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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #34A

Posted on 20 August 2014 by John Hartz

A ‘major challenge’ to South Asia’s economic development

India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal will face "major challenges" as the impacts of climate change start to bite, according to a new report.

The Asian Development Bank's (ADB) 163-page analysis outlines how warmer temperatures and rising seas could hit South Asia's varied economies, home to nearly 1.5 billion people.

It concludes that the "impacts of climate change are likely to result in huge economic, social and environmental damage to South Asian countries".

Climate change a ‘major challenge’ to South Asia’s economic development, report claims by Mat Hope, The Carbon Brief, Aug 20, 2014

Cities’ air problems only get worse with climate change

The threats from climate change are many: extreme weather, shrinking snowpack, altered ecosystems and rising and more acidic seas, to name a few. Another lesser-known issue may hit especially close to home for city dwellers. In the world’s already smoggy metropolises, pollution is likely to grow worse, a phenomenon scientists have taken to calling the climate penalty.

Ozone is a key culprit. This lung-damaging compound, often formed from chemical reactions involving sunlight and automobile exhaust and other pollution, plagues major cities around the globe. As the climate heats up, it is projected that more ozone will form in polluted areas on sweltering days.

“You have a hot summer, you’re going to get a lot of ozone,” said Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard.

Cities’ Air Problems Only Get Worse With Climate Change by Kate Galbraith, New York Times, Aug 20, 2014 

Climate change reflected in altered Missouri River flow

Montana farmer Rocky Norby has worked the land along the Missouri River for more than 20 years, coaxing sugar beets and malted barley out of the arid ground.

"Every year it gets worse," he said. "There's not enough water to get through our pumps." Last month, he said, he spent more than $10,000 trying to remove the sand from his clogged irrigation system.

The Missouri River's stream flow has changed significantly over the last 50 years, leading to serious water shortages in Montana and Wyoming and flooding in the Dakotas, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released last month.

Climate change reflected in altered Missouri River flow, report says by Maya Srikrishnan, Los Angeles Times, Aug 17, 2014

Climate scientist calls on colleagues to speak up on global warming

One of Australia’s most senior climate scientists has called on his colleagues not to sit on the sidelines of the political debate about global warming and other environmental issues, given the evidence they present asks society to consider fundamental changes.

In a speech to be given to the Australian Academy of Science on Tuesday evening, Dr Michael Raupach will say environment scientists' position in the public debate had changed because they were now presenting evidence requiring society to make major choices in response.

Dr Raupach, who heads the ANU Climate Change Institute, told Fairfax Media ahead of the speech ''Exhibit A''’ was human-induced climate change.

Climate change scientist calls on colleagues to speak up on global warming debate by Trom Arup, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 20, 2014

Defending forests is daily life for Indian woman leader

With her long black hair, dimples and slight frame swathed in a colourful sari, Suryamani Bhagat’s graceful appearance belies the nerves of steel required to become an environmental heroine in a deeply patriarchal society. 

The 34-year-old from Chhota Nagpur Plateau in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand works with other women to safeguard the state’s precious forests and to preserve her community’s tribal culture.

An activist with the indigenous group Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement since the age of 20, Bhagat has helped wrestle management of forests from the government back into local hands and mobilised villagers to protect forest resources.  

Defending forests is daily life for Indian woman leader by Thin Lei Win, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Aug 20, 2014

Deforested idle land identified as source of Indonesia "haze" fires

A month after Singapore was shrouded in a thick haze produced by Indonesian fires in June 2013, scientist David Gaveau went to the source of the smoke in Riau province to survey the charred aftermath.

News reports attributed the haze to slash-and-burn forest clearance to make way for oil palm plantations. But what Gaveau, a scientist with the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), discovered during his five days examining the still-smouldering ground on Sumatra island was different.

His team already knew from satellite images that over 80 percent of the burned 163,336 hectares was “non-forest” land - ranging from scrub and exposed soil to oil palm plantations with trees more than five years old - but they wanted to know what it really looked like.

So Gaveau and his colleague, Mohammad Agus Salim, met up with two drone technicians and snapped aerial images from seven burn sites around Riau. According to a paper published on Tuesday in Scientific Reports, they concluded that 57 percent of the burned “non-forest” land was made up of what they call “forest cemeteries”

Scientists identify deforested idle land as source of Indonesia "haze" fires by Alisa Tang, thomson Reuters Foundation, Aug 19, 2014

Earth sliding into ‘ecological debt’ earlier and earlier

Humans have used up the natural resources the world can supply in a year in less than eight months, campaigners have warned.

The world has now reached “Earth overshoot day”, the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land, trees and fish and outstripped the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products including carbon dioxide.

The problem is worsening, with the planet sliding into “ecological debt” earlier and earlier, so that the day on which the world has used up all the natural resources available for the year has shifted from early October in 2000 to August 19 in 2014. 

Earth sliding into ‘ecological debt’ earlier and earlier, campaigners warn, Press Association/The Guardian, Aug 19, 2014

Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s

A new assessment from Europe's CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth's two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

"The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009," said Angelika Humbert from Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute.

"To us, that's an incredible number," she told BBC News.

In its report to The Cryosphere journal, the AWI team does not actually calculate a sea-level rise equivalent number, but if this volume is considered to be all ice (a small part will be snow) then the contribution is likely to be on the order of just over a millimetre per year.

Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s by Jonathan Amos, BBC News, Aug 20, 2014

Here’s how Arctic sea ice could shrink even more

As the sea ice covering the Arctic continues to shrink under the influence of greenhouse gas-induced warming, it’s causing a host of other changes in the region, including the growth of large waves in the previously iced-over areas. Those waves could potentially reinforce and hasten the demise of sea ice, leading to further changes in the fragile polar realm.

Changes brought on by global warming in the Arctic region have been well documented. Temperatures there have risen twice as fast as the global average. That rise is tied to a decline in Arctic sea ice, which has seen its seasonal minimum area shrink by nearly 14 percent per decade since the late 1970s. Those changes could be influencing weather patterns in lower latitudes of the world, though that’s an area of continuing research for scientists.

And in the latest sign of more changes afoot, according to a recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, waves are swelling to heights never before seen in the Arctic Ocean — a shift that’s tied to the loss of sea ice and could further exacerbate it.

Here’s How Arctic Sea Ice Could Shrink Even More by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Aug 19, 2014

July checks in as 4th warmest on record worldwide

If you spent your summer in the Midwest or almost anywhere in the U.S. south of New York where the season was mild, it may have been easy to miss that most of the rest of the world was baking last month.

New National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) data show that last month was the fourth-warmest July on record worldwide, even though two giant cool spots in the Northern Hemisphere — one over Siberia and the other over the U.S. Midwest — made it easy for people living there to think that summer 2014 has been a mild one.

The world’s fourth-warmest July comes just after the globe’swarmest June, which was driven mostly by the hottest ocean temperatures since recordkeeping began 130 years ago. 2014 is on track to become the earth’s third-warmest year in on record.

July Checks In as 4th Warmest on Record Worldwide by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, Aug 18, 2014

Scientists warn of dangers from ocean acidification

The future of Maine’s coastal economy is uncertain as the state’s most valuable fisheries are at risk. Scientists, legislators and others concerned with coastal ecosystems discussed the threats of changing ocean chemistry before the first meeting of the new ocean acidification commission on Friday at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole.

Ten scientists addressed the different factors causing ocean acidification and how it affects marine ecosystems during the morning session of the meeting. If left unchecked, ocean acidification could cause major losses to shellfisheries like clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins and put at risk thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the state’s economy.

“Ocean acidification is happening all over the world but nowhere are its potential impacts greater than in Maine,” said Dr. Bob Steneck, a professor at the School of Marine Sciences and Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. “Our coastal ecosystem and marine resources are most at risk.”

Scientists warn of dangers from ocean acidification by Stefanie Veneziano, Boothbay Register (Maine), Aug 17, 2014

Towards a new co-existence: On reframing our ecological crises

How we think about and talk about ecological crises and our role in them form the structures of our responses.  This is why thought forms, concepts, frames as George Lakoff calls them, are all central, form the crux, of attempts to protect species and the planet’s systems.  The current predominant frames are not working, evidenced by the governmental and societal non-action on these fronts. What are the current frames, and how can these be altered to more essential and effective ones?

Both climate change and rapid species extinction are usually framed as problems arising from human overpopulation, resource depletion, industrial, technological, and economic development. Another way to frame and understand these separate but interconnected catastrophes is to see them as human failures to coexist with natural systems. This alternate frame puts the focus on a certain goal, namely coexistence, which is rarely expressed or discussed in the media. This concept is not compatible with human-centered ways of viewing the world, and the human focus cuts to the root of the problem.

Prescriptions for these crises are centered on outer solutions, outer issues, but there are inner and outer realms and both must be addressed. If we are to attempt to prevent further climate-driven ecological collapse, the energy infrastructure has to be transformed rapidly, as does, concurrently, the inner landscape, the cognitive infrastructure, in terms of how we frame human relationships with natural systems.

Towards a New Co-Existence: On Reframing Our Ecological Crises by Elizabeth Oriel, Common Dreams, Aug 18, 2014

UN climate talks on path to fall far short of goals

Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using a sophisticated computer model examined what they think is the most likely outcome of UN climate treaty negotiations and found that the talks are likely to come up short.

Facing a deadline to reach a new treaty by the end of next year in Paris, the world's nations seem unwilling to make the kind of pledges that would rein in global warming to safe levels by century's end, the researchers concluded.

"Our analysis concludes that these international efforts will indeed bend at the curve of global emissions" of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases, they said. "However, our results also show that these efforts will not put the globe on a path consistent with commonly stated long-term climate goals."

MIT Study: Climate Talks on Path to Fall Far Short of Goals by John H Cushman Jr, Inside Climate News, Aug 18, 2014

Understand faulty thinking to tackle climate change

DANIEL KAHNEMAN is not hopeful. "I am very sorry," he told me, "but I am deeply pessimistic. I really see no path to success on climate change."

Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics for his research on the psychological biases that distort rational decision- making. One of these is "loss aversion", which means that people are far more sensitive to losses than gains. He regards climate change as a perfect trigger: a distant problem that requires sacrifices now to avoid uncertain losses far in the future. This combination is exceptionally hard for us to accept, he told me.

Kahneman's views are widely shared by cognitive psychologists. As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University says: "A psychologist could barely dream up a better scenario for paralysis."

Understand faulty thinking to tackle climate change by George Marshall, New Scientist, Aug 18, 2014

What I learned from debating science with trolls

I often like to discuss science online and I’m also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate changecrime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably brings out the trolls.

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but I’ve ignored it on occasion – including on The Conversation and Twitter – and I’ve been rewarded. Not that I’ve changed the minds of any trolls, nor have I expected to.

But I have received an education in the tactics many trolls use. These tactics are common not just to trolls but to bloggers, journalists and politicians who attack science, from climate to cancer research.

Some techniques are comically simple. Emotionally charged, yet evidence-free, accusations of scams, fraud and cover-ups are common. While they mostly lack credibility, such accusations may be effective at polarising debate and reducing understanding.

And I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, trotted out that old chestnut in The Australian last week. Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, was less than impressed by Newman’s use of that tactic.

Unfortunately there are too many tactics to discuss in just one article (sorry Gish Gallopand Strawman), so I will focus on just a few that I’ve encountered online and in the media recently.

What I learned from debating science with trolls by Michael J.L. Brown, The Conversation, Aug 18, 2014

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