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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #31A

Posted on 28 July 2015 by John Hartz

40 percent of adults on Earth have never heard of climate change

A major concern for climate activists is figuring out what drives the public’s beliefs about climate change. This information can help scientists better engage with the public and help activists understand what factors are likely to make people take climate change seriously as a threat.

Until now, most research into public attitudes on climate change have focused on Western nations, like the United States, Europe and Australia, leaving scientists with little knowledge of how much awareness there is about climate change in other parts of the world and how people feel about it. But a new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, provides a more inclusive look at the issue, giving scientists greater insight into what factors are most likely to make people care about climate change — if they know it’s happening at all.

The study focused on two major questions: what factors most influence whether a person is aware of climate change and, for those that know it’s happening, what factors influence how big of a risk that person thinks it poses. The researchers found that, worldwide, education is the biggest predictor of climate change awareness. Major factors that affected a person’s risk perception included understanding that climate change is caused by humans — this was especially true in the Americas and Europe — and noticing local changes in temperature, a particularly high indicator in many countries in Africa and Asia.

40 percent of adults on Earth have never heard of climate change by Chelsea Harvey, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, July 27, 2015

Alaska’s terrifying wildfire season and what it says about climate change

Hundreds of wildfires are continually whipping across this state this summer, leaving in their wake millions of acres of charred trees and blackened earth.

At the Fairbanks compound of the state’s Division of Forestry recently, workers were busy washing a mountain of soot-covered fire hoses, which stood in piles roughly six feet high and 100 feet long. About 3,500 smokejumpers, hotshot crews, helicopter teams and other workers have traveled to Alaska this year from across the country and Canada. And they have collectively deployed about 830 miles of hose this year to fight fires.

An hour north of the state’s second-biggest city, firefighters were attacking flames stretching across more than 31,000 acres, including an area close to the Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which stretches from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. And that’s just one of about 300 fires at any given time.

Alaska’s terrifying wildfire season and what it says about climate change by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Wahsington Post, July 26, 2015

Clark and Harper know forest fires linked to climate change. Why won't they do anything about it?

B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after appearing for years to have forgotten about the environment, appear to have finally seen the light.

That’s because they both have admitted, finally, that climate change is affecting the planet. More specifically, they’ve said it’s playing a role in increasing forest fire damage.

Let's back up a bit. Premier Clark actually said on Wednesday while touring her Okanagan riding: “Climate change has altered the terrain and it’s made us much more vulnerable to fire.”

Harper, on the other hand, having for years based his recipe for political survival on making Canada an “energy superpower” (by "energy," he means oil, fracked gas, and a dash of nuclear), stumbled his way towards half-admitting what every climate scientist, and most Canadians, already know.

Standing briefly for “a controlled photo-op” in scrub forest near a blazing forest outside West Kelowna, BC, last week – dressed incongruously in a blue business suit – Harper got caught having to answer one direct question from a reporter (all other questions were disallowed).

He was queried as to whether he thought global warming was contributing to forest fire intensity.

Unable to duck the question (there were witnesses) he muttered: “I think it’s possible.” Then he left.

Clark and Harper know forest fires linked to climate change. Why won't they do anything about it? Op-ed by Warren Bell, National Obserber, July 27, 2015.

Climate change skeptics may be about to lose one of their favorite arguments

Whenever you point to melting ice in polar regions, climate change doubters or skeptics have an answer. Ice floating atop the seas around Antarctica, they point out, is growing — and that’s not what you would expect from global warming, right?

In late 2013 and early 2014, an iconic moment capturing this phenomenon occurred when a research vessel, MV Akademik Shokalskiy, actually found itself trapped in Antarctic ice, and its 52 passengers — including some scientists — had to be rescued by helicopter. Climate skeptics had a field day. “It will take far more than helicopters … to salvage the theory of so-called ‘global warming,’” wrote Deroy Murdock. “It remains trapped in Antarctic ice.”

There’s no doubt that growing Antarctic sea ice is a mystery in the climate system — and an anomalous, seemingly contrary indicator. However, if a controversial and much-discussed new paper from famed former NASA scientist James Hansen and 16 colleagues is correct, then actually it could be a troubling climate warning sign. (Indeed, other scientists have reached similar conclusions.)

Climate change skeptics may be about to lose one of their favorite arguments by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Wahsington Post, July 27, 2015

Green cuts risk sending UK back to the dark ages

The government’s U-turn on renewable energy risks sending this country back to the dark ages of relying only on fossil fuel.

Since the election we have seen a slashing of subsidies for biomass, anaerobic digestion and biogas as well as solar and wind.

This will make very little difference to household bills but will impact heavily on energy security and in the long-term increase bills with no way back. Renewable energy can actually secure energy prices, giving security for households, whatever fossil fuel prices are.

The sudden abolition of these subsidies was, wind power aside, a massive surprise. For a business-friendly government, it is a risky message to send and one that could shake investor confidence.

Green cuts risk sending UK back to the dark ages Op-ed by Estelle Brachlianoff, The Guardian, July 27, 2015

Norway pumps up ‘Green Battery’ plan for Europe

Norway is hoping to become the “green battery of Europe” by using its hydropower plants to provide instant extra electricity if production from wind and solar power sources in other countries fade.

Without building any new power stations, engineers believe they could use the existing network to instantly boost European supplies and avoid other countries having to switch on fossil fuel plants to make up shortfalls.

Norway has 937 hydropower plants, which provide 96% of its electricity, making it the sixth largest hydropower producer in the world—despite having a population of only five million.

Europe already has 400 million people in 24 countries connected to a single grid, with power surpluses from one country being exported to neighbours or imported as national needs change.

Norway pumps up ‘Green Battery’ plan for Europe by Paul Brown, Climate News Network/Truthdig, July 27, 2015

People power: the missing piece in UN Sustainable Development Goals

On July 24, President Barack Obama will make his first trip as president to his paternal homeland of Kenya, and then on to Ethiopia. While security is sure to dominate the agenda, hopefully he can spare more than a few moments to talk sustainable development.

Just weeks after Obama comes home, the world’s leaders are set to adopt the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global compact for “people, planet and prosperity.”

But there’s a problem: as now drafted, these goals contain virtually no role for people. Surely our organizer-in-chief can do something to return our world’s most precious resource – people – to the center of development.

In today’s society – in which billions are connected to the world through mobile phones and millions have marched for justice from Cairo to Kiev, New York to New Delhi – world leaders need to step up to the reality that citizens demand a place at the table.

People power: the missing piece in UN Sustainable Development Goals by Randall Kuhn, The Conversation US, July 24, 2015,

Scientists identify 'triple threat' endangering US coastal cities

A trio of phenomena attributed at least in part to climate change—sea-level rise, storm surges, and heavy rainfall—poses an increasing risk to residents of major U.S. cities including Boston, New York, Houston, San Diego, and San Francisco, according to new research published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Call it a triple threat," Steven Meyers, a scientist at the University of South Florida and one of the paper's authors, told the Guardian.

Using historical data on rainfall, tide gauge readings, and extreme weather occurrences, the scientists explored the combined risks that endanger broad stretches of the U.S. coasts. Specifically, they looked at scenarios in which heavy rainfall combines with so-called "storm surges"—the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm—to create "compound flooding."

Scientists identify 'triple threat' endangering US coastal cities by Dierdre Fulton, Common Dreams, July 27, 2015

The Daily Mail and Telegraph get it wrong on Arctic sea ice, again

Cherry-picking is one of the five telltale techniques of climate change denial. By focusing on short-term blips in noisy data, those who want to maintain the status quo can distract from the long-term threats posed by climate change. Climate contrarians most frequently deploy this strategy using global temperature and Arctic sea ice data.

A recent study in Nature Geoscience concluded that, not surprisingly, there is a strong relationship between the summer temperatures in the Arctic (specifically the number of “melting degree days”), and the amount of sea ice that melts in a given year. 2013 happened to be a relatively cool year in the Arctic – the coolest since 2004. As a result, there was relatively little ice melt in 2013. The annual minimum Arctic sea ice extent and volume were their largest since at least 2009, or perhaps as far back as 2005, according to the data used in this new study.

The following figure from the paper is as clear as ice – while there was a short-term increase from 2012 to 2013, the Arctic has lost more than half its sea ice over the past three decades.

The Daily Mail and Telegraph get it wrong on Arctic sea ice, again by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, July 27, 2015

The most (and least) extreme Republican presidential candidates on climate change

The GOP field is (almost) complete, after Ohio Governor John Kasich became the 17th major candidate to announce his presidential run this week. This means we can draw some conclusions about the opponent the eventual Democratic nominee will be facing in the general election.

It’s an extremely safe bet that the Republican nominee will not take more action to confront climate change than President Obama has. The question is more how much of the president’s climate agenda the nominee would reverse, repeal, or ignore.

The next president will have a lot on his or her plate — implementing or rolling back the Clean Air Act’s provisions to regulate carbon pollution; defying or leading the world in carrying out an expected U.N. climate agreement; committing the United States to low-carbon energy or doubling down on fossil fuels. Pope Francis just told the world through the Vatican’s latest encyclical that climate change is happening, caused by humans, and requires “urgent” policy. The train is slowly accelerating down the tracks, and the person who takes over in 2017 can decide whether to speed it along, slow it down, or throw the engine dramatically into reverse.

The Most (And Least) Extreme Republican Presidential Candidates On Climate Change by Ryan Koronowski. Climate Progress, July 26, 2015


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