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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #14A

Posted on 2 April 2014 by John Hartz

4 takeaways from report reveal worsening impacts of climate change

The first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)—released in September—confirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that the world is warming, largely due to human activities. The Working Group II (WGII) report, released today, takes this finding a step further: Not only is climate change happening, but every continent on earth is now experiencing its impacts.

Four major takeaways from the report showcase the impacts we’re already seeing, as well as those projected to occur if the world continues to warm. And more importantly, they reveal a critical message: As John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, put it, the report “underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.”

4 Takeaways from IPCC Report Reveal Worsening Impacts of Climate Change by C. Forbes Tompkins and

If we want to adapt to climate change, we need to start now

Regular readers of The Nation will not be surprised by much in the new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but it’s encouraging to see mainstream media outlets giving unusually high-profile, plain-spoken coverage to scientists’ latest projections of the catastrophes in store if governments continue to stick their heads in the sand. Most Americans still rank climate change near the bottom of their public concerns, according to opinion polls. One reason may be the assumption that climate change is a distant problem—a concern for polar bears, future generations and the poor of Bangladesh but not for me and my loved ones today. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group 2, demolishes that assumption, and thus may pierce the mass complacency that allows political and business leaders to get away with doing little about the approaching train wreck. The report makes clear that the disasters wrought by humanity’s continuing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are “not far-off in the future and…not exotic creatures,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University. “It’s us and now.” The “breakdown of food systems,” severe shortages of drinking and irrigation water and flooding of both coasts and cities are among the most destructive impacts already taking place and projected to increase in the years ahead.

If We Want to Adapt to Climate Change, We Need to Start Now by Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation, Mar 31, 2014

MIT climate scientist responds on disaster costs and climate change

As someone who has spent some time looking at changes in the incidence of hurricanes around the planet, I have been asked to provide a response to Roger Pielke Jr.’s article “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change,” published at FiveThirtyEight earlier this month.

Let me begin by saying that I am sympathetic to Pielke’s emphasis on the role of changing demographics in increasing damages from natural disasters. This is a serious problem that could be addressed by wiser policies. For example, in the United States, policies regulating insurance and providing federal flood insurance and disaster relief have the effect of subsidizing risk-taking, and the recent repeal of large sections of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Federal Flood Insurance Reform Act shows just how difficult it is to reform these risk-inducing policies. 

MIT Climate Scientist Responds on Disaster Costs And Climate Changey by Kerry Emanuel, FiveThirtyEight Science, Mar 31, 2014

Risk game: What a warmer planet means to the bottom line 

Kate Gordon has been described as Tom Steyer’s "secret weapon," but it turns out that finding her is as simple as making a phone call and then riding up the elevator to her office in San Francisco’s Financial District. Here, Gordon is managing Risky Business, an ambitious project that aims to quantify the financial risks that climate change poses to the American economy.

The report, which is slated to be released this June, is headed by Steyer, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and features input from an eclectic Risk Committee of former cabinet members and other political heavy-hitters.

A former housing activist, Gordon has taken an unconventional path to environmentalism. Before she became the Vice President and Director of the Energy and Climate Program at Next Generation, Steyer's nonprofit policy think tank, Gordon spent a decade drawing up strategies for boosting green jobs and manufacturing, some of which found their way into state and federal policy — most notably in President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

I recently met with her in Next Generation's offices to talk about quantifying disaster risk, the fate of the "green jobs" boom, and finding hope in numbers.

Risk game: What a warmer planet means to the bottom line by Heather Smith, Grist, Apr 1, 2014

Teaching about climate change with the New York Times

This week, an intergovernmental panel of scientists reported that climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans — and that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

Over the years on The Learning Network, we’ve published scores of lesson plans and other resources related to the topic of climate change, and in 2010 we collected them all on one page.

Below, we update that old collection with seven starting points for teaching and learning about the topic, along with a new list of links to much more, from Learning Network lesson plans to Times video, graphics, articles and photographs.

Teaching About Climate Change With The New York Times by Jennifer Cutraro and the Learning Center, New York Times, Apr 2, 2014

The global reaction to the latest IPCC climate report

The latest IPCC report, on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, has just been published. What are the experts saying?

The global reaction to the latest IPCC climate report: what it means for China and the world, China Dialogue, Mar 31, 2014

The U.S. House Committee on Science is a national embarrassment 

A few days back I wrote a post explaining why I am all for private support of basic science, especially in an age when government funding and support is flagging. My feelings were simply reinforced when I came across this news piece documenting the shameful behavior of Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in denying climate change and harassing John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.

The debacle was part of a hearing in which the members were supposed to discuss the upcoming 2015 budget with Holdren. Instead the proceedings turned into a mixture of hostile heckling and insulting sarcasm. This was black comedy that would have been mildly humorous had it not been real. The Republican members of the committee made it clear that not only do they lack the slightest interest in addressing climate change but they are about as ignorant about the nuances of science as a stone.

The House of Representatives Committee on Science is turning into a national embarrassment, Op-ed by Ashutosh Jogalekar, Scientific American, Mar 31, 2014 

Unnatural disaster

I come to praise Nate Silver, not to bury him. In this case, I want to congratulate him for taking the first step toward the eventual firing of Roger Pielke Jr., author of one of the most heavily criticized pieces to date on Silver’s somewhat beleaguered new site, FiveThirtyEight. Pielke’s March 19 piece, “Disasters Cost More than Ever—But Not Because of Climate Change,” has been slammed for faulty data, ideological bias, and poor statistical work, leading Silver to publish a conditional defense of the article. Silver admits to some sloppiness in the piece and has said that FiveThirtyEight will publish a rebuttal. These are good steps, but Silver is still backing the wrong horse, and the sooner he dumps Pielke (who’s also a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder), the better.

Unnatural Disaster by David Auerbach, Slate, Mar 31, 2014

Unrestrained oil and gas is the future, ExxonMobil argues

In an unprecedented disclosure, Exxon Mobil Corp. told investors this week that it believes climate change poses a risk to its bottom line, but the firm made no gestures toward a future without oil and gas.

Rather, the world's largest oil company maintained that all sources of energy, including fossil fuels, will be necessary to meet the future global demand and that the best path toward managing greenhouse gas emissions is through technology advancement and adoption of energy efficiency programs.

Moreover, Exxon Mobil expressed confidence that its oil and gas assets were unlikely to become stranded even under much tighter regulation of carbon emissions because the fossil fuels would be needed to grow the world's economies. 

Unrestrained Oil and Gas Is the Future, ExxonMobil Argues by Daniel Cusick and ClimateWire. Scientific American, Apr 2, 2014

US falling emissions a mirage: offshoring and fracking

America's emissions are not falling, as suggested by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The two main reasons are offshored goods and services and fracked natural gas. The EIA does two things that obscure reality when evaluating emissions. One is that it counts only emissions made in the United States. All those goods and services made in China or other developing nations don't count against US emissions. The other is the warming potential of other greenhouse gas emissions. The EIA counts only CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

So the EIA's quote that US emissions are falling that has been spread across the media without regard to science, needs some explaining.1

"The decline in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions occurred while the US economy grew in 2012." US Energy Information Administration, October 21, 2013.

How did our economy grow while emissions fell? Consumption has continued to increase almost without a pause for the Great Recession, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

US falling emissions a mirage: offshoring and fracking, News Analysis by Bruce Melton, Truthout, Apr 2, 2014

Wake up to the reality of climate change

"Nothing poses a bigger threat to our water, our livelihood and our quality of life than a warming climate." Those are my words from 2006 upon the signing of an executive order on climate change for New Mexico when I was governor.

Almost a decade later, this statement still holds true. But now we have even more information about climate change, both the risks and solutions.

The just-released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a collection of more than 800 leading climate scientists, reaffirms that climate impacts are already occurring and having a dramatic impact on society. Climate change is driven by our dependence on fossil fuels and is expected to get worse. In order to shift directions, we need nothing less than to rethink how we power our country. 

Wake up to the reality of climate change, Op-ed by Bill Richardson, CNN, Mar 31, 2014

We live in a world already altered by climate change

Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released Part 2 of its Assessment Report. Part 1 came out in September 2013 and showed unequivocally that climate change is real, and human influence is the root cause. Part 2 deals with the impacts of climate change, and what might be done to minimize the effects. The technical summary is an interesting if depressing read. It concatenates the results from scientific journals in the field, giving what is essentially the position of the scientific community on the issues.

The scope of the report is very broad, going over the climate change impact on the planet’s physical systems (oceans, coasts, weather, and so on) as well as the biosphere (humans, animals, agriculture) and human society, and then discussing how we must adapt to and manage/mitigate these risks.

“There Is No Question That We Live in a World Already Altered by Climate Change.” by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Mar 31, 2014

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  1. A little bug, perhaps of interest to Bob:

    The links to comment counters on the sks home page in the article previews, starting from this article began showing values real_number_of_comments+, i.e. "3 comments" when there are realy only 2 comments that you can view by clicking at the actual link.

    Nothing important (just a misleading statement that SkS threads are slightly more popular) but I wonder how the HTML server can produce such a bug...

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