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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #50A

Posted on 9 December 2013 by John Hartz

  • Arctic thaw tied to European, US heatwaves and downpours
  • Canada short on time for climate plan
  • Is Bjorn Lomborg right to say fossil fuels are what poor countries need?
  • Large companies prepared to pay price on carbon
  • Local climate predictions stay uncertain
  • Short-cut to produce hydrogen seen as step to cleaner fuel
  • Some good news (and plenty of bad) in NRC abrupt climate change report
  • Thanks for killing the planet, boomers!
  • The apocalypse is coming — and technology can’t save us
  • The (in)sanity of climate change
  • The Montreal Protocol, a little treaty that could
  • The other climate problem: CO2 threatens marine life

Arctic thaw tied to European, US heatwaves and downpours

A thaw of Arctic ice and snow is linked to worsening summer heatwaves and downpours thousands of miles south in Europe, the United States and other areas, underlying the scale of the threat posed by global warming, scientists said on Sunday.

Their report, which was dismissed as inconclusive by some other experts, warned of increasingly extreme weather across "much of North America and Eurasia where billions of people will be affected".

The study is part of a drive to work out how climate change affects the frequency of extreme weather, from droughts to floods. Governments want to know the trends to plan everything from water supplies to what crops to plant.

But the science of a warming Arctic is far from settled.

Arctic thaw tied to European, US heatwaves and downpours: study by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Dec 8, 2013

Canada short on time for climate plan

Canada is running out of time to offer U.S. President Barack Obamaa climate change concession that might clinch the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, as the country's energy industry continues to resist costly curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years of negotiations between the Canadian government and the energy sector to curtail carbon pollution have not produced an agreement. Oil producers have balked at anything more than the 10-cents-a-barrel carbon tax imposed by the province of Alberta.

Late last month, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq pointed to "good progress" in the talks but was unable to say when a resolution might come.

Concessions from Canada would make the pipeline more palatable in Washington, experts say, since Obama has made fighting climate change a second-term priority and has said that Canada could do more to reduce carbon emissions.

As Keystone ruling nears, Canada short on time for climate plan by Patrick Rucker & Nia Williams, Reuters, Dec 7, 2013

Is Bjorn Lomborg right to say fossil fuels are what poor countries need?

What do the poorest people on the planet -  those likely to be the hardest hit by human-caused climate change - need right now?

According to Bjørn Lomborg, the economist and self-titled skeptical environmentalist, what they need are cheap fossil fuels.

It's one of the those arguments that seems so counter-intuitive - so crazy-balls nuts - that it might make some stop and think that it could just be true. But not for long.

Is Bjorn Lomborg right to say fossil fuels are what poor countries need? by Graham Readfern, Planet OZ, The Guardian, Dec 6, 2013

Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon

More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.

The development is a striking departure from conservative orthodoxy and a reflection of growing divisions between the Republican Party and its business supporters.       

A new report by the environmental data company CDP has found that at least 29 companies, some with close ties to Republicans, including ExxonMobil, Walmart and American Electric Power, are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans. 

Both supporters and opponents of action to fight global warming say the development is significant because businesses that chart a financial course to make money in a carbon-constrained future could be more inclined to support policies that address climate change.

Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon by Coral Davenport, New York Tiems, Dec 5, 2013 

Local climate predictions stay uncertain

Uncertainty will continue to mark attempts to predict detailed, local climates, scientists say, though they are confident that widespread and significant changes are coming.

Local climate predictions stay uncertain by Tim Radford, Climate News Netwok, Dec 6, 2013

Short-cut to produce hydrogen seen as step to cleaner fuel

Scientists have produced hydrogen by accelerating a natural process found in rocks deep below the Earth's surface, a short-cut that may herald the wider use of what is a clean fuel, a study showed on Sunday.

Short-cut to produce hydrogen seen as step to cleaner fuel by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Dec 8, 2013

Some good news (and plenty of bad) in NRC abrupt climate change report

Abrupt climate change — and also associated abrupt ecological and economic impacts sometimes triggered by more gradual climate change — gets a renewed look from a National Research Council science panel, which recommends development of an ‘early warning system.’ 

Some Good News (and Plenty of Bad) in NRC Abrupt Climate Change Report by Bud Ward, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, Dec 5,

Thanks for killing the planet, boomers!

Unfortunately, the world as we know it is ending, and no one can reasonably hope to avoid the constellation of catastrophic, ecological and social disasters that are all but certain to manifest, exacerbating one another’s horrific, deadly consequences. And yet our politicians can’t be bothered to care, a substantial portion of Americans aren’t convinced that it’s even happening (despite overwhelming, unimpeachable evidence to the contrary), and the enormity of the issue is downplayed basically everywhere outside the bounds of the largely-ghettoized “environmental/green reporting,” uniformly marginalized and dismissed by the mainstream press.

Thanks for killing the planet, boomers! by Tim Donovan, Dec 2, 2013

The apocalypse is coming — and technology can’t save us

Last week, Salon ran an article, “Thanks for killing the planet, boomers!,” where I argued that it’s wholly unrealistic to assume humanity will undertake the massive, world-changing, economy-disrupting policy solutions needed for us to even stand a chance of long-term survival. Given that our local political and economic systems are as fragile, stalled and polarized as they’ve been in most of American history, these predictions only seem more dire, and the problem only more intractable.

Which is why I’m constantly amazed by the notion that our technology will somehow save us, what I’ve come to consider the deus ex machina defense.

We are deluding ourselves: The apocalypse is coming — and technology can’t save us by Tim Donovan, Dec 9, 2013

The (in)sanity of climate change

Last year a friend of mine and her husband set out with their three children on a trek from Missouri to the boreal forests of central Canada to raise awareness about climate change. She read Bill McKibben's article "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" and, just like that, dropped everything to walk a thousand miles with her family accompanied only by their home-built "Conestoga" wagon.

Here's the thing: My friend is NOT insane. She digested McKibben's measured words, backed by the painstaking research of highly trained scientists, and came to this conclusion: "This is indeed terrifying and as a human who cares about myself, as a mother who cares about my children and, as a planetary being that cares about my fellow life beings, I have to do something, I can't just sit on my ass watching from the sidelines."

Here's another other thing: If you have taken the time to learn about climate change and feel afraid, angry or sad, if you feel an urge to take action, then you are not insane either. It is really that simple. If a human being with intact faculties learns of a preventable situation that is causing suffering and wants to do something about it, this is a deeply sane response.

The (IN)Sanity of Climate Change by David Goldstein, The Blog/The Huffington Post, Dec 6, 2013

The Montreal Protocol, a little treaty that could

Here is a remarkable fact about global warming: It might be twice as bad right now were it not for a treaty negotiated by a conservative American president, for an entirely different purpose, based on motives no one has ever quite understood.

That treaty is known, in shorthand, as the Montreal Protocol. Its formal purpose is to save the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, which protects the planet and its people from debilitating levels of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

The negotiations on behalf of the United States, in the 1980s, were carried out by the Reagan administration. And the treaty is turning out to be one of the more momentous steps Ronald Reagan took as president.

The Montreal Protocol, a Little Treaty That Could by Justin Gillis, New York

The other climate problem: CO2 threatens marine life

The IPSO report draws an unsettling comparison between conditions today and climate change events in the past that have resulted in mass extinctions: "On a lot of these major extinction events we see the fingerprints of high temperatures and acidification, similar effects to the ones that we are experiencing today."

The other climate problem: CO2 threatens marine life by Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle (DW), Dec 4, 2013

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. From the article, "Thanks for Killing the Planet Boomers"

    it’s hard to imagine our politicians coming together to make the kind of wholesale changes to our society and economic structure necessary to bring global emissions down to a sustainable level.

    So he (as are many others) are continuing to prodigiously emit while they wait for others to stop them be it with law, fiscal impost or technology ?

    There are plenty of things you can do to cut back considerably on your emissions now: live in a milder climate, no flying, no meat eating pets, install renewables, stop buying so much "stuff", no car, lower your beef consumption and replace it with veg, etc.  I would suggest one of them would not be living in New York or Las Vegas (of all places) before that, as per the author.  I shudder to think how much CO2e he outsoruces.

    It seems to me comentators like this (and they are legion) are expecting some sort of devinve intervention to sort it out, refusing to moidify their lifestyle, to ameliorate‎ their emissions.  Bad enough we get the "burn, baby, burn" from deniers, let alone the equivalent action from those who understand the consequences of AGW.  Buying a reusable shopping bag just doesn't cut it.

    The person doing the emitting is the person looking back at you from the mirror in the morning.  You stop emitting, there are less emissions.  Everyone has an excuse as to why they don't reduce and this is then replicated by Government inaction.

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  2. Trevor_S:

    Widespread counter-cultural movements were launched in the 1960s & 1970s predicated on the notion that voluntary personal action/activism would be sufficient, as a substitute for the large-scale organization and legislative/regulatory efforts of trade unionists and suffragettes of prior decades, to radically transform the world.

    We can say with a high degree of confidence that such efforts failed spectacularly, and follow-up efforts (e.g. punk-style activism in the 1980s, or the anti-globalization movement of the 1990s) which also avoided extensive social mobilization or any particular effort to influence the legislative or regulatory environment have also failed.

    It is also clear that there are a large number of people who are making every effort to reduce their personal carbon emissions, including quite a few regular participants at Skeptical Science. Global carbon emissions continue to increase, despite their best efforts.

    It is also clear that there are a large number of people who are not merely lazy or complacent while being aware of the problems posed by global warming, but apathetic or actively hostile to the notion that they ought to reduce their carbon emissions.

    As far as I can see, without a change in the legislative/regulatory environment among major carbon emitters, the trajectory of carbon emissions is not going to change. Changing the regulatory environment doesn't demand lifestyle changes from the citizenry, only vocal support. The lifestyle changes will come. You don't have to accept the facts of global warming to appareciate, say, that switching to renewables for electricity will save you $$ when there's hefty carbon pricing on coal.

    TL,DR: Both the article you are commenting on, and your post, appear to amount to blaming people for Wanting Nice Things. That might be satisfying, but as far as I can see it is ultimately unproductive as a method of reducing emissions on a societal scale.

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  3. Bother - make that appareciate appreciate. (Move along, nothing to see here.)

    (If there is a list of people suggesting the addition of a "Preview" option in the comment form the next time there is a user interface upgrade here, add me to it.)

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  4. To add to Composer99's comments: individuals who are reducing their carbon footprints are to be applauded, but won't by themselves solve the AGW problem.  That's because AGW is a Tragedy of the Commons.  As Composer99 suggests, lifestyles will change sufficiently, only when burning fossil fuels is made un-economic by government regulation and/or taxation.

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  5. BTW, Composer99, there's a preview button on the Basic comment form.  It looks like a magnifying glass over a page.

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  6. Bad news: November GIS L-OTI is out: 0.77C, a record for Novembers.  It's also tied for the 5th warmest of any months in the GIS series. That sets up 2013 to be the 3rd warmest year on record, and it will have occurred in ENSO net negative conditions.  

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