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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #18B

Posted on 4 May 2014 by John Hartz

75 per cent of Americans want to see climate change taught in schools

A new study reveals significant gaps in many north Americans' knowledge about climate change. But the vast majority want to know much more, and 75 per cent want to see climate change taught in schools according to new research from the Yale Forum on Climate Change Communication. We've picked five of the most interesting graphs from the research.

75 per cent of Americans want to see climate change taught in schools, and four more graphs by Ros Donald, The Carbon Brief, May 2, 2014

Arctic methane emissions ‘certain to trigger warming’

As climate change melts Arctic permafrost and releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, it is creating a feedback loop that is "certain to trigger additional warming," according to the lead scientist of a new study investigating Arctic methane emissions. 

The study released this week examined 71 wetlands across the globe and found that melting permafrost is creating wetlands known as fens, which are unexpectedly emitting large quantities of methane. Over a 100-year timeframe, methane is about 35 times as potent as a climate change-driving greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and over 20 years, it's 84 times more potent.

Arctic Methane Emissions ‘Certain to Trigger Warming’ by Bobby McGill, Climate Central, May 1, 2014

Barack Obama's emissions plan comes under new line of attack

The central pillar of Barack Obama's climate change agenda has come under a new line of co-ordinated attack from influential lobbying networks involving Republican politicians and big business.

The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a free market group of state legislators funded in part by coal and oil companies such as Peabody Energy and Koch Industries, launched a much broader style of campaigning in 2014 to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Documents obtained by the Guardian offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Alec as the organisation tried to drum up opposition from coal, oil and electricity industry groups and state officials.

Barack Obama's emissions plan comes under new line of attack by Suzanne Goldengerg, The Guardian, May 2, 2014

California drought: Sierra snowpack is barely there

The heat is on, in more ways than one, as California staggers toward a third drought-plagued summer that will probably include rationing and lots of fighting about how the state should use its precious, dwindling supplies of water.

The snow levels in the Sierra were only 18 percent of average on Thursday, when the last of the season's once-a-month measurements was taken by the California Department of Water Resources. That's worse than last month, when the snowpack was 32 percent of normal for the date.

With mountain temperatures rising into the 70s, it was small surprise that surveyors found no snow at several of the 120 measurement spots, including historic Phillips Station near Echo Summit.

Conditions get worse the farther north one goes in the Sierra and Cascade ranges. The snowpack is a paltry 7 percent of average in the northern part of the state, according to the measurements.

California drought: Sierra snowpack is barely there by Peter Femrite, SFGate, May 2, 2014

Caribbean fears loss of “Keystone Species” to climate change

A marine biologist has cautioned that the mass deaths of starfish along the United States west coast in recent months could also occur in the Caribbean region because of climate change, threatening the vital fishing sector.

Since June 2013, scientists began noticing that starfish, which they say function as keystone species in the marine ecosystem, have been mysteriously dying by the millions.

"It’s a fight that the world has to win if it is to survive because if the small states don’t win, it means that the globe as a whole does not win." John Mussington

“The cause of the starfish die-off which is taking place in the Pacific Ocean is not known at this time but it could turn out to be from a number of factors including climate change,” John Mussington told IPS.

“If it turns out that climate change factors such as ocean warming are indeed implicated in the starfish die-off, then there is the possibility that the same thing could happen in the Atlantic and affect Caribbean species.

“We are living in an era when the predicted consequences of climate change are now reality. Large scale die-off of can therefore happen to us in the Caribbean,” Mussington added.

Caribbean Fears Loss of “Keystone Species” to Climate Change by desmond Brown, Inter Press Service (IPS), Apr 26, 2014

Carbon dioxide levels rocketed to an apex in April

As scientists expected, April became the first month in human history to have an average concentration of carbon dioxide — the main long-lived global warming gas — above 400 parts per million (ppm), according to data from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) observatory, which sits atop a 11,000-foot-tall Hawaiian volcano.

This is a symbolic but grim milestone for those who are fighting to lower global greenhouse emissions to reduce manmade global warming; as carbon dioxide levels climb, so do the risks of triggering dangerous climate change, such as the melting of land-based ice sheets and flooding of coastal cities.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Rocketed to an Apex in April — and It's Not Stopping by Andrew Feedman, Mashable, May 2, 2014

Global warming could strengthen key African easterly waves

Easterly waves that originate in Africa, which can eventually seed the growth of tropical storms and hurricanes could become stronger due to human-induced climate change, according to new research from Stanford University.

These waves travel east to west across the Atlantic during the warm season.

Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science and Christopher Skinner, a graduate student wanted to find out how a warming atmosphere might affect the strength and track of these African easterly waves or AEW's.

The researchers analyzed simulations from 17 computer models and focused on the simulations of AEW's during the 1980-2005 period and those of AEW's during the future when the atmospheric CO2 concentration is projected to be two times greater than it is today.

Nearly all of the simulations showed that the winds associated with AEW's would grow stronger by the late 21st century, assuming the current rate of increase of global CO2 emissions.

Global Warming could Strengthen Key African Easterly Waves by Brett Anderson, AccuWeather

Here's why I'm still in the fight

My English friend Paul Kingsnorth was the subject of a long article two weeks ago in The New York Times magazine, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It ... and He Feels Fine.”

A former editor of The Ecologist, Paul has gained new attention of late for his passionate and public despair over “an age of ecocide” and his proclamations that we are now powerless to do anything about it. That expression of despair coincides with an equally public withdrawal from the battlefield of big-scale climate and environmental activism. He warns, “What all these movements are doing is selling a false premise. They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t and you know that you are lying to people.”

To My Friend the Climate Defeatist: Here's Why I'm Still In the Fight by Jim Shultz, Yes Magazine/Common Dreams, Apr 30, 2014 

How stable is Earth’s climate?

Americans have very different mental models of the stability of the climate system. In a nationally representative study, we examined Americans’ understanding of how the climate system works. Survey respondents were presented with the following question:

“People disagree about how the climate system works. The five pictures below illustrate five different perspectives. Each picture depicts the Earth’s climate system as a ball balanced on a line, yet each one has a different ability to withstand human-caused global warming. Which one of the five pictures best represents your understanding of how the climate system works?”

How Stable is Earth’s Climate?, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, Undated

Megacities contend with sinking land

Subsiding land is a bigger immediate problem for the world's coastal cities than sea level rise, say scientists.

In some parts of the globe, the ground is going down 10 times faster than the water is rising, with the causes very often being driven by human activity.

Decades of ground water extraction saw Tokyo descend two metres before the practice was stopped.

Speaking at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly, researchers said other cities must follow suit.

Gilles Erkens from the Deltares Research Institute, in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, said parts of Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and numerous other coastal urban settlements would sink below sea level unless action was taken.

Megacities contend with sinking land by Johnathan Amos, Science & Environment, BBC News, Apr 39, 2014

Solar surge brings green heat and hope to India's far north

Tsering Nurbo of Leh town in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir proudly explains how the smart design of his new home has eased the hardships he and his wife suffered during the mountain region’s extreme winters.

“Now the hard work - which we had to put in to keep our home warm - has reduced many-fold,” he said. “Before we had to use a lot of firewood and cow dung for generating warmth. Now we are not doing that any more thanks to our new house.”

Nurbo doesn’t know that the house he now owns is called a Passive Solar House (PSH). Neither does he know much about the technology and design that has transformed his life. But he is happy with the way it is working for him.

Solar surge brings green heat and hope to India's far north by Athar Parvaiz, Thomson Reuters Foundation, May 3, 2014

Southern California blaze kicks off "Wildfire Season"

Rising temperatures and a prolonged drought have prepped the Golden State for what could become one of the most severe and dangerous wildfire seasons on record, beginning with the Etiwanda Fire that firefighters have about 53 percent contained. 

Southern California Blaze Kicks Off What Could Be Especially Dangerous Wildfire Season by Bryan Walsh and Kate Pickert, Time, May 2, 2014

UK and Germany electricity systems compared

Germany generated twice as much wind power and fifteen times as much solar power as the UK last year, according to figures from a research institute.

In different ways, these two European countries are both seen as leaders in their commitment to tackling climate change. The UK's ground-breaking Climate Change Act requires the country to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by the middle of the century, against their levels in 1990. 

Germany's Energiewende plan makes the same promise - and adds on a pledge to source half of the country's power from renewable sources by 2050. 

The plans will require significant changes to the UK and German power systems - changing them from relying on electricity generated from fossil fuels, to systems dominated by renewables. Although in both countries, support for renewable power is high, a combination of politics and cost means the changes are controversial. And in both Germany and the UK, government cuts could threaten ambitious plans to switch to a less polluting power system.

High renewables ambition, but fossil fuels still dominate: UK and Germany electricity systems compared by Robin Webster, The Carbon Brief, May 1, 2014


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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. What is the ice sheet that is melting that is causing sea level rise? It takes 2285 cubic miles of melt (over and above the replenish rate due to snow, lake level rise, lake freeze, and river freeze) for the sea level to rise one inch. Even at 150 cu miles per year that a SS video says is happening recently, that is 15.23 years without any replenishment. Being realistic, counting 2014 as a net gain in ice, etc, that is maybe only an inch in the rest of my lifetime. So there you have it. "Apex of carbon dioxide"

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please provide the sources of the data you have cited. Also, please use the acronym "SkS" for Skeptical Science. Finally, please read and adhere to the SkS Comments Policy when composing future posts. 

  2. "2003 and 2008, reports an average trend of 195 cubic kilometers (47 cu mi) per year.[8] These measurements came from the US space agency's GRACE" Wikipedia. They go on to say that most of the melt is at coastal glaciers. Again, .6% of Greenland's total ice in the next 86 years at 48 cu mile per year. The Great lakes added about 10 cubic miles of water level increase this past year. Right now, all that Great Lakes water is still 35% ice covered.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please provide the sources of the data you have cited.

  3. Jetfuel,

    Here is a better thread for you to post on.  It is on the topic of sea level rise.  Current projections are around 0.5-1 meter by 2100.  This is a combination of ice melt and thermal expansion.  Ice melt on Greenland has accelerated substantially since 2008. It is currently estimated at 0.5 mm/yr and accelerating.  

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