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?
Posted on 26 August 2016 by Guest Author
"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children," is an oft-quoted proverb, frequently used to explain the importance of environmental preservation. Unsaid, however, is how much it will impact the next generation if the Earth is bequeathed in a lesser state.
Environmental campaigners NextGen Climate and public policy group Demos published a new study that attempts to quantify the true cost of not addressing climate change to the millennial generation and their children.
The Price Tag of Being Young: Climate Change and Millennials' Economic Future (pdf) compares some of the high costs millennials will face in the "new inequality economy"—such as student debt, child care costs, stagnant wages, as well as financial and job insecurity—against the fiscal impacts of unmitigated global warming.
"The fact is," the report states, "unchecked climate change will impose heavy costs on millennials and subsequent generations, both directly in the form of reduced incomes and wealth, and indirectly through likely higher tax bills as extreme weather, rising sea levels, drought, heat-related health problems, and many other climate change-related problems take their toll on our society."
The impacts from climate costs alone, the report finds, are "comparable to Great Depression-era losses." The study employs a model developed by researchers from Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley that measures the effects of rising temperatures on long-term economic growth and national productivity drawing on 50 years of data from 166 countries.
The "no climate action" scenario found that by 2100 global per capita GDP will shrink by 23 percent relative to a scenario without climate change. The U.S. is estimated to take a 5 percent hit by 2050 that jumps to 36 percent by 2100 should no climate action occur.
This adds up to a loss of nearly $8.8 trillion in lifetime income for millennials and tens of trillions for their children.
Posted on 25 August 2016 by John Abraham
A new study measures the loss of ice from one of world’s largest ice sheets. They find an ice loss that has accelerated in the past few years, and their measurements confirm prior estimates.
As humans emit heat-trapping gases, we expect to see changes to the Earth. One obvious change to be on the lookout for is melting ice. This includes ice atop mountains, ice floating in cold ocean waters, and the ice within large ice sheets or glaciers. It is this last type of ice loss that most affects ocean levels because as the water runs into the oceans, it raises sea levels. This is in contrast to melting sea ice – since it is already floating in ocean waters, its potential to raise ocean levels is very small.
So measuring ice sheet melting is important, not only as a signal of global warming but also because of the sea level impacts. But how is this melting measured? The ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are huge and scientists need enough measurements in space and time to really understand what’s going on. That is, we need high-resolution and long duration measurements to fully understand trends.
In a very recent publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team reported on a new high-resolution measurement of Greenland. The lead author, Malcolm McMillan from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modeling, and his colleagues mapped Greenland with incredibly high resolution (5 km distances).
Posted on 24 August 2016 by greenman3610
This is a re-post from Climate Denial Crock of the Week
I was fortunate to catch up with Katharine Hayhoe in June, while I was interviewing TV meteorologists at a conference in Austin, TX. She was there to present and answer questions on the finer points of climate science for the assembled media mets.
Dr Hayhoe has been named one of Time Magazine’s most Influential People. She is a climate scientist working and teaching at Texas Tech University.
Posted on 23 August 2016 by Guest Author
This is a re-post from Variable Variability
In its time it was huge progress that Francis Bacon stressed the importance of observations. Even if he did not do that much science himself, his advocacy for the Baconian (scientific) method, gave him a place as one of the fathers of modern science together with Nicolaus Copernicus and Isaac Newton.
However, you can also become too fundamentalist about empiricism. Modern science is characterized by an intricate interplay of observations and theory. An observation is never free of theory. You may not be aware of it, but you make theoretical assumptions about what you see in any observation. Theory also guides what to observe, what kind of experiments to make.
Charles Darwin often claimed to adhere to Bacon's ideals, but he had another side. University of California professor of biology and philosophy Francisco Ayala writes in Darwin and the scientific method:
“Let theory guide your observations.” Indeed, Darwin had no use for the empiricist claim that a scientist should not have a preconception or hypothesis that would guide his work. Otherwise, as he wrote, one “might as well go into a gravel pit and count the pebbles and describe the colors. How odd it is that anyone should not see that observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service”
But his ambivalence is seen in Darwin's advice to a young scientist:
Let theory guide your observations, but till your reputation is well established be sparing in publishing theory. It makes persons doubt your observations.
The same ambivalence is seen in Einstein. Mitigation skeptics like this quote:
No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
The quote this when the observations show less changes than the model. If the observations show more changes than the model/theory the observations, they quickly forget Einstein and the observations are suddenly wrong.
In practice Einstein was more realistic. Prof in molecular physics [[John Rigden]] wrote in his book about Einstein's wonder year 1905: "Einstein saw beyond common sense and, while he respected experimental data, he was not its slave."
That is perfectly reasonable. When theory and observations do not match, the theory can be wrong, the observations can be wrong and the comparison can be wrong. What is called observations is nearly always something that was computed from observations and also that computation can be imperfect. Only when we understand the reason, can we say what it was.
The main blog of the mitigation skeptical movement, WUWT, on the other hand is famous for calling trying to understand the reasons for discrepancies: "excuses".
Posted on 22 August 2016 by dana1981
Scientists have pieced together historical records to reconstruct Arctic sea ice extent over the past 125 years. The results are shown in the figure below. The red line, showing the extent at the end of the summer melt season, is the most critical:
Arctic sea ice extent in recent years is by far the lowest it’s been, with about half of the historical coverage gone, and the decline the fastest it’s been in recorded history. Florence Fetterer, principal investigator at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, described the data reconstruction process in a guest post at Carbon Brief:
Posted on 21 August 2016 by John Hartz
SkS Highlights... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... He Said What?... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...
Climate urgency: we've locked in more global warming than people realize by Dana Nuccitelli (Climate Consensus-the 97%, Guardian) garnered, by far and away, the most comments among the articles posted on SkS during the past week. The comment thread discussion is lively and wide-ranging. If you have not done so already, check out the article and participate in the discourse.
Toon of the Week
Hat tip to I Heart Climate Scientists
Posted on 20 August 2016 by John Hartz
A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.
Sun Aug 14, 2016
- A closer look at Trump’s sentence-like word strings on coal, China, and the size of the Earth by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Aug 12, 2016
- Record Flooding in Southeast Louisiana May Get Worse by Bob Henson, WunderBlog, Weather Underground, Aug 12, 2016
- Thousands Rescued, Motorists Still Stranded on Interstate in Flood-Soaked Louisiana by Ada Carr and Ryan Phillip, The Weather Channel, Aug 14, 2016
- Hitting the plastic slopes: Climate change pushes ski resorts to 'weatherproof' by Nicole Ireland, CBC News, Aug 13, 2016
- California wildfire forces 1,000 evacuations and destroys homes, AP/Guardian, Aug 14, 2016
- The blob': how marine heatwaves are causing unprecedented climate chaos by Michael Slezak, Guardian, Aug 14, 2016
- Who owns the wind? We do, Wyoming says, and it's taxing those who use it by William Yardley, Los Angeles Times, Aug 14, 2016
Posted on 19 August 2016 by dana1981
Extreme weather increases the risk of armed conflict in ethnically-diverse countries, a new study suggests.
Around 23% of conflict outbreaks in these countries over the last three decades have occurred during climate-related disasters, such as droughts and heatwaves, the paper says.
The results don’t suggest that weather extremes directly trigger conflict, the researchers say, but that they can be one of many contributing factors.
Carbon Brief speaks to a number of experts to dig a bit deeper into what has become quite a controversial field of climate research.
A host of different factors can increase the risk of armed conflict breaking out in a country. Some examples picked out by previous research include poverty, weak governance, a history of conflict, income gaps between rich and poor, and disputes over natural resources.
The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that climate-related disasters should be added to this list.
This conclusion stems from a statistical analysis of armed conflicts and the economic damage caused by extreme weather events over the period 1980-2010.
The researchers looked at three categories of climate-related disasters. These include meteorological events (blizzard/snowstorm, hailstorm, tornado, tropical cyclone, winter storm), hydrological events (avalanche, flash flood, general flood, landslide, storm surge), and climatological events (cold wave/frost, drought, heatwave, wildfire).
The results suggest that around 9% of all armed conflicts over the past 30 years have occurred during – i.e. in the same month as – an extreme climatological event.
Posted on 18 August 2016 by Guest Author
The State of the Climate in 2015 report, led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was released yesterday. Unfortunately, it paints a grim picture of the world’s climate last year.
For a second consecutive year the globe experienced its hottest year on record, beating the 2014 record by more than 0.1℃. From May 2015 onwards, each month set a temperature record for that particular month, a pattern that has yet to end.
The record-breaking temperature anomaly in 2015 (around 1℃ higher, on average, than what would be expected in a world without humans) was in large part due to human-caused climate change. A small fraction of the heat was because of a major El Niño event, which developed midway through 2015 and ran into this year.
During El Niño events we see warmer sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. A resulting transfer of heat from the ocean into the lower atmosphere causes a temporary warming effect. In La Niña seasons, the opposite happens.
Overall, about 0.05-0.1℃ of the global temperature anomaly for 2015 was due to El Niño. The bulk of the remainder was due to climate change. So even if we hadn’t had an El Niño last year, 2015 would still have been one of the hottest years on record.
Of the 16 hottest years ever recorded, 15 have happened this century.
Extreme events around the world…
At regional scales we also saw many extreme events last year. The downward trend in Arctic sea ice continued, with the lowest annual maximum extent on record. Alaska’s winter was almost non-existent, with many Arctic mammals and fish being forced to change their behaviour and shift their habitats.
In Europe, various summer heat records were set in Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain, while Germany posted an all-time record temperature.
Posted on 17 August 2016 by Guest Author
Sea ice cover in the Arctic has undergone a widely reported decline in recent decades. The decrease has been greatest during summer, with sea ice extent reducing by around 12% per decade since the satellite record began in 1979.
The main cause of this rapid decline is rising air temperatures. The Arctic is warming twice as quickly as the global average, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Other factors, such as wind patterns and ocean warming, also play a role in the diminishing sea ice.
Satellites provide a near-continuous record of Arctic sea ice cover, allowing scientists to monitor changes from one day to the next. But because this data spans only the most recent three and a half decades, we need to look elsewhere to gather information on variations over longer periods.
This data is necessary as there are some research questions that can’t be answered with only short-term records, such as:
- Has Arctic sea ice cover been this small since the start of the industrial revolution?
- Has sea ice ever declined this rapidly in the historical record?
- How is sea ice affected by natural fluctuations over multiple decades?
To tackle this problem we set about constructing a record of sea ice going back to 1850. And this meant gathering data from some rather unusual sources.
Posted on 16 August 2016 by greenman3610
In June, I flew to Austin TX, for a conference that brought together prominent regional television weathercasters and scientists, for a concentrated update on climate science and communication.
For years, it seems, there has been a disconnect between those who are the most familiar and trusted sources of weather information, and the climate transformation that is affecting the stories they seek to report and interpret. In a summer like this, more and more weathercasters are being beseiged with questions about climate, and how it is impacting the seemingly endless parade of extreme events that are hitting all around the country, and the world.
The TV Mets I interviewed were smart, thoughtful, had science training, though not at the PhD level, enough to have begun digging into the data on their own to draw conclucions. Some, like Amber Sullins of ABC 15 in Phoenix, had initially been skeptical, “10 or 20 years ago”, she told me. But after doing what a scientist does “..take in the information, question, and research it yourself” – she came to understand the problem was real. Likewise Greg Fishel of WRAL in Raleigh, formerly a self described “hard core skeptic”, who finally realized that he was only seeking “information to support what I already thought..” – and began searching independently for answers.
Posted on 15 August 2016 by dana1981
While most people accept the reality of human-caused global warming, we tend not to view it as an urgent issue or high priority. That lack of immediate concern may in part stem from a lack of understanding that today’s pollution will heat the planet for centuries to come, as explained in this Denial101x lecture:
So far humans have caused about 1°C warming of global surface temperatures, but if we were to freeze the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide at today’s levels, the planet would continue warming. Over the coming decades, we’d see about another 0.5°C warming, largely due to what’s called the “thermal inertia” of the oceans (think of the long amount of time it takes to boil a kettle of water). The Earth’s surface would keep warming about another 1.5°C over the ensuing centuries as ice continued to melt, decreasing the planet’s reflectivity.
To put this in context, the international community agreed in last year’s Paris climate accords that we should limit climate change risks by keeping global warming below 2°C, and preferably closer to 1.5°C. Yet from the carbon pollution we’ve already put into the atmosphere, we’re committed to 1.5–3°C warming over the coming decades and centuries, and we continue to pump out over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The importance of reaching zero or negative emissions
We can solve this problem if, rather than holding the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide steady, it falls over time. As discussed in the above video, Earth naturally absorbs more carbon than it releases, so if we reduce human emissions to zero, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide will slowly decline. Humans can also help the process by finding ways to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it.
Scientists are researching various technologies to accomplish this, but we’ve already put over 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Pulling a significant amount of that carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it safely will be a tremendous challenge, and we won’t be able to reduce the amount in the atmosphere until we first get our emissions close to zero.
Posted on 14 August 2016 by John Hartz
SkS Highlights... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... He Said What?... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...
Rejection of experts spreads from Brexit to climate change with 'Clexit' by Dana Nuccitelli (Climate Consensus-the 97%) drew the highest number of comments among the articles posted on SkS during the past week. As nuclear power plants close, states need to bet big on energy storage by Eric Daniel Fournier & Alex Ricklefs (The Conversation US) attracted the second highest number of coments.
Toon of the Week
Posted on 13 August 2016 by John Hartz
A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.
Sun Aug 7, 2016
- Science communication is on the rise – and that’s good for democracy by Peter Weingart, Lars Guenther & Marina Joubert, The Conversation Africa, Aug 3, 2016
- Superblocks: how Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Aug 4, 2016
- Scientists warn world will miss key climate target by Robin McKie, Observer/Guardian, Aug 6, 2016
- Windfarms do not discourage tourists, economists find by Ian Johnson, Independent, Aug 4, 2016
- Climate change threatens nation’s agriculture by Eric Johnston, Japan Times, Aug 6, 2016
- Fastest-Growing Source Of Electricity ‘Not Working So Good,’ Trump Claims by Samantha Page, Climate Progress, Aug 2, 2016
- Do Oil Companies Really Need $4 Billion Per Year of Taxpayers’ Money? by Eduardo Porter, Upshot, New York Times, Aug 6, 2016
- Zombie microbes, reindeer and the health risks of climate change by Hilary Bambrick, ABC News, Aug 2, 2016
Posted on 12 August 2016 by Guest Author
This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Simon Evans
Nearly half of the UK’s electricity came from renewables and nuclear in 2015, while fossil fuel’s share of energy supplies hit a record low.
The latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveals a nation in the midst of a low-carbon transition. However, it also shows that fossil fuel extraction increased for the first time in 15 years.
Carbon Brief has produced five interactive charts to show what happened to the UK’s energy mix in 2015.
Fossil fuels supplied 82% of the UK’s primary energy in 2015, by far the lowest share in records going back nearly half a century. Within that, coal use fell to 25 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), down 21% in a year and just one quarter of the amount used in 1970.
The fall in coal use means it reached a new nadir, having already dropped to levels not seen since the industrial revolution. Oil and gas demand increased slightly in 2015, up 1.4% and 2.7% respectively because of falling prices and cooler weather compared to a year earlier.
Posted on 11 August 2016 by Bart Verheggen
This is a re-post from Bart Verheggen's blog
Imagine you’re on a supertanker that needs to change its direction in order to avoid a collision. What would you do? Would you continue going full steam ahead until you can see the collision object right in front of you? Or would you try to change course early, knowing that changing a supertanker’s course takes a considerable amount of time?
The supertanker’s inertia means that you have to act in time if you wish to avoid a collision.
The climate system also has a tremendous amount of inertia built in. And like with the supertanker, this means that early action is required if we want to change the climate’s course. This inertia is a crucial aspect of the climate system, both scientifically but also societally – but in the latter realm it’s a very underappreciated aspect. Just do a mental check: when did you last hear or read about the climate’s inertia in mainstream media or from politicians?
Why is it so important? Because intuitively many people might think that as soon as we have substantially decreased our CO2 emissions (which we haven’t), the problem will be solved. It won’t, not by a very long shot. Even if we reduce CO2 emissions to zero over a realistic timeframe, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere – and thus also the global average temperature- will remain elevated for millennia, as can be seen in the figure below. The total amount of carbon we put in the atmosphere over the course of a few hundred years will affect life on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years. And if we want to reduce the amount of warming that we commit the future to, we need to reduce our carbon emissions sooner rather than later. The longer we postpone emission reductions, the stronger those emissions reductions would need to be in order to have the same mitigating effect on long-term warming.
That’s why climate inertia is so important.
Posted on 10 August 2016 by John Abraham
One of the great things about science is that it allows you to make predictions. Three top climate scientists just made a very bold prediction regarding sea level rise; we should know in a few years if they are correct.
As humans emit greenhouse gases, it’s causing the Earth to warm. That’s indisputable and proven. We can actually measure the amount of extra heat. Since most of it ends up in the oceans, we can also measure other changes in the oceans.
For instance, the oceans are rising. We know that’s indisputable. Measurements taken from physical gauges and from satellites confirm sea level rise. The cause of the rise is more complex.
Part of the rise is from ocean warming – warm water is less dense so the sea level rises as temperatures increase. Another part of the rise is from melting ice, especially ice that is currently on land (like glaciers and ice sheets). As this ice melts and flows into the oceans, the water levels rise. A third reason for sea level changes is from alterations of where water is stored on the planet. For instance, changing rainfall patterns and storage of water underground, in lakes, or in the atmosphere can affect sea levels.
The three ways we know sea levels are rising are from physical tide gauges, from satellites that measure the water height, and from satellites that measure where ice is stored across the globe. While tide gauge measurements go back many years, they only measure water levels at their location. Many tide gauges have to be in place to get an accurate sense of what is happening globally.
Satellites, on the other hand, are much more capable of taking global measurements. The problem with satellites is they have only been taking measurements since approximately 1993 (not nearly as long as tide gauges). So scientists try to combine these two measurements to get a long-term and global picture of what is really happening.
Posted on 9 August 2016 by dana1981
Eric Daniel Fournier, Post Doctoral Researcher, Spatial Informatics, University of California, Los Angeles and Alex Ricklefs, Research Analyst in Sustainable Communities, University of California, Los Angeles
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) recently started the process of shutting down the Diablo Canyon generation facility, the last active nuclear power plant in California. The power plant, located near Avila Beach on the central Californian coast, consists of two 1,100 megawatt (MW) reactors and produces 18,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity a year, about 8.5 percent of California’s electricity consumption in 2015. It has been, up until this point, the single largest electrical generation facility in the state.
Looming over the imminent closure of Diablo Canyon is California State legislative bill SB 350, or the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015. The act is a cornerstone of the state’s ongoing efforts to decarbonize its electricity grid by requiring utilities to include renewable sources for a portion of their electrical generation in future years. The mandate also requires utilities to run programs designed to double the efficiency of electricity and natural gas consumption.
But a number of significant unanswered questions remain about this ambitious energy policy, as the planned closing by 2025 of Diablo Canyon illustrates. Can utilities supply electricity around the clock using these alternative generation sources? And crucially, can energy storage technologies provide the power on demand that traditional generators have done?
Moving away from nuclear power
Nuclear power plants saw their heyday in the early 1970s and were praised for their ability to produce large amounts of electricity at a constant rate without the use of fossil fuels.
However, due to negative opinion and costly renovations, we are now observing a trend whereby long-running nuclear power plants are shutting down and very few new plants are being scheduled for construction in the United States.
Utilities are moving toward renewable electricity generation, such as solar and wind, partially in response to market forces and partially in response to new regulations that require utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In California, in particular, the shift toward renewable energy for market and environmental reasons, along with the public’s negative perception of nuclear energy, has caused utilities to abandon nuclear power.
Posted on 8 August 2016 by dana1981
Brexit support and climate denial have many similarities. Many Brexit Leave campaign leaders also deny the dangers of human-caused climate change. Older generations were more likely to vote for the UK to leave the EU and are more likely to oppose taking action on climate change; younger generations disagree, and will be forced to live with the consequences of those decisions. On both issues there’s also a dangerous strain of anti-intellectualism, in which campaigners mock experts and dismiss their evidence and conclusions.
With Brexit, the Leave campaign won the vote, and the UK economy is already feeling the consequences. As Graham Readfearn reported, a new group called “Clexit” (Climate Exit) has formed in an effort to similarly withdraw countries from the successful international climate treaty forged last year in Paris. As the group describes itself:
Brexit was Britain’s answer to the growing over-reach of EU bureaucracies. Clexit is our answer to the push for global control through climate hysteria.
Clexit leaders are heavily involved in tobacco and fossil fuel-funded organizations, in what’s become known as “the web of denial.” The group’s president is Christopher Monckton, whose extensive misunderstanding of basic climate science was revealed in a thorough debunking by John Abraham, and whoinsists that President Obama was born in Kenya, among his many controversial and conspiratorial public statements. Its vice president is Marc Morano, who began his career working for Rush Limbaugh and is essentially the real-life version of the character Nick Naylor from the film Thank You for Smoking. Its secretary is Viv Forbes, who has been involved with coal industry for over 40 years and is associated with many fossil fuel-funded groups.
With feedback from the rest of the group’s members, Forbes prepared Clexit’s summary statement, which is full of myths and misinformation about economics, energy, laws, and climate science. It includes this expression of compassionate concern over the plight of low-lying island nations that are being engulfed by rising seas:
Posted on 7 August 2016 by John Hartz
SkS Highlights... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... He Said What?... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...
One Nation's Malcolm Roberts is in denial about the facts of climate change by John Cook (The Conversation AU) generated the highest number of comments amomg the articles posted on SkS during the past week.
Toon of the Week