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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #19A

Posted on 6 May 2014 by John Hartz

ALEC has a new tactic it’s using to take down the EPA

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) mission to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions has expanded into an “unusual” coordinated campaign involving state attorneys general, according to documents obtained by The Guardian and released Friday.

ALEC, an influential right-wing lobbying group funded in part by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, has been working to undermine anti-pollution and pro-clean energypolicies for years. But in 2014, the group adopted a new tactic — seeking out friendly state attorneys and encouraging them to sue the EPA.

This, according to the non-profit Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD), is unlike anything the group has ever done before — at least to their knowledge. ALEC, the group’s director of research said, is known more for pushing anti-climate and pro-industry bills in state legislatures, not actively crusading against the EPA at the federal level.

ALEC Has A New Tactic It’s Using To Take Down The EPA by Emily Atkin, Climate Progress, May 2, 2014

Climate change is clear and present danger, says landmark US report

Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama's environmental agenda.

The findings are expected to guide Obama as he rolls out the next and most ambitious phase of his climate change plan in June – a proposal to cut emissions from the current generation of power plants, America's largest single source of carbon pollution.

The White House is believed to be organising a number of events over the coming week to give the report greater exposure. 

Climate change is clear and present danger, says landmark US report by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, May 4, 2014 

Climate science is based on evidence, but science denial is based on faith

Anyone who wants to debate a science denier often needs a thick skin, especially concerning topics like global warming. They often hurl words like leftist, socialist, communist, fascist, sheeple, useful idiot, and worse at you. Though why a political ideology is used as an insult still is something that I don’t understand. At most you’ll get a slightly annoyed roll of the eyes from me when you label me as something that I’m not.

But the one that truly puzzles me is when I’m accused of having a religious like faith in science. Science isn’t a religion, certainly not when you accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW). To me it’s climate science denial that looks more like a faith position.

To understand why I say this you need to take into account that what climate science deniers say is at a fundamental level at odds with the scientific consensus on global warming. A consensus that arises from evidence found through meticulous study and hard work by scientists.

Climate science is based on evidence, but science denial is based on faith by Collin Maessen, Real Sceptic, May 5, 2014

Climate scientists in audit commission's crosshairs

The nation’s climate and weather predicting capacity and the jobs of dozens of scientists are at risk if the Abbott government accepts a recommendation of the National Commission of Audit to axe a key program, researchers said.

The Australian Climate Change Science Program’s four-year funding of $31.6 million, mostly to the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, duplicates work by those and other agencies and “should be returned to the budget or allocated to priority areas”, the commission said in its report.

But scientists, including Michael Raupach, formerly of the CSIRO and now at the Australian National University, said the program supported a “great deal of critical scientific work” that helps refine climate models which are also used for weather forecasting.

Climate scientists in audit commission's crosshairs by Peter Hannam, The Age (Australia), May 5. 2014

East Antarctica more at risk than thought to long-term thaw

Part of East Antarctica is more vulnerable than expected to a thaw that could trigger an unstoppable slide of ice into the ocean and raise world sea levels for thousands of years, a study showed on Sunday.

The Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica, stretching more than 1,000 km (600 miles) inland, has enough ice to raise sea levels by 3 to 4 metres (10-13 feet) if it were to melt as an effect of global warming, the report said.

The Wilkes is vulnerable because it is held in place by a small rim of ice, resting on bedrock below sea level by the coast of the frozen continent. That "ice plug" might melt away in coming centuries if ocean waters warm up.

East Antarctica more at risk than thought to long-term thaw -study by Alister Doyle, Reuters, May 4, 2014

Following the money: energy dollars hard at work on Capitol Hill

If money is the name of the game, if dollars dictate the goings-on in DC, then the prognosis for alternative and renewable fuels looks bleak. The alternative energy industry is being buried under a mountain of greenbacks for lobbying and campaigns from the fossil fuel industry. If there were a penalty for "piling on" on Capitol Hill, the whistle would have been blown many times over.

But sometimes a small running back who's got the quicks and the moves can weave his way under and around and find his way into the end zone. And it's just possible that that will be the case for alternative energy — it's hard to beat clean, abundant energy.

Following the Money: Energy Dollars Hard at Work on Capitol Hill by Bill Chameides, The Blog, The Huffington Post, May 2, 2014

Obama taps TV meteorologists to roll out new climate report

The White House is planning to release a major new climate science report on Tuesday, which states unequivocally that global warming is already causing a wide range of harmful impacts across the United States. While the report is significant on its own, so too is the way the White House plans to roll it out.

According to people with knowledge of the White House's plans, as well as Facebook and Twitter posts, eight television meteorologists are slated to have rare one-on-one interviews about global warming with President Barack Obama on Tuesday. This comes soon after the president sat down with a crew from Showtime's documentary series "Years of Living Dangerously" for an hour-long interview on climate change. That interview is scheduled to air sometime in the next few months.

Obama Taps TV Meteorologists to Roll Out New Climate Report by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, May 4, 2014

Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change

When a team of researchers from the University of Delaware traveled to Africa two years ago to search for exemplary chickens, they weren't looking for plump thighs or delicious eggs.

They were seeking out birds that could survive a hotter planet.

The researchers were in the vanguard of food scientists, backed by millions of dollars from the federal government, racing to develop new breeds of farm animals that can stand up to the hazards of global warming.

Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change by Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2014

The meteoric rise of carbon dioxide in one video

April set a carbon dioxide milestone by averaging400 parts per million for the entire month. That’s uncharted territory over the course of human history, and a new data visualization makes clear just how high and fast it has risen.

The march to 400 ppm might seem slow by human standards, rising just one or two parts per million each year, but it’s a veritable sprint by geological standards. We know this from ice cores, which contain air bubbles that give snapshots of carbon dioxide levels over the past 800,000 years. Modern atmospheric measurements are taken at observatories around the globe including one at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, which has been taking continuous measurements since the late 1950s.

An animation from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences makes clear that though there have been variations over time, the current rise is unparalleled. The animation zooms in on the graph of temperatures, often times referred to as the Hockey Stick for its distinctive shape, and shows the granular changes over time. It’s clear that there are long swings taking CO2 levels anywhere from 175 ppm up to 300 ppm.

The Meteoric Rise of Carbon Dioxide in 1 Video by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, May 5. 2014

UN's Ban urges climate action ahead of New York Summit

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday he was hopeful that a goal of limiting global temperature rises to a maximum 2 degrees Celsius could be achieved, but urged governments to take practical action before it was too late.

"We have to ask the leaders to commit to bold ambitious targets and we will ask them to accelerate their actions on the ground," Ban told a two-day conference on climate change in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

Ban said both meetings would be "solution shops" for an urgent problem.

Many developing nations want a one-day summit in New York on September 23 to be the deadline for rich countries to outline planned cuts in greenhouse gases beyond 2020, seen as a key step towards securing a global climate deal in 2015.

UN's Ban urges climate action ahead of New York Summit, Reuters, May 4, 2014

Wake up and smell the soaring cost of coffee

In recent days Arabica coffee beans – by far the most popular variety of coffee – have been fetching around $2 a pound (U.S.) on the world market. That’s nearly double the price of a year ago.

Several factors seem to be driving the market upwards: in Central America, a significant production area, an outbreak of a disease called leaf rust – believed to be linked to changes in climate – has severely damaged the crop.

A prolonged period of drought and some unseasonably cold weather in Vietnam – now the world’s second biggest coffee-producer – has cut back crop forecasts for Robusta beans, mainly used for instant coffee. A lack of rain has also hit coffee-producing areas in East Africa.

Wake Up and Smell the Soaring Cost of Coffee by Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network, Climate Central, May 4, 2014

Why should Evangelical Christians care about climate change?

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, has had quite a run lately. A few weeks back, she was featured in the first episode of the Showtime series The Years of Living Dangerously, meeting with actor Don Cheadle in her home state of Texas to explain to him why faith and a warming planet aren’t in conflict. (You can watch that episode for free on YouTube; Hayhoe is a science adviser for the show.) Then Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people of 2014. Cheadle wrote the entry. “There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype,” Cheadle observed.

Why is Hayhoe in the spotlight? Simply put, millions of Americans are evangelical Christians, and their belief in the science of global warming is well below the national average. And if anyone has a chance of reaching this vast and important audience, Hayhoe does. “I feel like the conservative community, the evangelical community, and many other Christian communities, I feel like we have been lied to,” explains Hayhoe on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast. “We have been given information about climate change that is not true. We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it’s entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values.” 

Why Should Evangelical Christians Care About Climate Change? by Chris Mooney, Slate, May 3, 2014

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Interesting new study that sheds light on the famous "hidden decline":

    Arctic tree rings as recorders of variations in light availability (also press release)

    In a nutshell: "the decline" is the lowered sensitivity of tree rings due to decreased amount of light - the result of sharply risen aerosol pollution after 1950s. A hypothesis put forward at least a decade ago by Keith Briffa, but quantified for the first time in this study. Worth reading as an evidence to hopefully put to bed the "Mike's Nature trick to hide the decline" meme. Well at least in the minds of those who think critically.  Unfortunately those who keep parroting said meme, largely do not think at all, so they are resistant to any form of rational argumentation.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    (Rob P) - Yes, I've just noticed that paper too. Interested in writing up a post about it?

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Rob,

    Sure I can find time to compose something over this weekend. I dunno how to submit, I guess I contact John once I have something...

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    (Rob P) - Sounds like a plan. Whenever you're ready.

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