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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #44C

Posted on 2 November 2013 by John Hartz

  • 10 simple points about climate change
  • Al Gore: world is on brink of 'carbon bubble'
  • Climate change damage to poor countries goes far beyond money
  • Climate science: connecting the hiatuses
  • Dull leaf hues called climate change omen
  • Gov't emissions report undermines Keystone pipeline pitch
  • Has global warming paused?
  • Hong Kong finds switch to cleaner fuels has flaws
  • Obama Order on preparing the U.S. for climate change impacts
  • Poland, wedded to coal, spurns Europe on clean energy targets
  • White House will focus on climate shifts while trying to cut GHGs
  • Why is Antarctic sea ice expanding?

10 simple points about climate change

CLIMATE change is confusing. It's either the end of the world and we're all going to die. Or it's an overblown threat involving "warmists" and the "IPCC".

If you feel like you don't fully understand what's going on, you're not alone.

Plenty of people have an opinion on what is happening. But what are the facts and how does it affect you?

10 simple points about climate change,, Oct 31, 2013 

Al Gore: world is on brink of 'carbon bubble'

Gore and partner David Blood call on companies to 'do their fiduciary duty' and identify carbon risks in their portfolios.

Al Gore: world is on brink of 'carbon bubble' by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Oct 31, 2013

Climate change damage to poor countries goes far beyond money

Most of the ancient ruins that Moses Ittu, 67, a resident of Lelu Island in the Federated State of Micronesia, visited and played around during his childhood have since disappeared into the ocean.

In the last few decades, residents of the island have increasingly used the ancient stones to build walls to shield their homes and livelihoods from pounding waves and creeping sea water. "The sea keeps on rising, and the people need to protect themselves," Ittu told researchers who studied adaptation in response to coastal erosion in Micronesia for the Loss and Damage initiative at the U.N. University in Bonn, Germany.

Micronesia is one of nine nations that researchers recently reviewed in a report assessing loss and damage from climate change. Researchers conducted 3,269 household surveys, more than 100 focus group discussions and open interviews about the economic, social and cultural losses incurred by a changing climate in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Micronesia, Mozambique and Nepal.

Climate Change Damage to Poor Countries Goes Far Beyond Money by Coleen Jose, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Oct 31, 2013 

Climate science: connecting the hiatuses

The current pause in global temperature rise may be a repeat of another pause in the mid-20th century.

Climate Science: Connecting the Hiatuses by Bill Chameides, The Green Gok, Scientific American, Oct 31, 2013

Dull leaf hues called climate change omen

Unusually warm October weather and less September rain explain why leaves failed to produce brilliant splashes of gold, orange, red and purple, with many remaining green into the first week of November.

It also raises the spectre of climate change.

Every year has seasonal variations, but some scientists say this year may be a harbinger of a more likely occurrence in coming years -- warmer temperatures pushing back the peak foliage season from the third week of October to later in the month or even early November. Such a trend also forebodes duller leaf coloration.

Dull leaf hues called climate change omen by David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov 1, 2013

Gov't emissions report undermines Keystone pipeline pitch

The U.S. and Canada are going in opposite directions on CO2 emissions, data reveal, with possible implications for Obama's Keystone pipeline decision.

Canadian Gov't Emissions Report Undermines Keystone Pipeline Pitch by John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News, Oct 31, 2013

Has global warming paused?

Climate scientists know the answer is no, but have trouble communicating that.

Has Global Warming Paused? by Stephanie Paige Ogburn, Climate Wire/Scientific American, Nov 1, 2013

Hong Kong finds switch to cleaner fuels has flaws

Municipal governments all over the world, particularly in developing countries with rapidly growing fleets of cars and choking air pollution, have been rushing over the last few years to force taxis and buses to switch to burning liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas, frequently offering subsidies for them to do so.

But one of the early leaders of the trend, Hong Kong, said on Friday that the city’s shift over the last decade to almost complete dependence on LPG for light commercial vehicles had produced unintended consequences. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, one of the most important contributors to smog, surged by a fifth in Hong Kong’s air from 2008 to 2012, and a team of local and international scientists have traced the cause to LPG-fueled vehicles, Hong Kong environmental regulators said at a news conference.

The problem lies in the taxis’ and minibuses’ catalytic converters, said Christine Loh, the under secretary for the environment. Unless replaced every 18 months for cars and light buses that are driven nearly around the clock, the catalytic converters become fouled, and the vehicles begin emitting extremely high levels of pollution.

Hong Kong Finds Switch to Cleaner Fuels Has Flaws by Keith Bradsher, Dispatches from Chaina, New York Times, Nov 1, 2013

Obama Order on preparing the U.S. for climate change impacts

On Nov. 1, 2013, Pres. Obama issued a far-reaching executive order to improve "climate preparedness and resilience" in states and communities and "help safeguard our economy" from the threat of global warming impacts. The order includes the establishment of an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, co-chaired by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. It also establishes a task force of state, local and tribal leaders.

Climate change "impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures. Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government," the order said. 

Obama Order on Preparing the U.S. for Climate Change Impacts—Full Text, Inside Climate News, Nov 1, 2013

Poland, wedded to coal, spurns Europe on clean energy targets

BELCHATOW, Poland — They call it Poland’s biggest hole in the ground.

The coal mine here is more than eight-and-a-half miles long, nearly two miles wide and as deep in parts as three football fields. Enough coal comes out of it to fuel Europe’s largest coal-fired utility plant, whose chimneys loom in the distance.

“The entire world population could fit in this hole,” Tomasz Tarnowski, an administrator here, said in a bit of proud hyperbole as he led a group of reporters on a walk near a towering mound of brown coal about halfway into the mine.

Poland is Europe’s coal colossus. More than 88 percent of its electricity comes from coal. Belchatow is one of its huge sources and the largest carbon emitter in Europe. (There’s no “belch” in Belchatow — it is pronounced bel-HOT-oof.)

Poland, Wedded to Coal, Spurns Europe on Clean Energy Targets by Danny Hkim Mateusz Zurawik, New York Times, Oct 31, 2013

White House will focus on climate shifts while trying to cut GHGs

The White House is expected to take new steps on Friday to help society adapt to global warming, an acknowledgment that worldwide efforts to control emissions will be inadequate to head off big climatic shifts. 

White House aides said President Obama would sign an executive order on Friday morning directing federal agencies to make it easier for states and communities to build resilience against storms, droughts and other weather extremes. For instance, when federal money is being spent on projects like roads, bridges, flood control and many others, the plan would encourage greater attention to the likely climate conditions of the future, which might require making the structures stronger or larger.

“All of that is now going to be shaped by the awareness of climate change, and the things that can be done to make those investments produce a much more resilient society,” said John P. Holdren, the president’s science adviser.

White House Will Focus on Climate Shifts While Trying to Cut Greenhouse Gases by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Nov 1, 2013

Why is Antarctic sea ice expanding?

While ice cover in the Arctic continues its downward spiral, something counterintuitive is happening in the Antarctic.

The thin crust of sea ice floating around Antarctica expanded this year to cover more of the Southern Ocean than ever before recorded: 7.518 million square miles. That broke the previous record of 7.505 million square miles, which was set just last year, according to NASA.

“We set a record high winter maximum,” Walt Meier, a NASA glaciologist, said in announcing the findings. “Even though it is a record high, it is only 3.6 percent above the 1981 to 2010 average maximum.”

Why is Antarctic sea ice expanding? by John Upton,Grist, Oct 29, 2013

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Here's a thought-provoking newsy item:

    Green groups explore legal action to halt massive Queensland coalmine

    Carbon emissions from coal mined at Kevin’s Corner are estimated at 58m tonnes a year – more than the entire annual emissions of Denmark. Construction is set to start in 2015, with the first coal mined in 2018.

    GVK said in a statement: “In a timely and considered decision, the minister finely balanced the protection of environment with the need for economic investment and job creation.”

    More info at the link.

    The thought provoked for me: how many jobs are created by adding the CO2 emissions of an entire country to the burden faced by the atmosphere? Boosters of the project say appromimately 1,800 workers will be needed in the initial phases of opening the mine.

    Meanwhile, the population of Denmark is about 5.6 million. 

    So, promoters of the Kevin's Corner mine are asking us to accept that 1,800 jobs are worth duplicating the pollution footprint of 5.6 million people.

    That's a big ask. The plan does not seem like a scalable way to earn economic prosperity.  If the approximately 2,800,000 wage earners in Denmark were to be employed using the same scheme as in Kevin's Corner, would the impact still be worth it? A back of the envelope calculation suggests that the result would be to double the CO2 pollution load of the entire planet's human population. 

    It's a sad thing, when one country's good luck is everybody else's bad luck. Australia is fortunate to be sitting on rich deposits of coal, but that means bad luck for the rest of us. Bad luck for Australia, too, a little bit down the road, perhaps even before the coal's gone and the jobs with it. What's the plan then?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] It wouldn't take much for you to transform this comment into a log post article. Please take the time to do so. 

  2. Thinking a little further about Denmark versus Kevin's Corner, it's a shame that Denmark's entire mult-decade plan to mitigate their own climate change impact should be nullified at a stroke.

    Speaking a little bit tongue in cheek...

    Considering that Australia's new mine will be entirely fatal to Denmark's climate change mitigation efforts, residents of Denmark should consider putting 1,800 people in Australia on the dole, with the proviso that Australia cancel the proposed mine. For that matter, why put them on the dole? The 1,800 could be employed doing something useful and less destructive. 1,800 extra specialized forestry firefighters would certainly come in handy, for instance. 

    The bribe to Australia to save their climate mitigation strategy could easily be justified by Denmark, considering that otherwise every krone spent on mitigation is about to be wasted by Australia. 

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  3. doug,

    Further to your essey: will an extra 30TgC/yr emissions from the subject coal mine count as Australain emissions in the global budget? I bet it won't. It'll end up to be counted as China's budget where this coal is likely to be burned. And Greg Hunt (or alike successor) will be arguing Australia's own emissions are miniscule comparing to e.g. China's so any local mitigation efforts won't make any difference to GW. Obviously, that's wrong on at least two grounds: 1) Australian coal is the root cause; 2) Australia is likely to import lots of goods manufactured in China that will bear the heavy energy/carbon footprint. Only the usage and disposal footprint of those goods will count as Australian emissions, which mey be miniscule. However, we end up with the full benefit of consumption of cheap chinese, CTax-free products. Having recently learned about Greg Hunt's priorities and methods of scientific consultaton (by reading "convenient" fragments of wikipedia) I expect more projects like that to be aproved in the near future.

    To remedy that situation, the C pollution tax should be aplied at the source (a mine) as Jim Hansen has been advocating for decades. With current Ctax/ETS schemes, things do not work as expected, because the biggest coal mine in the world can enjoy as profitable operation as ever with bypassing the taxes by exporting coal and then importing the resulting goods.

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  4. Nice exploration, Chris. 

    Defanging the jobs fright appeal is needful work. Let alone that it's annoying to hear people who are dead set on employing the absolute minimum necessary pairs of hands trying to cast their activities as some kind of philanthropic effort, the jobs argument seems to shut off a lot of higher brain functions.

    1,800 jobs in exchange for being allowed to empty a enormous sewer pipe into the future of a few years' hence? It's just not worth it, particularly when there are other investments that could made to employ the same number of people on a stable basis. 

    Pursuing the net effects of Kevin's Corner as viewed from the perspective of a responsible actor (Denmark), if we are prepared to accept that the benefits of 1,800 jobs are not worth destroying an entire nation's mitigation scheme, we're naturally led to ask why Denmark should sacrifice itself for the benefit of investors? I'm not sure of the equity arrangement of Kevin's Corner but it's going to fall along the lines of a few people making a whole lot of money, or a lot of people making a little money.  

    Closely held or publicly traded, Kevin's Corner at the end of the day is a scheme for enrichment that depends on causing the net effect of  ruining the mitigation scheme of a whole country. Ignoring sanctimonious talk of jobs, Kevin's Corner is going to waste a tremendous amount of money, for the benefit of a tiny population.  

    There's a fundamental tension here that's quite dire. 

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  5. John, I'm not sure how I'd turn all this into an article with a scientific perspective. It seems solidly in the province of policy and politics. Maybe better for Planet3.0? 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] SkS has been know to publich scholarly articles on the policies and politics surrounding the issue of manmade climate change and what to so about it. You could draft such an article and see how it fares in the internal review process. As they say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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