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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #31D

Posted on 2 August 2015 by John Hartz

Climate models are even more accurate than you thought

Global climate models aren’t given nearly enough credit for their accurate global temperature change projections. As the 2014 IPCC report showed, observed global surface temperature changes have been within the range of climate model simulations.

Now a new study shows that the models were even more accurate than previously thought. In previous evaluations like the one done by the IPCC, climate model simulations of global surface air temperature were compared to global surface temperature observational records like HadCRUT4. However, over the oceans, HadCRUT4 uses sea surface temperatures rather than air temperatures.

Climate models are even more accurate than you thought by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, July 31, 2015

Drought stunts tree growth for four years, study says

Trees could take up to four years to return to normal growth rates in the aftermath of a severe drought, a new study finds. 

With the frequency and severity of droughts likely to increase with climate change, we might not be able to rely on forests to absorb as much of our carbon emissions, the researchers say.

Drought stunts tree growth for four years, study says by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, July 30, 2015

Firefighter dies battling blaze as Gov. Brown declares state of emergency

 Nearly 20 major wildfires raged across California on Saturday, forcing thousands to evacuate under smoke-darkened summer skies as firefighters struggled with an ominous drought-fueled fire season.

The dry conditions proved to be deadly on Friday. Officials announced that a U.S Forest Service firefighter, David Ruhl of Rapid City, S.D., died while battling the Frog Fire, an 800-acre blaze burning in far Northern California about 100 miles east of Mount Shasta.

“This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” said Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams. “Please keep the family and all of our Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

The fires prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency Friday, which will free up additional firefighters and disaster response resources to combat the growing crisis.

Firefighter dies battling blaze as Gov. Brown declares state of emergency by Kurtis Alexander, Henry K. Lee and Hamed Aleaziz, SFGate, Aug 1, 2015

GOP leaders shift subtly on warming as Democrats talk boldly

It's not the seismic shift environmentalists hope to see one day, but there is evidence that a few Republicans both on and off the campaign trail are searching for a new language on climate change. GOP presidential contenders who hope to capture their party's moderate votes in the primaries — notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — have made statements acknowledging the man-made climate change that voters, according to polls, believe is occurring.

In Bush's case, his "concern" was tempered by an even stronger concern for coal industry jobs, as he told a New Hampshire forum in April (ClimateWire, April 20). Graham has a longer history on climate change but shied away from talking about it for years after the carbon legislation he contributed to collapsed in 2010. Now he's back promising to "address climate change, CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way."

And not all of the messaging revisions are emanating from the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

GOP leaders shift subtly on warming as Democrats talk boldly by Jean Chemnick and Geof Koss, E&E Daily, July 30, 2015

How battery-powered homes are unplugging Australia

While the much-hyped Powerwall home battery system from Californian electric car pioneer Tesla Motors won't be available locally until 2016, lithium-ion batteries have been on offer to Australian homes and businesses for the last year or so.

High-tech, adaptable and controllable and typically the size of a small fridge, these systems have left clumsy and ugly lead acid batteries far behind.

Less than a week after the soft launch of the sleek Powerwall and larger Powerpack batteries in late April, Tesla was said to have sold out until mid-2016 after about $US800 million of orders for some 55,000 Powerwalls and 25,000 commercial units.

In Australia, the 1.4 million homes with rooftop solar panels are the battleground for battery providers and retailers. 

How battery-powered homes are unplugging Australia by Angela Macdonald-Smith, Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 1, 2015

How cleaner cow burps could help fight climate change

First, let’s get one thing straight. Despite what you may have heard, it is cow burps, not cow farts, that are the real climate change problem.

Here’s how it works: Cows digest their food in four-part stomachs, including a “rumen,” which is a site that allows for fermentation — a process that gives off a lot of carbon dioxide and methane gas, as microorganisms aid in the process of digestion. That gas has to get out of the cow’s body somehow — hence, burps. “Approximately 132 to 264 gallons of ruminal gas produced by fermentation are belched each day,” notes the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

And because we have so many cows — where would human civilization be without them? — this really adds up. Indeed, according to the EPA, so-called “enteric fermentation” in cows and other ruminant animals, like sheep and goats, contributed 26 percent of the country’s total emissions of methane, a hard-hitting greenhouse gas with much greater short term warming consequences than carbon dioxide does (though the latter packs a far greater long-term punch).

How cleaner cow burps could help fight climate change by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, July 31, 2015

This app shows how climate change is affecting the world around you

You’ve heard about what climate change is doing the arctic and to the sea levels around the world. But sometimes it can be hard to understand what’s happening in your own backyard. A new app called Field Notes shows you just that.

The free app, manufactured by tech mapping company Esri, is part of a broader effort by the company to put data about people, climate and geography at your fingertips.

This app shows how climate change is affecting the world around you by Justin Worland, Time, July 30, 2015 

U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda under fire

The U.N.’s highly ambitious post-2015 development agenda, which is expected to be finalised shortly, has come fire even before it could get off the ground.

A global network of civil society organisations (CSOs), under the banner United Nations Major Groups (UNMG), has warned that the agenda, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “lacks urgency, a clear implementation strategy and accountability.”

U.N.’s Post-2015 Development Agenda Under Fire Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service (iPS), July 29, 2015

What changes to expect from Obama's final Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will unveil as soon as Monday the final version of a sweeping - and controversial - regulation to cut carbon emissions from the electricity sector.

In its initial version, the Clean Power Plan called for cutting the country's power plant emissions 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, setting different targets for each state.

The proposal is the signature piece of President Barack Obama's climate change policy. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said this week that the final rule will be "stronger in many ways than the proposed rule."

What changes to expect from Obama's final Clean Power Plan by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, July 31, 2015

Will the "War on Science" in Canada become an election issue?

The number of anti-science decisions the federal government has made in recent years is staggering: axing the long-form census, trying to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area, sending media relations personnel to accompany scientists at international conferences.

There are so many mindboggling instances, in fact, that the non-profit organization Evidence for Democracy has decided to create an interactive website to chronicle them all.

Even for those of us who are following the issue closely, it’s still hard to keep track of it all,” says executive director Katie Gibbs.

We were a little worried that if people hadn’t been following this from the get-go, they might think it’s just too complex or overwhelming of an issue to learn about this late in the game. We wanted this site to really be that entry point for people who haven’t been following it all along and see what has happened and why it matters.” 

Will the War on Science Become an Election Issue? by James Wilt, DeSmog Canada, July 31, 2015 

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  1. For anyone interested: here's another set of climate info and links for this week from Mary Ellen Harte at Huffington Post.  

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