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Climate Hustle

Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

 


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #42

Posted on 21 October 2018 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Editorial of the Week... Legal Matters... Explainer of the Week... Toon of the Week... SkS in the News... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

Man Whose Mexico Beach House Was One of Last Standing After Hurricane Michael Calls out Climate Denier Politicians

In Mexico Beach, Florida, Russell King’s house is the only beachfront property that survived Hurricane Michael with little damage. But the fact it survived the latest record-breaking hurricane doesn’t give King peace of mind. Can it withstand the next storm that comes its way?

Climate scientists predict that storms will continue to intensify, and King takes this to heart, worrying the next one could take down his house. I met King on October 14, four days after Hurricane Michael made landfall and wiped out a large portion of Mexico Beach, a small town on Florida’s panhandle. The storm swept into the area with winds of up to 155 miles per hour (mph), just two shy of reaching a Category 5 storm designation

King’s home, which he owns with his nephew, Dr. Lebron Lackey, was built to withstand 240 mph winds, well beyond the standards of the current building code. Nearby houses built to the latest code all sustained substantial damage. Most of those still standing will likely need to be torn down. About a mile east on Highway 98, the main road along the coast, the top two floors of a four-story house moved from the beach to the road. The bottom floors were obliterated. 

I was preparing to camp out in my car on the beach near King's home when he graciously invited me in. “We still have dry beds,” he said. That night we talked over candlelight about climate change and politics. 

King, a former Air Force Lt. Colonel and practicing lawyer, is a Republican, but voted for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election because he sees Donald Trump’s stance on climate science as a threat to the country. “Let’s get to the facts and truth, and don't worry about if it comes from the right or the left,“ King said. 

It troubles him that people are confusing the message with the messenger when it comes to science. King pleads with his climate-denier friends to watch Al Gore’s latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, and form their own opinions, rather than going along with what politicians say. 

As the sun came up, we gazed out from the balcony over the destruction below. The few structures still standing appeared damaged beyond repair. Many others were completely gone. 

Man Whose Mexico Beach House Was One of Last Standing After Hurricane Michael Calls out Climate Denier Politicians by Julie Dermansky, DeSmog, Oct 21, 2018 

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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #42

Posted on 20 October 2018 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week including,,, 

Editor's Pick

Assessing the Global Climate in September 2018

Globe had its fourth warmest September and year-to-date on record

Sunset-over-Mountains-in-Poland

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

The global land and ocean temperature departure from average for September 2018 tied with 2017 as the fourth highest for the month of September in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date was also fourth warmest on record.

September-2018-Global-Significant-Events-Map_NOAAThis monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

Assessing the Global Climate in September 2018, National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA, Oct 17, 2018

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5 comments


New research, October 8-14, 2018

Posted on 19 October 2018 by Ari Jokimäki

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change impacts 

Mankind

Climate change and summer thermal comfort in China

Built-up area and population density: Two Essential Societal Variables to address climate hazard impact (open access)

Response of crop yield to different time-scales of drought in the United States: Spatio-temporal patterns and climatic and environmental drivers

A systematic review of how vulnerability of smallholder agricultural systems to changing climate is assessed in Africa (open access)

Prediction of drought-induced reduction of agricultural productivity in Chile from MODIS, rainfall estimates, and climate oscillation indices

Drought and its impacts in Ethiopia (open access)

How do staff motivation and workplace environment affect capacity of governments to adapt to climate change in developing countries?

The role of the private sector and citizens in urban climate change adaptation: Evidence from a global assessment of large cities (open access)

Coral Reef Island Initiation and Development Under Higher Than Present Sea Levels

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0 comments


1.5 Degree Climate Limit: Small Number; Huge Consequences

Posted on 18 October 2018 by Guest Author

This is a new video by Climate Adam.

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20 comments


Republican lawmakers react to the IPCC report – ‘we have scientists’ too!

Posted on 17 October 2018 by dana1981

Major climate science reports usually pass by largely unnoticed, but in the wake of the latest IPCC report a number of journalists laudably grilled Republican lawmakers about its findings. While their responses were predictably terrible, it’s nevertheless crucial for journalists to hold GOP politicians accountable for their climate denial and policy inaction. Donald Trump’s answers were particularly ignorant and nonsensical in his 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl.

Welcome to Stage 2 climate denial

None of the Republicans exhibited Stage 1 climate denial (denying that it’s happening), but several remain in Stage 2 (denying humans are responsible). Trump was the worst of the lot, telling Stahl:

Something’s happening [with the climate] and it’ll change back again … I don’t know that it’s manmade.

Earth’s climate isn’t magical. Each of its changes has physical causes and will only “change back” if something causes them to do so. Trump’s claim is akin to arguing that if he gains 50 lbs by eating McDonald’s fast food every day he’ll eventually ‘change back’ to his less obese self. Doing so would require a physical cause, like a change in diet. Fossil fuels are the climate’s greasy fast food.

Similarly, Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow said to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week:

how much of [climate change] is manmade, how much of it is solar, how much of it is oceanic, how much of it is rain forest and other issues? I think we’re still exploring all of that.

And Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN’s Jake Tapper:

I can’t tell you to what percentage of [climate change] is due to human activity

Climate scientists can. It’s 100% since 1950.

Gavin Schmidt@ClimateOfGavin

For @marcorubio @jaketapper and anyone else, it’s a good thing that scientists have indeed already looked at how much recent trends in climate are due to human activity. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/ 

[narrator: it was all of it]

This is settled science, about which there’s a 97% expert consensus. But of course, Republican politicians prefer the beliefs of the less than 3% of contrarian climate scientists.

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18 comments


SkS Analogy 15 - Ice Tea and Temperature Rise

Posted on 16 October 2018 by Evan, jg

Tag Line

Even on a hot day, as long as your glass of tea has ice it is a nice, cool drink. Only when the ice disappears does your drink start to warm up.

Elevator Statement

The height of a balloon above the ground is not proportional to the amount of hot air you put into the envelope.1 In fact, when you first start filling a balloon all that happens is that the hot air causes the envelope to lift off of the ground, applying tension to the basket and its occupants, but there is no upward motion of the balloon at that point. You pump in more and more hot air, and if select US Senators were standing by they would likely proclaim that there is absolutely no effect of hot air on the balloon.

The problem, of course, is that a huge amount of hot air must be injected into the balloon just to overcome the weight of the envelope, the basket, and its occupants. As long as the upward force is less than the downward, restraining force, nothing happens. But once the upward force overcomes the downward force, up you go, and any small addition of hot air2 at this point causes you to accelerate faster and faster skyward.

Ever wonder why you put ice cubes into your water and not cold rocks? The difference between ice and rocks is that the temperature of a cold rock will slowly increase along with the liquid it is trying to keep cold, and will do no better keeping the liquid cool than the cool liquid itself. Cold rocks do nothing to keep your drink cool.

However, ice is effective because as long as there is ice in your glass, the combination of ice and tea will stay near 0°C. As soon as the ice melts and is completely gone the temperature of your tea starts to rise, and soon your drink becomes warm and tasteless. We have all used ice in our drinks, but likely without ever realizing that the reason for using ice is that by definition, the temperature of ice cannot rise above 0°C, whereas a cold rock will easily warm up past 0°C. So if there is ice in your glass, it stabilizes the temperature to near 0°C. Read on in the next section to learn about the property of ice that keeps your ice tea near 0°C.

In the last 40 years we’ve lost about 50% of the Arctic ice area and about 70% of the volume.3 Time to ask Earth’s bartender for more ice for our drink, lest the temperature of the Arctic becomes too warm.

Ice balloons temperature rise

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7 comments


There’s one key takeaway from last week’s IPCC report

Posted on 15 October 2018 by dana1981

The Paris climate agreement set a target of no more than 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperatures, but also an aspirational target of no more than 1.5°C.  That’s because many participating countries – especially island nations particularly vulnerable to sea level rise – felt that even 2°C global warming is too dangerous.  But there hadn’t been a lot of research into the climate impacts at 1.5°C vs. 2°C, and so the UN asked the IPCC to publish a special report summarizing what it would take to achieve the 1.5°C limit and what the consequences would be of missing it.

The details in the report are worth understanding, but there’s one simple critical takeaway point: we need to cut carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible.

We’re about to burn through the 1.5°C carbon budget

Depending on how we define ‘pre-industrial temperatures’ and how fast we keep consuming fossil fuels, we’ll likely burn through the rest of the 1.5°C carbon budget within the next 3 to 10 years.  To stay below 1.5°C, the IPCC therefore concludes the world must embark on a World War II-level effort to transition away from fossil fuels, and also start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at large scales – anywhere from 400bn to 1.6tn tons of it.

budget

 Global carbon dioxide emissions to date, and potential pathways to stay within the remaining 1.5°C global warming budget. Illustration: IPCC SR15

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27 comments


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #41

Posted on 14 October 2018 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Opinion of the Week... Legal Matters... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

Hurricanes like Michael show why we can’t ignore climate change

The deadly storm came just days after a report on global warming

Hurricane Michael aftermath: Mexico Beach, Fl 10-13-18

People walk through rubble after Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., on Saturday (Oct 13, 2018). (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This past week was a grim one in climate history, by any measure.

First, an international group of scientists released a long-anticipated report (IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C) detailing in excruciating detail the extra damages we can expect unless we slam our foot on the fossil fuel brakes right now. Then, just a few days later, record-breaking Hurricane Michael came barreling out of the Gulf of Mexico with a late-breaking intensification that transformed the Florida Panhandle into a landscape straight out of a horror movie.

The fact that both events occurred within a few days of each other is pure coincidence, of course. But it does leave the feeling that Nature just put one or more planetary-scale exclamation marks on the main takeaway from the IPCC report: Act now to reduce emissions, or suffer the consequences!

Hurricanes like Michael show why we can’t ignore climate change, Perspective by Kim Cobb, Post Everything, Washington Post, Oct 14, 2018

____________________

Note: For more details about the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C see:

Links to additional article and opinion pieces about the IPCC's Special Report are included in the 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41 posted on this site yesterday.  

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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41

Posted on 13 October 2018 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week including numerous articles about the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC and the Hurricane Michael-climate change connection,

Editor's Pick

Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’

The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat 

Mary Robinson 

‘Human rights has always been a struggle’ ... Mary Robinson in her office in Dublin. Photograph: Johnny Savage/Guardian

On the morning that the world’s leading climate scientists warn that the planet has until 2030 to avert a global warming catastrophe, Mary Robinson appears suitably sombre. She wears black shoes, black trousers and a black sweater and perches at the end of a long table at her climate justice foundation, headquartered in an austere, imposing Georgian building opposite Trinity College Dublin. The only dash of brightness is a multicoloured brooch on her lapel. “It symbolises the sustainable development goals,” she says. “It’s the one good emblem that the United Nations has produced, so I like to wear it.”

There seems little reason for cheer on this Monday. The landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just warned that urgent, unprecedented changes are needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C; even half a degree beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Donald Trump, rejecter of the Paris climate agreement, is riding high on the back of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the US supreme court. Britain and the EU are consumed by Brexit Brazil is on course to elect a president who wants to open the Amazon to agribusiness. Closer to home, the Irish government is flunking its climate policy goals. Now, climate scientists warn that the clock ticks ever closer to midnight.

“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to: that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business. “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe. It’s beyond safe. Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees. I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries ... villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”

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8 comments


New research, October 1-7, 2018

Posted on 12 October 2018 by Ari Jokimäki

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change

Understanding the abrupt climate change in the mid-1970s from a phase-space transform perspective

Temperature, precipitation, wind

Distinguishing trends and shifts from memory in climate data

Persistence of observed air temperatures in Iceland

Revisiting the Mystery of Recent Stratospheric Temperature Trends (open access)

Establishment of a long-term lake-surface temperature dataset within the European Alps extending back to 1880 (open access)

Spatially variable warming of the Laurentian Great Lakes: an interaction of bathymetry and climate

Daily mean temperature estimate at the US SURFRAD stations as an average of the maximum and minimum temperatures

Importance of the El Niño teleconnection to the 21st century California wintertime extreme precipitation increase

Observed trends in temperature and rainfall in Bangladesh using pre-whitening approach

Later wet seasons with more intense rainfall over Africa under future climate change

Assessment of projected agro-climatic indices over Awun river basin, Nigeria for the late twenty-first century (open access)

“Dry gets drier, wet gets wetter”: A case study over the arid regions of central Asia

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Victims of Hurricane Michael voted for climate deniers

Posted on 11 October 2018 by John Abraham

Floridians are staring down a very powerful Category 4 typhoon that is causing extensive damage.  The high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge will cost billions of dollars.

We know that climate change is making these storms stronger.  The storms feed off of warm ocean waters, and those waters are much warmer now because of climate change. I have written about the science in more detail here and here.  But basically, Michael strengthened because it passed over really warm waters.  Waters that were hotter because of human-caused warming.

ocean temps

Water ocean temperatures around Florida as Hurricane Michael evolved. Illustration: NASA EOSDIS/LANCE

Predictably, the hurricane strengthened as it hit shore.  As I write this, Michael is coming ashore and the pressure is still falling (low pressures in a hurricane signify a stronger storm).  It appears that Michael may have the third-lowest pressure for a hurricane hitting the USA.

IR Michael

Infrared image of Hurricane Michael Photograph: NASA/NOAA/UW-SSEC-CIMSS, William Straka III

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7 comments


SkS Analogy 14 - Inertia and Inevitability

Posted on 10 October 2018 by Evan, jg

Tag Line

Inertia is your friend … until it isn’t.

Elevator Statement

Inertia delays the response …
  But for each CO2 level there is a guaranteed response …
        Be patient, the response is coming …
                     And when it finally comes there’s no going back.

Tie a rubber band to a weight. Move your hand rapidly1 away from the weight,2 stop your hand,3 wait, and the slowly accelerating weight will eventually slam into your hand.4

Think of your hand as CO2 concentration and the weight as atmospheric temperature. Moving your hand quickly is like rapidly increasing CO2 concentration.5 The motion of the weight is like rising atmospheric temperature, where the position of the weight is an indication of atmospheric temperature. A heavy weight causes a large time delay between the motion of your hand and the motion of the weight, similar to the delay between GreenHouse-Gas (GHG) emissions and warming caused by the thermal inertia of the oceans.

So just like connecting your hand to a weight with a rubber band, moving your hand quickly does not guarantee that the weight will initially move quickly. But if you are patient, and if you experiment by moving your hand at different rates, you will find that the quicker and further you move your hand the faster and harder the weight will eventually slam into your hand. You just have to be patient to let the weight catch up.

For another example of the effect of inertia in a system with a small force moving a large weight we turn to NASA. NASA uses solar-powered ion thrusters to power its current generation of deep-space voyagers. Ion thrusters use electrical energy provided by solar panels to accelerate individual xenon atoms, ejecting them at high velocity out the back of the rocket engine. The beauty of ion thrusters is that they combine an essentially infinite energy source (i.e., the sun), together with on-board fuel (xenon) to provide high-efficiency propulsion. The down side is that the thrust/weight ratio is so low that it may take months to years for the probe to reach maximum velocity.

Noting that the heating effect of GHGs in Earth’s atmosphere is relatively low, and that the mass of the oceans is massive, just as ion-thrust engines require months to years to accelerate their payload up to maximum speed, GHGs in Earth’s atmosphere require years to decades to accelerate their “payload” up to maximum temperature, with a typical cause-and-effect time constant of about 30 years: the length of a typical house mortgage.

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4 comments


Next self-paced run of Denial101x starts on October 16

Posted on 9 October 2018 by BaerbelW

The next iteration of our free online course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial, starts on October 16 and it will be the 11th run since the very first one in April 2015. Since then, more than 35,000 students from over 180 countries have registered for our MOOC which has been running either as a 7 weeks long paced or a longer running self-paced version like the upcoming one. The next run won't close until February 26 2019, giving you ample time to work through the material at your own pace.

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The Trump administration has entered Stage 5 climate denial

Posted on 8 October 2018 by dana1981

tragedy

A cartoon illustration of the Trump administration’s climate policy logic Illustration: John Cook

Several years ago, I wrote about the five stages of climate denial.  To date, the Trump administration has pinballed between Stages 1, 2, and 3, calling climate change a Chinese hoaxdisputing the degree of human causation (100% since 1950), and claiming it’s not a threat.  But the purpose of climate science denial is to obstruct climate policies, and science denial doesn’t hold up in court.  Unlike in the political realm, judicial decisions are generally based on evidence. 

The Trump administration wants to roll back the Obama administration’s increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards.  But under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), “if a proposed major federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment,” the agency has to publish an environmental impact statement (EIS).

cafe

Vehicle fuel efficiency standards to date (blue) and required under the Obama administration rules (green) and the Trump administration’s proposal (red) Illustration: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

And so, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was required to publish an EIS detailing how the proposed fuel efficiency rollbacks would impact the environment, including via climate change.  Here, the Trump administration shifted to Stage 4 and 5 climate denial.

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10 comments


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #40

Posted on 7 October 2018 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Opinion of the Week... SkS Highlights... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS...  Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

A major climate report will slam the door on wishful thinking

The IPCC is likely to say that even the most optimistic scenario for climate change isn’t great at all.

Coal-fired Power Plant 

The leading international body of climate change researchers is preparing to release a major report Sunday night on the impacts of global warming and what it would take to cap warming at 1.5 degrees Celsiusor 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels, a goal that looks increasingly unlikely.

The report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international consortium of hundreds of climate researchers convened by the United Nations. Authors are meeting this week in Incheon, South Korea, to finalize their findings, but Climate Home News obtained an early leaked draft.

Why examine the prospects for limiting global warming to 1.5°C? Because under the Paris agreement, countries agreed that the goal should be to limit warming to below 2°C by 2100, with a nice-to-have target of capping warming at 1.5°C.

According to the drafts, the report finds that it would take a massive global effort, far more aggressive than any we’ve seen to date, to keep warming in line with 1.5°C — in part because we are already en route to 3°C of warming. And even if we hit the 1.5°C goal, the planet will still face massive, devastating changes. So it’s pretty grim.

But this is also a thunderous call to action, laying out what tools we have at our disposal (we have plenty) to mitigate global warming and to accelerate the turn toward cleaner energy. Let’s walk through the basics. 

A major report will slam the door on wishful thinking by Umair Irfan, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 5, 2018

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8 comments


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #40

Posted on 6 October 2018 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week.

Editor's Pick

The Nihilism of Trump’s Climate Policy

The administration cites the likelihood of catastrophic global temperature rise to justify gutting fuel-efficiency standards. Yes, you read that correctly.

Wildfire Shasta Trinity National Forest CA Sep 2018

A firefighter works to control the Delta Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, in September 2018. Noah Berger/AP

The Washington Post dove deep into a draft statement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week and found buried within it a startling admission.

Planet Earth, the agency’s analysts observed, is currently on track to warm by approximately 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But that’s not the startling thing I’m referring to. This is: The statement’s authors were passing along this bit of news in order to lend support to the administration’s decision to weaken fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.

That’s right: The United States government is basically making the argument that reducing carbon pollution from cars can’t save us—so why bother?

This is, to put it mildly, a twist on the usual rules of engagement between those who advocate for climate action and those who don’t. We’re used to fighting skepticism. But outright nihilism? That’s a new one. 

The Nihilism of Trump’s Climate Policy by Jeff Turrentine, On Earth, NRDC, Oct 5, 2018 

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9 comments


New research, September 24-30, 2018

Posted on 5 October 2018 by Ari Jokimäki

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change mitigation

Climate change communication

Enduring Extremes? Polar Vortex, Drought, and Climate Change Beliefs

Not in my back yard: Egocentrism and climate change skepticism across the globe

Climate Policy

Environmental integrity of international carbon market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement (open access)

Altruism and Global Environmental Taxes (open access)

International trade and the distribution of economy-wide benefits from the disbursement of climate finance

Energy production

Current perspectives on nuclear energy as a global climate change mitigation option

Changes in soil organic carbon stocks after conversion from forest to oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo (open access)

Curtailment of renewable energy in Northwest China and market-based solutions

Assessing the impact of drought on the emissions- and water-intensity of California's transitioning power sector

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How Arctic lakes accelerate permafrost carbon losses

Posted on 3 October 2018 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief.  Dr Ingmar Nitze is a postdoctoral researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI); Dr Guido Grosse is head of the Permafrost Research Section at AWI and professor of permafrost in the Earth system at the University of PotsdamDr Thomas Schneider von Deimling is a senior scientist at AWI; and Dr Katey Walter Anthony is an aquatic ecosystem ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

As the climate warms, there is increasing concern around thawing of carbon-rich permafrost across the Arctic. Carbon emissions from this perennially frozen land have the potential to reinforce global warming.

Adding to this risk, the Arctic is also pockmarked by millions of small ponds and lakes, formed as the frozen soil thaws, collapses and fills with melted ice, snow and rain. These lakes accelerate thawing of the surrounding land, ramping up how much carbon the land emits.

In our recent study, published in Nature Communications, we have – for the first time – estimated the global carbon emissions from permafrost thaw beneath and around Arctic lakes.

And our findings suggest this rapid thaw has the potential to double how much permafrost carbon is released this century.

Giant freezer

Permafrost covers around a quarter of the non-glaciated land in the northern hemisphere, including large parts of Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada and the Tibetan plateau.

Permafrost soils lock in old plant and animal remains like a giant freezer. This a carbon-rich combination of roots, leaves and peat that covered the vast tundra-steppe and interspersed wetlands of the last ice age. It also includes mammoths and other iconic animals of the time.

As its name suggests, permafrost is permanently frozen, However, during the short summer season, the uppermost part of the soil – known as the “active layer” – briefly thaws. This layer is, perhaps, just a few tens of centimetres deep.

However, a warming climate puts an increasing amount of permafrost at risk of thawing. And it is not only contending with the steady rise in global average temperatures, but also “Arctic amplification” – the rapid warming in the Earth’s northernmost latitudes in response to melting sea ice and declining snow cover.

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1 comments


New study finds incredibly high carbon pollution costs – especially for the US and India

Posted on 1 October 2018 by dana1981

The social cost of carbon is a measure of the economic damages caused (via climate change) by each ton of carbon pollution that we produce today.  It’s difficult to estimate because of physical, economic, and ethical uncertainties.  For example, it’s difficult to predict exactly when various climate tipping points will be triggered, how much their damages will cost, and there’s also a question about how much we value the welfare of future generations (which is incorporated in the choice of ‘discount rate’).

In 2013, the Obama administration set the federal social cost of carbon estimate at $37 per ton of carbon dioxide (up from the previous estimate of $22).  That was a conservative estimate – in recent years, research has pegged the value closer to $200 because recent research has shown that global warming slows economic growth, which makes it quite expensive.  A majority of economists in a 2015 survey believed the federal estimate was too low, but Republicans have recently been trying to dramatically lower it anyway.

The Republican argument is twofold.  First, that we should only consider domestic climate costs (the federal estimate is of global costs, because our carbon pollution doesn’t just hover in the air above America).  Second, that instead of trying to stop climate change now, we should just save our money and let future generations pay for its costs (by using a high discount rate).

The social cost of carbon is much higher yet

A new study led by UC San Diego’s Katharine Ricke published in Nature Climate Change found that not only is the global social cost of carbon dramatically higher than the federal estimate – probably between $177 and $805 per ton, most likely $417 – but that the cost to America is around $50 per ton.  That’s the second-highest in the world behind India’s $90, and is also higher than the current federal estimate for the global social cost of carbon.

That’s a remarkable conclusion worth repeating.  Ricke’s team found that the cost of carbon pollution to just the United States is probably higher than its government’s current estimate of costs to the entire world.  And the actual global cost is more than 10 times higher than the federal estimate.  And yet Republican politicians think that estimate should be much lower.

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2 comments


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #39

Posted on 30 September 2018 by John Hartz

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World 'nowhere near on track' to avoid warming beyond 1.5C target 

Exclusive: Author of key UN climate report says limiting temperature rise would require enormous, immediate transformation in human activity

Coal-fired power plant

Avoiding a temperature increase of more than 1.5C will be ‘extraordinarily challenging’, says the report’s author. Photograph: Matt Brown/AP

The world’s governments are “nowhere near on track” to meet their commitment to avoid global warming of more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial period, according to an author of a key UN report that will outline the dangers of breaching this limit.

A massive, immediate transformation in the way the world’s population generates energy, uses transportation and grows food will be required to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C and the forthcoming analysis is set to lay bare how remote this possibility is.

“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” said Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which will be unveiled in South Korea next month.

“While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.” 

World 'nowhere near on track' to avoid warming beyond 1.5C target by Oliver Milman, Guardian, Sep 27, 2018

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