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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #42B

Posted on 19 October 2013 by John Hartz

  • Canada’s efforts accelerate a global tragedy of the climate commons
  • EU to meet 2020 climate targets thanks to cheap carbon credits
  • How Somali pirates almost halted vital climate change research
  • No safe havens in increasingly acid oceans
  • Shutdown’s science fallout could last for years
  • Silencing the sceptics
  • TransCanada expects U.S. decision on Keystone XL by end of March
  • USA TODY "balances" coverage of IPCC Report
  • U.S. science reporters becoming an endangered species
  • U.S. Supreme Court to hear greenhouse gas case
  • U.S. tries to salvage Antarctic research
  • What happened to the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season?

Canada’s efforts accelerate a global tragedy of the climate commons

Stephen Harper’s statement that Canada “won’t take ‘no’ for an answer” regarding the impending U.S. decision about the Keystone XL pipeline overlaps inauspiciously with a new study in Nature this week, which projects that, within a generation, known climates in most regions of the globe will be a “thing of the past”.

University of Hawaii ecologist Camilo Mora and his co-authors project that the recent increase in extreme weather events is merely the prelude to the next half century’s “unabated heat wave” as, under a business-as-usual scenario, climate moves wholly outside its range of historical precedence. Wholesale climate shifts will occur soonest in the tropics, where most of the world’s population and much of its biodiversity live. The punchline? Says Mora, “any progress to slow ongoing climate change will require a larger commitment from developed countries to reduce emissions.” Yet Canada’s Prime Minister is leading the charge instead to accelerate carbon emissions from oilsands.

Canada’s efforts accelerate a global tragedy of the climateby Maureen Ryan, Ken Lertzman, Wendy Palen, Anne Salomon, and Joe Arvai, Vancouver Sun, Oct 15, 2013

EU to meet 2020 climate targets thanks to cheap carbon credits

Good news that the European Union (EU) will achieve its aim of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 has been tempered by criticism that, for most countries, the target has been too easy and that much more could and should have been done to help combat the threat of global warming.

A combination of the recession and vast quantities of cheap carbon credits available for countries to buy their way out of their obligations has meant that industry has been able to afford to pollute as much as it wants, and governments have made too little political effort to promote energy efficiency and to boost renewables.  

EU to Meet 2020 Climate Targets Thanks to Cheap Carbon Credits by Paul Brown, Climate News Network/Eco News, Oct 14, 2013

How Somali pirates almost halted vital climate change research

Evidence from the final research vessel to brave the treacherous waters off the coast of Africa in 2001 may have just turned the tables on the accepted scientific view of how—and how quickly—the Sahara became a desert.

What do Somali pirates have to do with climate change? 

Not much, except that the threat of the machine-gun slinging bandits has ended critical oceanographic research on the seabed of the Indian Ocean—research that is crucial to our understanding of how and when, exactly, the world’s largest arid region dried out. Climate investigations off the Horn of Africa were suspended just weeks before September 11, 2001, after a scientific vessel, the Maurice Ewing, was attacked with rocket propelled grenades 18 nautical miles off the Somali coast.

But, amazingly, one final research vessel somehow passed through a phalanx of small-craft pirate boats in the Gulf of Aden unscathed. 

How Somali Pirates Almost (but Not Quite) Halted Vital Climate Change Research by Richard Shiffman, Oct 16, 2013 

No safe havens in increasingly acid oceans

Oil, gas and coal are contaminating the world’s oceans from top to bottom, threatening the lives of more than 800 million people, a new study warns Tuesday.

“It took a year to analyse and synthesise all of the studies on the impacts of climate change on ocean species,” Camilo Mora, an ecologist at University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu and lead author, told IPS.

No Safe Havens in Increasingly Acid Oceans by Stephen Leahy,Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 15, 2013

Shutdown’s science fallout could last for years

The government may finally be on a path to reopening, but the shutdown’s effects will linger for scientists studying everything from climate change to cancer.

Antarctica-bound field researchers stuck in budget limbo over the past three weeks fret that decades of data on penguins and ice sheets will end up with a glaring gap, undercutting their documentation of global warming. Doctors operating federal-funded clinical studies on Alzheimer’s, cocaine addiction and heart disease worry they’ve lost the trust of patients.

Shutdown’s science fallout could last for years by Darren Samuelsohn, Politico, Oct 17, 2013

Silencing the sceptics

Human influence on the climate system is clear, according to a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The findings fly in the face of climate change scepticism. 

Trevor Maynard, Lloyd’s head of exposure management, is dubious on whether there has been a pause in warming over the past 15 years as some have claimed. 

“The sceptics are just trying to push the debate and they start at 1998, which was one of the hottest years on record,” he explains. “It’s a bit like someone breaks the world record for running 100 metres and then in the next ten races people say, ‘Runners are getting slower’.” 

Silencing the Sceptics, Lloyd's of London, Oct 14, 2013

USA TODAY "Balances" Coverage of IPCC Report

USA TODAY became the latest mainstream newspaper to , Intervincorrectly "balance" the views of the hundreds of scientists behind a major climate report with the the Heartland Institute, a fossil-fuel-funded organization that once compared those who accept climate science to the "Unabomber." In an op-ed published by the newspaper Tuesday, the head of the organization portrayed outright falsehoods as simply "opinion" in order to dismiss the United Nations panel behind the report as a "discredited oracle."

USA TODAY "Balances" Hundreds Of Scientists With Fossil-Fuel Backed Group, by Shauna Theel, Media Matters, Oct 15, 2013 

U.S. science reporters becoming an endangered species

On Mar. 1, the New York Times announced it was discontinuing the Green Blog that tracked environmental and energy news. In January, the paper had dismantled its three-year-old environment pod. 

This year, too, Johns Hopkins University retired its 30-year-old science writing programme, following in the footsteps of Columbia University which, in 2009, closed its earth and environmental science journalism programme because of a poor job market.

Like climate change, the demise of science reporting is a slowly unfolding tragedy, say many environmental journalists in the United States.

U.S. Science Reporters Becoming an Endangered Speciesby Zofeen Ebrahim, International Press Service (IPS), Oct 15, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court to hear greenhouse gas case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to review whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to require greenhouse gas permits for big, stationary pollution sources such as power plants, factories and refineries.

The justices said in an order that they would review “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”

Oral arguments in the case are expected to take place in early 2014.

Supreme Court to hear greenhouse gas case by Ben Geman, The Hill, Oct 15, 2013

U.S. tries to salvage Antarctic research

The government shutdown came to a close after 16 days. Its effect on Antarctic scientific research may last longer, though, as crucial research time was lost in an already brief summer research season.

“With the partial government shutdown now ended, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will restore the planned 2013-14 austral summer U. S. Antarctic Program (USAP) activities to the maximum extent possible,” NSF said in a statement posted on its website.

During the 16-day shutdown, the NSF directed all support elements of the Antarctic program to stand down toward “caretaker status.” That meant halting the flow of scientists and equipment to Antarctica for the short austral summer research season, which typically lasts four to five months, and evacuating some employees from U.S. field research stations. Many scientists who had spent years lining up funding and equipment to conduct research in Antarctica were left in limbo, unsure whether their work could go forward.

Post Shutdown, U.S. Tries to Salvage Antarctic Research by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, Oct 17, 2013

What happened to the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season?

Nearly one year after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season has not produced a single land-falling hurricane in the U.S. Instead of having above-average storm activity, as the seasonal hurricane outlooks unanimously called for, the season has been quiet — notable for its inactivity.

The tropical season doesn’t officially end until November 30, but it would take a barrage of late-season storms to bring the season up to average levels, let alone above average, something that forecasters say is unlikely.

“It’s not only quiet, but it’s got the potential to be near record quiet for the Atlantic Basin,” Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said.

So far, there have been just 11 named storms, two of which have been hurricanes, and none that have been major hurricanes.

What Happened to the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season? by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, Oct 16, 2013

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. Re the mess caused by the shutdown, I'd like to see a clearinghouse set up for researchers to describe the impact on their work.

    I know of a major meeting here in Seattle to do with earthquake resilience that was thrown into chaos thanks to the GOP's psychotic clown posse. Researchers coming in from New Zealand and other places at great expense arrived to find that their USGS counterparts could technically face fine and imprisonment* for meeting as agreed, ages ago. Not only were we wasting our own time but that of others. We're also destroying our credibility as reliable partners. 

    Other people I know faced similar absurd problems. Seeing all of this waste summarized in one place would be helpful and instructive. 


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  2. re Canada’s efforts accelerate a global tragedy of the climate commons

    Let's stop one pipeline and call the problem of global warming solved, and continue to burn coal, drive SUVs and import OPEC oil.

    If you want to stop new pipelines from being built, cut them off at the source. Switch to the new energy sources and there will be no demand for the oil which new pipelines would deliver.

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  3. jyushchyshyn, it's a sad fact that human nature dictates we respond better in aggregate to price signals than common sense. Of course you're technically speaking correct in saying we can solve this problem by ending demand for hydrocarbons as fuel, but  in reality we won't do so without encouragement in the form of our wallets deflating more quickly.

    Let alone the awesomely nasty nature of Canada's own Mordor, each and every source of petroleum that is removed from our imperfect accounting system helps to contribute a little bit to our price signaling. 

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  4. Meanwhile more and more petroleum products are being shipped by rail.  Another derailment in Alberta is burning out of control.  Luckily this most recent derailment one wasn't in an urban area like the recent disastrous derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.  The energy spent railing against this pipeline would be better spent pushing for a fee and divadend on carbon.


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