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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?

 


Why renewable energy was not to blame for the Texas blackouts

Posted on 8 March 2021 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

This month’s original “This is Not Cool” video aggregates segments of breaking news from a variety of Texas-based and national news outlets to provide a one-stop overview of the prolonged mid-February Texas power outage amidst freezing temperatures and heavy snow.

Experts commenting in the video agree that the outages, in the words of one of them, stemmed from thermal power plants, “a traditional power plant problem, not a clean energy problem.”

One important point emphasized by several of those experts is that severe Texas winter storms are likely to worsen in a warming world. Regardless of Texans’ personal views on the science of human-caused climate change, energy consultant Alisa Silvestein advises, those storms are “demonstrably getting worse.” She says Texas is “in the gun sights for a whole lot of extreme weather” and the state has to do more to winterize its diverse energy resources.

“We designed the entire grid for ‘Ozzie and Harriet,'” she says, referring to the American television sitcom that aired on ABC from October 1952 to April 1966. “We are already getting ‘Mad Max,'” she said, invoking a 1980 feature film in a near-future but dystopian Australia with life hard amid rampant deprivation, oppression, and/or terrorism.

Close observers of the Texas blackout, in particular those viewing it from afar via cable or network TV or radio, likely will recall having seen some of these same experts interviewed on the subject.  Many Texans, on the other hand, were on the midst of the blackouts, lacking power and access to expert analyses via conventional media. This video has the virtue of putting a wide cross-section of those experts in effect in one place, a six-minute film well suited for group presentations or classroom or distant learning.

 

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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #9

Posted on 7 March 2021 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Feb 28, 2021 through Sat, Mar 6, 2021

A note from the Skeptical Science team

Some of you may already have noticed that we've published fewer posts per day since February 28. The reason for this is that John Hartz - our long-time admin spending a lot of time keeping our publishing queue well-stocked - is taking a well-deserved break. In addition to selecting the articles to create the FB posts, John also published weekly summary posts based on them on our homepage like this previous one listing the articles published in the last week of February.

Kudos and big Thanks to John for all his work thus far over the last couple of years!

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Is Elon Musk right about Carbon Capture?

Posted on 5 March 2021 by Guest Author

It's hard to say which is more divisive... Elon Musk or Carbon Capture. But both feature heavily in today's climate change conversation. So is Elon right to be investing in negative emissions?

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

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Peter Brannen's Paleo Proxy Twitter Thread

Posted on 4 March 2021 by David Kirtley

Recently, award-winning science journalist, Peter Brannen penned an informative twitter thread (Figure 1) on how Earth scientists know what they know about Earth's deep-past climates. He wrote it as an addendum to his recent article in The Atlantic, The Terrifying Warning Lurking in the Earth’s Ancient Rock Record, which offers a backwards march through geologic time. Each leap back through the last 56 million years reveals a world growing warmer and warmer; each leap, a signpost for our own possible future journey.

Brannen's 1st tweetFigure 1. Peter Brannen's first tweet. Click image to go to his whole thread. Or click here to read the thread on the ThreadReader App.


His twitter thread explains some of the numerous ways geologists use to discover when and how past climates changed, namely, by teasing out various biogeochemical clues left in ice cores, deep-sea sediment cores, and other rock records. Readers of Skeptical Science are probably familiar with the CO2 record which reaches back ~800,000 years (Figure 2).  These are direct measurements of CO2 taken from bubbles of ancient air trapped in Antarctic ice sheets. We can also measure the methane (CH4) levels directly from the bubbles. But to get a record of past temperatures, or to go further back in time to find more ancient CO2 levels, we need to use indirect methods, or proxies, where one thing stands-in for another thing.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #9, 2021

Posted on 3 March 2021 by doug_bostrom

Why New Research?

Skeptical Science exists for the purpose of improving public capacity for critical thinking about anthropogenic  climate change. Effective critical analysis requires a firm basis of competent information, and for our purpose the wellsprings of fundamental understanding are found in peer-reviewed academic literature, our best grasp of how Earth's climate operates and how we're changing its operation and thus changing a myriad of dependencies on climate behavior. New Research provides a direct, distilled and easily accessed link to ongoing progress on understanding and coping with the climate change we're causing.

Beyond its immediate functional objective, there is a big picture visible in the content of New Research, with some details captured in that image themselves helpful for assessing the worth of concern over our recently invented form of rapid climate change. 

  • New Research includes all papers reasonably relevant to the topic of anthropogenic climate change appearing in our raw feeds from scientific publishers; our purpose is not to put a thumb on the scale of research output so as to cause a slant. Over the course of 2020 we listed some 4,569 articles in our weekly compilations. None of these disagree with the concept of our warming Earth due to GHG emissions. A small proportion of these publications identify selectively positive effects of global warming, notably and necessarily founded on agreement on the effect we're having on climate. We're working on a proper count of article authors, but positing the safe bet that an average of three authors are found collaborating on each paper, we can immediately conclude that those disagreeing with the possibility of anthropogenic climate change are so remote from actual scientific understanding that they must be either deeply ignorant or in a state of profoundly deep denial. Ratios are information.
  • Over the course of a year we list many hundreds of articles describing observations of climate change effects visible to instrumentation now, in the present. Again, this involves a prodigious number of authors. "It's not happening" is a non-starter; when this claim is heard, it's easy to provide factual correction by referring to any given issue of New Research.
  • The climate modeling and simulation section of New Research is a helpful indication that models have long been adequate as early warning indicators of what will happen to climate as we continue to add GHGs to the atmosphere. It's easy to see that model output is entirely up to the demands made on model capacity for the purpose of helping to answer big public policy questions. We also maintain a section on climate model advancement revealing where attention to model improvements is being concentrated. This ongoing work is for the most part concerned with zeroing in on smaller scale effects to refine understanding of particular aspects of climate behavior and to improve increasingly detailed regional climate modeling. "Models are unreliable" is a position of misinformation from the perspective of "do we know enough to shape policy?". 
  • "CO2 is plant food" and variations on this theme are increasingly common as it becomes more obvious that old-fashioned straight-up climate science denial is past its shelf life. This is perhaps a way of building acceptance of an insidious form of pollution, or more benignly plain old wishful thinking. In the biology and agricultural sections of New Research is a fuller picture of how Earth's vegetable biome and its dependents may fare as we change our climate. More particularly to us humans the section devoted to agriculture and agronomy is informative, where the picture is cloudy with a distinctly dark tinge. "CO2 is plant food" is a gross oversimplification and in fact appears to be glossing over features unfolding as significant net negatives in our emerging future. Unfortunately, perusing relevant research to any similar dismissive and intellectually truncated summation of our accidental climate modification will yield the same general result.

Those are just a few examples of the meta-message of New Research when a week's listings are asked "what's the takeaway?. No spin is necessary. Scientifically speaking, we have our act together on climate change, and those claiming otherwise or offering unrealistically hopeful assessments have little or no grounds for their stance, just by a glance at any week's edition.  

Research on public policy replies to climate change for mitigation and adaptation purposes found in New Research paints a fairly grim picture of the monumental challenge we face in coming to grips with our problem. The tractability of this problem is as much a matter of human nature and our innate ability for certain modes of cognition as is it down to technical capacity. We won't be able to optimize our way out of the trouble we've created without doing a better job of thinking. New Research is a small part of this work. 

Housekeeping:

We're gradually incorporating more API opportunities for sourcing article metadata in our listings. Due to constraints on available labor, this is a rolling operation. Readers may notice that (in this issue, for instance) some articles are missing some or all metadata, a situation soon to be corrected as API integration is driven further. This missing information is not a reflection on the worth of a given article.

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The internet's big carbon footprint need not doom the climate

Posted on 2 March 2021 by Guest Author

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

For many, people life moved online in 2020. From preschool to dissertation defenses, first dates to weddings, video calls brought us together. To entertain ourselves, we streamed concerts and movies, played video games, and scrolled social media.

Demand for internet services was already rising before the COVID-19 pandemic, and growth will continue once people are able to gather safely in person again. That’s raising concerns about the electricity needed to power servers, networks, and devices – and the resulting consequences for the climate.

Eric Masanet, a professor in sustainability science for emerging technologies at UC Santa Barbara, says the internet sector accounts for 2 to 4% of global energy use. Data centers alone are estimated to account for 1% of global energy demand, more than many countries use.

But Masanet said it is not helpful to bash people over their internet use.

“You shouldn’t feel bad about it – about working from home, about streaming more, about sending emails,” he said. “People should know that they don’t have to feel guilty about using digital technology.”

So far, improved energy efficiency has helped check the internet’s power consumption despite soaring demand. And a switch to renewable sources of electricity could make it more climate-friendly. Large technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have all been investing in renewable energy projects. But experts say it is hard to monitor how effective this transition is because the leading technology companies are large, opaque, and largely unregulated.

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Will jobs! jobs! more jobs! make free-market case for climate action?

Posted on 1 March 2021 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Picture a near-term future in which politicized and partisan shifts wither away and disparate parties come together to celebrate a victory over climate change threats, backing free-market principles supported by many. And picture too widespread middle-class and working-class populations strongly backing climate initiatives in part because of the abundant job opportunities they provide.

Want to do more than just picture it?  Watch the latest original Yale Climate Connections “This Is Not Cool” video.

“We will win this fight on a classical American libertarian individual-rights victory that will be bipartisan,” says MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ award winner Saul Griffith, CEO of Otherlab, an independent research and design firm. Republicans “will find religion in the next few years because finally they will be able to declare that the free market has won.” As examples, he points to the experiences with solar energy, batteries, electric vehicles, HVAC systems, and heat pumps – “all have matured because of the power of capitalism and the free market.”

Griffith says he’s convinced that there’s “no jobs program in history that’s as big as the jobs program that will be decarbonizing America.”

Newly confirmed Secretary of Energy and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm advises that in the energy marketplace, “our economic competitors and other nations are in the game and are eating us for lunch. We can either be at the table, or we can be on the table.”

The video points to Biden administration hopes of having new renewable energy job opportunities in workers’ “own communities,” and also to General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s recent commitment to having the company produce only fully electric-powered cars and light trucks by 2035. It quotes experts pointing to insurance interests’, banks’, and asset management firms’ saying they will cut back or eliminate funding for oil pipelines. Underwriters’ supportive positions on renewable vs. fossil fuel energy activities, according to Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan, are especially notable in that insurers “don’t have a political dog in the fight.”

“Maybe government isn’t going to get their act together and do this,” Hoffman says, “and insurance companies may do it for them.”

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

Posted on 27 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 21, 2021 through Sat, Feb 27, 2021

Editor's Choice

Climate Change is Weakening the Ocean Currents That Shape Weather on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The change in the main ocean heat pump could bring more heat waves to Europe, increase sea level rise in North America and force fish to move farther north.

Ocean Surface

Since the end of the last ice age, a swirling system of ocean-spanning currents has churned consistently in the Atlantic, distributing heat energy along the ocean surface from the tropics toward the poles, with heavy, cold water slowly flowing back toward the equator along the bottom of the sea.

Collectively known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, the currents played a key role in shaping the climate of eastern North America and Western Europe, and thus the development of civilizations there. But in the 20th century, the circulation has weakened more than at any other time during at least the last 1,000 years, new research shows.

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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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