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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #11

Posted on 15 March 2014 by John Hartz

  • Climate change showdown in Florida governor's race
  • How much hotter is the planet going to get?
  • Industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?
  • Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?
  • Kerry orders U.S. diplomats to press case for climate action
  • New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere
  • Number of days without rain to dramatically increase in some regions
  • Obama, EU to stand together on climate change draft
  • Swiss seek precision as nations shape carbon market
  • Tony Abbott: the boxer picking a fight with the environment
  • Warming leads to longer cold snaps
  • What's going on with global warming and Antarctica's growing sea ice?

Climate change showdown in Florida governor's race

Florida, the most vulnerable state in the country to climate change, faces a key election this November that could have significant ramifications for its ability to cope with the challenge of rising seas and intensifying coastal storms.

If incumbent Tea Party-aligned Rick Scott is reelected governor, it is expected to mean four more years of inaction on global warming. His likely opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist, a former governor of Florida, is committed to aggressive climate action. Environmental groups, scientists and policy experts say that if Crist or another climate hawk wins, it would give the state at least a shot at staving off the worst effects of global warming. 

Climate Change Showdown in Florida Governor's Race by Katherine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Mar 13, 2014 


How much hotter is the planet going to get?

The climate is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide, according to several new studies, which means that our greenhouse gas emissions will lead to strong warming. The finding suggests we need to cut emissions fast if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

This may seem surprising given that the slower warming in the past decade has led some to conclude that the sensitivity of the climate is low. But the latest findings show that the cooling effect of aerosol pollution from factories and fires has been underestimated. This means warming will resume with a vengeance if countries in Asia clean up their skies.

It's a complicated story. So New Scientist has broken it down.

How much hotter is the planet going to get? by Michael Le Page, New Scientist, Mar 9, 2014


Industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'? By Nafeez Ahmed, Earth Insight, The Guardian, Mar 14, 2014


Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent? 

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

The earthquake that rocked L'Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent? by Lawrence Torcello, The Conversation (Australia), Mar 13, 2014


Kerry orders U.S. diplomats to press case for climate action

Over the weekend, ahead of a round of low-level climate treaty talks that kicked off today in Bonn, Germany, Secretary of State John Kerry sent a fresh signal that he plans to keep global warming at the top of the State Department’s agenda.

The signal came in the form of Kerry’s first policy guidance message to all of his far-flung diplomats. Here’s an excerpt and link to the full document: 

Kerry Orders U.S. Diplomats to Press Case for Climate Action by Andrew Revkin, Dot  Earth, New York Times, Mar 10, 2014


New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere

Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed.

The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed "ozone depletion is not yesterday's story."

New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere by Damien Carrington, The Guardian, Mar 9, 2014


Number of days without rain to dramatically increase in some regions 

By the end of the 21st century, some parts of the world can expect as many as 30 more days a year without precipitation, according to a new study by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researchers.

Ongoing climate change caused by human influences will alter the nature of how rain and snow falls; areas that are prone to dry conditions will receive their precipitation in narrower windows of time. Computer model projections of future conditions analyzed by the Scripps team indicate that regions such as the Amazon, Central America, Indonesia, and all Mediterranean climate regions around the world will likely see the greatest increase in the number of "dry days" per year, going without rain for as many as 30 days more every year. California, with its Mediterranean climate, is likely to have five to ten more dry days per year.

This analysis advances a trend in to understand climate change on the level of daily weather and on finer geographic scales. 

Number of days without rain to dramatically increase in some world regions, Phys.org, Mar 14, 2014


Obama, EU to stand together on climate change draft

U.S. President Barack Obama and EU leaders meeting in Brussels this month will throw their combined weight behind tackling climate change, a document seen by Reuters says, in a show of developed world solidarity on the need for a new global deal.

But the guarded, diplomatic language is likely to disappoint environmentalists calling for urgent, ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Sustainable economic growth will only be possible if we tackle climate change," a draft communique ahead of the EU-US summit on March 26 says. The text is subject to further negotiation between the European Union and the United States.

Obama, EU to stand together on climate change draft by Barbara Lewis, Reuters, Mar 12, 2014


Swiss seek precision as nations shape carbon market

Nations setting up carbon markets must standardize their emission-reduction benchmarks to ensure international efforts to limit global warming stay on track, according to Switzerland’s climate envoy.

At least 30 of 200 countries meeting at talks this week in Bonn are developing carbon trading systems to help meet emissions targets under a worldwide treaty to start in 2020. Nations should measure greenhouse-gas cuts as tons of carbon dioxide even if they pursue hard-to-quantify policies such as emissions taxes and energy efficiency rules, said Franz Perrez, who represents the alpine nation in United Nations talks. 

Swiss Seek Precision as Nations Shape Carbon Market by Mathew Carr, Bloomberg, Mar 10, 2014


Tony Abbott: the boxer picking a fight with the environment

John Cook, a physicist and prolific climate blogger in Brisbane, Australia, likes to tell this story:

“Remember former South African president (Thabo) Mbeki?” asks Cook. “He denied science. . . . Look what happened. Tony Abbott is doing the same.”

Tony Abbott: the boxer picking a fight with the environment by Raveena Aulakh, Toronto Star, Mar 9, 2014 


Warming leads to longer cold snaps

Climate-change skeptics -- and everyone else in Canada -- had better bundle up. Research shows extended cold snaps like we’ve seen this winter could be a direct result of climate change.

In a Rutgers University paper published last year, researchers Jennifer Francis and Stephen Vavrus wrote that the melting of Arctic ice was weakening the jet stream, the band of fast-moving wind that separates colder northern air from warmer air further south. As it weakens, it dips southward for longer periods than in the past, bringing icy-cold air with it for increasingly long stays.

The weaker winds “may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events that result from prolonged conditions, such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves,” says the article, published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Experts quiet climate-change skeptics: Warming leads to longer cold snaps by Saira Peesker, CTV News, Mar 13, 2014


What's going on with global warming and Antarctica's growing sea ice?

How melting ice sheets and increased winds could be behind Antarctica's apparent paradox of growing sea ice in a warming world.

What's going on with global warming and Antarctica's growing sea ice? by Graham Readfearn, Planet  Oz, The Guardian, March 11, 2014        

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Comments

Comments 1 to 11:

  1. From the "How Much Hotter..." article: "the latest findings show that the cooling effect of aerosol pollution from factories and fires has been underestimated"

    I was under the impression the recent studies had actually shown that the cooling effect of aerosols had been _over_ -estimated, not underestimated. Am I missing something here. There was now study linked in the original article to support this contention.

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    Moderator Response:

    (Rob P) - there have been a number of research papers that have suggested global dimming in the early 21st century. For example - see this SkS post: Global Dimming in the Hottest Decade.

    But more recently see Schmidt et al (2014), and note this image from their paper:

    Reduced solar radiation, volcanic and industrial pollution aerosols appear to have contributed to a smaller-than-expected net forcing of the climate. Still an area of large uncertainty I'm afraid.

  2. The Lawrence Torcello article on criminal negligence of the climate confusionists -- amusing to see commenters still obsessing about Mike Mann and "hide the decline".  More relevantly, I think it would be very instructive to compare/contrast the criminality of fake climate skeptics to that of the tobacco producers who downplayed health risks and have been sued.  

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  3. Is anyone else having trouble with their login?

    My (perfect valid (I thought) password no longer works.

    On asking, I got sent another one, but the message seems to mean this is happening often.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Check your email.

  4. Have experienced the same problem as shoyemore, but it seems to be working now. Hopefully I’ll soon be able to update the Norwegian translation of The Big Picture.

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  5. Thanks for that explanation, link, and graph (and for ignoring my bone-headed punctuation and spelling errors!). If I can try your patience a bit further, what do those watts per meter squared measurments translate into in terms of degress C of warming that aerosols are responsible for temporarily blocking?
       So given that Schmidt paper, am I right that the "How Much Hotter..." article was wrong when they said: "the latest findings show that the cooling effect of aerosol pollution from factories and fires has been underestimated." Do you suppose that they were unaware of that article and were just looking at earlier articles that showed an increased effect of aerosols?

     

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  6. Wili: The new scientist article is right, but there are several things going on at once.

    Recent studies have generally show a reduced aerosol cooling effect. Which means a stronger total forcing. However to explain recent climate change from a stronger forcing means a lower sensitivity. So on the one hand we expect greater forcing, and on the other lower sensitivity. If aerosols were expected to grow in proportion to ghgs then projections would be unaffected.

    However all the RCP scenarios show reduced aerosol emissions in the future, so the lower sensitivity leads to lower warming projections.

    The quote you picked up refers to the Shindell paper. Shindell doesn't contest the lower aerosol forcing, but points out that the lower forcing is countered by the fact that the aerosols are being emitted in regions where they have a greater impact on temperature, which has the same impact on global mean temperatures as if the aerosol effect were stronger again.

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  7. Kevin C. wrote:

    The quote you picked up refers to the Shindell paper. Shindell doesn't contest the lower aerosol forcing, but points out that the lower forcing is countered by the fact that the aerosols are being emitted in regions where they have a greater impact on temperature, which has the same impact on global mean temperatures as if the aerosol effect were stronger again.

    From what I can see, Shindell is simply applying the concept of climate efficacy to industrial aerosols.

    In the fourth IPCC assessment, efficacy is defined:

    Efficacy (E) is defined as the ratio of the climate sensitivity parameter for a given forcing agent (λi) to the climate sensitivity parameter for CO2 changes, that is, Ei = λi / λCO2 (Joshi et al., 2003; Hansen and Nazarenko, 2004). Efficacy can then be used to define an effective RF (= EiRFi) (Joshi et al., 2003; Hansen et al., 2005).

    Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis
    2.8.5 Efficacy and Effective Radiative Forcing
    https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-8-5.html

    The reason why different forcings have different efficacies is largely a matter of how the forcing is spatially distributed:

    The efficacy primarily depends on the spatial structure of the forcings and the way they project onto the various different feedback mechanisms (Boer and Yu, 2003b).

    Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis
    2.8.5.1 Generic Understanding
    https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-8-5-1.html

    Latitude is particularly important:

    Nearly all studies that examine it find that high-latitude forcings have higher efficacies than tropical forcings.

    ibid.

    ... and this is precisely what Shindell has keyed in on with respect to anthropogenic reflective aerosols.

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  8. Thanks Timothy - didn't realise this was already present in the definitions of efficacy. The thing I haven't checked is whether papers like Otto et all are using direct or effective radiative forcing estimates - have you looked at this?

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  9. Kevin C re radiative forcing... I don't which usage the authors of the different papers are employing. It really isn't my area of expertise.

    However, until someone specifies otherwise, by "climate sensitivity" I would assume they mean Charney, not transient or earth system sensitivity, and by the same token, I would assume that by "radiative forcing" they mean direct radiative forcing, not effective. "Effective radiative forcing" is a derivative, more specialized concept. In this context, "direct" denotes primary usage, "effective" secondary. In the case of "climate sensitivity" refering to Charney it is more simply a matter of historical accident and common usage.

    Or at least that is my best guess, not being as familiar with the literature as I might like.

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  10. Kevin C, re Otto...  Looking at the article, the only point at which they acknowledge the distinction between direct and effective radiative forcing is at the end of the last paragraph:

    Most of the climate models of the CMIP5 ensemble are, however, consistent with the observations used here in terms of both ECS and TCR. We note, too, that caution is required in interpreting any short period, especially a recent one for which details of forcing and energy storage inventories are still relatively unsettled: both could make significant changes to the energy budget. The estimates of the effective radiative forcing by aerosols in particular vary strongly between model-based studies and satellite data. The satellite data are still subject to biases and provide only relatively weak constraints (see Supplementary Section S2 for a sensitivity study).

    Otto, Alexander, et al. "Energy budget constraints on climate response." Nature Geoscience (2013).

    It seems clear that they are acknowledging the "effective radiative forcing by aerosols" as an issue that is not specifically dealt with in their paper, but which they or others may wish to turn their attention to at some later point.  Incidentally, Drew Shindell is listed as one of the authors of Otto et al. (2013).

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  11. Oh yes, I read that the same way.

    For me the huge surprise about the Shindell paper is that no-one spotted the issue before, given that its fingerprints are all over the hemispheric temperature record, and as you point out they are all over AR4 as well.

    I keep asking myself whether I would have spotted it if climate were my day job. I suspect not - often the obvious is not obvious until someone points it out.

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