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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #26B

Posted on 28 June 2014 by John Hartz

Australia carbon tax moves closer to repeal after vote in lower house

The effort to repeal Australia's controversial carbon tax, which has drawn former U.S. Vice President Al Gore into its increasingly odd orbit, moved one step closer to success on Thursday as the lower house of parliament voted to scrap it.

The late-night vote on the last day before lawmakers head out on holiday was the latest hurdle for the legislation to clear as it heads towards full repeal when the new senate is sworn in next week.

Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott, once a climate-change sceptic, made the abolition of the carbon tax a centrepiece of his election campaign last year, but lacks the votes in the upper house of the current parliament to have it repealed.

Australia carbon tax moves closer to repeal after vote in lower house by Matt Siegel, Reuters, June 27, 2014

Canada Is warming at twice the global average

Canada has been warming at roughly double the global average over the last six decades, setting the stage for dramatic changes to the economy, environment and our very way of life. But government and business have been slow to react and Canada still has no national plan to address climate change.

That's the message in a new 259-page report from the federal government on how Canada is adapting to a warming world. And "adaptation" is the key word in the study. Rather than look for ways to slow down it down, Canada's federal government appears focused on finding ways to deal with and even take advantage of climate change.

Canada Is Warming At Twice The Global Average And We Still Don't Have A National Plan by Michael Bolen, The Huffington Post Canada, June 26, 2014

How climate change ate conservatism's smartest thinkers

Ross Douthat perfectly encapsulates the big problem with conservative thinking on climate change: They have no evidence 

How climate change ate conservatism's smartest thinkers by Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 26, 2014

Ice sheets may have already passed point of no return

The cracks are beginning to show. Greenland's ice sheets slid into the sea 400,000 years ago, when Earth was only a little warmer than it is today. That could mean we are set for a repeat performance.

The finding, along with data from Antarctica, suggests both of Earth's big ice sheets may have already passed a crucial tipping point, condemning them to collapse – either melting, or sliding into the ocean. That will mean sea levels rising by as much as 13 metres, leading to massive coastal flooding. So how fast will the ice collapse, and can we stop it?

Ice sheets may have already passed point of no return by Michael Marshall, New Scientist, June 25, 2014

Leaky methane makes natural gas bad for global warming

Natural gas fields globally may be leaking enough methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to make the fuel as polluting as coal for the climate over the next few decades, according to a pair of studies published last week.

An even worse finding for the United States in terms of greenhouse gases is that some of its oil and gas fields are emitting more methane than the industry does, on average, in the rest of the world, the research suggests.

Leaky Methane Makes Natural Gas Bad for Global Warming by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, ClimateWire/Scientific American, June 26, 2014

Liberia’s poor and the rising sea

Mary B owned a shop in West Point, Monrovia’s densely-populated slum community, where she sold liquor just a few yards away from the sea. But last month, the ocean left her homeless and without a business because the devastating erosion of the coastline has resulted in most of the land eroding into the Atlantic Ocean with thousands of homes being washed away by the encroaching sea.

“While a human being or your landlord will tell you ‘I give you notice at a particular time’ then you will pack your things and look for another place, the sea can’t give you notice,” the young woman who preferred to be called Mary B told IPS.

Situated between the Mesurado and St. Paul Rivers on a peninsula projecting out of the Atlantic Ocean, the township of West Point is home to about 75,000 people living in shacks that are predominantly made out of zinc.

Liberia’s Poor and the Rising Sea by Wade C. L. Williams, International Press Service (IPS), June 25, 2014

New World Bank report on climate-smart development

Story highlights:

  • With careful design, the same development projects that improve communities, save lives, and increase GDP can also fight climate change.
  • A new study examines the multiple benefits for a series of policy scenarios addressing transportation and energy efficiency in buildings and industry in five countries and the European Union.
  • It provides concrete data to help policymakers understand the broader potential of climate-smart development investments.

New Study Adds Up the Benefits of Climate-Smart Development in Lives, Jobs, and GDP, Wold Bank News, June 23, 2014 

Prehistoric Greenland ice melt led to 20-foot sea rise

More than 400,000 years ago, the Greenland ice sheet collapsed, causing worldwide sea levels to rise between 13 and 20 feet, reports a new study.

Unlike current global warming due to the buildup of atmospheric CO2, the ice sheet melted during this long warm period between ice ages because of changes to the Earth's orbit around the sun.

“The climate 400,000 years ago was not that much different than what we see today, or at least what is predicted for the end of the century,” Anders Carlson, an associate professor at Oregon State University and co-author on the study, said in a press release. “The forcing was different, but what is important is that the region crossed the threshold allowing the southern portion of the ice sheet to all but disappear." 

Prehistoric Greenland Ice Melt Led to 20-Foot Sea Rise by Paul Heltzel, Discovery News, June 26, 2014

Rising temperatures drive people to relocate

Scientists have long conjectured that climate change would spur families in poor countries to migrate as ever-fiercer storms, floods and other disasters made rural life unbearable. But understanding what specific weather elements would cause people to leave has remained elusive.

Until now. A small but growing body of evidence is finally pointing to rising temperatures—and not headline-grabbing natural disasters—as the main environmental force permanently ousting people from their homes.

Rising Temperatures Drive People to Relocate by Lisa Friedman, ClimateWire/Scientific American, June 25, 2014

Risky Business team spreads out in D.C. to spread word on climate costs

The high-profile team behind the "Risky Business" report on the economic costs of climate change fans out in Washington, D.C., today, spreading its message about what it sees as a looming crisis.

Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and other members of the project's Risk Committee will review report findings with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and "senior White House leadership," the Obama administration said.

Risky Business team spreads out in D.C. to spread word on climate costs by Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News, June 25, 2014

Study sheds light on why people help future generations

Why do people make sacrifices today that benefit future generations?

The question underlies environmental policies of all kinds, but scientists don’t fully understand the motivations that would lead people to cut emissions today to prevent catastrophic consequences of climate change after we are dead. Why bother?

Study sheds light on why people help future generations by Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Boston Globe, June 25, 2014

Wall Street: Your Climate War Has Arrived

Neither Robert Rubin nor Henry Paulson has the look or resume of a climate-change activist.

But the bipartisan duo of former Treasury secretaries, who share a Goldman Sachs pedigree, are part of an increasingly prominent effort to fight global warming with financial weapons and arguments.

And both joined billionaire activist Tom Steyer and billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday to roll out a detailed report, called "Risky Business," on the economic risks of climate change.

It's a piece of a loosely connected, and sometimes contradictory, set of activist movements aimed at focusing Wall Street and corporate boardrooms on global warming.

Wall Street: Your Climate War Has Arrived by Ben Geman, National Journal, June 26, 2014

What really annoys climate scientists

From misinformed politicians who should 'shut up', to a failure of large parts of society to grasp reality, climate scientists reveal their bugbears.

What really annoys scientists about the state of the climate change debate? by Graham Readfearn, Planet Oz, The Gardian, June 25, 2014

Why U.S. conservatives deny climate science

A provocative new study claims that conservative climate skeptics actually know plenty of science.

Conservatives Don't Deny Climate Science Because They're Ignorant. They Deny It Because of Who They Are. by Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, June 26, 2014

Will climate change spark conflict in Bangladesh?

As the news on climate change takes a sharp turn for the worse, questions are being asked about the global impact. In May, scientists announced that a large portion of Antarctica had begun to collapse. It is the largest and most catastrophic Antarctic cleaving to date – taken as a sign that extreme changes to the global environment are imminent and inevitable. The nation facing the greatest calamity is literally half a world away from western Antarctica: Bangladesh.

Predictions of looming environmental catastrophe have lingered over Bangladesh for decades. Many predictions of the small, densely populated, impoverished nation’s fate have involved Malthus’ famous theory, which posits that exponential population growth will outstrip linear increases in crop yields, provoking mass hunger and social breakdown. So far, Bangladesh has proven neo-Malthusian doomsayers wrong. Poverty and malnutrition are in decline, and the nation of 160 million is self-sufficient in the production of rice and wheat, its staple foods.

Climate change predictions are a different matter entirely. The risk is not overpopulation, but rather myriad adverse changes induced by rising temperatures and global changes. The combined risk of rising sea levels, droughts, and chaotic storms lands the country at number one on the global Climate Change Vulnerability Index. The impact may soon provoke the violent social breakdown long feared.

Will Climate Change Spark Conflict in Bangladesh? by M. Sophia Newman, The Diplomat, June 27, 2014

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  1. The article in 'Study sheds light on why people help future generations' is interesting in what it implies about effective action to curb AGW: a global enforcement effort, perhaps even a precursor to 'one world government'.  Altruism across generations is almost impossible to achieve if the perception is that the pain of altruism is not being equally shared.  Hence, the actions of the 'Risky Business Report' crew is a hopeful development.  Since 2008, its been apparent that we have 'one world capitalism' already, and also that this capitalism is almost entirely 'crony' in character (the subsequent 'rescue effort' following the Market meltdown has almost comically benefitted the top 1%).  In effect, Wallstreet owns Washington.  If enough in Wallstreet and Washington can be convinced (by Bloomberg, Steyer, Paulson, etc) of the seriousness of AGW, perhaps these 'Master of the Universe' can impose serious business and 'other' penalties globally in such a way that everyone becomes convinced that nobody is getting out of the pain of solving AGW.  While it may be absurd to cheer the possible development of a global crony-capitalist state, I now feel the greater threat is AGW itself.  That Boston Globe article suggests effective action on AGW may be impossible without a globally imposed solution: altruism across generations will fail without it.

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