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2012 SkS Bi-Weekly News Roundup #1

Posted on 16 November 2012 by John Hartz

This is the first edition of a biweekly roundup of selected news articles and blog posts about climate change and its impacts. This new series replaces the weekly roundup. 

Arctic Methane

A half mile below the ground at Prudhoe Bay, above the vast oil field that helped trigger construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, a drill rig has tapped what might one day be the next big energy source.

Looks like ice, burns like a candle: Frozen methane hydrate may be new Alaska energy source, AP/Washington Post, Nov 11, 2012

Climate Model Forecasts

For decades the leading models have predicted an average rise of 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.7 degrees Celsius), with models on the low end predicting a rise of 3 degrees F (~1.6 degrees C) and those on the high end predicting 8 degrees F (5.3 degrees C). Now a new analysis in the leading journal Science suggests that the higher end forecasts are more accurate.

Forecast: Hotter Climate Models Likely Right by Julia Whitney. Mother Jones, Nov 7, 2012

Cooling Upper Atmosphere

"We now have direct evidence that a major driver of upper atmospheric climate is changing," study lead author John Emmert, an upper atmospheric physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., told

Global Warming Gas, Carbon Dioxide, Found To Affect Orbiting Satellites & Space Junk by Charles Choi, The Huffington Post, Nov 12, 2012

Flooding: Italy 

As coastal areas of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are just drying out from horrific flooding prompted by Hurricane Sandy, more watery disaster has struck 4,200 miles away in Italy. Following torrential rains, Venice is experiencing unusually bad flooding.

It's the fourth time floods have exceeded norms there since 2000.

Venice floods attributed to climate change by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, Nov 13, 2002

Leading Italian meteorologist Mario Giuliacci said: The Mediterranean has warmed up by 1C to 1.5C in the last 20 years, meaning that Atlantic weather fronts passing over it absorb more vapour and more heat, which means more energy. And that means ever more violent storms and more rain when the fronts hit Italy.

Italy floods prompt fears for future of farming  by Tom Kington, Guardian (UK)  Nov 13, 2012

Fossil Fuel Resources

But the truly global implications of the International Energy Agency's flagship report for 2012 lie elsewhere, in the quietly devastating statement that no more than one-third of already proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burned by 2050 if the world is to prevent global warming exceeding the danger point of 2C. This means nothing less than leaving most of the world's coal, oil and gas in the ground or facing a destabilised climate, with its supercharged heatwaves, floods and storms.

IEA report reminds us peak oil idea has gone up in flames, Damian Carrington's Environmental Blog, The Guradian (UK), Nov 12, 2012 

Global Demand for Coal

In all, coal use is expected to increase 50 percent by 2035, said Milton Catelin, chief executive of the World Coal Association in London.

“Last year, coal represented 30 percent of world energy, and that’s the highest share it has had since 1969,” he said.

Within a year or two, coal will surpass oil as the planet’s primary fuel, Mr. Catelin predicted.

With China and India Ravenous for Energy, Coal’s Future Seems Assured by Peter Galuszka, New York Times, Nov 12, 2012

Greenland Ice Sheet

In a new study from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, scientists show how the northern part of the Greenland ice sheet might be very vulnerable to a warming climate.

Enhanced Melting of Northern Greenland in a Warm Climate, ScienceDaily, Nov 9, 2012 

Public Opinion: Australia

Australians grossly overestimate the proportion of people who deny that climate change is happening, a CSIRO study has found.

Climate change deniers are rarer than we think by Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation, Nov 12, 2012

Public Policy: New Zealand

Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government's decision not to sign on for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, saying the country is playing its part in combating climate change.

Key defends decision not to stick with Kyoto Protocol by Rebecca Quilliam, The New Zealand Herald, Nov 11, 2012 

Public Policy: US

The whole issue of climate change was virtually absent during the presidential campaign until Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. The devastating superstorm - a rarity for the Northeast - and an election that led to Democratic gains have shoved global warming back into the conversation. So has the hunt for answers to a looming budget crisis.

Global warming talk heats up, revisits carbon tax by Seth Borenstein, AP, Nov 13, 2012

The number of climate-change believers has undoubtedly risen still further since Superstorm Sandy, which powerfully demonstrated that global warming is not a theory about the indeterminate future, but a snowballing catastrophe that is with us right now. A study by insurance giant Munich Re, released days before Sandy struck, reported that North America has suffered $1.06tn in extreme weather damage since 1980. That mind-boggling number is five times the average loss in prior decades.

Obama's Mandate to Tackle Climate Change by Richard Schiffman, the Huffington Post, Nov 12, 2012

Superstorm Sandy is fueling concerns about climate change and how it’s inflating the costs and risks of extreme weather, according to a new post-election poll from Zogby Analytics. The poll shows key voting groups in the 2012 election – Hispanics, women, young voters – are among those most concerned with confronting climate change now and protecting America’s air, water, wildlife and other natural resources.

After Sandy, Poll Shows GOP Faces Growing Environmental Divide with Voters by John Zogby. Forbes, Nov 14, 2012 

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that his administration has not done enough to combat global warming but said he hopes to begin his second term by opening a national “conversation” on climate change.

Obama wants national ‘conversation’ on climate change; no legislation proposed, AP/Washington Post, Nov 14, 2012


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Comments 1 to 9:

  1. I don't know that the idea of peak oil has "gone up in flames". Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I always interepreted it as 'it is progressively becoming less economically feasible to use oil'. After all, true "peak" oil was the point before humans took any of it out of the earth. Just because we've discovered more oil doesn't mean there is more oil. We've been drawing down a finite resource since day 1. What oil remains will be harder to extract than in decades past, so it will cost more to do so. And this doesn't even factor in the environmental costs that continue to mount and will hopefully become fully internalized in the price of oil. The price has been rising and will continue to rise until consumers are no longer willing to bear the burden.
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  2. One of the interesting issues with melting of the clathrates is how much will be solvated into the ocean, which is not saturated in methane. At 0 C, the solubility is about 0.04 g/kg water or, 0.04/16 moles, but there is a lot of water! Slow melting with currents bearing the saturated water away may not be so much of a problem.
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  3. BWTrainer @ 1 I agree with the spirit of your interpretation of Peak Oil as 'it is progressively becoming less economically feasible to use oil'. The peak originally referred to the greatest volume of production attainable with current technology, but it could also be the peak we allow to be produced, if we place a limit on our consumption in order to rein in AGW. Eventually, oil production/consumption will cease when the Energy Return On Energy Input (EROEI) equation approaches unity: when it takes the energy from a barrel of oil to recover a barrel of oil. Arriving at that point implies that we would have recovered/burnt all accessible oil in the meantime, which would only be possible under pretty much a business as usual scenario. Clearly, humanity needs to decide that it has a prudent limit to the amount of oil that should be recovered, irrespective of whether more could be recovered. In other words, we should decide that we have already recovered most of what the biosphere can absorb before tipping the climate and ocean acidity over the edge of an environmental cliff. I have a low opinion of humanity's proclivity to making wise choices, however. I rate our chances of making the prudent decision as very low. Our only hope is for some unforeseen calamity to befall the world's oil wells, terminating oil production. Without fossil oil to power mining operations, recovery of coal would also drop dramatically. At a stroke, this would eliminate the major drivers of AGW. The resulting food shortages and anarchy would kill off a good proportion of humanity as well, thus solving the over-population quandry at the same time. Failing the loss of oil supplies, I see little chance of us avoiding major changes to the climate, which will also result in food shortages and anarchy. If there is any intelligent life in space, now would be a good time for smart aliens to announce themselves and show us how to escape from the grave we are digging ourselves. But then, perhaps we are not worth saving.
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  4. This article in Conversations by Stephan Lewandowsky is worth mentioning in this roundup. I haven't seen Stephan speaking so decidedly and loudly about the denialism yet. His scientific articles are opbviously toned as apropriate but the popular news does not need to be... And I think Stephan realy knows what he's talking about because he's been researching cognitive science for quite a while.
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  5. Another approach to the topic of Arctic methane than the one in the lead article above: Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters With James Hansen, Natalia Shakhova, Peter Wadhams & David Wasdel... (Thanks to prokaryotes at RC for the link.)
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  6. Re: Peak oil Sorry Peak oil is very simple: it is the point where extraction rate of crude oil is maximal. We have been on a plateau for 8 years running. Do not be fooled by claims based on "All Liquids", NGL and "refinery gains" are not oil, bio-fuels with a lousy EROEI are not oil. On a net BTU basis, liquid fuels are basically flat over the past 8 years... The peak is ultimately geologic in nature, that does not mean that economics or political events are not important. The upside of the Hubbert curve was driven by geology, however, the shape of the plateau and downside will be driven by economics.... New reserves such as tight oil and gas will not result in a significant increase in global production. To put the Bakken into perspective, if one doubled the latest USGS estimate of recoverable oil to ~60 billion barrels, it would change the worlds proven and probable reserves by about 5%.... Also do not become overly enamoured of EROEI arguments, it is a question of profiting from BTU arbitrage. High value liquid fuels produced by utilizing lower cost NG and coal will continue as long as a profit is to be made. Hence, my referring to the US Corn-to-ethanol industry as our very own version of the Easter Island logging industry....
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  7. Flakmeister, that's precisely our problem. The world we live in is dominated by the MROMI equation, where M = Money. Money knows no ethics; profit knows no social justice. Unless we can legislate in ways that make the Fossil Fuel MROMI equation unattractive, we will be condemned to sit on the sidelines of history, wringing our hands and saying "Told you so!", while watching our planet go to hell in a handbasket. Corn-to-ethanol is a perfect example of blinkered vision.
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  8. Flakmeister@6: As a geologist, who's fairly familiar with the peak oil rationale, your thoughts are quite illuminating, and WAY shorter and to the point than almost any I've seen, even on The Oil Drum. Though I am almost always about being as positive as possible, let me add this much to your last sentence, and this is a position I've held since the early days of using 'corn squeezin's' to augment liquid vehicle fuels: Food-as-fuel is an utterly and totally irrational, immoral, and *stupid* use of inputs as ever there was. It *only* exists because of the monied interested (read: large agribidness welfare, aided and abetted by stupid gummint policies), the evidence of which I see, quite literally, on a daily basis as I live surrounded--to the tune of 30K+ acres--by the stuff. In a world where food shaortages exist, it ought to be outlawed. Bottom line is, the peak oil hypothesis hasn't gone "up in flames:" it has simply been shown to be a hypothesis that has added data, and therefore, becomes a newer, better-supported hypothesis. We *will*, one day, run out of petroleum: I'm not sure we'll survive that long, if current studies are anywhere clsoe to correct, vis-a-vis global temperature rise. Now, Dikran Marsupial will likely moderate me because, as he has stated on a prior occassion, of me "holding back." >;-)
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  9. Re: Vroomie Much appreciated, I just celebrated my 6th anniversary at the Drum. Any serious student of Peak Oil has passed through the site. The commentators were guilty of predicting a "fast crash" and that is not being bourne out. They underestimated "The Last Magician of Modern Monetary Theory", i.e. printing a few trillion dollars to throw into a deflationary death spiral can buy time. Personally, I think that we are are on the wrong side of the Event Horizon, in a large part because of Peak Oil... As for AGW, I was never a real skeptic, I just never appreciated how fine the line was upon which our dear species traipses through our existence... I also think that the solution to Fermi's Paradox is now evident; can a technological society overcome the fossil fuel transition and their variation of climate change? Every star warms as it ages, therefore a GHG richer environment is necessary for a liquid water planetary biosphere earlier on. It seems like it is therefore guarenteed for a planet to have more fossil fuels than which it can safely burn...
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