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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #30A

Posted on 25 July 2014 by John Hartz

Attack of the Chicago climate change maggots

As Washington still fights over whether or not climate change is real, people across the country are already paying costs scientists ascribe to it — sometimes in unexpected places. You might think about climate change in terms of rising sea levels threatening coastal cities. But all over the Midwest, from Chicago to Indianapolis and Milwaukee, residents face just as many difficult issues as changing weather patterns collide with aging infrastructure. The costs — for governments, insurance companies and homeowners — are measured not only in dollars, but in quality of life.

In Chicago over the past century, downpours that force human waste up pipes and into homes — storms that dump at least 1.5 inches of rain in a single day — have struck the city more often. Annual precipitation in the Midwest grew about 20 percent during the past century. Rains of more than 2.5 inches a day are expected to increase another 50 percent in the next 20 years. That means more flooding — and more clean-up costs for people like Burns.

Attack of the Chicago climate change maggots by Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, July 23, 2014

Climate change already having profound impacts on lakes in Europe

For perspective on how climate change is affecting lakes, those of us here in the U.S. can just look across the pond, where scientists and the agencies involved in meeting the European Union’s Water Framework Directive have amassed an impressive body of research on the topic.

Not only are extreme weather events such as droughts and intense rainstorms becoming more common, climate warming is leading to increased algal growth and more frequent toxic algal blooms. It also affects the entire aquatic food web, including the number, size and distribution of freshwater fish species, according to the latest research.

New evidence from studies in Europe shows that a warming climate, in particular, is already having a profound impact on lakes, according to Dr. Erik Jeppesen at Aarhus University in Denmark. As I have noted in earlier posts, this is an important issue because other studies show that lake temperatures are on the rise throughout the world.

Climate Change Already Having Profound Impacts on Lakes in Europe by Lisa Borre, Water Currents/National Geographic, July 21, 2014

Error discovered in Antarctic sea-ice record

Rising temperatures have caused the amount of Arctic sea ice to shrink dramatically since global observations began in the 1970s. But on the other side of the world, sea ice in Antarctica was at first steady — and then began to slowly expand in the mid-2000s.

Some researchers now say that the Antarctic trend may have been inflated by an error in the decades-long record of satellite observations of Southern Hemisphere sea ice. Scientists process data from microwave-sensing satellites using one of two standard algorithms to distinguish bright sea ice from dark open water.

Error Discovered in Antarctic Sea-Ice Record by Mark Zastrow, Nature/Scientific American, July 22, 2014

EU agrees to improve energy efficiency 30% by 2030

European Union member states will have to improve their energy efficiency by nearly a third in the next 15 years, under new proposals unveiled on Wednesday by the European commission.

The target – to improve efficiency by 30% by 2030 – had been the subject of dispute, as some industries wanted to avoid setting a firm goal and instead rely on the market and the EU’s carbon price to provide an economic incentive to cut energy waste. But others had been pushing for a tougher target, of 40% energy savings by 2030, and were disappointed.

Günther Oettinger, EU commissioner for energy, said: “Our proposal is the basis to drive the EU towards increased security of supply, innovation and sustainability, all in an affordable way. It is ambitious and at the same time it is realistic. Our aim is to give the right signal to the market and encourage further investments in energy-saving technologies to the benefit of businesses, consumers and the environment.”

EU agrees to improve energy efficiency 30% by 2030 by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, July 23, 2014

G20 should facilitate international cooperation on climate change

The time is right to place climate change at centre stage of the 2014 G20 leaders-group meeting in Australia. The G20 has a record of leadership on the international climate change agenda. With the world working toward a critical meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December 2015, a firm position articulated by G20 leaders in Brisbane in November would be in time to influence the Lima UNFCCC meeting in December 2014.

G20 should facilitate international cooperation on climate change by Ross Garnaut, Easst Asia Forum, July 21, 2014

Global health and climate-change: together bound

CMCC discussed the impact of climate change on global health with George Luber, Associate Director for Climate and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a national public health institute of the United States, headquartered in Druid Hills, DeKalb County, Georgia. The CDC is a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. It was established in 2006 as several scientists had recognized that there was a need to prepare for the inevitability of climate change, as well as the impact it would likely have on the health of US residents and the world population in general. In 2009, the program took center stage, seeking to identify the populations most vulnerable to these impacts, to anticipate future trends, and to ensure that systems are in place to detect and respond to emerging health threats, and take steps to ensure that these health risks can be managed now and in the future.

Global health and climate-change: together bound, Climate Science and Policy, July 21, 2014 

Great Barrier Reef's decline buried in government reports

Australia’s marine research agency has warned that the government has downplayed the declining health of the Great Barrier Reef and there is “clear potential for conflicts of interest” in development decisions.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (Aims) said assessments of the Great Barrier Reef’s condition, compiled by the federal and Queensland governments, effectively buried the bad news of the reef’s decline.

John Gunn, chief executive of Aims, said that while the federal and state governments should be praised for putting together comprehensive reviews of the reef, the assessments lacked international scientific findings on reef systems.

Great Barrier Reef's decline buried in government reports, says agency by Oliver Milmam, The Guardian, July 33, 2014

Has Antarctic sea ice expansion been overestimated?

New research suggests that Antarctic sea ice may not be expanding as fast as previously thought. A team of scientists say much of the increase measured for Southern Hemisphere sea ice could be due to a processing error in the satellite data. The findings are published today in The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Arctic sea ice is retreating at a dramatic rate. In contrast, satellite observations suggest that sea ice cover in the Antarctic is expanding – albeit at a moderate rate – and that sea ice extent has reached record highs in recent years. What's causing Southern Hemisphere sea ice cover to increase in a warming world has puzzled scientists since the trend was first spotted. Now, a team of researchers has suggested that much of the measured expansion may be due to an error, not previously documented, in the way satellite data was processed.

Has Antarctic sea ice expansion been overestimated?,, July 22, 2014

New data on extreme temperatures underscore planet's warming trend

"It is more often the climate extremes that noticeably impact society, infrastructure, and ecosystems," a new report warns

New Data on Extreme Temperatures Underscore Planet's Warming Trend, Scientists Say by John Cushman, InsideClimate News, July 22, 2014

Slow surface warming since 1998 is “not exceptional”

Scientists know greenhouse gases are causing the world to warm. But an interesting question is why warming at earth's surface speeds up and slows down.

A new paper shows surface temperature "slowdowns" like we're experiencing now aren't unusual - and capturing the timing of natural ups and down in the climate is key to predicting them.

But as a second paper explains, the planet as a whole has warmed up in the last decade even as surface temperature rise has been sluggish.

Slow surface warming since 1998 is “not exceptional”, say scientists by Roz Pidcock, The Climate Brief, July 21, 2014

Study vindicates climate models accused of ‘missing the pause’

Climate models can recreate the slowdown in global warming since 1998, as long as they correctly factor in crucial variables such as the state of the El Niño system, new research has shown.

The discovery vindicates the models against the accusation that they failed to predict the “alleged hiatus” in surface warming, says CSIRO researcher James Risbey, who led the study.

In the study, published in Nature Climate Change, Risbey and his colleagues looked at a set of 18 climate models featuring data on the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) – the seesawing temperature pattern that determines whether a given period is dominated by El Niño or La Niña conditions.

Study vindicates climate models accused of ‘missing the pause’ by Michael Hopkin, The Conversation, July 21, 2014

The carbon taxes we're already paying

In June, a decades-long open secret hit the media like a typhoon: Climate change is the fundamental economic challenge of our time.

The bipartisan troika of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund mogul Tom Steyer and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson funded the report, titled "Risky Business," which estimated that on its current trajectory, climate change could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by 2050. President Obama cautioned environmental leaders at a League of Conservation Voters dinner to prepare the American public for the costs ahead from re-engineering the energy grid away from fossil fuels.

These assertions, as welcome as they are, leave out a fundamental question: When energy gets more expensive, who pays?

The carbon taxes we're already paying, Op-ed by Mark Schapiro, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2014

'The Northern hemisphere is on fire' 

"Rarely has the continent been covered so extensively with smoke." 

Typically, those aren't the sort of opening words you want to read on a website tasked with monitoring the nation's air quality. But it's how Dr. Raymond Hoff, the physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Maryland who helps run the US Air Quality blog, framed his weekend edition. 

"Canadian wildfires and fires in the Pacific Northwest have conspired to make much of the northern half of the US a hazy, smoky mess," Hoff writes. 

'The Northern Hemisphere Is on Fire' by Brian Merchant, Motherboard, July 21, 2014

The strange relationship between global warming denial and…speaking English

Here in the United States, we fret a lot about global warming denial. Not only is it a dangerous delusion, it's an incredibly prevalent one. Depending on your survey instrument of choice, we regularly learn that substantial minorities of Americans deny, or are skeptical of, the science of climate change.

The global picture, however, is quite different. For instance, recently the UK-based market research firm Ipsos MORI released its "Global Trends 2014" report, which included a number of survey questions on the environment asked across 20 countries. (h/t Leo Hickman). And when it came to climate change, the result was very telling:

The Strange Relationship Between Global Warming Denial and…Speaking English by Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, July 22, 2014

The world just had its hottest June on record

The globe is on a hot streak, setting a heat record in June. That's after the world broke a record in May. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month's average global temperature was 61.2 degrees, which is 1.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average. It beat 2010's old record by one-twentieth of a degree. 

While one-twentieth of a degree doesn't sound like much, in temperature records it's like winning a horse race by several lengths, said NOAA climate monitoring chief Derek Arndt.

The World Just Had Its Hottest June On Record by Seth Borenstein, AP/The Huffington Post, July 21, 2014

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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. Attack of the Chicago climate change maggots

    I was a little surprised to see that level of vituperation in a Washington Post headline... but it turns out the article mentioned maggots hatching from fly eggs brought up from sewage backups caused by heavy rainstorms.

    Literal maggots, not figurative ones.

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  2. The relationship between global warming denial and speaking English, as noticed by Chris Mooney, is incidental. Similar to once popular meme about the number of pirates on Indian Ocean and GW.

    The ranking of 20 countries on the denial scale in Chris' article is truely explained by conflict of national interests. It happens that the top industrialised countries that mostly benefited from FF (and continue to benefit under bau scenario) do speak English. Those countries are joined by non-English speaking Poland, where coal mining and processing is the main driver of the economy, with virualy all top paying jobs.

    On the other hand, India with its largest in the world English-speaking population (note Indians who took this survey online must speak English fluently with no exceptions) is at the end of the list. That's because there is no conflict of interest in this country, while their language is irrelevant.

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  3. It is an incredulous stretch to link rain storms (which may not even be related to global warming let alone man's influence on the warming) to Chicago's lack of maintaining it's own infrastructure.   Maybe someone should suggest spending tax dollars on things that matter. ... like controlling ecoli.

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    Moderator Response:

    [Rob P] - The increase in heavy downpours in a warming world has long been expected based on the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, i.e. a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and thus when it rains, bursts of rain tend to be heavier.

    As the article points out there has been a 20% increase in these heavy downpours in the midwest USA. But this is, obviously, a global phenomenon - see Westra et al (2013) - Global Increasing Trends in Annual Maximum Daily Precipitation, who write:

    "Furthermore, there is a statistically significant association with globally averaged near-surface temperature, with the median intensity of extreme precipitation changing in proportion with changes in global mean temperature at a rate of between 5.9% and 7.7% K−1, depending on the method of analysis. This ratio was robust irrespective of record length or time period considered and was not strongly biased by the uneven global coverage of precipitation data."

    SkS will have a rebuttal to your myth (which is not uncommon) in the near-future.

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