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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #22B

Posted on 1 June 2013 by John Hartz

  • California native fish species risk extinction
  • Can Pakistan survive climate change?
  • Energy system needs 'full transformation'
  • EU seeks 2014 deadline for nations' greenhouse gas plans
  • Erratic US 'weather whiplash' costly
  • Geologists explore climate’s influence on volcanoes
  • Heidi Cullen looks at climate change and weather extremes
  • Swiss alpine mountains lose their glue
  • The inevitable climate catastrophe
  • UN climate chief urges deeper pollution cuts 
  • Why did the 400ppm carbon milestone cause barely a ripple?
  • World's largest REDD project finally approved in Indonesia

California native fish species risk extinction

Climate change may cause the extinction of 82 percent of California's native fish species, including iconic ones such as Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt, according to a new study.

The peer-reviewed study by fishery experts at UC Davis created a framework to measure how vulnerable numerous species are to climate change. It assesses habitat conditions, climate change projections and temperature sensitivity for the 121 native and 50 nonnative fish species that inhabit California.

Climate change study: 82 percent of Calif. native fish species risk extinction by Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee, May 31, 2013

Can Pakistan survive climate change?

"The whole climatalogical system is being disrupted," said Shafqat Kakakhel, former deputy executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme and a leading voice on climate change in Pakistan. As temperatures continue to rise, he said, "you will either have monsoons too early or too much. It's happening in India, and it's happening in Pakistan." 

Can Pakistan survive climate change? by Lisa Friedman, ClimateWire, May 28, 2013

Erratic US 'weather whiplash' costly

America has some of the wildest weather on the planet, and it turns out those extremes – which run from heat waves and tornadoes to floods,hurricanes and droughts – carry a heavy price tag.

Climate studies have associated more frequent and intense weather events – such as heavy storms and heat waves – with climate change. The wild swings in weather across the midwest over the last few years – including heat waves, floods, and drought – have been cited as an example of what lies ahead with future climate change.

report from the environmental research organisation World Watch Institute on Wednesday provided further evidence of the costs of those extreme shifts – known as "weather whiplash".

Erratic US 'weather whiplash' accounts for billions of dollars in global losses by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, May 29, 2013

EU seeks 2014 deadline for nations' greenhouse gas plans

All countries should outline their long-term plans for curbing greenhouse gases next year, earlier than favoured by Washington, to revive the stalled fight against climate change, the European Union proposed on Tuesday.

EU seeks 2014 deadline for nations' greenhouse gas plans by Alister Doyle, Reuters, May 28, 2013

Geologists explore climate’s influence on volcanoes

If there’s a lesson David Ferguson has learned in his early years as a volcanologist, it’s this: Always carry a big hammer.

“You just have to pound away, smash as much rock as you can,” said Ferguson, a postdoc at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “There’s nothing more frustrating than having gone all that way and then you discover your hammer isn’t big enough.”

He will need that persistence as he taps away at one of the most vexing problems in volcanology: Does the rock hold evidence that climate changes have, over time, caused a surge of volcanic eruptions?

Geologists explore climate’s influence on volcanoes by Paul Voosen, The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 24, 2013

Heidi Cullen looks at climate change and weather extremes

Heidi Cullen, chief climatologist for Climate Central, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday (May 26) to discuss the scientific evidence linking some recent extreme weather events to manmade global warming. She was part of a panel that also featured Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society; Jeffrey Kluger, science editor for Time Magazine; and WFOR's chief meteorologist David Bernard. Cullen said the science linking tornadoes, such as the EF-5 twister that struck Moore, Okla., on May., 20, is unclear, but more confidence exists about how global warming is affecting the odds of severe heat waves, rainstorms, and wildfires. 

Heidi Cullen Looks at Climate, Extremes on Face the Nation (includes video), Climate Central, May 28, 2013

Swiss alpine mountains lose their glue

With global warming, the glaciers are melting. Once stretching to the edge of town, they now end high in the mountains. Moreover, their greenish glacial water is forming lakes. In summer, when the melting accelerates, floodwaters threaten the area. But the avalanche witnessed by Mr. Bomio shows that the shrinking of the glaciers removes a kind of buttress supporting parts of the mountains, menacing the region with rock slides.

As Glaciers Melt, Alpine Mountains Lose Their Glue, Threatening Swiss Village by John Tagliabue, Grindlewad Journal, New York Times, May 29, 2013

The inevitable climate catastrophe

About 13,000 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere experienced an episode of cooling (probably after a comet collided with the earth) that wiped out most species there. In the 14th century, a combination of climatic oscillations and major epidemics caused severe depopulation and disruption in much of Europe and Asia. In the 17th century, the planet experienced some of the coldest weather recorded in the past millennium. To the English poet John Milton, who experienced these catastrophes, it seemed like "a universe of death."

The Inevitable Climate Catastrophe by Geoffry Parker, The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 28, 2013

UN climate chief urges deeper pollution cuts 

Governments worldwide must step up efforts to save the planet from global warming in the biggest challenge humanity has ever undertaken, according to United Nations’ climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Developing and industrialised nations aren’t doing enough to prevent the global temperature rising 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times, Figueres said in an interview during the Carbon Expo conference in Barcelona. The global average has already risen by about 0.8 of a degree in the past century, according to the National Research Council in Washington.

“While it’s clear that governments at an international level are walking in the same direction, it is also clear that they’re doing so at a pace that is unacceptable to science,” Figueres said. “Science requires an acceleration both in the scale and the speed of national efforts.” 

UN Urges Deeper Pollution Cuts in Biggest Challenge for Humanity by Ewa Krukowska and Alessandro Vitelli, Bloomberg, May 30, 2013

Why did the 400ppm carbon milestone cause barely a ripple?

Irrationally we give space to big round numbers, inject them with meaning and use them to reflect or trigger alarm. It was odd, then, that when a round number came along, symbolic of a genuine threat to stable civilisation, one that was worthy of reflection if not a little alarm, it caused barely a ripple. Newspapers especially, for whom marking round numbers is the easiest excuse to report an issue and fill pages, mostly yawned with disinterest.

Why did the 400ppm carbon milestone cause barely a ripple? by Andrew Simms, Environment Blog, The Guardian, May 30, 2013

World's largest REDD project finally approved in Indonesia

Rimba Raya, the world's largest REDD+ project, has finally been approved by the Indonesian government and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), a leading certification standard for carbon credits.

The 64,000-hectare forest carbon project in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan Province on the island of Borneo is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 119 million tons over its 30-year life-span. The emissions reductions will come from avoiding drainage of area's carbon dense peatlands and conversion of its forests to oil palm plantations.

World's largest REDD project finally approved in Indonesia, Mongabay, May 30, 2013 

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Re The inevitable climate catastrophe

    About 13,000 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere experienced an episode of cooling (probably after a comet collided with the earth) that wiped out most species there.

    Doesn't sound very likely, does he mean wiped out most megafauna? I presume this is the Quaternary extinction event he is referring to?  I think the causes behind this extinction and the precise timeline are more contested than is suggested here.

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  2. I'm under the impression that most megafauna were killed by humans: they had, after all, survived several episodes of glaciation-deglaciation up to that point.

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  3. On the other hand, the article has this well-phrased (one might say Sphinxesque, if one were a fan of Mystery Men) gem:

    In short, we can pay to prepare now or we can prepare to pay much more later.

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  4. The author of the article, The Inevitable Climate Change catastrophe is Geoffrey Parker, a professor of history at Ohio State University. He is the author, most recently, of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (Yale University Press, 2013). His article appears to be a very brief summary of his book. More to the point, Parker is a historian, not a climate scientist.

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  5. Parker is a very fine scholar and an acknowledged expert on 17th century Europe.  For those who don't want to read the whole book, a good summary was published by Parker as a long article in the prestigious American Historical Review a couple of years ago.  This book is essentially a followup to a longstanding historical discussion of the "17th century crisis," which followed the realization some decades ago of parallelisms between social, political, and demographic crises in Europe and China.  Parker ably summarizes a large volume of historical research on this topic and links it to the nadir of the Little Ice Age.  This is a theme that other scholars have discussed but he makes an effort to produce a truly global analysis.  As a demonstration of climate fluctuation impacts on a pretty well documented period of human history, this is a very good book and a really sobering reminder that changes of smaller magnitude than predicted for the next century under business as usual scenarios can have a profound impact. 

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