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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #33C

Posted on 17 August 2014 by John Hartz

As Earth warms, relationship between science and religion thaws

Congregants in a Miami church handed the Rev. Mitch Hescox a Bible to take with him to Tallahassee. It was a gift for the governor, and it accompanied 60,000 signatures the reverend had collected, all from evangelical Christians, all asking Gov. Rick Scott to do more on climate change.

Hescox is a leader of a movement among conservative Christians to acknowledge climate change and push elected officials to do more to mitigate its damage.

He's hardly a wild-eyed environmentalist — a lifelong Republican, he considers himself a conservative on most issues. Nevertheless, Hescox represents a growing group of evangelicals who believe stewardship of the Earth is a believer's duty.

The reverend, who for the last five years has served as president of the Washington, D.C.-based Evangelical Environmental Network, brought his message to South Florida last week. This state is expected to be a crucial battleground in the fight against rising seas. At the same time, its governor has been famously climate-change averse.

As Earth warms, relationship between science and religion thaws by Dan Sweeney, Sun Sentinel, Aug 16, 2014

Climate change: the elephant in the room

In Lebanon this summer, there has been an array of topics dominating the headlines: ongoing domestic divisions, political soap operas that put the screenwriters of House of Cards to shame, constant regional strife, ongoing bloodbaths in Syria, Iraq and Gaza, wrenching refugee images and so on and so on. But there is an elephant in the room, ignored, towering above all else: climate change. 

Climate change, or global warming, receives scant attention in Beirut, when it receives any attention at all.

Yet climate change heralds epochal change: unprecedented heat waves and droughts, an increased frequency of extreme weather events, inundations from sea level rise, severe food shortages – in a world where temperature increase over pre-industrial level is up to 4 or 5 degrees Celsius.

Climate change: the elephant in the room by Assaad W. Razzouk, Lebanon Star, Aug 15, 2014

Climate change will widen the social and health gap

Climate projections suggest that, thanks to human activity, we will likely see an increase in extreme weather events, disruptions to agriculture, loss of livelihoods and displacement of people.

While everyone will be affected, these climate impacts will exacerbate social and health inequities, depending on underlying economic, geographic, social and health status.

Recently there’s been increasing attention on climate change and health, including calls from Australian scientists, led by Professor Peter Doherty, for the government to put climate change on the G20 agenda.

My research focuses on social inequality, and how that might exacerbate climate changes impact on health inequalities, including vulnerability to extreme weather and rising food prices. I presented some of the latest research on this topic at a recent Australian Academy of Science symposium on climate and health.

Climate change will widen the social and health gap by Sharon Friel, The Conversation, Aug 14, 2014

Communicating climate change – without the scary monsters

Clocks are ticking. The sand is dribbling from the hourglass. Mercury levels are rising.  And yet, if you pop your head out of the window, life goes on as normal.

It’s a major headache for climate communication professionals in the developed world, charged with delivering a message of urgency to a public focused on more immediate concerns.

Who has time to worry about sea levels rising so high London could be submerged, or extreme weather events driving people from their homes in Africa?

Why worry about the potential to break the 2C barrier, when you have to pay the mortgage? Who’s buying the next round? Or (and this is tough) convince the kids they’ve watched too much Peppa Pig for one day?

It’s a question exercising Pete Bowyer, who heads up the climate arm of PR firm Havas, charged with promoting UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit.

Communicating climate change – without the scary monsters by Ed King, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), Aug 15, 2014

Corporate Australia in denial over climate change

Corporate Australia is in complete denial about climate change, according to former fossil fuels executive and energy commentator Ian Dunlop. 

Corporate Australia in denial over climate change, former coal exec Ian Dunlop says by Nonee Walsh, ABC, Aug 15, 2014

El Nino’s delay spurs memories of 2012 when it never came

In 2012, forecasters and researchers entered the summer convinced an El Nino would form in the equatorial Pacific and its weather-changing effects would be felt around the world.

It never happened.

Now the specter of that failure has cast a shadow over similar predictions in 2014, with many wondering where this year’s El Nino is and if it will ever arrive.

“Waiting for El Nino is starting to feel like Waiting for Godot,” Michelle L’Heureux, a scientist at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, wrote in her blog this week.

Yet, as others bail on their El Nino call, L’Heureux isn’t ready to give up. There are signs out there, she says, that still make 2014 feel different than the 2012 bust.

El Nino’s Delay Spurs Memories of 2012 When It Never Came by Brian K Sullivan, Bloomberg, Aug 15, 2014

Is climate change key to the spread of Ebola?

Ebola outbreaks may become more frequent because of climate change, scientists have warned, as the deadly disease ravages four countries across West Africa.

Nearly 2,000 people have caught Ebola since the epidemic started in February. More than 1,000 people have died. 

All four countries hit—Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria—have declared public health emergencies, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed the outbreak "unprecedented".

Scientists are uncertain why the current epidemic has proved more serious—both in number of cases and number of deaths—than its predecessors. However, some have pointed to meteorological data to show that previous outbreaks typically occur in clusters after sudden weather changes.

Some scientists believe global warming—and the subsequent increase in extreme weather—could be a factor behind in the virus's ascendance.

Is climate change key to the spread of Ebola? by Katy Barnato, CNBC, Aug 15, 2014

Many Republicans privately support action on climate

In stark contrast to their party's public stance on Capitol Hill, many Republicans privately acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change and recognize the need to address the problem.

However, they see little political benefit to speaking out on the issue, since congressional action is probably years away, according to former congressmen, former congressional aides and other sources.

In Bloomberg BNA interviews with several dozen former senior congressional aides, nongovernmental organizations, lobbyists and others conducted over a period of several months, the sources cited fears of attracting an electoral primary challenger as one of the main reasons many Republicans choose not to speak out.

Most say the reluctance to publicly support efforts to address climate change has grown discernibly since the 2010 congressional elections, when Tea Party-backed candidates helped the Republican Party win control of the House, in part by targeting vulnerable Democrats for their support of legislation establishing a national emissions cap-and-trade system.

Many Republicans Privately Support Action On Climate by Anthony Adragna, Bloomberg BNA, Aug 15, 2014

Snowpack atop Arctic sea ice has dwindled since 1950s

Snow atop Arctic sea ice has thinned dramatically since the mid-20th century, declining by more than a third in the western Arctic and by more than half in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, reports a new study led by researchers at the University of Washington and NASA. 

The study crunched numbers collected in a variety of ways over the decades — from simple handheld meter sticks poked into snow at Soviet ice stations as early as 1937; from modern, depth-recording poles thrust into the snow by researchers traveling to the ice pack in recent years; from measurements taken from instruments on buoys mobilized by the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory; and from a sophisticated aerial radar system used by NASA’s Operation IceBridge program.  

The results? Spring snowpack on sea ice in the western Arctic went from average depths of about 14 inches in the 1954-1991 period to about 9 inches in the 2009-2013 period. On the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, the decrease was bigger, from 13 inches to 6 inches. 

The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research and is available online in a draft form.

Snowpack atop Arctic sea ice has dwindled since 1950s by Yereth Rosen, Alaska Dispatch News, Aug 16, 2014

Solomons town to relocate to escape climate change, tsunamis

The authorities of Choiseul, a province in the Solomon Islands, have decided to relocate their capital from a tiny island threatened by climate change and tsunamis in the first such case in the Pacific islands, experts said on Friday.

The township of around 1,000 people is located on Taro Island, a coral atoll in Choiseul Bay, less than two metres above sea level. Its vulnerability to storm surges and tsunamis caused by earthquakes is expected to be compounded in the future by rising seas as the planet warms.

Mindful of these risks, communities in Choiseul Bay consulted a team of engineers, scientists and planners, funded by the Australian government, on how best to adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Solomons town to relocate to escape climate change, tsunamis by Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Aug 15, 2014

Why we're definitely not headed for another Ice Age

It was cold in the winter of 1684. Damn cold. So cold, in fact, that a couple of paintings from the time, depicting Londoners gambolling on the frozen River Thames, remain a kind of pictorial shorthand for the depths to which European temperatures can plunge even 330 years later.

Earlier this year, those familiar paintings received a fresh airing on the pages of a number of newspapers and websites, carried beneath headlines warning that western Europe was heading for a new “little ice age”. Research had apparently shown that our sun had “gone to sleep”, much like it had for a 70-year period around the turn of the 18th century, leaving us facing a series of bitter winters on a par with the coldest on record.

It was implied that we should brace for transport chaos, unsustainable energy demand and, presumably, that we should sharpen ice skates for our daily commutes. Global warming was yesterday’s fear: we must rather worry about soaring igloo prices in our capital cities.

Why We're Definitely Not Headed for Another Ice Age, by Howard Swains, Newsweek, Aug 15, 2014

Will it be extinction or 'translocation' as impacts of climate change increase?

Climate change is altering the way some scientists are trying to save endangered plant and animal species from extinction.

For nearly 100 years, conservationists have focused preservation efforts on maintaining species' historical ranges and reintroducing captive-bred species to boost dwindling populations. Now, some scientists are experimenting with a new approach.

"What's changed over the years is we introduce [species] into areas where they have never been before," said Philip Seddon an associate zoology professor at Otago University in New Zealand. "It's acknowledging that there are no pristine habitats, it's not feasible to have them locked away from people."

Will it be extinction or 'translocation' as impacts of climate change increase? by Niina Heikkinen, ClimateWire, Aug 15, 2014

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