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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #6A

Posted on 4 February 2015 by John Hartz

A fresh look at the watery side of Earth's climate shows 'unabated planetary warming'

A fresh analysis of thousands of temperature measurements from deep-diving Argo ocean probes shows (yet again) that Earth is experiencing “unabated planetary warming” when you factor in the vast amount of greenhouse-trapped heat that ends up in the sea. This is not even close to a new finding, but the new study shows more precisely where most of the heat has been going since 2006 (in the Southern Ocean outside the tropics; see the red splotches in the map below).

A map shows where heat has accumulated in the world's seas since 2006, as measured by ocean-probing Argo instruments. Credit Nature Climate Change

A map shows where heat has accumulated in the world's seas since 2006, as measured by ocean-probing Argo instruments. Nature Climate Change

The study, “Unabated planetary warming and its ocean structure since 2006,” was published today in Nature Climate Change

A Fresh Look at the Watery Side of Earth’s Climate Shows ‘Unabated Planetary Warming’ by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Feb 2, 2015

Bjørn Lomborg sings WSJ’s same old climate change song: Don’t worry, be happy

Bjorn Lomborg’s latest op-ed in the Wall Street Journal resurrects repeatedly demolished distortions of fact to downplay the real and increasingly documented threats of climate change. His trademark tactic is to acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, only to then dismiss the solutions—reducing emissions and promoting clean energy now—as unnecessary or infeasible.

Fortunately, his longstanding fight against climate action is failing to persuade the public, as an overwhelming majority of Americans understand that climate change is a serious threat and that we’re already feeling the impacts. More to the point they support action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially through continued expansion of clean energy and new rules for coal-fired power plants.

Bjørn Lomborg Sings WSJ’s Same Old Climate Change Song: Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Climate Nexus, DeSmog Blog, Feb 2, 2015 

Citigroup predicts battery storage will hasten demise of fossil fuels

Investment bank Citigroup predicts that the wide deployment of battery storage technologies will hasten the demise of fossil fuels across the globe in the coming decade, including oil, coal and gas.

And it also warns that the battery phenomenom will be even more profound than the solar revolution currently sweeping the globe, and will sweep aside any traditional utilities that remain focused on centralised generation.

The predictions of Citigroup analysts are a reprise of predictions it made in August last year, when it predicted that battery storage costs could fall to around $230/kWh by 2020, and eventually be as low as $150/kWh. The global market for battery storage could be worth more than $400 billion by 2030.

Citigroup Predicts Battery Storage Will Hasten Demise Of Fossil Fuels by Giles Parkinson, Clean Technica, Jan 31, 2015

Climate change mitigation’s best-kept secret

At Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, Vt., the black-and-white dairy cows are used to the routine. In what looks like a choreographed dance, 1,400 milk cows delicately step over the scrapers that run along the concrete floors and collect their manure, which goes into a huge digester capable of holding 21 days’ worth of waste. Inside, highly flammable methane gas is built up under low pressure and then burned in a 600-kilowatt generator, with the capacity of powering 400 homes.

Blue Spruce doesn’t have to capture the methane, but taking that approach has turned waste into a profit center, bringing in a premium price for energy. Ernie Audet, one of the owners, says “cow power” has become an integral part of the dairy operation. “We wouldn’t run the farm without it,” he says, adding that after six years in place the $1.5 million digester was close to paying for itself. At least a dozen other Vermont farms are also selling cow power to eager buyers.

Climate Change Mitigation’s Best-Kept Secret by Jim Motavalli, Climate Central, Feb 1, 2015

How China's filthy air is screwing with our weather

As the snow began to fall earlier this week in the lead up to the season's first major blizzard, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that the Northeast was witnessing "a pattern of extreme weather that we've never seen before." Climate change, Cuomo argues, is fueling bigger, badder weather events like this one—and like Hurricane Sandy.

While the science that links specific snowstorms to global warming is profoundly difficult to calculate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it's "very likely"—defined as greater than 90 percent probability—that "extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent" in North America as the world warms. In New York City, actual snow days have decreased, but bigger blizzards have become more common, dumping more snow each time. Mashable reported that all of New York City's top 10 snowfalls have occurred in the past 15 years. Scientists can trace the cause to the enormous amount of energy we're pumping into the oceans. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Wired this week that "the oceans are warmer, and the air above them is more moist"—giving storms more energy to unleash more precipitation. In short, the blizzard dubbed Juno was being fueled in part by the ocean's excess of climate change-related heat.

But climate change may not be the only way that human activity is making storms worse. In an emerging body of work, NASA scientists have identified a surprising contributor to American storms and cold snaps: Asia's air pollution. Over the past few years, a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology has found that aerosols—or airborne particles—emitted from the cities fueling Asia's booming economies are making storm activity stronger in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. These storms wreak havoc on the polar jet stream, a major driver of North America's weather. The result: US winters with heavier snowfall and more intense cold periods.

How China's Filthy Air Is Screwing With Our Weather by James West, Mother Jones, Jan 30, 2015

Met Office puts high odds on the next few years being warmer than 2014

Expect to see more global temperature records tumble over the next few years, suggests the Met Office's new forecast. Global average surface temperatures during 2015 to 2019 are expected to stay high, with a good chance of beating 2014 for the hottest year on record.

Every year the Met Office releases what's called a "decadal forecast". It's designed to give us an idea of what we can expect in the next few years.

It's new forecast, released online this week, says global temperature out to 2019 is expected to be in the range of 0.18 and 0.46 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

This means we're likely to see the mercury climb higher than in 2014, which saw a global temperature of 0.26 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. 

Met Office puts high odds on the next few years being warmer than 2014 by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, Feb 

Newspapers' skeptic views persisted in 'Climategate' aftermath

UK newspapers include skeptic viewpoints in a significant proportion of climate change coverage, even when there is questionable editorial justification to do so, a new study suggests.

The likelihood of reading climate skeptic views is also significantly affected by which newspaper you read, the study shows, with some newspapers including skeptic voices in as many as four times the number of articles of their competitors.

The research by James Painter from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Neil Gavin from Liverpool University's department of politics, published in the Environmental Communication journal, concludes that such reporting can dampen public concern about climate change, and reduce the impetus for politicians to take action to tackle climate change.

Newspapers’ skeptic views persisted in ‘Climategate’ aftermath, study shows by Mat Hope, The Carbon Brief, Feb 2, 2015

Obama's budget calls for billions in climate funding

In yet another sign President Barack Obama is making climate change a big theme of his final two years in office, the White House today released its proposed $3.99 trillion budget, and it contains a slew of programs designed to fight global warming. It's important to note that this budget is the president's proposal—a blueprint—given to Congress to be fought over or blatantly ignored; it's not law. So, this is first-and-foremost a political document used to outline the president's vision and define his terms of engagement with Congress. Most of these measures, to use the language of the moment, will likely be "dead on arrival," given that both the House and Senate are now under Republican control.

Having said that, the document is useful in showing which tools Obama wants to use in fighting climate change—a kind of "would if he could" laundry list of desires. Here's what you need to know:

Obama's Budget Calls for Billions in Climate Funding by James West, Mother Jones, Feb 2, 2015

Obama's budget reveals depth and breadth of his climate agenda

This story has been updated on Feb. 3 at 9:00 PM ET to add more budget details and reactions.

Many of the climate-change goals were old, but some were new in President Obama's budget request to Congress, published on Monday.

Familiar elements included more green-energy R&D, permanent status for tax breaks that subsidize renewable production of electricity, and yet another plea to end existing subsidies for fossil fuels. Among the novelties: new incentives for states to meet the low-carbon targets of proposed Clean Air Act regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which would manage the $4 billion Clean Power State Incentive Fund, said it would support "state efforts to go above and beyond their carbon pollution reduction goals in the power sector."

Obama's Budget Reveals Depth and Breadth of His Climate Agenda by John H Cushman Jr, InsideClimate News, Feb 2, 2015

Obama ignores Obama on climate change

President Obama is once again contradicting himself on climate change. His new push for offshore oil and gas drilling is just the latest instance.

Last week, in his State of the Union address, Obama reiterated at length the urgent threat climate change presents and the importance of taking decisive action to address it. “The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security,” he said. “We should act like it.”

But Obama himself isn’t acting like it. This week, his administration released a draft of its next five-year plan for offshore drilling. It would open up a previously off-limits area along the Southeastern coast, from Virginia down to Georgia, as well as offer many new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. And while it would protect some key areas north of Alaska from drilling, it would open other Arctic areas up.

Obama ignores Obama on climate change by Ben Adler, Grist, Jan 29, 2015

Republicans have one option to eliminate EPA carbon regulations

The US Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of creating regulations on carbon pollution from power plants, and Republicans in Congress hate the idea. Surprisingly, a majority of Republican voters support these regulations, with Tea Party members being the only exception.

Nevertheless, Republicans in Congress badly want to kill those regulations. However, they’re pursuing the avenues with the lowest chances of achieving that goal.

Republicans have one option to eliminate EPA carbon regulations by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, Feb 3, 2015

Scientist slams Daily Caller for distorting his research to suggest climate change is fake

Last week, a new, peer-reviewed paper from scientists at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute was published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The paper is important: for the first time, it shows that scientists can use incredibly old permafrost to find out what temperatures were like in Siberia thousands of years ago. By using this permafrost, the scientists found that temperatures in Siberia have been gradually rising for the past 7,000 years.

Enter the climate denier media. After the findings were published, notorious climate denier Anthony Watts re-published portions of the Alfred Wegener Institute’s press release for the research on his site, Watts Up With That. It was then picked up by Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller, who wrote that “solar radiation has been melting Siberian ice for 7,000 years,” evidence that “global warming is nothing new.”

In other words, the Daily Caller is using the research to reinforce a common trope among climate deniers: that the climate has always been changing, and humans therefore have no effect. In this case, it implies that Siberian permafrost is thawing due to natural causes. Greenhouse gases have nothing to do with it.

Scientist Slams Daily Caller For Distorting His Research To Suggest Climate Change Is Fake by Emily Atkin, Climate Progress, Feb 2, 2015

Southern forests' ability to suck carbon from the air may be slowing

When U.S. Forest Service scientist David Wear hikes the trails crisscrossing the Appalachian Mountains, he pauses to revel not only in the beauty and solitude, but to consider the remarkable role that the forest around him plays in the world's environment.

"A walk in the woods is as much recreation as intellectual stimulation for me," Wear said. "I see questions about what’s happening in the changing dynamics of the forests."

One of those questions: How are today's forests doing when it comes to sucking carbon out of the atmosphere?

Southern Forests' Ability to Suck Carbon From the Air May Be Slowing by David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News, Feb 2, 2015

The defeat of climate denial

Over the past weekend, a poll was released indicating that Americans have conclusively rejected climate denial and understand the reality of climate change. According to New York Times reporters Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly:

An overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They were less likely to vote for candidates who questioned or denied the science that determined that humans caused global warming.

Given the onslaught of propaganda and the vast amount of fossil fuel industry money spent to argue against climate science, this finding provides evidence of the limits to the strategy of denial. The policy debate will now shift from a discussion of the existence of the problem to one focused on solutions. That is where the debate should have been all along. Denying the reality of a problem does not make it go away, it just makes us look delusional. The debate will focus on the urgency of the climate problem--especially when compared to other problems--and most centrally if climate change is a problem that has impacts today or one that will largely be felt in the future.

The Defeat of Climate Denial by Seven Cohen, The Huffington Post, Feb 2, 2015

World Meteorological Organisation ranks 2014 as hottest year on record

Last year was most likely the warmest year on record, the World Meteorological Organisation(WMO ) announced today. Global surface temperature in 2014 was 0.57 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, nominally beating 2010 and 2005 to the top spot.

In the last few weeks, the world's four main meteorological agencies have all announced that 2014 topped the charts as one of the hottest year on record. Today, the WMO made it official.

Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have now all occurred in the 21st century, today's report notes.

UN World Meteorological Organisation ranks 2014 as hottest year on record by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, Feb 2, 2015

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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. "Obama ignores Obama on climate change"

    Cute title. But really, what are we to make of this president at this point? Is he being completely disingenuous? Is there any logic, any method to the madness?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] All U.S. Presidents, including Barak Obama operate in a political world where many factors come into play when Presidential decisions are made. As we all know, energy has become an extremely complex issue in American politics. Therefore, your questions cannot be objectively answered in this particular venue.

  2. (Please note that I am not trying to start a political debate by the last comment. Just wondering if there is something that I'm missing. Is the strategy to get rid of coal first, but in the mean time give a green light to oil and gas? But we're still selling lots of coal even if domestic consumption is going down...Ideas?)

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  3. The article about battery storage & demise of fossil fuels is very interesting. Especially the actual link to the Citigroup report therein that I repeat here:


    Important part of this analysis is the fact, as the article notes:

    Figure [therein] illustrates Citigroup’s point. It assumes a large portion of the solar output is self-consumed rather than sold to the grid, so the ‘income’ is primarily avoided electricity bills rather than energy sales.

    That's exactly what;s happening in Australia: demand for electricity drops as rooftop panel penetration grows. However, I'm not sure how they incorporated that change in consumption model in their prediction of parity. To learn more, it's worthwhile to visit (or at least watch the outcome of:
    2015 Australian Energy Storage Conference in Sydney

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