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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #3B

Posted on 17 January 2015 by John Hartz

2014 breaks heat record, challenging global warming skeptics

Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse-gas emissions and undermining claims by climate-change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of the Western United States last year. Records were set across large areas of every inhabited continent. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except near Antarctica, the scientists said, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms.

In the annals of climatology, 2014 surpassed 2010 as the warmest year. The 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997, a reflection of the relentless planetary warming that scientists say is a consequence of human activity and poses profound long-term risks to civilization and nature.

2014 breaks heat record, challenging global warming skeptics by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Jan 16, 2015

2014 highlights: Clean energy up 16%, Green bonds, U.S.-China climate change deal

At the start of the New Year there is hopeful news on climate change and clean energy, but also an urgent challenge. The hopeful news: clean energy investment jumped 16% in 2014 to near its all-time high. The urgent challenge: to accelerate progress and expand clean energy investment to the levels needed to tackle climate change.

Ceres launched the Clean Trillion campaign at the start of 2014 with a dual objective: ratcheting down investment in fossil fuels and scaling up investment in clean energy. To limit global temperature rise to no more than 2° Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it’s necessary to grow investment in clean energy by an additional $500 billion per year by 2020 and an additional $1 trillion annually by 2030.

So, how did the world do with regard to clean energy investment in 2014?

In short, strong progress was made, but much bolder action will be needed in 2015.

2014 Highlights: Clean Energy Up 16%, Green Bonds, U.S.-China Climate Change Deal by Christopher N. Fox, Ceres, Jan 14, 2015

2014 officially the hottest year on record

The numbers are in. The year 2014 – after shattering temperature records that had stood for hundreds of years across virtually all of Europe, and roasting parts of South America, China and Russia – was the hottest on record, with global temperatures 1.24F (0.69C) higher than the 20th-century average, US government scientists said on Friday.

A day after international researchers warned that human activities had pushed the planet to the brink, new evidence of climate change arrived. The world was the hottest it has been since systematic records began in 1880, especially on the oceans, which the agency confirmed were the driver of 2014’s temperature rise.

The global average temperatures over land and sea surface for the year were 1.24F (0.69C) above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) reported. Nasa, which calculates temperatures slightly differently, put 2014’s average temperature at 14.67C – 0.68C above the average – for the period 1951-80.

2014 officially the hottest year on record by Suzanne Goldenberg, Climate Consensus - the 9&%, The Guardian, Jan 16, 2015

Activists say Obama action on methane emissions 'misses 90% of pollution'

Barack Obama has defied a Republican Congress to move ahead on his climate agenda on Wednesday, cracking down on methane emissions from America’s oil and natural gas boom.

In a further use of the president’s executive authority, the White House unveiled a strategy aimed at cutting methane – one of the most powerful heat-trapping gases – by 40% to 45% over the next decade.

However, the plan applied only to future oil and gas wells and infrastructure – and not the thousands of existing sites which are leaking methane, campaigners noted.

Activists say Obama action on methane emissions 'misses 90% of pollution' by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guradian, Jan 14, 2015

As waters acidify, Maine looks to Pacific Northwest peers for help

In the icy waters of midcoast Maine, Bill Mook has his eyes on his oysters – and how the waters they need to survive are gradually, but clearly, changing.

Down the coast near Portland, the issue is clams and the mud flats that have become inhospitable to their survival.

Farther south still, near Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the worry is so-called “sea butterflies,” tiny marine snails that live low on the food chain and are – like the oysters and clams – threatened by a process known as “ocean acidification.”

“We’re acidifying the oceans,” said Mark Green, a professor of environmental science at Saint Joseph’s College in Maine. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to survive and what’s not, but there will be extinctions.”

As waters acidify, Maine looks to Pacific Northwest peers for help by Chris Adams, McClatchy Washington Bureau, Jan 16, 2015

Global sea levels rising faster than previously thought, study shows

Scientists have a good idea of the different factors that contribute to sea level rise. But historical measurements of sea level change from the twentieth century don't seem to match up to sum of all these individual factors.

A new paper, published in Nature, offers an explanation to this puzzle. The study finds that the amount of sea level rise during the last century is lower than scientists previously thought.

But the implication of this finding is that the acceleration in sea level rise seen in recent decades is more rapid than scientists thought, the study says. And the researchers say that melting ice sheets are the reason.

Global sea levels rising faster than previously thought, study shows by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, Jan 14, 2015

Global warming made 2014 a record hot year – in animated graphics

NASA and NOAA have just reported that global surface temperatures in 2014 were the hottest on record. That also means 2014 was likely the hottest the Earth has been in millennia, and perhaps as much as 100,000 years.

But what’s really remarkable is that 2014 set this record without the aid of an El Niño event. El Niño events create conditions in which sea surface and hence global surface temperatures are anomalously hot. We call this part of the Earth’s “internal variability” because these events just temporarily shift heat around between the ocean surface and its depths. 

Global warming made 2014 a record hot year – in animated graphics by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - the 9&%, The Guardiaqn, Jan 16, 2015

Hillary is hiring John Podesta, and that’s good for climate hawks

Tuesday brought news that John Podesta is going to take a high-level job in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign after he leaves the administration in February. If there was any doubt about Clinton running, this leak puts it to rest. It might as well be an announcement.

To me this augurs well, in a number of ways. First, the biggest worry about Clinton is that she will reconstitute her dreadful ’08 campaign staff, symbolized by the omni-incompetent Mark Penn, a lumpen money pit who has unaccountably commanded the Clintons’ loyalty through decades of being terrible and wrong about everything. It’s very difficult for me to see the calm, competent Podesta hiring Penn or people like him.

Podesta’s got long history in Washington and most of it speaks well of him. He was by all accounts a shrewd chief of staff for Bill Clinton; he founded the Center for American Progress, which has been a huge success; and more recently he has been working inside the White House to encourage Obama to be bolder, which is paying dividends in a sustained burst of executive action from immigration to community college to paid work leave to climate change.

Hillary is hiring John Podesta, and that’s good for climate hawks by David Roberts, Grist, Jan 14, 2014

Losing the climate fight: Has 400 ppm become planet's new normal?

Just two weeks into 2015, experts are expressing surprise and worry that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has already topped the 400 parts per million threshold several times—a troubling indication for the year ahead and an expression of humanity's continued failure to act on climate change.

"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," journalist Andrea Thompson wrote for Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and reporters.

Thompson based her analysis on records from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, showing that Jan. 1 was the first day of the new year above the 400 ppm 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," she wrote.

Losing the Climate Fight: Has 400 ppm Become Planet's New Normal? by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, Jan 13, 2015

Obama Administration to Unveil Plans to Cut Methane Emissions

In President Obama’s latest move using executive authority to tackle climate change, administration officials are announcing plans this week to impose new regulations on the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

The administration’s goal is to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production by up to 45 percent by 2025 from the levels recorded in 2012, according to a person familiar with Mr. Obama’s plans.

The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the proposed regulations this summer, and final regulations by 2016, according to the person, whom the administration asked not to speak about the plan. The White House declined to comment on the effort.

Obama Administration to Unveil Plans to Cut Methane Emissions by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Jan 13, 2015

Q&A: Reading the New York Times with Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is a best-selling author whose most recent book is “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

Q&A: Reading The New York Times With Naomi Klein by Susan Lehman, New York Times, Jan 

Ocean life faces mass extinction, broad study says

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

“We’re lucky in many ways,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and another author of the new report. “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says by Carl Zimmer, New York Times, Jan 15, 2015

Rate of environmental degradation puts life on Earth at risk, say scientists

Humans are “eating away at our own life support systems” at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by degrading land and freshwater systems, emitting greenhouse gases and releasing vast amounts of agricultural chemicals into the environment, new research has found.

Two major new studies by an international team of researchers have pinpointed the key factors that ensure a livable planet for humans, with stark results.

Of nine worldwide processes that underpin life on Earth, four have exceeded “safe” levels – human-driven climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change and the high level of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing into the oceans due to fertiliser use.

Rate of environmental degradation puts life on Earth at risk, say scientists by Oliver Milman, The Guradian, Jan 15, 2015

Smoke and mirrors will not save us from Anthropogenic climate disruption

With 2015 billed as the make-it-or-break-it year for climate control, in anticipation of next December's Paris conference, and in the midst of much vehement - if not downright virulent - controversy, it is worth proposing some perspective beyond what most of the media deign to serve up to us.

In an article that appeared in mid-November in the French online journal A l'encontre, Daniel Tanuro analyzed the "unprecedented" and "historic" agreement between the United States and China resulting from Barack Obama's encounter with Xi Jinping just before the November G20 conference in Brisbane.

The insufficiency - to put it mildly - of this agreement, in comparison with the warnings issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its most recent report, is unbridgeable, he points out.

Smoke and Mirrors Will Not Save Us From Anthropogenic Climate Disruption, Op-ed by Robert James Parsons, Truthout, Jan 10, 2015

The Antarctic ice sheet is a sleeping giant, beginning to stir

In a paper I just published with colleague Dr Ted Scambos from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, we highlight the impact of southern ice sheet loss, particularly the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, on sea-level rise around the world.

We know that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise and are creating other changes across the Earth’s climate system. One change that gets a great deal of attention is the current and future rates of sea-level rise. A rising sea level affects coastal communities around the world; approximately 150 million people live within 1 meter of current sea level.

The waters are rising because of a number of factors. First, water expands as it warms. In the past, this “thermal expansion” was the largest source of sea-level rise. But as the Earth’s temperatures continued to increase, another factor (melting ice, particularly from large ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica) has played an ever increasing role.

The Antarctic ice sheet is a sleeping giant, beginning to stir by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guradian, Jan 14, 2015

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. Wiliam,

    This topic has already been discussed here at SkS.  In short, the satelite record does not measure the surface teperature.  It estimates the temperature about 3,000 meters up in the atmosphere (satelites cannot directly measure the temperature of the surface).  This is approximate as it is actually an average of the temperature at many levels of the atmosphere.  

    Since we actually live on the surface of the Earth, most people care more about the surface temperature.  2014 is the hottest year on the surface.  

    Arguing about statistics while the temperature continues to go up will not win any arguments here.  Watch the escalator graph for a while and see how you feel.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [DB] William has recused himself from further participation here, finding the strictures of the Comments Policy too onerous.

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