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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #3

Posted on 18 January 2014 by John Hartz

  • Big coal undercuts landmark U.S. overseas investment policy
  • Clean energy investment sags amid mounting climate risks
  • Cold outside? Forecast calls for an uptick in global warming disbelief
  • Europe to reconsider its intentions on climate change
  • Global effort to combat climate change may not end in Paris next year
  • Global warming 'pause' isn't what skeptics say it is
  • Massive antarctic glacier uncontrollably retreating
  • The flood next time
  • The very, very thin wedge of denial
  • Toxic mercury pollution may rise with Arctic meltdown
  • U.N. says lag in confronting climate woes will be costly
  • U.S. carbon emissions rose 2% in 2013
  • Why is it so hot in Australia?

Big coal undercuts landmark U.S. overseas investment policy

Environmentalists and some lawmakers are decrying a surprise move by conservative members of Congress to roll back landmark “clean energy” policies guiding U.S. investments in overseas power projects.

Two federal agencies have new guidance in place largely barring government investment in power-generation projects that fail to adequately cut carbon emissions. The rules, by the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which facilitate U.S. private investments into foreign projects, would essentially discontinue U.S. funding for overseas coal-fired power generation.

Yet a surprise addendum to a massive U.S. government spending bill would disallow the Export-Import Bank from implementing its new rule, which was unveiled in December. The provision, made public Monday evening, also guts a court-ordered greenhouse gas cap put in place in 2009 to force OPIC to set limits on the carbon emissions of its investments.

Big Coal Undercuts Landmark U.S. Overseas Investment Policy by Carey Biron, International Press Service (IPS), Jan 14, 2014

Clean energy investment sags amid mounting climate risks

Despite Wall Street’s nascent rediscovery of green stocks, global investment in alternative energy declined by 12 percent last year.

According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, investment was scaled back in both the U.S. and China – for China it was the first year without growth in the sector in a decade – and plunged by nearly half amidst austerity in Europe.

The solar sector led the decline, as plummeting prices for photovoltaic arrays led to an industry-wide contraction of nearly 20 percent. 

Clean Energy Investment Sags Amid Mounting Climate Risks by Samuel Oakford, Inter Press Service (IPS), Jan 16, 2014 

Cold outside? Forecast calls for an uptick in global warming disbelief

In more than a decade of reporting on climate change I can say one thing with absolute certainty. When it's cold outside, like during this recent polar vortex in the U.S., people start thinking this whole global warming thing must be overblown.

The opposite is also true. Which is why the next summer of El Nino is going to do more for action to combat climate change than any activist or scientific study. Don't believe me? A new social science study in the journal Nature Climate Change backs my anecdotal experience. 

Cold Outside? Forecast Calls for an Uptick in Global Warming Disbelief by David Biello, Scientific American, Jan 12, 2014

Europe to reconsider its intentions on climate change

The European Union, which for years has sought to lead the world in addressing climate change, is tempering its ambitions and considering turning mandatory targets for renewable energy into just goals.

The union’s policy-making body is also unlikely to restrict exploration for shale gas using the disputed technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

A deep and lasting economic slowdown, persistently high prices for renewable energy sources and years of inconclusive international negotiations are giving European officials second thoughts about how aggressively to remake the Continent’s energy-production industries.

Sluggish Economy Prompts Europe to Reconsider Its Intentions on Climate Change by Stanley Reed, Stephen Castle & Melissa Eddyjan, New York Times, Jan 16, 2014

Global effort to combat climate change may not end in Paris next year

It's been more than four years since leaders tried and failed to craft a binding new global climate change treaty in Copenhagen, and as nations head toward a new deal in 2015, the aftershocks of that Danish summit continue to reverberate.

From climate campaigners to high-level diplomats, those who are committed to fighting global warming say making a strong agreement in Paris next year that radically reduces levels of greenhouse gas emissions is critical. But, they argue, it's not the last step or perhaps even the most important step in what will be a long battle to avoid catastrophic warming.

Global Effort to Combat Climate Change May Not End in Paris Next Year by Lisa Friedman and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Jan 14, 2014

Global warming 'pause' isn't what skeptics say it is 

Scientists who study climate change and skeptics of human-caused global warming can agree on at least this: Global temperatures haven't risen nearly as much this century as model projections say they should have.

At least, that's the way it looks today. But according to a recently published study in the scientific journal Earth's Future, the greenhouse gas-fueled heating of the planet hasn't stopped at all during the global warming pause or "hiatus" widely touted in recent years.

"Global warming is continuing, it just gets manifested in different ways," says Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research who co-authored the study with NCAR's Dr. John Fasullo.

Global Warming 'Pause' Isn't What Climate Change Skeptics Say It Is by Terrell Johnson,, Jan 13, 2014

Massive antarctic glacier uncontrollably retreating

The glacier that contributes more to sea level rise than any other glacier on Antarctica has hit a tipping point of uncontrollable retreat, and could largely collapse within the span of decades, a new study suggests.

Pine Island Glacier accounts for about 20 percent of the total ice flow on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet — an amalgam of glaciers that covers roughly 800,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) and makes up about 10 percent of the total ice on Antarctica. Many researchers think that, given the size of Pine Island Glacier, its demise could have a domino effect on surrounding glaciers and ultimately — over the course of many years — lead to the collapse of the entire ice sheet, which would raise average global sea level by between 10 and 16 feet (3 and 5 meters).

Massive Antarctic Glacier Uncontrollably Retreating, Study Suggests by Laura Poppick, LiveScience, Jan 16, 2014

The flood next time

Scientists have spent decades examining all the factors that can influence the rise of the seas, and their research is finally leading to answers. And the more the scientists learn, the more they perceive an enormous risk for the United States.

Much of the population and economy of the country is concentrated on the East Coast, which the accumulating scientific evidence suggests will be a global hot spot for a rising sea level over the coming century.

The detective work has required scientists to grapple with the influence of ancient ice sheets, the meaning of islands that are sinking in the Chesapeake Bay, and even the effect of a giant meteor that slammed into the earth.

The Flood Next Time by Justin Gillis, New York Times, July 13, 2014

The very, very thin wedge of denial

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of climate change denial is how deniers essentially never publish in legitimate journals, but instead rely on talk shows, grossly error-laden op-eds, and hugely out-of-date claims (that were never right to start with).

The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Jan 14, 2014

Toxic mercury pollution may rise with Arctic meltdown

Cracks in sea ice are funneling additional mercury to the Arctic surface, raising concerns about the toxic element seeping into the food chain of the delicate ecosystem, according to a new study.

The research, published yesterday in Nature, finds that channels of open water in Arctic ice, known as leads, are stirring up air so that mercury is pumped from higher in the atmosphere to air close to the surface. Warming temperatures are increasing the amount of seasonal sea ice that melts every summer, which in turn helps create the leads, said study lead author Christopher Moore, an assistant research professor at the Desert Research Institute.

Toxic Mercury Pollution May Rise with Arctic Meltdown by Christa Marshall and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Jan 16, 2014

U.N. says lag in confronting climate woes will be costly 

Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, the experts found.

Delay would likely force future generations to develop the capability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found. But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would likely be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.

The report said that governments of the world were still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that posed a long-term climate risk. 

U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Jan 16, 2014

U.S. carbon emissions rose 2% in 2013

Carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s energy sector rose about 2% in 2013 after declining for several years, federal energy officials reported Monday.

The reversal came because power plants last year burned more coal to generate electricity, after years in which natural gas accounted for an increasing share of the nation’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the analytical branch of the Department of Energy.

Though the 2013 figures are not final, once all the data are in, analysts expect a roughly 2% increase in carbon emissions over 2012 because of a small rise in coal consumption, the agency said in a report posted online on Monday.

U.S. carbon emissions rose 2% in 2013 after years of decline by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, Jan 13, 2014

Why is it so hot in Australia?

Record-high heat has scorched Australia this week, with temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for several days in a row in some areas. Relief is expected for this weekend, however.

Blazing temperatures have hit athletes and fans at the Australian Open in Melbourne, in what forecasters said could be the hottest stretch of weather in a century for the city. So what's causing the inferno?

"Almost all heat waves form due to unusually strong areas of high pressure at high altitudes — or a so-called ridge in the jet stream," said Jason Samenow, weather editor at The Washington Post. "This one is no different."

Why Is It So Hot in Australia? by Laura Pippcock & Tanya Lewis, LiveScience, Jan 16, 2014


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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. Slight snag with "'s cold outside, like during this recent ..." article, it isn't cold outside and it wasn't before. Rain stopped today Sunday 9C going to 13C Friday and I'm out now for quick bicycle to the border. I think this U.S. (?) might be other side of that border, I'd like to hear more about the place. 

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  2. I note the word "once" in th wunderground article:

    Though warming didn't stop completely – global temperatures have risen by an average of about 0.05°C per decade since then, a far cry from the 0.15°C to 0.3°C per decade once projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change –

    It is written as though 2013 was long ago and predictions have changed since then which they have not. Ipcc predictions have remained a remarkbly constant over a quarter of a century. It is still a far cry.

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  3. As this is a thread about cliamte in the news, I found this article at The Conversation today. More of the same from the dnialisti in the comments, of course, but the article is interesting in its own right.

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