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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #14A

Posted on 1 April 2015 by John Hartz

Anthropocene raises risks of Earth without democracy and without us

This article is part of a series on Biosphere and Energy for the Democracy Futuresproject, a joint global initiative with the Sydney Democracy Network. The project aims to stimulate fresh thinking about the many challenges facing democracies in the 21st century.

Anthropocene raises risks of Earth without democracy and without us byRobyn Eckersley, The Conversation, Mar 31, 2015 

Australia's climate change policy on course for 'disastrous' 4C warming

The Abbott government is in the process of deciding on its post-2020 emissions pledge – where it intends to draw that dotted line – and over the weekend releaseda well-flagged discussion paper about how it would make the decision by mid-year, ahead of the United Nations climate conference in Paris in December.

But many observers are deeply alarmed that the discussion paper does not mention the 2C goal, but does mention a scenario that could result in almost 4C global warming.

Discussing Australia’s special “national circumstances”, the discussion paper says that “for the foreseeable future, Australia will continue to be a major supplier of crucial energy and raw materials to the rest of the world, especially Asian countries. At present, around 80% of the world’s primary energy needs are met through carbon-based fuels. By 2040, it is estimated that 74% will still be met by carbon-based sources because of growing demand in emerging economies.”

Australia's climate change policy on course for 'disastrous' 4C warming by Lenore Taylor, The Guardian, Mar 30, 2015

Blue Crabs migrate north as ocean warms

In the last few years, researchers have noticed the appearance of an unusual southern species in New England waters, the delectable blue crab.

Populations of the crabs are typically found between the Gulf of Mexico and Cape Cod in Massachusetts, but in 2012, shellfish wardens and wildlife managers started noting sightings of the crustaceans miles north of the cape.

From 2012 to 2014, there were reports of individual blue crabs showing up in parts of the Gulf of Maine from Duxbury Bay and Marblehead, Mass., to New Hampshire and even as far north as Nova Scotia. While it's not unheard of for the crabs to venture so far north, there aren't any established populations in the colder waters.

Blue Crabs Migrate North as Ocean Warms by Niina Heikkinen, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Mar 31, 2015

BP’s extreme climate forecast puts energy giant in a bind

BP’s annual Energy Outlook report, released in February, details the results from modelling of what it sees as the “most likely” energy scenario out to 2035. In this scenario global fossil use increases by 33%, consistent with a scenario the International Energy Agency (IEA) uses to describe the trajectory towards global warming of 6C – far beyond the accepted “safe” limit of 2C.

In its public presentation of the report, and elsewhere, BP admits that climate change is a problem, and that current carbon emission projections seem unsustainable, so what’s going on?

BP’s extreme climate forecast puts energy giant in a bind by Roger Dargaville, et al, The Conversation, Mar 31,2015

California drought goes from bad to worse as state grapples with heat wave

Spring is starting to feel a lot like summer in California, as a record-setting heat wave punishes the parched state now in its fourth year of what is said to be theworst drought in a millennium.

Experts say the scorching spring days are part of a long-term warming pattern – driven largely by human activity – that is increasing the chances that future droughts will be as bad as this one. The warm and dry weather exacerbates already dire conditions as soil dries, snow melts and water usage is driven up.

“It’s like a one-two punch,” said Jeanine Jones, deputy drought manager for the state Department of Water Resources (DWR). “Not having enough water to fill our reservoirs and having the hot weather evaporate the little that we do have.”

California drought goes from bad to worse as state grapples with heat wave by Lauren Gambino, The Guardian, Mar 29, 2015

California drought: Sierra Nevada snowpack hits historic low

The abominable snowpack in the Sierra Nevada reached an unprecedented low this week, dipping below the historic lows in 1977 and 2014 for the driest winter in 65 years of record-keeping.

Electronic surveys show the water content of the snow throughout the Sierra is a shocking 8 percent of the historical average for this time of year, by far the driest it has been since 1950, the year record-keeping began, because of the lack of rain and snowfall and the exceedingly high temperatures. It is a troubling milestone that water resources officials say is bound to get even lower as the skies remain stubbornly blue.

“It’s certainly sobering when you consider that the snowpack in a normal year provides about 30 percent of what California needs in the summer and fall,” said Doug Carlson, the spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “What this suggests is that we will have very little water running off. It accentuates the severity of the drought and emphasizes the importance of people cutting back on their water use.”

California drought: Sierra Nevada snowpack hits historic low by Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 28, 2015

California drought goes from bad to worse as state grapples with heat wave

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water restrictions for the first time in California history on Wednesday, saying that the state’s drought had reached near-crisis proportions after a winter that brought record-low snowfalls.

Governor Brown, in an executive order, directed the State Water Resources Control Board to work with local agencies to come up with ways to reduce water use by 25 percent and to enforce what he described as an onerous reduction in use. State officials said the order would impose cutbacks on water use across the board — including homeowners, farmers, cemeteries and golf courses.

State officials said they were prepared to enforce punitive measures — including fines — to assure compliance with the new standards, but said they were hopeful this would not be necessary

California Imposes First-Ever Water Restrictions to Deal With Drought by Adam Nagourney, New York Times, Apr 1, 2015

Carbon capture and storage: Can the UK hit climate goals without killing off heavy industry?

The UK should develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) clusters incorporating industrial sites as well as power plants, says the thinktank Green Alliance.

This would increase the amount of carbon captured nine-fold while cutting costs per tonne by two thirds, but it won't happen without new financial incentives, says the 25 March  report. Meanwhile new government roadmaps show heavy industry needs CCS to make significant emissions reductions.

The Green Alliance report is the latest in a long line to highlight the  pressing need for CCS to cut carbon cost-effectively, while noting a  long history of false starts and proposing a fresh approach to energising the sector.

Carbon Brief takes a look at why industrial CCS is considered essential to decarbonise sectors such as steel and cement, and why meeting UK carbon targets will cost more without it.

Carbon capture and storage: Can the UK hit climate goals without killing off heavy industry? by Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, Mar 27, 2015

Category 5 Super Typhoon Maysak sets record in Western Pacific

Category 5 Super Typhoon Maysak is packing sustained winds of at least 160 miles per hour as it takes aim at the tiny island of Yap in the Caroline Islands on Tuesday. The typhoon is the third of the year so far, which sets a record for the most typhoons so early in the Western Pacific typhoon season, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.

The storm is rarer still when looking only at the record of typhoons that reached an intensity of Category 3 or stronger before April 1. Such typhoons are known as major typhoons.

Super Typhoon Maysak marks the first time two major typhoons have occurred in the Western Pacific before April (the other was Typhoon Higos). The storm is even rivaling the strongest storms on record for so early in the year, which were Super Typhoon Ophelia in 1958 and Super Typhoon Mitag, which occurred in March 2002. The typical Western Pacific typhoon season runs from April through October.

Category 5 Super Typhoon Maysak sets record in Western Pacific by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, Mar 31, 2015

Climate change threatens to kill off more Aspen forests by 2050s

The beloved aspen forests that shimmer across mountainsides of the American West could be doomed if emissions of greenhouse gases continue at a high level, scientists warned on Monday. That finding adds to a growing body of work suggesting forests worldwide may be imperiled by climate change.

The new paper analyzed the drought and heat that killed millions of aspens in Colorado and nearby states a decade ago. Such conditions could become routine across much of the West by the 2050s unless global emissions are brought under control, the study found.

“I think of aspens as a good canary-in-the-coal-mine tree,” said William R. L. Anderegg, the Princeton University researcher who led the new study, released online Monday by the journal Nature Geoscience. “They’re a wet-loving tree in a dry landscape. They may be showing us how these forests are going to change pretty massively as that landscape gets drier still.”

Climate Change Threatens to Kill Off More Aspen Forests by 2050s, Scientists Say by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Mar 31, 2015

Global warming and drought are turning the Golden State brown

There’s a rapidly growing body of scientific research finding that California is in the midst of its worst drought in over a millennium, global warming has made the drought worse, and decades-long mega-droughts could become the norm in the state later this century. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) by scientists at Stanford University adds to this bleak picture for the Golden State.

There has been some confusion about the human contribution to California’s drought, now entering its fourth consecutive year, because some reports have said that humans have not influenced the amount of precipitation falling in the state thus far. This is a subject of debate – some studies have found evidence of a human ‘fingerprint’ in the high pressure ridge that’s diverted storms away from California over the past three years. But overall, while precipitation has been low, there have been a few years in the historical record where it was lower.

Global warming and drought are turning the Golden State brown by Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian, Mar 30, 2015

Limiting climate change could have huge economic benefits, study finds

Major economies would boost their prosperity, employment levels and health prospects if they took actions that limited global warming to 2c, according to the first analysis of emissions pledges made before the UN climate summit in Paris later this year. 

Europe has promised a 40% emissions cut by 2030, compared to 1990 levels – and the report says this will bring real benefits, including 70,000 full-time jobs, the prevention of around 6,000 pollution-related deaths, and a €33bn cut in fossil fuel imports.

But if emissions were slashed by around 55% – the study’s proposed route for holding global warming to two degrees – those benefits would multiply to $173bn fuel savings, 420,000 full-time clean energy jobs and 46,000 lives saved, its authors say. 

Limiting climate change could have huge economic benefits, study finds by Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, Mar 30, 2015

Oceans might take 1,000 years to recover from climate change

Naturally occurring climate change lowered oxygen levels in the deep ocean, decimating a broad spectrum of seafloor life that took some 1,000 years to recover, according to a study that offers a potential window into the effects of modern warming.

Earth's recovery from the last glacial period, in fact, was slower and more brutal than previously thought, according to the study, published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers deciphered that plotline from a 30-foot core of sea sediments drilled from the Santa Barbara Basin containing more than 5,000 fossils spanning nearly 13,000 years. 

"The recovery does not happen on a century scale; it's a commitment to a millennial-scale recovery," said Sarah Moffitt, a marine ecologist at UC Davis' Bodega Marine Laboratory and lead author of the study. "If we see dramatic oxygen loss in the deep sea in my lifetime, we will not see a recovery of that for many hundreds of years, if not thousands or more."

Oceans might take 1,000 years to recover from climate change by Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times, Apr 1. 2015

The hotly contested link between science denial and conspiracy theories

In 2013, the University of Bristol psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues published two papers containing a provocative claim: A tendency to endorse conspiracy theories, they suggested, makes people more likely to challenge various aspects of science, too. Across the two papers, they linked conspiratorial beliefs to science rejection on no less than five issues: climate change, vaccines, genetically modified organisms, and the ties between HIV and AIDS and smoking and lung cancer.

Since then, the research has been widely discussed and criticized — particularly the conclusion about climate science rejection — and now, the intensity of the debate seems set to go up yet another notch. The reason is that the journal Psychological Science has just published two papers on the matter: one, a statistical critique of the Lewandowsky papers, and the other a response from Lewandowsky and his co-authors (also discussed in a blog post here).

The hotly contested link between science denial and conspiracy theories by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Mar 27, 2015

US to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay

The United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December.

The U.S. submission, on Monday or Tuesday according to a White House official, adds to national strategies beyond 2020 already presented by the 28-nation European Union, Mexico, Switzerland and Norway.

Together, they account for about a third of world greenhouse emissions. But other emitters such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Australia say they are waiting until closer to a Paris summit in December, meant to agree a global deal.

"It's not the ideal situation," said Niklas Hoehne, founding partner of the New Climate Institute in Germany which tracks submissions, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

US to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay by Alister Doyle and Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, Mar 29, 2015

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