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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #36B

Posted on 7 September 2013 by John Hartz

  • A bet on the environment
  • Europe offers U.S. a deal, hoping for global rules on airline emissions
  • Existential risks to our planetary life-support systems
  • Faith in facts? Climate change, spin and the Australian election
  • Flights in the Pacific fingered as a big climate culprit
  • Global warming clock is at five minutes to midnight
  • How to prove a link between a warmer arctic and wacky weather
  • Ice melting faster in Greenland, Antarctica in UN leak
  • Research cites role of warming in extremes
  • Why the jury's still out on the risk of Arctic methane catastrophe
  • Why trust climate models? It's a matter of simple science
  • Wildfires and climate change

A bet on the environment

Just after his sophomore year at Yale in 2002, Billy Parish stood before a rapidly retreating glacier in India that feeds the Ganges River, convinced that he had come face to face with climate change and that he had to do something about it. 

It did not take long. Back in the United States, he started a youth coalition that, within a few years, had mobilized thousands of people with similar environmental concerns. He never made it to his junior year at Yale.

In the years since, Mr. Parish has come to another conclusion: that capitalism is a powerful force that can be harnessed to combat global warming. Now 31, he is well into making that his next mission, building an online solar energy investment platform that could turn ordinary Americans into mini-financiers.

A Bet on the Environment by Diane Cardwell, New York Times, Sep 2, 2013

Europe offers U.S. a deal, hoping for global rules on airline emissions

Seeking to end years of acrimony, the European Union has made concessions to the United States to try to gain support for global rules on airline emissions.

Under the arrangement, the European Union would pare back its regulations, applying them only to its own airspace. The original plan, which the United States and other countries rejected, would have imposed charges for emissions over an airline’s entire route if the flight began or ended in Europe.

In exchange, Europe is pushing for a global deal on aviation emissions.

Europe Offers U.S. a Deal, Hoping for Global Rules on Airline Emissions by James Kanter, New York Times, Sep 5, 2013

Flights in the Pacific fingered as a big climate culprit

A new study may make you think twice before jetting off to Australia or New Zealand this fall. Research by a team from MIT’s aeronautics department found that out of 83,000 worldwide flight routes studied, flights to and from Australia and New Zealand during the month of October create the highest amount of a powerful global warming pollutant, known as tropospheric ozone.

The new findings come at a time when the aviation industry, which has the fastest-growing emissions within the transportation sector, faces the challenge of trying to slow its global warming footprint. The European Commission has projected that by 2020, despite gains in fuel efficiency, global international aviation emissions may be around 70 percent higher than in 2005, and they could grow by 300 to 700 percent by 2050. 

Flights in the Pacific Fingered as a Big Climate Culprit by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, Sep 4, 2013

Existential risks to our planetary life-support systems

It is not news that we are over stretching our planetary support systems: we have known for some time. In a 2009 keynote paper in Nature titled “A safe operating space for humanity”, a group of 26 prominent scientists showed three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries – boundaries we must stay within to keep Earth safe – have already been overstepped (see Figure 1). Those boundaries include:

  • climate change
  • biodiversity loss
  • the biogeochemical cycles.

Existential risks to our planetary life-support system by Andrew Glikson, The Conversation, Sep 5, 2013

Faith in facts? Climate change, spin and the Australian election

Fact-checking doesn't seem to make politicians more honest. It's the needs of extractive industries that determine policy.

Faith in facts? Climate change, spin and the Australian election by Declan Kuch, Political Science, The Guardian, Sep 5, 2013 

Global warming clock is at ‘five minutes to midnight’

Humanity has pushed the world’s climate system to the brink, leaving itself only scant time to act, the head of the UN’s group of climate scientists said on Monday.

“We have five minutes before midnight,” warned Rajendra Pachauri, whose organisation will this month release the first volume of a new assessment of global warming and its impacts.

Global warming clock is at five minutes to midnight, Agence France-Presse, The Raw Story, Sep 2, 2013

How to prove a link between a warmer Arctic and wacky weather

Are warmer temperatures in the far north affecting the jet stream?

How to Prove a Link Between a Warmer Arctic and Wacky Weather by Stephanie Paige Ogburn, ClimateWire, Scientific American, Sep 4, 2013

Ice Melting Faster in Greenland, Antarctica in UN Leak

Ice in Antarctica and Greenland is disappearing faster and may drive sea levels higher than predicted this century, according to leaked United Nations documents.

Greenland’s ice added six times more to sea levels in the decade through 2011 than in the previous 10 years, according to a draft of the UN’s most comprehensive study on climate change. Antarctica had a fivefold increase, and the UN is raising its forecast for how much the two ice sheets will add to Earth’s oceans by 2100.

The changes in the planet’s coldest areas are a “very good indicator” of a warming planet, according to Walt Meier, a research scientist with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Ice Melting Faster in Greenland, Antarctica in UN Leak by Alex Morales, Bloomberg News, Sep 5, 2013

Research cites role of warming in extremes

Scientists have long predicted that global warming will worsen heat waves and torrential rainfalls. In some parts of the world, that is exactly what happened last year, climate scientists reported Thursday.

Rising temperatures add energy to the atmosphere, and computer models warn that this will produce wider and wilder swings in temperature and rainfall and alter prevailing wind patterns. In examining a dozen extreme weather events last year, scientists found that evidence that human activity — in particular, emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels — was a partial culprit in about half of them.

Research Cites Role of Warming in Extremes by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, Sep 5, 2013

Why the jury's still out on the risk of Arctic methane catastrophe

Can scientists overcome huge uncertainties to pin down how close, or far, we might be to a tipping point? 

Why the jury's still out on the risk of Arctic methane catastrophe by Nafeez Ahmed, Ezrth insight, The Guardian, Sep 5, 2013

Why trust climate models? It’s a matter of simple science

Talk to someone who rejects the conclusions of climate science and you’ll likely hear some variation of the following: “That’s all based on models, and you can make a model say anything you want.” Often, they'll suggest the models don't even have a solid foundation of data to work with—garbage in, garbage out, as the old programming adage goes. But how many of us (anywhere on the opinion spectrum) really know enough about what goes into a climate model to judge what comes out?

Climate models are used to generate projections showing the consequences of various courses of action, so they are relevant to discussions about public policy. Of course, being relevant to public policy also makes a thing vulnerable to the indiscriminate cannons on the foul battlefield of politics.

Skepticism is certainly not an unreasonable response when first exposed to the concept of a climate model. But skepticism means examining the evidence before making up one’s mind. If anyone has scrutinized the workings of climate models, it’s climate scientists—and they are confident that, just as in other fields, their models are useful scientific tools.

Why trust climate models? It’s a matter of simple science by Scott K Johnson, Ars Technica, Sep 5, 2013 

Wildfires and climate change

The huge wildfire scorching one of America’s most beloved national parks, Yosemite, has rained ash on San Francisco’s water supply and jolted the nation.

Experts say this is just a foretaste of major fires to come, in the United States and much of the world.

Increasing incursions by humans into forests, coupled with altered forest ecology and climate change, will make fires bigger and more destructive, with implications for air quality as well as homes and infrastructure.

“We face the increased risk of fires almost everywhere,” said Chris Field, director of the department of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who is co-chairman of a working group for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Wildfires and Climate Change by Kate Galbraith, Green Column, New York Times, Sep 4, 2013

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. Well, the huge fire in SF and another one in Sydney? Wait a moment, it's supposed to be winter down under... Apparently, we alredy have summer here, so no surprise. Fire seasons on both sides of equator, previously disjoint, start to overlap.

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