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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #29

Posted on 19 July 2014 by John Hartz

America's oil consumption is rising, not falling, outpacing China's

U.S. oil demand reversed course in dramatic fashion in 2013, as the nation's growth in crude consumption outpaced perennial leader China for the first time since 1999, according to oil company BP's annual compendium of world energy statistics.

The U.S. increase follows two years of declines, and dampens hopes that the world's largest oil guzzler was permanently reining in its appetite for crude. The nation's oil use rose by 400,000 barrels per day to a daily draw of 18.9 million barrels; China's oil consumption grew by 390,000 barrels a day, to 10.8 million barrels a day, according to the BP figures released last month.

America's Oil Consumption Is Rising, Not Falling, Outpacing China's by Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News, July 14, 2014

Biodiversity hotspots get hotter (and that’s not good)

Biodiversity hotspots are golden places on earth where the number and diversity of animals and plants is exceptional. Environmentalists say that hotspots are the most critical of all places to protect against the ill effects of human development and climate change. The term does not mean that hotter temperatures are helpful, however. And it turns out that the biggest rises in temperature will occur where hotspots are most concentrated.

Biodiversity Hotspots Get Hotter (and That’s Not Good), Op-ed by Mark Frischetti, Scientific American, July 14, 1943

Carbon price repeal a victory for fossil fuels, ideologues and climate science denial

It has been an historic week for climate change policy as Australia becomes the first nation in the world to repeal laws that had put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Government’s supporters are claiming a key victory.

But who actually won?

Science denial, so-called “free market” ideology and the interests of the fossil fuel energy industry are the termites chewing away at the base of all efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

They are the winners. The lobbyists, the ideologues and the fossil fuel industry.

Carbon price repeal a victory for fossil fuels, ideologues and climate science denial, Op-ed by Graham Readfearn, Planet OZ, The Guardian, July 18, 2914

Climate scientists see 'very rapid declines' in annual NOAA report

Leading climate scientists on Thursday issued their annual physical of Earth, comparing the planet in 2013 to a patient that's only getting worse and highlighting problems with key vital signs: from record warmth in Australia and China to sea levels that continue to rise and Arctic sea ice in continued decline.

The vital signs reflect "the largest changes that we've been able to witness in the historical record," said Tom Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The planet is changing more rapidly … than in any time of modern civilization."

The report, titled the "State of the Climate in 2013", was led by the NOAA and incorporated input from 425 researchers around the world.

Climate Scientists See 'Very Rapid Declines' in Annual NOAA Report by Miquel Llanos, NBC News, July 17, 2014

Eight ways climate change is making the world more dangerous

Forget the future. The world already is nearly five times as dangerous and disaster prone as it was in the 1970s, because of the increasing risks brought by climate change, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation.

The first decade of the 21st century saw 3,496 natural disasters from floods, storms, droughts and heat waves. That was nearly five times as many disasters as the 743 catastrophes reported during the 1970s – and all of those weather events are influenced by climate change.

The bottom line: natural disasters are occurring nearly five times as often as they were in the 1970s. But some disasters – such as floods and storms – pose a bigger threat than others. Flooding and storms are also taking a bigger bite out of the economy. But heat waves are an emerging killer.

Eight ways climate change is making the world more dangerous by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, July 14, 2014

Environmentalists denounce repeal of Australia’s carbon tax

Opposition politicians and environmentalists in Australia reacted with dismay Thursday to the country’s repeal of laws requiring large companies to pay for carbon emissions, saying that it made Australia the first country to reverse progress on fighting climate change.

The Senate voted 39 to 32 on Thursday to repeal the so-called carbon tax after Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s conservative government secured the support of a number of independent senators. The House of Representatives had voted earlier in the week to repeal the unpopular measure, which has been a highly contentious issue in Australian politics for seven years.

Environmentalists Denounce Repeal of Australia’s Carbon Tax by Michelle Innis, New York Times, July 12, 2914

Germany sets example, pledges $1 billion to U.N. climate fund

Aid group Oxfam has called on other rich nations to follow the example of Germany, which has promised €750 million ($1 billion) for the U.N.'s fledgling Green Climate Fund.

"This announcement ends the deafening silence we've had so far around the empty Green Climate Fund that is supposed to support poor countries in the battle against climate change. Now others must follow suit," Oxfam Germany's Jan Kowalzig said. 

"If rich countries such as the U.S., France, the UK, Japan and others manage to collect at least $15 billion in pledges ahead of the upcoming U.N. climate negotiations in Lima at the end of the year, this could give the talks a significant boost," he added in a statement.

Germany sets example, pledges $1 billion to U.N. climate fund by Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 15, 1943

NY Times’ climate skeptic debacle: How a new profile sets back science

The New York Times missed the mark big time in its new profile of John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and prominent climate skeptic who “finds himself a target of suspicion” — and derision, and sometimes even insults — from his peers. Ostensibly, it’s an examination of the way that climate science has become politicized, to the extent that those with dissenting views are silenced or attacked by the cult of mainstream climate science. In reality, it’s an overly credulous and sympathetic portrayal of someone who, his claims having been almost completely discredited, is trying to spin the story in a way that makes him out to be a victim.

New York Times’ climate skeptic debacle: How a new profile sets back science by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, July 16, 2014

Scientists take issue with Rupert Murdoch’s remarks on climate change

Poor Australia. It's responsible for just a tiny fraction of the global warming that's occurred so far and is already bearing much of the punishment.

Rupert Murdoch, one of Australia's most famous sons, lamented as much in an interview this week when he dismissed grave risks from climate change and cautioned against policy overreaction. Speaking with Sky News Australia, he lauded Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is pushing to repeal the nation's carbon tax after calling it a "hand brake" on the economy.

Murdoch's comments about climate change on Sunday bear little resemblance to what’s going on in the scientific journals:

Scientists Take Issue With Rupert Murdoch’s Remarks on Climate Change by Eric Roston, The Grid/Bloomberg News, July 16, 2014

Six months in and sizzling California sets record

California just finished the hottest first half year on record, a period going back 120 years, according to the national climate overview for June released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The statewide average temperature for the period was 58°F, or 4.8°F above the 20th century average. That bests the previous warmest January-June in 1934 by 1.1°F — a substantial difference, said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

The record exemplifies a temperature pattern that has held across the country for much of the year, with above-average temperatures in the West and below average in the East. The pattern has kept monthly average temperatures for the entire U.S. — as well as the average temperature for the year-to-date — in the middle of the pack record-wise, but has contributed to the stunning drought that has propagated across California.

Six Months In and Sizzling California Sets Record by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 16, 2014

Tar Sands threaten world’s largest boreal forest

Canada’s boreal forest is one of Earth’s major ecological treasures.

Yet the region’s forests are under threat from logging, hydrodams and mining. Satellite data reveals a major new threat to Canada’s boreal forests—tar sands development.

According to data from Global Forest Watch, an online mapping platform that tracks deforestation in near-real time, industrial development and forest fires in Canada’s tar sands region has cleared or degraded 775,500 hectares (almost two million acres) of boreal forest since the year 2000 (Map A). That’s an area more than six times the size of New York City. If the tar sands extraction boom continues, as many predict, we can expect forest loss to increase.

Tar Sands Threaten World’s Largest Boreal Forest by and 

'Tornadoes of fire' in North West Territories linked to climate change

Climate change is responsible for more frequent and larger forest fires, such as the ones now plaguing the Northwest Territories, says an Edmonton professor.

“What we are seeing in the Northwest Territories this year is an indicator of what to expect with climate change,” says Mike Flannigan, a professor of Wildland Fire in the University of Alberta’s renewable resources department. “Expect more fires, larger fires, more intense fires.”

'Tornadoes of fire' in N.W.T. linked to climate change, CBC News, July 14, 2014

U.S. House bans the Dept of Energy from acknowledging climate change

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is on a roll. After successfully passing a budget amendment back in May that basically forbids the Pentagon from acknowledging climate science — despite the fact that the Department of Defense considers doing so to be vital to national security — his newest effort prohibits both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers from spending “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”

“Spending precious resources to pursue a dubious climate change agenda compromises our clean-energy research and America’s infrastructure,” McKinley said on the House floor, according to the WV Gazette. “Congress should not be spending money pursuing ideologically driven experiments.”

House bans the Department of Energy from acknowledging climate change by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, July 14, 2014

What wildfires in the Northwest Territories say about climate change

The boreal forest is no stranger to fire. Each year, in the Northwest Territories alone, thousands of hectares of wilderness are consumed in flames – part of the natural process of forest regeneration.

But this year, as the region battles its worst fires since the 1990s and smoke drifts for thousands of kilometres to the U.S. border, a new set of questions is emerging: Is a warming climate amplifying the severity of northern wildfires? Will bad fire years like this become more common? Will the forest that regrows be different in character from the one burning away right now?

What wildfires in the Northwest Territories say about climate change by Ivan Semeniuk, July 14, 2014

When climate change floods your heart

The metaphor of physical displacement feels like an apt one for what appears to be happening to our weather: The places we live are not what they once were. While politicians debate the existence of climate change (or, increasingly, move on to debating whether to do anything about it), other narratives are just starting to get attention: Those that deal with how it feels when what we once relied on — the length of the winter, say, or the depth of a river — seems to shift around us.

When Climate Change Floods Your Heart, Op-ed by Anna North, New York Times, July 15, 2014

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  1. Regarding the Salon article (criticising a NYT article profiling climatologist John Christy): "NY Times’ climate skeptic debacle: How a new profile sets back science", Lindsay Abrams says "the profile plays into an image that Christy has been working to build — one not of an anti-science “denier,” but instead of a modern-day Galileo, one who dares to contradict mainstream opinion and who will be vindicated by history".  I thought the same in reading the NYT article: if they had set up a map of America and put a pin in that map for every PhD climatologist in the country, and had a blindfolded chimpanzee throw a dart at the map to select which one they would profile, not in a thousand years would they have come up with Christy's name.  Clearly, what makes Christy worth noting is his 'outlier status', and implicit in that: only rebels get their own profile!

    Tell you what.  Since Christy is from Fresno, CA, just drop him into a farmers meeting there this summer, tell them he thinks CC is 'no big deal', and lock the doors.  

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