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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #9A

Posted on 26 February 2015 by John Hartz

Climate change is not just an environmental issue

The general election means 2015 is a critical year for Britain. It is also a critical year for the world on climate change. Within months of Britain voting, the UN is holding a summit in Paris to agree a binding global agreement to tackle climate change.

But there is a real danger that this great chance to achieve action is going to slip by, without the world even noticing. That might suit some politicians at home but it will be a disaster for our country and the world.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, Op-ed by Ed Miliband, The Guardian, Feb 21, 2015

Climatology versus Pseudoscience book tests whose predictions have been right

The book covers a wide range of climate-related topics, starting with a history of some key discoveries in the field of climate science beginning nearly 200 years ago. Along the way it debunks some common climate myths, progressing forward in time to the 1970s, when scientists’ ability to model the global climate began to advance rapidly. It examines the accuracy of a variety of global warming projections, starting with J.S. Sawyer in 1972, through the recent IPCC reports, as well as some predictions by contrarians like Richard Lindzen.

Accountability was one of my prime motivating factors for writing this book. While contrarians often criticize the accuracy of climate models, their projections have actually been quite accurate. Not only were climate scientists and their models correct to project global warming resulting from the increasing greenhouse effect, but they’ve been quite good at projecting the right amount of warming. Climate scientists don’t take nearly as much credit as they should for these accurate projections.

Climatology versus Pseudoscience book tests whose predictions have been right by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, Feb 23, 2015

Effective communication, better science

Science communication is part of a scientist’s everyday life. Scientists must give talks, write papers and proposals, communicate with a variety of audiences, and educate others. Thus to be successful, regardless of field or career path, scientists must learn how to communicate. Moreover, scientists must learn how to communicate effectively. In other words, to be a successful scientist, you must be an effective communicator.

Before I go on, I should note that for the purpose of this post, I am defining science communication broadly, meaning any activity that involves one person transmitting science-related information to another, from peer-reviewed articles to tweets.

Effective Communication, Better Science by Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer, Scientific American, Feb 24, 2015

Effects of climate change on wheat will be dire

A study of wheat yields by 53 researchers on six continents, including a Kansas State University professor, has found that the effects of climate change on Kansas’ top crop will be far more disastrous, and begin much sooner, than previous thought.

Each time the average global temperature increases by one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), global wheat grain production is reduced by about 6 percent, according to the study, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

According to the researchers, the 6 percent decline would equate to 42 megatons, or 42 million tons, of wheat each time the global temperature rises by a single degree Celsius.

“To put this in perspective, the amount is equal to a quarter of global wheat trade, which reached 147 (megatons) in 2013,” the researchers wrote. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last September that the Earth had warmed 0.85 degrees Celsius between 1880 and 2012.

Effects of climate change on wheat will be dire by Justin Wingerter, The Topeka Capital-Journal, Feb 23, 2015

European leaders push for energy union

The European Union authorities vowed on Wednesday to accelerate efforts to knit together their diverse energy systems amid deepening tensions with Russia, a major supplier of the bloc’s natural gas.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive agency, said its proposal for an energy union represented an important step toward unifying member countries’ economies and could help wean some countries from dependence on Russia, which supplies about a quarter of the bloc’s natural gas.

About half of those Russian gas supplies are piped through Ukraine, where Russia is involved in heavy fighting in the east of the country. Disputes between Russia and Ukraine led to cutoffs of Russian gas to Europe in2006 and 2009. Tensions have flared in recent days after the Russian gas exporter Gazprom threatened to halt deliveries because of a payment dispute.

European Leaders Push for Energy Union by James Kanter & Stanley Reed, Feb. 25, 2015

IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri resigns

The chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, resigned on Tuesday, following allegations of sexual harassment from a female employee at his research institute in Delhi.

The organisation will now be led by acting chair Ismail El Gizouli until the election for a new chair which had already been scheduled for October.

“The actions taken today will ensure that the IPCC’s mission to assess climate change continues without interruption,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which is a sponsor of the IPCC.

IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri resigns by Damien Carrington, The Guardian, Feb 24, 2015

Lobbyist dubbed Dr Evil behind front groups attacking Obama power rules

To Washington insiders he is Dr Evil: the hidden orchestrator of industry campaigns against the Humane Society, Mothers against Drunk Driving, and other seemingly uncontroversial groups.

Now Richard Berman, a one-time lobbyist turned industry strategist, has zeroed in on another target: Barack Obama’s new power plant rules.

Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding for at least 16 studies and launched at least five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.

The rules, the centre-piece of Obama’s climate agenda, are due to be finalised in mid-summer. They have come under sustained assault from industry and Republican-controlled Congress – and Berman is right at the heart of it.

Lobbyist dubbed Dr Evil behind front groups attacking Obama power rules by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Feb 23, 2015

On Keystone and climate, Bloomberg presses Obama to negotiate with Canada instead of Congress

Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, now a United Nations climate envoy, has laid out a wise path for President Obama that could sidestep the political morass surrounding Canada’s oil-rich Alberta tar (sands) pits and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

As he did with China, Obama can negotiate with Canada to gain commitments on the prime goal of those fighting the pipeline, cutting carbon dioxide emissions, Bloomberg says.

Cleaning up the pollution on the ground and in the waters of Alberta is Canada’s domestic responsibility. Making sure all pipelines carrying oil across the United States are safe (not to mention trains!) is this country’s existing responsibility, with or without the Keystone pipeline additions.

On Keystone and Climate, Bloomberg Presses Obama to Negotiate with Canada Instead of Congress by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Feb 25, 2015

Researchers think they’ve found a “gateway belief” that leads to greater science acceptance

It’s probably the most famous study ever conducted about how climate scientists, themselves, think about the subject they examine. According to a gigantic 2013 literature review, 97.1 percent of published scientific studies that took a position on the matter “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”

This “97 percent” figure has since gone everywhere — triggering debates and discussions around the world. It has been celebrated, pilloried, attacked — and most of all, heralded as the key to explaining climate change to the public.

Indeed, public opinion scholars have been trying to measure, in controlled experiments, whether simply telling people about the existence of the “97 percent” consensus can make them think more in the way that scientists do — and knock off the all too common practice of doubting the reality of climate change.

Researchers think they’ve found a “gateway belief” that leads to greater science acceptance by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 26, 2015

Sardines swim into northern waters to keep cool

Several important fish species that for centuries have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet are abandoning sub-tropical seas because the water is too warm.

Sardines, for generations have been the most abundant commercial fish species in Portugal, are moving North. They are now established in the North Sea and are being caught in the Baltic – a sea that until recently was normally frozen over in the winter.

Sardines, anchovies and mackerel – three important species in the diet of many southern European and North African countries – have been studied by scientists trying to discover how climate change and warming seas are affecting their distribution.

Sardines swim into northern waters to keep cool by Paul Brown, Climate News Network/The Daily Climate, Feb 20, 2015

Scientists witness carbon dioxide trapping heat in air in real-time field measurements

Scientists have witnessed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere above the United States, chronicling human-made climate change in action, live in the wild. 

A new study in the journal Nature demonstrates in real-time field measurements what scientists already knew from basic physics, lab tests, numerous simulations, temperature records and dozens of other climatic indicators. They say it confirms the science of climate change and the amount of heat-trapping previously blamed on carbon dioxide.

Researchers saw "the fingerprint of carbon dioxide" trapping heat, said study author Daniel Feldman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. He said no one before had quite looked in the atmosphere for this type of specific proof of climate change.

Scientists Witness Carbon Dioxide Trapping Heat In Air In Real-Time Field Measurements by Seth Borenstein, AP/The Huffington Post, Feb 25, 2015 

Tar Sands pipeline vetoed, climate threat marches on

Pres. Barack Obama vetoed a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipelineon February 24— not because of climate change, not because of low oil prices and not because of the risks from leaking diluted bitumen from the tar sands. Obama vetoed the pipeline bill “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures.” In other words Obama used the third veto of his presidency to preserve the prerogatives of his office, in this case evaluating cross-border pipelines and the ever-vague “national interest.”

Veto aside, the Obama administration still might find Keystone XL is in the national interest, once the Department of State completes its six-years-and-counting review. Approval appears to hinge on whether the pipeline is judged to “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” as the president put it in a speech in 2013. State has said no it won’t in the past, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others, say yes it will.

Tar Sands Pipeline Vetoed, Climate Threat Marches On by David Biello, Scientific American, Feb 25, 2015

The troubling psychology of how we decide who’s a scientific “expert”

In the past few days, the climate change debate has reverted to a familiar mode: Follow the money. The New York Times and many other outlets reported on climate-doubting researcher Wei-Hock (“Willie”) Soon and his apparent receipt of energy industry monies to support his research programs. Soon, who has not responded to comment requests from The Washington Post, has often argued that the sun is the real factor driving climate change — a position that is rejected by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science.

The Soon story prompted much outrage – and now, it has also prompted another attempt to follow the money. On Tuesday, House Democrats on the Committee on Natural Resources sent letters inquiring after the funding sources of several other researchers who have challenged various aspects of climate science — requests that, some suggest, may go too far

The troubling psychology of how we decide who’s a scientific “expert” by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 25, 2015

Uncertainty behind climate projections could be cut in half by 2030

Scientists will soon be able to forecast climate change more accurately, according to new research. Projections of future temperature rely on estimates of how sensitive the Earth's climate is to rising emissions, and the uncertainty in those estimates could be halved within 15 years.

More certainty about the climate's sensitivity to emissions means a better assessment of our chances of keeping global temperature rise below the  two-degree limit, the researchers say.

Uncertainty behind climate projections could be cut in half by 2030, study shows by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, Feb 23, 2015

With climate change, US presidents matter

Yesterday, President Barack Obama became the first president who has taken a stand to stop climate change.

Actually, that isn’t quite true. President Obama took that stand from his first step into the White House. He has put into place a series of initiatives that actually give us a chance at stopping the most serious consequences of climate change. Much of his actions have gone with little public notice. That changed yesterday with hisveto of the ill-proposed Keystone XL pipeline

With climate change, US presidents matter by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - the 97%, The Guardian, Feb 25, 2015

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. WSJ says that China's coal use decreased last year, and Carbon Brief says total CO2 emissions also went down.

    0 0
  2. Wrong url for "Scientists witness carbon dioxide trapping heat in air in real-time field measurements"

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The glitch has been fixed. Thank you for bring this to our attention.


  3. I have included the Feldman et al. (2015) data in my TOA forcing clearinghouse graphic.  The observed trend from 2001-2011 of 0.2 watts per meter squared falls DIRECTLY in line between the upper and lower range bound rates that I derived from Nuccitelli et. al. 2012 and Durack et. al. 2014.  I see this as a strong confirmation of the cumulative work to date on the subject.  view the graphic here: 

    More troubling, the 2001-2011 period was the decade with the most rapid expansion of Aerosol emissions in human history.  Therefore this rate of increase in ratiative forcing is moderated, possibly by a factor of 50%.  If this view then, the recent NODC ocean heat data (red dot at top right of graphic) is certainly within the range of plausible current forcings and the rate of increase may be as high as 0.5 watts per meter squared per decade.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Activated image source and constrained size to fit page format.

  4. original image here

    Larger and readable.

    0 0

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