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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #44B

Posted on 31 October 2014 by John Hartz

5 ideas for protecting New York from the next Sandy

It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy, and much of New York City is still vulnerable to flooding from storm surges. And as global sea levels continue to rise, that flooding risk will only increase. While Sandy caused around $19 billion in damages and economic losses in New York City, the same storm would cost the city $90 billion in 2050, according to a recent analysis by the city government. According to city risk assessments, 400,000 people already live in an area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year.

There are a number of proposed solutions for this ever-worsening problem, ranging from the practical to the whimsical. The Huffington Post took a look at some of the proposed solutions (including some conceived even before Sandy brought attention to the issue), as well as the official recommendations of the New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, a Bloomberg administration effort to build a more resilient city post-Sandy. While some of these ideas may seem far-fetched, these are all real proposals.

5 Ideas for Protecting New York From The Next Sandy (Some Of Which Are A Little Nuts) by Katherine Boehrer, The Huffington Post, Oct 29, 2014

Climate scientists aren’t too alarmist. They’re too conservative

On Nov. 2, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its "Synthesis Report," the final stage in a yearlong document dump that, collectively, presents the current expert consensus about climate change and its consequences. This synthesis report (which has already been leaked and reported on — like it always is) pulls together the conclusions of three prior reports of the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report, and will "provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change," according to the IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri.

There's just one problem. According to a number of scientific critics, the scientific consensus represented by the IPCC is a very conservative consensus. IPCC's reports, they say, often underestimate the severity of global warming, in a way that may actually confuse policymakers (or worse). The IPCC, one scientific group charged last year, has a tendency to "err on the side of least drama." And now, in a new study just out in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, another group of researchers echoes that point. In scientific parlance, they charge that the IPCC is focused on avoiding what are called "type 1" errors — claiming something is happening when it really is not (a "false positive") — rather than on avoiding "type 2" errors — not claiming something is happening when it really is (a "false negative").

The consequence is that we do not always hear directly from the IPCC about how bad things could be.

Climate scientists aren’t too alarmist. They’re too conservative by Chris Mooney, Wonkblog, Washington Post, Oct 30, 2014

Direct Action is like a dodgy laundry powder that never gets the climate clean

Direct Action is the brand name of the freshly minted Australian Government policy to try and reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But with a name that sounds more like a dodgy box of laundry powder, Australia’s “Direct Action” is unlikely to leave the country looking any cleaner or smelling any fresher in the climate change stakes.

That’s because instead of removing the many stubborn stains that fossil fuel use leaves on the planet’s climate systems, Australia’s box of Direct Action comes with added coal dust.

How can it be seen otherwise when in the same week that Australia’s Senate passed the Direct Action legislation, the finance minister Mathias Cormann told parliament “coal is good”?

Direct Action is like a dodgy laundry powder that never gets the climate clean by Graham Readfearn, The Guardian, Oct 30, 2014

Emissions trading will be back in the game if Direct Action proves ineffective

Greg Hunt vows emissions trading is dead and won’t be revived for 20 years or more. But he has quietly given himself the power to bring back a form of carbon trading, and he has advice that if he doesn’t use it, Australia cannot meet the climate promises it has made to the world.

The seeds of an emissions trading scheme are buried in the deal Hunt did with crossbench senators. And the power for them to bloom into a new form of carbon trading also rests with him.

The catch is, if he doesn’t allow this to happen, Australia is very unlikely to meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets, and has almost no chance of meeting the deeper targets it will have to commit to after that.

In a few years the minister is very likely to face a choice – break the Coalition’s promise never to introduce any form of carbon price, or break Australia’s promise to the world about how much we would reduce greenhouse emissions.

Emissions trading will be back in the game if Direct Action proves ineffective by Lenore Taylor, The Guardian, Oct 29, 2014

Fossil fuels won’t benefit Africa in absence of sound environmental policies

Recent discoveries of sizeable natural gas reserves and barrels of oil in a number of African countries — including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya — have economists hopeful that the continent can boost and diversify its largely agriculture-based economy. 

But environmentalists and climate change experts in favour of renewable energy say that the exploration of oil and gas must stop, as they are concerned that many African countries lack the capacity to exploit oil and gas at minimal risk to the environment.

Economic policies are not driven by environmental concerns, Hadley Becha, director of local nongovernmental organisation Community Action for Nature Conservation, told IPS.

Fossil Fuels Won’t Benefit Africa in Absence of Sound Environmental Policies, Analysis by Miriam Gathigah, Inter PRess Service (IPS), Oct 30, 2014

Hot enough? Things are going to get hotter

Australia's unusually hot and dry weather is set to extend well into summer with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting increased risks of bushfires and heatwaves.

The bureau's latest three-month outlooks for temperature and rainfall covering the November-January period indicate the likelihood of drier-than-normal conditions across most of eastern Australia, particularly the north-east.

For Sydney, the immediate forecast is for mostly dry weather, with a maximum 31 degrees reached on Thursday and 29 predicted to end the month on Friday, with 33 to start November on Saturday.

Hot enough? Things are going to get hotter by Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald, Oct 30, 2014

How Interstellar made Michael Caine think again about climate change

In Christopher Nolan’s new movie, humanity’s hope for survival is pinned on one man: Matthew McConaughey, pilot of a last-ditch mission to find humans a new home as Earth becomes uninhabitable. And in turn, Interstellar, which opens worldwide on 7 November, heads towards cinemas heavy with expectations.

In a year strikingly light on both critical and commercial hits, it’s down to this three-hour Imax epic to save cinema as the clock ticks on the last quarter. Nolan has millions of devoted fans from his Batman trilogy, plus the rare clout to get studio backing for adult blockbusters which don’t feature superheroes. Early screenings have attracted very warm reviews, Oscar buzz and comparisons to Kubrick’s 2001, whose extended deep space sequences Nolan appears to ape.

Yet at a press conference in London on Wednesday, Nolan said his key inspiration was films such as Close Encounters of a Third Kind, which sought to speculate about a moment when humans would need to reassess their place in the cosmos.

Interstellar does so from a post-climate change perspective. It shows a world disseminated by a man-made agricultural blight that forces other options to be scoped out. Rather than being a call to arms to preserve the planet, it fast-forwards to a time when any such battle has been lost.

How Interstellar made Michael Caine think again about climate change by Catherine Shoard, The Guardian, Oct 29, 2014 

If we want to make climate action happen we need to hear about the solutions

Our efforts to cut carbon emissions aren’t working and no-one else cares. Give up.

It’s not a great thought to start the day, but that’s the defeatist message Britain woke up to a couple of weeks ago, when the BBC’s Today Programme interviewed newly-sacked climate-sceptic environment secretary, Owen Paterson.

This climate defeatism also swirled around the rapturous reaction to Paterson’s argument from the usual suspects in the media. Having failed to undermine public acceptance of climate science or turn us against renewable energy, the high-carbon lobby wants to ensure that people have no appetite for the journey to a low-carbon society. 

If we want to make climate action happen we need to hear about the solutions by Mal Chadwick, The Guardian, Oct 29, 2014 

New study shows three abrupt pulse of carbon dioxide during last deglaciation

A new study shows that the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide that contributed to the end of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago did not occur gradually, but was characterized by three "pulses" in which C02 rose abruptly.

cientists are not sure what caused these abrupt increases, during which C02 levels rose about 10-15 parts per million – or about 5 percent per episode – over a period of 1-2 centuries. It likely was a combination of factors, they say, including ocean circulation, changing wind patterns, and terrestrial processes.

The finding is important, however, because it casts new light on the mechanisms that take the Earth in and out of ice age regimes. Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appear this week in the journal Nature.

New study shows three abrupt pulse of carbon dioxide during last deglaciation,, Oct 29, 2014

Poor countries tap renewables at twice the pace of rich

Emerging markets are installing renewable energy projects at almost twice the rate of developed nations, a report concluded.

A study of 55 nations — including China, Brazil, South AfricaUruguay and Kenya — found that they’ve installed a combined 142 gigawatts from 2008 to 2013. The 143 percent growth in renewables in those markets compares with an 84 percent rate in wealthier nations, which installed 213 megawatts, according to a report released today by Climatescope.

The boom in renewables is often made for economic reasons, Ethan Zindler, a Washington-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said in an interview. An island nation like Jamaica, where wholesale power costs about $300 a megawatt-hour, could generate electricity from solar panels for about half as much. Similarly, wind power in Nicaragua may be half as expensive as traditional energy.

“Clean energy is the low-cost option in a lot of these countries,” Zindler said by telephone. “The technologies are cost-competitive right now. Not in the future, but right now.”

Poor Countries Tap Renewables at Twice the Pace of Rich by Justin Doom, Bloomberg. Oct 28, 2014

Research reveals current climate engagement strategies are failing to reach young people

Today COIN releases ‘Young Voices’, a major new report looking at young people’s attitudes to climate change. Supported by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, it is the first study to ask young people themselves how to engage their peers more effectively, and to propose and test new climate change narratives specifically designed to engage 18-25 year olds.

Commenting on the study, Dr Adam Corner, COIN’s Research Director, said:

Our research suggests that many young people care deeply and passionately about climate change. However, there has been a collective failure to talk to young people about climate change in a way that inspires them. Too many assumptions have been made by communicators, which haven’t been tested. Working directly with young people we have been able to trial a series of narratives about climate change, providing valuable insights for anyone interested in improving communication about climate change with this group. 

The findings revealed that many current climate engagement strategies may be failing to reach young people.

Research reveals current climate engagement strategies are failing to reach young people, COIN, Oct 30, 2014

Rising temperatures: A month versus a decade

You may have heard that September 2014 was the warmest September ever recorded and that the past six months were the hottest April through September in 130 years of records. NASA Earth Observatory readers sometimes ask: How much does it matter when a monthly or yearly temperature record is broken? And where does global temperature data come from?

The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) maintains the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP), one of the most widely-cited global temperature records. To conduct this analysis, scientists at GISS use publicly available data from 6,300 meteorological stations around the world; from ship-based and satellite observations of sea surface temperatures; and from Antarctic research stations. These three data sets are analyzed to account for breaks in station records, urban heating artifacts, and the distribution of stations across the landscape. Then they are loaded into a computer program—available for public download from the GISS web site—that calculates trends in temperatures relative to the average temperature from 1951-1980. (Note: The GISTEMP analysis is limited to the period since 1880 because of poor spatial coverage of stations and decreasing data quality prior to that time.)

Rising temperatures: A month versus a decade by Adam Voiland, NASA\'s Earth Observatory, Oct 27, 2014

U.N. talks of tough global climate targets, vague on national action

A draft U.N. guide for slowing climate change says world greenhouse gas emissions may have to fall to a net zero this century but is vague about what each nation should do now.

About 500 delegates, including scientists and government experts, are meeting in Copenhagen to edit the report, which is meant to guide policymakers in setting national goals for a global climate deal at a U.N. summit in Paris in late 2015.

The draft synthesis report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says rising world emissions will have to peak soon and then fall fast to limit risks of what could be "irreversible" damage.

"Somewhere after the middle of this century human-caused emissions will have to come down to a net zero," Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, told Reuters. 

U.N. talks of tough global climate targets, vague on national action by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Oct 31, 2014

UN warns of irreversible climate change

Climate change may have "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems." But there is still time to prevent the worst by reducing greenhouse gas emissions now.

That is the message from a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be published on November 2 after a week of international scrutiny.

The "Synthesis Report" does not contain new information. Its wording, however, lends new urgency to the issue. It integrates and condenses the information contained in three separate reports released over the past year, looking at the scientific evidence for climate change, its impacts and what can be done about it.

Delegates from more than 100 governments and top scientists are attending the meeting to prepare the publication of the report and the all-important "Summary for Policymakers," which will be essential reading for governments preparing for this year's UN climate conference in Peru in December.

UN warns of irreversible climate change by Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle (DW), Oct 31, 2014

Why Republicans keep telling everyone they’re not scientists

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican who is fighting a Democratic challenge from former Gov. Charlie Crist, was asked by The Miami Herald if he believesclimate change is significantly affecting the weather. “Well, I’m not a scientist,” he said.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is locked in a tight re-election race, was asked this month by The Cincinnati Enquirer if he believes that climate change is a problem. “I’m not a scientist,” he said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, when asked by reporters if climate change will play a role in the Republican agenda, came up with a now-familiar formulation. “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” he said.

Why Republicans Keep Telling Everyone They’re Not Scientists by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Oct 30, 2014

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. There's no link above to Rising Temperatures: A Month Versus a Decade. Likewise the links within the excerpt.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [Jh] Links fixed. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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