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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?

 


Sen Whitehouse Schools Sen Inhofe about Global Warming on the Senate Floor

Posted on 31 July 2014 by dana1981

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) throws down an epic schooling of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) on global warming after Inhofe blocked a resolution from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) simply acknowledging that global warming exists and poses a threat to the interests of the United States.  Whitehouse makes several points that seem to originate from Skeptical Science, like The Escalator steps.  Well worth taking 7 minutes to watch - hat tip to Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy.

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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #31A

Posted on 31 July 2014 by John Hartz

10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change

For the last few months, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been at record levels unseen in over 800,000 years. The chairman of the IPCC, an international panel of the world’s top climate scientists, warned earlier this year that “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change”.

Future generations will no doubt wonder at our response, given the scale of the threat. It’s known that death, poverty and suffering await millions, and yet governments still vacillate.

But solutions are available. Here are ten reasons to be hopeful that humans will rise to the challenge of climate change.

10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change by Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian, July 30, 2014

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New Zealand’s Southern Alps have lost a third of their ice

Posted on 30 July 2014 by Guest Author

By Jim Salinger, University of Auckland; Blair Fitzharris, University of Otago, and Trevor Chinn, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

A third of the permanent snow and ice of New Zealand’s Southern Alps has now disappeared, according to our new research based on National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research aerial surveys.

A NASA satellite photo of the Southern Alps, stretching along New Zealand’s South Island, shown here capped with snow in 2002. Jacques Descloitres/NASA/Wikimedia Commons

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State Department cuts through the acid political environment on oceans and climate

Posted on 29 July 2014 by Sarah

Secretary Kerry hosted a remarkable conference in June called simply Our Ocean. It enlisted international policy makers, scientists, and the private sector to take action to ensure a healthy ocean for the future. The conference laid out the science, impacts, and solutions for three critical ocean problems: sustainable fisheries, ocean pollution, and ocean acidification. A key goal was to alert those at the highest levels of government to the perils facing the ocean and to inspire them to act decisively to change course.    

The normally staid State Department conference room was bathed in oceanic blue light and during breaks gentle whale songs played while whales and schools of fish swam across three walls of high resolution screens. An exhibit area featured NOAA's Science on a Sphere and NASA's Hyperwall both showing detailed movies of our dynamic planet.

science on a sphere

NOAA Science on a Sphere. Photo from the Space Foundation.

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Nigel Lawson suggests he's not a skeptic, proceeds to deny global warming

Posted on 28 July 2014 by dana1981

Nigel Lawson is the chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation; a political group that regularly releases selective scientific reports about climate change. The organization consistently tries to argue that concerns about global warming – concerns that are based on the full body of scientific evidence – are overblown, which would imply that there's less urgency to solve the climate problem.

In a recent interview with The Independent, Lawson implied that he doesn't consider himself "a climate-change sceptic," but immediately proceeded to deny that the planet is warming, and reject mainstream scientific estimates of the climate sensitivity to the increased greenhouse effect.

There is no global warming to speak of going on at the moment. If you look at the Met Office statistics, that's quite clear. But there could be, there clearly could. If it does happen, there would be a much slower process than the alarmists pretend.

The first statement is untrue on several levels. First, even the Met Office HadCRUT4 estimates of global surface temperatures show we're still in the midst of a warming trend (you can easily check the data for yourself with this tool). Second, the Met Office estimates have a known cool bias due to a lack of coverage in the Arctic, and estimates correcting for that bias show an even larger surface warming trend.

Third and most importantly, the atmosphere only accounts for about 2% of the warming of the planet as a whole. Over 90% of global warming goes into heating the oceans. Studies that account for the warming of the entire global climate have found that it continues unabated. In fact, the planet has built up heat at a rate equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second over the past 15 years.

Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter ocean heat content (OHC) increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012) Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter ocean heat content (OHC) increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue). From Nuccitelli et al. (2012)

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2014 SkS Weekly Digest #30

Posted on 27 July 2014 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

Dana's Climate models accurately predicted global warming when reflecting natural ocean cycles examined a new paper by James Risbey et al that takes a clever approach to evaluating how accurate climate model temperature predictions have been while getting around the noise caused by natural cycles. Needless to say, the article generated a lively and enligtening discussion on its comment thread.

El Niño Watch

Toon of the Week

2014 Toon 30 

h/t to I heart Climate Scientists

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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #30B

Posted on 26 July 2014 by John Hartz

14 concepts that will be obsolete after catastrophic climate change

Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology at the California Institute of Technology. They are the co-authors of “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future” (Columbia University Press), from which this article is excerpted.

It’s 2393. A historian is recounting the collapse of Western civilization due to catastrophic climate change. In her anniversary lecture, she explains how the carbon-combustion complex and blind faith in free markets during the late 20th and early 21st centuries conspired to prevent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, until it was too late to prevent the Mass Migration of 2093 and the inundation of the world’s great coastal cities. But first, she has to introduce a few old concepts and terms that may no longer be familiar to her audience:

14 concepts that will be obsolete after catastrophic climate change, Op-ed by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Washington Popst, July 25, 2014

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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #30A

Posted on 25 July 2014 by John Hartz

Attack of the Chicago climate change maggots

As Washington still fights over whether or not climate change is real, people across the country are already paying costs scientists ascribe to it — sometimes in unexpected places. You might think about climate change in terms of rising sea levels threatening coastal cities. But all over the Midwest, from Chicago to Indianapolis and Milwaukee, residents face just as many difficult issues as changing weather patterns collide with aging infrastructure. The costs — for governments, insurance companies and homeowners — are measured not only in dollars, but in quality of life.

In Chicago over the past century, downpours that force human waste up pipes and into homes — storms that dump at least 1.5 inches of rain in a single day — have struck the city more often. Annual precipitation in the Midwest grew about 20 percent during the past century. Rains of more than 2.5 inches a day are expected to increase another 50 percent in the next 20 years. That means more flooding — and more clean-up costs for people like Burns.

Attack of the Chicago climate change maggots by Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, July 23, 2014

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The Dark Snow team investigates the source of soot that's accelerating Greenland ice melt

Posted on 24 July 2014 by John Abraham

Around the planet, wildfires are becoming larger and more destructive. This summer, a series of wildfires enveloped large areas of Canada’s Boreal forest, blanketing western North America with smoke. One key question is, do these fires have an effect on climate by darkening Arctic ice with layers of soot, causing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ice?

For the second year, the Dark Snow Project science team has taken to the ice on Greenland to investigate the forces driving Greenland's ice loss. They are looking at the causes of surface darkening on the ice sheet that's been observed over the last decade.

The Dark Snow Project is a collaborative effort between a multidisciplinary, international group of experts. The driving questions are, what's causing the steady darkening of the Greenland Ice Sheet that has been observed in the past decade? Is it an important cause of ice melt? Does it represent yet another climate "feedback" which is accelerating global change?

Peter Sinclair, Dark Snow Participant. Peter Sinclair, Dark Snow Participant.

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New study investigates the impact of climate change on malaria

Posted on 23 July 2014 by John Abraham

It's tempting to view global warming on, well, a global scale. However, when we think about how climate change affects human and biological systems, it's often the local impacts that matter most. We want to know how things are going to change where we live, not on some abstract global scale.

In the past, local impacts have been very difficult for scientists to assess. One of our most useful tools, climate computer models, are best used to predict how the entire globe will change. These computer models work by subdividing the world into millions of elements or grid boxes. Equations describing conservation of mass, energy, and other processes are solved at each grid box. Then, the grid boxes are assembled to recreate the geometry of the entire Earth system. Just like a puzzle image takes shape when the pieces are brought together, so to the climate takes shapes as the grid boxes are brought together.

But, the weak link in this process is that with today’s computer power, the grid boxes are too large to give a true picture of local variations. We say the grid is “coarse” at the regional scale. Scientists have figured out a clever way around this problem; a way to use coarse global climate programs to get regional information.

The method, which is often called downscaling, was a central tool in a paper just published by a team of scientists including Dr. Matthew Thomas and Dr. Michael Mann, both from Penn State University. This study tackled the problem of malaria – a devastating disease that causes enormous economic and human costs around the world. It is a disease I’ve seen firsthand in my travel and work in east Africa.

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Seal of approval - How marine mammals provide important climate data

Posted on 22 July 2014 by BaerbelW , Anne-Marie Blackburn

Understanding what is happening in the oceans is crucial since 90% of global warming is going there and attempts to measure temperatures at various depths go back to the 1960s. But, what does this Weddell seal have to do with this and what is it wearing on its head?

Weddell_Seal_DanCosta
Weddell Seal West Antarctic Peninsula (photo: Dan Costa - NMFS 87-1851-03)

To answer these questions we have to backtrack a bit and look at the recent history of data collection used to find out what is happening in the oceans.

How has the data for charts like the ocean heat content been collected?

OHC
Figure 1: Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter OHC increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue). From Nuccitelli et al. (2012)

The underlying data about the temperature at different depths has been collected since the 1960s via expendable bathythermographs (XBT) and mechanical bathythermographs (MBT) deployed from ships travelling across the high seas. These measurements have been rather confined to the shipping lanes most travelled and therefore leave out a lot of the actual ocean surface, including much of the polar regions as these are not (yet!) on any regular shipping lines.

At the beginning of the 21st century, a network of autonomous Argo-floats started to be deployed all across the ocean and there are currently 3,600 floats providing around 100,000 measurements per year.

Current ARGO-statusFigure 2:  Positions of the floats that have delivered data within the last 30 days (Updated daily) From the Argo website

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Climate models accurately predicted global warming when reflecting natural ocean cycles

Posted on 21 July 2014 by dana1981

Predicting global surface temperature changes in the short-term is a challenge for climate models. Temperature changes over periods of a decade or two can be dominated by influences from ocean cycles like El Niño and La Niña. During El Niño phases, the oceans absorb less heat, leaving more to warm the atmosphere, and the opposite is true during a La Niña.

We can't yet predict ahead of time how these cycles will change. The good news is that it doesn't matter from a big picture climate perspective, because over the long-term, temperature influences from El Niño and La Niña events cancel each other out. However, when we examine how climate model projections have performed over the past 15 years or so, those natural cycles make a big difference.

A new paper led by James Risbey just out in Nature Climate Change takes a clever approach to evaluating how accurate climate model temperature predictions have been while getting around the noise caused by natural cycles. The authors used a large set of simulations from 18 different climate models (from CMIP5). They looked at each 15-year period since the 1950s, and compared how accurately each model simulation had represented El Niño and La Niña conditions during those 15 years, using the trends in what's known as the Niño3.4 index.

Each individual climate model run has a random representation of these natural ocean cycles, so for every 15-year period, some of those simulations will have accurately represented the actual El Niño conditions just by chance. The study authors compared the simulations that were correctly synchronized with the ocean cycles (blue data in the left frame below) and the most out-of-sync (grey data in the right frame) to the observed global surface temperature changes (red) for each 15-year period.

The red dots on the thin red line correspond to the 15-year observed trends for each 15-year period.  The blue dots show the 15-year average trends from only those CMIP5 runs in each 15-year period where the model Niño3.4 trend is close to the observed Niño3.4 trend. The grey dots show the average 15-year trends for only the models with the worst correspondence to the observed Niño3.4 trend.  The size of the dots are proportional to the number of models selected.  The envelopes represent 2.5–97.5 percentile loess-smoothed fits to the models and data. Red: 15-year observed trends for each period. Blue: 15-year average trends from CMIP5 runs where the model Niño3.4 trend is close to observations. Grey: average 15-year trends for only the models with the worst correspondence to the Niño3.4 trend. The sizes of the dots are proportional to the number of models selected. From Nature Climate Change

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2014 SkS Weekly Digest #29

Posted on 20 July 2014 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

Dana's Rupert Murdoch doesn't understand climate change basics, and that's a problem understandably generated the most comments of the articles posted on SkS during the past week. Is global warming causing extreme weather via jet stream waves? by John Abraham attracted the second highest number of comments. Both articles are very topical and informative.  

El Niño Watch

Toon of the Week

 

Source: Jerry Brown faces climate change facts while GOP chases moonbeams by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2014

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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #29

Posted on 19 July 2014 by John Hartz

America's oil consumption is rising, not falling, outpacing China's

U.S. oil demand reversed course in dramatic fashion in 2013, as the nation's growth in crude consumption outpaced perennial leader China for the first time since 1999, according to oil company BP's annual compendium of world energy statistics.

The U.S. increase follows two years of declines, and dampens hopes that the world's largest oil guzzler was permanently reining in its appetite for crude. The nation's oil use rose by 400,000 barrels per day to a daily draw of 18.9 million barrels; China's oil consumption grew by 390,000 barrels a day, to 10.8 million barrels a day, according to the BP figures released last month.

America's Oil Consumption Is Rising, Not Falling, Outpacing China's by Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News, July 14, 2014

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Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

Posted on 18 July 2014 by John Hartz

This article is a reprint of a news release posted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on July 17, 2014.

Increases in temperature, sea level and CO2 observed; Southern Hemisphere warmth and Super Typhoon Haiyan among year’s most notable events

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

State of the Climate 2013

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlightsvisualsfull report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.

Highlights:

  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.

  • Warm temperature trends continued near the Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest. 

  • Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.

  • Sea level continued to rise: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades. 

  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.

  • Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 0.7 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.51 million square miles that occurred in 2012 and 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986. Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957.

  • Tropical cyclones near average overall / Historic Super Typhoon: The number of tropical cyclones during 2013 was slightly above average, with a total of 94 storms, in comparison to the 1981-2010 average of 89. The North Atlantic Basin had its quietest season since 1994. However, in the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan – the deadliest cyclone of 2013 – had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.

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Is global warming causing extreme weather via jet stream waves?

Posted on 17 July 2014 by John Abraham

As I sit here in a northern part of the United States (Minnesota), a rare summer arctic blast barrels down from Canada on what otherwise is one of the warmest days of the year. Global warming? I could use some global warming today, people are saying.

Not only is this a teachable moment, but it coincides with a major new study on climate connections. First, let’s see the current jet stream. It is wildly undulating, first swinging up into northern Canada before curving back and plunging into the central United States.

Typically, the jet stream represents a separation between cold arctic air and warmer southern air. If you are north of the jet stream, temperatures are cold whereas south of the jet stream it's more likely to be warm.

Image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA. Image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.

With this in mind, and the jet stream shown, you can almost predict the temperature pattern in the next image. The match is incredible and it is clear that my Minnesota cold-blast is more than balanced out by near 90°F temperatures in northern Canada. With all of this, I want to talk about a new study that looks at these fluctuations on a longer term.

Image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA. Image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.

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Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes

Posted on 16 July 2014 by John Hartz

This article is a reprint of a press release posted by the World Meterological Organization on July 11, 2014.

Better disaster data enables better decisions

Weather, climate and water-related disasters are on the rise worldwide, causing loss of life and setting back economic and social development by years, if not decades. From 1970 to 2012, 8 835 disasters, 1.94 million deaths, and US$ 2.4 trillion of economic losses were reported globally as a result of hazards such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, tropical cyclones and related health epidemics, according to a new report.

WMO Report Cover

The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012 describes the distribution and impacts of weather, climate, and water-related disasters and highlights measures to increase resilience. It is a joint publication of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium.

The Atlas aims to provide decision-makers with actionable information for protecting life and property.

It is also highlights the need for stronger efforts to report, standardize and analyze data on weather, climate, and water-related hazards to improve understanding of disasters and reinforce the platform for prevention.

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2014 SkS Weekly Digest #28

Posted on 15 July 2014 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) Presents Interim Report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, a reprint of a UN press release, generated the most commets of the articles posted on SkS during the past week - illustrating once again that SkS readers and team members have deep and abiding perspectives about what should be done in order to prevent dangerous climate change The interim report supports the UN Climate Summit scheduled for Sep 23, 2014. The full DDPP report will be presented in the spring of 2015. [Click here to access the Executive Summary of the interim report.]

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Rupert Murdoch doesn't understand climate change basics, and that's a problem

Posted on 14 July 2014 by dana1981

Rupert Murdoch has a vast media empire. In the UK, his News Corp assets include The Times and The Sun. In the USA, he has Fox News, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. In Australia, he's got The Australian and a multitude of local newspapers.

Many of Murdoch's news outlets are also among the worst when it comes to getting climate science wrong and disseminating climate myths and misinformation. Inaccurate media coverage is in turn the primary reason why the public is so misinformed about global warming.

In a recent Sky News interview, Rupert Murdoch expressed his own views about global warming and climate change.

Murdoch's most inaccurate statement was,

In terms of the world's temperature going up, the worst, the most alarmist things have said ... 3°C in 100 years. At the very most one of those will come from man-made, be man-made.

In reality, the worst case scenario considered by the 2014 IPCC report projects about 4°C global surface warming over the next century (on top of the nearly 1°C that we've already caused). All of that 4°C warming would be human-caused. The best case scenario would involve about 1°C global surface warming over the next century, and that's if we take serious action to reduce carbon pollution.

IPCC AR5 projected global average surface temperature changes in a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5; red) and low emissions scenario (RCP2.6; blue). IPCC AR5 projected global average surface temperature changes in a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5; red) and low emissions scenario (RCP2.6; blue).

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Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) Presents Interim Report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

Posted on 11 July 2014 by John Hartz

This article is a reprint of a press release posted by the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network on July 8, 2014.

STUDY CHARTS PATH TO LOW CARBON IN MAJOR EMITTING COUNTRIES

First Global Cooperative Effort Aims to Support UN Climate Talks

A report for the United Nations released today shows how the major emitting countries can cut their carbon emissions by mid-century in order to prevent dangerous climate change. The report, produced cooperatively by leading research institutes in 15 countries, is the first global cooperative program to identify practical pathways to a low-carbon economy by 2050. The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) interim report will be presented in a briefing today to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and tomorrow/the day after to the French government, as host of the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate conference.  The interim report supports the UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014.  The full DDPP report will be presented in the spring of 2015.

“The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project report is an effort to demonstrate how countries can contribute to achieving the globally agreed target of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees,” said Secretary-General Ban. “Ambitious national action is critical to averting dangerous climate change.  This report shows what is possible.”

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