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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #1A

Posted on 1 January 2015 by John Hartz

2014: The year climate change undeniably arrived

Hottest year on record provided setting for conclusive scientific findings as mushrooming climate movement pressed world leaders to act.

2014: The Year Climate Change Undeniably Arrived by John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News, Dec

Climate change is a tax, and rates are going up

Many people, particularly in the United States, are having a hard time coming to terms with the concept of climate change. But whether you believe the science or not, there’s little doubt that the world is undergoing some fundamental changes — and there are, and will continue to be, huge costs to dealing with the fallout.

With the exception of increasingly frequent severe weather and superstorms, most of us — especially middle-class, working adults — don’t spend an awful lot of time worrying about climate change. But that may change soon as scientists find more and more evidence that warmer average temperatures are going to start taking an economic toll.

A new study released by Tatyana Deryugina and Solomon M. Hsiang from the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that the hotter the world gets, the more expensive every day life will become. Specifically, the researchers draw a comparison between declining economic activity and how high the temperature is on a given day.

Climate Change Is a Tax, and Rates Are Going Up by Sam Becker, Business ChaeatSheet, Dec 27, 2014 

Climate shift in the Pacific may accelerate global warming

With 2014 likely to be declared the world's hottest year on record, the last thing the planet needs is a climate shift to turbo-charge the global warming already under way.

While it's an early call, a measure of surface temperature differences in the Pacific shifted to a positive reading in the five months of November, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the longest such run in almost 12 years.

Known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Nino-like pattern typically lasts 15-30 years and is understood to operate as an accelerator on global surface temperatures during its positive phase – and a brake during its negative phase – as the ocean takes up fluctuating amounts of the extra heat being trapped by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate shift in the Pacific may accelerate global warming by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 29, 2014

Connie Hedegaard: credibility of UN climate process hangs on Paris talks

Climate change talks next year will be make or break for international efforts to curb global warming, with the credibility of the UN-backed process at stake, the outgoing EU climate chief, Connie Hedegaard, has warned.

World leaders are expected to sign an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 onwards at a Paris conference in December 2015. It could be pivotal in climate negotiations, if China, the US and Europe agree to hold global warming within what scientists say are safe limits.

But the risks are great, according to Hedegaard, who recently left the post of European commissioner for climate action and hosted the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009. “Say Paris could not deliver,” she said to the Guardian. “Who would believe the UN process would have credibility after that? That is what [we need] to make leaders understand – it’s now.”

Connie Hedegaard: credibility of UN climate process hangs on Paris talks by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Dec 28, 2014

Creativity for Creationists

rty percent of Americans are evangelical Christians, and many of themreject evolution. Jeff Hardin, chairman of the University of Wisconsin’szoology department, takes this personally. Hardin is an evangelical, but much of his evangelism is directed at his fellow believers. He wants to persuade them that evolution and Christianity are compatible.

Hardin didn’t grow up in a Christian household. His father was an engineer. As an adolescent, Hardin had a religious experience and joined a church. Christianity spoke to his heart, but it didn’t change the love of science he had learned from his dad. When Hardin became a biologist and met students who thought they had to choose between faith and science, it tore him apart. He wanted to help them stay whole.

Today, Hardin speaks for an emerging school of Christian thinkers. They call themselves evolutionary creationists. They believe that God authored the emergence of life and humankind but that evolution explains how this process unfolded. They accept what science has established: The Earth is billions of years old, and all species, including ours, have evolved from other species.

Creativity for Creationists by William Saletan, Slate, Dec 30, 2014

In 2015, the long march to Paris

Agreements on climate change—to paraphrase what the 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck said about law-making—are like sausages.

It's best not to know how they are made.

On December 11 2015, 195 states are scheduled to strike a deal in Paris to curb the fossil-fuel gases imperilling Earth's climate system.

The outcome will be determined in the coming months by Bismarck-style sausage-making—a long, slow grind, and with many questionable ingredients.

What emerges will prompt future generations to either praise us for taming the carbon monster or curse us for short-sightedness and greed.

Climate change: In 2015, the long march to Paris by Richard Ingham,, Dec 30, 2014

Norwegians turn ambivalent on Statoil, their economic bedrock

This has not been a particularly good year for Statoil, the huge state-controlled oil company that has had a commanding presence inNorway’s economy and society for more than four decades.

In the spring, Statoil cut 1,000 jobs, or 4 percent of its work force. In September, it postponed a much-criticized project in the Canadian tar sands for at least three years. On Oct. 29, reflecting collapsing oil prices and a steep tumble of its stock, it reported its first quarterly loss since 2001. And in November, it announced disappointing results from the year’s program of drilling for new oil and gas in the Norwegian Arctic.

But it is not just the vicissitudes of oil markets and exploratory wells that are causing difficulties for Statoil. In an era of climate change, the company — and by extension Norway’s entire oil and gas industry, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide — is coming under increasing pressure from within its own borders.

Norwegians Turn Ambivalent on Statoil, Their Economic Bedrock by Henry Fountain, New York Times, Dec 30, 2014

Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches

He has been called the “superman pope”, and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?

It looks as if he will give it a go. In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.

The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.

Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches by John Vidal, The Guardian, Dec 27, 2014

Review of national targets must for climate action: Pachauri

While India and other countries have been opposing a review of their national contributions to tackle climate change, chairperson of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Dr. R. K. Pachauri is firm that unless there is a process of review in place, the direction the world is taking to tackle climate change will not be clear. A periodic review of targets and achievements is a must, he said in an interview to The Hindu on Tuesday.

On the Lima climate talks, he said, “Given the slow pace of the progress in the past, I don’t think we could have expected too much more. Of course this also means that there is a lot to do before Paris — one thing I found satisfying is the fact that all the delegates were quite focused on the findings of the IPCC and these were referred to continuously by several people and we feel happy that at least the level of awareness on the findings has been quite widespread. Frankly that’s the only basis on which you can generate ambition to do something.”

Review of national targets must for climate action: Pachauri by Meenan Menom, The Hindu, Dec 24, 2014

The Pope thinks climate change is a major threat. So do American Catholics

Pope Francis, the leader the Catholic Church, is closing out 2014 in his typically headline-grabbing fashion. He used a traditional Christmas address to issue a scathing takedown of the political squabbling that infects Vatican bureaucracy, and he was also credited as a key backroom player in the thawing of US-Cuba relations.

Next on his list? Climate change.

Over the weekend, the Guardian reported that the pope will issue the first-ever comprehensive set of Vatican teachings on climate change, in the form of an encyclical—or "papal letter"—sent to churches worldwide. He will also personally lobby for climate action action in a series of high profile meetings ahead of the all-important UN global warming negotiations in Paris next year. 

The Pope Thinks Climate Change Is a Major Threat. So Do American Catholics. by James West, Mother Jones, Dec 30, 2014

The ‘simple life’ manifesto and how it could save us

The aftermath of Christmas is a good time to think about where consumer-capitalism is getting us. The sad fact is that, with these values, our society can never be ecologically sustainable or just. Accelerating global problems cannot be solved in a society obsessed with production and consumption, affluent living standards, market forces, the profit motive and economic growth. The only way out is via a huge and radical transition to The Simpler Way.

An exaggeration? Only if you fail to grasp the magnitude of the overshoot. Consider, for instance, the well-known “footprint” numbers. It takes eight hectares of productive land to provide water, energy, living space and food for one person in Australia.

If the 9 billion people of the future were to live as Australians do now, we would need about 72 billion hectares of productive land – about nine times the total on Earth. Even now, footprint analyses indicate that the world is consuming resources 1.5 times faster than we can sustain.

The ‘simple life’ manifesto and how it could save us by Frederick Trainer, The Conversation UK, Dec 28, 2014

Time is running out on climate denial

From a strictly logical perspective, it’s hard to understand how we can be doing so little to slow global warming. Greg Craven summarized why by examining the extreme possible outcomes in his viral climate ‘decision grid’ video.

In short, if we take action to slow global warming, the worst case scenario involves draconian government regulations that trigger an economic recession. If we don’t, the worst case scenario involves an economic recession too, but also a host of other global and societal catastrophes.

Although Craven doesn’t look at the probabilities of these worst case scenarios, they’re also heavily weighted towards the case for taking action to curb global warming. There are lots of options to slow global warming that don’t involve drastic government regulation, and that can even be beneficial for the economy. If we decide that we’ve gone too far in cutting carbon pollution, it’s relatively easy to scale back government policies.

Time is running out on climate denial by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - The 97%, The Guardian, Dec 30, 2014

Top climate movement victories of 2014

There is a lot to feel good about as far as the U.S. climate movement and what we accomplished in 2014. Without question, we are heading into 2015 with some wind at our back and, to continue the relevant metaphor, the sun to light our way forward.

In the order that I think were most important, here they are:

Top Climate Movement Victories of 2014 by Ted Glick, EcoWatch, Dec 30, 2014

What might the future look like if we took climate change seriously?

new analysis lays out several detailed “pathways” to a low-carbon future for the United States, and offers practical guidance for policy makers. The bottom line finding is that there are multiple ways we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with known technologies and with an incremental cost equivalent to less than 1 percent of gross domestic product. But the choices we make in the short term matter a lot if we want to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

This work is important because the negotiations in Lima last week set a positive direction for the international climate agreement planned for next December in Paris. As the United States considers its strategy, it is important to reflect on what it would take – on a nuts and bolts level – to meet an aggressive climate target. This includes talking about sources of energy, power lines, industrial facilities, homes and buildings, cars and trucks and the fuels they run on – the physical infrastructure necessary to massively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. 

What Might the Future Look Like if We Took Climate Change Seriously? by Merrian Borgeson, The Energy Collective, Dec 27, 2014

White Christmas? Start worrying about El Niño and its effect on food prices

While many Americans spend days wondering whether they will get a white Christmas, there’s a bigger, better weather event to watch – and it’s one that will affect the US economy. 

There’s a good chance the weather phenomenon El Niño will appear in the next six months, weather forecasters say, but farmers don’t need an official decree from meteorologists – they can just look out the window.

Those recent rains in California? Thank El Niño. Most farmers in Argentina and southern Brazil are also getting extra precipitation. The weather phenomenon was named El Niño, a reference to the Spanish phrase for “Christ child”, because it often arrives around Christmas.

El Niño does not bring gifts of rain to all farmers.

White Christmas? Start worrying about El Niño and its effect on food prices by Debbie Carlsen, Dec 23, 2014

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Happy New Year to the SkS crew! We appreciate all the work/research you do!

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  2. I'd like to join Alpinist in well wishes to the intrepid SkS crew.

    Here's one of the most important speeches of the year, imho, putting GW and mass extinction in a larger historical, political and literary context :

    Chris Hedges - "The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies" - Full Speech

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  3. Happy New Year everyone.

    I hope you this is the right places to ask but I wanted to know if anyone had some information about the heat that was found in the Southern Ocean.

    Its from this paper "Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming" ( 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] See Rob Painting's article, 

    [Rob P] - try this one instead:

  4. Thank you for both of the links. It would seem with all the heat in the southern ocean and the lack of sea level rise, there might be a good chance the paper that found no significant warming in the abyss was right. Even though they used huge error margins. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [Rob P] - the warming, or lack of warming, of the abyssal ocean is only a tiny proportion of the thermal component of global sea level rise (SLR) and is not likely to influence the rate of SLR, but the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and it large influence on multidecadal-scale precipitation and continental water storage certainly would. See:

    Balancing the sea level budget - Leuliette & Willis (2011)


    A Relentless Rise in Global Sea Level

    Like many others, I'm looking forward to an explanation for the lower-than-expected rate of SLR. Perhaps the effects of cabbelling, and the large changes in ocean circulation associated with the IPO, are involved? I would, however, point out that the greater southern ocean warming demonstrated in Durack (2014), prior to the Argo roll-out,  would reduce the expected rate of SLR.   

  5. Thank you for the information. 

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