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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #22B

Posted on 30 May 2015 by John Hartz

A heatwave that’s too hot for India to handle, with more to come

India is currently in the throes of yet another extreme heat event, with the death toll rising past 1,100. The current heatwave began on May 21, and is forecast to continue until May 30, with temperatures in many regions exceeding 45C, and reaching 47.6C and beyond.

Delhi has now endured seven consecutive days over 44C, the worst extreme heat event recorded in a decade, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Even in the mountain town of Mussoorie close to Nepal, 2,010 m above sea level, temperatures rose to 36C.

Residents of the Indian subcontinent might be acclimatised to heat and humidity, but they too have their heat tolerance limits. So what can this tell us about the future?

A heatwave that’s too hot for India to handle, with more to come by Liz Hanna, The Conversation AU, May 28, 2015

Climate benefits of a natural gas bridge 'unlikely to be significant'

Natural gas can only be a worthwhile bridge to a low carbon future if a series of tough conditions are met, according to a working paper from the influential New Climate Economy initiative.

The paper says the climate benefits of gas, including shale gas, could in theory be significant. It suggests a 10% increase in global gas supplies could prevent 500 gigawatts (GW) of new coal capacity being added by 2035, avoiding 1.3 billion tonnes of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

But it warns that any theoretical benefits could easily be wiped out without controls on methane leakage, limits on total energy use and targets to ensure low-carbon energy sources are not displaced.

Climate benefits of a natural gas bridge 'unlikely to be significant' by Simon Evans, Carbon Brief, May 29, 2015

Climate change, a factor in Texas floods, largely ignored

Climate change is taking a toll on Texas, and the devastating floods that have killed at least 15 people and left 12 others missing across the state are some of the best evidence yet of that phenomenon, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in an interview Wednesday. 

"We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas," said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. "And it's consistent with what we would expect from climate change." 

Climate change, a factor in Texas floods, largely ignored by Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz, The Texas Tribune, May 27, 2015

Climate change may have , souped up record-breaking Texas deluge

Large swaths of Houston were underwater yesterday after more than 10 inches of rain fell on the city during a 24-hour window.

The bulk of the rain came during intense Monday night thunderstorms, bringing America’s fourth-largest city to a standstill by yesterday morning. Major highways were flooded, schools and mass transit systems were shut down, rivers were swollen above flood stage, and the city’s Emergency Operations Center had declared a Level 1 emergency for the first time since Hurricane Ike struck in 2008. Houston Mayor Annise Parker proclaimed a state of disaster for the city yesterday afternoon.

Austin, San Antonio and several other central Texas communities also faced severe flooding over the weekend after several days of intense rain. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) described flooding along the Blanco River between Wimberley and San Marcos as a “tsunami-style” flood.

Climate change may have souped up record-breaking Texas deluge by Elizabeth Harball and Scott Detrow, ClimateWire/Scientific America, May 27, 2015

Climate school hits home: Why warming’s impacts will be so much worse than deniers believe

Climate denial school can be a scary place. Those crazy, totally anti-science myths we’ve been discussing week after week in Denial101x keep popping up in the real world, and in recent weeks were spotted everywhere from Judith Curry’s blog to Australia’s federal government.

And it just got even scarier. Because this week, we delved into the real-world implications of human-caused warming, from just how warm scientists believe the planet’s going to get, to the ways that the environment, wildlife and human society will suffer as a result. Five weeks in, we’re getting to the heart of why it’s so important to fight climate denial: the stakes are huge, and they are already affecting us today.

Climate deniers try to minimize the impact that a lot of the climate change-related phenomena discussed this week will have, which is why the interviews with experts this week are particularly striking. These are people who have looked closely at the data, and who understand better than any of us what we’re in for. Watch their warnings closely, then try to tell yourself they’re blowing this all out of proportion.

Climate school hits home: Why warming’s impacts will be so much worse than deniers believe by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, May 27, 2015

Cutting soot and methane distracts from 2C goal, says Oxford scientist

Politicians have agreed that global temperatures need to be limited to below 2C, and scientists say that this will mean drastically reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. But which one should be cut first?

Humans emitted  35.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide  (CO2) in 2013 - a volume that is increasing every year, putting the world on course to exceed its goal to keep temperature increase since the start of the Industrial Age below 2C.

But this is not the only pollutant that causes the planet to warm. Methane, ozone, black carbon (soot) and hydrofluorocarbons have an even more powerful warming effect, per tonne, than CO2.

Yet unlike CO2, which can last in the atmosphere for up to millennia, these stick around in the atmosphere for a matter of years or even days. As a result, they are known as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).

Cutting soot and methane distracts from 2C goal, says Oxford scientist by Sophie Yeo, Carbon Brief, May 28, 2015

El Niño can raise sea levels along U.S. Coast

The El Niño event underway in the Pacific Ocean is impacting temperature and weather patterns around the world. But its effects aren’t confined to the atmosphere: A new study has found that the cyclical climate phenomenon can ratchet up sea levels off the West Coast by almost 8 inches over just a few seasons.

The findings have important implications in terms of planning for sea level rise, as ever-growing coastal communities might have to plan for even higher ocean levels in a warmer future. In California alone, some $40 billion of property and nearly 500,000 people could be affected by the sea level rise expected through mid-century, not including any additional boost from El Niño events.

“This paper is an important reminder that we cannot neglect interannual sea level variability and we need a quantitative understanding of its impact,” John Church, an oceanographer with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said in an email.

El Niño can raise sea levels along U.S. Coast by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, May 28, 2015

Hillary Clinton plans to get "aggressive" on climate. Here's what that might entail.

Hillary Clinton's advisers say she plans to take "aggressive" steps on global warming if elected president. Here's John Podesta last week:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "quite" involved in climate change policy as a 2016 presidential candidate and will carry on with President Obama's limits on coal-fired power plants if she is elected, her campaign chairman, John Podesta, said yesterday. ...

"I have no doubt that she will move forward with an aggressive program to move the country to a cleaner energy system and do what the United States needs to do to meet the target," he said.

So what would an "aggressive program" mean? One place to look for clues is in this big new report by the World Resources Institute. To be clear, the report isn't affiliated with the Clinton campaign at all. But it does lay out, in detail, what policies the next president could pursue to cut US emissions drastically — even without Congress. If Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Jeb Bush wanted to go big on climate, this would be the place to start.

Hillary Clinton plans to get "aggressive" on climate. Here's what that might entail. by Brad Plumer, Vox, May 28, 2015

Memo to Jeb Bush: denying human-caused global warming is ignorant

In a campaign event last week, Republican presidential frontrunner Jeb Bush exhibited Stage 2 climate denial, saying (video available here),

Look, first of all, the climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on, this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t even have a conversation about it.

Memo to Jeb Bush: denying human-caused global warming is ignorant by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - the 97%, Guardian, May 27, 2015

Report: U.S. can make good on climate pledge — barely

When the U.S. arrives at the international climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year it will bring to the table its pledge to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent under 2005 levels over the next decade.

The World Resources Institute, or WRI, a global environmental sustainability think tank, released a reportWednesday showing how the U.S. can make good on its pledge and possibly exceed it. Doing so, however, may involve strengthening controversial emissions cuts in the works, cuts that largely are expected to be watered down and challenged in court before taking effect, possibly later this year.

To achieve its Paris emissions pledge, the Obama administration is betting that its proposed Clean Power Plan, slated to be finalized this summer, will deliver carbon dioxide emissions cuts from existing coal-fired power plants as promised. The White House also is relying on its Climate Action Plan to cut emissions and increase efficiency in other sectors of the economy.

Report: U.S. Can Make Good on Climate Pledge — Barely by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, May 28, 2015

Scientists warn to expect more weather extremes

Torrential rains and widespread flooding in Texas have brought relief from a yearslong drought to many parts of the state. Such unpredictable and heavy rains are a big part of what climate scientists say that many Texans can expect in years to come.

The relief has come at a great cost. The death toll from storms across the state and Oklahoma has reached at least 19, by some estimates, and the property damage is so extensive that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has declared some 40 counties disaster areas.

It was not long ago that the state was dealing with a searing drought. In 2011, the drought was so pronounced that the governor then, Rick Perry, proclaimed three days in April “days of prayer for rain in Texas.” Parts of the state began to see the drought ease by 2012, but much of it has remained parched. 

Scientists warn to expect more weather extremes by John Schwartz, New York Times, May 27, 2015

The Carbon Brief interview: Thomas Stocker

Thomas Stocker is a professor of climate and environmental physics at the University of Bern. He served as Co-Chair of working group one for the IPCC's fifth assessment report, Coordinating Lead Author in the third and fourth assessment reports, and is now running to succeed Dr Rajendra Pachauri as IPCC chair.

The Carbon Brief interview: Thomas Stocker by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, May 28, 2015

This is climate skeptics’ latest argument about melting polar ice — and why it’s wrong

We’ve had two weeks of worrying news about the melting of Antarctica. The Larsen C and especially the remaining Larsen B ice shelves appear vulnerable to collapse, even as the glaciers of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula region have just been shown to be pouring large volumes of water into the ocean.

Most people, I think, would find this pretty alarming. However, as I wrote about these Antarctic news stories over the past two weeks, I became aware that those skeptical of human-caused climate change (whether its existence, or its severity) had found a new argument to minimize concerns about polar ice melt. In particular, I came across numerous citations of a much-read article at Forbes by James Taylor, titled “Updated NASA Data: Global warming not causing any polar ice retreat.”

There are many problems with this claim. In effect — and as we’ll see — Taylor is falling into a long climate “skeptic” tradition of pointing toward growing sea ice around Antarctica, and thereby suggesting that this trend undermines broader concerns about polar ice melt, or climate change in general. It doesn’t. (For another strong rebuttal to Taylor, see here from Slate’s Phil Plait.)

This is climate skeptics’ latest argument about melting polar ice — and why it’s wrong by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Wahsingto Post, May 28, 2015

Warming oceans could mean typhoons are 14% stronger by 2100

On 7 November 2013, one of the strongest typhoons in human history hit the Philippines. With gusts up to 171 miles per hour (mph), Typhoon Haiyan tore through the many thousands of islands, killing over 6,200 people and affecting 14 million more.

Every year, these giant storms cause damage and destruction across southeast Asia. Now, a new study suggests that even under a moderate temperature rise, warming oceans could fuel more intense typhoons in the future.

Warming oceans could mean typhoons are 14% stronger by 2100 by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, May 29, 2015

This is climate skeptics’ latest argument about melting polar ice — and why it’s wrong

Why carbon is the best marker for the new human epoch

Fire ranks among humanity's oldest and most powerful tools. Now the residue from all the oil and coal burned to power modern civilization may provide the best marker for the start of a new geologic epoch that highlights Homo sapiens’s world-changing impact, known as the Anthropocene, or "new age of humans."

"We're actually changing and continuing to change how the Earth system functions and leaving markers that could still be found in a million years time," says Earth scientist Karen Bacon of the University of Leeds in England. "That's quite incredible to think about."

Why Carbon Is the Best Marker for the New Human Epoch by David Biello. Scientific American, May 28, 2015

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. In US, the emission policies (esp. Hillary's) look promissing. In contrast, australian policies not only ignore climate change impact but literaly wipe out farming country towns in favour of coal mine expansions:

    Rio Tinto's coal mine expansion threatens Bulga again

    It's hard to believe that the town of Bulga won that battle against Rio Tinto just 2 years ago and new regulations allowed to already revisit that ruling. Note that the article does not even consider climate change impact of the proposed expansion of the coal mine which BTW have almost reached its life end and should have died as inoperable venture. Where is the purported "balance between economic, social and environmental factors" that the lobbyists from NSW Minerals Council are trying to claim?

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