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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #42A

Posted on 15 October 2013 by John Hartz

  • Australia to see worse drought thanks to intensifying El Niño
  • Brazil in reverse
  • Climate change concerns loom at Arctic conference
  • Climate change fight needs game attitude
  • Government shutdown freezes climate science
  • Group blasts oilsands in U.S.
  • Study links warmer water temps to greater levels of mercury in fish
  • The Bay of Bengal, in peril from climate change
  • The coming plague
  • UN stance on biofuels 'legitimises food violations', claim campaigners
  • What should be done about climate change refugees?
  • World coal consumption to surpass oil by 2020

Australia to see worse drought thanks to intensifying El Niño

New research by the Bureau of Meteorology – published - shows El Niño will intensify between 2050 and 2100 thanks to climate change.

El Niño is a complex interaction between air and sea in the tropical Pacific which controls many of our weather patterns. The findings show that eastern Australia will see worse droughts, while the central and eastern Pacific will see increased rainfall.

During an El Niño – properly known as El Niño-Southern Oscillation or ENSO – parts of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean warm more than usual, while the seas off eastern Australia cool. As warm water produces more moisture, the eastern and central Pacific see increased rainfall, while Australia experiences lower-than-average rainfall or drought.

Australia to see worse drought thanks to intensifying El Niño by James Whitemore, Teh Conversation, Oct 14, 2013

Brazil in reverse

In the last five years, Brazil has joined the ranks of the world’s big polluters, whose main source of greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuels.

Climate pollution in South America’s giant is taking on a First World pattern, according to José Marengo, one of the authors of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose first volume was released Sept. 30.

And this is due, in part, to the country’s policies to foment industry and consumption. Tax exemptions to stimulate car and motorcycle sales had a positive effect on economic growth. But they also fuelled a surge in the number of cars in circulation.

Brazil in Reverse by Fabiola Ortiz, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 11, 2013

Climate change concerns loom at Arctic conference

As the inaugural Arctic Circle conference got officially underway here Saturday, a specter loomed over the proceedings. The conference, which brings together policymakers, business leaders, researchers from across the world to discuss issues important to the Arctic, convened with messages from dignitaries of Iceland, Greenland, the United States, United Nations, Canada and Russia, and all of them shared a concern -- the outsized impact of climate change in the Arctic and what it means for far northern populations going forward.

Climate change concerns loom at Arctic conference by Ben Anderson, Alaska Dispatch, Oct 12, 2013

Climate change fight needs game attitude

It's obvious. Global efforts to combat climate change have failed. International summits are full of hot air and greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. If a country bails on a climate commitment, they pay a price of, well, zero.

Turns out that's okay, at least according to game theory analyses by researchers at the University of Lisbon. Their models suggest that punishment by global institutions has no effect. They also say that global summits actually impede cooperation.

Climate Change Fight Needs Game Attitude Podcast by David Bielo, 60 Second Earth, Scientific American, Oct 13, 2013

Government shutdown freezes climate science

Researchers are barred from Antarctica at present, with a potentially big impact on Antarctic monioring.

Government Shutdown Freezes Climate Science by Stephanie Paige Ogburn & Christa Marshall and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Oct 11, 2013

Group blasts oilsands in U.S.

Five prominent Canadian environmentalists told Washington lawmakers this week that the Keystone XL pipeline will lead to such a huge growth in oilsands' carbon emissions, it will help tip the world into catastrophic climate change.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently told Americans that Canada would not take "no for an answer" on the pipeline, until the project is approved, the environmentalists said further expansion of the oilsands should be immediately stopped - followed by a gradual shutdown of all operations.

Group blasts oilsands in U.S. by William Marsden, The Canadian Press/The Vancouver Sun, Oct 12, 2013

Study links warmer water temps to greater levels of mercury in fish

Under the watchful eyes of scientists, a little forage fish that lives off the southern coast of Maine developed a strangely large appetite.

Killifish are not usually big eaters. But in warmer waters, at temperatures projected for the future by climate scientists, their metabolism — and their appetites — go up, which is not a good thing if there are toxins in their food.

Study links warmer water temps to greater levels of mercury in fish by Darryl Fears, Washington Post, Oct 13, 2013

The Bay of Bengal, in peril from climate change

The bay was once a maritime highway between India and China, and then was shaped by monsoons and migration as European powers exploited the region for its coffee, tea and rubber. Today the bay is being reshaped again by the forces of population growth and climate change.

The Bay of Bengal, in Peril From Climate Change, Op-ed by Sunil S. Amrith, New York Times, Oct 13, 2013

The Coming Plague

A climate plague affecting every living thing will likely start in 2020 in southern Indonesia, scientists warned Wednesday in the journal Nature. A few years later the plague will have spread throughout the world’s tropical regions.

By mid-century no place on the planet will be unaffected, said the authors of the landmark study.

The Coming Plague by Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Sercie (IPS), Oct 10, 2013

UN stance on biofuels 'legitimises food violations', claim campaigners

Campaigners have condemned new UN recommendations on biofuels, claiming that they defend the interests of the industry rather than those of small farmers in poor countries. 

Civil society groups refused to endorse the recommendations, agreed on Friday after a week of negotiations at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome, saying the result was skewed by countries supporting the biofuels industry and that governments with misgivings were ignored. 

UN stance on biofuels 'legitimises food violations', claim campaigners by Claire Provost, The Guardian, Oct 14, 2013

What should be done about climate change refugees?

Up to 1 billion people could be displaced by climate change over the next 50 years. But many states, including Canada, prefer not to deal with it.

Group blasts oilsands in U.S.

What should be done about climate change refugees? by Debra Black, Toronto Star, Oct 11, 2013

World coal consumption to surpass oil by 2020

Coal will surpass oil as the key fuel for the global economy by 2020 despite government efforts to reduce carbon emissions, energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie said on Monday.

Rising demand in China and India will push coal past oil as the two Asian powerhouses will need to rely on the comparatively cheaper fuel to power their economies. Coal demand in the United States, Europe and the rest of Asia will hold steady.

Global coal consumption is expected to rise by 25 percent by the end of the decade to 4,500 million tonnes of oil equivalent, overtaking oil at 4,400 million tonnes, according to Woodmac in a presentation on Monday at the World Energy Congress.

World Coal Consumption To Surpass Oil By 2020 Due To Rising Demand In China And India by Florence Tan, Reuters/The Huffington Post, Oct 13, 2013

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. We should get off fossil fuels, no argument.  That won't happen overnight; where should effort to reduce their use be concentrated?

    Consider two of the articles in this roundup:

      Group blasts oil sands in US (refers to Canadian oil sands)

      World coal consumption to pass oil by 2020 due to rising demand in China and India.

    I'd say the target should be coal, to a much greater extent than we see presently in the various news sources.  Producing and burning coal releases more CO2 than does production and burning of oil, even oil-sands oil, and heavy metals and other undesirables as well.  And coal is widespread on the planet, and relatively easy to obtain compared to oil, especially the deep-water oil and the shale oil both of which are expensive to get, and which (together with Canadian oil sands) have provided most of the growth in oil production in the US and Canada--and that means in the world.

    There has been pretty much a plateau in oil production worldwide for about eight years (the growth in Canadian and US production has been balanced by production decreases outside those two countries) but China and India are driving growth in coal production and use at a scary rate.  Coal is the big challenge.

    Keystone XL is a sideshow compared to coal.  The White House has approval authority only over the part of the pipeline that crosses the US/Canada border, a matter of miles.  Holding up approving or denying the permit has resulted in railways stepping in to transport crude oil from the oil sands (and the Bakken in the US), notably Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Burlington Northern, to the Gulf Coast and to the eastern  US especially, and to refineries on the West Coast too.  In 2012 Canada exported more oil, crude plus concentrate in industry terms, than in any previous year; the total for 2013 will be higher.  This is being done without White House approval because most of the four-part Keystone XL system is not subject to it.

    Canadian crude was selling at a whopping discount for more than a year because there was a backup and thus a glut in the US Midwest, at Cushing, Oklahoma.  That glut is being drained because of new pipeline capacity and reversal of pipelines that had carried oil to Cushing instead of south to the refineries at the Gulf Coast, and that reduction of glut will increase when the southern portion of Keystone XL becomes operational by the end of the year or soon after.  Prices paid for Canadian crude have risen as a result, and that is incentive for oil-sands development.  Canada is looking at shipping oil-sands crude from Alberta to refineries in eastern Canada which have been importing more expensive West African and other crudes, and that will boost the oil sands too.

    There are already half a dozen pipelines carrying Canadian oil into the US and two of them, TransMountain from Alberta to Vancouver/Burnaby with a side branch to Washington state, and Enbridge's Midwest complex, are planned to be expanded along routes that already have the necessary approvals, and each of those expansions will result in capacity that will be greater than the planned capacity of Keystone XL.

    The oil sands are booming because the demand is there, and the oil is flowing into the US in record volumes, without Keystone XL having had approval.  This flow will increase.  Shift the attention and publicity more to reducing coal use--and export:  the US is the fourth largest exporter of coal in the world--and away from the small part of Keystone XL where so much of it has been focused.

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  2. "In 2012 Canada exported more oil, crude plus concentrate in industry terms, than in any previous year; the total for 2013 will be higher" -- how does this make it *less* important to stop?

    You seem to have bought the oil company claim that the pipelines are a sideshow; without pipelines, they'll just ship it by train.  This is their message to those who want to limit production.  They have another message to those who want to maximize short-term $$$, which is that the pipelines are absolutely crucial to increase production.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] To whom is your comment directed? 

  3. The  link to the Coming Plague article appears to be broken, or my computer is having another one of its funny turns.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The link has been fixed. Thank you for bringing this glitch to our attention.

  4. numerobis:

    Pipelines are necessary to increase production if you listen to CEOs; there's money in pipelines.  It's much faster to expand shipping by rail, though, than it is to build a pipeline; cheaper too, and rail allows great flexibility in supplying markets.  Both are being used, and it's rapid growth in rail transport that is allowing rapid increase in export from Canada.  Sideshow?  I said that Keystone XL is a sideshow compared to coal, not that pipelines are a sideshow.

    Nor did I say oil is less important to stop than coal is.  Coal has much greater potential for future harm than oil has but, at least if you consider informing the public important, it gets far less attention than Keystone XL does and that imbalance should be fixed.

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  5. Can't remember where I saw the article but some work on stalegtites suggested that Aus has a 200 year cycle of drought and wet.  The article suggested she has just ended a wet period!!!!??.  If the past few decades were wet what must the dry look like.  Add in climate change and I think I would immigrate to somewhere else.

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  6. 'Australia to see worse ElNino drought'

    You bet. No need to mention the record fires in NSW thanks to that drought, everybody's heard the news.

    However, I want to mention the other part of the story: the wetter than usual ElNino conditions shall be predicted in the NE Pacific (or Pacific NW in US-centric nomenclature). Accordingly, we're seen just that: torrential rains and even rare tornado in Seattle as reported here. So, many pieces of evidence align for that case.

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