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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #34B

Posted on 23 August 2014 by John Hartz

A tale of two cities: Miami, New York and life on the edge

Walking along the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale and admiring the 60-foot yachts docked alongside impressive homes, it’s hard to imagine that this city could suffer the same financial fate as Detroit. But it is almost as hard to imagine how they will avoid a similar crisis given the sea level rise predicted by scientists.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, with 5.6 million people, is “ground zero” in the battle against the rising seas.  Perhaps nowhere else in America are the odds lined up so heavily against a region. With a relatively flat, low-lying landscape, and a porous limestone base that precludes levees, the options for this city do not look good.

A thousand miles north-east lies New York — another city very vulnerable to sea level rise. But after the wake-up call of Superstorm Sandy, Michael Bloomberg, then the mayor of New York City announced “We cannot, and will not, abandon our waterfront” and launched a $20 billion program to protect the city against the rising seas — at least for a little while. So why can’t Miami apply the same formula as New York City, and go back to relaxing on the beach? And what is this concern about sea level rise in the first place?  

A Tale of Two Cities: Miami, New York and Life on the Edge by Rob Motta and James White, climate Central, Aug 22, 2014

Atlantic Ocean key to global-warming pause

An apparent slowdown in global warming since the late 1990s may be due to changes in circulation patterns in the Atlantic and Southern oceans, suggests a study published in the 22 August Science.

These circulation patterns carry sun-warmed tropical waters into the higher latitudes, where they sink and flow back towards the Equator, says lead author Ka-Kit Tung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Tung says, this movement was relatively slow. That allowed the warm water to linger at the surface long enough to lose much of its heat to the air, thereby contributing to rapid global warming.

But around 1999, the currents sped up, sending relatively warm water into the ocean depths instead. That is enough, according to Tung and his co-author Xianyao Chen, an oceanographer at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, to explain why Earth’s land and ocean surface temperature seems to have plateaued since the anomalously warm year of 1998.

Atlantic Ocean key to global-warming pause by Richard A. Lovett, Nature, Aug 21, 2014 

Claims of a global warming pause have had no impact on public opinion

The claim that climate change has paused has had a great few months in terms of media coverage - but Carbon Brief's new poll suggests this hasn't had any impact on public opinion. 

The climate change 'pause'* - the suggestion that global warming has stopped over the last 16 years - has had plenty of attention recently. Andrew Neil's interview last month with the Energy & Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey began: "can global warming be happening as expected if the world has stopped getting hotter?"; the Mail have been talking about it for months; and some respected climate scientists have joined the debate

If there was an organised campaign to change the debate about global warming - so it's seen as something that's uncertain rather than already started - it would appear to be doing well. But getting a lot of coverage is only a start. Squeaky bum time for any campaign comes when the funders ask to see what the impact of all the coverage has been.

Claims of a global warming pause have had no impact on public opinion by Leo Barasi, The Carbon Brief, Aug 21, 2014

Climate change: meteorologists preparing for the worst

Intense aerial turbulence, ice storms and scorching heatwaves, huge ocean waves—the world's climate experts forecast apocalyptic weather over the coming decades at a conference in Montreal that ended Thursday.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) brought together 1,000 specialists to discuss the uncertain future of weather forecasting.

A decade after the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's focus has shifted from reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to warming, to dealing with its consequences.

"It's irreversible and the world's population continues to increase, so we must adapt," said Jennifer Vanos, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University.

Climate change: meteorologists preparing for the worst by Clément Sabourin,, Aug 22, 2014

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble of this power plant echoes across the ancient steppe, and its acrid stench travels dozens of miles away.

This is the first of more than 60 coal-to-gas plants China wants to build, mostly in remote parts of the country where ethnic minorities have farmed and herded for centuries. Fired up in December, the multibillion-dollar plant bombards millions of tons of coal with water and heat to produce methane, which is piped to Beijing to generate electricity.

It's part of a controversial energy revolution China hopes will help it churn out desperately needed natural gas and electricity while cleaning up the toxic skies above the country's eastern cities. However, the plants will also release vast amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, even as the world struggles to curb greenhouse gas emissions and stave off global warming.

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks by Jack Chnag, AP/Seattle PI, Aug 22, 2014

Don’t dismiss a 2014 ‘super’ El Niño just yet

It looks like it’s all over bar the shouting for the chance of this year bringing on a “super” El Niño. Or is it?

The Bureau of Meteorology has brought the odds of an El Niño event down to 50%, from 70%. Even if it hits, most authorities are forecasting a weak to moderate event. Not that this should make seasonal weather watchers any less wary. Even a moderate El Niño can significantly affect Australia’s rainfall.

But are we right to dismiss the chances of a super El Niño this early in the season? We have been caught out before. The second-largest El Niño event on modern record, which hit in 1982/83, developed rather slowly before rapidly picking up in late August.

There have been some recent signs that the development of El Niño conditions may be picking up again, so perhaps we shouldn’t write off a strong El Niño event just yet.

A prediction for a weak El Niño does not mean a strong El Niño is not a possibility.

Don’t dismiss a 2014 ‘super’ El Niño just yet by Agus Santoso, The Conversation, Aug 21, 2014

Dumping ban urged for Australia’s iconic reef

Increased effort is needed to protect Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, which is in serious decline and will likely deteriorate further in the future, according to a new report.

“Greater reductions of all threats at all levels, reef-wide, regional and local, are required to prevent the projected declines,” said an outlook report by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the government agency responsible for protecting the reef.

However, the same agency recently approved the dumping of five million tonnes of dredging spoil in the reef region. Scientists and coral reef experts universally condemned the decision.

Documents obtained by Australia’s ABC TV investigative programme this week revealed scientists inside the Park Authority also opposed the dumping inside the UNESCO World Heritage Area.

Dumping Ban Urged for Australia’s Iconic Reef by Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service (IPS). Aug 21, 2014

Global climate inaction will mean economic turmoil for South Asia

The first comprehensive study ever issued on the economic costs that uncontrolled climate change would inflict on South Asia predicts a staggering burden that would hit the region's poorest the hardest.

"The impacts of climate change are likely to result in huge economic, social and environmental damage to South Asian countries, compromising their growth potential and poverty reduction efforts," said the study, published by the Asian Development Bank.

The cuts in regional GDP are so deep that they might ripple around the world, as six developing countries with 1.4 billion people—a third of them living in poverty—pay the price of the world's continuing reliance on fossil fuels.

Projections like this feed into the urgency for action as world leaders prepare to meet at the United Nations next month to discuss the climate crisis. Recent warnings show that the steps nations seem willing to take will fall well short of what is needed.

Global Climate Inaction Will Mean Economic Turmoil for South Asia, Warns Bank by John H. Cushman Jr., Inside Climate News, Aug  

Global climate deal may fail to restrain global warming

A growing number of leaders are openly acknowledging that a 2015 international agreement to avert catastrophic global warming will surely fall short of what's needed to achieve that goal.

But another consensus is also forming among top U.S. experts: that shortfall is OK, as long as the deal puts all major climate polluters on a serious, upward and transparent path to cutting greenhouse gases.

"The big question the public is going to ask is: Are all the major emitters participating? And are they doing enough to help solve this challenge?'" said Peter Ogden, director of international climate and energy policy at the Center for American Progress and a former chief of staff to U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern. 

Global Climate Deal May Fail to Restrain Global Warming by Lisa Friedman, Climate Wire/Scientific American, Aug 21, 2014

'Grand bargain' may secure enough support for Direct Action to pass Australian Senate

Negotiations are taking place in Canberra for a compromise in which companies could be credited for beating emissions baselines and risk financial penalties for exceeding them

'Grand bargain' may secure enough support for Direct Action to pass Senate by Lenore Taylor, The Guardian, Aug 22, 2014

Has the Atlantic Ocean stalled global warming?

Temperatures at Earth's surface aren't rising as fast as they did in the 1990s, even though the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to increase steadily. This apparent hiatus in global warming has been fodder for skeptics—but among climate scientists, it has sparked a search for the "sink" that is storing all the missing atmospheric heat.

Locating that sink matters, because it could tell researchers how long our current hiatus might last, says Ka-Kit Tung, an atmospheric scientist and applied mathematician at the University of Washington in Seattle.

In this week's issue of Science, Tung and Xianyao Chen at Ocean University of China in Qingdao suggest that much of the missing heat has gone into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This is in contrast to a previous study that argued the heat went into the Pacific Ocean.

Has the Atlantic Ocean Stalled Global Warming? by Jane J Lee, National Geographic, Aug 21. 2014

Hot and getting hotter: Heat islands cooking U.S. cities

Cities are almost always hotter than the surrounding rural area but global warming takes that heat and makes it worse. In the future, this combination of urbanization and climate change could raise urban temperatures to levels that threaten human health, strain energy resources, and compromise economic productivity.

Summers in the U.S. have been warming since 1970. But on average across the country cities are even hotter, and have been getting hotter faster than adjacent rural areas. 

With more than 80 percent of Americans living in cities, these urban heat islands — combined with rising temperatures caused by increasing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions — can have serious health effects for hundreds of millions of people during the hottest months of the year.  Heat is the No.1 weather-related killer in the U.S., and the hottest days, particularly days over 90°F, are associated with dangerous ozone pollution levels that can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other serious health impacts.

Hot and Getting Hotter: Heat Islands Cooking U.S. Cities, Research Report by Climate Central, Aug 20, 2014

Why climate change could be the biggest threat to your portfolio

The oil and gas industry faces a host of challenges, including high and rising development costs, stagnant commodity prices, and geopolitical risks in regions such as Russia and the Middle East. But climate change may be the biggest threat of all, with potentially grave consequences for oil and gas companies' asset values and share prices.

Why Climate Change Could Be the Biggest Threat to Your Portfolio by Arjun Sreekumar, The Motley Fool, Aug 22, 2014

Why I’m a climate change alarmist

I’m sick of having to hide it, so here goes: I’m a climate change alarmist.

There, I said it. After years of fighting off Internet trolls and being ridiculed on Fox News for caring about the Earth and its inhabitants enough to make big changes to my life, I’ve had enough. It’s time that we climate change alarmists reclaim this dismissive term and defend ourselves.

Many of us have been lambasted for talking about the fundamental health of the planet. Climate scientist Kerry Emanuel has written “those interested in treating the issue as an objective problem in risk assessment and management are labeled ‘alarmists,’ a particularly infantile smear considering what is at stake.”

Now, I’m also an optimist. I’m convinced that humanity has the ability to tackle the problem and come to international agreement on how to do so in a fair way. It simply must happen. But for something so serious, it seems like there’s a general lack of alarm, a lack of emotion, and—to be blunt—a lack of ambition to act with the scale and urgency the issue requires.

Why I’m a Climate Change Alarmist by Eric Holthaus, Slate, Aug 20, 2014

Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change

Recently I learned about “Prius repellent” — a tricked-out truck takes deep swigs of diesel and spews black smog all over a tailing vehicle, preferably a hybrid. These ominous clouds signal that, in our national conversation about climate change, something has gone very wrong.

George Marshall, a founder of the Climate Outreach think tank, tries to get us talking productively in his intelligent and genial new book, “Don’t Even Think About It.” He visits with fellow environmentalists, with psychologists and policy analysts, and with political opponents — even sharing a few laughs in the lair of 40 Texas tea partyers — to try to understand just why people are so prone to deny or ignore climate change.

Some of the answers are familiar. Humans respond most urgently to threats that are present, concrete and definite — a mugger, say. But climate change is gradual, hard to observe and indefinite, at least in terms of its eventual magnitude and effects on our personal lives. Addressing it requires making palpable sacrifices now in order to prevent unclear costs in the distant future. Global warming also doesn’t automatically raise our moral hackles, as there’s no clear enemy who wants to destroy our world. If anyone is to blame, the culprit is me, you and everyone we know. So it’s in our own self-interest — though perhaps not in the interest of our future selves, those poor schlubs — to play down the danger, if not outright deny it.

In 42 short chapters, Marshall also covers some less-obvious ground. For instance, you might think that surviving a weather disaster would raise your alert level on climate change. Not always — near-misses give people a sense of invulnerability. What’s more, after a community floods or burns to the ground, people just want to get their lives back to normal and not worry about some even larger threat.

Why our brains are wired to ignore climate changeOp-ed by Matthew Hutson, Washington Post, Aug 21, 2014 

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. I just read,  ''Climate change: meteorologists preparing for the worst."

    "Average temperatures have increased by 0.47 percent degres Celsius so far."

    "Scientists have predicted a two-percent rise in average temperatures by 2050."

    "Meating ice of Greenland could result in a six-meter (200-foot) rise..."

    Where is the editor?

    0 0

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