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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #21A

Posted on 19 May 2015 by John Hartz

California joins other states, provinces in climate change agreement

Gov. Jerry Brown signed an agreement Tuesday with leaders from 11 other states and countries pledging cooperation to battle climate change.

“This global challenge requires bold action on the part of governments everywhere,” Brown said in a statement. “It’s time to be decisive. It’s time to act.”

The agreement includes the states of Oregon, Washington and Vermont, as well as the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario in Canada, the states of Baja California and Jalisco in Mexico, and the British country of Wales. Also involved are states and provinces in Brazil, Germany, and Spain.

California joins other states, provinces in climate change agreement by Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2015

Climate change threatens electric power supply in California, report warns

Californians may have to start rationing more than water, including how much they turn on their lights and how often they use their hairdryers.

By 2050, extended years of drought in the state could lead to an electricity shortage as well as a water shortage, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the study, Arizona State University authors Matthew Bartos and Mikhail Chester found that almost half (46%) of 978 electric power stations in the western US should expect to face a decrease in electricity generating capacity by “mid-century”, a timeframe coined as 2040 to 2060, due to climate change.

A 10-year drought scenario would reduce the energy-producing capacity of vulnerable electric power stations by as much as 8.8%, the authors found.

Climate change threatens electric power supply in California, report warns by Rose Hackman, The Guardian, May 17, 2015

FactCheck: Are 95% of models linking human CO? emissions and global warming in error?

As the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s top business adviser, Mr Newman is a person of influence in Australia so his public statements should be held up to scrutiny.

In a recent newspaper column, Mr Newman said discrepancies between climate model forecasts and recorded temperatures begged the question: “Why then, with such little evidence, does the UN insist the world spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on futile climate change policies?”

All scientists would agree with Mr Newman that critical analysis of mathematical modelling is a crucial part of science. But it is a logical fallacy to leap from that valuable topic to describing climate change policies as futile.

FactCheck: Are 95% of models linking human CO? emissions and global warming in error? by Alex Sen Gupta, The Conversation AU, May 17, 2015

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change. 

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, May 18, 2015

Heat is piling up in the depths of the Indian Ocean

The world’s oceans are playing a game of hot potato with the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists have zeroed in on the tropical Pacific as a major player in taking up that heat. But while it might have held that heat for a bit, new research shows that the Pacific has passed the potato to the Indian Ocean, which has seen an unprecedented rise in heat content over the past decade.

The new work builds on a series of papers that have tracked the causes for what’s been dubbed the global warming slowdown, a period over the past 15 years that has seen surface temperatures rise slower than they did the previous decade. Shifts in Pacific tradewinds have helped sequester heat from the surface to the top 2,300 feet of the ocean. But unlike Vegas, what happens in the Pacific doesn’t stay in the Pacific.

Heat is piling up in the depths of the Indian Ocean by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, May 18, 2015

How conservatives lost the plot over the rejection of Bjorn Lomborg

When Australia’s conservative commentariat lose the plot, wow do they really lose it.

The spark was the University of Western Australia’s decision to back out of a deal to host a research centre fronted by climate science contrarian Bjørn Lomborg and paid for with $4m of taxpayer cash.

First to don the water skis for the shark jump&nRobin bsp;was the education minster, Christopher Pyne, who vowed that he would find a new home for Lomborg’squestionable methodology.

“You can be certain it will happen,” said Pyne, before revealing that he had apparently been on the phone to “freedom of speech” and word had come back.

“Freedom of speech demands that it does,” declared Pyne (hashtag facepalm).

How conservatives lost the plot over the rejection of Bjorn Lomborg by Graham Readfearn, Planet OZ, The Guardian, May 15, 2015

May’s torrential rainstorms super-charged by strengthening climate patterns

The month of May is typically known for its severe weather season in the Plains states — tornadoes, damaging winds and very large hail. But this year, May might be remembered more for its prolific rain and flooding — a series of brief but destructive events spurred by an intensifying El Niño in the Pacific Ocean and just part of the upward trend in extreme rainfall events in a warming world.

May’s torrential rainstorms super-charged by strengthening climate patterns by Angela Fritz, The Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, May 19, 2015

New evidence that climate change is altering Hurricane season as we know it

A new report finds climate change is likely impacting hurricane season in two contradictory ways.

The new research was published this week in Nature Climate Change by Florida State georgraphy professor Jim Elsner and Namyoung Kang, deputy director of the National Typhoon Center in South Korea. The study finds that warmer ocean temperatures, caused by climate change, may be fueling stronger hurricanes, while at the same time, creating fewer storms.

"We're seeing fewer hurricanes, but the ones we do see are more intense," Elsner said. "When one comes, all hell can break loose."

In order for a tropical disturbance to develop, the conditions need to be just right. While that includes a moist and unstable atmosphere, as well as weak vertical wind shear, ocean temperatures are also very important. Sea-surface temperatures need to be warm — usually greater than 80 degrees — therefore, those warmer oceans would allow for stronger hurricanes and typhoons. 

New evidence that climate change is altering Hurricane season as we know it by Linda Lam, Weather Underground, May 19, 2015

Past 12 months tied for warmest on record

April capped a 12-month period that tied the warmest such stretch on record, according to data released Tuesday.

That period, going back to May 2014, tied the previous record holder, the 12 months from April 2014 to March 2015. Of the 10 warmest 12-month periods on record, nine occurred in the past two years, most of them in back-to-back stretches.

The clustering of such warm periods is a marker of how much global temperatures have risen thanks to the human-driven buildup of heat-trapping gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Past 12 Months Tied for Warmest on Record by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, May 19, 2015

Shell accused of strategy risking catastrophic climate change

Royal Dutch Shell has been accused of pursuing a strategy that would lead to potentially catastrophic climate change after an internal document acknowledged a global temperature rise of 4C, twice the level considered safe for the planet.

A paper used for guiding future business planning at the Anglo-Dutch multinational assumes that carbon dioxide emissions will fail to limit temperature increases to 2C, the internationally agreed threshold to prevent widespread flooding, famine and desertification.

Instead, the New Lens Scenarios document refers to a forecast by the independent International Energy Agency (IEA) that points to a temperature rise of up to 4C in the short term, rising later to 6C.

Shell accused of strategy risking catastrophic climate change by Terry Macalister, The Guardian, May 17, 2015

Shellfish species shrinking as rising carbon emissions hit marine life

Sea creatures are set to shrink as the world’s oceans become more acidic. That is the startling warning given by an international group of biologists who have charted the likely impact of rising carbon dioxide levels on marine life.

The group reveals that not only are hundreds of marine species likely to be wiped out as more and more carbon dioxide is dissolved in the Earth’s oceans but also that creatures that do survive – in particular those with shells, such as clams, oysters and snails – will be left puny and shrunken as a result.

“We have already seen this effect in commercial oyster beds in the US, where marine farmers have had to stop growing young oysters in sea water because their shells could no longer form properly in our increasingly acidic seas. Instead they have to grow them in tanks where water acidity can be controlled,” said marine biologist Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, of Plymouth University.

“And as the oceans get even more acidic, the problem of species shrinkage – known as the Lilliput effect – will become more and more common. It is a clear warning of the extreme dangers we are facing as carbon emissions continue to rise around the planet.”

Shellfish species shrinking as rising carbon emissions hit marine life by Robert McKie, The Observer, May 16, 2015

Shell Oil’s cold calculations for a warming world

Last week, when the Obama administration gave tentative approval to Shell Oil’s plan to return to the Arctic after its disastrous attempt to find oil there in 2012, I found myself thinking of a conversation I had several years ago with a man named Jeremy Bentham. A theater-loving Englishman, Bentham leads Shell’s legendary team of futurists, whose methods have been adopted by the Walt Disney Company and the Pentagon, among others.

The scenario planners, as they call themselves, are paid to think unconventional thoughts. They read fiction. They run models. They talk to hippies. They talk to scientists. They consult anyone who can imagine surprising, abrupt change. The competing versions of the future — the scenarios — that result from this process are packaged as stories and given evocative titles: “Belle Époque,” “Devolution,” “Prism.” Then the oil company readies itself, as best it can, for all of them.

Shell oil’s cold calculations for a warming world by McKenzie Funk, New York  Times Magazine, May 18, 2015

What is equitable for planet Earth? India and climate change: our record, role and responsibility

Climate change does not respect national borders. No country, whether rich or poor, developed or developing can escape the impact of climate change on its land and its people. Nations, like people, are bound to each other on this earth, and the actions of one have consequences on the well-being of others. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all interdependent.

Clean air, clean water, and the rich soil that produces our food and fuel are essential to sustaining life on earth. Nature's bounty, if shared collectively and equitably between all life forms, can ensure our survival on earth for millennia to come.

But humankind's use, and abuse, of the earth's natural resources has put our planet in peril. Our intemperate use of fossil fuels to support modern human activity has had a significant impact on the planet and on its climate. The greenhouse gases emitted have been linked by scientists to rising temperatures, changing weather patterns and natural disasters like floods, droughts and cyclones cross the globe. Their impact, on people and the environment is severe and devastating. It is high time we took measures to restore balance on this earth.

What is equitable for planet Earth? India and climate change: our record, role and responsibility by Ela Bhatt, The Huffington Post, May 19, 2015

We are ignoring the new machine age at our peril

As a species, we don’t seem to be very good at dealing with nonlinearity. We cope moderately well with situations and environments that are changing gradually. But sudden, major discontinuities – what some people call “tipping points” – leave us spooked. That’s why we are so perversely relaxed about climate change, for example: things are changing slowly, imperceptibly almost, but so far there hasn’t been the kind of sharp, catastrophic change that would lead us seriously to recalibrate our behaviour and attitudes.

So it is with information technology. We know – indeed, it has become a cliche – that computing power has been doubling at least every two years since records of these things began. We know that the amount of data now generated by our digital existence is expanding annually at an astonishing rate. We know that our capacity to store digital information has been increasing exponentially. And so on. What we apparently have not sussed, however, is that these various strands of technological progress are not unconnected. Quite the contrary, and therein lies our problem.

We are ignoring the new machine age at our peril by John Naughton, The Guardian, May 17, 2015

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  1. Congrats to Dikran Marsupial, whose tash received a positive review at ;)

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