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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

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

 


Teaming up with Facebook to fight misinformation

Posted on 26 February 2021 by John Cook

Some of you may remember our blog post "A conundrum: our continued presence on Facebook" in which we detailed our misgivings about and decision to stick with Facebook for the time being. So these latest developments - reposted from the Cranky Uncle homepage - might come as a bit of a surprise!

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with Facebook, in collaboration with Sander van der Linden (Cambridge University) and Tony Leiserowitz (Yale University), to debunk climate misinformation. This new project, titled “Facts About Climate Change“, launched on Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center last week.

FB-CSIC-Header

In the Debunking Handbook 2020, we (myself and 21 other leading misinformation researchers) lay out the recommended structure for an effective debunking: Fact-Myth-Fallacy-Fact. A debunking should contain a factual replacement that fills the gap left in people’s mental model when a myth is explained to be false (that’s a lot to take in, I have a video that fleshes this dynamic out further). Before you mention the myth (and you do need to mention the myth when debunking it), warn people that you’re about to introduce a myth to them so they’re cognitively on guard and less likely to be influenced by the myth. To help people resolve the conflict between fact and myth, you need to explain the logical fallacy or rhetorical technique that the myth uses to distort the facts (I touched on this in an interview with Axios last week). And lastly, it’s good practice to end your debunking by reaffirming the facts. Fight sticky myths with stickier facts!

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #8, 2021

Posted on 24 February 2021 by doug_bostrom

Ground truths on warming

When we think about rapid climate change of the kind we've accidentally unleashed and the warming of Earth systems inherent in the process, we tend to focus on phenomena in order of their immediate tangibility, their drama. Sea ice loss in the Arctic, atmospheric and ocean warming, more ephemeral but dramatic events such as droughts and and fires dominate our perceptions. Cuesta-Valero et al offer a refined estimate and reminder of how the very ground beneath our feet is also of course inexorably warming, in Long-term global ground heat flux and continental heat storage from geothermal data, an open access article via EGU's Climate of the Past. The abstract:

Energy exchanges among climate subsystems are of critical importance to determine the climate sensitivity of the Earth's system to greenhouse gases, to quantify the magnitude and evolution of the Earth's energy imbalance, and to project the evolution of future climate. Thus, ascertaining the magnitude of and change in the Earth's energy partition within climate subsystems has become urgent in recent years. Here, we provide new global estimates of changes in ground surface temperature, ground surface heat flux, and continental heat storage derived from geothermal data using an expanded database and new techniques. Results reveal markedly higher changes in ground heat flux and heat storage within the continental subsurface than previously reported, with land temperature changes of 1 K and continental heat gains of around 12 ZJ during the last part of the 20th century relative to preindustrial times. Half of the heat gain by the continental subsurface since 1960 has occurred in the last 20 years.

Let alone the slightly disturbing final sentence, there are some knock-on effects implicit here which will surely be explored if this assessment becomes the new center of estimation for ground heating. "The ground" includes a tremendous scope of content, not least biological mechanisms directly sensitive to temperature in terms of their status as carbon sinks or carbon sources, in fully active ecosystems, acutely responsive to changing conditions. As well there is a tremendous freight of carbon on the planet currently in stasis beneath the ground and due to fortunate circumstances of temperature, with the fringes of such storage determined by various balancing factors and in a kind of quasi-equilibrium acutely sensitive to temperature changes. If you follow New Research or are a  fan of certain specialist domains, these connections will jump to mind. A mere 1 degree Kelvin of warming is a fairly big deal in these contexts, and per Cuestra-Valero et al it's possible that's a mere taste of things to come, quickly. A lot of previous flux and sink budgeting accountancy may end up being revised, as and when this new quantification of ground heat is absorbed and digested by dependent scientific domains.

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Climate lessons from Texas' frozen power outages

Posted on 23 February 2021 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

An off-course polar vortex meandered toward the Mexican border, bringing with it frigid Arctic air rarely seen as far south as Texas. Frozen equipment rendered power generation systems in the state inoperable, forcing grid operators to begin rolling blackouts to customers then left to fend for themselves in the glacial weather.

The year was 2021. And 2011. And 1989.

These same scenes have played out before across the Lone Star State, and experts previously had warned that they would happen again if Texas power generators, grid operators, and lawmakers failed to make the necessary investments to address the problem. Fail they did, and Texans suffered the consequences in mid-February 2021, with more than 50 deaths, over 4 million homes and businesses losing power, 7 million forced to boil tap water before drinking it, and a price tag already in the billions of dollars. Minority and low-income communities, as so often is the case when a disaster strikes, were hit hardest.

Experts similarly warn that unless investments are made to rapidly curb greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will also usher in extreme weather with impacts societies are unprepared for, and to which low-income and communities of color are the most vulnerable. Texas provides an example of the consequences of ignoring these types of expert warnings.

The Polar Vortex keeps messing with Texas

On December 21–25, 1989, Arctic air descended on Texas, delivering some of the state’s coldest temperatures ever recorded, below zero degrees Fahrenheit. More than 15 gigawatts (GW) of power (about 40% of the state’s power generation capacity) went offline, felled by frozen instrumentation and other cold weather-related impacts and resulting in extensive power outages. The electricity generation failures were widespread: 42% were gas, 34% coal, 16% oil, and 8% nuclear power. The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) investigated what went wrong in 1989 and identified inadequate heat tracing systems and insulation on instrumentation sensing lines as the most common equipment problems during the freeze.

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Hurricanes, wildfires, and heat dominated U.S. weather in 2020

Posted on 22 February 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Bob Henson

One of the hottest years in U.S. history, 2020 was besieged by a record number of billion-dollar disasters, led by two of the most dangerous phenomena with links to climate change: wildfires and hurricanes. In its initial U.S. climate summary for 2020, NOAA catalogued a year that fell firmly in line with expectations for a human-warmed climate.

The average temperature last year for the contiguous U.S., 54.37 degrees Fahrenheit, was the fifth warmest in 126 years of recordkeeping, NOAA reported. All five of the warmest years on record – 2012, 2016, 2017, 2015, and 2020 – have occurred in the past decade. The 10 coldest years were all before 1980.

Based on preliminary data from NOAA compiled by independent meteorologist Guy Walton, the U.S. had more than twice as many daily record highs (33,698) as lows (15,698). A 2009 paper by Walton and colleagues predicted that the typical ratio could reach 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by late in the century.

The average U.S. temperature in 2020 is more than 2°F above the 20th-century average (see image below).

Temperatures imageAverage temperatures across the contiguous U.S. for each year since 1895. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI)

When nationally averaged, the 30.28″ of contiguous-U.S. precipitation in 2020 was close to the long-term norm, but that innocuous-sounding statistic obscures some big shifts and a pronounced west/east split.

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #8

Posted on 21 February 2021 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Editorial of the Week... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Claim Review... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

‘Absolutely ridiculous’: top scientist slams UK government over coalmine

Exclusive: Prof Sir Robert Watson says backing of Cumbrian mine refutes claims of climate leadership

Sir Robert Watson

Prof Sir Robert Watson has led the UN’s scientific organisations for climate and biodiversity. Photograph: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

One of the UK’s most eminent environmental scientists has called the government’s failure to block a new coalmine in Cumbria “absolutely ridiculous”.

Prof Sir Robert Watson said the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 to tackle the climate crisis was “wonderful”, but that there had to be a focus on immediate actions. The UK is hosting a UN climate summit, Cop26, in November and Boris Johnson has pledged to lead a green industrial revolution

“The British government says, ‘We’re going to lead Cop26 in Glasgow, we really care about climate change. But, by the way, we won’t override the council in Cumbria, and we’ll have a new coalmine.’ Absolutely ridiculous!” Watson said. “You get these wonderful statements by governments and then they have an action that goes completely against it.”

Watson has led the UN’s scientific organisations for climate and biodiversity, is a former chief scientific adviser at the UK’s environment department and worked for Bill Clinton when he was US president. He has also held senior positions at Nasa and the World Bank.

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on The Guardian website.

‘Absolutely ridiculous’: top scientist slams UK government over coalmine by Damian Carrington, Environment, The Guardian, Feb 20, 2021

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #8

Posted on 20 February 2021 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Feb 14, 2021 through Sat, Feb 20, 2021

Editor's Choice

Q&A: Is Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Book a Hopeful Look at the Promise of Technology, or a Cautionary Tale?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author calls “Under a White Sky” a “logical sequel” to her 2014 bestseller, “The Sixth Extinction.”

Elizabeth Kolbert 

Elizabeth Kolbert's new book "Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future" explores various technologies humans have used or are researching to solve the planet's most pressing problems. Credit: John Kleiner

As the dominant species on the planet, humans have altered the direction rivers flow, modified genes to make toads less poisonous and chickens glow and someday could change the color of the sky.

But what happens when human creations backfire? Author Elizabeth Kolbert’s newest book, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, explores different nature-altering technologies, both in existence and in the abstract, and how these technologies could help solve planetary problems, or could become problems themselves. 

Kolbert’s new book parallels her 2014 book The Sixth Extinction winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction—about the ongoing massive extinction of species, which some experts attribute to humans. Both books examine Earth in the age of the Anthropocene—the current geological era in which humans have an outsized impact on the planet’s systems. 

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on the Inside Climate News website.

Q&A: Is Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Book a Hopeful Look at the Promise of Technology, or a Cautionary Tale? by Katelyn Weisbrod, Inside Climate News, Feb 14, 2021

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Guest post: Why avoiding climate change ‘maladaptation’ is vital

Posted on 19 February 2021 by Guest Author

This article, authored by Dr Lisa Schipper, Dr Morgan Scoville-Simonds, Dr Katharine Vincent and Prof Siri Eriksen, was originally published on the Carbon Brief website on Feb 10, 2021. It is reposted below in its entirety. Click here to access the original article and comments posted on Carbon Brief.

Photo by Deepak Kumar on Unsplash

With the delayed UN climate talks coming up this year, COP26 president Alok Sharma recently launched a “Race to Resilience” to underscore the urgency of adapting to climate change. 

However, in our new study – published in the journal World Development – we come to the unsettling conclusion that many adaptation projects can make people more, rather than less, vulnerable to climate change. This is known as “maladaptation”.

Academics and practitioners have spent many years promoting the idea that adaptation can reinforce sustainable development (pdf) and even offer a way to rethink development in light of the changing climate. So, is adaptation at an impasse?

No. In fact, we argue that adaptation is needed more than ever, but that it should be rethought.

Over the past decade, in the justified rush to provide assistance in the face of climate change impacts across the globe, many existing development aid institutions and approaches have been quickly re-purposed for the provision of “adaptation aid”. 

But our analysis suggests that the timescales, participants and ultimate purpose of adaptation are often confused – resulting in well-intentioned, but misguided, investments that are backfiring to make climate change worse for many people.

The reality is that it is very difficult to give easy blueprints for “successful adaptation” – or how to measure it. This is because adaptation is a long-term process and is dependent on specific circumstances. 

While a clear picture of successful adaptation may be difficult to pin down, our findings suggest that we can identify what it looks like when things go wrong with adaptation planning – and how not to make those mistakes in future. 

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Drought-stricken Colorado River Basin could see additional 20% drop in water flow by 2050

Posted on 18 February 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jan Ellen Spiegel

Colorado is no stranger to drought. The current one is closing in on 20 years, and a rainy or snowy season here and there won’t change the trajectory.

This is what climate change has brought.

“Aridification” is what Bradley Udall formally calls the situation in the western U.S. But perhaps more accurately, he calls it hot drought – heat-induced lack of water due to climate change. That was the core of research released in 2017 by Udall, a senior climate and water scientist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Center, and Jonathan Overpeck at the University of Michigan.

Their revelation was that the heat from climate change was propelling drought. “Previous comparable droughts were caused by a lack of precipitation, not high temperatures,” the study said. And all the factors at play were having compounding effects on each other that made the situation even worse. Those impacts were being felt most acutely on the biggest water system in the West – the Colorado River Basin.

Without a dramatic and fast reversal in greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change, Udall and Overpeck said, the additional loss of flow in the basin could be more than 20% by mid-century and 35% at the century’s end – worse than currently assumed.

“I always say climate change is water change,” says Udall, whose father was Arizona congressman Morris (Mo) Udall, an iconic environmental activist. “It means too much water, not enough water, water at the wrong time. It means reduced water quality. You get all of these things together as the earth warms up.”

In Colorado it’s all pretty much coming true. The drought is the second worst 20-year period in the past 1,200 years, according to Udall. This summer/fall alone had some of the hottest spells on record and the worst wildfire season ever. On the other hand, 2013 brought catastrophic floods to the Front Range. “I got 17 inches of water in my house here in four days. It’s all part of the same change,” Udall says.

It’s forced Colorado to start facing the reality that its perpetual struggle for water can no longer be written off as cyclical weather that will all balance-out over short periods of time. It’s climate change at work, and it requires long-term planning and likely fundamental changes to the paradigm of how the state gets, uses, and preserves its water.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #7, 2021

Posted on 17 February 2021 by doug_bostrom

Geoengineering heats up

Sorry, that was irresistible. By chance in this edition of New Research are two intriguing papers including different perspectives on the subject of geoengineering, a topic increasingly arousing emotions. Happily both of these papers are open access and free to read. A third article underlines that enthusiasm for or reliance on geoengineering isn't yet founded on full information about the forces we're contemplating, essentially supporting the case for both sets of conclusions offered by the other two papers.

Smith & Henly reason for circumspect and thorough research into stratospheric aerosol injection, a topic of recent negative attention and even calls to restrict or terminate such investigations.These impulses to don blinkers seem ironic given that a major part of our problem with climate change is a concerted effort on the part of vested interests to restrict scientific research, pretend that we can't establish facts and generally draw a cloak of ignorance down on progress. The abstract of "Updated and outdated reservations about research into stratospheric aerosol injection"  is worth quoting in entirety:

In this paper, we seek to ground discussions of the governance of stratospheric aerosol injection research in recent literature about the field including an updated understanding of the technology’s deployment logistics and scale, pattern of effects, and research pathways. Relying upon this literature, we evaluate several common reservations regarding the governance of pre-deployment research and testing including covert deployment, technological lock-in, weaponization, slippery slope, and the blurry line between research and deployment. We conclude that these reservations are no longer supported by literature. However, we do not argue that there is no reason for concern. Instead, we enumerate alternative bases for caution about research into stratospheric aerosol injection which are supported by an up-to-date understanding of the literature. We conclude that in order to establish the correct degree and type of governance for stratospheric aerosol injection research, the research community must focus its attention on these well-grounded reservations. However, while these reservations are supported and warrant further attention, we conclude that none currently justifies restrictive governance of early-stage stratospheric aerosol injection research.

Ignorance isn't a reliable foundation for bliss, of course. With no effective means of coherent global geoengineering governance likely to emerge before panic over rapid climate change knock-on effects may ensue, it seems better to have more information about what we might expect from sulphate injection, whether as a semi-voluntary "choice" in the face of inevitability, or as bystander victims of hasty error. 

Meanwhile, Murray & DiGiorgio describe thought-provoking observations in "Will Individual Actions Do the Trick? Comparing Climate Change Mitigation through Geoengineering versus Reduced Vehicle Emissions," with a reasoned claim that plausible alternative actions to geoengineering are available. The authors also point out the possible negative effects of wishful thinking around geoengineering. This seems duly cognizant, especially given that geoengineering can't be implemented as a deployable technology at this moment or in the immediate future, when action needs to be taken now. The abstract: 

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Coming attraction: IPCC's upcoming major climate assessment

Posted on 16 February 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Bob Henson

Despite the speed bump posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is rolling toward completion of its Sixth Assessment Report, the latest in a series that began in 1990.

IPCC’s assessments, produced by many hundreds of scientists volunteering countless hours, have long been the world’s most definitive statements on human-induced climate change from fossil fuel use. Rather than carrying out its own research, the IPCC crafts its consensus assessment reports based on the vast array of peer-reviewed work in science journals. The draft reports are scrutinized by experts and officials in UN-member governments before they become final.

It’s too soon to know exactly what the authors will conclude in the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), to be released in 2021-22, but the chapter outlines suggest a more interwoven look at how society is affected by, and responds to, the climate crisis.

The report could also end up tipping its hat toward a narrowing range of potential outcomes, as reflected in recent key papers and greenhouse-gas emission trends. If the most dire scenarios of past reports are a bit less likely than it seemed a decade ago, some of the tamer scenarios also might be increasingly out of reach.

Nations will draw on the new assessment as they prepare to revise their emission goals in the Paris Agreement’s first five-year stocktake, set for 2023.

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Tips on countering conspiracy theories and misinformation

Posted on 15 February 2021 by BaerbelW

Comms-Flyer-EN-ThumbOver the years, members from our team have published several handbooks providing information about how to successfully counter misinformation and conspiracy theories. These include The Conspiracy Theory Handbook and The Debunking Handbook 2020, both published in 2020. In addition, we have our list of rebuttals as well as our MOOC Denial101x to specifically counter climate science denial.

Something for which we nonetheless didn't yet have a good response - apart from perhaps personal experience - is how to approach science denial coming from family members, friends or colleagues. During the SciBeh 2020 Virtual Workshop on "Building an online information environment for policy relevant science" co-organized by Stephan Lewandowsky in November 2020, PhD student Konstantinos Armaos noticed that the two handbooks about conspiracy theories and debunking  focus on high-level cognitive strategies for debunking, like what to say, how to say it, what not to say and what to focus on.

Some other communication elements, like when and where you should engage in dialogue, what kind of words you should use, who you should focus on, are however not the focus of the handbooks. So Konstantinos thought that a flyer would nicely complement the two handbooks. He prepared the initial draft, and together with a team of experts including Katy Tapper, Ullrich Ecker, Marie Juanchich, Hendrik Bruns, Teressa Gavaruzzi, Sunita Sah, and Ahmed Al-Rawi finalized the Communication Flyer within about 2 weeks. This flyer is now another helpful resource with its many tips on countering conspiracy theories and misinformation. A one-page summary listing the titles of all the tips has also been created as well as a one-page selection of top tips.

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #7

Posted on 14 February 2021 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... SkS Spotlights... Video of the Week... Reports of Note... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Article Review... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

IEA: India is on ‘cusp of a solar-powered revolution’ 

Solar Panel Array

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash 

India is entering a “solar-powered revolution” that will see it edge out coal as the nation’s top electricity source, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Solar power currently makes up just 4% of the nation’s power supply, but it is set to grow 18-fold and become the new “king of India’s generation fleet” by at least 2040.

The IEA’s India Energy Outlook 2021 finds that the energy demand of the world’s third-largest emitter will expand more than any other nation over the next two decades, edging out the EU to make it the third largest consumer.

Under existing policies, India’s emissions are also expected to grow by 50% during this period, offsetting all the cuts in European emissions.

Even then, its per-capita emissions will still be “well below” the global average, the IEA says, given that India has the world’s second largest populace with an estimated 1.39bn people.

The report also considers how a combination of coal shutdowns and new technologies, such as hydrogen and carbon capture, could get India on a path to net-zero emissions for its energy sector by the mid-2060s.

As the nation continues to industrialise and expand its cities, IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol says that “all roads to successful global clean energy transitions go via India”. 

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on the Carbon Brief website.

IEA: India is on ‘cusp of a solar-powered revolution’ by Josh Gabbatiss, Energy, Carbon Brief, Feb 9, 2021

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #7

Posted on 13 February 2021 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Feb 7, 2021 through Sat, Feb 13, 2021

Editor's Choice

EPA to jettison major Obama climate rule, as Biden eyes a bigger push

The Clean Power Plan had been tied up in litigation, then replaced by President Donald Trump

 Coal Fired Power Plants

The Biden administration indicated Friday it will not try to resurrect the Clean Power Plan, a controversial Obama-era policy that set climate pollution targets for every state’s electricity sector and gave officials flexibility on how they would make those reductions by the end of the decade.

Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a federal judicial filing, the Biden administration is seeking a court’s blessing to propose a new rule aimed at limiting greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s power plants, which represent the second-largest source of emissions.

“As a practical matter, the reinstatement of the [Clean Power Plan] would not make sense,” Joseph Goffman, the acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, wrote in an accompanying memo to the agency’s regional offices. He noted that the deadline for states to submit their plans had passed and that “ongoing changes in electricity generation” mean the goals of the Obama-era regulation already had been met.

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on the Washington Post website.  

EPA to jettison major Obama climate rule, as Biden eyes a bigger push by Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Climate & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 11, 2021

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Scientists sceptical of new bat study linking climate change to Covid-19 emergence

Posted on 12 February 2021 by Guest Author

This commentary, authored by Ayesha Tandon, was originally published on the Carbon Brief website on Feb 5, 2021. It is reposted below in its entirety. Click here to access the original article and comments posted on Carbon Brief.

 Bat

Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

A new study suggests that climate change is enabling the evolution of new coronaviruses by creating “hotspots” for multiple bat species. 

The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, finds that Yunnan province in southern China, as well as neighbouring regions of Myanmar and Laos, have become global hotspots of bat species “richness” over the past century. 

Around 40 species of bat have moved into the region, the authors say, bringing roughly 100 additional types of coronaviruses with them. This is due to climate change-induced changes in vegetation, they argue, adding that the “bat-borne ancestors” of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 – the latter being the virus that causes Covid-19 – are thought to have originated there.

However, many scientists not involved in the study say they have concerns about the data used in the study and the conclusions it draws. One tells Carbon Brief that the study makes “too many assumptions…to conclude that climate change could have increased the likelihood of the pandemic occurring in this way”.

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Investors flee Big Oil as portfolios get drilled

Posted on 11 February 2021 by Guest Author

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

While climate advocates have long had science on their side, Big Oil has relied on leveraging its financial might and political clout to cast doubt on the practicality of moving the global economy away from fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable path of renewable energy. But that financial might has been eroding for a decade, and in 2020 it took its biggest hit yet.

As the coronavirus pandemic prompted lockdowns, work-from-home arrangements, and curbs on travel and recreation, fuel demand tanked and oil prices collapsed. Traditional energy companies suffered staggering losses and their stock prices slid. Producers walked away from exploration and drilling projects, and banks and portfolio managers looked elsewhere for sound investments

The traditional energy industry has been the worst-performing sector on Wall Street for a decade even before the pandemic hit. In 2020, its backslide was historic. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund, whose holdings include ExxonMobil and Chevron, lost more than 50 percent between January and October. By some measures, Big Oil’s downturn, compared to the broader market, was the worst performance of any sector going back to before the Great Depression.

Financial hits are coming from several directions at once, with investment firm Goldman Sachs deciding for the first time to allocate more toward renewables than fossil fuels; automakers following the lead of Tesla and pouring money into developing electric vehicle technology to replace internal combustion engines; and the prices of solar and wind coming down as improvements in batteries and storage technology make them ever more practical.

As more movers and shakers begin to agree with climate advocates for financial as well as environmental reasons, a permanent shift within the energy industry seems to be taking shape.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #6, 2021

Posted on 10 February 2021 by doug_bostrom

The myth of "temporal independence?" 

Nordhaus 1992 hs been a fat target for disagreement, perhaps especially because the resultant DICE was an early entrant and certainly the most ambitious effort of its day, hence highly conspicuous, widely adopted, possibly prone to oversights especially given its underpinning "school" of economics. Michael Grubb et al 1992 pointed out some static features built into DICE that might not pan out. 25 years have passed since those observations. Now, Grubb et al 2021 explore how certain features baked into DICE have been propagated in community "wisdom" and have cemented themselves into educational and policy settings despite their being essentially mythological, unsupported, and yet having profound effects on how our future will unroll: 

Twenty-five years ago, Grubb et al. (1995) argued that an important issue for such assessment could be the dynamic characteristics of energy systems. They suggested that energy systems had potential to adapt to emission constraints, but in ways constrained by their very long-lived and path-dependent nature. A quarter of a century on, we review the accumulated evidence and modeling developments concerning these issues and their implications for assessing the global costs, benefits, and optimal trajectories of climate change mitigation—the main objective of DICE and other “aggregate cost-benefit analysis” (Weyant, 2017) models (hereafter, termed “DICE and related stylized models”).

Our point is simple. Across the now huge and diverse literature on DICE and related stylized models, the vast majority share one common structural assumption: that the cost of cutting emissions in a given period is unrelated to the previous pathway, and does not affect the subsequent prospects. This we term an assumption of temporal independence. Our review explores three main characteristics of “dynamic realism” (inertia, induced innovation, and path dependence) which demonstrate this to be a “myth”—a common and convenient assumption which is contradicted by the evidence.

Modeling myths: On DICE and dynamic realism in integrated assessment models of climate change mitigation fully walks readers through the implications of "getting it right" for economic models of dealing with climate change, and how attachment to myths may foreclose desirable future outcomes or at least make them far more expensive to realize. It's a large and complicated topic but the paper is remarkably digestible. Open access and free to read. 

Housekeeping

Additional article info: Most articles appearing in New Research now sport primary author and journal attributions. In some cases this information is not available via our automated assistance.

Notable authors: A lot of money changing direction is necessarily part of systematically dealing with anthropogenic climate change.  As with similar other events, there's strong incentive to help steer public policy in ways more favorable to legacy recipients of such money. Although rare, sometimes such activities become visible in academic publications. In New Research listings, an additional link denoted as "(author information)" may appear in a given article listing. This link is supplied for papers involving authors with a track record of serious conflicts in connection with their research on climate change, or bearing an outstanding debt in terms of having published papers with identified but unaddressed faults. This supplementary link will read to further reading on a problematic author's background information. 

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Environmentalists' Climate Change Myths

Posted on 9 February 2021 by Guest Author

Climate change is finally receiving the attention it deserves, but is it getting any clearer?! For those fighting climate change, it can often feel like a fight to get clear facts on the situation. So I'm here to put straight some common myths you might have come across on the way!?

0:00Intro

1:24? Committed Warming?

2:24? Feedbacks?

3:19? Aerosols?

3:45? Methane?

4:55? Experts?

6:22? Causes?

7:12? Solutions?

8:08? Too late?

9:08? Conclusion

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How long might the Arctic's 'Last Ice' area endure?

Posted on 8 February 2021 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Picture a logjam made of ice. And a bottleneck.

The large blocks of ice dam up a narrow passage. And prevent other large blocks of ice from passing through, while allowing smaller ones passage.

The longer that ice stays in place, the less time the ice upstream has to proceed southward.

That sums up the real-life situation on the upper edges of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland, home to the world’s oldest and thickest sea ice. Canada in 2019 designated the area the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area. To scientists and others it’s simply called “the Last Ice area.”

The story of that critical ice – critical because of its age and thickness – is the subject of independent videographer Peter Sinclair’s current “This is not Cool” video for Yale Climate Connections.

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #6

Posted on 7 February 2021 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Editorial of the Week... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Claim Review... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

Why call recent disasters ‘natural’ when they really aren’t?

Wildfires, storms, and viruses now are exacerbated by climate change. Perhaps we should call them what they are: disasters of our own making.

At a news conference in mid-August of last year, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced that there were 367 “known” wildfires burning in the state. “I say ‘known’ fires,” Newsom said, “but the prospect of that number going up is very real.” A couple of days later the number did, in fact, increase, to 560. A few weeks after that, many of the blazes were still burning, and one—the Doe fire, north of Santa Rosa—had grown into the largest conflagration in California history. The smoke from the state was so bad that it veiled the sun in New England. By the time most of California’s flames had been put out in late November, at least 31 people had been killed and tens of thousands evacuated.

Even as more than 15,000 firefighters were battling the California wildfires, Hurricane Laura was bearing down on Louisiana. As it passed over the Gulf of Mexico, it strengthened at a near-record rate. In just 24 hours it zoomed from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm. By the time it hit Cameron Parish, early in the morning of August 27, it was the fifth fiercest hurricane to make landfall in U.S. history. The storm caused at least 16 U.S. deaths and up to $12 billion in damages.

Twenty years ago, crises like the Doe fire and Hurricane Laura could have been described as “natural disasters.” Thanks to climate change, this is no longer the case. Right around the time of Newsom’s press conference, the mercury in Death Valley hit 130°F, the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth. A hotter, drier California is much more likely to burst into flames. The Gulf too is heating up, with dangerous consequences. Hurricanes draw their energy from the warmth of the surface waters and so are becoming stronger and more apt to intensify. I’ve been reporting on climate change for almost two decades, and I’ve come to think that we need a new term to describe these events. Perhaps we should call them “man-made natural disasters.”

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on the National Geographic website.

Why call recent disasters ‘natural’ when they really aren’t? by Elizabeth Kolbert, The Big Idea, National Geographic, Feb 2, 2021 (March 2021 Print Edition)

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #6

Posted on 6 February 2021 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Jan 31, 2021 through Sat, Feb 6, 2021

Editor's Choice

Got Climate Anxiety? These People Are Doing Something About It

Distress over global warming is increasing, but formal and informal support networks are springing up, too.

Eco-Anxiety Article in New York Times

Hoi Chan

After Britt Wray married in 2017, she and her husband began discussing whether or not they were going to have children. The conversation quickly turned to climate change and to the planet those children might inherit.

“It was very, very heavy,” said Dr. Wray, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “I wasn’t expecting it.” She said she became sad and stressed, crying when she read new climate reports or heard activists speak.

Jennifer Atkinson, an associate professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, Bothell, became depressed after students told her they couldn’t sleep because they feared social collapse or mass extinction.

There are different terms for what the two women experienced, including eco-anxiety and climate grief, and Dr. Wray calls it eco-distress. “It’s not just anxiety that shows up when we’re waking up to the climate crisis,” she said. “It’s dread, it’s grief, it’s fear.”

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on the New York Times website. The remaining portion of the article contains many embedded links to available resources.

Got Climate Anxiety? These People Are Doing Something About It by Susan Shain, Climate & Environment, New York Times, Feb 4, 2021

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