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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #40A

Posted on 2 October 2014 by , John Hartz

Big business climate change movement grows in size and heft

Climate Week presented a two-front push for nations to take action on climate change. The moral case was emphatically made by a record-setting, 400,000-person march through Manhattan. What followed was a similarly unprecedented barrage from investor groups and corporations to convince world leaders that there's also a compelling economic case for taking steps against global warming.

The business presence last week was particularly striking because of its breadth and heft, and because of its extension well beyond the so-called "green bubble" that surrounds companies, investors and advocacy groups who embraced the cause long ago.

Signatories representing $26 trillion in investment funds called on world leaders to enact strong policies, cut fossil fuel subsidies and make polluters pay for the effects of their emissions. There were commitments and pledges from the likes of General Motors, food makers Mars Inc. and Nestle, and consumer products giant Unilever. And a string of corporate CEOs joined early-adopters like Ikea Group in supporting renewable energy and citing proof that companies and countries can tackle climate change and prosper at the same time.

Big Business Climate Change Movement Grows in Size and Heft by Elizabeth Doglass, InsideClimate News, Sep 29, 2014

Building an Ark for the Anthropocene

We are barreling into the Anthropocene, the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. A recent study published in the journal Science concluded that the world’s species are disappearing as much as 1,000 times faster than the rate at which species naturally go extinct. It’s a one-two punch — on top of the ecosystems we’ve broken, extreme weather from a changing climate causes even more damage. By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out.

As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. The new ark certainly won’t come in the form of a large boat, or even always a place set aside. Instead it is a patchwork quilt of approaches, including assisted migration, seed banks and new preserves and travel corridors based on where species are likely to migrate as seas rise or food sources die out.

The questions are complex. What species do you save? The ones most at risk? Charismatic animals, such as lions or bears or elephants? The ones most likely to survive? The species that hold the most value for us?

Building an Ark for the Anthropocene by Jim Robbins, Sunday Review, New York Times, Sep 27, 2014

California drought and climate warming: Studies find no clear link

Global warming contributed to extreme heat waves in many parts of the world last year, but cannot be definitively linked to the California drought, according to a report released Monday.

The third annual analysis of extreme weather events underscored the continuing difficulty of teasing out the influence of human-caused climate change on precipitation patterns.

One of three studies examining the California drought in 2013 found that the kind of high-pressure systems that blocked winter storms last year have increased with global warming.

But another study concluded that a long-term rise in sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific did not contribute substantially to the drought. And researchers noted that California precipitation since 1895 has "exhibited no appreciable downward trend."

Overall, the report editors concluded that the papers didn't demonstrate that global warming clearly influenced the drought, which is one of the worst in the state record.

California drought and climate warming: Studies find no clear link by Bettina Boxhall, Los Angeles Times, Sep 29, 2014

Can U.N. climate negotiators connect with the real world?

Something very special happened on Sept. 23 at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a young poet from the Pacific island nation of the Marshall Islands, stood in front of more than 100 world leaders and passionately performed a piece she had composed for the occasion, dedicated to her seven-month-old daughter.

Part of her heartfelt poem - which inspired tears and a standing ovation - went like this:

we are spreading the word / and there are thousands out on the streets / marching hand in hand / chanting for change NOW / and they’re marching for you, baby / they’re marching for us / because we deserve to do more than just survive / we deserve to thrive

Jetnil-Kijiner's poem was powerful because it injected the human face of climate change into the heart of a place that, an hour or two later, was ringing once again with the rhetoric of politicians and their less-than-inspiring promises to tackle climate change.

Can U.N. climate negotiators connect with the real world? by Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Sep 30, 2014

Chile becomes first South American country to tax carbon

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile enacted new environmental tax legislation on Friday making the country the first in South America to tax carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Part of a broad tax reform, Chile's carbon tax will target the power sector, particularly generators operating thermal plants with installed capacity equal or larger than 50 megawatts (MW).

These installations will be charged $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) released. Thermal plants fueled by biomass and smaller installations will be exempt.

The new tax is meant to force power producers to gradually move to cleaner sources to help reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions and meet its voluntary target of cutting these gases 20 percent from 2007 levels by 2020.

Chile becomes first South American country to tax carbon by Marcelo Teixeira, Reuters, Sep 27, 2014

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet's warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country's president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. "He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating," Tony de Brum, the islands' foreign minister, revealed recently. 

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived by Robin McKie, The Observer/The Guardian, Sep 27, 2014

Gravity shift reveals West Antarctic ice loss

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is headed toward “unstoppable” collapse according to recent studies. A new visual released by the European Space Agency show what the start of that collapse looks like both for the mass of the ice sheet and its signature on the planet’s gravitational field.

We think of gravity as a constant, holding us in place on the planet. But the reality is there are small changes in gravity all over the globe. Not enough that you’ll feel lighter on your feet in one place compared to another, but enough that scientists can use satellites to measure the differences. Those measurements can, in turn, help us better understand the world around us, from how earthquakes shift land to how fast ice sheets are receding and what that means for sea level rise.

The measurements released by the European Space Agency  on Friday fall into the latter category. They show gravity in the region is decreasing as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has melted faster and faster over a 3-year period from 2009-12, sending more water into the sea. 

Gravity Shift Reveals West Antarctic Ice Loss by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Sep 26, 2014

Have Humans Really Created a New Geologic Age?

If you know how to read it, the face of a cliff can be as compelling as the latest bestselling novel. Each layer of rock is a chapter in Earth’s history, telling stories of birth and death, winners and losers, that help scientists understand the evolution of the planet over the past 4.6 billion years.

While humans arrived only recently on geologic time scales, our species already seems to be driving some major plot developments. Agriculture occupies about one-third of Earth's land. The atmosphere and oceans are filling up with chemical signatures of our industrial activity. Whole ecosystems have been reshaped as species are domesticated, transplanted or wiped out

These changes have become so noticeable on a global scale that many scientists believe we have started a new chapter in Earth’s story: the Anthropocene. Atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen popularized the term in the early 2000s, and it has become engrained in the scientific vernacular. But don’t ask what the Anthropocene technically means unless you’re in the mood for some drama.

Have Humans Really Created a New Geologic Age? by Victoria Jaggard, Smithsonian, Sep 30, 2014

Human-related climate change led to extreme heat, scientists say

The savage heat waves that struck Australia in 2013 were almost certainly a direct consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made that ties a specific weather event to global warming.

Five groups of researchers, using distinct methods, analyzed the heat that baked Australia for much of last year and continued into 2014, shutting down the Australian Open tennis tournament at one point in January. All five came to the conclusion that last year’s heat waves could not have been as severe without the long-term climatic warming caused by human activity.

“When we look at the heat across the whole of Australia and the whole 12 months of 2013, we can say that this was virtually impossible without climate change,” said David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne who led one research team. 

Human-Related Climate Change Led to Extreme Heat, Scientists Say by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Sep 29, 2014

India sends mixed signals on climate change

Climate change activists in India have expressed criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision not to attend the UN Climate Summit in New York earlier this week.

The summit, organised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise the political and public profile of the climate change crisis, was attended by more than 120 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

Experts in India said that Modi's presence at the summit would have helped change India's image as an obstructionist in climate change negotiations.

"The prime minister should have prioritised the largest environmental gathering," said Sanjay Vashist, director of the Climate Action Network South Asia. "It was an opportunity for India to sound proactive as well as call on the developed countries to be more ambitious in reducing carbon emissions."

India sends mixed signals on climate change by Betwa Sharma, Al Jazeera, Sep 27, 2014

Media “Echo Chambers” and climate change

Given the diverse sources of news now available in the U.S., partisans can easily choose news sources that align with their political attitudes. Does the rise of partisan news—on cable, talk radio, and the Internet—allow Americans to insulate themselves in “echo chambers” where they are exposed only to content consistent with their opinions, while shielded from dissenting views? If so, this may reinforce partisans’ existing attitudes, making it increasingly difficult for policymakers and the public to achieve mutual understanding and compromise on the most pressing issues of the day, including climate change.

Do the media influence audience beliefs, or are audiences simply drawn to outlets that
support their pre-existing views? Recently, communication scholars (e.g., Slater 2007) have proposed the “reinforcing spirals framework” to describe a dynamic, mutually reinforcing spiral of influence between media sources and their audiences. Our study applies this framework to examine Americans’ responses to global warming. Specifically, we test the relationships between media use (conservative and non-conservative), global warming beliefs, and support for climate change policy over time.

Media “Echo Chambers” and Climate Change, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, Sep, 2014 

President’s drive for carbon pricing fails to win at home

President Obama stood in the chamber of the United NationsGeneral Assembly last week and urged the world to follow his example and fight global warming. But a major new declaration calling for a global price on carbon — signed by 74 countries and more than 1,000 businesses and investors — is missing a key signatory: the United States.

The declaration, released by the World Bank the day before Mr. Obama’s speech at the United Nations Climate Summit, has been signed by China, Shell, Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola. It calls on all nations to enact laws forcing industries to pay for the carbon emissions that scientists say are the leading cause of global warming.

The United States, which is under growing international pressure to price carbon, is missing from the declaration for a key reason: conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, specifically a carbon tax. The opposition will only intensify if Republicans win the Senate in November and the new majority leader is Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, where coal — the world’s largest source of carbon pollution — is the lifeblood of the state’s economy.

President’s drive for carbon pricing fails to win at home by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Sep 27, 2014

Scientists to explain 'Climate at Your Doorstep' at new online hub

While the climate community was fixed on global climate negotiations unfolding at the UN last week, one news organization was focused on educating people about the local damage that's already resulted from the world's inaction.

On Sept. 22, the online newsroom The Daily Climate launched a Kickstarter to raise $25,628 for "Climate at Your Doorstep." The project aims to build an online community of scientists, journalists and members of the public to discuss how climate impacts are already affecting people around the country and the world.

Organized around the hashtag #climatedoorstep, people will post questions, photos and observations on social media. The hash-tagged content will feed into a Daily Climate web page, and a panel of eight appointed scientific expertswill respond to comments and questions.

Scientists to Explain 'Climate at Your Doorstep' at New Online Hub by Lisa Song, InsideClimate News, Sep 30, 2014

The Climate Deniers’ Newest Argument

It's a lot easier to attack environmental scientists when you make up something they didn't say—and then criticize them for saying it

The Climate Deniers’ Newest Argument, Op-ed by Jeffrey Kluger, Time, Sep 29, 2014

'This Changes Everything' tackles global warming

Cutting the vast amounts of man-made pollution that feed global warming is an enormous challenge for societies that gobble up coal, oil and gas. But in "This Changes Everything," Naomi Klein argues that those fuels aren't the root problem — capitalism is. That message is likely to motivate fans of Klein's earlier books, such as "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine," but it also leads to a tough question.

Is blaming capitalism for climate change just rhetorical hot air — or a brutal and uncomfortable truth?

Whatever side you take, Klein deserves credit for not sugarcoating the problem. She writes that limiting global warming won't be quick, easy or without disruptions, yet holds out hope that the end result will be better for people, the environment and even the economy. But make no mistake: "This Changes Everything" argues that we don't just have to cut carbon pollution. We have to change society, and our own lifestyles. Klein writes: "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war." 

'This Changes Everything' Tackles Global Warming by Kevin Bagos, AP/ABC News, Sep 30, 2014


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