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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #31A

Posted on 31 July 2014 by John Hartz

10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change

For the last few months, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been at record levels unseen in over 800,000 years. The chairman of the IPCC, an international panel of the world’s top climate scientists, warned earlier this year that “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change”.

Future generations will no doubt wonder at our response, given the scale of the threat. It’s known that death, poverty and suffering await millions, and yet governments still vacillate.

But solutions are available. Here are ten reasons to be hopeful that humans will rise to the challenge of climate change.

10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change by Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian, July 30, 2014

A carbon tax that's good for business?

As Australia makes headlines for repealing its carbon tax, British Columbia is quietly innovating its tax system in a way that benefits both businesses and the environment.

A carbon tax that's good for business? by Brendon Steele, The Guardian, July 28, 2014

Alaska communities at highest risk from ocean acidification

Ocean acidification, the chemical transformation that occurs when large amounts of carbon dioxide are absorbed into marine waters, imperils Alaska’s fishing-dependent economy, says a new study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Commercial fishermen who depend on the ocean for their income and subsistence fishermen who depend on it for their diets will be harmed by the documented ocean changes, says the study, accepted for publication in the journal Progress in Oceanography.

Hardest hit among the 29 population centers in Alaska, the study says, will be communities arcing the southern coastline of the state -- in southeastern Alaska, the Prince William Sound area and the Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay areas.

Southeast, southwest Alaska communities at highest risk from ocean acidification, study says by Yereth Rosen, Alaskan Disptach News, July 29, 2014

'Climate criminality': Australia OKs biggest coal mine

In a decision criticized as "climate criminality," Australia's federal government announced Monday that it has given the OK to the country's biggest coal mine.

The announcement comes less than three months after the state of Queensland gave its approval to the project.

"With this decision," wrote Ben Pearson, head of programs for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, "the political system failed to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the global climate and our national interest."

“Off the back of repealing effective action on climate change," stated Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters, referring to the scrapping of the carbon tax, "the Abbott Government has ticked off on a proposal for Australia’s biggest coal mine to cook the planet and turn our Reef into a super highway for coal ships.”

'Climate Criminality': Australia OKs Biggest Coal Mine by Andrea Germano, Common Dreams, July 28, 2014

IPCC climate change report's findings must be accepted, MPs say

The world’s most comprehensive report yet on the science of climate change has been strongly endorsed by an influential group of MPs.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee found that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's processes were “robust” and their conclusions should be accepted by policymakers.

The IPCC, a grouping of hundreds of scientists convened by the UN, published its mammoth report in three parts from last September to this spring, its first such update in seven years.

IPCC climate change report's findings must be accepted, MPs say by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, July 20, 2014

New Zealand’s Southern Alps have lost a third of their ice

A third of the permanent snow and ice of New Zealand’s Southern Alps has now disappeared, according to our new research based on National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research aerial surveys.

Since 1977, the Southern Alps' ice volume has shrunk by 18.4 km3 or 34%, and those ice losses have been accelerating rapidly in the past 15 years.

The story of the Southern Alps’s disappearing ice has been very dramatic – and when lined up with rapid glacier retreats in many parts of the world, raises serious questions about future sea level rise and coastal climate impacts. 

New Zealand’s Southern Alps have lost a third of their ice by Jim Salinger, Blair Fitzharris, and Trevor Chinn, The Conversation (AU), July 29, 2014

Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Coal from Appalachia rumbles into this port city, 150 railroad cars at a time, bound for the belly of the massive cargo ship Prime Lily. The ship soon sets sail for South America, its 80,000 tons of coal destined for power plants and factories, an export of American energy — and pollution.

In the U.S., this coal and the carbon dioxide it will eventually release into the atmosphere are some of the unwanted leftovers of an America going greener. With the country moving to cleaner natural gas, the Obama administration wants to reduce power plant pollution to make good on its promise to the world to cut emissions.

Yet the estimated 228,800 tons of carbon dioxide contained in the coal aboard the Prime Lily equals the annual emissions of a small American power plant. It's leaving this nation's shores, but not the planet.

Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad by Dina Capiello, AP, July 28, 2014

Pacific summit to urge action on climate change

Pacific island leaders will renew calls for meaningful action on climate change at a regional summit opening in Palau on Tuesday, amid fears rising seas will swamp their low-lying nations.

Many of the 15 nations represented at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) lie barely a metre (three feet) above sea level, and regard themselves as the frontline of climate change, an issue they say threatens their very existence.

While emissions controls and carbon footprints can seem like abstract concepts in the climate debate, Palau President Tommy Remengesau said Pacific island nations were already facing the reality of global warming.

Pacific Summit to Urge Action on Climate Change by Agence France-Presse/NDTV, July 27, 2014

Researchers tackle link between climate change and public health

Australian Academy of Science brings experts together to map out effects global warming on extreme weather events, infectious disease and food security

Researchers tackle link between climate change and public health by Graham Readfearn, Planet Oz/The Guardian, July 25, 2014

Rising heat hits Indian wheat crop

Researchers in the UK have established a link between changing climate and agriculture that could have significant consequences for food supplies in South Asia.

They have found evidence of a relationship between rising average temperatures in India and reduced wheat production, which was increasing until about a decade ago but has now stopped.

The researchers, John Duncan, Jadu Dash and Pete Atkinson, all geographers at the University of Southampton, say an intensification is predicted for the recent increases in warmth in India's main wheat belt that are damaging crop yields.

The greatest impact that the hotter environment has on wheat, they say, comes from a rise in night-time temperatures.

Rising heat hits Indian wheat crop by Alex Kirby, Climate News Network/The Daily Climate, July 28, 2014

Scientists lambast The Australian for misleading article 

An article in Friday's The Australian suggested brand new research by two eminent oceanographers casts doubt on scientific understanding of global warming. But the authors of the research have taken the newspaper to task for its coverage of their work.

The research by Carl Wunsch from Harvard University and Patrick Heimbach from MIT found temperatures seem to be falling in parts of the very deep ocean, known as 'the abyss'.

Scientists lambast The Australian for misleading article on deep ocean cooling by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, July 28, 2014

Think it’s hot in Texas? Austin knows better (Get used to 110)

At the end of the century, Austin’s average summertime high temperature could be six degrees above today’s average high of 97 degrees. And it may be hotter than 110 degrees in the city more than 20 days a year; even one day that hot is a rarity now.

Those are among the findings of a study that the city commissioned last year on the impact ofclimate change.

“If you’re going to build a substation that’s going to cost tens of millions of dollars but it’s not going to operate over 110 degrees, it’s really important to be thinking about that now,” said Zach Baumer, the city’s climate program manager. While other Texas cities have looked at climate change issues, none have done comprehensive studies of their impact.

Think It’s Hot in Texas? Austin Knows Better (Get Used to 110) by Neen Satija, New York Times, July 26, 2014

West's water worries rise as Lake Mead falls

Even for a regular like Allen Keeten, who has been visiting here since the late 1970s, the retreating shoreline of Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam is a shock to witness.

"I hate to see it,'' the 58-year-old truck driver from Kenesaw, Neb., says, peering over the side of the massive concrete dam on the Colorado River. "Nowadays you've got to be careful when you are out on a boat because of all the exposed ground.''

Like a giant measuring stick in the desert, the dropping water level of Lake Mead, the nation's largest man-made reservoir, provides a vivid representation of the drought that is gripping the Southwest and much of the West.

West's water worries rise as Lake Mead falls by William M. Welch, USA Today, July 26, 2014

What is climate change doing to our mental health?

About a year ago, I started wondering about the impact of climate change on mental health. After all, depression is already the second leading cause of disability around the world, depression can be kicked off by stress, and watching the ocean inch up to your doorstep or seeing drought destroy your crops and take away your livelihood can be pretty nerve-racking.

I checked the most recent IPCC report. Nothing on mental health. I checked news articles. Nada. I checked the scientific literature, and found a few things, mostly from Australian scientists.

So I headed Down Under, and found a small but dedicated research community. I also found recalcitrant farmers, concerned members of Aboriginal communities, a climate change philosopher, and the beginnings of a new vocabulary.

What is climate change doing to our mental health? by Joanne Silberner, Grist, July 28, 2014

White House: $150 billion per year will be cost of climate inaction

Seeking to blunt Congressional criticism of its climate agenda, and in particular its new power plant rule, the White House released a report on Tuesday that argues the world could face severe economic consequences if it doesn't act now to curb global warming.

Allowing warming to pass safe levels and reach 3 degrees Celsius could cause damage amounting to 0.9 percent of global economic output each year, according to the new report from the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, a three-member group that counsels the president on economic policy.

That level of warming would cost the United States about $150 billion a year in today's dollars. It will come in the form of damage to public health and biodiversity, as well as physical impacts from rising seas and more severe storms, droughts and wildfires. 

White House: $150 Billion a Year Will Be Cost of Climate Inaction by Kate Shepard, InsdieClimate News, July 29, 3014

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. Thank you for compiling this list all the time. I don't have the time to view all the sources, so I am extremely happy about this compilation.

    Out of this one for instance, I took the article on mental health and forwarded it to a psychology professional who has written a book on the subject (in German ..., Andreas Meissner, "Mensch was nun?": ).

    So, you radiate far beyond direct readership: it's a network with highly concentrated nodes of knowledge, oversight and effort (sks) and lower level relay stations going to the public at large.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thanks for the posiitive feedback. It is most welcome.

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