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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #7A

Posted on 10 February 2015 by John Hartz

2013 record heatwave 'virtually impossible' without climate change, Climate Council of Australia report says

A new report by the Climate Council of Australia says it would have been "virtually impossible" for 2013 to be the hottest year in the country's record without man-made emissions in the atmosphere.

The independently-funded group used new modelling to look at the odds of extreme heat events occurring, with and without man-made emissions.

A computer simulation of the atmosphere showed that climate change tripled the odds that the heatwaves of 2012/2013 would occur as frequently as they did and doubled the odds that they would be as intense as they were.

More than 123 temperature records were broken over that summer.

2013 record heatwave 'virtually impossible' without climate change, Climate Council of Australia report says by Stephanie Anderson, ABC, Feb 7, 2015

A 23-year experiment finds surprising global warming impacts already underway

A new paper published in Global Change Biology summarizes the results of a 23-year experiment monitoring how global warming is impacting certain ecosystems.

At the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the scientists have monitored ten 30-square meter plots of meadowland since 1989. Above five of those plots, overhead infrared radiators have been on constantly since January 1991, while the other five were used as the controls for comparison. The study reports,

The microclimatic effect of experimental heating throughout the growing season has been to warm the top 15 cm of soil by ~2 °C and dry it by 10–20% (gravimetric basis) during the growing season, and to prolong the snow-free season at each end by an average of ~2 weeks.

A 23-year experiment finds surprising global warming impacts already underway by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, Feb 9, 2015 

“Bionic Leaf” Makes Fuel from Sunlight

Here's a new way to make fuel from sunlight: starve a microbe nearly to death, then feed it carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced with the help of voltage from a solar panel. A newly developed bioreactor feeds microbes with hydrogen from water split by special catalysts connected in a circuit with photovoltaics. Such a batterylike system may beat either purely biological or purely technological systems at turning sunlight into fuels and other useful molecules, the researchers now claim.
"We think we can do better than plants," says Joseph Torella of Boston Consulting Group, who helped lead the work published February 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Bionic Leaf” Makes Fuel from Sunlight by David Biello, Scientific American, Feb 9, 2015

Climate change is of growing personal concern to U.S. Hispanics

Alfredo Padilla grew up in Texas as a migrant farmworker who followed the harvest with his parents to pick sugar beets in Minnesota each summer. He has not forgotten the aches of labor or how much the weather — too little rain, or too much — affected the family livelihood.

Now an insurance lawyer in Carrizo Springs, Tex., he said he was concerned about global warming.

“It’s obviously happening, the flooding, the record droughts,” said Mr. Padilla, who agrees with the science that human activities are the leading cause of climate change. “And all this affects poor people harder. The jobs are more based on weather. And when there are hurricanes, when there is flooding, who gets hit the worst? The people on the poor side of town.”

Climate Change Is of Growing Personal Concern to U.S. Hispanics, Poll Finds by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Feb 9, 2015

France says climate talks crucial for world security

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius launched a round of global climate talks in Geneva on Sunday and warned that world security, as well as the environment, depended on their success.

The week-long meeting is the first in a series that is meant to culminate in a globally binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Paris in December, with a target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Countries, companies and other organisations are expected to announce commitments to cut emissions in the run up to the Paris meeting. The cumulative commitments, backed by a financing mechanism and a binding global agreement that is being shaped at the series of meetings, must be enough to hit the 2 degree goal.

"Without sounding too grandiose, the survival of the planet itself is at stake," Fabius told reporters in Geneva. "You have rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, immigration sparked by climate change, droughts that are much more severe.

France says climate talks crucial for world security by Tom Miles, Reuters, Feb 8, 2015

Geoengineering should not be used as a climate fix yet, says US science academy

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that the time has come to look at options for a planetary-scale intervention, the National Academy of Science said on Tuesday. But it was categorical that such ‘geoengineering’ should not currently be deployed at scale or considered as an alternative to cutting emissions now.

The much-anticipated report from the country’s top scientists strongly endorsed the idea of further research into a topic it admitted had once been taboo: proposed high-tech fixes for climate change.

Cutting the carbon pollution that causes climate change was still the main solution, the scientists said, but they conceded they could see the day when desperate governments would turn to geoengineering.

Geoengineering should not be used as a climate fix yet, says US science academy by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Feb 10, 2015

Global warming is causing more extreme storms

Scientists have known for decades (more than a century actually) that increases in greenhouse gases will cause the Earth to warm. What is less clear is how this warming will impact the weather we experience on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis. Recent research shows that we are already feeling the changes.

So, how might a warm planet be different from the planet we inherited? Increased temperatures can cause more heat waves, more droughts, more intense rainfall, higher water-vapor levels, sea-level rise, changes to ocean acidity, more intense winds, etc. Of course, some of these are not “weather” (ocean acidification and sea-level rise), but I include them because they are well-known and significant ways in which climate change expresses itself. 

It is not correct to think these are future changes that will impact our children or their children. Rather, these changes can be detected now. And, as the years progress, we are detecting more significant changes. 

Global warming is causing more extreme storms by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - The 97%, The Guardian, Feb 9, 2015

Global warming may spawn more Southeast US tornadoes

The same loopy weather patterns directing California's ongoing drought and last year's deep freeze across the East Coast may also change how often tornadoes strike the southeastern United States, a new modeling study finds.

Researchers examined how global warming will affect severe weather during the heart of tornado season — March, April and May. They found that while the yearly tornado total will climb by 2080, the number of tornadoes will also vary wildly from year to year. That's because sometimes, the weather will get stuck in a pattern that favorstornadoes, and sometimes, conditions will stymie stormy weather, according to the report, published Jan. 15 in the journal Climatic Change.

Global Warming May Spawn More Southeast US Tornadoes by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Feb 7, 2015

No, adjusting temperature measurements is not a scandal

The latest salvo in the War on Reality comes from the UK paper The Telegraph, which is a safe haven for some who would claim—literally despite the evidence—that global warming isn’t real.

The article, written by Christopher Booker (who flat out denies human-induced global warming), is somewhat subtly titled “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever”. In it, Booker claims that climate scientists have adjusted temperature readings from thermometers in Paraguay to make it look like the temperature is increasing, when the measurements off the detectors actually show the opposite. The theme of the article is that scientists “manipulated” the data on purpose to exaggerate global warming.

This is nonsense. The claim is wrong. The scientists didn’t manipulate the data, theyprocessed it. That’s a very different thing. And the reason they do it isn’t hard to understand.

No, Adjusting Temperature Measurements Is Not a Scandal by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Feb 10, 2015

Plea for 'urgency' at UN climate talks

UN climate negotiators gathered in Geneva were urged Sunday to show urgency and compromise in crafting a draft by next week for a global pact to be signed in December.

"I ask you to work with efficiency and a sense of compromise," Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's environment minister and president of the negotiations told the opening session of the six-day talks.

Pointing to scientific warnings of a dangerous Earth-warming trend, he appealed to national representatives to "work with an even higher sense of urgency".

"This is not a competition among us. We are just one team for one planet."

Plea for 'urgency' at UN climate talks, AFP/News 7 (Australia), Feb 9, 2015

Talking like grownups about climate change

Are Americans worried about climate change? Do they want their government to regulate greenhouse gases? A recent survey — from Stanford University, the New York Times and Resources for the Future — found that strong majorities say “yes” to both questions.

But there’s a big catch, which isn't getting the attention it deserves: A strong majority also say that they oppose increasing taxes on either gasoline or electricity in order to reduce climate change. That’s important, because any serious effort to lower emissions is going to raise prices (certainly in the short run).

Talking Like Grownups About Climate Change, Op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg View, Feb 9, 2015

Turning carbon dioxide into rock, and burying it

In a cramped work trailer not far from Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, a researcher pored over a box of core samples — cylinders of rock that a drilling rig had pulled from deep underground just a few minutes before.

In a test that began in 2012, scientists had injected hundreds of tons of water and carbon dioxide gas 1,500 feet down into layers of porous basaltic rock, the product of ancient lava flows from the nearby Hengill volcano. Now the researcher, Sandra Snaebjornsdottir, a doctoral student at theUniversity of Iceland, was looking for signs that the COhad combined with elements in the basalt and become calcite, a solid crystalline mineral.

In short, she wanted to see if the gas had turned to stone.

“We have some calcites here,” she said, pointing to a smattering of white particles in the otherwise dark gray rock samples. “We might want to take a better look at them later.”

Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Rock, and Burying It by Henry Fountain, New York Times, Feb 9, 2015

Whispers of ecological change in the Arctic are trying to tell us something. Are we listening?

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Avery McGahaone of two master’s students who joined me in Tromsø, Norway to attend the Arctic Frontiers conference in January, 2014. It is supplemented with some additional reporting by me. McGaha’s trip was made possible by a grant from the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism

Whispers of Ecological Change in the Arctic Are Trying to Tell Us Something. Are We Listening? by Tom Yulsman, Discover, Feb 6, 2015

Why climate scientists are right about how hot the planet is going to get

To study climate sensitivity, researchers rely on basic physics and chemistry. But they also look at past climates to see how they responded when carbon dioxide levels changed.

It’s in this context that a new piece of evidence — just published in the journal Nature — backs up the IPCC. And it comes, of all places, from a set of tiny microorganisms, preserved in ocean sediments, whose shells hold chemical fingerprints of past carbon dioxide concentrations going back millions of years. An analysis of these carbon dioxide fingerprints, in conjunction with other climate records stretching back millions of years, shows that Earth’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide has long fallen in that familiar 1.5 to 4.5 degree range.

Why climate scientists are right about how hot the planet is going to get by Puneet Kollipara, Energy and Environment, Washington Post, Feb 9, 2015

Why do many reasonable people doubt science?

We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you’d think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there’s so much talk about the trend these days—in books, articles, and academic conferences—that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme. In the recent movie Interstellar, set in a futuristic, downtrodden America where NASA has been forced into hiding, school textbooks say the Apollo moon landings were faked.

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? by Joel Achenbach, National Geographic, March 2015 Print Edition


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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. Thanks for these, but I still think you're missing a big story by not covering the National Academy of Science's two-part report on geo-engineering. Lots of other venues are covering it:

    US scientists say 'climate intervention' strategies are unlikely to work

    Report: Don’t Try to Block the Sun to Fix Climate Change

    Anti-‘Geoengineering’ National Academy Report Opposes ‘Climate-Altering Deployment’

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Patience is a virtue. This story will be covered in the next edition of the News Roundup. By design, I have limited the number of articles covered in a single edition to 15. There's a lot of news popping up this week and they all cannot be covered unless I were to produce a daily news roundup. Doing so would require me to devote 8-12 hours per day on SkS related activites and I simply cannot do that. 

  2. Oh, and Climate Central, too: Geoengineering ... Solutions Not Ready

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please note the sixth article listed in the OP.

  3. Indeed, news are coming very fast this week, e.g.:

    US Congress approves Keystone XL pipeline, defies Obama

    Just couple hours ago. Self explanatory title.

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