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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #42B

Posted on 18 October 2014 by John Hartz

As deaths mount in Nepal disasters, questions about climate change raised

October is not typically the month for avalanches in Nepal. It is also not the time for blizzards. The fall month usually means clear skies and sunshine in the Himalayan country when thousands of foreigners climb its tall mountains.

Hikers were doing exactly that earlier this week when an avalanche and blizzard struck, killing at least 26 people, including four Canadians.

Still missing are 100 more trekkers. According to a Facebook page set up, there may be up to 32 Canadians whose family members have not been able to reach them since the avalanche struck.

As deaths mount in Nepal disasters, questions about climate change raised by Raveena Aulakh Environment and Allan Woods, Toronto Star, Oct 15, 2014


Churches go Green by shedding fossil fuel holdings

In 2008, when the archbishop of the Church of Sweden convened a conference on the threats posed by climate change, the church’s investment managers took notice. The next year, they began removing fossil fuel companies from the church’s financial portfolio — a process that was completed last month with the removal of several natural gas companies.

Climate change “is an important issue for the church and its members,” said Anders Thorendal, the chief investment officer of the Church of Sweden. It did not make sense, he added, to keep fossil fuel companies — whose products result in climate-warming emissions — in the church’s portfolio.

The movement to end investments in fossil fuel companies began with universities, but religious institutions are joining as well. Just this month, the Anglican Diocese of Perth, Australia, announced plans to divest itself of holdings in fossil fuels, and the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand said it would consider doing the same.

Churches Go Green by Shedding Fossil Fuel Holdings by Kate Galbraith, New York Times, Oct 16, 2014


Climate change: it’s only human to exaggerate, but science itself does not

To exaggerate is human, and scientists are human. Exaggeration and the complementary art of simplification are the basic rhetorical tools of human intercourse. So yes, scientists do exaggerate.

So do politicians, perhaps even when, as the UK’s former environment secretary Owen Paterson did, they claim that climate change forecasts are “widely exaggerated”.

A more pertinent question is: does the way in which scientists and politicians speak publicly lead to wild exaggeration? When both are engaged in advocacy, there is little difference; both politicians and scientists will use whatever rhetorical devices they have to win an argument.

But this is not the case when scientists speak publicly through their own very special form of mass media, the peer-reviewed literature. In peer-review, statements that do not follow deductively from the data are subject to forensic examination and often expunged, or at least subjected to the “death by caveat” that makes so much academic writing almost indigestible.

Climate change: it’s only human to exaggerate, but science itself does not by Rob MacKenzie, The Conversation UK, OCt 17, 2014


Cutting Global Warming Pollution Just Business as Usual at Some Major Companies

Fewer than 200 global companies are leading the world in responding to climate change, including U.S. technology giants Apple, Google and Microsoft, and three domestic energy firms—electric utilities Entergy Corp. and Pepco Holdings Inc., and Spectra Energy Corp., an oil and gas pipeline firm.

Those firms are among 34 American companies that the British nonprofit CDP, formerly the Climate Disclosure Project, included in its 2014 "Climate Performance Leadership Index," released Wednesday.

Other major U.S. brands that earned CDP's highest marks for corporate efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change are General Motors Co., Bank of America Merrill Lynch, CVS Health, Goldman Sachs Group, DirecTV and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Cutting Global Warming Pollution Just Business as Usual at Some Major Companies by Daniel Cusick, Climate Wire/Scie ntific American, Oct 17, 2014


Does the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans, deserve a golden spike?

I just participated in the first face-to-face meeting of the Anthropocene Working Group, a subset of a branch of the International Commission on Stratigraphy examining whether humanity’s growth spurt (in both numbers and resource appetites) has caused sufficient change to Earth systems to leave a discernible trace in layered rocks that will build and endure far into the future.

Here’s another way to frame the question: Have we left the Holocene Epoch — the warm interval since the end of the last ice age some 10,000 years ago — and entered what is increasingly described as a geological epoch or age of our own making? (A 2011 paper, “The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives,” is the best scientific overview; also read this fine Paul Voosen story on the Anthropocene concept.)

Does the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans, Deserve a Golden Spike? by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Oct 16, 2014


Fossil fuel industry sustained by ‘toxic triangle’ that puts 400 million at risk

Political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests have formed a “toxic triangle” that threatens to push up global temperatures, putting 400 million people at risk of hunger and drought by 2060, Oxfam said on Friday, a week before a European Union summit to finalise a new climate and energy policy framework.

In its Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance report , Oxfam warned that EU leaders must resist pressure from the fossil fuel industry, which spends at least €44 million (£35m) a year on lobbying the European bloc. The report also urged leaders to commit to cuts of at least 55% in carbon dioxide emissions, energy savings of at least 40%, and an increase in the use of sustainable renewable energy to at least 45% of the energy mix.

EU leaders meet in Brussels on October 23-24 to agree on targets for emissions cuts by 2030, deployment of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. The meeting comes ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris next year. The leaders are expected to agree an emissions cut target of 40% over 1990 levels, but Oxfam said this would not be enough for Europe to make a fair contribution to tackling climate change. The EU emits about 10% of global carbon dioxide .

Fossil fuel industry sustained by ‘toxic triangle’ that puts 400 million at risk by Clar Ni Chonghaile, The Guardian, Oct 16, 2014


From Apple to Wal-Mart, companies make bets on climate change

If acting on climate change hurts the economy, as the American Coal Council's talking pointssuggest, it’s a lesson lost on some of the world’s most successful companies.

Stocks of companies that take climate change seriously beat the wider market by almost 10 percent over the last five years, according to a report released this week by a U.K. nonprofit. The group,CDP, encourages companies to disclose their climate change work publicly, on behalf of hundreds of institutional investors.

CDP's Carbon Performance Leadership Index (CPLI) is composed of companies that lead their peers in managing and reporting the carbon pollution from their own operations and supply chains. That’s not necessarily the same as the least-polluting companies; it’s the companies most aggressively wrangling carbon. In the five years since the CPLI first launched, the index beat both the Bloomberg World Index, which tracks the largest companies across sectors by market value, and the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSWI):

From Apple to Wal-Mart, Companies Make Bets on Climate Change by Eric Roston, Bloomberg, Oct 17, 2014


IPCC corrects claim suggesting climate change would be good for the economy

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has corrected a controversial claim that small amounts of global warming could have overall positive economic impacts, after I pointed out that it was based on inaccurate information.

The final version  of the IPCC’s report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was published without fanfare on the web this week, including a chapter on Key Economic Sectors and Services .

The final draft of the chapter, which was published in April, featured a section on the aggregate economic impacts of climate change, containing the statement: “Climate change may be beneficial for moderate climate change but turn negative for greater warming.”

But the version published this week omits the statement because it was based on faulty data.

IPCC corrects claim suggesting climate change would be good for the economy by Bob Ward, The Guardian, Oct 17, 2014


Lax emissions reporting makes green firms hard to find in emerging markets

Global investors are increasingly seeking green assets as they become more concerned of the potential financial cost of climate change, but in emerging markets such as India, inadequate disclosure standards make such assets difficult to find.

Companies reporting emissions, demonstrating readiness for sudden change in the weather, and assessing climate-related risk on a regular basis will attract overseas investment, finance executives and asset managers said at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit.

Climate change has become a major consideration in investment decisions because it has an immediate impact on a range of sectors, from resources to food and beverages. Last year, the World Bank said the global economic cost of extreme weather events over the past decade neared $200 billion a year.

But companies' and countries' responses are varied.

Lax emissions reporting makes green firms hard to find in emerging markets by Himank Sharma and Sumeet Chatterjee, Reuters, Oct 17, 2014


Natural gas won’t help save the planet, says new peer-reviewed report 

A global fracking boom will not reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, according to new peer-reviewed research in the journal Nature.

In fact an increase in fracking for natural gas is likely to increase carbon emissions as renewable energy will be squeezed out of the market due to price competition.

This would stifle the transition away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources that must happen in order to contain global temperature rise to safe levels, warn the international team of researchers behind the report.

Natural gas won’t help save the planet, says new peer-reviewed report, by Gabrielle Bailey, tcktcktck.org, Oct 17, 2014


Report: Fossil fuel companies found paying lip service to climate risks

Coal, oil and gas companies almost universally recognise the risks climate change poses to their businesses, yet just 7% are integrating these threats into their spending choices.

That’s the latest warning of UK think-tank the Carbon Tracker Initiative, as new analysis -– in partnership with CDP and Ceres  – shows that many companies are simply paying “lip service” to climate risk.

The research examined the answers of 81 coal, oil and gas companies who took part in a survey by CDP – including some of the world’s largest fossil fuels companies such as BP, Statoil, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BHP Billton and Rio Tinto.

Report: Fossil fuel companies found paying lip service to climate risks, by Tierney Smith, tcktcktck.org, Oct 16, 2014


Why climate ‘uncertainty’ is no excuse for doing nothing

Former environment minister Owen Paterson has called for the UK to scrap its climate change targets. In a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, he cited “considerable uncertainty” over the impact of carbon emissions on global warming, a line that was displayed prominently in coverage by the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Paterson is far from alone: climate change debate has been suffused with appeals to “uncertainty” to delay policy action. Who hasn’t heard politicians or media personalities use uncertainty associated with some aspects of climate change to claim that the science is “not settled”?

Over in the US, this sort of thinking pops up quite often in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal. Its most recent article, by Professor Judith Curry, concludes that the ostensibly slowed rate of recent warming gives us “more time to find ways to decarbonise the economy affordably.”

At first glance, avoiding interference with the global economy may seem advisable when there is uncertainty about the future rate of warming or the severity of its consequences. 

Why climate ‘uncertainty’ is no excuse for doing nothing by Richard Pancost and Stephan Lewandowsky, The Conversation UK, Oct 16, 2014

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Comments

Comments 1 to 9:

  1. Have you included any articles about the drought in much of Brazil (and in Central and South America for that matter)? Sao Paulo, the largest city in SA, in particular is on the verge of running out of water and having to turn to much-lower-quality reserves. CA is not the only dry spot in the world.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You can readily answer your question by inserting "South America" into the  SkS search engine.

  2. Thanks. I had searched "Sao Paulo" and came up with nothing. I'm not seeing a lot related to the most recent development ins SA using that search term either. I just wanted to give you a heads up that a major climate story/catastrophe is developing in SA that you may want to look into a bit more. Thanks for all your other coverage.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I have scanned many articles about what's happening in Sao Paulo, but have not come across any that link the drought to climate change.  

  3. Good point. MSM generally don't connect the dots very well. I'd be interested to hear what you think of this fellow's take:

    Reservoir at 5 Percent Capacity: Climate Change to Leave Sao Paulo’s 20 Million Without Water By November?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] RobertScribbler's article is interesting. 

  4. Also relevant: Amazon deforestation picking up pace, satellite data reveals

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thanks for the link. I'll include this article in the next News Roundup.

  5. Gawd, I hate misleading headlines.

    "Natural gas won't save the planet, says new peer-reviewed report"

    It should say "Natural gas without supporting policy won't save the planet, says new peer-reviewed report", because that's what the study says.

    If there's good policy on things like curtailing fugitive gas and carbon prices, it can work. Otherwise, it's not going to help that much.

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  6. Note to SkS: could you correct the error in which the Guardian article about Richard Tol is attributed to 'Bud' Ward, instead of his actual name - Bob?

    Thanks...

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Correction made. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. 

  7. Miguelito, well...

    The study doesn't say whether "it can work". Just that, currently, it doesn't. Could sensible regulations, better leakage controls, and carbon pricing allow natural gas to 'save the planet' by ending global warming? Maybe, but saying 'yes' based on this study is even less accurate than saying 'no'.

    That said, to me it seems likely that the costs which would have to be added to natural gas in order to make it environmentally beneficial would also make it economically unfeasible. Solar and wind are already dropping below grid electricity rates in many countries. A carbon price reflecting the true cost of fossil fuels would instantly shift that to most of the people on the planet being able to get power from renewables more cheaply.

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  8. Another article/topic to consider for inclusion in the next News Roundup:

    Betting on Negative Emissions Fuss et alia, Nature Climate Change (online), 21 September 2014.

    Essentially, we are more and more relying on unproven or undeveloped technology (AKA pixie dust) to even imagine non-catastrophic climate futures in the coming decades.

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  9. ClimateCentral has now picked up the Sao Paulo drought story:

    "One of Sao Paulo's biggest reservoirs is nearly dry"

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