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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #13B

Posted on 28 March 2015 by John Hartz

Earth Hour: 4 things to know about the annual evironmental event

Hundreds of millions of homes and businesses around the world will go dark Saturday night as part of Earth Hour, an annual event meant to raise awareness about climate change and the environment.

Now in its ninth year, Earth Hour encourages individuals and organizations around the world to turn off all of their non-essential lights for one hour. This year, it’s scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 28.

Organizers say Earth Hour has become the world’s largest grassroots movement in support of the environment, and it has continued to grow with each passing year. More than 7,000 cities and towns in 162 countries and territories took part in Earth Hour in 2014. This year, the group behind the campaign says 172 countries are expected to take part. 

Whether you’ve participated in Earth Hour before or are thinking about taking part for the first time, here are a few things to know about it.

Earth Hour: 4 things to know about the annual evironmental event, CBC News, Mar 23, 2015

How idealism, expressed in concrete steps, can fight climate change

Idealism combined with an intriguing application of economic theory may accomplish what international conferences have not: solve the seemingly intractable problem of global warming.

Despite periodic flurries of optimism, diplomacy has been largely disappointing. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, for example, in which many nations agreed to impose strict taxes on carbon emissions, hasn’t accomplished much. And subsequent climate conferences haven’t come up with an effective solution. Secretary of State John Kerry summed up the diplomatic landscape in December at the United Nations climate change conference in Lima, Peru: “We’re still on a course leading to tragedy.”

From an economic standpoint, international efforts until now have foundered on a fundamental “free rider problem.” In a nutshell, individuals and nations bear the immediate costs of measures to protect the atmosphere but only experience a small fraction of the benefits, which are shared by all the people and nations on the planet. Why not just take a “free ride” and let others do the hard work?

How Idealism, Expressed in Concrete Steps, Can Fight Climate Change by Robert J. Shiller, New York Times, Mar 27, 2015

IPSO proves impotent at curbing the Mail's climate misinformation

David Rose is a writer for the UK tabloid Mail on Sunday, and is known for his inaccurate and misleading climate change coverage. Rose is particularly fond of cherry picking data to hide the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice. In August 2014, he published a piece focusing on the fact that at the time, there was more sea ice in the Arctic than during the record-breaking summer of 2012. Rose’s misguided focus on noisy short-term data is underscored by the new record low winter Arctic sea ice extent we experienced this year, less than seven months after his piece was published.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, filed a complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) about Rose’s piece. Ipso is intended to police the UK print media. It replaced the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in this assignment after the latter was roundly criticised for failing to take action in the News of the World phone hacking affair. Ipso describes itself as,

the independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry. We exist to promote and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism in the UK, and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editors’ Code of Practice has been breached … IPSO is here to serve the public by holding publications to account for their actions.

Ipso proves impotent at curbing the Mail's climate misinformation by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, Mar 27, 2015

Journalists have to decide what to do about candidates who are climate change denialists

Claims that climate science is a hoax, that human action is not a factor: these are not defensible positions in a normal debate. They are ways of saying — and saying to the press — hey, the evidence doesn’t matter.

Journalists have to decide what to do about candidates who are climate change denialists by Jay Rosen, PressThink, Mar 23, 2015

Media contributing to ‘Hope Gap’ on climate change

News cycles tend to be dominated by horror and carnage — a recipe for depression that spills into climate change coverage, fueling what some experts call a ‘hope gap’ that can lead people to fret about global warming but feel powerless to do anything about it.

The latest evidence that media outlets deem the myriad problems posed by climate change more newsworthy than solutions to it was contained in a study published this week in Nature Climate Change.

Researchers analyzed media coverage in the U.K. and the U.S. of three different reports published as part of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent climate change assessment. Their findings were a reminder that American outlets are bigger laggards on climate change coverage than their British counterparts. “The prominence of the IPCC reports was fairly low, particularly in the U.S.,” wrote the authors of the peer-reviewed paper, from the University of Exeter and the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

Media Contributing to ‘Hope Gap’ on Climate Change by John Upton, Climate Central, Mar 26, 2015

One satellite data set is underestimating global warming

A very important study was just published in the Journal of Climate a few days ago. This paper, in my mind, makes a major step toward reconciling differences in satellite temperature records of the mid-troposphere region. As before, it is found that the scientists (and politicians) who have cast doubt on global warming in the past are shown to be outliers because of bias in their results.

The publication, authored by Stephen Po-Chedley and colleagues from the University of Washington, discusses some major sources of error in satellite records. For instance, after satellites are launched, they scan the Earth’s atmosphere and calibrate the atmospheric measurements using a warm target onboard the satellite and cold space. The accuracy with which the atmospheric measurements are calibrated can influence the inferred temperature of the atmosphere (called the warm-target bias). Additionally, over the years, multiple satellites have been launched and the selection of which satellite data are used can play a role. Finally, biases can occur because the satellite orbits drift during their lifetime and the influence of diurnal temperature variation can affect the global temperature trends.

Of these three errors, the last one (probably the most important one), was the focus of the just-published pape

One satellite data set is underestimating global warming by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, Mar 25, 2015

Ted Cruz invokes Galileo to defend climate skepticism — and historians aren’t happy

So first, the good news.

In recent comments reported on by our own Philip Bump, Ted Cruz again brought up the idea (which I challenged here) that satellite measurements suggest there’s been no global warming in 17 years. But now, Cruz says these measurements show “no significant warming whatsoever” [my italics added], rather than “zero warming. None whatsoever,” as he stated before.

This is a tad more defensible. There has indeed been warming over the last 17 years, but by throwing in the word “significant,” at least Cruz made it more a matter of subjective interpretation, turning on how much warming really counts.

Ted Cruz invokes Galileo to defend climate skepticism — and historians aren’t happy by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environmnet, Washington Post, Mar 26, 2015


The number of people in the U.S. worried about climate change hasn’t changed since 1989

Those who reject the scientific consensus that the world is warming due to human activity often point to what is referred to as the "warming hiatus," a period of years in which global temperatures have remained relatively flat — high, but flat.

Scientists don't see this as refuting the idea of climate change (and recentlyoffered a possible explanation for it). But there is a hiatus that they should be concerned about. In Gallup polling, the number of people who say they are worried a "great deal" about global warming has been essentially flat since 1989 — despite the increase in research about the problem.

Gallup released the latest in its annual survey on Wednesday, noting that concern about climate change had dropped slightly. Over time, the trend is clear: flatness. (The dotted line below shows the trend.)

The number of people in the U.S. worried about climate change hasn’t changed since 1989 by Philip Bump, Washington Post, Mar 25, 2015

The tropics are getting wetter: the reason could be clumpy storms

For a long time climate models have predicted that wet and warm areas in the tropics are going to get wetter, especially over the oceans. Observations of the recent past are beginning to support this hypothesis. What we didn’t know is how this change might occur.

In research published today in Nature, our research team shows that the answer could be thunderstorms, specifically those that are gregarious and clump together, a behaviour referred to as “organisation” of convective storms.

The tropics are getting wetter: the reason could be clumpy storms by Christian Jakob, The Conversation, Mar 25, 2015

Thirty major European cities pledge to take on climate change

Representatives from thirty European cities gathered in Paris on Thursday to formalize their commitment to eco-friendly policies and to emphasize the role of major urban centers in the fight against climate change.

Delegates also signed a declaration, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent by 2030, in line with the European Union's climate change roadmap, and to use an estimated nearly $11 billion combined purchasing power to invest in green products and services.

In a joint statement published Wednesday in French daily Le Monde, mayors from 26 European cities — including Rome, Athens, Madrid, Geneva, and Stockholm — said they had "decided to join forces and strengthen the instruments that will lead us toward the energy and environmental transition."

Thirty major European cities pledge to take on climate change by Melodie Bouchaud, Vice News, Mar 26, 2015


When an Antarctic iceberg the size of a country breaks away, what happens next?

You never forget the first time you see an iceberg. The horizon of a ship at sea is a two dimensional space and to see a three dimensional piece of ice appear in the ocean is quite something. But, in truth, the first iceberg you see is likely to be small. Most icebergs that make it far enough north from Antarctica to where they are danger to shipping are sometimes many years old and at the end of their lives. They are small fragments of what once left the continent.

Once in a while, however, a monster breaks free from the edge of Antarctica and drifts away. Tens of kilometres long these bergs can tower perhaps 100 metres above the sea and reach several hundred more below the surface. These are called tabular icebergs – and while it is rare for humans to see something on such a scale they are part of the normal cycle of glacial ice in Antarctica.

When an Antarctic iceberg the size of a country breaks away, what happens next?

Why climate change is the public policy problem from hell

The last several months have been a microcosm of why climate change is the public policy problem from hell. Several scientific developments have come to light, any of which on their own should have inspired massive action around the globe. But because the projected effects are so complicated and far in the future, the political impact has been nil.

The latest study comes from Stefan Rahmsdorf and colleagues in the journal Nature Climate Change. They've done a study on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, the system of currents of which the Gulf Stream is an important part. This system appears to be weakening rapidly, which may explain the shocking cold measured in the ocean south of Greenland — perhaps the only part of the entire world that experienced record cold last winter.

Why climate change is the public policy problem from hell by Ryan Cooper, The Week, Mar 25, 2015

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