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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #38A

Posted on 18 September 2013 by John Hartz

  • A frosty G20 puts global warming on ice
  • Can't see the forest for the trees: the climate bomb
  • Climate change threatens crop yields in Brazil
  • Climate change to have double impact
  • Colorado's thousand-year flood
  • Confronting the coming cataclysm of global climate change
  • Debate revs as decision stalls over oil pipeline from Canada
  • How to survive a mass extinction
  • Human fingerprints visible in atmospheric changes
  • Majority of climate change news stories focus on uncertainty
  • U.S. debates climate impact of development investments
  • What's causing global warming? Look for the fingerprints

A frosty G20 puts global warming on ice

It took the frostiest international summit in years to take some heat out of global warming.

From the way the world’s media covered the latest G20 meeting, you’d think the assembled leaders had failed to make even the smallest breakthrough on any major policy issue. But while the eyes of the world watched for ill-tempered body language between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, genuine progress was being made on the great policy challenge of our time: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and preventing a global climate emergency and health scare.

Indeed the leaders of the world’s largest economies did not spend all of last week eyeing each other warily over well-dressed plates of beef stroganoff. In fact, they hammered out a settlement to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - dangerous climate pollutants thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.

A frosty G20 puts global warming on ice by Assad W. Razzouk, The Independent, Sep 16, 2013 


Can't see the forest for the trees: the climate bomb

Later this month in Stockholm The United Nations panel on climate change will release its long awaited report replete with predictions on our climate. Media moles and self-acclaimed pundits are writing about temperatures rising between 7.2 and 9 degrees (F) (4 and 5 deg C) later this century as if Earth's life support system can handily absorb these deadly numbers.

Can't See the Forest for the Trees: The Climate Bomb by Reese Halter, The Huffington Post, Sep 13, 2013


Climate change threatens crop yields in Brazil

Crop yields in Brazil, an agricultural powerhouse, are set to decline as a result of climate change, according to the most complete diagnosis yet of climate trends in this country.

Brazil is about to overtake the United States as the world’s top producer of soy, which could see yields fall 25 percent by 2050. Drops in productivity are also projected for beans, rice, maize, sugar cane, coffee and oranges.

Some of these products already saw declines in this year’s harvests.

The first exhaustive report on climate change in South America’s giant predicts that temperatures could be three to six degrees C higher by 2100, and says agricultural losses will be one of the most notable effects.

The report’s chapter on agriculture estimates that the sector will suffer some 3.1 billion dollars a year in losses after 2020. 

Climate Change Threatens Crop Yields in Brazil by Fabiana Frayssinet, Inter Press Serice (IPS), Sep 17, 2013


Climate change to have double impact - study

As the world awaits the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest verdict on the state of the climate, new research out this year finds that climate change could have double the impact previously thought.

The peer-reviewed study published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society argues that conventional conclusions on climate sensitivity - the extent to which global temperatures respond to greenhouse gas emissions - underestimate the role of some amplifying feedbacks that may intensify climate impacts in ways that many models tend to overlook.

Traditional estimates of climate sensitivity such as that adopted by the IPCC focus on "fast feedbacks" like water vapour, natural aerosols, clouds, and snow cover, but do not sufficiently account for slower feedbacks including "surface albedo feedbacks from changes in continental ice sheets and vegetation", and climate greenhouse gas feedbacks "from changes in natural (land and ocean) carbon sinks."

Climate change to have double impact - study by Nafeez Ahmed, Earth Insight, The Guardian, Sep 18, 2013


Colorado's thousand-year flood

As you can see Colorado has suffered repeated assaults—all caused in part (or amplified) by climate change. In addition to the immediate deaths and physical devastations, repeated assaults also create deep psychological scars. Furthermore, the American culture is deeply amnesiac—we forget a tragedy soon after the corporate media stops reporting on a particular catastrophe. But when a region is going through repeated assaults, before amnesia sets in, the next assault arrives. Time has come for us to do more than connect the dots through science. We also need to understand repeated assaults through socio-psychological studies and analysis, not just in Colorado, but wherever on earth it maybe taking place.

Colorado's Thousand-Year Flood by Subhankar Banerjee, Common Dreams, Sep 16, 2013


Confronting the coming cataclysm of global climate change 

Climate change is one of the greatest moral disasters of human history, because the people who will suffer the most have been the least responsible for its cause. Those of us in the developed countries somehow think that we will escape its results, turning away from the hundreds of millions who will be caught in the whirlwind of misery that is coming.

The meaning of this hour is that we must recognize what we are doing, admit our fault, and bring about the changes necessary to prevent further damage.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the "fierce urgency of now." Once again, that is the meaning of this hour.

The Meaning of This Hour: Confronting the Coming Cataclysm of Global Climate Change by Rabbi Lawrence Troster, The Huffington Post, 


Debate revs as decision stalls over oil pipeline from Canada

Five years ago this week, a Canadian company proposed building a pipeline to send heavy crude oil from Alberta to U.S. refineries. Although the Obama administration's answer on the Keystone XL pipeline is not expected anytime soon, politicians in Washington and Canada are ramping up the pressure for the project, while environmentalists are pushing hard against it.

The intense focus on the decision reflects the fact that the Keystone XL pipeline has become a proxy for the larger debate on climate change emissions. The heavy crude the pipeline would carry has a substantially bigger greenhouse gas footprint than conventional crude.

This summer, President Obama said he wouldn't approve the Keystone XL if he determined that it would exacerbate climate change.

Still, many politicians in the U.S. and Canada tout Keystone as a job creator and crucial tool for making North America energy independent.

A new measure being debated in the Senate would declare the Keystone XL in the national interest, although it would not force the president's hand.

Debate Revs As Decision Stalls Over Oil Pipeline From Canada by Elizabeth Shogren, NPR, Sep 16, 2013


How to survive a mass extinction

Scatter. Adapt. Remember. This is how the upbeat new apocalyptic book by science writer Annalee Newitz, the lead editor of the engaging tech/science/entertainment Web site io9, summarizes the strategies that could allow the human species to persist if faced with the kind of epic disruptions to Earth’s environment that have periodically erased the majority of living things.

Click here for an audio sample from the book on organisms that unleashed planetary catastrophes in the past (along with the usual array of super-volcanoes and asteroid impacts).

How to Survive a Mass Extinction – Even One Caused by Us by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, Sep 17, 2013


Human fingerprints visible in atmospheric changes

Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are like a cat burglar. They’re hard to see and harder to catch in the act. However, they’re prone to leaving fingerprints, and scientists, acting as detectives, have been looking for those fingerprints as evidence has mounted that greenhouse gases are causing global average temperatures to increase. The latest discovery, announced Monday in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, makes the case that those emissions are causing changes to the climate in the lower and upper reaches of the atmosphere. 

Human Fingerprints Visible in Atmospheric Changes by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Sep 16, 2013


Majority of climate change news stories focus on uncertainty

The uncertainties of climate change science have become a major focus of media coverage on the subject, a new study shows.

About eight in 10 stories on climate change and related scientific research contain some discussion of uncertainties and risk, according to a report from Oxford University. Roughly eight in 10 also refer in some way to the disasters that are likely to result from unchecked global warming and greenhouse gas emission rises.

The remaining uncertainties – such as the sensitivity of the climate to increases in carbon dioxide concentrations, and the roles played by major parts of the Earth's systems such as the absorption of carbon and heat by the oceans – will come under the spotlight next week, when leading climate scientists gather in Stockholm to hammer out the final details of the long-awaited fifth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Majority of climate change news stories focus on uncertainty,study finds by Fiona Harvey, The Guradian, Sep 18, 2013


U.S. debates climate impact of development investments

A debate is heating up here over the extent to which U.S. government-facilitated private-sector development investments should be required to take into account how those ventures impact on climate change.

The discussions focus on a small and relatively little-known federal agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the government office in charge of mobilising private capital in pursuit of international development priorities. While OPIC generally receives high marks, in recent years some groups have been particularly impressed by the agency’s focus on investments in small-scale, de-centralised renewable energy projects.

U.S. Debates Climate Impact of Development Investments by Carey L Biron, Inter Press Service (IPS), Sep 13, 2013


What's causing global warming? Look for the fingerprints

There are a number of reasons why we know humans are causing many of the changes we are seeing today. Among them, is the use of attribution studies, often called "fingerprinting". Scientists look at the patterns of climate change and ask, do they have the fingerprint of natural variation, or humans?

What's causing global warming? Look for the fingerprints by John Abraham, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, Sep 17, 2013

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