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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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dana1981

Dana Nuccitelli is an environmental scientist at a private environmental consulting firm in the Sacramento, California area. He has a Bachelor's Degree in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master's Degree in physics from the University of California at Davis.

Dana has been researching climate science, economics, and solutions since 2006, and has contributed to Skeptical Science since September, 2010.  He also blogs at The Guardian, and is the author of Climatology versus Pseudoscience.  He has published climate-related papers on various subjects, from the build-up of heat in the Earth's climate system to the expert consensus on human-caused global warming.

Follow him on Twitter.

Publications

Nuccitelli, D., Way, R., Painting, R., Church, J., & Cook, J. (2012). Comment on ocean heat content and Earth's radiation imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts. Physics Letters A.

Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Green, S.A., Richardson, M., Winkler, B., Painting, R., Way, R., Jacobs, P., & Skuce, A. (2013). Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 8(2), 024024+. 

Cook, J., Oreskes, N., Doran, P. T., Anderegg, W. R., Verheggen, B., Maibach, E. W., Carlton, J. S., Lewandowsky, S., Skuce, A. G., Green, S. A., & Nuccitelli, D. (2016). Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters, 11(4), 048002.

Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Skuce, A., Way, R., Jacobs, P., Painting, R., Honeycutt, R., Green, S.A. (2014). Reply to Comment on ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature: a Reanalysis’. Energy Policy. DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2014.06.002

Nuccitelli, D. A., Abraham, J. P., Benestad, R. E., & Mandia, S. A. (2013). Comment on: Akasofu, S.-I. On the Present Halting of Global Warming. Climate 2013, 1, 4–11. Climate, 1(2), 76-83.

Abraham, J., Cook, J., Fasullo, J., Jacobs, P., Mandia, S., & Nuccitelli, D. (2014). Review of the consensus and asymmetric quality of research on human-induced climate changeCosmopolis2014(1), 3-18.

Benestad, R. E., Hygen, H. O., Dorland, R. V., Cook, J., & Nuccitelli, D. (2013). Agnotology: learning from mistakes. Earth System Dynamics Discussions, 4(1), 451-505.

Nuccitelli, D., Richter, M. J., & McCall, B. J. (2005). A search for interstellar carbon-60. In IAU Symposium (Vol. 235, p. 236P).

Encrenaz, T., Bézard, B., Greathouse, T., Holmes, S., Richter, M., Nuccitelli, D., & Forget, F. et al. (2006, February). Ground-based high-resolution IR spectroscopy of Mars: H2O and H2O2 mapping, search for CH4, and determination of CO2 isotopic ratios. In Second Workshop on Mars Atmosphere Modelling and Observations, held February.

 

Recent blog posts


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


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


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


Conservative media bias is inflating American climate denial and polarization

Posted on 6 September 2016 by dana1981 &

A new study by a team of sociologists at Oklahoma State University has found political polarization on climate change is growing in the United States. Today’s Republicans are less likely than they were a decade ago to accept that the effects of global warming have begun, that humans are responsible, and that there is a scientific consensus on these questions. Democrats and independents are slightly more likely to answer these questions correctly today than a decade ago.

congress enviro scores

Global warming views by party controlling for education and era. Illustration: Dunlap et al. (2016)

Climate change is now more polarizing in the US than abortion or gay marriage. At the same time, climate denial has become the norm among Republican policymakers, as they’ve grown increasingly anti-environment. As the study notes:

What was once a modest tendency for Congressional Republicans to be less pro-environmental than their Democratic counterparts has become a chasm—with Republicans taking near-unanimous anti-environmental stances on relevant legislation in recent years, especially 2015.

congress LCV scores

League of Conservation Voters’ environmental voting scores U.S. Congress – by chamber and party. Photograph: Dunlap et al. (2016).

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25 comments


California has urged President Obama and Congress to tax carbon pollution

Posted on 29 August 2016 by dana1981 &

Last week, the California state senate passed Assembly Joint Resolution 43, urging the federal government to pass a revenue-neutral carbon tax:

WHEREAS, A national carbon tax would make the United States a leader in mitigating climate change and the advancing clean energy technologies of the 21st Century, and would incentivize other countries to enact similar carbon taxes, thereby reducing global carbon dioxide emissions without the need for complex international agreements; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Assembly and the Senate of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature hereby urges the United States Congress to enact, without delay, a tax on carbon-based fossil fuels; and be it further Resolved ... That all tax revenue should be returned to middle- and low-income Americans to protect them from the impact of rising prices due to the tax

Copies of the Resolution were sent to President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and to all members of Congress representing California. The document specifically calls for the type of revenue-neutral carbon tax advocated by the grassroots organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Studies have shown that a rising carbon tax with all revenue returned to taxpayers would have a modestly beneficial impact on the economy, while cutting carbon pollution at faster rates than current policies.

California exerts its climate leadership

California has become the US leader in tackling global warming. 10 years ago, the state passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring that its greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 be no higher than 1990 levels. California achieved that goal in 2010, 10 years early, and is among the lowest per-capita carbon polluting states

On the same day last week, the state legislature also passed a bill expanding the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring a 40% cut in California’s carbon pollution from 1990 levels by 2030. In other words, California isn’t just calling on the federal government to take action on climate change; the state is leading the way.

It remains to be seen whether any climate legislation can survive in the current toxic partisan political climate of Washington DC. However, a revenue-neutral carbon tax has the best chance due to its bipartisan appeal. Its requirement that carbon polluters pay for the costs of their pollution appeals to the political left, while its free market, small government approach appeals to the political right. 

Revenue-neutral carbon tax is hard to dislike

By returning 100% of the taxed revenue to American households, the policy blunts the rising costs of energy produced by burning fossil fuels. In fact, studies project that a majority of Americans would receive a rebate larger than their increase in energy bills; only those who use the most fossil fuel energy would see costs rise more than the rebate.

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4 comments


Historical documents reveal Arctic sea ice is disappearing at record speed

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:

data

Time series of Arctic sea ice extent, 1850-2013, for March (blue line) and September (red line). Illustration: Walsh et al. (2016)

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:

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5 comments


Climate-related disasters raise conflict risk, study says

Posted on 19 August 2016 by dana1981 &

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

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.

Climate-related disasters

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 povertyweak governance, a history of conflictincome 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.

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Climate urgency: we've locked in more global warming than people realize

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.

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42 comments


As nuclear power plants close, states need to bet big on energy storage

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

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

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.

The Clinton Power Station in Illinois is one of a number of nuclear plants slated to be shut down largely because of poor economics. Nuclear Regulatory Comission, CC BY-NC-ND

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.

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