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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #2B

Posted on 10 January 2015 by John Hartz

Brazil’s former Sports Minister is moved to science post despite rejection of global warming science

For the president in any democracy, compromises are often necessary in assembling a cabinet that satisfies a range of constituencies. But even with that in mind, it’s really hard to understand how President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, who has repeatedly pressed for strong global action to curb climate change, could possibly justify her choice of Aldo Rebelo as her new minister of science, technology and innovation.

It’s unfortunate that Rebelo has no scientific background and probably didn’t absorb many relevant insights in the position he held since 2011 — minister of sports. But that’s a minor issue compared to his attacks on even the most basicestablished aspects of science pointing to human-driven global warming.

To get a feel for his views, which put the longtime Communist Party legislator in line with Tea Party talking points, start with the blistering critique of the appointment by Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund, who’s been immersed in Brazilian environmental and forest science and politics for decades.  

Brazil’s Former Sports Minister is Moved to Science Post Despite Rejection of Global Warming Science by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Jan 7, 2015

Clean energy investment jumps 16%, shaking off oil’s drop

Clean energy investment rose for the first time in three years in 2014, overcoming a slump in oil prices that unsettled the outlook for the industry.

New funds for wind, solar, biofuels and other low-carbon energy technologies gained 16 percent to $310 billion last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It was the first growth since 2011, erasing the impact of lower solar-panel prices and falling subsides in the U.S. and Europe that hurt the industry in previous years.

Clean Energy Investment Jumps 16%, Shaking Off Oil’s Drop by Louise Downing, Bloomberg News, Jan 9, 2015

Climate change: Why some of us won't believe it's getting hotter

What is it about the temperature that some of us find so hard to accept?

The year just ended was one of the hottest on record. In NSW it was the absolute hottest, in Victoria the second-hottest, and in Australia the third hottest.

But that's not the way many Australians see it. I posted the Bureau of Meteorology's findings on Twitter on Tuesday and was told: "Not really". Apparently, "climate-wise we are in pretty good shape".

Climate change: Why some of us won't believe it's getting hotter by Peter MArtin, Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 11, 2015

EPA Chief: Weather, climate scientists’ work is ‘essential’

As the sun slowly crept above the desert horizon Wednesday morning, the unmistakable Boston accent of EPA administrator Gina McCarthy jolted to life a room of scientists gathered here for the annual meeting of theAmerican Meteorological Society.

“Are you awake?” she asked, prompting a round a laughter that set the tone for her spirited talk and answers to AMS president William Gail's questions about the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules that would require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants run by fossil fuels.

EPA Chief: Weather, Climate Scientists’ Work Is ‘Essential’ by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Common Dreams, Jan 9, 2015

Four reasons to worry about global warming: Beyond scientific consensus

Yesterday I was struck by a Forbes headline, ‘97% Of Climate Scientists Agree’ Is 100% Wrong. The post questions the wayAustralian science popularizer John Cook arrived at this often-quoted number to illustrate the scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global warming.

I agree with one statement in the post, which is the premise that in science, “logic and explanation” trump scientific opinion. I would have said logic and evidence, but that’s close enough. And yet, the piece focuses primarily on the derivation of the 97% statistic, rather than on the “logic and explanation” behind the concern over human-generated global warming and the widespread fear among scientists that global warming will indeed prove dangerous and costly. I decided to expand on this post by giving some climate scientists a chance weigh in.

Four Reasons To Worry About Global Warming: Beyond Scientific Consensus by Faye Flam, Forbes, Jan 9, 201

Fracking breaks the CO2 budget

The Obama administration is prepared to directly regulate methane leaks from the oil and natural gas industry, and may do so soon. But as we explained in a previous blog, directly regulating methane from the industry greenwashes the climate impacts of widespread and intensive drilling and fracking for natural gas. That’s because, just looking at carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, almost all of the natural gas has to stay underground, unburned, to stay within a CObudget that would avoid dangerous climate changes. 

In terms of climate impact, methane emissions from the natural gas industry largely, if not totally, offset reductions in carbon dioxide from using natural gas instead of coal, gasoline, diesel or heating oils. More methane is leaking than regulators estimate, and pound-for-pound, each puff of methane from the industry is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over 20 years, and 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over 100 years. The conservative estimate from atmospheric measurements (not from inventorying) is that U.S. natural gas leakage in 2010, averaged over the country that year, amounted to over three percent of total 2010 production.

The Obama administration and many environmental organizations are making waves to reduce this leakage, but setting aside the effectiveness of any new rules, consider that in terms of CO2 alone, burning all the natural gas unleashed by fracking breaks the CObudget.

Fracking Breaks the CO2 Budget by Hugh MacMillan, Food  & Water Watch, Jan 6, 2015

Giant deep-sea wave in Tasman Sea could help improve climate predictions

A giant underwater current off Tasmania is to be investigated by scientists in order to help improve climate predictions.

It’s known to scientists as a sub-surface wave, and its impact on the global climate and marine ecosystem is significant, Hobart-based biological oceanographer Peter Strutton says.

“The waves that happen deep in the ocean can be really large: 100m or more,” the University of Tasmania associate professor told reporters.

“And the middle of the Tasman Sea is a global hotspot with its strong tides and ridge along the sea floor, like a mountain ridge.”

Giant deep-sea wave in Tasman Sea could help improve climate predictions, Australian Associated Press/The Guardian, Jan 7, 2015

Integrated farming: The only way to survive a rising sea

When the gentle clucking grows louder, 50-year-old Sukomal Mandal calls out to his wife, who is busy grinding ingredients for a fish curry. She gets up to thrust leafy green stalks through the netting of a coop and two-dozen shiny hens rush forward for lunch.

In the Sundarbans, where the sea is slowly swallowing up the land, Mandal’s half-hectare farm is an oasis of prosperity.

The elderly couple resides in the Biswanathpur village located in what has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site: a massive tidal mangrove forest covering some 10,000 km in the vast Bay of Bengal delta, stretching between India and Bangladesh.

Integrated Farming: The Only Way to Survive a Rising Sea by Manipadma Jena, Inter PRess Service (IPS), Jan 8, 2015

Oil sands must remain largely unexploited to meet climate target

As U.S. President Barack Obama and a Republican-led Congress spar over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a new analysis of worldwide fossil-fuel reserves suggests that most of the Alberta oil the pipeline is meant to carry would need to remain in the ground if nations are to meet the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, does not single out the Alberta oil sands for special scrutiny, but rather considers the geographic distribution of the world’s total fossil fuel supply, including oil, coal and natural gas reserves, and their potential impact on international efforts to curb global warming. 

Oil sands must remain largely unexploited to meet climate target by Ivan Semeniuk, The Globe ad Mail, Jan 7, 2015

Pakistan's coastal villagers retreat as seas gobble land

For fisherman Sammar Dablo, it was as if "the seawater stole our homes" when land erosion forced his village to relocate further inland on Pakistan's south coast.

The people of the fan-shaped Indus Delta, where the Indus River meets the Arabian Sea, are among the poorest of the poor, mostly illiterate and living in wooden shacks on the mud flats.

As seawater has washed into the delta, destroying thousands of hectares of fertile land and contaminating underground water channels, they survive by fishing in the saltwater creeks where dolphins are a common sight.

Pakistan's coastal villagers retreat as seas gobble land by Rina Saeed Khan, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Jan 9, 2015

Pope's Asia trip to address poverty, dialogue, climate change

Pope Francis returns to Asia for the second time in less than six months, traveling to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in coming days to underscore his concern for inter-religious dialogue, poverty and the environment.

Security will be a main issue in both countries, particularly in the Philippines, Asia's only majority Catholic country, where up to six million people are expected to attend an outdoor Mass on Jan. 18.

Up to 40,000 police, troops and reservists will take part in what military chief General Gregorio Catapang has called the country's biggest ever security operation.

Pope's Asia trip to address poverty, dialogue, climate change by Shihar Aneez and Philip Pullella, Reuters, Jan 10, 2015

Showdown between Obama and Congress over Keystone XL accelerates after court ruling

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Keystone XL pipeline's route through the state—removing the last obstacle barring President Barack Obama from making his long-awaited decision on whether or not to approve the project.

The court ruled against landowners who had challenged the constitutionality of a 2012 state law that gave the governor unilateral authority to approve pipelines and the use of eminent domain—a power previously held by the state's Public Service Commission. A majority of judges—four out of seven—ruled with the landowners that the law was unconstitutional. However, a supermajority of five judges is needed to overturn legislation in Nebraska. Therefore, "the legislation must stand by default," the ruling stated..

Showdown Between Obama and Congress Over Keystone XL Accelerates After Court Ruling by Katerine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Jan 9, 2015

Stanford professors urge withdrawal from fossil fuel investments

Three hundred professors at Stanford, including Nobel laureates and this year’s Fields medal winner, are calling on the university to rid itself of all fossil fuel investments, in a sign that the campus divestment movement is gathering force.

In a letter to Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, and the board of trustees, made available exclusively to the Guardian, the faculty members call on the university to recognise the urgency of climate change and divest from all oil, coal and gas companies.

Stanford, which controls a $21.4bn (£14.2bn) endowment, eliminated direct investments in coalmining companies last May, making it the most prominent university to cut its ties to the industries that cause climate change. Months later, however, the university invested in three oil and gas companies.

Stanford professors urge withdrawal from fossil fuel investments by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Jan 11, 2015

Top global warming skeptic explains global warming

This is serious. A highly regarded and widely recognized planetery physicist put together the most dangerous scientific ingredients that exist: skepticism of the established science, a comprehensive list of hypotheses that stood in opposition to that established science, a huge amount of data, a healthy amount of funding including a good chunk from energy companies that mainly sell fossil carbon based fuels, and a hand selected research team of others who were also skeptics.

In the end, he came up with an explanation for what people call Global Warming. Personally, I believe him. I think he has it right. Whatever you were thinking as the cause of global warming, you have to look at this work and if you have not come to the same conclusion, you should reconsider.

Here’s an interview which includes an explanation of the whole process.

Top Global Warming Skeptic Explains Global Warming, Greg Laden's Blog, Jan 10, 2015

Unusual number of UK flowers bloom

They say according to textbooks there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom.

It raises further questions about the effects of climate change during the UK’s warmest year on record.

“This is extraordinary,” said Tim Rich, who started the New Year’s plant hunt for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

“Fifty years ago people looking for plants in flower at the start of the year found 20 species. This year the total has amazed us – we are stunned.

“During the holiday I drove along the A34 south of Newbury and saw half a mile of gorse in flower when gorse is supposed to flower in April and May. It’s bizarre.”

“We are now in our fourth mild winter. Normally flowers get frosted off by Christmas but this year it hasn’t happened.”

Unusual number of UK flowers bloom by Roger Harrabin, BBC News, Jan 9, 2015

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. Aldo Rebelo, Brazil's new minister of science, technology and innovation, sounds like he's channeling fellow old-school Marxist Martin Durkin, producer of the infamous The Great Global Warming Swindle. Can't have the glorious worker and peasant proletariat..., I mean humanity blamed for global warming, can we.

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