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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #7

Posted on 16 February 2013 by John Hartz

  • Climate change influences investment risk
  • Climate change makes U.S. government vulnerable
  • Democrats offer climate bill in U.S. Senate 
  • Funding of climate denial think tanks
  • It’s not easy being green
  • Kenyan climate authority bill vetoed
  • Most influential climate science paper
  • Retooling New York for apocalyptic storms
  • Sunlight stimulates release of carbon dioxide
  • Thawing permafrost may be “huge factor”
  • Threat to Canadian national security?
  • U.S. east coast faces rising seas
  • U.S. Sen. Whitehouse's climate crusade

Climate change influences investment risk

For more than a decade, investors have been asking companies to detail their  climate risks through initiatives such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, but  until now, no one has asked these investors about their own exposure to these  risks – and they have certainly not volunteered the information.

Climate change influences investment risk by Tom Scott, Financial Times, Feb 10, 2013

Climate change makes U.S. government vulnerable

Climate change poses a serious financial threat to the federal government, according to the Government Accountability Office’s biennial “High-Risk Report” covering all federal agencies and programs. 

The nonpartisan investigative agency released its findings Thursday, noting that “The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks.”

Climate change makes government vulnerable, report says by Josh Hicks, Washington Post, Feb 14, 2013

Democrats offer climate bill in U.S. Senate

Democrats in Congress wasted no time in taking up President Barack Obama’s challenge Tuesday night that lawmakers take a "market-based" approach to addressing climate change, even if their effort has little hope of success.

Democrats offer long-shot bill to meet Obama’s climate change challenge by Erika Bolstad, McClatchy Newspapers, Feb 13, 2013

Funding of climate denial think tanks

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Feb 14, 2013

It’s not easy being green 

GREEN jobs have long had a whiff of exaggeration to them. The alternative-energy sector may ultimately employ millions of people. But raising the cost of the energy that households and businesses use every day — a necessary effect of helping the climate — is not exactly a recipe for an economic boom.

It’s Not Easy Being Green by David Leonhardt, New York Times, Feb 9, 2013

Kenyan climate authority bill vetoed

Kenya’s hopes of becoming one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a body legally empowered to advise on mitigating the effects of climate change have hit a dead end, after President Mwai Kibaki rejected a law that would have created a Kenya Climate Change Authority (KCCA).             

Advocates shocked by president's veto of Kenyan climate authority bill by Maina Waruru, Alertnet, Feb 11, 2013 

Most Influential Climate Science Paper

Just six pages long, it is stoking a new moral urgency for climate action and forcing the financial world to reconsider the value of fossil fuel reserves.

The Most Influential Climate Science Paper Today Remains Unknown to Most People by Katherine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Feb 14, 2013

Retooling New York for apocalyptic storms

During World War II, a German U-boat made its way into New York Harbour. It fired two torpedoes at a British tanker, splitting the hull in three places and igniting it in flames. The captain and 35 members of his crew burned to death.

Seventy years later, New York Harbour is Lower Manhattan’s first line of defence against another threat: the rising tides of the sea.

Retooling New York for Apocalyptic Storms b

Sunlight stimulates release of carbon dioxide

Ancient plant and animal matter trapped within Arctic permafrost can be converted rapidly into climate-warming carbon dioxide when melted and exposed to sunlight, according to a new study.

In a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of environmental and biological scientists examined 27 melting permafrost sites in Alaska and found that bacteria converted dissolved organic carbon materials into the greenhouse gas CO2 40% faster when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Sunlight stimulates release of carbon dioxide in melting permafrost by Monte Morin, Los Angeles Times, Feb 12, 2013

Thawing permafrost may be “huge factor”

Thawing permafrost is emitting more climate-heating carbon faster than previously realised. Scientists have now learned that when the ancient carbon locked in the ice thaws and is exposed to sunlight, it turns into carbon dioxide 40 percent faster.
“This really changes the trajectory of the debate” over when and how much carbon will be released as permafrost thaws due to ever warmer temperatures in the Arctic, says researcher Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina.

Thawing Permafrost May Be “Huge Factor” in Global Warming by Stepehn Leahy, International Press Service (IPS), Feb 13, 2013

Threat to Canadian national security?

Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country's police and security agencies has become the "new normal", according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.

Canada's environmental activists seen as 'threat to national security' by Stephen Leahy, The Guardian, Feb 14, 2013

U.S. east coast faces rising seas

Experts on the sea level rise triggered by climate change have long known that it will proceed faster in some places than others. The mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S. is one of them, and the reason — in theory, anyway — is that global warming should slow the flow of the Gulf Stream as it moves north and then east toward northern Europe.

East Coast Faces Rising Seas From Slowing Gulf Stream by Michael D. Lemonick, Climate Central, Feb 12. 2013

U.S. Sen. Whitehouse's climate crusade

When the Rhode Island Democrat takes the floor each week to lecture his colleagues on climate, the room is usually empty. But still he persists.

Sen. Whitehouse's Climate Crusade Aims to Awaken Congress 'Sleepwalking Through History' by Lisa song, Insdie Climate News, Feb 12, 2013

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. Interesting recap of the history of Most Influential Climate Science Paper which is this paper. Evidently mostly quoted paper in the history of climate science, not because it describes some break-through but because it links the climate modeling to the future of fosil fuel industry.

    The interesting piece is, that according to the article, no skeptics nor FF industry have ever denied the numbers in the paper. Instead, they've critiqued that the paper and the activists supporting it "do not understand the economic reality that FF are needed as energy source". In other words, "we are so much dependant on FF, like a drug user that is doomed & must die, such paper does not change it". I can only make one comment here: to draw such conclusion, one must be in a very sickly state of mind...

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    Moderator Response: [DB] It is relatively unknown than an openly-available copy of that paywalled paper can be found here.
  2. I am also struck by the "Most Influential Paper" story; I was already vaguely familiar with the math through McKibben's work.

    It does seem to me that there is some hope for help here from a not-so obvious source: Wall Street. It seems to me that there are some pretty sound reasons for questioning the stock valuations of many energy-sector companies, based on this math.

    As Chomsky has pointed out, it is illegal in America, for the CEO or other employees of a publically quoted company to do anything other than to try to maximise the stock value of their company, and thus profit to shareholders. This then, is their agenda.

    I increasingly suspect that it is quite difficult for investors, getting their information from the WSJ, the FT or Forbes, inter-alia, to actually get full information on the risks asscociated with their investments in the energy sector. It is certainly the case, in my opinion, that the little of the WSJ's journalism that I have seen on the subject of energy and climate does them no credit, and does their readers no favours.

     In the political and economic climate that we now inhabit, I am beginning to suspect that ultimately, the markets will decide.


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  3. Sorry, I know such things are not supposed to be said ..... but

    Even the most influential science papers underestimate the consequences of continued fossil fuel burning because modeling fails to address the contentious issue of carbon feedback released from thawing permafrost and clathrate, particularly on and under the Siberian continental shelf.  It is extraordinary that the findings and warnings of Shakhova, Semiletov and others are played down, dismissed or simply ignored.  Is this folly the result of a realisation that carbon emissions from these sources make a 2°C limit on global warming impossible, a 3°C limit unlikely and a 5-6°C increase by 2100 a possibility?

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  4. Agnostic,

    I agree. It's known that mainstream climate scientists tend to eer on the side of caution and Meinshausen 2009 is no exception. For example Gavin has mildly criticised this paper for omitting the effects of CH4. However,  Meinshausen did omit it on purpose, because the findings of Shakhova, no matter how alarming, cannot be decisively quantified and Meinshausenwanted the decisive quantification in order to speculate the FF industry future.

    However that's not my point. My point is, that with such excellent standing of Meinshausen 2009 almost four years now, even the most hardcore deniers silently accepting its math, anyone who continues to finance FF industries is simply irrational nutter.

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  5. @IDunno (2)

    As Chomsky has pointed out, it is illegal in America, for the CEO or other employees of a publically quoted company to do anything other than to try to maximise the stock value of their company, and thus profit to shareholders. This then, is their agenda.

    You're quite right, but there is another way of looking at the same requirement, and one that suggests a different strategy regarding climate change. If it could be argued that, by their inactions, board officers or other responsible employees had been negligent in respect to environmental threats to the business, those same employees could find themselves on the wrong end of lawsuits launched by investors whose stock value and dividends had deteriorated.

    Business as usual may produce short term profits, but investors (particularly institutional ones like pension funds) will often take a longer view. I have long believed that the commercial world will have to come to terms with the reality of climate change, not because of science, but because otherwise they may fall foul of the same laws and definitions of responsibility you have quoted. In a litigious country like the US, there will be no end of lawyers seeking redress when profits start to tumble in keeping with share values, and it is for this reason I've advocated more focus on business activism and less on the regrettably unproductive governmental lobbying.

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  6. As Chomsky has pointed out, it is illegal in America, for the CEO or other employees of a publically quoted company to do anything other than to try to maximise the stock value of their company, and thus profit to shareholders.

    Sorry for being OT, but is this really true? "Illegal", to me, implies statutes to that effect. Does America really have statutes requiring CEOs to do nothing other than to try to maximise stock value, or is it in reality something taken as implied by their normal fiduciary duty, possibly coupled with some common law precedents where shareholders have sued directors?

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