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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #29

Posted on 19 July 2015 by John Hartz

4 takeaways from the annual climate review

As has been seen year after year, the warming of the Earth is causing major changes in many aspects of the planet’s climate, and 2014 was yet another year that showed this trend in stark relief, a report released Thursday says.

Numerous records were broken last year, according to the State of the Climate report, an annual checkup of the global climate published in a special issue of the journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Now in its 25th year, the report pulls together hundreds of scientists from dozens of countries to piece together the changes from the previous year in all aspects of the Earth’s climate — from carbon dioxide levels to the planet’s rising temperature, from glacier melt to change in soil moisture — and puts them in the context of decades-long trends.

4 Takeaways from the Annual Climate Review by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 16, 2015

Climate finance: Funding a low-carbon global economy

Over the next decades, trillions of dollars will be required to tackle climate change.

Leveraging it is a question that concerns politicians and financial institutions alike. Largely, it has been a conversation that the two have held separately.

The political discussion centres around a promise made in 2009 at the UN's climate conference in Copenhagen, when developed countries committed to provide $100bn a year from 2020 to help poor nations reduce their emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, with a significant portion of this flowing through a Green Climate Fund.

Nations reaffirmed that pledge at the Financing For Development conference in Addis Ababa this week, where the UN largely focused on the issue of how to finance its post-2015 sustainable development agenda - a set of guidelines, to be finalised this September, on reducing poverty, hunger and climate change, among other issues.

Climate finance: Funding a low-carbon global economy by Sophie Yeo, The Carbon Brief, July 16, 2015

Global warming is causing rain to melt the Greenland ice sheet

Greenland, one of the largest ice sheets in the world, is melting. In fact, it is melting ahead of schedule as the world warms. Scientists are working hard to deepen their understanding of this ice sheet’s behavior so that we can predict how fast and how much of the ice sheet will melt in the coming decades and centuries.

It might seem obvious that in a warming world, the Greenland ice sheet will melt. But, what seems obvious and simple can be more complex when investigated more deeply. With respect to Greenland, it is expected that warmer temperatures increase melting but warmer temperatures can also mean more snowfall, as there is more moisture in warm air which can then fall as snow. So, it has been a question of which of these two competing processes would win out. Would Greenland get smaller because of melting or would it grow as more snow fell? 

Over the past few years, the verdict has become clear. The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass at an increasing rate. In fact, Greenland currently contributes twice as much as the Antarctic to rising sea levels

Global warming is causing rain to melt the Greenland ice sheet by John Abraham, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, July 14, 2015

No, the sun isn't going to save us from global warming

Some zombie myths just won’t die. In fact, I debunked this one two years ago right here at The Guardian

To sum up, a number of scientific studies have asked the question, ‘if the sun were to enter another extended quiet phase (a grand solar minimum), how would that impact global surface temperatures?’. Every study agrees, it would cause no more than 0.3°C cooling, which would only be enough to temporarily offset about a decade’s worth of human-caused global warming.

Solar activity is actually quite stable. That’s a good thing for us on Earth, because without big swings in the amount of energy reaching the planet from the sun, our climate is likewise generally quite stable. That’s allowed us to build big immobile cities and farms, with the confidence that the climate and weather will be pretty consistent in those areas. It’s allowed human civilization to develop over the past 10,000 years. Though with human-caused global warming in the process of destabilizing the climate, we’re putting that civilization under serious stress.

No, the sun isn't going to save us from global warming by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consesnus-the 97%, The Guardian, July 16, 2015

Polar bears fail to adapt to lack of food in warmer Arctic

Polar bears are unable to adapt their behaviour to cope with the food losses associated with warmer summers in the Arctic.

Scientists had believed that the animals would enter a type of 'walking hibernation' when deprived of prey.

But new research says that that bears simply starve in hotter conditions when food is scarce.

The authors say that the implications for the survival of the species in a warmer world are grim.

Polar bears fail to adapt to lack of food in warmer Arctic by Matt McGrath, BBC News, July 16, 2015

‘Rude’ and ‘touchy’ climate sceptics losing UK battle, says Lord Deben

The head of the UK’s independent climate change watchdog has dismissed suggestions the recent bonfire of green regulations is a sign the government is adopting a more sceptical stance on global warming.

This month’s budget saw taxes on clean energy hiked, purse strings for fossil fuels relaxed, incentives for cleaner cars weakened and a move to privatise the country’s flagship Green Investment Bank.

Lord Deben told RTCC he was assured chancellor George Osborne “gets it” on climate change, arguing it was “not unreasonable” to review taxes designed to promote low carbon energy.

‘Rude’ and ‘touchy’ climate sceptics losing UK battle, says Lord Deben by Ed King, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), July 17, 2015

Texas' climate stubbornness takes an increasingly big toll

The Texas flooding in May that pulled houses off foundations and swamped city streets provided a glimpse of what scientists have long warned could be its new norm because of global warming. But it did nothing to sway the state's politicians, who have done next to nothing to adjust to a climate that is already bringing more damaging extreme weather.

Scientist have warned for years that Texas will suffer from longer and hotter periods of drought punctuated by heavier, more damaging rainfall as the world warms from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Add sea level rise along its coasts, and the state is one of the most vulnerable in the U.S. to the effects of climate change, alongside Florida, Louisiana and the mid-Atlantic region, according to climate scientists.

Amid signs that this pattern of weather extremes may already be starting to take hold, Texas leaders—largely conservative Republicans—have ignored calls from scientists, urban planning experts and environmental leaders to adopt policies to address it. And homeowners continue to rebuild homes right back in the areas hardest hit by those extremes.

Texas' Climate Stubbornness Takes an Increasingly Big Toll by Katerine Bagley, InsideClimate News, July 15, 2015

The climate crisis is starting to create a global consciousness shift

When an assassin killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, no one called it the start of the First World War. That happened years later, after the implications, consequences and scale of the response could be assessed. It's often the way. That's why historians are important; they put events in context.

Similarly, I doubt anyone knew how our world would change after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their first computer in Jobs' parents' garage in 1975.

In 1988, when climate scientist James Hansen testified in Washington that human-caused global warming was kicking in, people might have been excused for failing to grasp the significance of his early warning. But there's no excuse for humanity's subsequent dismissal and denial of the reality of his statements and the deliberate, aggressive opposition to any action to reduce the threat. 

The climate crisis is starting to create a global consciousness shift Op-ed by David Suzuzki, Common Dreams, July 17, 2015

The troubling reason why Greenland may melt faster than expected

Over many years, glaciers helped form Greenland’s fjords, those narrow and deep inlets in the sea that are often surrounded by steep cliffs and serve as exit routes for the vast ice sheet’s sea-terminating outlet glaciers.

And, according to new research, fjords in West Greenland are much deeper than previously thought. That means the world’s sea levels could rise faster than anticipated, because those outlet glaciers are more exposed to warm water. The findings have been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

The shape and depth of fjords have big implications for the ice sheet, which has been melting both from the top and the bottom and contains 20 feet of potential sea level rise in total. Warm air erodes ice above the water, but warmer waters — which reside at deep levels in some parts of the polar regions — undercut glaciers and melt ice from below. “As they melt faster, they can slide out to sea,” said Eric Rignot, leader researcher and a glaciologist at the University of California at Irvine.

The troubling reason why Greenland may melt faster than expected by Elahe Izadi, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, July 17, 2015

Why are big EU polluters moaning about carbon leakage?

The idea of putting a price on carbon has influential backers, notably the World Bank.

It makes polluters pay for climate damage, cuts emissions and gives a boost to low carbon investment.

Here’s the rub: businesses will lobby like mad against anything that puts their costs up.

More to the point, if there is a price on carbon in one jurisdiction but not another, manufacturers threaten to leave, taking jobs with them.

It is fear of such a flight of industry – known as “carbon leakage” – holding back the EU from tighter carbon market rules.

But is that fear justified? If so, what is the best way to deal with it? And how can others learn from the EU experience?

Why are big EU polluters moaning about carbon leakage?  by Megan Darby, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), July 17, 2015

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