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Climate Hustle

2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #13A

Posted on 25 March 2015 by John Hartz

Amazon forest becoming less of a climate change safety net

The ability of the Amazon forest to soak up excess carbon dioxide is weakening over time,researchers reported last week. That finding suggests that limiting climate change could be more difficult than expected.

For decades, Earth’s forests and seas have been soaking up roughly half of the carbon pollution that people are pumping into the atmosphere. That has limited the planetary warming that would otherwise result from those emissions.

The forests and oceans have largely kept up even as emissions have skyrocketed. That surprised many scientists, but also prompted warnings that such a robust “carbon sink” could not be counted on to last forever.

Amazon Forest Becoming Less of a Climate Change Safety Net by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Mar 23, 2015


Climate change: China official warns of 'huge impact'

Climate change could have a "huge impact" on China, reducing crop yields and harming the environment, the country's top weather scientist has warned, in a rare official admission.

Zheng Guogang told Xinhua news agency that climate change could be a "serious threat" to big infrastructure projects.

He said temperature rises in China were already higher than global averages.

China, the world's biggest polluter, has said its emissions of gases that cause climate change will peak by 2030.

Climate change: China official warns of 'huge impact', BBC News, Mar 22, 2015


Climate denial is immoral, says head of US Episcopal church

The highest ranking woman in the Anglican communion has said climate denial is a “blind” and immoral position which rejects God’s gift of knowledge.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity, said that climate change was a moral imperative akin to that of the civil rights movement. She said it was already a threat to the livelihoods and survival of people in the developing world.

“It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

Climate denial is immoral, says head of US Episcopal church by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Mar 24, 2015


Climate work highlighted on World Meteorological Day

The United Nations agency responsible for comprehensively tracking the planet’s weather and climate system has once again raised its voice to add to the chorus proclaiming the exceptional warmth that pervaded the planet as a whole last year, along with many particular regions and countries.

new report released Monday by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) catalogues the record hot temperatures — hallmark events of a climate warmed by human activities — and other extreme weather events that pummeled places around the world last year. The report’s release and the events fall on World Meteorological Day, which marks the WMO’s founding.

This year, the focus is on spreading and improving knowledge of weather and the changing climate to help better protect against the devastating effects that extreme events can have on agriculture, food and water availability and infrastructure, particularly in the developing world.

“Extreme weather and changing climatic patterns are having a growing impact on our planet and on human well-being,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Climate Work Highlighted on World Meteorological Day by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 23, 2015


Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans 

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.

Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences by Chris Mooney, Energy & Enevironment, Washington Post, Mar 23, 2015


How solar heavy Europe avoided a blackout during total eclipse

After months of planning and weeks of apprehension, grid operators in Europe managed to avoid blackouts and huge power fluctuations from a nearly complete solar eclipse Friday morning. Analysts say these were real risks, especially in countries with large solar installations like Germany and Italy.

Those countries passed through Friday's event without incident, but with their transmission service operators (TSOs) each taking a different course of action to keep their power systems in balance between electricity supplies and demand.

How Solar Heavy Europe Avoided a Blackout during Total Eclipse by Eric Marx, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Mar 24, 2015


Jerry Brown: Opposition on climate change ‘borders on the immoral’

Gov. Jerry Brown said opposition to steps President Barack Obama is taking on climate change “borders on the immoral,” as he tore into Republicans in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Brown’s remarks came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged states last week to ignore federal directives to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Brown, a longtime champion of environmental causes, said McConnell was “representing his coal constituents” and putting at risk “the health and well-being of America.” The Democratic governor called McConnell’s efforts “a disgrace.”

“President Obama is taking some important steps,” Brown said. “And to fight that, it borders on the immoral.”

Jerry Brown: Opposition on climate change ‘borders on the immoral’ by David Siders, Sacramento Bee, Mar 22, 2015


One satellite data set is underestimating global warming

A very important study was just published in the Journal of Climate a few days ago. This paper, in my mind, makes a major step toward reconciling differences in satellite temperature records of the mid-troposphere region. As before, it is found that the scientists (and politicians) who have cast doubt on global warming in the past are shown to be outliers because of bias in their results.

The publication, authored by Stephen Po-Chedley and colleagues from the University of Washington, discusses some major sources of error in satellite records. For instance, after satellites are launched, they scan the Earth’s atmosphere and calibrate the atmospheric measurements using a warm target onboard the satellite and cold space. The accuracy with which the atmospheric measurements are calibrated can influence the inferred temperature of the atmosphere (called the warm-target bias). Additionally, over the years, multiple satellites have been launched and the selection of which satellite data are used can play a role. Finally, biases can occur because the satellite orbits drift during their lifetime and the influence of diurnal temperature variation can affect the global temperature trends.

Of these three errors, the last one (probably the most important one), was the focus of the just-published paper. 

One satellite data set is underestimating global warming by John Abraham, Climate Conesnsus - the 97%, The Guardian, Mar 25, 2015

Pacific Islanders say climate finance “essential” for Paris agreement

As Pacific Islanders contemplate the scale of devastation wrought by Cyclone Pam this month across four Pacific Island states, including Vanuatu, leaders in the region are calling with renewed urgency for global action on climate finance, which they say is vital for building climate resilience and arresting development losses.

In a recent public statement, the Marshall Islands’ president, Christopher Loeak, said, “The world’s best scientists, and what we see daily with our own eyes, all tell us that without urgent and transformative action by the big polluters to reduce emissions and help us to build resilience, we are headed for a world of constant climate catastrophe.”

Progress on the delivery of climate funding pledges by the international community could also decide outcomes at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December, they say.

Pacific Islanders Say Climate Finance “Essential” for Paris Agreement by Catherine Wilson, Inter Press Service (IPS), Mar 24, 2015


Paris 2015 climate summit: countries' targets beyond 2020

What are countries really bringing to the negotiating table when the world meets to thrash out a greenhouse deal in Paris this year?

The stakes are high – the hoped-for deal at the 2015 summit will be the first since the landmark Kyoto Protocol in 1992, and could commit countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

Throughout the year, countries will submit draft contributions known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. These may be baselines and targets (such as 40% below 1990 levels by 2030), but may also take other forms.

Contributions will be submitted through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change here. To read an explainer of INDCs and how they fit into a global climate deal, click here. The Conversation will be tracking these contributions as they are submitted through the interactive map below. Click on countries to view contributions and other climate stats. 

Paris 2015 climate summit: countries' targets beyond 2020 by Emil Jeyaratnam and James Whitmore, The Conversation, Mar 22, 2015


Political football over climate change rattles windows of Ivory Tower

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston. 

Political Football over Climate Change Rattles Windows of Ivory Tower by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Mar 23, 2015


Saltier drinking water in Bangladesh could boost stroke, heart attack risk

Bangladeshis could see a rise in the number of strokes and people with heart disease as salinity levels in drinking water increase due to climate change, a study predicts.

Tropical cyclones that hit Bangladesh lead to incursions of seawater that can “cause a huge flux of salinity in the rivers and drinking water ponds on land for the local people,” said Adrian Butler, co-author a study by Imperial College in London and the University of Dhaka. Sea level rise is also raising the risk of worsening saltwater incursions.

Drinking excessive amounts of sodium can increase the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems such as strokes and heart disease, the researchers said, during a forum at Imperial College on non-communicable diseases.

Saltier drinking water in Bangladesh could boost stroke, heart attack risk by Kyle Plantz, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Mar 24, 2015


Ted Cruz says satellite data show the globe isn’t warming. This satellite scientist feels otherwise

Now that Ted Cruz is a presidential candidate, his views on science are, naturally, getting a lot of scrutiny. That’s particularly the case in that while he does seem to acknowledge the reality of at least some amount of climate change, he nonetheless seems a skeptic of the idea that human-caused climate change is happening right now, or has been happening lately.

This has caused some in the media, like press critic Jay Rosen, to wonder how journalists will handle candidates who challenge an important aspect of modern science.

Here’s one journalistic approach: Parsing out what Cruz has said about what he actually thinks, whether it’s accurate, and whether the scientists that Cruz himself seems to rely on would agree with how he characterizes things. So let’s do that.

Ted Cruz says satellite data show the globe isn’t warming. This satellite scientist feels otherwise by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Mar 24, 2015


Welcome to the 'Double El Niño' — and more extreme weather

We’re about to experience a “double El Niño” — a rare weather phenomenon that climatologists had warned about several months ago

That means two consecutive years of the concentration of warm water in the Pacific Ocean that brings West Coast storms, quiet hurricane seasons in the Atlantic and busy ones in the Pacific. The danger is that this could mean more than a few months of odd weather, but instead usher in a new phase of climate change. Last year was the warmest year on record; 2015 looks set to be even warmer.

“One way of thinking about global warming from the human influences is that it's not just a gradual increase, but perhaps it's more like a staircase, and we're about to go up an extra step to a new level,” says climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Welcome to the 'Double El Niño' — and more extreme weather by Jared Goyette, Living on Earth, Public Radio International (PRI), Mar 22, 2015


"We only have one home": Pharrell Williams urges action on climate chan

It's time to go "from climate change to climate action" in efforts to save the planet, U.S. pop star Pharrell Williams said at the United Nations on Friday.

Singer-producer Williams, 41, partnered with the United Nations Foundation on the International Day of Happiness to raise awareness and call for more action on climate change.

"If you look at our behaviour it's hard to believe we're all aware we only have one planet," Williams said in a General Assembly hall crowded with young people. "My main inspiration for being here today is that we're in trouble, but we can change that. This earth is our home."

The star is the creative director of the Live Earth movement, which campaigns for a climate deal to be reached before a global summit takes place in Paris in December.

"We only have one home": Pharrell Williams urges action on climate change by Maria Caspani, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Mar 21, 2015

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Comments

Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Climate Central now has a piece devoted to the article on the slowdown of the AMOC. www.climatecentral.org/news/climate-change-jamming-critical-heat-conveyor-18810#article-comments

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  2. I am no scientist but how was there life before plants and trees and still oxygen breathing crwatures?

    Yes I know as a species we are harming the planet but it seems like in other ways not through climate change.  The Earth has gone through cooling and warming more times than Kim Kardashian has waved her backside about.  From all the resourced researched I have looked at Climate changes are a natural process and the only 'green' is money.

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  3. Kaz

    For most of the Earth's history the only life on Earth was bacteria. Anything we might recognise as plants or animals only appeared in the last 500-600 million years. Whereas bacteria (and their even older cousins, Archaea) go back at least 3 billion years and maybe as far back as 3.8 billion years. We complex organisms - people, poplars, prawns etc are recent interlopers.


    And those ancient bacteria transformed the planet and the atmosphere more than 2 billion years before anything 'complex' appeared.

    Google 'The Great Oxygenation Event' as an example.

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  4. "The Earth has gone through cooling and warming more times than Kim Kardashian has waved her backside about"

    Saying that since climate change existed before mankind is proof that this iteration of change is not caused by man is like saying that the darkness of night disproves the existence of the sun.

    It's not true and it just makes you sound uninformed.

    If you wish to pursue your position further, read this post and the comments underneath it and then (and only then) place any remaining concerns on the the comment thread there:

    Climate Change Cluedo: Anthropogenic CO2

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  5. Kaz, at the risk of "dogpiling," I'll provide another piece.

    Climate is in a constant state of change and has been over the course of Earth's history.  Yet for most of that history, climate has changed slowly--slowly enough that species have been able to migrate/adapt, for the most part.  It's only when climate changes rapidly or to an extreme condition (deep cold or deep warmth) that many species have problems.  

    The current warming is extremely rapid.  The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, about 55 million years ago, was one of the most rapid sustained warmings in Earth's history.  Right now, we're doing about 10x to 40x the rate of PETM warming, depending on the method one chooses to compare.

    This might be no big deal if we knew that the warming was going to reverse course soon.  However, there is no physical reason why that would happen, and every physical reason why it should continue for several centuries--or longer if we continue to dig up fossil carbon and dump it into the atmosphere.

    CO2 is essential to keeping the planet warm enough for a robust array of life.  It always has been.  Yet that same process--the "greenhouse effect"--can be enhanced, and that's what we're doing.  Nature hasn't increased atmospheric CO2 this rapidly in at least 300 million years. We are doing it by taking fossil carbon that was stored over tens of millions of years and dumping it into the atmosphere in a matter of a few centuries.   

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