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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Global warming is real and human-caused. It is leading to large-scale climate change. Under the guise of climate "skepticism", the public is bombarded with misinformation that casts doubt on the reality of human-caused global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming "skepticism".

Our mission is simple: debunk climate misinformation by presenting peer-reviewed science and explaining the techniques of science denial, discourses of climate delay, and climate solutions denial.

 


Climate Adam: We're NOT about to pass the 1.5 degree climate change limit

Posted on 31 May 2023 by Guest Author, BaerbelW

This video includes conclusions of the creator climate scientist Dr. Adam Levy. It is presented to our readers as an informed perspective. Please see video description for references (if any).

The world is getting hotter and the headlines are scary. So does climate change mean the world is about to pass the 1.5 degree limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement? And what would passing this limit even mean? Rather than showing that it's game over, increasing extreme weather and sea level rise would indicate that it's never been so urgent to stop climate change - it's never been so urgent to stop punching ourselves in the face..

Support ClimateAdam on patreon: https://patreon.com/climateadam

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At a glance - How reliable are climate models?

Posted on 30 May 2023 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "How reliable are climate models?". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

At a glance

So, what are computer models? Computer modelling is the simulation and study of complex physical systems using mathematics and computer science. Models can be used to explore the effects of changes to any or all of the system components. Such techniques have a wide range of applications. For example, engineering makes a lot of use of computer models, from aircraft design to dam construction and everything in between. Many aspects of our modern lives depend, one way and another, on computer modelling. If you don't trust computer models but like flying, you might want to think about that.

Computer models can be as simple or as complicated as required. It depends on what part of a system you're looking at and its complexity. A simple model might consist of a few equations on a spreadsheet. Complex models, on the other hand, can run to millions of lines of code. Designing them involves intensive collaboration between multiple specialist scientists, mathematicians and top-end coders working as a team.

Modelling of the planet's climate system dates back to the late 1960s. Climate modelling involves incorporating all the equations that describe the interactions between all the components of our climate system. Climate modelling is especially maths-heavy, requiring phenomenal computer power to run vast numbers of equations at the same time.

Climate models are designed to estimate trends rather than events. For example, a fairly simple climate model can readily tell you it will be colder in winter. However, it can’t tell you what the temperature will be on a specific day – that’s weather forecasting. Weather forecast-models rarely extend to even a fortnight ahead. Big difference. Climate trends deal with things such as temperature or sea-level changes, over multiple decades. Trends are important because they eliminate or 'smooth out' single events that may be extreme but uncommon. In other words, trends tell you which way the system's heading.

All climate models must be tested to find out if they work before they are deployed. That can be done by using the past. We know what happened back then either because we made observations or since evidence is preserved in the geological record. If a model can correctly simulate trends from a starting point somewhere in the past through to the present day, it has passed that test. We can therefore expect it to simulate what might happen in the future. And that's exactly what has happened. From early on, climate models predicted future global warming. Multiple lines of hard physical evidence now confirm the prediction was correct.

Finally, all models, weather or climate, have uncertainties associated with them. This doesn't mean scientists don't know anything - far from it. If you work in science, uncertainty is an everyday word and is to be expected. Sources of uncertainty can be identified, isolated and worked upon. As a consequence, a model's performance improves. In this way, science is a self-correcting process over time. This is quite different from climate science denial, whose practitioners speak confidently and with certainty about something they do not work on day in and day out. They don't need to fully understand the topic, since spreading confusion and doubt is their task.

Climate models are not perfect. Nothing is. But they are phenomenally useful.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "at a glance" section. Read a more technical version via the link below!


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California bill would hit oil companies with $1 million penalty for health impacts

Posted on 29 May 2023 by Guest Author

This story by Aaron Cantú was originally published in Capital & Main and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

Monic Uriarte was thrilled to get approved for an affordable apartment in Los Angeles’ University Park, close to USC. But soon after she and her family moved there in 2004, they started experiencing headaches and other illnesses.

Her mother was diagnosed with asthma at age 70. Her daughter had to sleep propped up because she’d get nosebleeds so bad she’d choke. On sweltering days, when they opened the windows, they noticed the air had a nauseatingly sweet taste.

Uriarte eventually learned they’d moved into an apartment just 30 feet from an area with  dozens of oil wells and a gas processing facility, hidden behind layers of brick and iron and trees.

“Our bodies were the oil company’s filters,” Uriarte said.

That realization kick-started Uriarte’s career as an environmental activist. Now she’s advocating for a statewide measure, backed by climate and environmental groups, that would impose what is likely the strongest law in the nation to hold oil and gas companies accountable when their operations make people sick. The bill, SB 556, comes on the heels of an industry-funded referendum campaign that halted a law to create buffer zones, or “setbacks,” between oil and gas wells and homes, schools, parks and health clinics.

It also emerges in the context of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on April 24 that allows lawsuits filed by cities and states against fossil fuel companies over climate change to move forward in state courts. Hundreds of such climate cases have been filed worldwide, but SB 556 may be the first policy that would specifically link drilling to paid compensation for acute health impacts. It’s already passed out of an important legislative committee, despite a pro-business law group’s warning that it would be extremely difficult to attribute harm to specific wells.

In the last decade, much more research on the harmful effects of oil and gas wells on human health has been published, including their disproportionate impacts on low-income communities, where the dirtiest and most productive wells are often located. Chronic exposure is as harmful as breathing freeway exhaust or secondhand smoke. A recent study that examined the health of residents living within the Las Cienegas Oil Field in South Los Angeles — where Uriarte lived with her family — found that people within 200 meters (656 feet) and downwind from wells reported symptoms including wheezing, eye and nose irritation, sore throats, dizziness, and weaker lungs overall.

SB 556 says children or seniors diagnosed with lung ailments, those who endure dangerous pregnancies and residents diagnosed with cancer who live within 3,200 feet of an active well can sue companies and their board members. The payout runs between $250,000 and $1 million, with potential for doubling or tripling penalties as a “deterrent.” About 2.76 million people in California live within that zone, according to FracTracker. State prosecuting authorities would also have the ability to sue companies to recoup costs for public health programs.

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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #21

Posted on 28 May 2023 by BaerbelW

A chronological listing of news and opinion articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, May 21, 2023 thru Sat, May 27, 2023.

This week, several shared articles did quite well on our Facebook page: The Upper Atmosphere Is Cooling, Prompting New Climate Concerns, At a glance - Global cooling - Is global warming still happening?, Global heating will push billions outside ‘human climate niche’, and Can Climate Change spark (zombie) Pandemics?


Links posted on Facebook

If you happen upon high quality climate-science and/or climate-myth busting articles from reliable sources while surfing the web, please feel free to submit them via this Google form for possible inclusion on our Facebook page. Thanks!

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #21 2023

Posted on 25 May 2023 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Open access notables

Publishing in Environmental Science & Technology, Brian Stone Jr. et al. explore what might be termed a new branch of  health physics, namely how human populations will fare in a landscape featuring extreme temperatures affecting both humans and power infrastructure. How Blackouts during Heat Waves Amplify Mortality and Morbidity Risk employs uncontroversial inputs to model health effects of heat waves juiced by climate change when dangerous levels of warmth also degrade electrical power supply delivery. Foreeable events include some astounding numbers, such as 50% of Phoenix, Arizona's 1.7M+ population urgently requiring medical attention in the event of an extreme heat wave overstressing available electrical supply. Notably, "extreme" heat waves will become more normal. The authors suggest actions that could ameliorate or avoid the worst effects of such conjunctions. Meanwhile, while those researchers are modeling the future, the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) has just released the 2023 Summer Reliability Assessment, finding that substantial parts of the US will be at risk of supply shortfalls this summer. Of further concern, the report notes that with summer temperatures becoming more prolonged, accustomed maintenance windows for electrical generation and distribution are shrinking, which of course if unaddressed will increase odds of catastrophic events modeled by Stone et al. 

Here's an archetypal bit of scientific understatement:

"Public decision-making is not entirely rational (Cook and Lewandowsky 2016; Druckman and McGrath 2019) and, for controversial topics, motivated reasoning may lead individuals to prioritise opinions or norms of socio-political in-groups over scientific evidence  (DiMaggio 1997; Druckman and McGrath 2019; Hornsey 2021; Kahan and Braman 2006; Kahan et al. 2007; Kunda 1990)."

"People make seemingly crazy choices based on factors entirely unrelated to objective requirements of decisions at hand" is another way of saying the same thing. That's our intutiion informed by experience speaking, but we don't have to listen only to that inner voice. While introducing their particular topic, Hughes et al. provide us with a succinct literature review on how our rationality goes off the rails when we feel things we cherish to be threatened by our understanding of cold, hard facts. For anybody wondering why we're so badly failing to cope with climate change  Endorsement of scientific inquiry promotes better evaluation of climate policy evidence is worth reading for the introductory material alone. The paper's actual line of investigation is to further explore "endorsement of scientific inquiry" (ESI) as a predictor of public ability to discriiminate the worth of policy responses to our climate mess. The authors' results are not cause for celebration.

Heather Jacobs, Aarti Gupta & Ina Möller explore details of our species' amazingly inventive ability to procrastinate, in Governing-by-aspiration? Assessing the nature and implications of including negative emission technologies (NETs) in country long-term climate strategiesThe meat of the question the authors address:

Crucially, the extent to which an expansion of the carbon sink is needed depends on the speed at which carbon emissions can be reduced or phased out globally. Critical social scientists are now questioning whether prospectively hoping to rely on a variety of NETs in long-term climate commitments might lead to a delayed sense of urgency in setting or meeting emission reduction targets in the shorter term. As such, empirical assessment of this eventuality is increasingly important, even if methodologically challenging (Carton et al. 2023). While the shorter-term NDCs are the subject of increasing analysis, in terms of mitigation ambition or inclusion of NETs and the link to potential mitigation deterrence, the long-term strategies require more attention.

Systematic review of mitigation plans in support of committed pledges to address GHG contributions  reveals a disturbing pattern:

Given the promise of future NETs use, countries may initially be distracted from urgently needed short-term mitigation, or at least see the two as complements. Yet, as they explore future use of specific NETs more fully, the uncertainties and limitations of each option come to the fore. In the face of this uncertainty, countries may shift attention and resources to setting up systems to measure and account for future actions relating to NETs, rather than to the actual taking of emission reduction actions now. It may also fuel a shift from one NET option to the other. This keeps alive the possibility of a future viable NET option, thereby fueling a potential delay in current mitigation action.

Government/NGO

This week's collection of government and NGO reports and reviews is particularly rich, with 15 products of hard work on urgent climate-related matters. These are done to generally high standards and are largely founded in scientific research. Each listing includes a synopsis. Interested?  Scroll down, or click here.

105 articles in 60 journals by 644 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

A Possible Hysteresis in the Arctic Ocean due to Release of Subsurface Heat during Sea Ice Retreat, Beer et al., Journal of Physical Oceanography 10.1175/jpo-d-22-0131.1

Connections between Upper Tropospheric and Lower Stratospheric Circulation Responses to Increased CO2, Menzel et al., Journal of Climate 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0851.1

Forcing, Cloud Feedbacks, Cloud Masking, and Internal Variability in the Cloud Radiative Effect Satellite Record, Raghuraman et al., Journal of Climate Open Access pdf 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0555.1

Implied Heat Transport from CERES Data: Direct Radiative Effect of Clouds on Regional Patterns and Hemispheric Symmetry, Pearce & Bodas-Salcedo, Journal of Climate 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0149.1

Radiative forcing due to carbon dioxide decomposed into its component vibrational bands, Shine & Perry, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 10.1002/qj.4485

Role of warm ocean conditions in the genesis and rapid intensification of tropical cyclone ‘Tauktae’ along the west coast of India, Ratnakaran & Abish, Theoretical and Applied Climatology 10.1007/s00704-023-04480-7

The influence of bathymetry over heat transport onto the Amundsen Sea continental shelf, Haigh et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 10.1029/2022jc019460

Observations of climate change, effects

North-West Europe Hottest Days Are Warming Twice as Fast as Mean Summer Days, Patterson, Geophysical Research Letters Open Access 10.1029/2023gl102757

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Spring wildfires in the eastern US got off to a roaring start this year

Posted on 24 May 2023 by Guest Author

This story by Katie Myers was originally published by Grist. Sign up for Grist’s weekly newsletter here. This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

Spring fire season is a regular occurrence in the eastern U.S. It’s not nearly as dramatic as what’s seen across the West, mostly due to the region’s increased rainfall and high humidity, but it can cause serious damage. Wildfires have scorched 351,821 acres so far this year, and firefighters throughout the mid-Atlantic and South remain on alert, with “red flag” warnings and burn bans across multiple states.

Things got off to a roaring start in southern New Jersey, where firefighters have battled 160 wildfires, four of which were major. The largest of them tore a streak across the rural Pine Barrens region and saw 200-foot walls of flames earlier this month; it burned nearly 4,000 acres, driven by record heat that included nighttime temperatures rarely dropping below the 60s. As in the West, warming conditions driven by climate change are leading to longer fire seasons that begin earlier in the year.

“We’re seeing this peak fire season that was confined to about a two-to-three month period extending into a four-to-five month period,” Greg McLaughlin, administrator and chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, told WHYY News. Fire season in the Garden State typically runs from March through May, but these days it’s been starting in February and heading into late June and early July, he said.

Unusually warm temperatures, low humidity, and gusting winds drove the fires that burned thousands of acres in Pendleton County, West Virginia, and in Daniel Boone National Forest in south-central Kentucky last week. 

In coastal North Carolina, 245 federal and state firefighters continue battling a blaze that has blackened 36,000 acres in Croatan National Forest. The conflagration started last Wednesday evening, and crews have contained just 15 percent of it. The immense amount of smoke has led to air quality warnings in 21 nearby counties, encouraging residents to stay inside and limit outdoor exercise. While the Croatan is adapted to fire, which is a normal part of the ecosystem, officials say the current blaze is unusually large — the second worst in the forest’s history.

”This is larger than normal,” said James Wettstaed, a U.S. Forest Service public information officer currently stationed in North Carolina.

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At a glance - Global cooling - is global warming still happening?

Posted on 23 May 2023 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "Global cooling - Is global warming still happening?". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

At a glance

Earth's surface, oceans and atmosphere are all warming due to our greenhouse gas emissions, but at different rates. Some places are also warming much faster than others: parts of the Arctic for example. That variability is partly because other phenomena act to offset or enhance warming at times. A good example are the effects of La Nina and El Nino, an irregular variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean that can influence temperatures and rainfall patterns right around the world.

El Nino causes even warmer years whereas La Nina tends to peg temperatures back to an extent. Thus 2016 – an El Nino year - was the warmest year on record, according to the USA-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but other recent years have not been far behind – 2020 and 2019 are in second and third place respectively. The worrying thing is that 2019 only saw a mild El Nino and 2020 was “neutral” - there were neither El Nino or La Nina conditions. And even with a La Nina featuring, 2021 and 2022 were, respectively, still the seventh and sixth hottest years on record.

The year 1998 featured a massive El Nino and consequent temperature spike that was a strong outlier, well above the steady upward trend. That spike and the subsequent return to a more “normal” warming pattern led to claims in the popular media that global warming had “paused” or had even stopped. This was a typical misinformation tactic that, as usual, time has proved wrong. As things currently stand, the top ten warmest years have all been since 2010 and 1998 is nowhere to be seen any more. By modern standards, it simply wasn't warm enough.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "at a glance" section. Read a more technical version via the link below!


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Can Climate Change spark (zombie) Pandemics?

Posted on 22 May 2023 by Guest Author

This video includes conclusions of the creator climate scientist Dr. Adam Levy. It is presented to our readers as an informed perspective. Please see video description for references (if any).

The Last of Us tells the story of a fungal zombie apocalypse... triggered by climate change. So could this kind of pandemic actually happen? Could global warming see Pedro Pascal running for his life from the undead? And what are the other disease threats that climate change could trigger? From malaria, to new pandemics, to zombie viruses - the truth is worth a hard-hitting TV series of its own.

Support ClimateAdam on patreon: https://patreon.com/climateadam

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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #20

Posted on 21 May 2023 by BaerbelW

A chronological listing of news and opinion articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, May 14, 2023 thru Sat, May 20, 2023.

This week, several shared articles did quite well on our Facebook page: 10 year anniversary of 97% consensus study, Solving Climate Change - A guide for learners and leaders, At a glance - The 97% consensus on global warming, Meteorologists targeted in climate misinfo surge, and The challenges and promises of climate lawsuits.


Links posted on Facebook

If you happen upon high quality climate-science and/or climate-myth busting articles from reliable sources while surfing the web, please feel free to submit them via this Google form for possible inclusion on our Facebook page. Thanks!

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #20 2023

Posted on 18 May 2023 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Open access notables

Visiting online haunts of climate science rejectionists reveals a nexus of anxieties in some sections of the public: climate change and population migration. Judging from connections formed in headlines and article texts, one could easily conclude that readers' fears are being exploited; it's not hard to find content implying that the concept of climate change is a subterfuge to justify opening borders to "foreigners." Given what we know of developing physical effects of climate change, it may seem intuitively obvious that growing pressures on populations can lead affected people to "upping stakes" and trying to escape increasingly poor living conditions. What's the reality of the situation? It's not entirely clear, according to Tabitha Watson et al., publishing in Climate Resileince and Sustainability  and offering their literature survey The climate change, conflict and migration nexus: A holistic view. The authors find a picture that is largely framed by early hypothesis and challenged by complicated circumstances, the latter imposing difficulties on attribution. They conclude that a more interdisciplinary approach is vital for making progress in this research area, which can offer direct advice for implications on immigration policy. Such advice-by-evidence  should be of particular concern for countries that may be less urgently affected by climate change even as they may be more responsible for its cause. 

Assessing public support for climate policy is notoriously difficult, yet for all kinds of reasons beginning with "policy should be responsive to public wishes" and leading to "public rejection means no policy progress" it's absolutely key that public attitudes and beliefs about policy are faithfully captured. Troubles begin with survey mechanical and logistical limitations and constraints and only build with cognitive load placed on participants. Answering questions means juggling abstract concepts incorporating a lot of complexity, with only highly simplified available replies. How can we do better? Maria Juschten & Ines Omann report promising results from their survey tool PVE, in Evaluating the relevance, credibility and legitimacy of a novel participatory online tool just published in Environmental Science & Policy. The authors have crafted a survey method presenting what could be called a less impoverished means of thinking about and answering questions about climate mitigation support,  providing feedback to respondents as part of the elicitation process. 

One of these days somebody will publish a paper that may well fly beneath the radar of the popular mind in its moment of appearance but ultimately becomes even if indirectly world-famous for beneficial impacts. We've seen it happen before. Not to claim a solid win in this department, but such a paper might look like  High-strength and machinable load-bearing integrated electrochemical capacitors based on polymeric solid electrolyte, published in Nature Communications by Jinmeng Zhang et al. and for those of us with at least some passing familiarity with engineering and energy storage terms making some very exciting claims. From our "Decarbonization" section, illustrating how "just modernize our energy systems" unpacks as a myriad of fascinating details— and a frenzy of research activity (there's a lot of money at stake here, an attractive win-win situation). 

Luija Zhang et al.'s Tropical Cyclone Stalling Shifts Northward and Brings Increasing Flood Risks to East Asian Coast is yet another article where climate waming is becoming baked into diverse lines of inquiry; changes are happening all over the world that have anthropogenic climate change as a background steering factor. The authors are concerned with immediate hydrometeoroloogical effects but remind us of the elephant in the shadows in their conclusions— with direct implications on extending their work: 

Based on climate simulations, anthropogenic warming was widely considered the culprit to the northward shift and the slowdown of TC (Studholme et al., 2022; Zhang et al., 2020). On TC stalling and its northward shift, more detection and attribution work using coupled models is needed to verify and delineate the proposed role of semidirect binary interaction from the observed anthropogenic warming. This will improve the scientific view of the stalling behavior and facilitate more proper adaptations against greater hydrological threats brought by more frequent TC stalling alongshore East Asia.

An investigation from Climate Action Against Disinformation brings disturbing news about promises made but broken. Youtube's Climate Denial Dollars details how Alphabet subsidiary YouTube is profiting from acting as a vehicle for harmful climate myths, despite published policy that content “contradicting authoritative scientific consensus on the existence of and causes behind climate change” will not be monetized. Instead, it's easy to find breaches of YouTube's claims, with over 73 million people deceived as part of an industrial-scale misinformation campaign earning Alphabet money that may be small in their own estimation but for most of us is absolutely large. 

Also in our gov/NGO section and from the US EPA, a report reminding us of what's at stake in upcoming matters before the Supreme Court of the United States: Climate Change and Children’s Health and Well-Being in the United States Litigation on EPA's authority is now arguably centered on esoteric matters fairly far away from the spirit of EPA's purpose as exemplified by avoidance of harms detailed in the report. The legal evolution leads to a question: in order of priority what principles are most important?

180 articles in 74 journals by 1,032 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

A note on integrating the Clapeyron equation without neglecting the specific fluid volume, Swanson, Atmospheric Science Letters Open Access 10.1002/asl.1176

Disentangling the mechanisms of equatorial Pacific climate change, Kang et al., Science Advances Open Access 10.1126/sciadv.adf5059

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‘It’s gotten really ugly.’ A community of freedom-lovers squares off against climate change in the Arizona desert

Posted on 17 May 2023 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Osha Davidson

When I arrived at Karen Nabity’s place in Arizona’s Rio Verde Foothills on a spring afternoon, she opened the door and flashed a big smile. “Oh good!” she said, laughing as she ushered me inside. “You got here in time for happy hour!”

I’m not much of a drinker, but as it turned out she wasn’t talking about adult beverages for humans. Happy hour at the Nabity spread is when she tosses handfuls of birdseed onto her yard of crushed tan rock, attracting a variety of cacophonous desert birds. Even outside of happy hour, jack rabbits, coyotes, mule deer, and javelina, a distant desert relative of pigs, are likely to visit. (Nabity confessed she could do without the javelina, which devour her tall stands of prickly pear cactus and uproot the giant blue agaves.)

The wild beauty of the Sonoran Desert is a large part of why Nabity and her husband bought land just north of Scottsdale and built their dream retirement house here in 2014. “Our four children had flown the coop,” she said. “So we drew up our house plan and subcontracted it out. It was a blast. And now we want to live here forever.”

It’s easy to see why. The McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve is a five-minute stroll from their front door. One of largest urban parks in the nation, it boasts 180 miles of hiking trails that wind around stands of the iconic giant saguaro and includes one trail that gains 1,300 feet in a short distance before ending at the base of a 200-foot-high granite spire that’s a favorite with rock climbers.

But it’s an open question how long the Nabitys will be able to live here, as they and their neighbors are faced with the intractable reality of a changing climate, a great drying of the West that recently caused their drinking water to be turned off.

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At a glance - The 97% consensus on global warming

Posted on 16 May 2023 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "The 97% consensus on global warming". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

At a glance

What is consensus? In science, it's when the vast majority of specialists agree about a basic, well-established principle. Thus, astronomers agree that the Earth orbits around the Sun. Biologists accept that tadpoles hatch out from frog-spawn and grow into adult frogs. Almost all geologists agree that plate tectonics is real and you'd be hard-placed to find a doctor who thinks smoking is harmless.

In each above case, a phenomenon has been so thoroughly investigated that those who specialise in its study have stopped arguing about its explanation. Nevertheless, these examples are all things that were once argued about, often passionately. That's how progress works.

The establishment of scientific consensus is therefore the end-point of an often lengthy time-line starting with something being observed and ending with it being explained. Let's look at a classic and highly relevant example.

In the late 1700s, the Earth-Sun distance was calculated. The value, 149 million kilometres and incredibly close to modern measurements, got French physicist Joseph Fourier thinking. He innocently asked, in the 1820s, something along these lines:

Why is Planet Earth such a warm place? It should be an ice-ball at this distance from the Sun.

Such fundamental questions about our home planet are as attractive to inquisitive scientists as ripened fruit is to wasps. Fourier's initial query set in motion a process of research that within a few decades had experimentally confirmed that carbon dioxide has heat-trapping properties. Through the twentieth century, the research intensified, particularly during the Cold War when there was major interest in the behaviour of infra-red (IR) radiation in the atmosphere. Why? Because heat-seeking missiles, invented at the time, home in on jet exhausts which are IR hotspots, so they needed to thoroughly understand what makes IR tick.

That research led to the publication, some 130 years after Fourier's initial interest, of the landmark 1955 paper by Gilbert Plass, “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change”, explaining in detail how CO2 traps heat in our atmosphere. Note in passing that Plass used the term "Climatic Change" all the way back then, contrary to the deniers' frequent claim that it is used nowadays because of a recent and motivated change in terminology.

From observation to explanation, this is a classic illustration of the scientific method at work, Fourier gets people thinking, experiments are designed and performed and in time a hypothesis emerges. The Oxford English Dictionary states: “a hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.”

Once a hypothesis is proposed, it becomes subject to rigorous testing within the relevant specialist scientific community. Testing ensures that incorrect hypotheses fall by the wayside, because they don't stand up to scrutiny. But some hypotheses survive such interrogation. As their supporting evidence mounts up over time, they eventually graduate to become theories.

Theories are valid explanations for things that are supported by an expert consensus of specialists. Gravity, jet aviation, electronics, you name it, all are based on solid theories that are known to work because they have stood the test of time and prolonged scientific inquiry.

In climate science today, there is overwhelming (greater than 97%) expert consensus that CO2 traps heat and adding it to the atmosphere warms the planet. Whatever claims are made to the contrary, that principle has been established for almost seventy years, since the publication of that 1955 landmark paper.

Expert consensus is a powerful thing. None of us have the time or ability to learn about everything, so we frequently defer to the conclusions of experts. It’s precisely why we visit doctors when we’re ill. Yet the public underestimates the degree of expert consensus that our vast greenhouse gas emissions trap heat and warm the planet. That is because alongside information, we have misinformation and certain sections of the mass-media are as happy to trot out the latter as the former. We saw a very similar phenomenon during the COVID-19 pandemic and it cost many lives.

For those who want to learn more, a much longer and detailed account of the history of climate science is available on this website.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "at a glance" section. Read a more technical version via the link below!


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10 year anniversary of 97% consensus study

Posted on 15 May 2023 by John Cook, BaerbelW

10 years after and still going strong!

Ten years ago today - on May 15, 2013 - our team published the paper Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature (Cook et al. 2013). Little did we know that our publication, organized as a citizens’ science project and published open access thanks to speedy crowdfunding support from Skeptical Science readers, would make such an impact and still be of much interest ten years later. But, that it’s still of interest is quite visible when visiting the Environmental Research Letters website where, together with other consensus-related publications, Cook at al. (2013) has been consistently among the Top 10 papers read. Other indicators of continued interest are the download numbers which currently are at 1.39 million and the Dimensions stats:

10 Years after stats

The text on the Dimensions page is interesting:

"This publication in Environmental Research Letters has been cited 778 times. 22% of its citations have been received in the past two years, which is higher than you might expect, suggesting that it is currently receiving a lot of interest.

Compared to other publications in the same field, this publication is extremely highly cited and has received approximately 121 times more citations than average."

Some highlights

A lot has happened since the paper was published and we’ve written about several milestones before, so here is just a short list of our favorite memories:

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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #19

Posted on 14 May 2023 by BaerbelW

A chronological listing of news and opinion articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, May 7, 2023 thru Sat, May 13, 2023.

This week, several shared articles did quite well on our Facebook page: Climate delay discourses present in global mainstream television coverage of the IPCC’s 2021 report, Climate scientists first laughed at a ‘bizarre’ campaign against the BoM – then came the harassment, Brown Report Claims Anti-Wind Group Uses Deceit, Delay, Denial and Chicanery to Sabotage Crucial Renewable Energy, and At a glance - The positives and negatives of global warming.


Links posted on Facebook

If you happen upon high quality climate-science and/or climate-myth busting articles from reliable sources while surfing the web, please feel free to submit them via this Google form for possible inclusion on our Facebook page. Thanks!

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #19 2023

Posted on 11 May 2023 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Open access notables

The Intelligence Community Must Evolve To Meet the Reality of Arctic Change is a product of the Wilson Center's  subject specalist center The Polar Institute. As its title suggests the report is squarely centered on nitty-gritty details of geopolitical adaptations forced by climate change as they're reflected in national security matters, here (unsurprisingly given the Wilson Institute's mission and purpose) specifically the security of the United States. Let alone what passport is in one's pocket, the report's provenance and urgency is a bellwether indicator of radical change in the Arctic thanks to our sudden climate accident. Recommendation #4 is rather striking but is based on a claimed track record of success in other arenas: "Prioritize Top Secret with Special Access clearances for non-IC Federal Interagency Arctic and climate experts." This report is included in this week's collection of government/NGO reports, which are not the product of formal academic research yet do include sharp minds working to high standards of practice— but with particular perspectives.

In Nature Commnications Earth & Environment Tiani Luo et al. bring us A framework to assess multi-hazard physical climate risk for power generation projects from publicly-accessible sources. Enthusiasts of being able to flip a light switch so as not to step on a piece of Lego (or operate a modern industrial economy) should need no more than this to fixate attention: 

Here we introduce a scalable and transparent methodology that enables multi-hazard physical climate risk assessments for any thermal or hydro power generation project. The methodology relies on basic power plant type and geolocation data inputs, publicly-available climate datasets, and hazard- and technology-specific vulnerability factors, to translate hazard severity into generation losses. We apply the methodology to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s early 2021 thermal and hydro power generation portfolios of 80 assets. We show that under the Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 scenario, those 80 power plants could experience a 4.0-10.9 TWh loss in annual generation (or 1.87-5.07% of total annual maximum generation) by 2030 compared to its baseline losses of 0.70–0.87 TWh (or 0.33–0.41%). One of the largest drivers of the increased risk is rising water temperatures, which is currently overlooked by mainstream climate risk disclosure guidelines.

The percentages don't sound scary but this degradation comes in the face of what's fully expected to be a sharp increase in demand as various transport and other systems are electrified. To get a sense of the size of this problem, in the US alone there are about 11,200 utility-scale thermal generation plants and about 1,450 hydroelectric plants. The authors found 4TWh in projected loss from a sample of only 80 plants, hence doing the full math on  the entire global fleet ends up with breathtaking numbers.  Notably, much of the generation capacity so affected is located not in such relatively robust places as the US but in economies ill-situated to afford any losses at all. 

It's not necessarily obvious at first glance but floating in the background of The Increasing Role of Seasonal Rainfall in Western U.S. Summer Streamflow by Ban, Li and Lettenmaier is a question: if a stream or river has been a year 'round feature of an ecology (or culture for that matter), what happens if it stops flowing for a couple of months per year? Likened to economic wellbeing, snowpack might be the equivalent of a steady job and money in the bank, while loss of snowpack leaves a stream or river dependent on "gig income" from rainfall, and as with some gig work rainfall may be highly seasonal. It's not necessarily impossible for a stream and its dependents to survive in such a case, but as with a gig job there well may be too much uncertainty in the picture to feel secure. The authors suggest further work on the topic; there's too much important information missing from this picture.

153 articles in 65 journals by 903 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Influence of changes in pH and temperature on the distribution of apparent iron solubility in the oceans, Zhu et al., Global Biogeochemical Cycles 10.1029/2022gb007617

New insights into air-sea fluxes and their role in Subantarctic Mode Water formation, Tamsitt, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 10.1098/rsta.2022.0066

Observations of climate change, effects

An abrupt change of winter surface air temperature over the northern part of Korean Peninsula in the late 1980s and related atmospheric circulation variability, Jong et al., Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106803

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EPA’s car pollution rules would save Americans trillions of dollars

Posted on 10 May 2023 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Electric vehicle (EV) sales are surging in many countries around the world, including the United States. According to the Department of Energy, EVs accounted for just 1% of new U.S. car sales in 2017. That share surpassed 3% in 2021 and approached 6% in 2022. Though the U.S. remains well below the global average EV share of new car sales, which exceeded 14% in 2022, the American market is catching up fast. According to an analysis of global markets by Bloomberg, a 5% share appears to be a tipping point at which EV sales take off in most countries.

Amid this rapidly rising EV adoption, the Biden administration in an August 2021 executive order tasked the Environmental Protection Agency with extending its vehicle tailpipe pollution regulations for vehicle model years 2027 through at least 2030. The previous EPA rules, revised in late 2021, only applied to model years through 2026. These rules set the average amount of carbon and other air pollutants that the vehicles sold by automakers are allowed to emit in a given sales year.

With EV sales surging, their prices rapidly falling, and their net pollutant emissions being substantially lower than fossil-fueled cars, the EPA saw an opportunity to issue much more stringent vehicle emissions regulations without creating any undue economic burdens associated with car ownership costs. Quite the opposite in fact — in its 758-page proposed rules for vehicle model years 2027—2032, EPA conservatively estimates that climate, health, and vehicle cost savings for Americans will substantially exceed $1 trillion* over the next three decades.

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At a glance - Positives and negatives of global warming

Posted on 9 May 2023 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "Positives and negatives of global warming". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.

At a glance

“It's not going to be too bad”, some people optimistically say. Too right. It's going to be worse than that. There are various forms this argument takes. For example, some like to point out that carbon dioxide (CO2) is plant-food – as if nobody else knew that. It is, but it's just one of a number of essential nutrients such as water and minerals. To be healthy, plants require them all.

We know how climate change disrupts agriculture through more intense droughts, raging floods or soil degradation – we've either experienced these phenomena ourselves or seen them on TV news reports. Where droughts intensify and/or become more prolonged, the very viability of agriculture becomes compromised. You can have all the CO2 in the world but without their water and minerals, the plants will die just the same.

At the same time, increased warming is adversely affecting countries where conditions are already close to the limit beyond which yields reduce or crops entirely fail. Parts of sub-Saharan Africa fall into this category. Elsewhere, many millions of people – about one-sixth of the world’s population - rely on fresh water supplied yearly by mountain glaciers through their natural melt and regrowth cycles. Those water supplies are at risk of failure as the glaciers retreat. Everywhere you look, climate change loads the dice with problems, both now and in the future.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "at a glance" section. Read a more technical version via the link below!


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Climate communications: Laura Helmuth and Susan Hassol talk about language

Posted on 8 May 2023 by Doug Bostrom

Do people hear what we're saying about climate change and why it's important? Making sure we're understood needs displacement— into other sets of ears. 

The right words are crucial to solving climate change – but too often the way that scientists share information can be confusing for the general public. How can researchers and other science communicators more clearly get across their findings and potential solutions, to help us together make progress on such important global challenges? Join Laura Helmuth, Editor-in-Chief at Scientific American, in conversation with Susan Hassol Director, Climate Communication.

This interview from Springer Nature's In Conversation pairs with Hassol's recent article The Right Words Are Crucial to Solving Climate Change, published in Scientific American

Helmuth and Hassol explore choosing terminology for better mutual understanding. The same linguistic barriers Helmuth and Hassol tackle lead Skeptical Science to undertake a massive revision project aimed at leveling the hill between climate talk and climate listen— by using plain language.  Here are three examples of how language goes amiss, and how to land on target: 

Scientist  says Public hears Clarity added
Climate change Any change of climate Climate disruption
Positive feedback Good response Self-reinforcing cycle
Greenhouse gas emissions Hothouse exhaust Heat-trapping pollution

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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #18

Posted on 7 May 2023 by BaerbelW

A chronological listing of news and opinion articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Apr 30, 2023 thru Sat, May 6, 2023.

This week, the by far most successful article shared was our recently updated rebuttal "Are we heading into a new Ice Age?" which garnered about as many impressions as the other shared articles combined.


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If you happen upon high quality climate-science and/or climate-myth busting articles from reliable sources while surfing the web, please feel free to submit them via this Google form for possible inclusion on our Facebook page. Thanks!

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #18 2023

Posted on 4 May 2023 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Open access notables

In connection with "how do we feed ourselves without disrupting the climate," Research needs for a food system transition by Sunala Shukli McDermid and coauthors and published in Climatic Change first reviews what we've learned of impacts from our agriculture and in particular animal husbandry on Earth systems, including climate. The review's conclusion remains familiar: there's an urgent need to make some major changes. That's going to need a lot of attention to a lot of detail, and how to work at that level is the main thrust of the article's purpose. The authors go on to argue we need to practice concerted, systematic research in key areas of agriculture and agricultural policy so as to inform our steering of transitions, identify pitfalls, and make translating scientific findings into policy more efficient. They break this big overall challenge into more digestible conceptual chunks, with suggestions on how to get started.

Also having an emphasis on animal agriculture but with specific remedies in mind come Biloltto et al. with Carbon, cash, cattle and the climate crisis, in Sustainability Science. The coworkers suggest several key methods to significantly reduce the greenhouse effects of continuing to consume animal protein from large mammals, including vaccination of animals so as to control enteric methane. 

Fuceri, Ganslmeier & Ostry ask: Are climate change policies politically costly? A key question given the risk appetite of many policiticians. The team reports some fairly palatable answers in Energy Policy. Policies can be effective yet relatively benign when it comes to generating resentment in electorates if delivered with sensitivity to timing and with economic impacts buffered and damped by appropriately choosing points of policy application. As well it's important not to leave people "in the lurch:" 

Our results show that when CCPs are adopted in times of increasing inequality, political costs are magnified. However, redistributive instruments targeted at the individuals experiencing higher economic insecurity are viable strategies to overcome the political fallout from CCPs and support governments to take necessary action without risking losing office.

Tensions and heat in climate mitigation policy discussions often rise when certain technologies are in play. For different reasons this is true of both nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration. Each carries baggage. Nuclear power has as history of hard-selling by enthusiasts who've often downplayed or even denied various challeges arguably unique to this general area of technology, with the credibility of the entire nuclear enterprise thus dragged down as we've experienced a few disaster cases wildly outside of promoters' range of negative possibilities. Meanwhile, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is currently in favor with legacy fossil fuel concerns as a means of prolonging monetization, with "will it actually help" being a minor detail in such cases of narrow self-interest. Even so, it remains the case that each suite of technologies may yet play a useful role in our continuum to permanently sustainable energy sources. In this week's government/NGO section are broad updates  on prospects of both, with each report sounding a bit boosterish on its face. Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Carbon Management comes us courtesy of the US Dept. of Energy.  Meanwhile the US National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine reports in with Laying the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the United States.

103 articles in 56 journals by 671 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Extreme Surface Energy Budget Anomalies in the High Arctic in Winter, Murto et al., Journal of Climate 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0209.1

Spatiotemporal Variability of Tropical Cyclone–Induced Ocean Heat Uptake and Its Effect on Ocean Heat Content, Fan et al., Journal of Climate 10.1175/jcli-d-22-0595.1

Observations of climate change, effects

Downslope Wind-Driven Fires in the Western United States, Abatzoglou et al., Earth's Future Open Access 10.1029/2022ef003471

Elevation dependency of temperature trend over the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau during 1901–2015, Yang et al., Atmospheric Research 10.1016/j.atmosres.2023.106791

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