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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #19B

Posted on 8 May 2015 by John Hartz

2C warming goal is a ‘defence line’, governments told

The international goal to limit global warming to 2C should be “stringently defended”, UN climate negotiators will be told next month.

Even this level of temperature rise would put the world’s poor at “very high risk” of climate impacts and “less warming would be preferable”.

These were some of the key messages from two years of talks between more than 70 country representatives and scientists, published by the UN this week.

Countries agreed on the 2C threshold in 2009, but the necessary policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions have proved elusive.

Few expect that a global climate deal due to be struck in Paris this December will set the world on a 2C path, beyond which scientists say floods, droughts and rising sea levels will become more common.

Instead, diplomats talk of keeping 2C “within reach” and creating an enduring framework to ratchet up ambition in future.

2C warming goal is a ‘defence line’, governments told by Megan Darby, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), May 7, 2015

19 reasons why the world is missing the 2C climate change limit

The world is falling further behind the goal to avoid more than 2C of global warming despite rapid progress in renewables and other areas, according to a new assessment from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

For the first time since it started tracking progress, none of 19 key areas for tackling climate change are on track to meMega n Darby, RTCCet their contribution towards a sub-2C world, says the IEA's Energy Technology Perspectives 2015, published on 4 May. It says five technologies or sectors are off track, and the outlook for the remaining 14 is failing to improve fast enough.

Carbon Brief has summarised the mammoth 412-page assessment in a single graphic, which shows where progress is falling furthest behind the path to 2C, and where there are rays of hope.

19 reasons why the world is missing the 2C climate change limit by Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, May 7, 2015

China optimistic on reaching 2015 energy-saving goals: China Daily

China is optimistic about hitting its 2015 energy-saving and environment goals, after data from the country's top economic planner showed it reduced energy consumption in the first quarter, the state-backed China Daily newspaper said on Friday.

"We are relatively optimistic about achieving the full year's target," Zhang Yong, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, was quoted by the newspaper as saying on Thursday.

Energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product fell by 5.6 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, indicating that the full-year target of 3.1 percent was within reach, the newspaper said.

The country will ensure that it meets the 16 percent energy-saving goal for the 2011-15 period and may even exceed it, Zhang said.

China optimistic on reaching 2015 energy-saving goals: China Daily, Reuters, May 8, 2015

Climate change denial arguments ‘seep’ into scientific debate

Climate change theories and open scientific discourse is being muted by the intensity of climate denial arguments, according to a new psychological study released today.

The language used by climate change opponents has gradually “seeped” into the language of climate change theory proponents – and it has unwittingly reinforced and legitimized the argument of the scientific minority, according to the paper published today by the journal Global Environmental Change.

“It seems reasonable to conclude that the pressure of climate contrarians has contributed, at least to some degree, to scientists re-examining their own theory, data and models, even though all of them permit – indeed, expect – changes in the rate of warming over any arbitrarily chosen period,” said Stephen Lewandowksy, a professor from the University of Bristol’s School of Experimental Psychology.

Climate Change Denial Arguments ‘Seep’ into Scientific Debate by Seth Augenstein, Laboratory Equipment, 

Drought kills 12 million trees in California's national forests

Rangers in the San Bernardino National Forest call them “red trees.”

Instead of the typical deep green color, large swaths of pine trees now don hues of death, their dehydrated needles turning brown and burnt-red because of the state’s worsening drought.

“Unlike back East, where you have fall colors, here it’s because the trees are dying,” said John Miller, a spokesman for the San Bernardino National Forest.

Years of extremely dry conditions are taking a heavy toll on forest lands across California and heightening the fire risk as summer approaches.

“The situation is incendiary,” William Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told The Times recently. “The national forest is stressed out.”

Drought kills 12 million trees in California's national forests by Veronica Rocha and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2015

Eat more plants to improve health, combat climate change

Cut back on the beef, dairy, sweets and savory snacks, but feel free to munch away on more fruits, vegetables and cereals, if you’d like a more climate-friendly and healthy diet, according to recent research conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The changes—which the authors note are ultimately “relatively minor” and “realistic”—could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. It should be noted the studies were focused in the United Kingdom.

Eat More Plants to Improve Health, Combat Climate Change by Brittany Patterson, ClimateWire/Scientific American, May 8, 2015

French nuclear model falters

For decades, France has been a living laboratory for atomic energy, getting nearly three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power — a higher proportion by far than in any other country.

And France’s nuclear companies have long been seen as leaders in building and safely operating uranium-fueled reactors around the world — including in the United States — and championed by Paris as star exporters and ambassadors of French technological prowess.

But in the last few years, the French dynamo has started to stall. New plants that were meant to showcase the industry’s most advanced technology are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget. Worse, recently discovered problems at one site have raised new doubts about when, or even if, they will be completed.

French Nuclear Model Falters by David Jolly and Stanley Reed, New York Times, May 7, 2015

Hawaii sets goal of 100% renewables by 2045

Hawaii is on the verge of being the first state in the U.S. to set a goal of generating all of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

Under a bill the Hawaii Legislature passed this week, 100 percent of the state’s electricity would be generated with renewables by 2045. If Gov. David Ige approves the measure — he has until the end of June to sign it — it will put the state’s climate goals far ahead any other, and extend Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative through mid-century. The initiative aims to reduce the state’s dependency on oil, which generates most of its electric power.

Hawaii Sets Goal of 100% Renewables by 2045 by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, May 8, 2015

Little chance to restrain global warming to 2 degrees, critic argues

C’mon, docs. Give it to us straight.

That’s the message one researcher has for the planet’s physicians, the climate scientists who are diagnosing whether a new international agreement can keep us from busting the boundary of dangerous global warming.

Oliver Geden, a senior research fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, makes the case that the accord expected to be signed in Paris in December won’t even put the world within reach of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. He contends that scientists and economists must level with the public and stop spreading what he calls “false optimism” that the target can ever be reached.

“Climate scientists and economists who counsel policy-makers are being pressured to extend their models and options for delivering mitigation later. This has introduced dubious concepts, such as repaying ‘carbon debt’ through ‘negative emissions’ to offset delayed mitigation—in theory,” Geden wrote in a commentary published yesterday in the journal Nature

Little Chance to Restrain Global Warming to 2 Degrees, Critic Argues by Lisa Friedman, ClimateWire/Scientific American, May 7, 2015

MIT: ‘Massive’ solar expansion critical for climate

A “massive” global expansion of solar power — possibly enough to supply about a third or more of the world’s electricity — may be necessary by 2050 to reduce the impacts of fossil fuels on the climate, according to a report published by MIT this week.

Solar’s efficiency and abundance make it the clean energy source best suited to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But for it to make a big enough climate difference, the amount of solar power generation capacity on U.S. soil would have to increase from today’s 20 gigawatts to up to 400 gigawatts, or enough to provide power to 80 million homes, Robert Stoner, deputy director of the MIT Energy Initiative and a co-author of the report, said.

The study says that may not happen in the U.S. unless solar industry-supported funding and incentives are almost completely re-imagined. The solar industry currently supports keeping those incentives in place.

MIT: ‘Massive’ Solar Expansion Critical for Climate by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, May 8, 2015

Monthly global carbon dioxide tops 400ppm for first time

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today announced that the monthly global average concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) in March 2015 for the first time since measurements began.

The average carbon dioxide concentration across the globe was 400.83 ppm, reported NOAA.

If this news sounds familiar, it might be because this isn't the first time you've heard scientists mention the 400 ppm mark in recent years. 

Monthly global carbon dioxide tops 400ppm for first time by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, May 6, 2015

So, is Copenhagen Consensus Centre just a US postbox?

Nothing says "venerable research institute" like "parcel forwarding service" 

This column's had a lot to say about the planned climate change think tank that is the Australian Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia, headed by not-scientist Bjorn Lomborg and which the government will be giving $4 million of your taxpayer dollars.

Lomborg, as you may be aware, is of the opinion that climate change mitigation strategies like carbon pricing and emissions trading are more expensive than they're worth, and that there are better - or at least cheaper - solutions.

Now, while he's got zero background in climate science, he's at least a respected econom… oh, actually he's internationally regarded as having "no academic credibility" and his work is "seen as an outreach activity that is driven by specific set of objectives in terms of bringing particular messages into the public debate and in some cases making relatively extreme positions seem more acceptable in the public debate," according to the Australian National University's director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Dr Frank Jotzo. So that's good! 

So, is Copenhagen Consensus Centre just a US postbox? by Andrew P Street, View from the Street, Sydney Morning Herald, May 5, 2015 

The next decade will decide what the world looks like for thousands of decades to come

The next 10 years will be decisive when it comes to the planet's future — what we do (or don't) will play out over geologic time.

It could, if we set our minds to it, be the decade when the planet's use of fossil fuels peaks and then rapidly declines. We've built a movement that, for the moment, is starting to tie down the fossil fuel industry: from the tarsands of Alberta to the (as yet unbuilt) giant new mines of Australia's Galilee Basin, the big players in coal, gas, and oil are bothered and even bewildered by a new strain of activist. They're losing on the image front: when the Rockefeller family, the Church of England, and Prince Charles have begun divesting their fossil fuel stocks, you know the tide has turned.

The Next Decade Will Decide What the World Looks Like for Thousands of Decades to Come by Bill McKibben, The Huffington Post, May 6, 2015

University of Western Australia pulls out of Bjorn Lomborg centre

The University of Western Australia has pulled out of its deal to create a "consensus centre" run by climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg and partly funded by the federal government.

The decision is a blow to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose office drove the push to fund the centre.

UWA appears to have bowed to pressure from staff and the public following news the think tank would receive $4 million in government funding. 

"I have today spoken to the federal government and Bjorn Lomborg, advising them of the barriers that currently exist to the creation of the centre and the university's decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the government," UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said.

University of Western Australia pulls out of Bjorn Lomborg centre by Kate Abusson, Sydney Morning Herald, May 5, 2015

Warming could bring more downpours like Oklahoma City's

While tornadoes normally take center stage during severe weather season, for Oklahoma City on Wednesday, it was torrential rains and flash flooding that overshadowed the twisters.

The city recorded more than 7 inches of rain in 24 hours, the third-highest single day rainfall total for any day since record-keeping began in 1891. The deluge caused major flooding that damaged roads and buildings and sent cars floating down streets turned into rivers.

While people in the Great Plains are no strangers to heavy downpours — the largest 24-hour rainfall total was recorded not long ago in June 2010 — it’s something they, along with the rest of the nation, could expect more of as the world warms and the atmosphere sucks up more moisture.

Warming Could Bring More Downpours Like OKC’s by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, May 7, 2015

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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. Ditching Bjorn Lomborg centre from UWA is the most positive, even celebratory news this week.

    If the centre had gone ahead, it would've undermined my faith in science progress, certainly in UWA.

    I do not believe chancellor Paul Johnson, who "defended the decision to appoint Dr Lomborg an adjunct professor" did so out of his genuine opinion. Far more likely Johnson was under serious political pressure. Thankfuly, the presure from "students" (I guess all academics afiliated with UWA if not the entire world are included in this broad term) outwieghed the pressure from the politicians.

    Note that UWA was not the first unstitution, the current australian government wanted to place Lomborg in. This article stipulates that it was ACU:

    The Australian Catholic University's Canberra campus was one of a number of locations considered for the controversial centre, before UWA was settled on.

    which is probably closer to Tony Abbott's heart. One can only stipulate why the attempts to place Lomborg in ACU have failed and if Tony Abbott dares to try somewhere else...

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  2. The reputation of UWA is very proud and if Lomborg got the gig at the insistence of a climate change denying Prime-Minister the laughter throughout the country would bring shame for a century. It was never going to happen.. Perth knew it would never happen as the students that go there only have it's flawless reputation separating them from the riff-raff of other very well educated university graduates around Perth and as we all know---> Perth has an overqualification problem.

    The mums and dads of said students are well connected: Perth is a bit of a round-about and the chancellor would have been reminded that this state floats the country and will not be sold a pup by a Liberal Party propping up old technology and foreign vested interests. The people of UWA realised we need our 'clever country' back and now that Tony Abbott has nowhere to hide his infamous flim-flam man I expect the election campaign will be strategically kicking into gear exactly now!

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  3. Chiskoz @1


    That really should be a word.

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