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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #52A

Posted on 25 December 2014 by John Hartz

4 legal battles this year that were all about climate change

With every passing year it becomes increasingly clear that climate change is not just an environmental issue. It’s damaging to public health. It’s a drag on the economy. And, more and more, it’s become the foundation for legal battles. As the far-reaching impacts of climate change are more immediately apparent, efforts to increase mitigation and adaptation — and push-back from those that depend on the status quo — are rising correspondingly, and ending up in court.

Here’s a look at some of the year’s biggest climate court cases and the legal battles that await us in 2015:

4 Legal Battles This Year That Were All About Climate Change by Ari Phillips, Dec 19, 2014

12 ways to deal with a climate change denier – the BBQ guide

The end of the year is nigh and it’s a time for Christmas and New Year parties and gatherings. In the southern hemisphere that means barbecues and beaches. In the northern hemisphere it’s mulled wine and cosy fireplaces.

But for all of us, it probably means we’ll be subjected to at least one ranting, fact-free sermon by a Typical Climate Change Denier (TCCD).

You know the drill. Make an offhand remark about unusual weather, and five seconds later someone’s mouthing off about how the internet says that climate change is a bunch of rubbish.

So, when you’ve been cornered by your TCCD, what do you do?

12 ways to deal with a climate change denier – the BBQ guide by Will J Grant and . The Conversation AU, Rod Lamberts, Dec 21, 2014 

2014: An epic year for climate change and other weather-related disasters

Stick your hand over a lit stove and you can get a feel for 2014's overall climatic situation: scorching heat. For months, experts have been predicting this will be the hottest year in recorded history, and while in the end it might not quite achieve that ignoble record, it will be way up there (perhaps at No. 3).

The thermostat could've seemed low in your neck of the woods—meaning America's East Coast and Midwest and the Falkland Islands—but temperatures were sweltering in the rest of the planet. Take a look at these abnormally high and record-hot readings, which represent a 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit deviation above the historical average. Notes the National Climatic Data Center: "This was the warmest January-November in the 1880-2014 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.02°F."

2014: An Epic Year for Climate Change and Other Weather-Related Disasters by John Metcalfe, CityLab, Dec 22, 2014

Australia faces a stormier future thanks to climate change

The supercell that hit Brisbane on NovemMegan Rowlingber 27 this year caused more than A$500 million worth of damage, produced hail up to 7.5 cm in diameter, and lashed the city with winds of more than 140 km an hour.

In the news, we hear about tornadoes or supercells, and wonder if climate change is beginning to have an impact on these events.

In fact, the evidence suggests that while there has been no increase in severe storm activity in the past, we are likely to see stronger and more frequent storms in the future.

Australia faces a stormier future thanks to climate change by John Allen, The Conversation US, Dec 18, 2014

China confirms its southern glaciers are disappearing

Glaciers in China that are a critical source of water for drinking and irrigation in India are receding fast, according to a new comprehensive inventory. In the short term, retreating glaciers may release greater meltwater, “but it will be exhausted when glaciers disappear under a continuous warming,” says Liu Shiyin, who led the survey for the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute in Lanzhou.

In 2002, Chinese scientists released the first full inventory of the country’s glaciers, the largest glacial area outside of Antarctica and Greenland. The data came from topographical maps and aerial photographs of western China’s Tibet and Xinjiang regions taken from the 1950s through the 1980s. That record showed a total glacial area of 59,425 square kilometers. The Second Glacier Inventory of China, unveiled here last week, is derived from high-resolution satellite images taken between 2006 and 2010. The data set is freely available online

Not surprisingly, there were plenty of eye-popping weather and climate events this year, beginning with...

China confirms its southern glaciers are disappearing by Christina Larson, ScienceInsider, Dec 22, 2014

Climate change mitigation: a man's world?

In three remote southern villages of Tanzania, six local women who were trained at the Barefoot College in India to install and maintain solar energy panels brought light and power to at least 200 households within a few months of returning home.

Thanks to their new skills, the women also increased their voice and independence, making up almost half of village energy committees, according to UN Women, which partnered on the initiative.

The success of the Barefoot College model led it to announce in September an $11 million commitment to launch six regional centres in Africa, in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zanzibar. They will train 560 illiterate rural women on how to solar electrify their villages.

Climate change mitigation: a man's world? by Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Dec 15, 2014

Could flooding finally wake Americans up to the climate crisis?

One of the perennial discussions in climate circles is about which impacts will break through the noise and apathy to finally galvanize people to do something about the problem. The usual suspects are droughts and food shortages, since they’re expected to bite first.

My own dark-horse candidate has been sea level rise. As I wrote last year, the carbon in the atmosphere today has already “locked in” enough sea level rise to swamp hundreds of coastal cities and towns around the world. Some 316 settlements in the lower 48 states, with a cumulative 3.6 million residents, are already doomed. If we continue on our current trajectory, 1,400 American towns and cities will eventually, inevitably be lost to the ocean.

But when? Problem is, we don’t know. It’s likely in the next several hundred years, but it could be a thousand. The science is maddeningly difficult to nail down. It’s not exactly enough to get people fired up.

Could flooding finally wake Americans up to the climate crisis? by David Roberts, Grist, Dec 22, 2014

Fast Finland warming means blue Christmas for Santa

Rapid warming across Finland means that even Santa’s hopes for a white Christmas are shrinking.

The average temperature in the Arctic country has risen by more than 2C since 1847, twice as fast as the global average.

Warming is most extreme during the festive month, which is now 4.8C hotter than it was before the industrial era, Finland’s top scientists have found.

“In future, if the temperature rises, we will not have snow cover in December,” researcher Santtu Mikkonen told RTCC.

- See more at:

Fast Finland warming means blue Christmas for Santa by Sophie Yeo, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), Dec 22, 2014

Flood, drought risks must be managed, with or without climate change

 one case a major metropolis was flooded within hours, leaving thousands homeless, millions without power, transportation and businesses shut down, and a mass human crisis. In the other case, three years of sunshine and blue skies have left water supplies at record lows, crops shriveled and, for the most unfortunate, taps dry. It may seem that Superstorm Sandy in the New York area and the current California drought do not have anything in common, but they do. Understanding why can teach us how to reduce the future risks we face.

In California and the wider American West and in New York and the Northeast, there is a history of development without regard to environmental risk.

Flood, drought risks must be managed, with or without climate change, Op-ed by Adam Sobel and Richard Seager, Los Angeles Times, Dec 18, 2014

From Maine to Denmark, islanders seek sustainable energy solutions

Back in a September piece on humanity’s long climate and energy march, I mentioned a fall course in which students from College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island in Maine, along with some residents of nearby islands, were headed to Denmark to learn how an island there had achieved energy self sufficiency using renewable sources.

Here’s a “Your Dot” report on how things turned out, written by Nick Urban, from the class of 2015:

From Maine to Denmark, Islanders (Including Students) Seek Sustainable Energy Solutions by Andrrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Dec 19, 2014

Global warming will cut wheat yields, research shows

Global wheat yields are likely to fall significantly as climate change takes hold, new research has shown .

The researchers found that wheat production would fall by 6% for every 1C increase in temperatures. The world is now nearly certain to warm by up to 2C compared with pre-industrial levels, with political efforts concentrated on holding the potential temperature rise to no higher than that limit. But some analyses suggest that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at current rates then warming of as much as 5C could be in store.

In forecasting the effect on wheat production – one of the world’s most important staple crops – the researchers tested 30 computer models against field experiments to establish the most likely scenario.

Global warming will cut wheat yields, research shows by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Dec 23, 2014

Risk of dengue increases due to climate change, city growth-research

Large parts of Europe, West and Central Africa, and South America face the threat of outbreaks of the deadly dengue virus due to climate change and urbanisation, according to the first-ever maps of dengue vulnerability published on Tuesday.

Research by the United Nations University found dengue fever, that is transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes and causes severe pain, is on the move with the maps pinpointing vulnerable areas as a tool to help prevent outbreaks.

"Changes to climate could result in increased exposure and pose a serious threat to areas that do not currently experience endemic dengue," the report said.

Risk of dengue increases due to climate change, city growth-research by Magdalena Mis, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Dec 23, 2014

Scientists connect the dots from identifying to preventing dangerous climate risks

Last week, over 20,000 Earth scientists gathered at the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall conference. They shared their scientific research, ranging from identifying the causes of past climate changes, to estimating the risks of the changes we’re causing now, to how we can successfully communicate the need to mitigate those risks.

Richard Alley (the host of Earth: the Operator’s Manual) summarized the scientific community’s consensus about the threats of abrupt climate change from various potential “tipping points.” Scientists aren’t too worried about a huge methane burp from the ocean or shutdown of the thermohaline circulation (which would cause dramatic cooling in Europe) happening anytime soon. On the other hand, a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and large associated sea level rise are becoming increasingly worrying.

This tied into paleoclimate research presented by Aaron Goldner. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were at similar levels to today’s (400 parts per million) 15 million years ago during the mid-Miocene period. However, the Earth’s climate was very different. Geologic records give us estimations that sea levels were 25–40 meters higher than today, global mean temperatures 3­–6°C hotter, and there was very little sea ice relative to today.

Scientists connect the dots from identifying to preventing dangerous climate risks by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - The 97%, The Guardian, Dec 23, 2014

This is the stupidest anti-science bullshit of 2014

2014 had its fair share of landmark scientific accomplishments: dramatic cuts to the cost of sequencing a genome; sweeping investigations of climate change impacts in the US; advances in private-sector space travel, and plenty more. But there was also no shortage of high-profile figures eager to publicly and shamelessly denounce well-established science—sometimes with serious consequences for public policy. So without further ado, the most egregious science denial of 2014:

This Is the Stupidest Anti-Science Bullshit of 2014 by Tim McDonnell, Mother Jones, Dec 23, 2014

This was an epic year for droughts, floods, and extreme weather

This was an epic year for droughts, floods, and extreme weather

Warming world's rising seas wash away some of South Florida's glitz

It's just past sunset and the strip at South Beach, Miami, is pumping. It is the biggest weekend of the year in America's glitziest city. The Art Basel is on, an annual fine art festival that has been overwhelmed by the world's thrillingly wealthy – and the Hollywood stars they like to play with – dropping a few million on trinkets.

The sorts of media that follow these events are beside themselves.

Somewhere in this town, New York Magazine was later to report, Leonardo DiCaprio left a nightclub this weekend in early December with "nearly two dozen women".

What was not so widely reported was that South Beach stank of shit. There is no nice way to put it. The place smelled of human waste. There had been a brief, heavy downpour but the water could not escape, so the sewers backed up and filled the roads. The traffic slowed to walking pace or seized entirely, and the models tottering between the restaurants and hotels and clubs had to pick wide arcs on the pavements to avoid the nasty pools swelling from the gutters.

Warming world's rising seas wash away some of South Florida's glitz by Nick O'Malley, Brisbane Times, Dec 20, 2014

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