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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #50B

Posted on 13 December 2014 by John Hartz

Building climate equity and international consensus from the ground up

Climate change poses a number of substantial equity challenges. The greatest threat from climate change is often faced by those who are the least responsible for creating the problem, frequently those already made vulnerable by poverty. Meanwhile, there are significant questions about who should combat climate change and how it should be done, from reducing emissions to making people more resilient to the impact of an altered climate.

Since the inception of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) more than two decades ago, issues of equity have been a major sticking point in negotiations. These concerns about equity must be addressed in order to build the necessary global consensus for a strong, ambitious and durable international climate agreement in 2015.

But what is an equitable way of taking action in the context of growing emissions and climate impacts, from water scarcity and depressed agricultural yields to severe weather events? And how can we reduce emissions and build climate resilience while taking into account varying human development needs? 

Building Climate Equity and International Consensus from the Ground Up by David Waskow and Eliza Northrop, World Resources Institute, Dec 9, 2014

Canada ‘flies under radar,’ skirts Oilsands issue at COP20 climate talks

Canada is “flying under the radar” at this year’sUNFCCC COP20 climate talks in Lima, Peru according to Canada Youth Delegation member Brenna Owen.

Canada’s negotiators are working hard to sidestep the issue of the country’s growing greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector according to Owen, while simultaneously keeping quiet about the oilsands as nations come up with their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) in the global climate agreement.

They’re not going to be able to do that much longer,” she added. “And they’re not going to be able to avoid talking about the tar sands.”

Canada ‘Flies Under Radar,’ Skirts Oilsands Issue At COP20 Climate Talks by Carol Linnitt, DeSmog Canada, Dec 10, 2014

Debate heats up on risk of frozen fossil fuel assets

In a move that’s likely to cause consternation in some of the world’s most powerful corporate boardrooms, the Bank of England has disclosed that it is launching an inquiry into the risks fossil fuel companies pose to overall financial stability.

Mark Carney, governor of the UK’s central bank, has written to British Members of Parliament telling them that his officials have been discussing whether or not coal, oil and gas reserves held by the fossil fuel industry are, in fact, unburnable.

“In light of these discussions, we will be deepening and widening our inquiry into the topic,” Carney says.

Debate heats up on risk of frozen fossil fuel assets by Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network, Dec9, 2014

Fighting for the climate in the Heart of the World

Peru—Lima, the capital of Peru, has become a city of gustatory renown, attracting foodies from the world over to sample dishes from its famous ceviche to favorites from the Andean highlands. So it is an appropriate place, perhaps, for what has become a genuine movable feast, the world-roving series of summits organized by the United Nations to tackle the crisis of climate change. This year’s meeting, known as “COP 20,” the 20th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, is the last high-level meeting with presidents and prime ministers before the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

The Paris meeting is supposed to produce an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, a new, global, legally binding treaty that restricts global warming to an increase in average global temperatures to just 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). As such, all eyes are on Paris. But if the devil is in the details, it is here in Lima that the details are being worked out. But if the devil is in the details, it is here in Lima that the details are being worked out. You can’t spell “climate” without L-I-M-A.

Fighting for the Climate in the Heart of the World by Amy Goodman, TruthDig, Dec 10, 2014

First El Niño in five years declared by Japan's weather bureau

Japan’s weather bureau said on Wednesday that an El Niño weather pattern, which can trigger drought in some parts of the world while causing flooding in others, had emerged during the summer for the first time in five years and was likely to continue into winter.

That marks the first declaration by a major meteorological bureau of the much-feared El Niño phenomenon, which had been widely expected to emerge this year.

First El Niño in five years declared by Japan's weather bureau, Reuters/The Guardian, Dec 10, 2104 

Global warming continues despite continuous denial

Human emissions of greenhouse gases cause the Earth to warm. We’ve known that for decades – actually for over 100 years. But how do we measure warming? How fast is the planet heating? Turns out, this is conceptually easy to answer, even though it is difficult to implement the required measurements.

In order to measure how fast the planet is heating, we can measure the difference in incoming and outgoing energy at the top of the atmosphere (just like keeping track of a bank account by comparing deposits to withdrawals). Another way to measure a warming planet is to simply to measure how much energy is stored within the planet’s climate (like watching the balance of a bank account). Both methods should give the same answer. If you have more deposits than withdrawals to a bank account, you will see your balance increase.

Fortunately both of these methods, when used by climate scientists, tell the same story. The Earth is out of balance; we are gaining 0.5 – 1 Watts per square meter of area.

Global warming continues despite continuous denial by John Abraham, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, Dec 11, 2014

Global warming isn't causing California drought? Report triggers storm

Natural conditions, not human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, are the driving force behind California's three-year dry spell, scientists on a federal task force concluded Monday. But the report came under fire from some experts who said it downplayed other factors that have humanity's fingerprints on them.

The evidence suggests a naturally induced "warm patch" of water in the western Pacific helped to create a high-pressure ridge that blocked precipitation from entering California, the experts said at a news conference to release the report .

"We have been able to identify this as a mode of ocean forcing of atmospheric circulation that causes West Coast drought," said Richard Seager, a climate model specialist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory .

Global Warming Isn't Causing California Drought? Report Triggers Storm by Miguel Llanos, NBC News, Dec 8, 2014

Green Climate Fund to back energy "paradigm shift"

The Green Climate Fund will invest in energy projects that shift away from "business as usual" and have a significant impact on curbing climate change, its executive director has said.

"I think there is genuine appetite to really move the boundaries, and move into those areas that have so far not been the mainstream of investments in terms of technologies," Héla Cheikhrouhou told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Her comments come after environmental, indigenous and development groups sent a letter last week asking the fledgling Green Climate Fund (GCF) to adopt an explicit policy that its funds will not be used directly or indirectly for financing fossil fuel or other polluting energy initiatives.

Green Climate Fund to back energy "paradigm shift" by Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Dec 10, 2014 

Heat waves in Europe will increase, study finds 

In June 2003, a high-pressure weather system took hold over Western Europe and hovered there for weeks, bringing warm tropical air to the region and making that summer the hottest since at least 1540, the year King Henry VIII discarded his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

Temperatures were about 2.3 degrees Celsius, or 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit, above average that summer, contributing to perhaps 70,000 additional deaths and hitting the elderly particularly hard. The heat was a factor in the outbreak of forest fires and in lower than usual crop yields. It caused Alpine glaciers to shrink at a rate double that seen in the previous record summer, five years earlier.

Now, three scientists from the Met Office, the British weather agency, have concluded that human-caused global warming is going to make European summer heat waves “commonplace” by the 2040s.

Heat Waves in Europe Will Increase, Study Finds by David Jolly, New York Times, Dec 8, 2014

Heatwaves likely 'every other year' by 2030s, says Met Office study

Torrid European summers like the one in 2003 which claimed an estimated 70,000 lives are set to become a regular occurrence within two decades and the “new normal” by the end of the century, according to a new Met Office study.

The climate modelling, which was published in Nature Climate Change on Monday, foresees a dramatic rise in the chance of severely hot weather patterns in central Europe and the Mediterranean, if greenhouse gas emissions continue along their current path.

“Extremely warm summers that would occur twice a century in the early 2000s are now expected to happen twice a decade,” said Dr Nikos Christidis, the lead author of the new paper. “The chances of heatwaves as extreme as seen in 2003 have increased from about one-in-1,000 years to about one-in-100 years and are projected to occur once every other year by the 2030s-2040s under continuing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Heatwaves likely 'every other year' by 2030s, says Met Office study by Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, Dec 8, 2014

Lima climate talks agree on just one paragraph of deal with 24 hours left

Negotiators working on a deal to fight climate change have agreed on just a single paragraph of text, casting a shadow over the prospects for a strong outcome in Lima.

The talks – scheduled to end at noon local time on Friday after 10 full days – are intended to provide a clear blueprint for a global agreement to find climate change by the end of next year.

But while negotiators descended on Lima in a positive mood, buoyed by recent commitments from the US and China, the talks have fallen into a rut.

“We are going backwards,” said Alden Meyer, who monitors the climate negotiations for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Lima climate talks agree on just one paragraph of deal with 24 hours left by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Dec 11, 2014

NOAA report misses link between California drought and human-caused climate change

Just a couple months ago, I critiqued a pair of studies that disputed any linkage between human-caused climate change and the exceptional 2014 California drought. Now comes yet another study (“Causes and Predictability of the 2011-14 California Drought”) with the imprimatur of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced with great fanfare (a NOAA press conference), drawing yet again the same conclusion. My criticisms of the latest study are yet again basically the same, but for reasons I explain below, that conclusion is even more implausible now than it was just two months ago.

Let me start by noting that this latest report (unless I’ve missed something?) doesn’t appear to be an actual peer-reviewed scientific article, but rather, an internal NOAA report. That causes me some concern, as the claims have not yet been submitted to the independent scrutiny of the larger scientific community in the manner it would have if it were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

That having been said, my main concerns are far more fundamental. The methodology used in the current article, in my view, is deeply flawed because it doesn’t properly account for a number of potentially important factors behind the record California drought.

NOAA Report Misses Link Between California Drought and Human-Caused Climate Change by Michael Mann, EcoWatch, Dec 9, 2014

What happens if we overshoot the two degree target for limiting global warming?

Two degrees is the internationally-agreed target for limiting global warming, and has a long history in climate policy circles. Ambition that we can still achieve it is running high as climate negotiators gather in Lima to lay the groundwork for a potential global deal in 2015.

But against this optimistic backdrop, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. With each passing year the scale of the task looms ever larger.  There are very real questions about whether or not the world will be able to stay below the two degree limit.

So what happens if we fail to meet the two degree target? What would it mean to resign ourselves to a post-two degree world? And if not two degrees, then what?

What happens if we overshoot the two degree target for limiting global warming? by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, Dec 10, 2014

What would happen to the climate if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today?

Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. We know this from billions of observations, documented in thousands of journal papers and texts and summarized every few years by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The primary cause of that change is the release of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

International climate talks in Lima this week are laying the foundation for next year’s UN climate summit in Paris. While negotiations about reducing emissions grind on, how much warming are we already locked into? If we stop emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, why would the temperature continue to rise?

What would happen to the climate if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today? by Richard B Hood, The Conversation US, Dec 11, 2014

With compromises, a global accord to fight climate change is in sight

Diplomats from 196 countries are closing in on the framework of a potentially historic deal that would for the first time commit every nation in the world to cutting its planet-warming fossil fuel emissions — but would still not be enough to stop the early impacts of global warming.

The draft, now circulating among negotiators at a global climate summit meeting here, represents a fundamental breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations for two decades as it has tried to forge a new treaty to counter global warming.

But the key to the political success of the draft — and its main shortcoming, negotiators concede — is that it does not bind nations to a single, global benchmark for emissions reductions. 

With Compromises, a Global Accord to Fight Climate Change Is in Sight by Coral Davenport, New York Tiems, Dec 9, 2014

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