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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #44B

Posted on 31 October 2013 by John Hartz

  • 10 failed climate change denial arguments
  • A year after Sandy, living dangerously by the sea
  • Climate pact is signed by 3 states and a partner
  • Coal industry workers, allies rally against EPA power plant rules
  • Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt
  • Protesters slam California Governor Jerry Brown
  • These countries face the biggest threats from climate change
  • Waiting for the next superstorm
  • Water, not wind, makes storms like Sandy dangerous
  • Will Obama block the Keystone pipeline or just keep bending?

10 Failed Climate Change Denial Arguments

If you think the climate isn’t changing, well, I've got some bad news for you. It is.

Of course the climate’s changing. It always does. The problem is on top of that incredibly slow natural variation, the climate is changing due to human influence, and it’s changing fast. Droughts, floods, ice caps melting, fires raging out of control, temperature records broken on a daily basis: This is the new normal.

That hasn’t stopped people from denying the change and in fact seems to stoke them like dry air and heat waves stoke wildfires. Rebutting the reality-challenged challenges to reality is a full-time job, but Hank Green makes it look easy. Green—one half of the Vlog Brothers—claims he loves simple, powerful ideas.

I believe him. I’ve watched a lot of his videos, and his ability to discuss complex ideas in bite-size pieces is manifest. But he recently put out one which simply slams the door shut on 10 climate change denial arguments, elegantly and with much alacrity.

10 Failed Climate Change Denial Arguments by Phi, Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Oct 28, 2013

A year after Sandy, living dangerously by the sea

Sea-level rise amplified the devastating coastal flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy. Climate change and population growth will raise the risk — unless we act soon.

A Year After Sandy, Living Dangerously by the Sea by Bryan Walsh, Time, Oct 29, 2013

Climate pact is signed by 3 states and a partner

The leaders of three Pacific Coast states and British Columbia have announced a broad alliance to combat climate change, including new joint steps to raise the cost of greenhouse gas pollution, promote zero-emission vehicles and push for the use of cleaner-burning fuels in transportation.

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington and the premier of British Columbia said the compact could simultaneously reduce carbon emissions and create new clean-energy jobs in a region of 53 million people that is equivalent to the fifth-largest economy in the world.

But while California and British Columbia have already taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it was unclear whether legislatures in Oregon and Washington could be persuaded to endorse the plan. Legislators in both states refused in 2009 to approve market-based plans to reduce carbon pollution. 

Climate Pact Is Signed by 3 States and a Partner by Robert Wines, New York Times, Oct 29, 2013

Coal industry workers, allies rally against EPA power plant rules

Hundreds of coal industry workers and supporters gathered Tuesday in front of the U.S. Capitol as a parade of coal-state lawmakers assailed the Obama administration as waging a “war on coal” with new environmental rules.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed standards aimed at curbing carbon-dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global warming, according to most climate scientists. However, the rules would make it nearly impossible to build new coal-fired power plants without expensive and unproven technology to capture carbon dioxide and pump it underground.

On Tuesday, miners from several coal-producing states, some wearing yellow hard hats and carrying signs that said “Impeach Obama,” cheered as lawmakers of both parties and other speakers criticized the administration.

Coal industry workers, allies rally against EPA power plant rulesCurtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, Oct 29, 2013

How science is telling us all to revolt

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

How science is telling us all to revolt by Naomi Klein, New Statesman, Oct 29, 2013

Protesters slam California Governor Jerry Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of a climate deal with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia in San Francisco on Monday drew dozens of protesters, claiming that his support of fracking undermines the climate agreement’s potential for progress.

The climate deal calls for the region to align its efforts in the fight against climate change. Proposed agreements include expanding use of zero-emission vehicles, harmonizing greenhouse gas reduction targets, supporting research on combatting ocean acidification, deploying high-speed rails, accounting for costs of carbon pollution and adopting low-carbon fuel standards.

But activists say the signing is meaningless as long as Brown supports some level of fracking, the process of injecting water and chemicals underground to break up rocks and free oil and natural gas.

Protesters Slam Jerry Brown, Claim Climate Change Pact Is Undermined By Pro-Fracking Stance by Lydia O'Connor, The Huffington Post, Oct 30, 2013

These countries face the biggest threats from climate change 

The expected costs of climate change are painting a grimmer and grimmer picture of the future for people around the world.

In its sixth annual Climate Change Vulnerability Index, risk consultancy firm Maplecroft revealed the countries most likely to suffer from the effects of warming climates by 2025.

These Countries Face The Biggest Threats From Climate Change by Sara Gates, The Huffington Post, Oct 30, 2013

Waiting for the next superstorm

One year ago, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast United States, causing an estimated 68 billion dollars in damage and paralysing the world’s financial nerve centre.

But days before, in the Caribbean, the same storm ran roughshod over Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and other countries, causing widespread loss of life and destruction that the region is only beginning to recover from.

The hurricane was one of several in the past decades that meteorologists had previously considered “once in a century” events.

Those predictions now appear outdated.

“The power of these storms is off the chart,” Guido Corno, chief technical advisor at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), told IPS. “Sandy was a massive storm, larger than any in the past 100 years.”

Scientists believe that by the end of the century, climate change will increase the severity of extreme weather events, making storms like Sandy more common.

For Caribbean nations with fewer resources, that spectre is daunting.

Waiting for the Next Superstorm by Samuel Oakford, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 30, 2013 

Water, not wind, makes storms like Sandy dangerous

By the time Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast coast of the United States one year ago, it had weakened in wind speed from a Category 3 to a Category 1 storm. But people living in the storm's path quickly learned that this lower rating said little about the storm's destructive capacity.

By landfall, wind speeds had fallen below 94 mph (153 km/h) — the cutoff for Category 1 hurricanes — but the storm surge (the water that a storm pushes in front of itself above predicted tide levels) was greater than any other surge recorded in New York City's history, reaching up to 14 feet (4.3 meters) in lower Manhattan. Many of the 150 deaths associated with Sandy have been attributed to flooding from this surge along the New York and New Jersey coastlines.

This outcome was not unique to Hurricane Sandy: Flooding from storm surge has caused more deaths during hurricanes than any other hurricane threats — such as winds and freshwater flooding from rainfall — combined since 1900, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). And yet the NHC's official hurricane category system — meant to efficiently warn residents of a storm's destructive capacity — does not convey the threat of flooding.

Water, Not Wind, Makes Storms Like Sandy Dangerous by Laura Poppick, Live Science, Oct 29, 2013

Will Obama block the Keystone pipeline or just keep bending?

As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has worn on—and it’s now well over two years old—it’s illuminated the Obama presidency like no other issue. It offers the president not just a choice of policies, but a choice of friends, worldviews, styles. It’s become an X-ray for a flagging presidency. The stakes are sky-high, and not just for Obama. I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh, amid 7,000 enthusiastic and committed young people gathering to fight global warming, and my guess is that his choice will do much to determine how they see politics in this country.

Let us stipulate at the start that whether or not to build the pipeline is a decision with profound physical consequences. If he approves its construction, far more of the dirtiest oil on Earth will flow out of the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and reach the US Gulf Coast. Not just right away or for a brief period, but far into the future, since the Keystone XL guarantees a steady flow of profits to oil barons who have their hearts set on tripling production in the far north.

The history of oil spills and accidents offers a virtual guarantee that some of that oil will surely make its way into the fields and aquifers of the Great Plains as those tar sands flow south. The greater and more daunting assurance is this, however: everything that reaches the refineries on the Gulf Coast will, sooner or later, spill into the atmosphere in the form of carbon, driving climate change to new heights. 

Will Obama Block the Keystone Pipeline or Just Keep Bending? by Bill Mckibben, The Nation, Oct 28, 2013

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