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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #45C

Posted on 8 November 2014 by John Hartz

Biggest Brazil metro area desperate for water

It’s been nearly a month since Diomar Pereira has had running water at his home in Itu, a commuter city outside Sao Paulo that is at the epicenter of the worst drought to hit southeastern Brazil in more than eight decades.

Like others in this city whose indigenous name means “big waterfall,” Pereira must scramble to find water for drinking, bathing and cooking. On a recent day when temperatures hit 90 degrees (32 Celsius), he drove to a community kiosk where people with empty soda bottles and jugs lined up to use a water spigot. Pereira filled several 13-gallon containers, which he loaded into his Volkswagen bug.

“I have a job and five children to raise and am always in a rush to find water so we can bathe,” said Pereira, a truck driver who makes the trip to get water every couple of days. “It’s very little water for a lot of people.”

Biggest Brazil metro area desperate for water, AP/Washington Post, Nov 7, 2014

Climate change is messing with pollination

TheGuardian has the best possible lede for this one, so without further ado:

Sexual deceit, pressed flowers and Victorian bee collectors are combined in new scientific research which demonstrates for the first time that climate change threatens flower pollination, which underpins much of the world’s food production.

Here’s what’s going on: researchers in U.K. followed the relationship between a type of orchid and the specific bee species that pollinates it. Thanks to a nifty trick of evolution, the orchids flower each year at the exact time that the bees emerges to do its thing. But looking back to the 1850s, the team found that rising spring temperatures are messing up both the bees’ and the flowers’ timing — and it’s not doing so equally, meaning that they’re missing one another.

Study: Climate change is messing with pollination by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, Nov 6, 2014

Climate economics expert urges "critical" investment shift

The next 20 years must see a "critical" investment shift from high- to low-carbon energy sources to limit damaging global warming, Nicholas Stern, an authority on the economics of climate change, said Thursday.

3"The next 20 years are going to be a very special period, they are going to be critical to manage... key investments," the British economist told journalists before appearing as a guest lecturer at a Paris university.

"If we make the key investments well... in urbanisation, energy systems and land use, we will set ourselves on a good route."

Stern estimated that global infrastructure investment in the next 15 years would amount to some $90 trillion (73 trillion euros), and said low-carbon adaptations would add "only a few trillion more".

Climate economics expert urges "critical" investment shift, Nov 6, 2014

Climate talks grapple with regional carbon markets

United Nations climate envoys are considering how to slot Chinese provinces and U.S. states into the same global carbon market as nations after 2020, according to an International Energy Agency official.

Negotiators need to agree on rules to track emission permits while keeping them “flexible enough to allow high-quality carbon markets to flourish and link up,” Christina Hood, a climate policy analyst at the agency in Paris, said in a telephone interview. That will be “a tricky balance for negotiators to strike,” she said.

About 200 nations are negotiating the first draft of the international climate accord over the next six months. Allowing smaller jurisdictions to link would enlarge the global market, the value of which has dropped 60 percent since 2011. The European Union, the world’s largest emissions trading area, wants to limit trading in the main global system to countries and groups of nations, the bloc said in a Sept. 29 submission.

“Linking carbon markets increases the pool of emissions reductions available, so targets can be met more cheaply,” Hood said Nov. 5. “One of the things climate negotiators are grappling with is that markets are now playing a fundamentally different role. It’s no longer about country-to-country trading.”

Climate Talks Grapple With Regional Carbon Markets: IEA by Mathew Carr, Bloomberg, Nov 7, 2014

Environmentalists mostly counting election losses 

Environmental groups watched in shock last night as many of the seats they considered shoo-ins fell to GOP control—leaving the movement examining its big-money midterm strategy and how to push climate action forward with a Republican Congress.

The nation's major green groups spent about $85 million trying to make climate change a central focus of the election and elect pro-action candidates. They knew going in they faced an uphill battle. The sixth year of an administration is historically difficult for the ruling party to win, and many of the races were being contested in red, energy-producing states.

But in the final weeks and days leading to Election Day, political forecasters projected positive outcomes for many of the races in which environmentalists spent time and money.

Environmentalists Mostly Counting Election Losses Despite $85 Million Outlay by Katherine Bagley, InsideClimate News, Nov 5, 2014

Higher temperatures may result in fewer bees

The dramatic demise of Britain’s bee population has been variously linked to everything from pesticides, habitat loss and even parasitic mites.

Climate change can now be added to the list of threats, after new research revealed that an increase in global temperature could be disrupting the “synchronisation” that has evolved over millennia between bees and the plants they pollinate.

In the week that the Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, called on gardeners to boost bee populations by mowing their lawns less often, researchers have found that the temperature increase resulting from climate change has brought forward the flowering date of the early spider orchid along with the “first flight” of newborn solitary bees.

Higher temperatures may result in fewer bees, scientists claim by Tom Bawden, The Independent, Nov 7, 2014

Mitch McConnell feels a “deep responsibility” to block climate action

Mitch McConnell is drawing his battle lines, and as feared, it’s bad news for the planet.

In his first one-on-one interview after Republicans took control of the Senate, the soon-to-be majority leader told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his No. 1 priority is “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”

Specifically, McConnell said that he plans to go after the agency’s plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, saying he feels a ”deep responsibility” to stop it from being implemented — a plan also known as the absolute worst-case scenario for U.S. climate action.

“I’m absolutely convinced from the people I talk to around the country, not just here but around the country, that coal has a future,” McConnell, who refuses to definitely acknowledge the existence of climate change, said. “The question is whether or not coal is going to have a future here. It’s got a future in Europe. It’s got a future in China, India, Australia. But not here?”

“It makes me very angry,” he added, “and I’m going to do everything I can to try to stop them.”

Mitch McConnell feels a “deep responsibility” to block climate action by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, Nov 7, 2014

Poland rejects IPCC target of zero emissions by 2100

Poland and other eastern Europe countries have categorically rejected the target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming, leaked documents show.

On Sunday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that fossil fuels must be entirely phased out by the end of the century to keep temperatures from rising as high as 5C above pre-industrial levels, a level that would have catastrophic impacts worldwide.

On 28 October, a few days before the IPCC synthesis report was published, EU environment and energy ministers meeting in Brussels were presented with a proposal by states including Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany to incorporate the IPCC target into EU policy.

However, it was judged not to have sufficient support” because of opposition from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Latvia who “categorically rejected” it, according to a internal briefing note seen by the Guardian. 

Poland rejects IPCC target of zero emissions by 2100 by Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, Nov 7, 2014

Surprise! This GOP Senator's theory about volcanoes and climate change is totally wrong.

When the 114th Congress convenes in January, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski will likely take over as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee—one of several committees whose work deals directly with climate and energy policy.

Unlike many of her GOP peers in the upper chamber, Murkowski doesn't deny that the climate is changing. She's even referred to Alaska as "ground zero for climate change." But as we've pointed out, in recent years it's become increasingly difficult to distinguish her legislative record on the issue from that of the rest of her party.

On Election Night, Murkowski told NPR that Alaskans are experiencing warmer temperatures and thinner ice and said that "this is something that we must address." But it's difficult to know what she means by that, because, as NPR reports, Murkowski's "apparently not so sure what the cause is—or whether mankind is to blame." For some reason, she brought up a volcano in Iceland.

Surprise! This GOP Senator's theory about volcanoes and climate change is totally wrong. by Alex Park, Mother Jones, Nov 7, 2014 

This man is about to become one of America’s most powerful climate villains

Sunday, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which consists of hundreds of the world’s top scientists, released the grand summary of its year’s worth of work. Its (conservative) conclusion: if the world can’t act quickly to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, our greenhouse gas emissions, we face impacts that will be “severe, pervasive and irreversible.”

Monday, and to nobody’s surprise, longstanding climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) slammed the report, calling its findings “beyond extreme” and characterizing the IPCC itself as “nothing more than a front for the environmental left.”

Tuesday, Republicans took control of the Senate, meaning it’s all but certain that Inhofe will become the next chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

This man is about to become one of America’s most powerful climate villains by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, Nov 5, 2014

Waiting for El Niño. Still. Again.

The climate phenomenon known as El Niño, which can alter weather patterns around the globe, still isn’t here. Nine months and counting . . .

And there’s the possibility that it might not form at all, which should not come as a surprise given the tease it’s been. Consider:

If you think it’s been aggravating to follow this roller coaster ride, just be thankful you’re not one of the forecasters. 

Waiting for El Niño. Still. Again. by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Nov 6, 2014 

World losing battle against global warming

In the battle to combat global warming, the world isn't moving fast enough to stay in the fight.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which releases a new report every few years — again gave grim news last week as emissions rose 2.3% to a record in 2013, marking the largest year-to-year change in three decades.

"We're about at a 3" on a scale of 0 to 10 in reducing emissions that cause global warming, said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University geoscientist and contributing author of an international report out earlier this week that warned of "severe, pervasive and irreversible" damage if nations fail to corral greenhouse gases. 

World losing battle against global warming by Doyle Rice, USA Today, Nov 8, 2014

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Comments 1 to 11:

  1. On the on-again-off-again El Nino story: The latest graphs now show an increasing likelihood of a super El Nino (again) for the middle of next year. Any chance that this will fizzle again, just at this year's predictions did, and as they did a couple years ago? Has something fundamentally shifted that has made these much harder to predict? Or has prediction always been dicy when it comes to El Ninos/La Ninas?

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  2. The large drought in Brazil is concerning. Maybe the planet will experience ever more droughts, and then suddenly everyone will wake up and ask why didn't someone do something? Fingers will point at people like Senator Inhofe, but of couse it will all be too late. We are slaves to our own complacency, climate denialism, and human failings.

    Regarding el nino. When I look at the climate record for the last 100 years you have many smaller or mid sized el ninos, then the 1998 el nino really stands out as a large one. This el nino is also at the peak of a warming trend since about 1970. This makes me think that warming oceans are altering the el nino cycle, and we might get fewer but larger el ninos. The cycle has therefore possibly changed, so may be hard to predict until a new pattern emerges.

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  3. re.: "Climate economics expert urges "critical" investment shift",, Nov 6, 2014

    In the linked article:

    "Stern estimated .... amount to some $90 trillion (73 trillion euros),..."

    I think this should in fact be: "... $90 trillion (73 billion euros), ...". Otherwise it would be a real awful lot of money.

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  4. World investment in infrastructure over 15 years would indeed constitute a real awful amount of money. Consider that world GDP is 70 trillion right now, over the next 15 years we're talking over a quadrillion dollars of economic activity worldwide, with the expectation that 7% or so is spent on infrastructure.

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  5. @Tristan, 4: "world GDP is 70 trillion"

    I don't think that Lord Stern used Euro conversions at all. He spoke of Dollars in US-metrics. It was presumably that added a Euro conversion - but still in US-metrics (1 trillion = 1012).

    A Central-european would use another metric when counting his or her Euros. So the actual GDP 2013 in Euro would be something around 60 billion Euro (1 billion = 1012). 60 trillion Euro (1 trillion = 1018) would actually mean something completely different. There is a slight difference between 1012 and 1018 ;-)

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  6. I think the purpose of fossil-fuel bought elections is to give the American people a Congress that 'cares' about Global Warming, as the people do, but regrettably can't do anything about it, for a variety of reasons ('Terrorism' always works, 'Jobs and the Economy', 'China', 'Space Aliens', whatever works).

    People like Inhofe are now instructed to keep their climate denial on the 'down low', hence the ubiquitous 'I am not a Scientist' when asked the inevitable question.  The proper follow up to that response is 'Why do you need to be a Scientist to do policy?  The Science has already spoken, its time for policy, and you're a policy-maker'.

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  7. Billion = 10^9 all over AFAIK.

    In Australia and the UK at least, we changed from 10^12 to 10^9 in the 90s.

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  8. wili @1,

    The recent rapid rise of the global average surface temperature is likely to have made 'historical climate system patterns' less relevant ways of anticipating what is coming in the near future. That is one of the more unnerving aspects of the rapid changes being created by human activity. Historical pattern based information processing, like short term forecasting, may indeed struggle to accurately predict what will happen in the near future. Of course, climate models are built to reasonably predict the larger time scale trends, not what will happen next year. A significantly more complex model with far more detailed starting point data would be required to reasonably predict next year's regional climate system behaviours, and a lot more would need to be understood about the details of how the ocean circulation patterns change.

    So, as for next year's El Nino, I would say it is 'wait and see'. As for a generally warmer global average surface temperature a few decades from now with even less certainty about the regional climate conditions to expect, that unfortunately seems to be a far more certain thing even though there will be increased understanding of the total integrated planetary climate system.

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  9. Thanks, OPOF.

    On the Sao Paulo situation, a poster on another site says local sources there are talking about major projects to start cycling used sewage water back into the system to be filtered and reused, as is done to varying degrees in a number of cities around the world. I'm not sure if or how they can get that kind of a system up and running in time to avert major catastrophes in the mean time.

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  10. Here is a link to an article that discusses some of the strategies being employed in Sao Paulo to avert catastrophe. They all seem like great things to have been planned and implemented years ago. Now it feels like too little too late.

    Sao Paulo Announces Measures Against Worst Water Crisis in History

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  11. Here's an article in the NYT by Piers Sellers describing how Rep. Stockman from Texas completely abused Sellers' honest description of the science regarding ice ages and climate change to confuse congressional testimony on the issue.  Sellers sets the record straight.

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