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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.

 


Climate Confusion

Posted on 27 June 2022 by Evan

Climate Confusion

I periodically see the phrase, "when we reach net-zero emissions," as though it's a foregone conclusion. It is not. What if the best we can do over the next 100 years is no better than stabilizing CO2 concentration. What then?

Current climate models indicate that future warming is a function only of future emissions, and not current atmospheric CO2 concentration (read here). However, if CO2 stabilization is the best we can do, then the minimum warming we will experience is defined by current CO2 concentrations. These two views are compatible, because to stabilize CO2 concentration at current levels and hold it there over the next 100 year requires some level of continuing emissions. CO2 stabilization therefore implies some level of future emissions that would be unavoidable. A world where the best we do is to stabilize CO2 has, for all intents and purposes, "warming in the pipeline", something that does not occur if and when we reach net-zero emissions.

Some people seem so confident that we will achieve net-zero emissions that they no longer consider current CO2 concentrations to represent a minimum commitment temperature. This is dangerous. Considering that as of 2022 CO2 is still accelerating upwards, it is prudent to consider what happens if the best we can do is CO2 stabilization.

Here is the specific event that prompted me to write this piece.

I recently used Fig. 1 in one of my posts. The top curve shows the expected warming corresponding to measured atmospheric CO2 concentrations for an Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) = 3ºC/doubling CO2. The bottom curve shows measured temperature anomalies. The dotted line labeled "Ocean Time Lag" indicates that the oceans delay the warming because of the time required to heat up the top layers of the oceans. This plot shows measured data only: there are no modeling results, other than showing expected warming based on ECS = 3ºC/doubling CO2

Graphs of expected warming for ECS = 3 and another graph showing measured warming up to 2021

Figure 1. Top curve (solid orange points) shows expected warming corresponding to atmospheric CO2 concentration (shown by the open circles) and an ECS of 3ºC/doubling CO2. The bottom curve shows the GISS measured Land-Ocean temperature anomalies (read here).

In response, a reader commented

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #25

Posted on 26 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 19, 2022 through Sat, June 24, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Skeptical Science New Research for Week #25 2022, To stop climate change, regulate carbon as a toxic substance, ‘Fun in the sun’ photos are a dangerous distraction from the reality of climate breakdown, and Impact of reading about climate science goes away almost instantly.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #25 2022

Posted on 23 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Stashing renewable energy

Do a little internet sleuthing on renewable energy via your favorite search engine and you'll likely notice some honest critique and— much more— dishonest misinformation (aka disinformation) to the effect that photovoltaic and wind generation are twitchy, fickle energy supplies, over-abundant in some periods and absent in others. There's a grain of truth to this— and superficially it sounds (conveniently, for the disinformation artist) hopeless, if we pretend that we're not very clever and that we are missing our actual, abundant population of skilled and enthusiastic engineers. "Superficial" is perfectly useful, decent treatment when one's objective is to delay progress, of course.

In reality, what is formally known as "variable renewable energy" (VRE) is a proving to be an enjoyable challenge for imaginative, creative engineers (a chronically restless group). Already a lot of fun has been had in this department. There's the old and proven "pumped hydro" storage technique, accompanied to some extent by pure thermal as well as electrochemical thermal batteries. As various lithium chemistries have been tamed, we're seeing older methods joined by more recently refined electrochemical implementations, both directly and increasingly in reversible motive power (EV) storage. But there are other more subtle ways of tucking away energy for use later, some of them not very intuitive, such as "overcooling" deep cold storage facilities. The latter approach begins to resemble a form of energy algebra, with negatives canceling positives and terms being rearranged on either side of "=" to get nifty results.

"Storing" energy by overcooling foodstuffs is simple and practically free; fundamentally, banking the equivalent of kilowatt-hours in the mass of foodstuffs only needs bringing some information about electrical grid status to cold storage facility thermostats. It's almost only down to a change in habits, and this seems to be emerging as a common feature of indirect energy storage. 

In  Simulated co-optimization of renewable energy and desalination systems in Neom, Saudi Arabia Riera et al. explore another imaginative means of "storing" renewable energy: as fresh water. Currently desalinization and water reuse consumes some 1% of global electricity production. Energy consumption for production of fresh water is expected to double over the next 18 years. In highly populated, arid parts of the planet desalinization is a major consumer of generation capacity, reaching 20%, and here there is opportunity for engineering athletics, a jungle gym of machinery, systems and numbers to swing from.

Riera and crew produce an achievable-in-the-real-world model for systems integration of renewable energy powered desalinization in a particular challenging geographic context. In the scenario in question, stored desalinated water becomes a significant indirect means of energy storage. Depending on the objectives and situation of the system, this storage can be increased or shrunk as needed to help make the whole system economically and— in practical terms— operationally viable.

It's worth noting that somewhat akin (but not quite as dramatically cheap) to the earlier example of storing energy in refrigeration systems, tankage for desalinated water is one of the least expensive components of the system Riera's model describes. It's potentially very "deep" storage; an integrated system could build up a significant amount of kilowatt-equivalent-hours of energy available for other purposes in times of system stress, in the form of water that doesn't need to be desalinated "now."

What's the use of this research?  Generation system operators can look at this model and make more informed, more confident, better decisions about plant investment. The result is swifter and larger uptake of renewable energy sources and faster retirement of fossil fuels, and a technically more robust and competent generation suite. 

"Energy storage" in the form of a (vital) physical product is a great card to have in our hand, and seeing energy storage potential from this new perspective opens up possibilities. The highly comprehensive, parametrically adjustable model described in the paper is a sharp tool to add to our kit.

There's lots more to explore in energy storage and ample engineering talent on tap; we'll certainly be improving our abilities in the "tuck it away in non-obvious places" category as we figure out how to project our civilization beyond a handful of decades. 

Other notables

Improved Quantification of the Rate of Ocean Warming. Increasing skill with analytical methods allows us to sharpen our focus on a key metric governing our fate. The authors find ocean warming over our whole globe undergoing "robust acceleration" over the 1958-2020 period. Specifically, "0 to 0.06 ± 0.08 W m−2 for 1958–73 to 0.58 ± 0.08 W m−2 for 2003–18." The same signal is contemporaneous over all four major ocean basins; internal variability can be dismissed as a significant factor. 

Strong increase in thawing of subsea permafrost in the 22nd century caused by anthropogenic climate change. What's the big deal about some submerged ice melting away? This, perhaps.  We're rapidly dumping pieces of an enormous transdisciplinary accounting puzzle into plain view. Synthesis will reveal how badly our initial belch of CO2 will amplify itself. There are already enough pieces joined up to see a picture we shouldn't ignore.

Perceptions and correspondence of climate change beliefs and behavior among romantic couples. Prepare to have your intutions confirmed— or not.

A climate policy revolution: what the science of complexity reveals about saving our planet. Review of a [recently published] book by influential expert on complexity, resilience and energy transition Roland Kupers delineates rapid, systemic changes down to the level of individual behaviors that plausibly might reverse our course to "not living up to our potential" as a species. The scenario of technical competence depicted is also arguably guaranteed to ignite fearful reactions in a broad swath of our population.  

All of the above open access and free to read. Also don't miss our government/NGO reports section, here. 

122 articles in 40 journals by 561 contributing authors

Observations of climate change, effects

Increased extreme warming events and the differences in the observed hydrothermal responses of the active layer to these events in China’s permafrost regions
Zhu et al., Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-022-06155-x

Differential signal of change among multiple components of West African rainfall
Obarein & Lee Lee, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00704-022-04052-1

Modulation of the interdecadal variation of atmospheric background flow on the recent recovery of the EAWM during the 2000s and its link with North Atlantic–Arctic warming
Zhang et al., Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-022-06152-0

Strengthening impacts of spring sea surface temperature in the north tropical Atlantic on Indian Ocean dipole after the mid-1980s
Zhang et al., Climate Dynamics, Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00382-021-06128-6

Recent marine heatwaves in the North Pacific warming pool can be attributed to rising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases
Barkhordarian et al., Communications Earth & Environment, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s43247-022-00461-2

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What to expect during the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season

Posted on 22 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Samantha Harrington

It’s officially hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s expected to be an active one. In a webinar on Friday, June 3, Eye on the Storm meterologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson presented a preview of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. Here’s what we learned:

  • The Atlantic is expected to have an active hurricane season this year. Colorado State University scientists predict 20 named storms and 10 hurricanes, including five major hurricanes. NOAA’s forecast calls for slightly fewer storms but still puts the odds of an above-average Atlantic hurricane season at 65%. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are warm, which means storms there will have plenty of fuel. 

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Grappling with scientific understanding of tornadoes and climate change

Posted on 21 June 2022 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Peter Sinclair

Weather and climate experts cited in this month’s Yale Climate Connections video weigh in on the knowns, unknowns, and uncertainties involving the relationship of tornadoes and climate change.

From academic researchers comes a shared view that tornado outbreaks, intensity, timing, and location are not easily resolved in climate models. But they generally agree that tornadoes appear to be occurring more eastward and somewhat north of long-time tornado hotspot states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Midwestern parts of the U.S. – including states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri – are attracting more than their usual share of tornadoes. And the May 20 tornado that hit hard the Michigan town of Gaylord, about 230 miles northwest of Detroit, is but one recent reference point.

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What it would take for U.S. to meet its Paris commitment

Posted on 20 June 2022 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

The Biden administration in April 2021 dramatically ratcheted up the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions pledge under the Paris target, also known as its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

The Obama administration in 2014 had announced a commitment to cut U.S. emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The Trump administration formally withdrew the country from the Paris agreement in late 2020, but the Biden administration, upon taking office in January 2021, swiftly reversed that move and subsequently pledged to cut U.S. emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Based on current emissions trends and climate policies, however, the U.S. is not on track to meet even the Obama administration’s commitment, let alone its new and far more ambitious NDC. With two-thirds of the time between 2005 and 2030 having passed, national emissions today are only about 15% lower than the 2005 levels. In fact, carbon pollution rates had been rising during the Trump administration’s tenure until the COVID pandemic struck.

With eight years remaining before the looming 2030 deadline, authors of a new study in the journal Science examine how seven energy system model scenarios envision the U.S.’s ramping up efforts to meet its NDC. In short, achieving its commitment would require efforts to dramatically accelerate the deployment of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles (EVs), trees, heat pumps, insulation, and measures to significantly curb the emissions of other potent greenhouse gases like methane.

What it would take to meet the Biden pledge

The U.S. released 6.6 billion tons (gigatons, or Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalent greenhouse gases in 2005, about 5.6 Gt in pre-pandemic 2019, and has pledged not to exceed 3.3 Gt of emissions in 2030. That objective means the U.S. needs to reduce its annual emissions a further 2.3 Gt in the next eight years. The Science study incorporated the results of seven separate energy system modeling scenarios that tried to project how the U.S. could achieve that goal:

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #24

Posted on 19 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 12, 2022 through Sat, June 18, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): White lies: Daily Telegraph’s excitement over bumper snow season skates over facts, Skeptical Science tackles 'discourses of climate delay' and 'solutions denial', How cities can fight climate change, A durable U.S. climate strategy … or a house of cards?, and Skeptical Science New Research for Week #24 2022.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Skeptical Science tackles 'discourses of climate delay' and 'solutions denial'

Posted on 17 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom

Where we've been

Time flies. This coming summer will mark 15 years of Skeptical Science focusing its effort on "traditional" climate science denial. Leaving aside frivolities,  we've devoted most of our effort to combatting "serious" denial falling into a handful of broad categories of fairly crisp misconceptions: "radiative physics is wrong," "geophysics is wrong," "modeling of geophysical systems is impossible," or "we're unable to measure geophysical behavior of the planet."

The roots of progress in handling our climate problem remain planted in scientific research, and so Skeptical Science has grounded our collection of rebuttals in academic research relevant and responsive to specific misconceptions. 

All of this activity has been centered on a single enduring objective by a narrow interest group, the pursuit of which creates a dire conflict. The purpose of the fossil fuel industry is to monetize fossil fuel resources. Every year that goes by without modernizing our energy systems past a fossilized condition affords more monetization. Delay is profit. This laser-focus on financial results and resultant requirement to arrest progress is in direct conflict with what's healthy for our planet and everything living upon it.

Societal responses to our fossil fuel problem require replies in public policy and governance. This ignites objections rooted in political ideology, bringing more money and energy to arguing for remaining stuck with Victorian-era energy thinking. Research tells us that political ideology is a major impetus for climate science denial. This is a potent catalyst for amplifying deceptive messaging in favor of special interests and has prolonged our paralysis over climate change. 

Reflected in everything we do, Skeptical Science's mission— our purpose— is to help resolve the conflict  between fossil fuels and our need for progress, by anchoring disagreements in the science describing our reality. We directly address intentionally fostered misunderstandings of climate science, and expose ideologically-motivated disagreement masquerading as scientific disputes. We do this by distilling academic research and packaging it in articles intelligible for a general audience. Not only can we directly answer questions in this way, but also our users can more efficiently use their own time by not wasting it on duplicative effort— thereby amplifying their own positive effect.

Where we are now

From various web access statistics Skeptical Science sees how  (somewhat mind-bogglingly)  traditional climate fables live on, seemingly indestructible. As a single example, every day hundreds of people read here at Skeptical Science that the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not contradict the effect of increasing CO2 in our atmosphere.  Our encyclopedic roster of rebuttals to climate science avoidance continues to be useful, unfortunately.

But— increasingly— we see new challenges of denial and delay emerging and gaining prominence. Perhaps thanks to massive collective effort and some genuine success communicating truth about our role in Earth's climate, the nature of bogus arguments we see is evolving.

Mounting evidence of rapid and acutely hazardous climate change now and in the future  is in plain view. Scientific consensus on climate change leads to societal consilience and broad agreement that change is necessary. Old-fashioned science denial no longer functions in our "mood of the room."  To the extent legacy energy industries are able to shape events, tactical shifts are called for to support the strategic goal of prolonging monetization of fossil fuels. 

Again, delay is profit. 

Unsurprisingly given the history we've lived— and what we'd thus fully expect to see as a continuum— we're now encountering freshly invented and refined sticking points and evasive maneuvers prolonging the monetization window for fossil fuels, features formally termed "discourses of climate delay" (Lamb et al. 2020).  Some of these tactics are not within the reach of Skeptical Science's toolbox and are better handled elsewhere. However, other discourses of delay are amenable to being yanked back into reality by reattachment to primary sources.

For Skeptical Science, "primary source" translates to "peer reviewed research publications." Tactical manifestation of solutions denial found in claims such as "EVs pollute more than IC-powered vehicles," or "[exciting but nonexistent technology] will solve our problems" can often be shown as empty arguments from the standpoint of science. 

The same unholy alliance between industrial interests and ideological predilections especially pertains as we confront our need for climate remedy.  Effective climate mitigation (aka "solutions") may require intervention by regulation, awakening ideological opposition, and thereby producing a loud chorus of "wrong." Ideologically-rooted arguments against confronting our climate problem are susceptible of exposure by comparison with what science tells us from a perspective of ideological neutrality.

Outcome and future direction

Not long ago, Bärbel Winkler introduced discourses of climate delay as a subject area of focus for Skeptical Science. Since that initial foray, we've spent more time discussing this in terms of how it stacks up in our priorities. It's a high priority; confusion over mitigation of our climate impacts is dangerous and needs to be handled in an organized fashion. Consequently:

  • We'll be tweaking our mission statement and our activities to include discourses of climate delay and climate solutions denial amenable to grounding in academic research in our remit.
  • We're creating an initial set of rebuttals for common misconceptions about "climate solutions.
  • Our initial choices for treatment will be driven by data from formal research and as well by "reading the room." 

This process leads to an opportunity to seek help from our readers.

Question to readers

Which "discourses of climate delay" do you think we should prioritize? Which misconceptions of solution denial do you often hear repeated? Let us know in comments here, or via our contact form.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #24 2022

Posted on 16 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Mercenary army of bogus skeptics on parade

Because they're both squarely centered in the Skeptical Science wheelhouse, this week we're highlighting two articles from our government and NGO section, where we collect high-quality articles not originating in academic research but featuring many of the important attributes of journal publications. Our mission after all is to clear away the dense fog of motivated reasoning and self-interest misidentified as "climate science skepticism," and both of these publications hit the bulls-eye in that regard. 

Each report is accompanied by a precis it would be pointless to paraphrase.

Deny, Deceive, Delay: Documenting and Responding to Climate Disinformation at Cop26 and Beyond by King et al., Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Drawing on research compiled over the past 18 months, and especially in the margins and aftermath of COP26, the authors have clear evidence of the challenge at hand: the failure to stem mis- and disinformation online has allowed junk science, climate delayism and attacks on climate figures to become mainstreamed. The analysis shows how a small but dedicated community of actors boast disproportionate reach and engagement across social media, reaching millions of people worldwide and bolstered by legacy print, broadcast and radio outlets. Far from helping to mitigate this issue, tech platform systems appear to be amplifying or exacerbating the spread of such content. Moreover, the taxonomy of harm relating to climate mis- and disinformation has been poorly defined to date, providing an inadequate basis for response. The report is a collective effort to quantify the problem and establish concrete responses for the months and years ahead. It is a data-driven examination of the landscape, actors, systems and approaches that are combining to prevent action on climate. [full PDF here

Southern Company Knew. How a “clean coal” utility was warned about climate change risks years before it funded climate disinformation 1964-2022 by Anderson, Kasper & Tait, Energy and Policy Institute

A growing body of academic research and investigative reporting has documented how major fossil fuel producers, utilities, and automakers knew more than fifty years ago that carbon dioxide emissions could cause harmful climate change in the future. Despite these early warnings, many of these powerful companies later backed disinformation campaigns against climate science and policies. The report documents for the first time the nearly 60-year history of one of those vested interests, Southern Company, on climate change from the mid-1960s through present day. One of the nation’s largest electric and gas utilities, Southern Company’s origins date back nearly a century. Part one of the report documents how as far back as 1964, Southern Company was privy to early warnings about the climate risks of burning fossil fuels. Part two details how Southern Company has played a leading role in the spread of climate disinformation since the late 1980s. [full PDF here]

Other notables

Exceptional warming over the Barents area. "We identify a statistically significant record-high annual warming of up to 2.7 °C per decade, with a maximum in autumn of up to 4.0 °C per decade." Enough said. 

Impact of Rocket Launch and Space Debris Air Pollutant Emissions on Stratospheric Ozone and Global Climate. For decades we've been launching rockets and creating a gentle sifting of dust from decaying spacecraft at a rate that isn't a serious threat. With burgeoning of LEO communications constellations and myriad short-lived microsatellites being lofted— many involving solid fuel boosters— our period of relative calm is coming to an end. What goes up must come down, and while it does some of it causes trouble. Ryan et al. do the numbers and suggest that regulatory interventions may be necessary. 

The impact of renewables on the incidents of negative prices in the energy spot markets. Energy that costs less than nothing? Sounds great! But, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and in reality we can't support energy generation systems with "anti-money." The success of renewable energy deployment in conjunction with other factors exposing and creating outcomes that were not  unexpected but are arriving more swiftly and strongly than anticipated. Oleksandr Prokhorov & Dina Dreisbach investigate.

Why scientists succeed yet their organizations splinter: Historical and social network analyses of policy advocacy in conservation. Some criticize scientists from the odd perspective that if one sees a fire but is not part of the fire department, one should not attack the problem and definitely not dislose the location of a firehose. This warped view has nothing real to worry about, given empirical data. How does it happen that a group of people seeing and agreeing on a problem can fail to convey their helpful message? Researcher Zoe Nyssa takes a look.  

171 articles in 54 journals by 851 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Relating Patterns of Added and Redistributed Ocean Warming
Newsom et al., Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0827.1

Separating the shortwave and longwave components of greenhouse gas radiative forcing
Shine et al., Atmospheric Science Letters, 10.1002/asl.1116

The Time-Dependent Response of a Two-Basin Ocean to a Sudden Surface Temperature Change
Chang & Jansen, Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0821.1

Observations of climate change, effects

Exceptional warming over the Barents area
Isaksen et al., Scientific Reports, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41598-022-13568-5

Effects of Tropical Sea Surface Temperature Variability on Northern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone Genesis
Li et al., Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0084.1

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The most reliable hurricane models, based on their 2021 performance

Posted on 15 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

For those puzzling over the various hurricane computer forecast models to figure out which one to believe, the best answer is: Don’t believe any of them. Put your trust in the National Hurricane Center, or NHC, forecast.

Although an individual model may outperform the official NHC forecast in some situations, the 2021 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report documents that overall, it is very difficult for any one model to consistently beat the NHC forecasts for track and for intensity.

Figure 1 - NHC official track error trendFigure 1. Verification of official NHC hurricane track forecasts for the Atlantic, 1990 – 2021. (Image credit: 2021 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report)

During the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, NHC track forecasts had accuracies near or better than the five-year average, with two-day and three-day track forecasts setting new records for accuracy. Over the past 30 years, one- to three-day track forecast errors have been reduced by about 75%; over the past 20 years, four-day and five-day track forecast errors by 50 – 60%. Those numbers amount to an extraordinary accomplishment, one undoubtedly leading to huge savings in lives, damage, and emotional angst. The improvement in track forecast accuracy has slowed down in recent years, however, suggesting that forecasts may be nearing their limit in accuracy because of the chaotic nature of the atmosphere.

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Young people care about things that matter

Posted on 14 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Scott Denning

The excellent Julia Steinberger essay posted at this site in May provides a disturbing window into the psychology of teaching climate change to young people. 

It’s critically important to talk with youth about hard topics: love and sex, deadly contagion, school shootings, vicious unprovoked war in Europe, climate change. Everybody wrestles with these subjects. It’s worse than useless to pretend there are easy answers, and it helps to be open about ambiguity.

I had a GREAT visit to Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colorado, the day Steinberger’s essay was posted. Several of these students were among about 300 who attended a “Climate Leadership Summit” for high schools in Colorado last month.

These students were deeply traumatized by being locked away from their peers and mentors for two years just as they emerged from adolescence into early adulthood. They’re well aware that their lives will be burdened by heat and drought and wildfire and also by the scourges of violence and hate (Chatfield is a neighbor to Columbine High School less than two miles away). It was a lovely spring day, with the young rising seniors in their last week of school before summer.

I was very much struck in Steinberger’s article by two phrases: She had a “classic, boilerplate climate presentation, full of IPCC figures and facts and quotes.” This is an all-too-frequent framing for climate outreach. I prefer to speak form the heart, from personal experience, and to invoke students’ own experiences rather than any academic authority. Also “It’s always ‘3 years to save the planet’ but then nothing changes.” This is a hugely consequential “doomer” meme that we must confront head on.

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A durable U.S. climate strategy … or a house of cards?

Posted on 13 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Richard Richels, Benjamin Santer, Henry Jacoby, and Gary Yohe

Just when it seemed that real progress might be made on climate change, war has pushed climate concerns to the back burner. This shift in focus is understandable. War is affecting millions in Ukraine and poses a growing threat to global security. But it’s dangerous to leave the climate change problem untended, simmering away on the back burner. Like war, human-caused warming also poses an escalating threat to human lives, livelihoods, well-being, and the stability of democratic systems of governance. Things left out of sight and untended on a hot stove can combust.

Our global society does not have the luxury of being able to focus on only one threat at a time. Threats are intertwined, synergistic. Today’s petro-dictators, using oil money to finance war, are intent on enhancing rather than diminishing reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil carbon is their life support system. Its continued use also adds to emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, imperiling our planetary life support system.

The bottom line is that we must pay attention to the many threats to human wellbeing boiling over on the war burner, the global pandemic burner, and the climate change burner. And now, at least for the U.S. in the aftermath of the horrifying string of mass murders in Buffalo and Uvalde (list could go on), we cannot forget the “guns” burner. The price of freedom, human health, and planetary health is constant vigilance on these and many more issues.

Stopping greenhouse gas pollution will require a complete transformation of the way the global community produces and uses energy. We cannot achieve that goal without sustained efforts on many fronts: technological, scientific, socioeconomic and political. In a world beset with multiple threats, the challenge is to carve out a durable climate strategy – one that can withstand the distractions of other critical, but inevitably shorter-term, crises.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #23

Posted on 12 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, June 5, 2022 through Sat, June 11, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): The Future of Energy Storage, Are climate models wrong? (Naomi Seibt & Christopher Monckton Debunked)Fidelity’s Fossil Fuel Problem, Russia sanctions and gas price crisis reveal danger of investing in 'blue' hydrogen, and The Southern Ocean is changing. Why does it matter?.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #23 2022

Posted on 9 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Terms and conditions may change

For myriad reasons we'd like to think and know that dumping our outmoded and dangerous fossil fuel energy sources may be difficult and may require a lot of investment but that when we're done, we'll be back to business as usual in terms of what we expect to pay for the energy to do useful work. However, our expectations are quite arguably warped by our good fortune; we stumbled upon a trove of ridiculously inexpensive previously stored energy and have consequently shaped our entire perspective as though winning the lottery was a daily occurrence. 

The authors are looking only at cost impacts of reaching net zero by 2050 and so are not prognosticating what we might expect 100 or 200 years from now, or any such reasonable time-frame for people with the inkling of conscience needed to reject nihilism about our future. Even so, Zhuo et al. perhaps offer some indications of what's to come in their scrupulously calculated and highly granular assessment Cost increase in the electricity supply to achieve carbon neutrality in China. While there are of course differences in the mix of individual country electrical generation systems, the starting points  and decarbonization scenarios employed in this paper are not so special to China that we cannot plausibly hypothesize from their results how electricity in general might not be as weirdly and artificially cheap as we've trained oursevles to expect. For China, the research team estimates that costs will rise by some 9.6 CNY¢/kWh (US $0.15/kWh) in order to reach carbon neutrality. As the authors say in other words, it's not an existential threat but it's going to leave a bit of a bruise on the collective wallet.

On the fully bright side, electricity cost increases will eventually level off after which we're left with a durable, permanent improvement in our welfare, rather than bovinely following the inexorable decline of our briefly beneficial but also nearly permanently disastrous fossil fuel lash-up. How much of a subsequent decline to levels more resembling our "abnormally cheap" current state of bliss we may expect is another matter to explore. 

Parenthetically, this is yet another in a steady torrent of papers authored by researchers practicing in China and who are directly confronting climate change as an operational challenge needing solid backgrounding for policy planning purposes. Doubtless this is a better approach than paralytic quavering in denial, ignorance and fear. 

Other notables:

What shapes cognitions of climate change in Europe? Ideology, morality, and the role of educational attainment. We've heard about Left/Right differences in perceptions of climate change, but we shouldn't be surprised to hear that packages with different wrapping may contain similar objects. The first thing we learn is often not quite the whole picture when witnesses and storytellers themselves are new to a topic.  This paper goes a bit beyond othe recent research and peels away ideological identity and looks at underlying factors shaping our beliefs.

New York State Hurricane Hazard: History and Future Projections. Due to limitations in our models the picture is still somewhat hazy, but our best ability to form projections of hurricane behavior in this populous state indicates "more intense and traveling more slowly" by late in this century. Given the damage profile caused by hurricanes which is mostly to do with water, "slower" is especially not good.

The risks from climate change to sovereign debt. The world of research pertaining to goverment finance is at least slightly roiled now thanks to attempts to demythologize economics and update "the dismal science" with hard-earned information gleaned by comparing untethered abstract models with  observed real world facts about what money is and where it comes from. Regardless of whether our thinking is that of 100 years ago or today, the impacts of climate change on national economies unfolds as quite large. This paper looks at how climate change will wreak havoc in state finances as viewed from a more tradtional "sovereign debt" perspective. 

Quantifying the influence of climate variability on armed conflict in Africa, 2000–2015 explores via empirical data the contentious hypothesis that climate change will contribute to armed conflict. Unfortunately, we have enough real-world data to test this, to the extent that we can isolate a climate signal from the complex factors leading to organized violence. By indications from their chosen array of methods to tease apart the rotten combinations leading to warfare, the authors identify such a signal in this paper. 

All of the above open access and free to read. This week's government/NGO section can be found here and sports a collection of items concerning reliable water supplies in the face of climate change. See California, USA for a high-profile right-now example of  "adaptation" to climatological drought in the absence of a long term plan.

167 articles in 60 journals by 986 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

The role of atmospheric blocking in regulating Arctic warming
You et al., Geophysical Research Letters, Open Access pdf 10.1029/2022gl097899

Turbulent structure of the Arctic boundary layer in early summer driven by stability, wind shear and cloud top radiative cooling: ACLOUD airborne observations
Chechin et al. Open Access pdf 10.5194/acp-2022-398

Which Is the More Effective Driver of the Poleward Eddy Heat Flux Variability: Zonal Gradient of Tropical Convective Heating or Equator-to-Pole Temperature Gradient?
Mous, Predictability and Nonlinear Modelling in Natural Sciences and Economics, Open Access 10.1007/978-94-011-0962-8_8

Observations of climate change, effects

Long-term trends in extreme precipitation indices in Ireland
Ryan et al., International Journal of Climatology, Open Access pdf 10.1002/joc.7475

Spatiotemporal variation of precipitation on a global scale from 1960 to 2016 in a new normalized daily precipitation dataset
Liu et al., International Journal of Climatology, 10.1002/joc.7437

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Grim 2022 drought outlook for Western US offers warnings for the future as climate change brings a hotter, thirstier atmosphere

Posted on 8 June 2022 by Guest Author

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Imtiaz Rangwala is a Research Scientist in Climate, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder

Much of the western U.S. has been in the grip of an unrelenting drought since early 2020. The dryness has coincided with record-breaking wildfires, intense and long-lasting heat waves, low stream flows and dwindling water supplies in reservoirs that millions of people across the region rely on.

Heading into summer, the outlook is pretty grim.

One driver of the Western drought has been persistent La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific since the summer of 2020. During La Niña, cooler tropical Pacific waters help nudge the jet stream northward. That tends to bring fewer storms to the southern tier of the U.S. and produce pronounced drought impacts in the Southwest.

The other and perhaps more important part of the story is the hotter and thirstier atmosphere, caused by a rapidly warming climate.

As a climate scientist, I’ve watched how climate change is making drought conditions increasingly worse – particularly in the western and central U.S. The last two years have been more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 Celsius) warmer than normal in these regions. Large swaths of the Southwest have been even hotter, with temperatures more than 3 F (1.7 C) higher. Studies suggest the Southwest’s ongoing 20-year drought is the most severe in at least 1,200 years, based on how dry the soils are.

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Pollution's Staggering Death-toll

Posted on 7 June 2022 by Guest Author

The climate isn't the only thing that's hurting from our waste. Whether it's toxic air pollution, polluted waters, or contaminated soils, our waste is hurting humans - in catastrophic numbers. So just how bad is it? And does fighting climate change mean we solve the problem for free?

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

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Driving with electricity is much cheaper than with gasoline

Posted on 6 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Karin Kirk

The rising cost of gasoline and diesel is both a frequent headline and an ongoing financial drain for many, let alone a major issue in the upcoming November midterm elections. But unlike previous gas crunches, some consumers now have options about the energy source that powers their driving.

Not long ago, electric vehicles were the domain of early-adopters and wealthy consumers, but times are changing fast. Moderately priced EVs range from $27,400 to $34,000, and as gasoline prices climb, EVs can offer respite from rising fuel costs.

As of June 1, 2022, the U.S. average price of regular gasoline was $4.67, according to AAA, and gas prices have climbed 41% percent since the start of this calendar year. Experts are saying those prices will continue increasing in days and weeks ahead The cost of electricity, meanwhile, has remained fairly stable – and relatively inexpensive compared with gasoline and diesel fuels. The U.S. average price for residential electricity is 13 cents per kilowatt hour. How does the cost of driving an EV compare to driving a gasoline-powered car?

The short answer is that it costs only $1.41 per “gallon” to drive an EV. That’s a 70% discount compared with gasoline.

The EV-to-gasoline cost comparison varies state-to-state, because the prices of electricity and gasoline differ in each state. The table below lists the breakdown of costs, by state.

Price of gas and EV equivalent (state by state)

Link to live version.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

Posted on 5 June 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, May 29, 2022 through Sat, June 4, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Meet the climate scientist taking on Joe Rogan and QAnon, Waters with high heat content expected in Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season, Consultant who ditched Shell: ‘take a look at yourselves in the mirror, Skeptical Science New Research for Week #22 2022, Preserving democracy is part of preserving the planet,  and Bjorn Lomborg Debunked (PragerU on climate change).

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #22 2022

Posted on 2 June 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

We're clever. Now let's be wise, together.

"If people are at the heart of climate action, then understanding and tackling climate change cannot be done by engineers or natural scientists alone. All disciplines need to work together–not least a range of social sciences including political science, sociology, geography and psychology—to find solutions in ways that achieve wider societal goals." 

This week we have a conjunction of articles arguing cases for more consciously, intentionally "joined up" thinking and action to combat climate change. Together they offer components for a plausible way forward to deal with our most imminent major threat— climate change— and as well to build skills arguably vital for sustainable maintenance of civilization as most of us roughly imagine it, methods and habits more or less mandatory for a time horizon longer than a few more decades. Systematic cooperation and direct operational confrontation of human foibles and limitations is a consistent theme in all three articles.

In her opinion piece Civilization-Saving Science for the Twenty-First Century— delivered from the geosciences perspective— Dr. Marcia McKnutt speaks of "convergence," a formal term describing multiple scientific disciplines aligned to a large common purpose. McKnutt suggests how convergence can more effectively be operationalized by including what's arguably a key missing ingredient: social sciences, not least our vastly improved understanding of how people think and make decisions. 

In their "big picture" paper on effecting changes leading to sustainability, Systems thinking as a paradigm shift for sustainability transformation, Voulvoulis et al. point out a curious gap leading to operational myopia and lack of circumspection:

"Competence in systems thinking is implicitly assumed among the population of engineers, policy makers and managers and in fact, most technical people will self-identify as systems thinkers. But systems thinking competencies are not as prevalent as these assertions might lead one to assume”

When we don't think systematically, we leave unclosed budgets, create unintended outcomes and are essentially thwarted in our efforts to create a truly sustainable environment in which civilization can thrive. "Target fixation" is a cliche because it's a true human quirk. It's a social phenomenon. How do we deal with this? 

Our lead quote is from Devine-Wright et al. and Placing people at the heart of climate action. The authors' suggestions are directly relevant to both of our other featured works. Our civilization is a human system. Systems thinking in support of our civilization will more or less fail to the extent it fails to incorporate our best understanding of human nature and human cognition.

"All of the above" must include operationalizing useful, proven predictive capacities of social sciences. Here in this group of articles we see wide consensus on important advances in our capacities and skills for working with our own human material— something to celebrate. 

Other notables:

Climate warming amplified the 2020 record-breaking heatwave in the Antarctic Peninsula. No need to paraphrase: "...here we quantify the role of recent climate change in the magnitude of this 6-day regional heatwave. Results show that 2020-like heatwaves over the Antarctic Peninsula are now at least ~0.4 °C warmer than in the past period, which represents a ~25% increase in magnitude. Given the observed atmospheric circulation conditions, the probability of experiencing 6-day regional mean anomalies above ~2 °C has increased ten times since 1950–1984. The aggravated severity of the event can be largely ascribed to long-term summer warming of the Antarctic Peninsula rather than recent atmospheric circulation trends."

National-scale impacts on wind energy production under curtailment scenarios to reduce bat fatalities. In "Decarbonization." Bats are at particular risk from wind turbines when wind speeds are low. Intuition suggests "low wind speed, so what's the problem?" But, bats are on the wing and most active during periods of low wind. Unfortunately, careful modeling suggests that responsible operation to respect bats will impose significant output reductions.  It's not a deal breaker but has economic effects for operators.  Some promise lies in employing sensors to detect bats and alter turbine operation as needed, as opposed to simpler but dumber "rules based" operation. 

Populism as an act of storytelling: analyzing the climate change narratives of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg as populist truth-tellers. Two preternaturally skilled communicators: one is a notorious fabulist, the other a truth teller. Each ignited passion in huge numbers of people. Employing our best understanding of the psychology of populism, the authors argue there are similarities in methods between the two figures even as their motivations are entirely different.

The Future of Energy Storage in our government/NGO reports section fully illuminates principal methods for storing energy from VRE (variable renewable energy) sources. Variability of renewable energy is a favorite hobbyhorse of solutions deniers. In reality, the principles of storage for VREs are well understood and pose no insoluable engineering challenges. Indeed pumped hydro is a completely cooked option, already widely deployed but recently held back by the market-distorting (and temporary) effects of "cheap and easy" natural gas generation systems. A 3 year effort by a team of MIT luminaries and well worth reading. 

All of the above open access and free to read, as are 84 others in this week's collection.

163 articles in 67 journals by 875 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

The Role of Clouds in Shaping Tropical Pacific Response Pattern to Extratropical Thermal Forcing
Hsiao et al.
Open Access 10.1002/essoar.10510469.1

Observations of climate change, effects

Recent variability of sub-seasonal monsoon precipitation and its potential drivers in Myanmar using in-situ observation during 1981–2020
Sein et al. International Journal of Climatology
10.1002/joc.7419

Warmer and drier conditions have increased the potential for large and severe fire seasons across south-eastern Australia
Collins et al. Global Ecology and Biogeography
Open Access 10.1111/geb.13514

The intensification of winter mid-latitude storm tracks in the Southern Hemisphere
Chemke et al. Nature Climate Change
10.1038/s41558-022-01368-8

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NOAA expects another above-average Atlantic hurricane season

Posted on 1 June 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

Residents of Hurricane Alley can anticipate an above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2022, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Tuesday, May 24. In its first seasonal forecast for 2022, NOAA predicted a 65% chance for an above-average Atlantic hurricane season, a 25% chance for an average season, and a 10% chance for a below-average season. NOAA gave a 70% likelihood of 14-21 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes,  3-6 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale), and an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) 115% – 200% of the median. Based on the midpoint of these ranges, NOAA called for 17.5 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4.5 major hurricanes. Those numbers are above the 1991-2020 seasonal averages of 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.

NOAA cited these main factors influencing its Atlantic forecast:

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