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Climate Hustle

2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #10B

Posted on 7 March 2015 by John Hartz

After much ado, El Niño officially declared

Just when everyone had pretty much written it off, the El Niño event that has been nearly a year in the offing finally emerged in February and could last through the spring and summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.

This isn’t the blockbuster, 1998 repeat El Niño many anticipated when the first hints of an impending event emerged about a year ago. This El Niño has just crept across the official threshold, so it won’t be a strong event.

“We’re basically declaring El Niño,” NOAA forecaster Michelle L’Heureux said. “It’s unfortunate we can’t declare a weak El Niño.”

After Much Ado, El Niño Officially Declared by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 5, 2015

Arctic sea ice is getting thinner, faster

While the steady disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic has been one of the hallmark effects of global warming, research shows it is not only covering less of the planet, but it’s also getting significantly thinner. That makes it more susceptible to melting, potentially altering local ecosystems, shipping routes and ocean and atmospheric patterns.

While the ice’s extent is readily visible from satellites, ice thickness has been more difficult to measure, and it is arguably the more important dimension in measuring the volume of ice being lost. In estimating ice thickness, satellites must try to gauge thickness differences of just a few feet from hundreds of miles above the planet’s surface. “It’s a tricky business,” Lindsay said.

But several satellites do take those measurements, as do various airborne missions, anchored moorings and submarines passing below the ice. Each of these instruments uses a different method, though, and produces data that isn’t always easy to sync with the others.

In the new study, Lindsay and Schweiger tried to resolve some of those differences in what Lindsay called “an attempt to get all the ice thickness measurements into one place.” The goal, he said, is “to get a broad picture of what the sea ice is doing in the Arctic Ocean that is based more on observations than on a model.” 

Arctic Sea Ice Is Getting Thinner, Faster by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 4, 2015

Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre

As global warming argument moves on to politics and business, Alan Rusbridger explains the thinking behind our major series on the climate crisis

Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre by Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian, Mar 6, 2015

China pledges to boost clean energy, industrial restructuring

China's top state planning agency pledged on Thursday to accelerate policies to promote cleaner and renewable sources of energy and tackle overcapacity in polluting industrial sectors.

China is trying to strike a balance between improving its environment, suffering from more than three decades of breakneck growth, and keeping its economy running at the pace required to maintain employment and stability.

The National Development and Reform Commision (NDRC) in its annual report published at the opening of the full session of parliament said it would implement policies aimed at reducing coal consumption and controlling the number of energy-guzzling projects in polluted regions.

"We will strive for zero-growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country," Premier Li Keqiang said in his government work report delivered to parliament on Thursday.

China pledges to boost clean energy, industrial restructuring by Aizhu Chen, Dominique Patton and Kathy Chen, Reuters, Mar 5, 2015

Europe submits UN climate pledge, urges US, China to follow

The European Union on Friday submitted its formal promise on how much it will cut greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations ahead of climate change talks starting in November and called on the United States and China to follow its lead.

The European Union is the first major economy to agree its position before the talks in Paris aimed at seeking a new worldwide deal on global warming.

"We expect China, the United States and the other G20 countries in particular to follow the European Union and submit their contributions by the end of March," Miguel Arias Canete, climate and energy Commissioner, told reporters after a meeting of EU environment ministers in Brussels.

French Energy Minister Segolene Royal said Europe was taking up its responsibilities as host of the 2015 Paris climate conference, which begins on Nov. 30.

Europe submits UN climate pledge, urges US, China to follow by Barbara Lewis, Reuters, Mar 6, 2015

Fossil fuel industry caught taking a page out of the tobacco playbook

Last week, Willie Soon was caught failing to disclose conflicts of interest in his climate research and congressional testimony after having received over $1.2 million in funding from fossil fuel companies. This revelation raised alarms in Congress, with Rep. Grijalva sending letters to the universities of seven other scientists who have provided climate-related testimony, and Senators Markey, Boxer, and Whitehouse sending inquiries to 100 fossil fuel companies, trade groups, and NGOs. Senator Markey wrote,

For years we’ve known that fossil fuel interests have sought to block action on climate change and have denied the science. This investigation will help to determine who is funding these denial-for-hire operations and whether those who are funded by these fossil fuel interests are keeping their funders’ identities secret from the public and legislators

Soon’s funding and failure to disclose conflicts of interest raises red flags, and upon further investigation, the underlying problem is clear. Willie Soon does really bad science, and yet is treated as a climate expert and used by members of Congress to justify opposition to climate policies.  

Fossil fuel industry caught taking a page out of the tobacco playbook by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Census - the 97%, The Guardian, Mar 2, 2015

Here’s why gas really costs Americans $6.25 a gallon

It’s almost April 15, and you may be worrying about how much taxes will hurt this year. But a new study published today suggests there’s a whole world of economic losses in the air around us that few of us know anything about.

The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, is the first to pull together a proper accounting of the hidden costs of greenhouse gas emissions. It shows the true (and much higher) cost that we pay in dollars at the pump and light switch—or in human lives at the emergency room.

Drew Shindell, a professor at Duke University, has attempted to play CPA to our industrialized emitting world. He has tabulated what he calls “climate damages” for a whole range of greenhouse gases like CO2, aerosols, and methane—and more persistent ones like nitrous oxides.

If these damages are added in like the gas tax, a gallon of regular in the United States would really cost $6.25. The price of diesel would be a whopping $7.72 a gallon.

Here’s why gas really costs Americans $6.25 a gallon by Jeffery DelViscio, Quartz, Mar 4, 2015

HBO’s award-winning VICE exposes climate deniers and the dire consequences of sea level rise

The third season of the Emmy-winning news series VICE debuts today at 11 p.m. on HBO. The first episode covers the pressing issue of sea level rise. VICE Media founder Shane Smith travels to the bottom of the world to investigate the instability of the West Antarctic ice sheet and see how the continent is melting. Then, the VICE crew heads to Bangladesh to capture the impacts of rising sea levels on this South Asian country.

“From the UN Climate conference to the People’s Climate March to the forces that deny the science of global climate change,” says HBO, “this extended report covers all sides of the issue and all corners of the globe, ending in a special interview with Vice President Joe Biden.”

VICE is an innovative media company whose correspondents cover stories that traditional news outlets often overlook. HBO partners with VICE to produce the weekly series. And the season premiere has good timing because next week Robert Swan will take his 2041 team on this year’s International Antarctic Expedition to show the firsthand effects of climate change on the continent.

HBO’s Award-Winning VICE Exposes Climate Deniers and the Dire Consequences of Sea Level Rise by Cole Mellino, EcoWatch, March 6, 2015 

How to win friends and bamboozle people about climate change

What is the difference between a magician and a man who obscures the truth about global warming for the fossil-fuel industry? Magicians are "moral liars," according to the illuminating new documentary Merchants of Doubt, by director Robert Kenner. That's because their magic acts use expertise in the art of deception and misdirection to entertain. Shills for the fossil fuel-industry, such as Steve Milloy,Marc Morano and others examined and accused in this film, use their expertise to fool people about matters of life and death.
The new documentary springs from the 2010 eponymous book by historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The film (and the book before it) lays out how the fossil-fuel industry funds talking heads to sow confusion about climate change in a deliberate imitation of the successful doubt-sowing tactics of the tobacco industry. That industry famously employed experts in public relations, starting with venerable PR firm Hill+Knowlton, to cast doubt on the idea that smoking causes lung cancer or that nicotine was addictive, tactics that delayed regulation of the tobacco industry for decades.

How to Win Friends and Bamboozle People about Climate Change by David Biello, Scientific American, Mar 6, 2015

How well prepared are businesses for climate change?

The world is changing. The weather is becoming more volatile, with the number of extreme weather events on the rise. Climate change represents the new normal: the Earth is already showing the impacts of our actions, which will continue to become more visible.

More and more businesses recognize what is at stake and are grappling with this ongoing change. Consumer goods company Unilever, for example, has estimated that extreme weather events, such as drought and flooding, cost it 200 million euros in 2011 alone. Supermarket chain Asda, meanwhile, has found that only 5% of its fresh produce supply is unaffected by climate change and that 370 million euros of value across its business is at risk.

With so much at stake, companies in many industries are already responding. Utility Anglian Water, for example, launched its “Love Every Drop” campaign to encourage customers in East Anglia to save water, while reducing operational emissions and generating its own renewable energy. Meanwhile, Thames Water has developed a risk assessment process as part of its investment planning to provide resilience not only to current flooding risks but also a range of possible futures.

How well prepared are businesses for climate change? by Eliot Whittington, The Conversation US Pilot, Mar 5, 2015

The oceans may be lulling us into a false sense of climate security

A paper published last week in Science casts more light on oceans and how they may have contributed to a false sense of security about what we face in the future. The paper, coauthored by Byron SteinmanMichael Mann, and Sonya Miller, approached the problem in a new way that connected real-world observations with state-of-the-art climate models. What the authors find casts severe doubt on other work which had oversold the role of natural climate’s ability to halt global warming for the next 15 years. Instead, by correcting others’ errors, the new paper shows that things may be worse than we thought.

The oceans may be lulling us into a false sense of climate security by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, March 5, 2015

Top lessons to be learned from warming 'hiatus'

For the scientific community, for science communicators, for the public — and clearly for policy makers — there are important lessons to be gleaned from the ongoing slowdown (aka ‘hiatus’) in the warming of the planet’s atmosphere. Here are some key lessons. 

The pause. The hiatus. The global warming slowdown. It’s all the buzz in some circles.

Did global warming stop 10 years ago? Or 15 or 18? Did warming of Earth’s surface? Can carbon dioxide be taken out of the woodshed?

Here are some of the lessons learned — or that should be learned — since the onset of the warming slowdown.

Top Lessons to be Learned from Warming ‘Hiatus’ by David Appell, Yale Climate Connections, Mar 5, 2015

UN warns of escalating cost of climate disasters

The UN has urged governments and businesses to step up investment in climate resilience measures, arguing that a "small additional investment" in more resilient infrastructure "could make a crucial difference in achieving the national and international goals of ending poverty, improving health and education, and ensuring sustainable and equitable growth".

The call comes in a major new report from the UN published yesterday and titled Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. The report concludes that the economic cost of natural disasters worldwide has reached an average of between $250bn and $300bn and warns that without urgent action climate change impacts will result in increased costs in the future.

"If we do not address risk reduction, future losses from disaster will increase and this will impact countries' capacity to invest money in other areas such as health and education," said said the UN Secretary‐General's Special Representative on Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, in a statement. "If we do not take the necessary measures now, it will be difficult to achieve development, let alone sustainable, development."

UN warns of escalating cost of climate disasters by James Murray, The Business Green, Mar 5, 2015

Why a submerged island is the perfect spot for the world’s biggest wind farm

Planning permission has been given for what could become the world’s largest offshore wind farm on the Dogger Bank, off England’s east coast. If fully constructed the project will have up to 400 turbines with a total generation capacity of 2.4 GW. That’s enough to power 1.9 million households – more than Manchester and Birmingham combined.

So why now? And why so big? It seems the UK government is essentially taking a punt on the future of offshore wind. Investment in a more expensive renewable technology at an earlier stage means a premium is being paid in the hope it will kick-start a whole industry. This would in turn reduce costs, while generating low-carbon electricity out of sight.

Why a submerged island is the perfect spot for the world’s biggest wind farm by Xavier Lemaire, The Conversation Us Pilot, Mar 6, 2015

Why people "fly from facts"

“There was a scientific study that showed vaccines cause autism.”

“Actually, the researcher in that study lost his medical license, and overwhelming research since then has shown no link between vaccines and autism.”

“Well, regardless, it’s still my personal right as a parent to make decisions for my child.”

Does that exchange sound familiar: a debate that starts with testable factual statements, but then, when the truth becomes inconvenient, the person takes a flight from facts.

Why People "Fly from Facts" by Troy Campbell and Justin Friesen, Scientific American, Mar 3, 2015

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. Anyone:

    What are some of the better sources of valid information on the current and medium history (say, 25-30 years) of the Gulf Stream, flow rate in Sverdrups, pattern of the flow, assessments of the causes of changes, etc.?

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