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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #1

Posted on 4 January 2014 by John Hartz

  • As Australia burns, anger at Prime Minister's climate policies boils
  • Climate change worse than we thought, likely to be 'catastrophic rather than simply dangerous'
  • Climate coverage soars in 2013
  • Dear Donald Trump: Winter does not disprove global warming
  • In 2013, climate 'resiliency' officially entered the lexicon
  • Kerry shifts State Department focus to environment
  • Loss of tropical coral reefs could be first irreversible climate consequence
  • Our climate hangover: 5 reasons to end America's fossil fuel fiesta in 2014
  • Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn
  • Quebec-California partnership blazes trail for carbon trading
  • Spared winter freeze, Florida’s mangroves are marching north
  • The 10 worst climate stories of 2013

As Australia burns, anger at Prime Minister's climate policies boils

As Australia closes its hottest year in recorded history, anger at Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s climate change denying policies appears to be reaching a boiling point.

According to findings released January 3 by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, "2013 was Australia’s warmest year since records began in 1910." The report notes that this warming is directly tied to the greenhouse gas effect that is heating the entire planet.

Labor and Green party members say these numbers emphasize just how dangerous Abbott's efforts to gut Australia's carbon-curbing measures are.

As Australia Burns, Anger at Prime Minister's Climate Policies Boils by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, Jan 3, 2014

Climate change worse than we thought, likely to be 'catastrophic rather than simply dangerous'

Climate change may be far worse than scientists thought, causing global temperatures to rise by at least 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, or about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature, takes a fresh look at clouds' effect on the planet, according to a report by The Guardian. The research found that as the planet heats, fewer sunlight-reflecting clouds form, causing temperatures to rise further in an upward spiral.

That number is double what many governments agree is the threshold for dangerous warming. Aside from dramatic environmental shifts like melting sea ice, many of the ills of the modern world -- starvation, poverty, war and disease -- are likely to get worse as the planet warms.

Climate Change Worse Than We Thought, Likely To Be 'Catastrophic Rather Than Simply Dangerous by Nick Viasser, The Huffington Post, Dec 31, 2013

Climate coverage soars in 2013

Reporting on climate change by world media leapt 30 percent above 2012's effort as more reporters tied energy and environmental issues to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Daily Climate's archives.

Climate coverage soars in 2013, spurred by energy, weather by Douglas Fischer, The Daily Climate, Jan 2, 2014

Dear Donald Trump: Winter does not disprove global warming

An intense blizzard, appropriately named Hercules, is about to blanket the Northeast. Antarctic ice locked in a Russian ship containing a team of scientists—en route, no less, to do climate research. Record low temperatures have been seen in parts of the US, and in Winnipeg, temperatures on December 31 were as cold as temperatures on...Mars.

So as is their seasonal wont, here come the climate skeptics. 

Dear Donald Trump: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming by Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, Jan 2, 2014

In 2013, climate 'resiliency' officially entered the lexicon 

The debate about tackling climate change has long revolved around the twin challenges of mitigating global warming and adapting to its more predictable long-term impacts—rising seas, higher peak temperatures, relentless drought.

Now a new concept has risen: "climate resiliency," or preparing cities for climate change's unforeseen and destructive disasters and disruptions. Resiliency includes adaptation measures—such as rebuilding wetlands or moving homes onto higher foundations as a way to fight floods—but it's also about armoring entire populations so they can absorb and quickly recover from sudden calamity. 

In 2013, Climate 'Resiliency' Officially Entered the Lexicon by Maria Gallucci, InsideClimate News, Dec 31, 2013

Kerry shifts State Department focus to environment

As a young naval officer in Vietnam, John Kerry commanded a Swift boat up the dangerous rivers of the Mekong Delta. But when he returned there last month as secretary of state for the first time since 1969, he spoke not of past firefights but of climate change.

Kerry shifts State Department focus to environment by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Jan 4, 2014

Loss of tropical coral reefs could be first irreversible climate consequence

Less familiar, but every bit as troubling to climate scientists, is a parallel slope on a different track of climate data: the increase of CO2 in the world's oceans, which has been climbing almost in lockstep with the Keeling curve. The rising carbon level is cranking up ocean acidity with astonishing speed—probably 10 times faster than at any point in about 50 million years, according to scientists. 

Loss of Tropical Coral Reefs Could Be First Irreversible Climate Consequence by John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News, Dec 28, 2013

Our climate hangover: 5 reasons to end America's fossil fuel fiesta in 2014

It was a heck of a party. For America's oil and gas industry, 2013 was another festive year of incredible financial gains and expanding opportunities.

Even as petroleum companies raked in up to $175,000 a minute in profits, the Obama administration has leased millions of acres of your public land to the oil and gas industry while shrugging off concerns about fracking pollution.

Thanks to dangerous new fracking techniques and lax regulators, the U.S. is becoming -- temporarily, at least -- the world's largest producer of oil and gas. So many people in fracked communities have already lost their health, their quality of life, and even their homes to the immediate ravages of this toxic activity.

But perhaps the highest price for this festival of corporate greed may be paid by the climate and those who depend on it -- meaning, you, me, and every other creature on earth. A climate hangover of monumental proportions awaits us all in the aftermath of this modern-day fossil fuel frenzy.

Our Climate Hangover: 5 Reasons to End America's Fossil Fuel Fiesta in 2014 by Kassie Siegle, The Huffington Post, Jan 3, 2014

Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn 

Temperature rises resulting from unchecked climate change will be at the severe end of those projected, according to a new scientific study.

The scientist leading the research said that unless emissions of greenhouse gases were cut, the planet would heat up by a minimum of 4C by 2100, twice the level the world's governments deem dangerous.

The research indicates that fewer clouds form as the planet warms, meaning less sunlight is reflected back into space, driving temperatures up further still. The way clouds affect global warming has been the biggest mystery surrounding future climate change. 

Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn by Damien Carrington, The Guardian, Dec 31, 2013

Quebec-California partnership blazes trail for carbon trading

The province of Quebec formally linked its cap-and-trade system with California’s market on Thursday, as the two jurisdictions plow ahead with ambitious plans to put an escalating price on carbon in order to reduce emissions.

Quebec and California are the only members moving forward with cap-and-trade programs in what was once a promising alliance of 11 states and provinces comprising the Western Climate Initiative that envisaged a North American market for carbon trading.

Quebec-California partnership blazes trail for carbon trading by Shawn McCarthy, Globe and Mail, Jan 2, 2014

Spared winter freeze, Florida’s mangroves are marching North

Much of the Florida shoreline was once too cold for the tropical trees called mangroves, but the plants are now spreading northward at a rapid clip, scientists reported Monday. That finding is the latest indication that global warming, though still in its early stages, is already leading to ecological changes so large they can be seen from space.

Spared Winter Freeze, Florida’s Mangroves Are Marching North by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Dec 30, 2013

The 10 worst climate stories of 2013

There was some good climate news in 2013. President Barack Obama outlined a new plan to address rising emissions in a major address at Georgetown University in June. The EPA rolled out the first-ever standards for emissions from power plants in September. And both the US Department of Treasury and the Export-Import Bank announced that they will no longer fund coal-fired power plants abroad unless they have pollution controls.

But for the most part, the climate news this year was bad. Really bad. Like, "Seriously, come on, THIS IS TERRIBLE you guys." Here are the ten worst climate stories of 2013, in no particular order--from killer hornets to killer jellyfish, and everything in between.

The 10 Worst Climate Stories Of 2013 by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Dec 31, 2013

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Comments 1 to 15:

  1. I have to admit, my anger at Abbott's climate science denialism has caused me to make somewhat intemperate comments, both here and at The Conversation. As I am not a scientist, speaking in anger does not reflect badly on my dispassionate professionalism, but it still disappoints me that I can be so provoked. This inexplicable blindness by Tony Abbott single-handedly caused my traditional Conservative vote to go to the Left in the recent Australian election and I see no prospect of it going back to the Right any time soon.

    I am also encountering a surprising number of people who share my concerns: surprising, in that I live in an overwhelmingly Right wing electorate, where the National member enjoys a massive share of the vote.

    Is it too much to hope that light is dawning in this benighted political landscape? Time will tell, but time is against us.

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  2. Took Abbott only a few days in government to axe the Climate Change Commission.

    Dark days indeed.

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  3. @ Matthew L: Your post was deleted in its entirety becuase it constituted inflamatory sloganeering which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Plolicy. Please read the Comments Policy and adhere to it.  

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  4. The demise of corals would be a double whammy.  As sea level rises, the vertical restraint on coral growth is removed and Corals, which are a tad over 60% Carbon dioxide by weight, should be doing their part in sequestering CO2.  Kill the corals (and the oysters and the pteropods and the foram's etc)  and this sink ends.  Note that corals kept up with the 6mm/year rise in sea level since the end of the last glacial and filled in 120m. 

    The cloud thing is interesting.  If we kill the oceans will there be more methyl sulphide or less emitted into the atmosphere.  (have I got the chemical right).  This is an emission from algae and is supposed to help seed clouds.  I suppose if the oceans are completely dead, there will be no more algae but in between, the oceans could be a slimy soup of algae with more of the chemical emitted???

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  5. The problems with Abbott government policies is that it not only repeals sensible, effective and very necessary measures aimed at curbing Australian greenhouse gas emissions (put in place by the Gillard government) but it also removes measures aimed at promoting development and use of renewable technology.

    Abbott goes further by promoting, assisting and encouraging the development of new coal mines and subsidizing their operation. As if that were not enough, he has either abolished or withdrawn funding from scientific organizations with responsibility for independently informing the public on the science of climate change and government on appropriate targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. While embracing a target of reducing Australia’s CO2 emissions to 5% below 2000 emissions by 2020,

    Mr Abbott ignores the science and scientists who call for a reduction of 25% by 2020. Apart from an ideological position, reluctance to adopt a more pragmatic target may have something to do with the fact the his proposals for Direct Action to reduce emissions simply can not deliver more than a 5% reduction over the next 6 years. Both politically and in terms of temperature,

    Mr Abbott is likely find that by the time of the next General election (2016), the numbers are not on his side. His position on climate change in the face of a warming reality is barely tenable and will be considerably less so when he is forced to ask the electorate for their support.

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  6. william@4,

    As sea level rises, the vertical restraint on coral growth is removed [...]. Note that corals kept up with the 6mm/year rise in sea level since the end of the last glacial and filled in 120m

    I think your point hardly makes any difference. Climate change during interglacial transition was quite different to that caused by AWG today. The main issue to corals is ocean acidification. They can grow fast, even outgrow the SLR twice as fast as today, if they have favorite conditions.

    Note that during the glacial transitions, if anything ocean became less acidic, because it released its CO2 into athmosphere as it warmed. Today, the opposite happens: C is dug out of long-term, 100Ma reservoirs, dumped into atmosphere and ultimately sunk into ocean as CO2. And it's happening at alarmingly fast rate, beyond any adaptation capability by biosphere. So, with OA rising fast, the corals will simply dissolve: they cannot grow, let alone keep up with the pace of SLR.

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  7. >>The problems with Abbott government policies is that it not only repeals sensible, effective and very necessary measures aimed at curbing Australian greenhouse gas emissions<<

    I would take you up on that: any tax on carbon which doesn't have a direct impact on the end user (the electricity consumer) is hardly effective. Taxing carbon and then giving a rebate to some is close to oxymoronic - the whole point is to make people aware of the tax and to reduce consumption.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Unnecessary white space eliminated.

  8.    Wol, dude, it would be oxymoronic if there was a tax on _everything_ which was then turned back. Taxing carbon only will constantly steer people away from carbon-intensive sources and toward conservation and non-carbon sources.

       But ultimately we may be in agreement, since I see such taxes as only a very inadequate start toward what we much implement. Carbon emissions are essentially bombs that we are creating and dropping on our children. If we knew of someone manufacturing explosives that we knew they planned to explode in our children's schools, we would not just try to discourage them from doing so by modestly increasing their taxes--we would move as quickly as we could to banning the production of such threatening material. This is what we have to come to see fossil-death-fuels as--a clear and present threat to our very existence and that of our children.

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  9. Wol – “any tax on carbon which doesn't have a direct impact on the end user (the electricity consumer) is hardly effective

    Wrong. The Gillard governments carbon tax was imposed on major emitters, such as electricity generators, in a bid to induce them to reduce their emissions and in this regard it was successful. Why would you tax end users of products, eg. electricity, rather than emitters? 

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  10. OK, let me try again. In the first item on this page you use the phrase "while Australia burns" because it had its warmest year and had forest fires. To me this is literally inflammatory on a site supposedly devoted to science. We could discuss how forest fires are due to more direct human intervention than rising CO2, such as poor woodland management, building housing in forest areas and arson, but my main point is that one year of data is weather not climate. Other parts of the globe had cold years - this site bills itself as putting forward the science behind experiencing "global warming" (note no denial of this fact) and it is not scientifically valid to imply that one warm year in one part of the world is indicative of anything other than unusual "weather".

    In fact this very point is made in the item headed "Dear Donald Trump...".  Yes, Winter does not equal global cooling any more than one warm year in one place (or the whole globe for that matter) equals global warming.

    Having been a long time reader and supporter of this site as an excellent resource on the science I am being increasingly put off by the increasingly political tone and lack of balance. Please put this post up so that I can see whether others agree or disagree with me.

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  11. But surely "Australia burns" is a localised not a global event and could be classed more as weather than climate.  In reality on a global scale 2013 was the fourth hottest year behind 1998, 2010 and 2005.  So why in 2006-09 and 2011 and 2012 were there not concerns of global colling?   I am well aware of the trend lines but taking one year in one country in isolation, which is what is happening here, doesn't really have much validity in a global context. For example the residents of the US could using the same logic, say that as in 2013 (and for the first time since 1993) there were more record cold temperatures than record hot temperatures (USA Today January 2 2014 that global cooling rather than global warming is occurring

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  12. The mangrove paper totally ignores the pertinent fact that recovery efforts for the mangroves were put in place after hurricanes destroyed a large portion of them.  That fact needs to be accounted for.   

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  13. Terranova, that issue was addressed by HotWhopper recently.

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  14. Matthew L and Poster:

    By design, the Weekly News Roundup is a compilation of news articles from around the world which address some aspect of climate change be it scientific and/or policy related.  The News Roundup is provided as a service to our readers who like to keep their fingers on the pulse about what's happening and how it is being communicated. 

    The headlines and text for each article included in a news roundup are verbatim from the article as originally posted and/or published. 

    The inclusion of an article in the news roundup does not equate to SkS endorsement of the article.

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  15. I have some sympathy to Matthew's concerns, which for me go beyond this article, and it's good to see someone else giving them voice. If SkS does not necessarily endorse the news items, what is the basis for selection if not that the news items are all on-message? Skeptical articles don't make the cut, presumably because they lack scientific accuracy, but that is the case with mainstream reporting, which almost always sensationalise the facts.

    More recent emphasis on messaging at SkS is understandable. It may ruffle some of us old-timers who have lurked for the pleasure of attending a site that emphasises scientific accuracy, but our demographic is already persuaded

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