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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #3A

Posted on 13 January 2015 by John Hartz

2015 begins with CO2 above 400 PPM mark

The new year has only just begun, but we’ve already recorded our first days with average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million, potentially leading to many months in a row above this threshold, experts say.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography records of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels show that Jan. 1 was the first day of the new year above that concentration, followed by Jan. 3 and Jan. 7. Daily averages have continued at this level or higher through Jan. 9, though they could continue to dance up and down around that mark due to day-to-day variations caused by weather systems. But even with those fluctuations, 2015 will likely see many months above 400 ppm, possibly starting with the very first month of the year.

“My guess at this point is that January 2015 will be very slightly above 400 ppm, but it's too early to tell for sure,” Ralph Keeling, the scientist in charge of the CO2 monitoring project atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, said in an email. Keeling’s father, Charles, began the project in 1958. The graph that shows the decades-long rise in CO2 is eponymously called the Keeling Curve.

2015 Begins With CO2 Above 400 PPM Mark by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Jan 12, 2015

China vulnerable to climate change

China will face rising temperatures and more extreme weather conditions such as large-scale drought and flooding this year, and sea levels will continue to rise due to the impact of climatechange, according to a new report.

Temperatures will rise by 1.3 C to 5 C by the end of this century, according to the third China national assessment report on climate change released on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, in December.

"Climate change has both positive and negative impacts on China, but overall it does more harm than good," says Liu Yanhua, counselor of the State Council.

China vulnerable to climate change by Lan Lan, China Daily, Jan 12, 2015

Climate change takes a village

It's a Wednesday morning in late August, the first day of classes at the Shishmaref School. The doors of the pale blue building haven't opened yet, and the new principal is hurriedly buttering toast in the kitchen for the students’ breakfasts. Teachers are scrambling to make last-minute adjustments to their classrooms, while anxious kids, ranging from pre-K students through high schoolers, wait on the porch, their jackets zipped against the chill of the early-morning air. It's all so incredibly normal, you might not know that, just a few years ago, no one thought Shishmaref would be here anymore.

The remote village of 563 people is located 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, flanked by the Chukchi Sea to the north and an inlet to the south, and it sits atop rapidly melting permafrost. In the last decades, the island's shores have been eroding into the sea, falling off in giant chunks whenever a big storm hits.

Climate Change Takes A Village by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Jan 6, 2015

Climate leadership under China's economic domination?

The International Monetary Fund declared that the GDP of China has, as expected but ahead of forecasts, surpassed the GDP of the United States. MarketWatch called it a "major economic earthquake" that will "change almost everything in the longer term."

This news has been predicted since last April, and yet it will take a while for reality to 
sink in. NPR travel commentator Rick Steves wrote an opinion piece in the Seattle Times in which he stated an assumption most of us have held our entire lives and take great pride in: "There's no question that, economically, we are firmly established on top of the world."

But so what if we're not number one? Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz writes in January's Vanity Fair that economically we might end up better off. And that China probably will not crow about its achievement — "China (does) not want to stick its head above the parapet." Wanting to be #1 is a distinctly American attitude.

Climate leadership under China's economic domination? by Carol Pierson Holding, The Huffington Post, Jan 12, 2105

For the love of carbon

It should come as no surprise that the very first move of the new Republican Senate is an attempt to push President Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support.

For the Love of Carbon, Op-ed by Paul Krugman, New York Times, Jan 11, 2015

How the U.S. and India can work together on global warming

Secretary of State John Kerry made climate change a central theme of his attendance at a major business conclave in India this weekend as other Obama administration aides worked behind the scenes to tee up clean energy deals that could be announced when President Obama visits the country later this month.

Speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit yesterday in Gandhinagar, an event that drew global investors and heads of state as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Kim, Kerry said the United States and India "can do more together, and we must do more together, and we have to do it faster."

How the U.S. and India Can Work Together on Global Warming by Lisa Friedman and ClimateWire/Scientific American, Jan 12, 2105

Ice researchers capture catastrophic Greenland melt

Over a few summer days in 2012, nearly all of the Greenland ice sheet surface thawed right under the feet of a UCLA-led team of scientists.

What was not absorbed into snow quickly gathered and flowed across the 20,000-square-mile sheet, coalescing into roaring turquoise rivers. And then most of it disappeared.

Where all that water went may seem an easy guess. But that’s just the problem with Greenland ice science — some of the guesses have been wrong, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ice researchers capture catastrophic Greenland melt by Geoffry Mohan, Los Angeles Times, Jan 12, 2105

Is the climate movement at a tipping point?

Is the climate movement at a political tipping point? Could right now, 2015, be that moment in history, be something akin to the 1964-1965 period for the civil rights movement? Those were the years that two major pieces of legislation, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, ended legal segregation in the South and opened the way for a whole series of positive social, cultural and political changes in the U.S. in the years since.

If looked at in that light, the answer is almost certainly “no.” Given the dominance of the Senate and the House by climate denier Republicans, it is extremely unrealistic to expect major national climate legislation until 2017 at the earliest.

However, there are other things at work, three in particular:

Is the Climate Movement at a Tipping Point? by Ted Glick, EcoWatch, Jan 12, 2015

Losing Streak Continues for U.S. Coal Export Terminals

The U.S. coal export industry continued its losing streak as 2014 ended and 2015 began. A coal terminal project in Louisiana lost its permit in state court, and one in Washington ran into a stiff legal challenge. Last month, the company behind several other planned terminals sold its remaining projects to a high-risk investment firm at a major loss.

The developments continue a string of victories for environment groups fighting the export of coal to developing economies such as China. Of 15 proposals to build major new coal export facilities across the U.S., all but four have been defeated or canceled within the past two years. And only a few existing facilities have won approval to expand.

"This is an ugly, ugly time for coal exports," said Clark Williams Derry, research director for the Seattle-based Sightline Institute, a nonprofit think tank that promotes sustainable policies for the Pacific Northwest.

Losing streak continues for U.S. coal export terminals by Katherine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Jan 12, 2105

Moderate Republicans believe in climate change. There just aren’t many moderate Republicans.

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication debuted a new study on Monday detailing what different factions of the Republican Party think about climate change. Their conclusion ?

"Republican voters are actually split in their views about climate change. A look at public opinion among Republicans over the past few years finds a more complex — and divided — Republican electorate."

Strong majorities of liberal and moderate Republicans think global warming is happening, while majorities of conservative Republicans and tea party Republicans disagree.

Moderate Republicans believe in climate change. There just aren’t many moderate Republicans. by Jaime Fuller, The Fix, Washington Post. Jan 12, 2015

NASA’s year of climate change research kicks off, with a little help from Washington companies

NASA has its head in the clouds this year. Literally.

The space agency is kicking off five global projects designed to study how the earth’s atmosphere influences climate change.

One of those projects is a study of greenhouse gases over the eastern part of the United States, with a little help from Washington-area contractors.

Scientists think they understand what causes the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, but they know little about the movement of these gases in the earth’s atmosphere, said Amin Nehrir, a research and instrument scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The basic aim of the project, a collaboration between Langley and a team led by Kenneth Davis, a Penn State University professor, is to track their flow.

NASA’s year of climate change research kicks off, with a little help from Washington companies by Amrita Jayakumar, Washington Post, Jan 11, 2014

Pope Francis says no to fracking

We’ve been busy lately providing news on all the great ways Pope Francis is working to create a healthy, sustainable planet. In July 2014, Pope Francis called destruction of nature a modern sin. In November 2014, Pope Francis said “unbridled consumerism” is destroying our planetand we are “stewards, not masters” of the Earth. In December 2014, he said he will increase his call this year to address climate change. And, last week we announced that Pope Francis is opening his Vatican farm to the public.

Now, we learn from Nicolás Fedor Sulcic that Pope Francis is supportive of the anti-fracking movement. Watch this interview by Fernando Solanas where he met with Pope Francis soon after finishing a film about fracking in Argentina.

Pope Francis Says No to Fracking by Stefanie Spear, EcoWatch, Jan 12, 2105

Social cost of climate change too low

The economic damage caused by a ton of CO2 emissions-often referred to as the "social cost of carbon-could actually be six times higher than the value that the United States uses to guide current energy regulations, and possibly future mitigation policies, Stanford scientists say.

A recent U.S. government study concluded, based on the results of three widely used economic impact models, that an additional ton of CO2 emitted in 2015 would cause US$37 worth of economic damages. These damages are expected to take various forms, including decreased agricultural yields and harm to human health related to .

But according to a new study, published online this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, the actual cost could be much higher. "We estimate that the social cost of carbon is not $37, as previously estimated, but $220," said study coauthor Frances Moore, a PhD candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources in Stanford's School of Earth Sciences.

Social cost of climate change too low, scientists,, Jan 12, 2015

The U.S. and India keep pushing toward a climate deal

Preparations are well underway for President Obama’s visit to India later this month. New Delhi is emptying the cattle from its streets. The U.S. Secret Service is installing anti-aircraft guns on the city’s rooftops. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry just made a visit himself to lay the groundwork for some big announcements — most notably on climate change.

Officials in the U.S. delegation traveling with Kerry told the Associated Press that there could soon be news about a solar energy deal, a joint effort to bring electricity to the country’s rural areas, and, possibly, a carbon-reduction pact, hinted about for months, that Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would both sign.

The possibility of a climate deal between the U.S. and India, the world’s third largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases, is inviting comparisons to the big U.S.-China announcement late last year. It’s unlikely, however, that we can expect anything so far-reaching; India has repeatedly reminded the world that its people are very poor, and argued that it therefore deserves some leeway on the whole emission-reduction thing. The country points out that even as its emissions continue to grow (see graph on the left below), its per-capita emissions are well below the world average (see graph on the right).

The U.S. and India keep pushing toward a climate deal by John Light, Grist, Jan 12, 2015

Will Gadd: 'We were climbing ice that isn’t going to be there next week'

When explorer Will Gadd set out to climb ice on every continent in the world 10 years ago, he assumed he would have plenty of time to accomplish his goal. With only Africa and Antarctica left on his to-climb list, however, the professional free climber and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year recently discovered that he would have to act sooner than he thought.

“I’d seen pictures of the ice on Kilimanjaro — and there are other peaks in Africa that have ice too — and I thought ‘I’ll get around to that one day, glaciers are there forever, they don’t go away,’” he said. “It didn’t really hit me until I started reading research papers on Africa, and one of them said the ice on Kilimanjaro could be gone in as little as five years.”

Arriving at the peak of the tallest mountain in Africa last October, Gadd could hardly believe that the massive ice structures he’d seen in recent pictures were the same as the small frozen formations that greeted him.

Will Gadd: 'We were climbing ice that isn’t going to be there next week' by Jared Lindzon, The Guardian, Jan 13, 2015

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Comments 1 to 13:

  1. Ralph Keeling could have been more precise about 400 milestone on his curve (inherited from Charles). Notably, that the mean value (running average - second last column on this data) is just about to reach 400 (between Jan & Feb 2015). So, we can now officially say that MaunaLoa has breached 400, biosphere breathing cycles not withstanding.

    It follows that at least next 1/2y (until and including July 2015) will be above 400. Aug 2015 may yet drop below 400 as the last august in history. With the d-ppm rate of 2.1/y, we will witness Sept 2016 being the last month at or just a fraction below 400 (see this picture). Thereafter, 399.99 number is just a history never to return (for us, mortals). So, if you visit Hawai this or next northern winter, you still have  a chance to get an ampule of "pre-Anthropocene air" (they are likely to define 400 limit as symbolic separation of Anthropocene from past Holocene), it's going to have big collector's value.

    Ralph of course knows those numbers and trends better than I do.

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  2. It seems that the first child will be born shortly who will never experience a C02 level below 400ppm during its lifetime. Perhaps deniers might like to predict when the first newborn who will live its life below that level might arrive.

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  3. localis @2.

    Shortly? Down in Antarctica CO2 it will take possibly four years to reach 400ppm. As of December 2013 readings were 393.9ppm. There isn't much of a seasonal cycle down there like in the Nothern hemisphere. At MLO the last readings below 400ppm will almost certainly be in the Autumn of 2016 with just an outside chance that no 2016 monthly averages drop back below 400ppm. Globally averaged CO2 runs about a year behind MLO.

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  4. MA Rodger, last I checked there aren't a lot of babies born in Antarctica. :]

    Thus, I think localis's statement is fairly safe. Sure, there will be parts of the planet which are still below 400 ppm, but chances are that there will be plenty of kids who never visit any of those places. Heck, when we consider the unfortunate reality of infant mortality, it's virtually certain that the first kid who will never breathe air with less than 400 ppm CO2 has already been born. As you note, we're still a handful of years away from every kid being in that situation, but the first has already come and gone.

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  5. CBDunkerson @4.

    Since 1978, there has now been 10 children born in Antarctica according to Wiki.

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  6. CBDunkerson @4, I refer you to Cape Grim, Tasmania where at last report the CO2 level was 396 ppmv, will not rise above 400 ppmv till late this year at the earliest, and likely not till 2016.  Plenty of people born in Tasmania.  Indeed, based on the NOAA CO2 Movie (up to date to January 2014, but it is the latitudinal pattern that is important), even at Brisbane 400 ppmv will not be reliably exceeded till next year.

    Localis has jumped the gun, slightly.  When the South Pole hits 400 ppmv, however, a post along his lines would be in order.

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  7. No. Look again.

    Yes, there are people in Antarctica and Tasmania and other places where the atmospheric CO2 level is not over 400 ppm. Therefore, there are still humans being born who will experience sub 400 ppm levels. All true... and irrelevant.

    Localis didn't say that all children would soon experience this. Only that the first would do so. Are there places on the planet with atmospheric CO2 over 400 ppm? Yes. Have babies been born in any of those places? Yes. Have some of those babies subsequently died without first experiencing less than 400 ppm CO2 levels? Almost certainly yes. Ergo, "the first child ... who will never experience a CO2 level below 400ppm during its lifetime" has either already been born or soon will be. No gun jumping involved... you're just applying a different standard (all children) than was actually stated (first child).

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  8. Localis asks deniers to state when the first child to live its life below that level (400ppm CO2). It seems fairly safe to say, based on the comments here it will be in 2015 and possibly in Tasmania.  But does giving that answer,  ipso facto make any one who gives it a denier?  Doubtful I think

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Snarky comments like the above are not welcome on this website.

  9. CBDunkerson @7, I am fairly sure that Localis wanted to be parsed such that, shortly the first child of the cohort of which no child will experience CO2 levels below 400 ppmv will be born, where the cohort includes that child and all children born thereafter for (at least) several decades.  Otherwise his challenge to "deniers" has been trivially answered by William.  MA Rodger and I have merely pointed out that he has jumped the gun, and done so by treating Mauna Loa CO2 values as global values.

    Being less trivially, shortly there will be born the first child during whose lifetime global seasonally adjusted CO2 levels will never be below 400 ppmv.  Shortly after that (a year to two years from the first incidence) will be born the first child during whose lifetime global CO2 levels will never be below 400 ppmv.  Based on the global data kept by NOAA, and the annual growth rate of around 2.4 ppmv, the first of these events will occur in the later half of this year (and the second in 2016 or 2017).

    Clearly thus stated, the challenge as to when the first child will be born after 2015, and with seasonally adjusted globally averaged CO2 level to below 400 ppmv in their lifetime is not trivial.  Perhaps William would like to have a shot at it (without any suggestion he is a "denier")?

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  10. William, only if that infant dies before CO2 reaches 400ppm for every day of the year.

    Really, it is necessary to play such trivail games?

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  11. Jim Eager @10, several of us played this trivial game, including Localis in picking what is afterall an arbitrary benchmark (400 ppmv) as significant.  There is no need to pick on William alone.

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  12. Tragically Jm Eager, there will be chldren born in 2015 who will die well before reaching their first year.  The criterion given by Localis was "Perhaps deniers might like to predict when the first newborn who will live its life below that level might arrive". There is no time frame given other than "who will live its life".  In view of that, 2015 correctly answers the question asked as the length of that life is not knowable.  It is almost certain that somewhere a child born in 2015 has died in 2015.  Not sure why answering the question accurately is viewed as trivial.

    Tom Curtis has tightened the criteria considerably and has accurately answered his own question although as he too uses  "lifetime" the length of which, as mentioned above is unknowable, 2017 seems a safer answer  than 2016.

    And to be critical of comments here to date, there seems to be an implicit assumption that "lifetime" is measured in years when in fact it may be measured only in months or days or hours or even minutes.  Just look at the tragedies  happening right now in Sierra Leone.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] If people have a substantive point to make, then please make it, but please no more hair-splitting over trivia. That applies to everyone.

    [DB] William has opted to recuse himself from further participation here.

  13. Tom, I aimed that last line in general, not just at William. Sorry if that wasn't clear. Yet it was William who just came back to explain the obvious once again.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Enough.

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