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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #38A

Posted on 16 September 2014 by John Hartz

$1 Trillion: Annual investment goal puts climate solutions within reach

A two-year-old number is changing the way governments, companies and investors approach the fight against climate change: $1 trillion.

That is roughly the amount of additional investment needed worldwide each year for the next 36 years to stave off the worst effects of global warming and keep the Earth habitable, according to the International Energy Agency. The Paris-based organization of 29 developed countries calculated the cost in 2012 and raised its estimates this year. Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit investor group that advocates environmental sustainability, framed it as the "Clean Trillion" in an investment campaign that has become a rallying cry.

While $1 trillion sounds like a lot, knowing the figure is good news, according to climate activists, investment experts and United Nations organizers of the next round of global climate talks. Worldwide, almost $4 trillion a year will need to be invested over that time anyway in electric grids, power plants and energy efficiency, the IEA says. In a global economy of $75 trillion, $1 trillion works out to 1.3 percent of the world's annual output of goods and services, or about $10,400 a person. The calculation also focuses the discussion on investment—suggesting the potential for returns and profits—rather than on costs for disaster response and losses to rising oceans.

Only $1 Trillion: Annual Investment Goal Puts Climate Solutions Within Reach by

Big firms brace for global carbon price rollout

An increasing number of big corporations expect governments worldwide to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions to help tackle climate change and some are already factoring in the cost to guide future investment decisions, a report found on Monday.

Some 150 large listed companies - including 29 in the United States such as Dow Chemical Company, banking group Goldman Sachs and oil firm ExxonMobil - now incorporate an internal carbon price ranging from $6-80 per tonne, according to a report by CDP, which gathers environmental information from companies worldwide on behalf of investors.

CDP said the report was the first global analysis of corporate views explicitly mentioning carbon pricing among the 6,000 company disclosures the group gathers annually.

Big firms brace for global carbon price rollout - report by Ben Garside, Reuters, Sep 15, 2014

China, the climate and the fate of the planet

If the world's biggest polluter doesn't radically reduce the amount of coal it burns, nothing anyone does to stabilize the climate will matter. Inside the slow, frustrating — and maybe even hopeful — struggle to find a new way forward.

China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet by Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone, Sep 15, 2014

Climate change report: prevent damage by overhauling global economy

The world can still act in time to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and enjoy the fruits of continued economic growth as long as the global economy can be transformed within the next 15 years, a group of the world's leading economists and political leaders will argue on Tuesday.

Tackling climate change can be a boon to prosperity, rather than a brake, according to the study involving a roll-call of the globe's biggest institutions, including the UN, the OECD group of rich countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and co-authored by Lord Stern, one of the world's most influential voices on climate economics.

The report comes ahead of a UN-convened summit of world leaders on global warming next week at which David Cameron has pledged to lead calls for strong action.

"Reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development – if done well it can actually generate better growth than the old high-carbon model," said Stern.

Climate change report: prevent damage by overhauling global economy by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Sep 15, 2014

Does the new Prime Minister of India believe in climate change?

More than 450 deaths were reported as monsoon floods ravaged parts of northern Pakistan and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir last week. The area is weathering the heaviest rainy season in more than half a century. A photo essay compiled for The Atlantic illustrates the awful scale of the devastation.

Thousands remain stranded as New Delhi and Islamabad mount rescue efforts, which many in the regional press have criticized as disorganized and slow.

Monsoons are an annual occurrence in South Asia, but as climate change causes greater variation in seasonal weather patterns, this is unlikely to be the last time the two countries (often at geopolitical odds) join forces.

In a Season of Deadly Rains in India, Does the New Prime Minister Believe in Climate Change?, Op-ed by Jake Flanagin, New York Times, Sep 15, 2014

Global warming 'pause' explained

In general, scientists are a pretty mild and inoffensive bunch. But over the last decade, one specific group of scientists has come in for a lot of criticism. So let's dive into the topic of 'the pause in global warming'.

In the USA, the Wall Street Journal wrote, "temperatures have been flat for 15 years - nobody can properly explain it."

Another newspaper from the same stable, the UK Daily Mail wrote "global warming 'pause' may last 20 more years, and Arctic sea ice has already started to recover". Both of these statements are very reassuring, but unfortunately, very very wrong.

Global warming 'pause' explained by Karl S. Kruszelnicki, ABC Science, Sep 15, 2014

NASA Ranks This August as Warmest on Record

While this summer may have felt like fall across much of the eastern half of the U.S., worldwide the overall picture was a warm one. This August was the warmest August on record globally, according to newly released NASA temperature data, while the summer tied for the fourth warmest.

Central Europe, northern Africa, parts of South America, and the western portions of North America (including Alaska) were just some of the spots on the globe that saw much higher than normal temperatures for the month. Large parts of the oceans were also running unusually warm.

“For the past few months we've been seeing impressive warmth in large parts of the Pacific … and Indian Oceans in particular,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with ERT, Inc., at the National Climatic Data Center in an email.

NASA Ranks This August as Warmest on Record by Andrea Thompson, Climate Change, Sep 15, 2014

No rain for decades: Stand by for the ‘megadroughts’, scientists warn

Climate change is set to unleash a series of decades-long “megadroughts” this century, according to research to be published this week.

Experts warn the droughts could be even more severe than the prolonged water shortage currently afflicting California, where residents have resorted to stealing from fire hydrants  amid mass crop failures and regular wildfires.

Megadroughts – which are generally defined as lasting 35 years or more – will become considerably more frequent as global warming increases temperatures and reduces rainfall in regions already susceptible, warns Cornell University’s Dr Toby Ault, the author of the new report.

Megadroughts are also likely to be hotter and last longer than in the past, he claimed. His peer-reviewed research – to be published in the  American Meterological  Society’s Journal of Climate – is the first to scientifically establish that climate change exacerbates the threat.

No rain for decades: Stand by for the ‘megadroughts’, scientists warn by Tom Bawden, The Independent, Sep 14, 2014

Ocean algae can evolve fast to tackle climate change

Tiny marine algae can evolve fast enough to cope with climate change in a sign that some ocean life may be more resilient than thought to rising temperatures and acidification, a study showed.

Evolution is usually omitted in scientific projections of how global warming will affect the planet in coming decades because genetic changes happen too slowly to help larger creatures such as cod, tuna or whales.

Sunday's study found that a type of microscopic algae that can produce 500 generations a year - or more than one a day - can still thrive when exposed to warmer temperatures and levels of ocean acidification predicted for the mid-2100s.

Ocean algae can evolve fast to tackle climate change: study by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Sep 14, 2014

Polar vortex excursions linked to global warming

Over the past year or so, I’ve written a few times on how the “polar vortex”—actually, deep meanders or excursions in the usually stable west-to-east direction of the polar cyclonic air stream—may be tied to global warming, but there hadn’t been enough research done yet to be sure.

Well, here we go: A team of Korean and American scientists has made the connection. Warmer waters lead to more melting of Arctic ice, which destabilizes the polar jet stream. My Slate colleague Eric Holthaus has an excellent write-up of it, and I wanted to give him a signal boost here. Go read it.

I want to add a few points. One I already made above: What people have been calling the “polar vortex” is not really the polar vortex. There is a stable flow of air (that’s the polar vortex) going around the poles, at higher latitudes than the jet stream. Technically a cyclone, it wanders and wiggles from a perfect circle, but sometimes will have deep excursions, bringing frigid Arctic air to lower latitudes. Those excursions are what hit the U.S. several times in the past year.

Polar Vortex Excursions Linked to Global Warming by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Sep 15, 2014

Preventing climate change and adapting to it are not morally equivalent

Climate hawks are familiar with the framing of climate policy credited to White House science advisor John Holdren, to wit: We will respond to climate change with some mix of mitigation, adaptation, and suffering; all that remains to be determined is the mix.

It’s a powerful bit of language. It makes clear that not acting is itself a choice — a choice in favor of suffering.

But in another way, Holdren’s formulation obscures an important difference between mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent climate effects) and adaptation (changing infrastructure and institutions to cope with climate effects). It makes them sound fungible, as though a unit of either can be traded in for an equivalent unit of suffering. That’s misleading. They are very different, not only on a practical level but morally.

Preventing climate change and adapting to it are not morally equivalent by David Roberts, Grist, Sep 16, 2014

Richard Branson failed to deliver on $3bn climate change pledge

Richard Branson has failed to deliver on his much-vaunted pledge to spend $3bn (£1.8bn) over a decade to develop a low carbon fuel.

Seven years into the pledge, Branson has paid out only a small fraction of the promised money – “well under $300m” – according to a new book by the writer and activist, Naomi Klein.

The British entrepreneur famously promised to divert a share of the profits from his Virgin airlines empire to find a cleaner fuel, after a 2006 private meeting with Al Gore.

Richard Branson failed to deliver on $3bn climate change pledge by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Sep 13, 2014

Seeking an easy win on carbon emissions? Cut global trade

The Obama administration has proposed several ad hoc multi-country economic agreements, and in doing so has abandoned de facto the World Trade Organization (WTO) as insufficiently malleable to its interests. The two most important of these are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the more recent Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Even as the latter was being negotiated by US and EU officials, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the increase in greenhouse gases is more rapid than expected. The organisation’s secretary-general warned that humankind is “running out of time” to reverse rising levels of carbon dioxide that drive climate change.

These two items, agreements to increase world trade and rapidly rising greenhouse gases, call for a bit of “linked up thinking”.

Seeking an easy win on carbon emissions? Cut global trade by John Weeks, The Conversation (UK), Sep 15, 2014

Sun and wind alter global landscape, leaving utilities behind

Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Sep 13, 2014

The Gulf of Alaska is unusually warm

Something odd is happening in Northern Pacific waters: They're heating up. In fact, it hasn't been this warm in parts of the Gulf of Alaska for this long since researchers began tracking surface water temperatures in the 1980s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The warming began last year in the Gulf of Alaska and has since been dubbed "The Blob" by Nick Bond, of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean. Temperatures have been as high as about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) above average.

Normally storms and winds roll through to cool off the surface of the Northern Pacific, but a weather pattern popped up for a few months in winter 2013 that inhibited those storms from developing, said Nate Mantua, a NOAA research scientist. Then, from October 2013 through January, the weather pattern came back as a ridge of high pressure (the same one connected to the California drought). All of that made the already warm waters in the Alaskan gulf even warmer, a layer about 100 meters thick, Mantua said.

The Gulf of Alaska is unusually warm, and weird fish are showing up by Elahe Izadi, Washington Post, Sep 15, 2014

U.N. Climate Summit: Staged parade or reality show?

The much-ballyhooed one-day Climate Summit next week is being hyped as one of the major political-environmental events at the United Nations this year.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged over 120 of the world’s political and business leaders, who are expected to participate in the talk-fest, to announce significant and substantial initiatives, including funding commitments, “to help move the world towards a path that will limit global warming.”

And, according to the United Nations, the summit will mark the first time in five years that world leaders will gather to discuss what is described as an ecological disaster: climate change.

The United Nations says the negative impact of global warming includes a rise in sea levels, extreme weather patterns, ocean acidification, melting of glaciers, extinction of biodiversity species and threats to world food security.

But what really can one expect from a one-day event lasting probably over 12 hours of talk time, come Sep. 23?

U.N. Climate Summit: Staged Parade or Reality Show? by Thalif Deen, International Press Service (IPS), 

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. In view of the predictions (generally dire)  about climate change/global warming I wonder why new investment in clean energy is declining in many countries (  I was most surprised that new investment in clean energy by Germany in 2013 was 40% below that in 2012.  Is this because Germany has now decided that clean energy is now less desirable/necessary than previously thought? Are the falls of 33% in France and 73% in Italy also due to the belief by those governments that investment in clean energy can now be scaled back?  In view of the hatred of the Abbott government in Australia by the Greens and their supporters, it is a surprise to see that the 4% fall in Australia's investment in clean energy is, with China, the lowest decline in the nine countries showing a decline.  On that, of the 12 countries listed that only three  had  invested more  in clean energy  in 2013 than in 2012.  Why are so many countries apparently not heeding the advice of the IPCC and climate scientists?

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  2. @Ashton: According to the site where the report can be obtained, FS-UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 ...

    "the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly due to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013"
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