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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #48B

Posted on 29 November 2014 by John Hartz

56 countries seek carbon capture incentives in next climate deal

Fiscal incentives for carbon capture should be part of the global climate change agreement that replaces the Kyoto Protocol, 56 countries belonging to the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The recommendation by the UNECE member states puts the issue formally on the table for a meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015, which aims to agree a legally binding treaty to replace Kyoto.

Delegates from almost 200 nations will meet i, n Peru next month to work on the accord, amid new scientific warnings about risks of floods, heatwaves, ocean acidification and rising seas.

56 countries seek carbon capture incentives in next climate deal, Reuters, Nolv 25, 2014 

Antarctic sea ice expands to record extent - and it's deeper than we thought

While the Arctic melts, Antarctica's ice has spread to record extents in three consecutive years, writes Edward Hanna. But is the news as good as it looks? Yes, if indications from a robot submarine that the ice is thicker than expected are supported by further evidence. It may just be that Antarctica's ice is more resilient than scientists dared to hope.

For several years now climatologists have puzzled over an apparent conundrum: why is Antarctic sea ice continuing to expand, albeit at the relatively slow rate of about one to two percent per decade, while Arctic sea ice has been declining rapidly - by some 13% per decade in late summer?

Just a few weeks ago the Antarctic saw a third consecutive recordyear of sea ice coverage. The two previous records were set in 2012 and 2013.

To help get to the bottom of this mystery, one team of scientists have enlisted an underwater robot to help measure the thickness of the ice.

Their vehicle, known as SeaBED, has an upwards looking sonar which maps the underside of ice floes and provides novel, highly-detailed three-dimensional maps of Antarctic sea ice. The researchers present their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Antarctic sea ice expands to record extent - and it's deeper than we thought by Edward Hanna, Ecologist, Nov 28, 2014

Bangladesh farmers turn back the clock to combat climate stresses

Indigenous varieties of rice are making a comeback in Bangladesh as farmers abandon high-yielding hybrid rice in favour of more resilient varieties that can cope with more extreme climate conditions, researchers say.

About 20 percent of the rice fields planted in the low-lying South Asian nation now contain indigenous varieties that can stand up to drought, flooding or other stresses, said Jiban Krishna, director general of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.

At its peak, high yielding varieties of rice accounted for 90 percent of total rice grown in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh farmers turn back the clock to combat climate stresses by Syful Islam, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Nov 26, 2014

Brazil's epic water crisis a global wake-up call

One of the world's biggest cities is running out of water. Sao Paulo, a city of 20 million people, could run dry within weeks. The humanitarian and economic cost would be immense. The fiasco should be a global wake-up call for other metropolises.

The immediate cause of the crisis is a year-long drought. The Cantareira reservoir system that supplies around a third of the city's population is so low that Sabesp, the local utility, has to dip into and treat sediment-heavy supplies and pipe water in from other sources.

It's the worst dry spell in the region since record-keeping began more than 80 years ago. Other parts of Sao Paulo state and Brazil have been hit, too, though not as harshly. It may look like an aberration, but the planning for the disaster has been poor - and offers important lessons. 

Brazil's epic water crisis a global wake-up call, Op-ed by Kevin Allison and Antony Currie, Reuters Breakingviews, Nov 24, 2014

Communicating climate change: A story of apocalypse, money and mind-games

Climate change is not only extremely important it is also extremely hard to communicate. It is a monumentally vast topic area — climate change is not just about CO2, rising sea level and ice melting — it's also about food security, energy prices, globalization and so much more!

In the weeks since doing my TEDxTeen talk at the indigO2 in which I invited a new way to talk about the problem of climate change, I have had the pleasure of talking about my message to friends, colleagues and the public.

I have learned that when it comes to making an impact there are two things you should consider: What is your message and how do you communicate that message.

Communicating Climate Change: A Story of Apocalypse, Money and Mind-Games by David Saddington, The Huffington Post, Nov 26, 2014

How global warming is making heat waves and precipitation more extreme 

Extreme weather and climate events are one of the most tangible impacts of global warming so far. Such extremes hit close to home, whether you live in the U.S., Europe, Africa or Asia. Scientists have been making significant advances in their understanding of how the characteristics of certain extreme weather events, such as heat waves and heavy rain or snowstorms, are or are not changing as a result of manmade climate change.

What the public often hears is the message that the weather is growing more extreme, and that this trend is only going to worsen with time. However, this is an over-generalization of what's really going on. Yes, some extreme events are already becoming more common and severe. But others are not, or are undergoing changes that haven't been attributed to global warming so far. So, scientists say that some extreme weather events are become more extreme, but not all aspects of weather are. (At least not yet.) There is much research yet to be done.

Climate Change 101: How global warming is making heat waves and precipitation more extreme by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, Nov 25, 2014

Is India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, a climate leader?

In May, Narendra Modi was sworn in as the new prime minister of India. Many hoped he would prove a climate change champion. Six months later, those expectations have been tempered.

The next year is set to be crucial to the world's chances of agreeing a new global climate deal. The US and China recently signed an historic deal to cut their country's emissions. But if the world is going to successfully manage the risks of climate change, it will need India to play its part too.

Given India's status as the world's third largest emitter, negotiators are eager for the country to play a productive role at climate talks. So do Modi's first six months give an indication of what stance India will take?

Is India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, a climate leader? by Mat Hope, The Carbon Brief, Nov 25, 2014

Obama administration sets stricter smog standard

The Obama administration took steps Wednesday to cut levels of smog-forming pollution linked to asthma, lung damage and other health problems, making good on one of the president’s original campaign promises while setting up a fresh confrontation with Republicans and the energy industry.

In a long-awaited announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it prefers a new, lower threshold for ozone pollution of 65 to 70 parts per billion, but left open the possibility it could enact an even lower standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups. The current standard is 75 parts per billion, put in place by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Meeting the stricter rules will cost industry about $3.9 billion in 2025 if the government goes with a standard of 70 parts per billion, the EPA estimated. At a level of 65 parts per billion, the EPA said, the cost grows to $15 billion. But industry groups said the cost would actually be far higher and that it would be nearly impossible for refineries and other businesses to comply.

Obama administration sets stricter smog standard, AP/Al Jazeera America, Nov 26, 2014

Our planet may be on the verge of its sixth mass extinction

When we think about the concept of mass extinctions, we tend to think of something pretty dramatic. For instance, we now know that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a six-mile-wide asteroid that hit the Earth at thousands of miles per hour. Its impact, according to the new Smithsonian Channel documentary Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink (airing Sunday night)had the force of “a hundred million nuclear bombs,” unleashing tsunamis hundreds of feet in height that hurtled across the ocean "at the speed of a jet."

So yeah, that's pretty dramatic. And yet many scientists think that today we may be on the verge of another creeping mass extinction — the sixth the planet has seen — even as most people barely notice it happening.

Consider just one species highlighted by Mass Extinction: the African lion, or Panthera leo. There are some 32,000 to 35,000 lions left, according to arecent scientific estimate. But as of 1950, their numbers were vastly higher; one group of experts puts them at 500,000, and Mass Extinction uses the number 400,000. Either way, that's a 90 percent or more decline.

Our planet may be on the verge of its sixth mass extinction by Chris Mooney, Wonkblog, Washington Post, Nov 28, 2014

Rare optimism ahead of climate talks in Lima

Energized by new targets set by China and the United States, the world's top climate polluters, U.N. global warming talks resume Monday with unusual optimism despite evidence that human-generated climate change is already happening and bound to get worse.

Negotiators from more than 190 countries will meet in the Peruvian capital for two weeks to work on drafts for a global climate deal that is supposed to be adopted next year in Paris. Getting all countries aboard will be a crucial test for the U.N. talks, which over two decades have failed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Pledges by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month to limit their emissions after 2020 sent a powerful signal that a global deal could be possible next year. The two countries, which produce about 40 percent of all global emissions, long have been adversaries in the U.N. climate talks.

Rare optimism ahead of climate talks in Lima by Karl Ritter and Frank Bajak, AP, Nov 29, 2014

Rising seas pose a cultural threat to Australia’s ‘forgotten people’ 

While you may have heard about the increasing threat that climate change and rising seas pose to Pacific islands — already forcing some communities to move — Australia has its own group of islands that are just as threatened.

For communities in the Torres Strait, climate change is not a matter for political debate, but a reality.

Around 7,000 people call the Strait home, and they are already exposed to the impacts of climate variability. There are king tides, flooding, and unpredictable weather patterns that impede their everyday lives. In 2012, extreme weather damaged the local graveyard on Saibai island.

This raises important ethical and political issues for Australia. As a nation we must engage with the harmful cultural implications of climate damage.

Rising seas pose a cultural threat to Australia’s ‘forgotten people’ by Elaine Kelly, The Conversation AU, Nov 26, 2014

Risk from extreme weather set to rise

Climate change and population growth will hugely increase the risk to people from extreme weather, a report says.

The Royal Society warns that the risk of heatwaves to an ageing population will rise about ten-fold by 2090 if greenhouse gases continue to rise.

They estimate the risk to individuals from floods will rise more than four-fold and the drought risk will treble.

The report’s lead author Prof Georgina Mace said: “This problem is not just about to come… it’s here already."

Risk from extreme weather set to rise by Roger Harrabin, BBC News, Nov 26, 204,

The climate-change finance gap at a glance

Depending on who you ask, the $9.6 billion in pledges for the Green Climate Fund is either a woeful start or an encouraging sign that wealthy nations are serious about helping poorer ones deal with climate change.

As climate treaty talks begin next month in Peru, it's the opinions of those within developing nations that matter most. Negotiators for those countries have said they cannot commit to emissions reductions or sign a climate treaty without adequate financial support.

The pledge total is just shy of the $10 billion goal for the initial phase of the Green Climate Fund, and well short of the $15 billion that developing nations wanted.

The climate-change finance gap at a glance by Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News, Nov 28, 2014

Women on climate change frontline make big impact on small grants

In London, Paris and Washington, where leaders have made little progress in curtailing climate change, global warming may seem a merely theoretical problem – too far in the future, or too far away geographically, to matter.

But in remote tropical forest nations and islands, local leaders – especially women – are coming up with concrete, effective solutions to combat climate change in their communities. They do so not as a matter of politics, but as a matter of survival.

From the rainforests of Guatemala to the islands of Papua New Guinea, rural communities are losing their homes and livelihoods  as their regions face bouts of extreme weather and new cycles of drought and flooding.

For women on the frontline of these changing landscapes, the devastating effects of climate change are not merely abstract; they can see a future marked by disease, malnutrition and loss of income.

Women on climate change frontline make big impact on small grants by Teresa Odendahl, The Guardian, Nov 28, 2014

Yes, the U.S. can reduce emissions 80% by 2050 — in 6 graphs

So, I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news: There is no substantial technical or economic barrier that would prevent the U.S. from reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, a target that would help put the world on track to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. In fact, there are multiple pathways to that target, each involving a different mix of technologies. Achieving the goal would cost only around 1 percent of GDP a year out through 2050, and if we started now, we could allow infrastructure to turn over at its natural rate, avoiding stranded assets.

The bad news: Pulling it off would require immediate, intelligent, coordinated, vigorously executed policies that sustain themselves over decades. Y’know, like how America does. [cough]

Yes, the U.S. can reduce emissions 80% by 2050 — in 6 graphs by David Roberts, Grist, Nov 25, 2014

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