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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #8A

Posted on 18 February 2015 by John Hartz

Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say

The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) has labelled the “anti-petroleum” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation.

In highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.

“There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels,” concludes the report which is stamped “protected/Canadian eyes only” and is dated Jan. 24, 2014. The report was obtained by Greenpeace.

Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say by Shawn McCarthy, The Globe & Mail, Feb 17, 2015

Australian Academy of Science brings climate change closer to home

The Australian Academy of Sciences today released the new The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers. This is an extensively revised update of a similar publication in 2010. Its stated purpose is to “provide an understanding based on our present scientific knowledge, of some key questions about climate change”.

What is notable about the new publication (on which I was a member of the working group) is the extent to which it has moved to respond to the real-world needs of ordinary people, organisations and communities trying to understand what climate change means to them.

It represents a determined attempt by scientists to be relevant to the everyday concerns of people and organisations, and to support – through the delivery of up-to-date scientific knowledge – those who want to take meaningful climate action.

Australian Academy of Science brings climate change closer to home by Jean Palutikof, The Conversation US Pilot, Feb 15, 2015

Australian scientists make fresh attempt at explaining climate change

Australia's leading science body has reissued its climate change booklet in a bid to improve public understanding of the contentious subject.

The Australian Academy of Science was prompted to update the information based on new research and public questions since its original release in 2010.

Most available material is either too technical for the lay reader and usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on, said Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of NSW.

"There is so much misinformation or confusing information out there, that we thought it would be nice to gather in one place an accessible explanation," Professor Sherwood said.

Australian scientists make fresh attempt at explaining climate change by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 16, 2014

BP's two-word fix for global climate change

One of the world's largest energy companies is warning about rising carbon emissions. And it's endorsing a surprisingly simple solution.

Global carbon emissions will continue to rise roughly 1 percent each year through 2035, according to a report released Tuesday by London-based BP , one of the world's six oil-and-gas supermajors. That puts emissions growth on a path that would be "materially higher" than what most scientists say is necessary to keep global warming within 2 degrees C. In other words, if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at its current rate, Earth's average temperature will rise higher than what most scientists regard as safe levels.

In its report, BP lays out a variety of ways policymakers and businesses could prevent that from happening, including boosting renewable energy production, limiting carbon-heavy coal use, and making energy systems more efficient. It concludes that no one approach will be enough to meet emissions reductions goals, but offers a simple idea that would help guide efforts: carbon pricing.

BP's two-word fix for global climate change by David J. Unger, The Christian Scince Monitor, Feb 17, 2015

Climate change could decimate the American ski industry

The 2015 world ski championships concluded Sunday in Vail, Colorado, but climate change could put future championships in peril. Many athletes and resort owners fear what a warmer future holds for an industry that relies on consistent snow to attract winter sporting enthusiasts. And they're starting to call for political action.

Skiers in the Pacific Northwest are already feeling the heat. The Summit at Snoqualmie, near Seattle, closed its highest and last remaining open slope last week because of poor conditions. The situation there hues closely to what's happening all across the West.

"Based on a 60-year record, the total amount of snow that we've lost in the West varies anywhere from 15 to 60 percent," Noah Molotch, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, told VICE News. 

Climate Change Could Decimate the American Ski Industry by Shelby Kinney-Lang, Vice, Feb 16, 2015

Global ocean acidity revealed in new maps

Ocean acidification can now be seen from space, highlighting an ongoing danger of climate change and revealing the regions most at risk.

Seawater absorbs about a quarter of the carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that humans release into the atmosphere each year, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This process has slowed the warming of the globe, as all of that carbon is locked up in the ocean's "carbon sink" rather than floating freely in the atmosphere. But when seawater takes up carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic. According to NOAA, the surface pH of the ocean has become 30 percent more acidic since the end of the Industrial Revolution.

That acidity is not necessarily evenly distributed, however, nor is it simple to measure. Most studies  rely on  physical measurements taken out in the open ocean from research vessels and buoys deployed from such vessels. These measurements are spotty and expensive to collect.

Global Ocean Acidity Revealed in New Maps by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience, Feb 17, 2015

How significant is the UK party leaders' joint climate pledge?

Over the weekend, the UK's three main political leaders pledged to tackle climate change after the next election, whatever the outcome.

The Conservative's David Cameron, Labour's Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg agreed to work towards a legally-binding global climate deal, to agree new UK emissions-cutting goals and to phase out unabated coal-fired power.

Carbon Brief assesses the significance of the unusual joint pre-election pledge.

How significant is the UK party leaders' joint climate pledge? by Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, Feb 16, 2015

Jury in on climate change, so stop using arguments of convenience and listen to experts

As a Nobel Prize winner, I travel the world meeting all kinds of people.

Most of the policy, business and political leaders I meet immediately apologise for their lack of knowledge of science.

Except when it comes to climate science. Whenever this subject comes up, it never ceases to amaze me how each person I meet suddenly becomes an expert.

Jury in on climate change, so stop using arguments of convenience and listen to experts, Op-ed by Brian Schmidt, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 16, 2015

Naomi Klein on how to build a more kick-ass climate movement

May Boeve, executive director of, recently interviewed Naomi Klein, activist and author of the book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (and 350 board member), as part of a web workshop ahead of Global Divestment Day. You can watch the whole conversation. Or you can read our three-part edited transcript. Part one focused on oil prices. This is part two. 

Naomi Klein on how to build a more kick-ass climate movement, Grist, Feb 10, 2015

NASA climate study warns of unprecedented North American drought

California is in the midst of its worst drought in over 1,200 years, exacerbated by record hot temperatures. A new study led by Benjamin Cook at Nasa GISS examines how drought intensity in North America will change in a hotter world, and finds that things will only get worse.

Global warming intensifies drought in several ways. In increases evaporation from soil and reservoirs. In increases water demand. It makes precipitation fall more as rain and less as snow, which is problematic for regions like California that rely on snowpack melt to refill reservoirs throughout the year. It also makes the snowpack melt earlier in the year. The record heat has intensified the current California drought by about 36%, and the planet will only continue to get hotter.

NASA climate study warns of unprecedented North American drought by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, Feb 16, 2015

Risk of American 'megadroughts' for decades, NASA warns

There is no precedent in contemporary weather records for the kinds of droughts the country's West will face, if greenhouse gas emissions stay on course, a NASA study said.

No precedent even in the past 1,000 years.

The feared droughts would cover most of the western half of the United States — the Central Plains and the Southwest.

Those regions have suffered severe drought in recent years. But it doesn't compare in the slightest to the 'megadroughts' likely to hit them before the century is over due to global warming.

These will be epochal, worthy of a chapter in Earth's natural history.

Risk of American 'megadroughts' for decades, NASA warns by Ben Brumfield, CNN, Feb 14, 2015

Staying afloat amid climate change

South Florida is Ground Zero for the effects of climate change. With 2.4 million residents living no more than four feet above sea level, we have little room for error and no time to waste.

According to the U.S. National Climate Assessment, sea levels rose about eight inches last century and are predicted to rise anywhere from one foot to four feet in the coming century. If a two-foot change happened right now in Miami, it would put 25,000 homes underwater, flood more than $14 billion worth of property and submerge 134 miles of roads.

While an underwater Miami might seem impossible to imagine, students at Florida International University are already painting the picture. They built models of the city showing the impact of three-, four- and six-foot sea-level rise, which are now on display at the Coral Gables Museum. The students were also preparing to look at the effects of a ten-foot sea level rise — a scenario that’s not out of the realm of possibility — but they said, at six feet, “the whole map disappeared.”

Staying afloat amid climate change, Op-ed by Rep Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Miami Herald, Feb 15, 2015

These countries are making polluters pay

Solving climate change is essentially an economic problem: How do you force companies and consumers to pay for the damage caused by the fossil fuels they consume?

Let me explain: Without a price on carbon emissions, big polluters don’t pay for the greenhouse gases that they release into the atmosphere. The real cost of that pollution is borne by the planet in the form of global warming. So one of the most common strategies for reducing emissions is “cap-and-trade”: Polluters purchase or bid on a limited number of permits, which allow them to emit a certain amount of CO2. A regulated market is then created in which permits can be bought and sold. The cost of the permits — in other words, the carbon price — creates an incentive to reduce carbon pollution.

A new report out this week from the Berlin-based International Carbon Action Partnership shows that in the decade since the first major carbon trading program was adopted by the European Union, cap-and-trade systems have enjoyed remarkable popularity around the world — becoming the mechanism of choice for governments who want to act on climate change. The graphic below gives you a sense of just how widespread these markets have become:

These countries are making polluters pay by James West, Grist, Feb 14, 2015

Warming planet threatens more and possibly deadlier pathogens

An overall hotter planet and a rapidly-changing climate are altering the range of pathogens and increasing the appearance of infectious diseases, warns a new research paper published this week.

It may not come in the form of a global pandemic, but outbreaks of viruses like West Nile, and Ebola are signaling that global warming is already having dramatic impacts in the development and spread of such diseases, according to zoological researchers Daniel Brooks and Eric Hoberg. Increasing the level of concern is the impact rising temperatures may have on the emergence of previously unknown pathogens introduced to new regions or human environs.

"It's not that there's going to be one 'Andromeda Strain' that will wipe everybody out on the planet," explained Brooks, making reference to the 1971 science fiction novel by Michael Crichton. "There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts."

Warming Planet Threatens More and Possibly Deadlier Pathogens, Warns Study by John Queally, Common Dreams, Feb 17, 2015

What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming

The snowfall in Boston lately is simply insane. The local bureau of the National Weather Service has tallied up the data and here’s how it looks — with all time records for snow within a 14-, 20-, and 30-day period:

You could treat this as ordinary weather, or, you could think about it in a climate context. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, the fact remains that — as I have noted previously — some kinds of winter precipitationcould indeed be more intense because we’re in a warming world.

Consider, for instance, that sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England are flashing red, showing an extreme warm anomaly. That’s highly relevant — because warmer oceans have atmospheric consequences. 

What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 10, 2015

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