying app for the public, scientists at MIT compare the carbon pollution from today’s cars to the international 2°C climate target. In order to meet that target, overall emissions need to decline dramatically over the coming decades.

The MIT team compared emissions from 125 electric, hybrid, and gasoline cars to the levels we need to achieve from the transportation sector in 2030, 2040, and 2050 to stay below 2°C global warming. They also looked at the cost efficiency of each car, including vehicle, fuel, and maintenance costs. The bottom line:

Although the average carbon intensity of vehicles sold in 2014 exceeds the climate target for 2030 by more than 50%, we find that most hybrid and battery electric vehicles available today meet this target. By 2050, only electric vehicles supplied with almost completely carbon-free electric power are expected to meet climate-policy targets.

figure

Cost-carbon space for light-duty vehicles, assuming a 14 year lifetime, 12,100 miles driven annually, and an 8% discount rate. Data points show the most popular internal-combustion-engine vehicles (black), hybrid electric vehicles (pink), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (red), and battery electric vehicles (yellow) in 2014, as well as one of the first fully commercial fuel-cell vehicles (blue). Illustration: Miotti et al. (2016), Environmental Science & Technology.

The MIT app allows consumers to check how their own vehicles – or cars they’re considering purchasing – stack up on the carbon emissions and cost curves. As co-author Jessika Trancik noted,

One goal of the work is to translate climate mitigation scenarios to the level of individual decision-makers who will ultimately be the ones to decide whether or not a clean energy transition occurs (in a market economy, at least). In the case of transportation, private citizens are key decision-makers.

How can electric cars already be the cheapest?

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0 comments


IPCC special report to scrutinise ‘feasibility’ of 1.5C climate goal

Posted on 27 September 2016 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Roz Pidcock

The head of the United Nation’s climate body has called for a thorough assessment of the feasibility of the international goal to limit warming to 1.5C.

Dr Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told delegates at a meeting in Geneva, which is designed to flesh out the contents of a special report on 1.5C, that they bore a “great responsibility” in making sure it meets the expectations of the international climate community.

To be policy-relevant, the report will need to spell out what’s to be gained by limiting warming to 1.5C, as well as the practical steps needed to get there within sustainability and poverty eradication goals.

More than ever, urged Lee, the report must be easily understandable for a non-scientific audience. The IPCC has come under fire in the past over what some have called its “increasingly unreadable” reports.

Feasibility

In between the main “assessment reports” every five or six years, the IPCC publishes shorter “special reports” on specific topics. Past ones have included extreme weatherand renewable energy.

The IPCC was “invited” by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to do a special report on 1.5C after the Paris Agreement codified a goal to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2C” and to “pursue efforts towards 1.5C”.

The aim for this week’s meeting in Geneva is, in theory, simple: to decide on a title for the report; come up with chapter headings; and write a few bullet points summarising what the report will cover.

On day two of three, Carbon Brief understands six “themes” have emerged as contenders. Judging by proceeding so far,  it seems likely that the feasibility of the 1.5C goal features highly on that list.

Referring to a questionnaire sent out to scientists, policymakers and other “interested parties” ahead of the scoping meeting to ask what they thought the 1.5C report should cover, Lee told the conference:

“One notion that runs through all this, is feasibility. How feasible is it to limit warming to 1.5C? How feasible is it to develop the technologies that will get us there?…We must analyse policy measures in terms of feasibility.”

The explicit mention of 1.5C in the Paris Agreement caught the scientific community somewhat off-guard, said Elena Manaenkova, incoming deputy secretary-general of theWorld Meteorological Organization.

Speaking in Geneva yesterday, she told delegates she felt “proud, but also somewhat concerned” about the outcome of the Paris talks. She said:

“I was there. I know the reason why it was done…[P]arties were keen to do even better, to go faster, to go even further…The word ‘feasibility’ is not in the Paris Agreement, is not in the decision. But that’s really what it is [about].”

Overshoot

Dr Andrew King, a researcher in climate extremes at the University of Melbourne, echoes the call for a rational discussion about the way ahead, now that the dust has settled after Paris. The question of what it would take to achieve the 1.5C goal has been largely sidestepped so far, he tells Carbon Brief:

“I think one unintended outcome of the Paris Agreement was that it made the public think limiting warming to 1.5C is possible with only marginally stronger policy from government on reducing emissions and this is simply not the case.”

Carbon Countdown: How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC's carbon budgets for different levels of warming?

Carbon Countdown: How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Infographic by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief.

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17 comments


The Madhouse Effect of climate denial

Posted on 26 September 2016 by John Abraham

A new book by Michael Mann and Tom Toles takes a fresh look on the effects humans are having on our climate and the additional impacts on our politics. While there have been countless books about climate change over the past two decades, this one – entitled The Madhouse Effect - distinguishes itself by its clear and straightforward science mixed with clever and sometimes comedic presentation. 

In approximately 150 pages, this books deals with the basic science and the denial industry, which has lost the battle in the scientific arena and is working feverishly to confuse the public. The authors also cover potential solutions to halt or slow our changing climate. Perhaps most importantly, this book gives individual guidance – what can we do, as individuals, to help the Earth heal from the real and present harm of climate change?

To start the book, the authors discuss how the scientific method works, the importance of the precautionary principle, and how delaying actions have caused us to lose precious time in this global race to halt climate change. And all of this done in only 13 pages!

Next, the book dives briefly into the basic science of the greenhouse effect. Readers of this column know that the science of global warming is very well established with decades of research. But some people don’t realize that this research originated in the early 1800s with scientists such as Joseph Fourier. The book takes us on a short tour of history. Moving beyond these early works that focused exclusively on global temperatures, the authors come to expected impacts. They explain that a warming world, for instance, can be both drier and wetter!

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1 comments


2016 SkS Weekly Digest #39

Posted on 25 September 2016 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... SkS Highlights... La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Video of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

2016 Poster 39

SkS Highlights...

New study undercuts favorite climate myth ‘more CO2 is good for plants’ by Dana Nuccitelli (Climate Consensus - the 97%, Guardian) received the most comments of the aricles posted on SkS during the past week. How climate science deniers can accept so many 'impossible things' all at once by Graham Readfearn (Planet Oz, Guardian) attracted the second highest number. 

La Niña  Update...

A weakening La Nina climate pattern is going to make weather and climate forecasts a bit trickier this fall and winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has called off its La Nina watch, and evidence suggests conditions are weakening and returning to neutral.

"It means we have a less confident forecast," said Tony Barnston, chief forecaster for Columbia University's International Research Institute on Climate and Society. Barnston is one of the 10 climate scientists from NOAA and institute who decide whether a watch should be put in place.

A weakening La Nina adds a lot of uncertainty to climate predictions by Robert Ferris, CNBC News, Sep 23, 2016 

Toon of the Week...

 2016 Toon 39

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5 comments


2016 SkS Weekly News Roundup #39

Posted on 24 September 2016 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.

Sun Sep 18, 2016

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0 comments


How climate science deniers can accept so many 'impossible things' all at once

Posted on 23 September 2016 by Guest Author

Sometimes, climate science deniers will tell you that we can’t predict global temperatures in the future. Sometimes, they’ll say we’re heading for an ice age.

Occasionally, contrarians will say that no single weather event can prove human-caused global warming. But then they’ll point to somewhere that’s cold, claiming this disproves climate change.

Often, deniers will tell you that temperature records show that global warming stopped at some point around 1998. But also they’ll insist that those same temperature records can’t be relied on because Nasa and the Bureau of Meteorology are all communist corruption monkeys. Or something.

Black is also white. Round is also flat. Wrong is also right?

A new research paper published in the journal Synthese has looked at several of these contradictory arguments that get thrown around the blogosphere, the Australian Senate and the opinion pages of the (mostly) conservative media.

The paper comes with the fun and enticing title: “The Alice in Wonderland mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism.”

Why Alice? Because, as the White Queen admitted: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The three authors, including Dr John Cook, of the University of Queensland, look at both rhetorical and scientific arguments put by deniers.

One example is the popular theme that casts “sceptics” as “dissenting heroes” who bravely oppose “political persecution and fraud”. You know, like modern-day Galileos.

But the authors write that deniers will also try and convince the public that there is no consensus among scientists about the causes of climate change (there is and it’s us). They write:

Either there is a pervasive scientific consensus in which case contrarians are indeed dissenters, or there is no consensus in which case contrarian opinions should have broad support within the scientific community and no fearless opposition to an establishment is necessary.

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22 comments


Rising seas could ease coral bleaching but will be ‘too little too late’

Posted on 22 September 2016 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Robert McSweeney

Coral reefs could receive an unforeseen benefit from global sea level rise, a new study suggests.

Deeper waters over shallow reefs could alleviate the extreme temperatures that corals are exposed to, the study says, potentially easing coral bleaching caused by ocean warming.

But other scientists tell Carbon Brief that coral bleaching is already so widespread that any alleviation from sea level rise is unlikely to counter the impact of increasing temperatures.

Coral bleaching

The global ocean surface is currently warmer than it has been at any point in the observed record. In 2015, for example, global sea surface temperature was 0.33-0.39C higher than the 1981-2010 average, and 0.74C higher than the average for the 20th century.

Ocean warming arguably poses the biggest threat to the world’s coral reefs, says the new Science Advances paper, as it increases the likelihood of coral bleaching events. High temperatures stress the corals, to the point that they are forced expel the tiny colourful algae living in their tissues – known as zooxanthellae – leaving behind a stark white skeleton.

While a bleached coral reef is not dead, as the algae provide the coral with energy through photosynthesis, the coral cannot grow without them. A coral can recover from a single bleaching event, but persistently high temperatures can kill off entire reefs.

Research suggests that a global average temperature rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels could see long-term degradation of virtually all the world’s coral reefs. And even a more ambitious temperature limit of 1.5C could see 90% of coral reefs at risk of bleaching by 2050.

The study’s findings suggest that rising sea levels could help buffer the temperature extremes that corals are exposed to by increasing the volume of water the corals are surrounded by.

Documenting the dead coral after the bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, captured by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey in May 2016.

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375 top scientists warn of 'real, serious, immediate' climate threat

Posted on 21 September 2016 by John Abraham

Yesterday, 375 of the world’s top scientists, including 30 Nobel Prize winners, published an open letter regarding climate change. In the letter, the scientists report that the evidence is clear: humans are causing climate change. We are now observing climate change and its affect across the globe. The seas are rising, the oceans are warming, the lower atmosphere is warming, the land is warming, ice is melting, rainfall patterns are changing and the ocean is becoming more acidic.

These facts are incontrovertible. No reputable scientist disputes them. It is the truth.

Despite these facts, the letter reports that the US presidential campaign has seen claims that the earth isn’t warming, or it is only a natural warming, or that climate change is a hoax. These claims are false. The claims are made by politicians or real estate developers with no scientific experience. These people who deny the reality of climate change are not scientists. 

These claims aren’t new. We see them every election cycle. In fact, for the Republican Party, they are a virtual litmus test for electability. It is terribly sad that the party of Lincoln (the president who initiated the National Academy of Sciences) has been rebuked by the National Academy today. It is sad that the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who created the National Park System, is acting in a way antithetical to his legacy. It is also sad that the party of Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency, now is trying to eliminate that very organization.

What is perhaps most sad is that the party of “fiscal conservatism” is leading us on a path that will result in higher economic and social costs for all of us.

What we don’t know is what the future will bring. Will the warming be gradual or sudden? Will ocean rise increase at a faster rate or not? Will we continue to see major ice shelf collapse? Increased droughts and heat waves? Will we be able to adapt?

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7 comments


How the Greenland ice sheet fared in 2016

Posted on 20 September 2016 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Dr Ruth MottramDr Peter Langen and Dr Martin Stendel, who are climate scientists at the Polar Portal, part of the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen.

With the melt season in Greenland coming to a close just a few days ago, it’s the time of year when scientists take stock and give the ice sheet its annual “health check”.

One way to gauge the state of the ice sheet is through what scientists call the “surface mass balance”. This is the difference between how much snow falls and how much ice melts away.

The story in 2016 appears, on first look, to be fairly uneventful. This year’s surface mass balance has come in just below the long term average, which means slightly less ice has accumulated on the surface of the ice sheet than is usual for this time of year.

But thanks to the long term observations maintained by the Danish Meteorological Institute, as well as the weather stations maintained on the ice sheet by the PROMICE group at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, we know this year was, in fact, unusual in many ways.

This year’s “average” outcome belies some quite remarkable weather during the year, including a record early melt event in April followed by a new cold record just three months later in July.

Time-lapse at weather station KAN_L in summer. Source: Programme for Monitoring of the Greenland Ice Sheet (PROMICE)

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1 comments


New study undercuts favorite climate myth ‘more CO2 is good for plants’

Posted on 19 September 2016 by dana1981

A new study by scientists at Stanford University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tested whether hotter temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels that we’ll see post-2050 will benefit the kinds of plants that live in California grasslands. They found that carbon dioxide at higher levels than today (400 ppm) did not significantly change plant growth, while higher temperatures had a negative effect.

The oversimplified myth of ‘CO2 is plant food’

Those who benefit from the status quo of burning copious amounts of fossil fuels love to argue that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit plant life. It’s a favorite claim of climate contrarians like Matt Ridley and Rupert Murdoch.

World growing greener with increased carbon. Thirty years of satellite evidence. Forests growing faster and thicker.

It seems like a great counter-argument to the fact that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant – a fact that contrarians often dispute. However, reality is far more complicated than the oversimplification of ‘CO2 is plant food.’ Unlike in the controlled environment of a greenhouse, the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth causes temperatures to rise and the climate to change in various ways that can be bad for plant life. We can’t control all the other variables the way we can in a greenhouse.

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39 comments


2016 SkS Weekly Digest #38

Posted on 18 September 2016 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... SkS Highlights... La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... Video of the Week... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its seasonal minimum extent for 2016 on September 10. A relatively rapid loss of sea ice in the first ten days of September has pushed the ice extent to a statistical tie with 2007 for the second lowest in the satellite record. September’s low extent followed a summer characterized by conditions generally unfavorable for sea ice loss.

2016 ties with 2007 for second lowest Arctic sea ice minimum, National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Sept 15, 2016

This is a preliminary announcement. Changing winds or late-season melt could still reduce the Arctic ice extent, as happened in 2005 and 2010. NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of the Arctic melt season, and discuss the Antarctic winter sea ice growth, in early October.

Also see the Video of the Week section, Arctic Sea Ice from March to September 2016.

SkS Highlights...

Using the metric of comments garnered, Weekly Digest #37 was the most popular of the items posted on SkS during the past week. BBC climate coverage is evolving, but too slowly by Dana Nuccitelli (Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian) was the second most popular. The Climate Change Authority report: a dissenting view by Clive Hamilton & David Karoly (The Conversation AU) came in third. 

La Niña Update...

Toon of the Week...

 2016 Toon 38

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0 comments


2016 SkS Weekly News Roundup #38

Posted on 17 September 2016 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.

Sun Sep 11, 2016

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2 comments


Climate change doubled the chances of Louisiana heavy rains, scientists warn

Posted on 16 September 2016 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Roz Pidcock

Torrential rains unleashed on south Louisiana in August were made almost twice as likely by human-caused climate change, according to a quick-fire analysis released just weeks after the flood waters subsided.

The team of scientists concluded that such an event is expected to occur a minimum of 40% more often now than in 1900, but their best estimate is that the odds have now halved.

Dr Friederike Otto, a senior researcher in extreme weather and attribution in the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, who wasn’t involved in the research, tells Carbon Brief:

“It is a very striking example of the impact that climate change already has on us today…it is the rainfall event with the highest increase in risk that has been analysed, that I’m aware of.”

The new research is the latest in what are known as “single event attribution” studies. This one is notable for being the first collaboration between scientists at the World Weather Attribution (WWA) project and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A view from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter shows flooding and devastation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 15 August 2016

A view from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter shows flooding and devastation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 15 August 2016. Credit: Melissa Leake/US Department of Agriculture.

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The Climate Change Authority report: a dissenting view

Posted on 15 September 2016 by Guest Author

Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE), Charles Sturt University and David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

As Members of the Climate Change Authority who have participated fully in the Special Review of Australia’s Climate Goals and Policies, we reached the conclusion, after much consideration, that we could not in good conscience lend our names to its report, published last week.

Rather than resign from the Authority we decided to write a minority report. Here we present edited extracts from our report, which is released today.

The basis of our disagreement with the majority report is its failure to recognise the importance of the constraint put on all future emissions-reduction targets and policies by Australia’s carbon budget. The carbon budget is the total emissions that Australia can release between now and 2050 while still contributing its fair share in holding the global temperature rise to less than 2℃ – a key goal of the Paris climate agreement negotiated last December.

The majority report should, but does not, address the relationship between its recommendations and Australia’s carbon budget, consistent with a fair and equitable national contribution to the global carbon budget.

This is all the more regrettable because the requirement to do so is embedded in the Special Review’s terms of reference and was analysed in the First Report of the Special Review released in April 2015 (before the appointment of six new Members to the Authority in October 2015).

The budget constraint

In 2014 the Authority recommended an Australian emissions budget of 10.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases for the period 2013-2050. On this basis, it advised that Australia should set an emissions-reduction trajectory for 2030 in the range of 45-65% below 2005 levels. Contrast that with the current 26-28% target set by the Abbott government.

Against the constraints of the carbon budget, the majority report accepts – explicitly in some places, implicitly in others – the government’s current target.

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21 comments


Trump and the Republican Party are doing Big Oil's bidding

Posted on 14 September 2016 by dana1981

Trump hires advisers with fossil fuel ties

Last month, Donald Trump added Brooke Rollins and Kathleen Hartnett-White to his economic advisory council. Rollins is president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), while Hartnett-White has worked for the TPPF and the CO2 Coalition (formerly the George C. Marshall Institute), all of which are part of the “web of denial” receiving funding from the fossil fuel industry.

Hartnett-White told POLITICO in an interview that rather than listen to the conclusions of the world’s foremost climate science experts as summarized in the IPCC reports, she favors a commission that would develop an “alternative scientific methodology” and would include the voices of the less than 3% of climate scientists who reject the consensus on human-caused global warming. 

She believes “the sun had a powerful role” in global warming. However, the sun has had an overall cooling effect on global temperatures over the past 60 years, as the IPCC reports have shown. She also loves fossil fuels and seems entirely opposed renewable energy and efforts to cut carbon pollution.

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1 comments


BBC climate coverage is evolving, but too slowly

Posted on 12 September 2016 by dana1981

For years, the BBC has been criticised for the false balance of its climate change coverage. And for years, the BBC has apparently been doing “ongoing work” to fix it. So far, however, this ‘reform’ has been more like a triumph of the middling. Yes, the BBC may broadcast less outright misinformation, but as a scientist and a citizen, I still feel let down by its continually careless handling of climate denial - most recently two weeks ago. This nod to mediocrity is a disservice to science, to public trust, and to the biggest news story in the world. And it is a huge, missed opportunity.

As a young PhD graduate working on climate change solutions, I am confronted daily by a world where the warnings of science are undercut by Fox ‘News’ and its ilk. It is a very different world to the trustworthy BBC broadcasts of David Attenborough and the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures that I grew up with, which helped inspire me to become a scientist. But as a recent BBC News segment by Science Editor David Shukman sadly reminded me, those worlds can too easily collide.

Shukman’s broadcast was an interesting one. An important perspective on the “political battle over the future of fuel” in the swing state of Ohio, and its implications for U.S. energy policy. I transcribed it here. It was all pretty benign until, halfway through, something in Shukman’s narration caught my ear (emphasis mine):

The problem with coal comes when you burn it. It releases carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming. Donald Trump saysthat isn’t a problem. But Hillary Clinton says it is, and she’s offering a greener future instead ...

While the debate rages over whether climate change is a threat or not

Shukman’s accompanying BBC blog post beats the same drum, outlining the candidates’ “starkly different visions of global warming”:

The Democratic Party contender says she believes in the science of climate change. By contrast, the Republican candidate talks down the threat of rising temperatures.

As harmless as they sound, words like “blamed”, “debate”, and “believe” - without careful context - are the currency of public confusion. “Who, exactly, blames carbon dioxide for global warming?” we are forced to wonder. Clinton? Liberals? Scientists? And who disagrees? Trump? Other politicians? Some scientists too? Most importantly, who’s right in this blame game?

For the record, carbon dioxide is not “blamed” for global warming - it “causes” it. That is the unequivocal scientific consensus the world over.

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19 comments


2016 SkS Weekly Digest #37

Posted on 11 September 2016 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... SkS Highlights... La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week.. Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week

Lest we loose sight of the fact that manmade climate change impacts more than just the Earth's atmosphere...

Global warming is making the oceans sicker than ever before, spreading disease among animals and humans and threatening food security across the planet, a major scientific report said.

The findings, based on peer-reviewed research, were compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, experts said at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii.

"We all know that the oceans sustain this planet. We all know that the oceans provide every second breath we take," IUCN director general Inger Andersen said at the meeting, which has drawn 9,000 leaders and environmentalists to Honolulu.

"And yet we are making the oceans sick."

The report, Explaining Ocean Warming, is the "most comprehensive, most systematic study we have ever undertaken on the consequence of this warming on the ocean", co-lead author Dan Laffoley said.

Global warming making oceans sick, spreading disease in humans and animals, scientists warn, ABC News (Australia) , Sep 12, 2016

SkS Highlights

Using the metric of comments posted, the most popular of the articles posted on SkS during the past week are:

Toon of the Week

 2016 Toon 37

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25 comments


2016 SkS Weekly News Roundup #37

Posted on 10 September 2016 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.

Sun Sep 3, 2016

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0 comments


The Madhouse Effect, a review

Posted on 9 September 2016 by Andy Skuce

This is a re-post from Critical Angle

Climate scientist Michael Mann has teamed up with cartoonist Tom Toles to write TheMadhouse Effect: How Climate Change Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics and Driving Us Crazy. It’s an excellent book, well-written, authoritative on the science, revealing on the politics and laced with the wit of many superb cartoons. Buy a copy for the climate science doubter in your family. They will be drawn in by the cartoons and may well be unable to resist dipping in to the text.

MadhouseEffect_Book_On_Climate_Change

Michael Mann has previously written The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, about how he was hounded for writing a paper that featured the striking hockey-stick graph. He also authored Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change with scientist Lee Kump. At the same time that he turns out first-class books, Mann is a prolific research scientist and has an active presence on social media. You can only wonder how he does it all.

Tom Toles is a Pullitzer-Prize winning cartoonist who works for the Washington Post. His main focus is politics, but his cartoons have often featured climate science and the absurd lengths that many American politicians go to in avoiding the facing up to the reality of global change.

Writing about scientific subjects like climate change for the non-specialist is not easy and authors have to walk a fine line. Many readers expect scientists to be detached about the implications of their work, but that would make their message less engaging, less human. The science needs to be explained in ways that the average person can understand, but oversimplification can gloss over some of the important complications. And treatments of the topic can so so easily be depressing and dull. The Mann/Toles team have succeeded in bringing their talents together to overcome these problems. The writing is excellent  and the cartoons add a much-needed satirical perspective.

tipping point

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7 comments


Climate change and other human activities are affecting species migration

Posted on 8 September 2016 by John Abraham

One of the reasons climate change is such an important topic is that it will affect (and already is affecting) the natural biological systems. Both plants and animals will have to respond to the changing climate. In some cases, this means adapting to higher temperatures. In other cases, the changes may be alterations in the precipitation, length of growing season, availability or resources, or other influences. 

While some animals can adapt, others will have to migrate. Obviously migration can be apparent in mobile animals that will move to maintain a more or less similar climate to that to which they are accustomed.

But animal and plant movement does not occur in just a changing climate. It also has to navigate changes to the landscape that humans create. For instance, increased land allocation to agriculture or urbanization can create barriers for free migration. So, what scientists really want to know is how these two factors (climate change and land use change) will collectively affect the patterns of animal and plant movement.

A study that actually was published a few years ago but is only now getting press looked at this issue. The publication was authored by Julian Olden and his colleagues from the University of Washington and the Nature Conservancy. What they researchers found was very interesting. The study was published in the journal Ecology Letters and is titled Projected Climate-Driven Faunal Movement Routes.

First, they projected changes in the distribution of climatically suitable zones for projected future climates. They considered nearly 3,000 vertebrate species. Using a computer model, the projected how and when the species would migrate and they tracked the migration routes. The study incorporated a resistance to movement based on the amount of human alteration to the landscape. The analysis was similar to how the flow of electrons through a wire circuit is calculated. In fact, electronic circuit theory formed a basis for the calculations.

From their analysis, the authors identified several locations in North and South America that will be crucial for species movement in a changing climate. Large movements are expected in the southeastern US, the Amazon region, and parts of Brazil. Some of the areas where migration is expected have intact biological regions. Others, in particular the southeastern US and Brazil, have pathways that are heavily impacted by human activities, which may create a barrier to the migration routes.

In the study, the team of scientists first identified what they term “climatically suitable” conditions for each of the species under a changing climate scenario. They plotted routes for the species from areas that were projected to be unsuitable to these suitable areas. The routes were plotted so that they avoided the most heavily human-impacted regions. They then plotted the paths on a map for easy of visualization.

Some concrete and specific examples were provided. For instance, in the southeastern US, species are projected to move northward into the southern Appalachian Mountains. In South America, species are expected to migrate from central Argentina in the Pampas, Sierras de Cordoba, and Andes. The authors identified 14 biological regions and calculated the average direction of movement across each biome. Great visualizations are shown of paths of migrations, for instance, in the southeastern US.

vector

Vector image of migration patterns, southeastern USA. Illustration: Lawler et al. (2013), Ecology Letters.

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