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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #16A

Posted on 15 April 2015 by John Hartz

Britain's fish 'n' chip favourites could dwindle as North Sea warms

The likes of haddock, plaice and lemon sole could find the North Sea a less comfortable place to live as the world's oceans warm up, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that some of our favourite fish species could become less common as they struggle to cope with warming conditions, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Britain’s fish ‘n’ chip favourites could dwindle as North Sea warms by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, Apr 13, 2015

Broadcast meteorologists increasingly convinced manmade climate change is happening

TV weathercasters are more convinced than ever climate change is happening and that human activities are a major contributor suggest the results of a new report.

More than 90 percent of 464 broadcast meteorologists who responded to a 2015 survey agree climate change is happening and, of those, 74 percent believe human activity is at least half responsible, states “A National Survey of Broadcast Meteorologists About Climate Change: Initial Findings”, from the George Mason University (GMU) Center for Climate Change Communication.

These numbers represent about a 10 percent increase from survey results published by GMU in 2011 when 82 percent of respondents agreed global warming was happening and, of those, about 65 percent felt human activity was at least half to blame.

Broadcast meteorologists increasingly convinced manmade climate change is happening by Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, Apr 14, 2015

California’s cycles of drought

When Gov. Jerry Brown of California imposed mandatory cutbacks in water use earlier this month in response to a severe drought, he warned that the state was facing an uncertain future. “This is the new normal,” he said, “and we’ll have to learn to cope with it.”

The drought, now in its fourth year, is by many measures the worst since the state began keeping records of temperature and precipitation in the 1800s. And with a population now close to 39 million and a thirsty, $50 billion agricultural industry, California has been affected more by this drought than by any previous one.

But scientists say that in the more ancient past, California and the Southwest occasionally had even worse droughts — so-called megadroughts — that lasted decades. At least in parts of California, in two cases in the last 1,200 years, these dry spells lingered for up to two centuries.

The new normal, scientists say, may in fact be an old one.

California’s Cycles of Drought by Henry Fountain, New York Times, Apr 13, 2015

Clean energy seeing global ‘Renaissance’

Cheap oil, cheap natural gas and increasingly cheap renewables are ushering in an era of abundant energy — an energy renaissance — at a time when a changing climate demands that energy be used more efficiently and be as low-carbon as possible.

That is one of the central messages of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) Future of Energy Summit taking place this week in New York City. Bloomberg analysts, government regulators and industry officials in attendance are debating how far renewable electricity has come as prices have fallen, and where it’s going as countries prepare for the Paris climate negotiations in December.

Renewables, mainly including hydropower, solar and wind, reached 28 percent of the total electric power supply in Germany in 2014, 19 percent in the United Kingdom, 22 percent in China, 76 percent in Brazil and 13 percent in the U.S., as investments in renewables increased more than 15 percent globally last year, BNEF Chairman Michael Liebreich said Tuesday.

Clean Energy Seeing Global ‘Renaissance’ by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, Apr 14, 2015

Economic collapse will limit climate change, predicts climate scientist

If you think your doctor is hard to understand, try talking to a climate scientist.

In late 2014, the World Bank published a remarkable document that should have shaken the international business world. Titled "Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal", it drew on 1,300 publications to explore the impacts of a world four degrees centigrade warmer - the world our grandchildren seem likely to inherit before the end of this century.

 Turn Down the Heat

Authored by climate scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the report's three hundred plus pages are densely written and often hard for non-experts to understand. However, some passages about the impact of a 4°C temperature rise are crystal clear. Here a section on North Africa:

Economic Collapse Will Limit Climate Change, Predicts Climate Scientist by Till Buckner, Huffington Post, Apr 14, 2015

For drinking water in drought, California looks warily to sea

Every time drought strikes California, the people of this state cannot help noticing the substantial reservoir of untapped water lapping at their shores — 187 quintillion gallons of it, more or less, shimmering so invitingly in the sun.

Now, for the first time, a major California metropolis is on the verge of turning the Pacific Ocean into an everyday source of drinking water. A $1 billion desalination plant to supply booming San Diego County is under construction here and due to open as early as November, providing a major test of whether California cities will be able to resort to the ocean to solve their water woes.

Across the Sun Belt, a technology once dismissed as too expensive and harmful to the environment is getting a second look. Texas, facing persistent dry conditions and a population influx, may build several ocean desalination plants. Florida has one operating already and may be forced to build others as a rising sea invades the state’s freshwater supplies.

For Drinking Water in Drought, California Looks Warily to Sea by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Apr 11, 2015

France urges Australia to keep climate commitment ahead of UN summit

The French government is urging Australia to stick to an international commitment to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

The appeal comes just a week before Prime Minister Tony Abbott sits down for talks with French president Francois Hollande in Paris, where climate is expected to be among the top issues discussed.

French ambassador to Australia Christophe Lecourtier told the ABC that France, which will host the pivotal UN Summit on Climate later this year, wanted Australia to put an "ambitious" commitment on the table sooner rather than later.

France urges Australia to keep climate commitment ahead of UN summit by Jake Sturmer and Lisa Main, ABC News, Apr 12, 2015

Goodbye, glaciers?

After reading countless scientific studies on our warming world, I've always sought proof through the eyes of people who really know their ice.

And after reading countless refusals and rebuttals from libertarian bloggers, I've always wanted to visit their annual convention and better understand how they think.

So this episode of "The Wonder List" takes us from a Heartland Institute pow-wow in Las Vegas to the glaciers of the French Alps.

It is a quest to challenge "rock stars" of the denialist/skeptic camp and then challenge my feeble mountaineering skills with the best alpinists in the world.

Goodbye, glaciers? by Bill Weir, The Wonder list, CNN, Apr 9, 2015

Move over sci-fi: 'Climate fiction' finds way into classrooms

Students at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts recently read “The Windup Girl,” the tale of a dystopian future Bangkok where climate change has pushed up temperatures and sea levels, and viruses acquired from genetically modified food are killing people.

The book is part of a new class at the campus on “climate fiction,” or “cli-fi,” a relatively new variant of science fiction.

Around the world, from the United States to India, cli-fi classes are creeping into timetables as academics try to bring a growing international concern into the classroom in a lively way that combines science and emotion.

Move over sci-fi: 'Climate fiction' finds way into classrooms by Kyle Plantz, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Apr 10, 2105

Newsweek cloaks Koch-funded professor's dirty energy agenda

Newsweek missed by a mile when it promised to provide readers with "full disclosure" concerning the author of a deeply flawed opinion piece it published attacking wind energy.

Newsweek stated that the April 11 column's primary author, Randy Simmons, is a "professor of political economy at Utah State University" and added: "Full disclosure: Randy Simmons receives funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (grant has been completed and there is no current funding) and Strata, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization."

But Simmons isn't just any professor of political economy; he is the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State's business school. He's also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. 

Newsweek cloaks Koch-funded professor's dirty energy agenda by Andrew Seifert, Media Matters, Apr 13, 2015

Physicists battle over meaning of incontrovertible in global warming fight

The world's largest organization of physicists clarified its position on climate change last week, and it no longer believes, as it did in 2007, that the evidence for global warming is "incontrovertible."

Instead, the American Physical Society (APS) now states that climate change is a "critical issue that poses the risk of significant disruption around the globe." It then discusses uncertainties inherent in climate science and the risk involved in not taking action in a draft statement that was released last week (see box for the 2007 and draft 2015 statements).

To some, the latest version improves on a word—"incontrovertible"—that seems to conflict with the basic nature of science, but to others the change could sow confusion in the minds of the general public.

Physicists Battle over Meaning of Incontrovertible in Global Warming Fight by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Apr 14, 2015

Price on carbon key to Canada tackling global warming, say researchers

Report says a carbon fee is vital and country should exploit renewable energy to decarbonize electricity grid – but doesn’t discuss highly polluting tar sands.

Price on carbon key to Canada tackling global warming, say researchers by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Concensus - The 97%, The Guardian, Apr 15, 2015

Twelve years of satellite data help decode climate change

Imagine trying to figure out your car’s fuel economy by driving only 20 miles. Sure, the number might look pretty good, but it wouldn’t be a very accurate picture of how your vehicle burns fuel over the long term. 

Predicting how the climate will change is a bit more complicated than calculating miles per gallon, but scientists who estimate Earth’s future temperatures face a similar challenge—having enough data to see the big picture.

“The big goal is to gauge how the atmosphere responds to changes, and to fully understand the long-term trends, you’d better understand the short-term trends really well,” said Eric Fetzer, a project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In 2002, NASA launched the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) aboard its Aqua satellite, designed to make precise measurements of global temperatures, greenhouse gases and clouds. Now that the instrument has amassed 12 years of data, researchers are using its cutting-edge observations to better understand how climate feedbacks will impact warming rates.

Twelve years of satellite data help decode climate change by Laurie J. Schmidt, NASA Global Climate Change, Apr 14, 2015

When climate science clashes with real-world policy

When a San Francisco panel began mulling rules about building public projects near changing shorelines, its self-described science translator, David Behar, figured he would just turn to the U.N.’s most recent climate assessment for guidance on future sea levels.

He couldn’t.

Nor could Behar, leader of the city utility department’s climate program, get what he needed from a 2012 National Research Council report dealing with West Coast sea level rise projections. A National Climate Assessment paperdealing with sea level rise didn’t seem to have what he needed, either. Even after reviewing two California governmentreports dealing with sea level rise, Behar says he had to telephone climate scientists and review a journal paper summarizing the views of 90 experts before he felt confident that he understood science’s latest projections for hazards posed by the onslaught of rising seas.

When Climate Science Clashes With Real-World Policy by John Upton, Climate Central, Apr 12, 2015

Who's responsible for climate change denial in Congress? The voters

The adage "all politics is local" points to both a virtue and a flaw in the American system of democracy: It helps provide that every vote counts but also that regional cranks get an outsized voice in national, even global, issues.

New research from Yale and Utah State universities shows how the latter process works in the field of climate policy. It tracks local opinions on climate change by state, congressional district, and county. Using a series of color-coded interactive maps, anyone can link up these opinions with the state and federal elected officials representing the geographical units.

The stark conclusion is that some of the most determined climate change deniers in Washington reflect the opinions of their constituents, as is the case for climate change activists. Whether this is because they have well-tuned political antennae or because they're cut from the same cloth as their voters isn't clear but scarcely matters. 

Who's responsible for climate change denial in Congress? The voters by Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, Apr 10, 2015

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