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Climate Hustle

2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #6

Posted on 8 February 2014 by John Hartz

  • A conversation on tobacco and coal exports and moral responsibility
  • Arctic's 'layer cake' atmosphere blamed for rapid warming
  • Can ‘unbiased, fact-based, in-depth’ environmental news compete?
  • Climate change proves a survival experiment for wildlife
  • Ending the world the human way
  • Establishing consensus is vital for climate action
  • European parliament votes for stronger climate targets
  • 'Fossilized rivers' reveal clues about disappearing glaciers
  • How to convince your friends to believe in climate change
  • Prince Charles is right about climate change
  • Sea walls may be cheaper than rising waters
  • U.S. launches 'climate hubs' to help farmers face climate change

A conversation on tobacco and coal exports and moral responsibility 

I sent my recent post on exports of life-shortening tobacco and dirty fossil fuels to a variety of climate and energy scientists and analysts and the result was an interesting email conversation that is excerpted below. 

A Conversation on Tobacco and Coal Exports and Moral Responsibility by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Feb 7, 2014


Arctic's 'layer cake' atmosphere blamed for rapid warming

The Arctic is leading a race with few winners, warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. Loss of snow and ice, which reflect the sun's energy, is usually blamed for the Arctic temperature spike.

But a new study suggests the Arctic's cap of cold, layered air plays a more important role in boosting polar warming than does its shrinking ice and snow cover. A layer of shallow, stagnant air acts like a lid, concentrating heat near the surface, researchers report today (Feb. 2) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"In the Arctic, as the climate warms, most of the additional heat remains trapped in a shallow layer of the atmosphere close to the ground, not deeper than 1 or 2 kilometers [0.6 to 1.2 miles]," said Felix Pithan, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany and lead author of the new study. 

Arctic's 'Layer Cake' Atmosphere Blamed for Rapid Warming by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Feb 2, 2014


Can ‘unbiased, fact-based, in-depth’ environmental news compete?

Al Jazeera America says it is out to advance environmental news coverage on cable TV. And it’s not letting up … but can it compete with the likes, for instance, of reality TV, Donald Trump or ‘the Biebs’?

Can ‘Unbiased, Fact-Based, In-Depth’ Environmental News Compete? by Lisa Palmer, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Meida, Feb 4, 2014


Climate change proves a survival experiment for wildlife

In the 1993 blockbuster movie "Jurassic Park," a sleazy scientist played by Jeff Goldblum quips that "life finds a way." For real biologists, climate change is like a massive, unplanned experiment, one that may be too fast and strange for some species to survive it.

Some animals are already in the middle of it. As Arctic ice shelves melt, polar bears are ransacking seabird nests to sustain themselves. Migrating geese are exploring valuable but previously unseen real estate, due to melting permafrost.

But whether these adaptation attempts will succeed remains a big question, researchers say. As temperatures rise, entirely new environments are forming, changing how species interact with each other and their surroundings in often unexpected ways.

Climate Change Proves a Survival Experiment for Wildlife by Elizabeth Harball and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Feb 7, 2014


Ending the world the human way

Here’s the scoop: When it comes to climate change, there is no “story,” not in the normal news sense anyway.

Ending the World the Human Way: Climate Change as the Anti-News by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, Feb 2, 2014


Establishing consensus is vital for climate action

A scientific consensus is necessary to understand and address problems that have a scientific origin and require a scientific solution. The public’s perception of that scientific consensus is necessary to stimulate political debate about solutions. When the public comes to understand the overwhelming agreement among climate scientists on human-caused global warming, acceptance of the science and support for climate action increase.

Establishing consensus is vital for climate action by Stephan Lewandowsky & John Cook, the Conversation, Feb 7, 2014


European parliament votes for stronger climate targets 

The European parliament voted on Wednesday to require member states to meet binding national targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

In a decisive vote, 341 to 263 MEPs called for three binding targets for 2030: a 40% cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels; at least 30% of energy to come from renewable sources; and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency.

This was stronger than the proposal from the European commission last month, that called for 27% of energy to come from renewable sources by the same date. Under the commission's plan, there was no target for energy efficiency, and – crucially – the UK was successful in ensuring that the renewables target would be binding only at the bloc level. 

European parliament votes for stronger climate targets by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Feb 5, 2014


'Fossilized rivers' reveal clues about disappearing glaciers

An amazing landscape left behind by melting ice sheets offers clues to the future of Greenland's shrinking glaciers, a new study suggests.

The incredible terrain is in northern Canada, which is ridged with thousands of eskers — the sinuous, gravelly remains of streams and rivers that flowed beneath the ice. Canada was once buried beneath miles of ice, similar to the way Greenland is today. Called the Laurentide Ice Sheet, this massive ice cap covered all of Canada and parts of the northern United States 15,000 years ago. When the Laurentide Ice Sheet started melting, the retreating ice left behind a record of its demise, such as the eskers, still visible on the Arctic tundra. Deciphering this record could provide a better forecast of the future of Greenland's changing ice sheet, scientists think

'Fossilized Rivers' Reveal Clues About Disappearing Glaciers by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Feb 3, 2014


How to convince your friends to believe in climate change

Environmental­ists have a reputation for being self-righteous and a little naggy, which makes them ripe for parody. (Seen “Portlandia”?) The perception that the eco-conscious are trying to take the fun out of life, however, is unfair. It also has some unfortunate consequences: It drives people away. Nagging breeds defiance.

But if you’re serious about the environment and want others to share your passion, don’t be intimidated by the potential mockery or resistance. There’s an extensive body of research on how to persuade those who view science with suspicion — it’s called the science of science communication. Much of the work centers on climate change.

How to convince your friends to believe in climate change. It’s not as hard as you think. by Charles Palmer, Washington Post, Feb  3, 2014 


Prince Charles is right about climate change

Ignoring global warming and its causes is a comforting path for politicians paralysed by self-interest and the consolations of denial.

Prince Charles is right about climate change, Op-ed by Paul Vallely, visiting professor of Public Ethics at the University of Chester, The Independent, Feb 2, 2014


Sea walls may be cheaper than rising waters

Every country worldwide will be building walls to defend itself from rising seas within 90 years because the cost of flooding will be more expensive than the price of protective projects, researchers predict in a new study.

The encroaching seawater threatens to flood hundreds of millions of people every year by 2100 as homes that are already below flood heights, or will be, succumb to climbing oceans. If governments fail to take any action, the annual cost of damage stands to reach hundreds of billions of dollars, at best, and as high as $100 trillion under grimmer scenarios, according to the paper, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sea walls may be cheaper than rising waters by Evan Lehmann and ClimateWire, Scientific America, Feb 4, 2014


U.S. launches 'climate hubs' to help farmers face climate change

President Barack Obama's administration announced the formation on Wednesday of seven "climate hubs" help farmers and rural communities adapt to extreme weather conditions and other effects of climate change.

The hubs will act as information centers and aim to help farmers and ranchers handle risks, including fires, pests, floods and droughts, that are exacerbated by global warming.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, briefing reporters at the White House, said the country's experience with extreme weather patterns recently underscores the need for taking steps now to address the impact of climate change on agriculture and forestry.

U.S. launches 'climate hubs' to help farmers face climate change by Jeff Mason, Reuters, Feb 5, 2014

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Comments 1 to 10:

  1. The hyperlink for "How to convince your friends to believe in climate change" is broken.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Fixed, thanks!

  2. Re;Sea WallsThat is one race they will lose. Don't get me wrong, they will try very hard ... but they will lose.
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  3. Hi, apologies for a long question, but I would appreciate an opinion on a discussion I have had with a skeptic. I have understood there to be an energy imbalance and have seen it quantified as being about 1.7W/m2 currently and expected to rise. The skeptic, who appears to be a retired but experienced engineer, electronics perhaps, questions this. Here are some of his observations to me:

    1. The properties of CO2 in absorbing and radiating IR over certain wavelengths has been precisely measured and is not open to dispute.

    2. There is no doubt that a planet with an atmosphere of pure CO2 would be warmer than the same planet with an atmosphere of a gas that did not interact with IR.

    3. From there on things are not “well understood” in the way that expression is normally used in science. The radiation imbalance does not come from measurement or observation of any actual imbalance. It comes from calculations based on notions including “radiative forcing” which can exist only in computer models and which is inherently incapable of being validated by observation or by experiment. ([Science of Doom] is not very complimentary about radiative forcing, though mainly because of its approximations.)

    Its very, very hard for me to express how utterly ludicrous or irresponsible the idea of relying on unverified models would be regarded in any of the fields I have worked in. The fact that its widely done in climate science means that the subject just cannot be taken seriously. Its got the word science in its title but, whatever it is, it is simply not science. If learned people believe things about a physical system for which there is no physical evidence – and nothing that comes out of a model is evidence – then their learning has to be regarded as a form of theology. Its faith, not science.

    And he goes on later, quoting from Science of Doom / IPCC:

    “The radiative forcing of the surface-troposphere system due to the perturbation in or the introduction of an agent (say, a change in greenhouse gas concentrations) is the change in net (down minus up) irradiance (solar plus long-wave; in Wm-2) at the tropopause AFTER allowing for stratospheric temperatures to readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with surface and tropo-spheric temperatures and state held fixed at the unperturbed values”. (IPCC)

    In other words, a concept that has no physical existence, that can exist only within computer models and which is incapable of being validated (and, equally, of being falsified). This give a lucid illustration of how climate science is not science, despite having the word in its title and wearing some of the clothes of science. If a concept cant be verified by experiment, it makes no difference how many learned people believe in it, it remains unverified.

    A good principle when things are uncertain is to look for the simplest explanation that requires the fewest assumptions.

    Instead of looking in the deep ocean, under the carpet, or elsewhere, to find what has happened to “the missing heat” that radiative forcing says should be there, climate scientists might well take a hint from Nature. With their models unvalidated, they cannot rule out that Nature is whispering: “Im sorry but the static temperature of the past fifteen years is simply because there is actually no imbalance between incoming and outgoing energy flows. The missing heat is nothing but a phantom conjured up by the approximations and errors in your models.”

    I don’t have the necessary smarts to judge adequately what he says, but his mentioning of static temperatures for 15 years at the end indicates to me that he is not as “skeptical” as he would like to suggest. Can someone help untangle this web for me please?

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  4. 0.5 to 0.6W/m2 would be a better estimate.  Forcings are recalculated to TOA for reasons outlined in I think the 2nd IPCC report. That does not mean you can make more or less direct measurements on which base that recalculation.  However, with respect to TOA imbalance, he is right that the instrumentation cannot give a direct absolute measurement. However, the Argo network provides another way to do estimate it. Conservation of Energy dictates that you cannot have OHC increasing without an energy imbalance, and furthermore it gives a good way to estimate the imbalance in absolute terms.

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  5. Chandra's request for assistance was originally posted on the comment thread of the article, "The 'pause' that isn’t" posted on the And Then There's Physics (ATTP) website. I encouraged Chandra to repost her request here which see obviously did.

    Subsequent to her posting the above, a number of high quality responses to her request have been posted on the ATTP  website by some very well informed individuals. You can access those by going to "The 'pause' that isn’t" on the ATTP website.

     

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  6. Chandra:

    Be sure to check out the SkS rebuttal article, How reliable are climate models?

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  7. Chandra, your skeptic has no idea how science works, as noted by some of the responses to your comment on Science of Doom--the responses about the role of models.  A thermometer is a model, so when your skeptic wholly trusts the temperature measurement from a thermometer, he/she is wholly trusting a scientific model!

    He/she is shockingly unaware of the existence of the massive empirical data, too.  Since he/she reads Science of Doom, please point him/her to "Theory and Experiment--Atmospheric Radiation."  That post covers only a sliver of a topic, but perhaps it will be enough to convince him/her to graduate to reading the Skeptical Science post Models are Unreliable to learn about other kinds of empirical validation; please point out there is an Intermediate tabbed pane there in addition to the Basic one.

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  8. Thanks for the comments and kind advice. I'm not sure I have anything that will have any effect on the skeptic in question. Anything that refers to models just gets the response that such models are "unvalidated" and incapable of being validated. Saying that the models have forecast past events successfully is likely to be rejected as just hind-casting (with models tuned for the purpose, of course) even if the forecast was actually performed before the event. Whether the skeptic is actually unaware of the empirical data, I'm not certain. I think it is more likely that he is well aware of it but rejects any that doesn't fit his preferred tune. The "Theory and Experiment--Atmospheric Radiation" page is a useful reference for me, if not for the skeptic. Thanks.
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  9. Chandra - Those truly in denial cannot be convinced; their confirmation bias prevents it. However, there is a lot to be said for pointing out such a persons errors to the others reading the discussion, people more willing to weigh the evidence presented. 

    In that regard I would highly recommend Raymond Pierrehumbert's presentation at the 2012 AGU Tyndall Lecture, Successful Predictions.The actual presentation starts at about 4:15 - in it Pierrehumbert discusses the many many successful predictions made about climate over the last 120 years. 

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  10. Worth also pointing to the WG1 chapter "Climate models and their evaluation". (Ch 8 in AR4, ch9 in AR5). However, they do not do weather forecasting, have no skill at decadal level prediction and dont pretend to, and need to be evaluated against the robust predictions that they actually to make. More importantly, models are very important for predicting the future but not to validating AGW. A better question to ask is "are models skillful?"

    However, there is a saying that "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into". Many see AGW as a challenge to their political values or their disbelief as a part of their tribal identity. Good luck changing those.

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