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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #37A

Posted on 11 September 2014 by John Hartz

97%, 97 hours, 97 climate scientists

Global warming is real. Climate change is occurring faster than any time in recorded history. Humans dumping carbon dioxide into the air is to blame.

In the scientific community, those statements are not controversial at all. A solid 97% of climate scientists doing active research into the matter agree on them.

Politically, though, it’s a different story. Only about half the American public think global warming is man-made, and only a fraction of them know that there is overwhelming scientific consensus on it.

To raise both ratios, the wonderful website Skeptical Science has started a great campaign: “97 Hours of Consensus”. Every hour, for just over four days, a cartoon caricature of a different climate scientist will be posted along with a short, pithy quotation about the current understanding on global warming. The campaign started Sunday morning (Sep. 7), so it’s well along now. It started with Dr. Michael Mann, creator of the Hockey Stick graph showing that sudden warming is recent and catastrophic:

97%, 97 Hours, 97 Climate Scientists by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Sep 9, 2014

97 experts explain the scientific consensus on climate change

While the vast majority of the scientific community agrees that man-made climate change is happening, the public is still working to catch up: Even among those who accept that it’s probably a thing, not nearly enough appear to understand just how certain most scientists are about the basic relationship between human activity and Earth’s warming.

Not that we aren’t making progress. Politicians are listing humanity’s continued contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere among their top concerns and risking attack should they continue to deny the scientific facts. On my subway ride to work, colorful advertisements are urging me to show up in Columbus Circle two weeks from now to participate in what organizers are promising to be the biggest climate march in history. And on social media, the climate science website Skeptical Science has launched a 97-hour campaign — begun, naturally, on 9/7 — highlighting the 97 percent scientific consensus, and featuring 97 forceful, tweetable quotes from 97 experts.

“There’s no debate”: 97 experts explain the scientific consensus on climate change by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, Ept 8, 2014

As people march, a moment of truth in the climate fight

ctivists are trying to seize an opportunity to put the climate movement alongside the Civil Rights and the Vietnam-era anti-war movements. Tens of thousands of people are expected to participate in what organizers are calling the People's Climate March later this month in New York City.

Demonstrators from more than 1,000 organizations representing millions of people plan to demand that world leaders take action against human-driven climate change. The Sept. 21 march through midtown Manhattan will take place two days before a United Nations summit in the city that will lay the groundwork for climate-change treaty talks next year in Paris. It will also kick off the sixth annual Climate Week NYC, with almost 80 events focused on climate change such as conferences, lectures, debates and concerts.

As People March, A Moment of Truth in the Climate Fight by Katherine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Sep 8, 2014

Climate change in plain language

Sometimes those of us who are very deeply immersed in climate communications become so focused on crafting messages that effectively convey certain complex issues, ideas, and policy measures that we forget some of the most fundamental communications rules.

I speak for myself. I should probably stick a Post-It note on my computer screen with a checklist: Is it first and foremost about people? Emotions!! Are you going for the gut or brain? Did you say it in plain language? (In fact, I’m making that sticky note right now).

Climate Change in Plain Language by Anna Fahey, Sightline Daily, Sep 10, 2014

Don't understand global warming? Let 97 climate scientists explain it

For some reason, global warming still remains a divisive issue. While there have been many measures implemented through government regulation and education about the environment for decades, some people still don't believe global warming is something we need to be worried about or a phenomena that exists at all. Gallup reported in March that 65 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening or will happen during their lifetime, but only 36 percent actually see it as a threat.

Sorry to burst their bubble, but global warming is happening, and it's not stopping any time soon. Last year, a study by The Consensus Project found that a whopping 97 percent of published papers had the position that global warming is happening and that humans are to blame. 

So for the Americans that remain unconvinced, Skeptical Science has created a new campaign. "97 Hours of Consensus" aims to bridge the consensus gap by posting a cute cartoon figure of a climate scientist along with a statement from him or her regarding global warming.

Don't understand global warming? Let 97 climate scientists explain it to you by Laura Rosenfeld, Tech Times, Sep 10, 2014

Fossil fuels, global warming and democracy

What happens to democracy when the fossil fuel industry collides with global warming?

That's the question Dr Kevin Taft – Canadian author, commentator and former political leader- poses then unpacks in his absorbing Perspectives paper for the Whitlam Institute.

In Fossil Fuels, Global Warming and Democracy, Dr Taft situates his examination of Alberta as a 'petroleum economy' within a broader theory of petrostates. Taft argues that in this new kind of petrostate, democracy is caught between the need to respond to global warming and the demands of the fossil fuel industry.

So can democracy as we know it survive global warming?

Fossil Fuels, Global Warming and Democracy, University of Western Sydney, Sep 10, 2014

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty.

But the UK's energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.

The WMO's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin doesn't measure emissions from power station smokestacks but instead records how much of the warming gases remain in the atmosphere after the complex interactions that take place between the air, the land and the oceans.

About half of all emissions are taken up by the seas, trees and living things.

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984 by Matt McGrath, BBC News, Sep 8, 2014

Legendary accounting firm just ran the numbers on climate change

With every year that passes, we're getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That's the key message in this year's "Low Carbon Economy Index," a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report highlights an "unmistakable trend": The world's major economies are increasingly failing to do what's needed to to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations' 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

To curtail climate change, individual countries have made a variety of pledges to reduce their share of emissions, but taken together, those promises simply aren't enough. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, "the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running." The report adds that at current rates, we're headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate. Here's a breakdown of the paper's major findings.

This Legendary Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change by James West, Sep 10, 2014

Prophetic visions can rouse politicians from complacency

The past year has seen the obstacles blocking action on climate change beginning to crumble. Opposition on scientific grounds looks pretty unpersuasive in the light of what has come from the experts on theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . Their seven-year study states that they are now 95% certain that human activity is a significant and avoidable element in driving climate change around the world. Predicted changes in the climate are now being observed in the most vulnerable countries, confirming the predictive models that have been used.

The suggestion that action on this would have too great an economic cost is likewise looking increasingly shaky. This month the New Climate Economy  report will be published by a global commission, including Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico; Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever; the economist Nicholas Stern; and Chad Holloway, the chairman of the Bank of America – as well as a substantial number of finance ministers from around the world. This report will show that action on climate change is entirely compatible with economic growth in almost all countries and that the economic benefits, both short and long term, will outweigh the costs.

It will reinforce the findings of a report published last October by a group of financial heavyweights outlining the threat to US businesses of doing nothing in the face of climate change. Risky Business  – by former US treasury secretaries Hank Paulson, Robert Rubin and George Schultz; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York; and the billionaire investor Thomas Steyer – argued, purely on economic grounds, that ignoring the challenge is folly .

Prophetic visions can rouse politicians from complacency to save the planet by Rowan Williams, Comment is Free, The Guardian, Sep 9, 2014 

The two-degrees warming policy is likely a road to disaster

Global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has released a timely analysis  on economic growth and carbon emissions, which makes the point that there is a "disconnect between the global climate negotiations aiming for a 2°C limit on global warming, but national pledges may only manage to limit it to 3°C, and current trajectory actually on course for 4°C."

The report was released in the lead up to the United Nations climate change summit in New York , which will also be the focus of global climate rallies , to hammer home the message that "taking decisive action to avoid the extremes of climate change is a pre-condition for sustained economic growth".

The PwC analysis shows that in order to keep to the 2°C limit on warming, decarbonisation of the global economy would need to occur at "five times the rate currently achieved".

Sorry policy-makers, the two-degrees warming policy is likely a road to disaster by Alexander White, Southern Cross, The Guardian, Sep 9, 2014

We have five years to stop building coal plants and gas-powered cars

Here's the frightening implication of a landmark study on carbon emissions: By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again, unless they’re either replacements for old ones or carbon neutral. Otherwise greenhouse gas emissions will push global warming past 2?C of temperature rise worldwide, threatening the survival of many people currently living on the planet.

Every climate expert will tell you we’re on a tight carbon budget as it is—that only so many tons of carbon dioxide can be pumped into the atmosphere before the global climate will overheat. We’ve already warmed temperatures 0.85?C from pre-industrial levels, and the number rises every year. While no one thinks 2? C is safe, per se, it's safer than going even higher and running the risk that global warming will spiral out of our control completely.

We Have Five Years to Stop Building Coal Plants and Gas-Powered Cars by Stephen Leahy, Motherboard, Sep 6, 2014

Why I’m taking part in 97 hours of climate consensus 

I’m taking part in the SkS 97 hours campaign because these guys are pros: they are effective and I find it inspiring to work with them.

More broadly, getting this simple idea across to the public and policy makers is critical.

There is essentially no disagreement within the global scientific community that burning fossil fuels is mealon, surably (and obviously) warming the planet.

Why I’m taking part in 97 hours of climate consensus by John Bruno, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), Sep 8, 2014

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. I'd like to register an official objection to 97 in 97.  It appears the warmist fear-mongers intend to completely ignore the other 3%.  To remedy, I'd like a cartoon caricature of Roy and a short pithy statement: "No it ain't. Shut Up!"

    : )

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  2. There definitely should be no new coal power generation facilities built. And there should be CO2 capture and storage systems added to every existing coal plant, even though those would cost money while reducing the energy production. CO2 capture and storage may increase the coal burning per megawatt, but the followiong article indicates it may be a 30% increase in coal burned per megawatt while up to 90% of the CO2 could be capotured (See CBC article here). That would be less CO2 per megawatt than electricity generation from natural gas since natural gas generation produces half the CO2 of coal generation. (See EIA item here).

    It would also appear that CO2 capture would be beneficial on natural gas fired generation.

    And, of course, all the impacts of the entire set of activities related to the different types of electruicity generation need to be considered, not just the CO2 emissions. Those considerations make coal and fracking to get gas less desireable than easier to get gas.

    The simple reality is that energy is actually more expensive than the unsustainable and harmful ways that the developed and developing economies have been getting away with benefiting from.

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  3. Not only have the developed economies failed to offer to adequately address the global requirement to limit human CO2 emissions impacts to 2 degrees C, many of those nations, like Canada, appear to be failing to keep pace towards their inadequate promises.

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  4. Here is a link to the basis for my previous comment about Canada not meeting its promises (CTV item here)

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