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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #11

Posted on 19 March 2017 by John Hartz

Stories of the Week... SkS Highlights... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... SkS in the News... Photo of the Week... SkS Spotlights... Video of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Stories of the Week...

Coral reef survival hinges on ‘urgent and rapid’ emissions cuts

Graveyard of Staghorn coral, Yonge reef, Northern Great Barrier Reef, October 2016.

Graveyard of Staghorn coral, Yonge reef, Northern Great Barrier Reef, October 2016. Credit: Greg Torda, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

The future of the Great Barrier Reef – and other reefs around the world – will ultimately depend on how successfully we can limit ocean warming.

This is the blunt conclusion of a new study, just published in Nature, which examines the impacts of recent coral bleaching events on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The event in 2016, for example, left just 9% of surveyed reefs untouched.

The study finds that sea surface temperature is the biggest driver of bleaching, while local efforts to improve water quality or restrict fishing have little impact on limiting its severity.

This means that “immediate action to curb future warming” is essential if coral reefs are to survive, the authors warn. 

Coral reef survival hinges on ‘urgent and rapid’ emissions cuts by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, Mar 16, 2017

Global Heat Continues With Second-Hottest February

February was the second hottest on record for the planet, trailing only last year’s scorching February — a clear mark of how much the Earth has warmed from the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

GISTEMP LOTI Anomaly - Feb 2017 

How temperatures around the world compared to normal during February 2017. Credit: NASA

The month was 2°F (1.1°C) above the 1951-1980 average, according to NASA data released Wednesday. That was 0.36°F (0.2°C) lower than February 2016, which ranks as the most anomalously warm month in NASA’s global temperature records, which go back 137 years.

One of the clear hotspots on the globe was once again the Arctic, as was the case in January and last year, which was the hottest year on record. Temperatures there were about 7°F (4°C) above average during February. Those high temperatures have kept Arctic sea ice to record low levels; the Arctic looks to see a record low winter maximum sea ice area for the third year in a row.

Global Heat Continues With Second-Hottest February by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 16, 2017

Abnormal El Nino in Peru unleashes deadly downpours; more flooding seen

Flooding in Lima, Peru, March 17, 2017

Aerial view after a massive landslide and flood in the Huachipa district of Lima, Peru, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

LIMA, March 17 (Reuters) - A sudden and abnormal warming of Pacific waters off Peru has unleashed the deadliest downpours in decades, with landslides and raging rivers sweeping away people, clogging highways and destroying crops in a potential sign of a global El Nino pattern this year.

At least 62 people have died and more than 70,000 have become homeless as Peru's rainy season has delivered 10 times as much rainfall than usual, authorities said Friday.

About half of Peru has been declared in emergency to expedite resources to the hardest hit areas, mostly in the north where rainfall has broken records in several districts, said Prime Minister Fernando Zavala.

Peru is bracing itself for another month of flooding.

Abnormal El Nino in Peru unleashes deadly downpours; more flooding seen by Mitra Taj, Reuters, Mar 17, 2017

SkS Highlights...

The next iteration of our free online course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial, starts on March 21 and will run for 8 weeks as a paced course.

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is a collaboration between Skeptical Science and The University of Queensland and takes an interdisciplinary look at climate science denial. We explain the psychological drivers of denial, debunk many of the most common myths about climate change and explore the scientific research into how to respond to climate misinformation. With all the misinformation and outright lies coming out of Washington regarding climate science - not to mention many other topics - our MOOC will give you the knowledge to spot and the tools to effectively counter them.

Paced version of Denial101x starting on March 21! by Baerbel W, Skeptical Science, Mar 16, 2016 

El Niño/La Niña Update 

For climate scientists and meteorologists, predicting the emergence of El Niño and La Niña is one of their most difficult tasks. Currently, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are trying to do just that.

Their latest analysis of sea levels in the Pacific Ocean — along with several climate models — suggests a new El Niño could emerge with the help of heat left behind by the last warm water event.

Sea level maps populated by data from the Jason-3 satellite mission show a bulge of high seas surrounding Hawaii, a band of warm water leftover from the last El Niño.

Residual heat from last El Niño could spark new one this year by Brooks Hays, UP, Mar 15, 2016

Toon of the Week...

 2017 Toon 11

Hat tip to What on Earth? comics

Quote of the Week...

“Trump's budget proposal to Congress has put in place all the worst-case scenarios with respect to defunding global efforts to combat climate change,” said Saleemul Huq, a Bangladeshi climate scientist with the International Institute for Environment and Development. 

Budget Proposal Would Hamper Climate Efforts Abroad by John Upton, Climate Central, Mar 16, 2017

He Said What?...

Trump's administration on Thursday proposed a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget, as the White House seeks to eliminate climate change programs and trim initiatives to protect air and water quality.

Asked about climate change programs, Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, told reporters on Thursday "we consider that to be a waste of (Americans') money."

"I think the president is fairly straightforward. We're not spending money on that," he said.

Climate change financing dropped from G20 draft statement by Jan Strupczewski and Michael Nienaber, Reuters, Mar 17, 2017

Graphic of the Week...

History of Global Coral Bleaching Events 

Climate Change Has ‘Permanently’ Changed the Great Barrier Reef by Eric Holthaus, Pacific Standard, Mar 16, 2017

SkS in the News...

In a Facebook post, Katharine Hayhoe stated: 

"Climate's changed before. It's just the sun, or a natural cycle--or both. Mars' ice cap is melting. Carbon dioxide is plant food. And we'd all prefer a warmer planet anyways, right?"

If any of these myths sound familiar, check out Skeptical Science — they've got an answer to each of these common myths, and over 200 more.

I love how there's a 30-second short answer, a longer "basic" answer, and then the full enchilada for people who want all the scientific references, links, and figures.

Warning: a dismissive (someone who no amount of facts, no matter how convincing, will ever convince) will say this is a politically biased website. Why? Because they can't agree with the science it cites. For them, a thermometer really IS liberal.

But for the rest of us, this is the best resource for information on climate myths on the internet. I can't recommend it highly enough. They even have an iPhone app!

In his Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN) article, Banks* unsure of climate change, Brian Fancisco wrote:

Oft-repeated studies stating 97 percent of climate scientists believe people are warming the planet have been disputed by detractors and fact checkers. But the nonprofit Skeptical Science reviewed seven climate consensus studies – including one led by the organization’s founder – and found the consensus on human-caused global warming ranged from 91 percent to 100 percent, with four of the studies at 97 percent.

* U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN)

Photo of the Week

Chesil Beach in Dorset England Feb 5, 2014 

Extreme waves crashing on Chesil Beach in Dorset in southern England on Feb. 5, 2014. Credit: Richard Broome.

Europe Faces Annual Extreme Coastal Floods in Future by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 15, 2017

SkS Spotlights...

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.

Video of the Week...

What lies under Antarctica will amaze you, Nova, YouTube, Feb 18, 2017

Coming Soon on SkS...

  • 19 House Republicans are calling on the party to take climate change seriously (Dana)
  • Trump launches an all-out offensive in the war on science (Dana)
  • In-depth: What Donald Trump’s budget means for US spending on climate change (Roz Pidcock)
  • Global warming is intensifying rainfaill (John Abraham)
  • Elevator Pitches - Chapter 02 - Radiative Gases (Rob Honeycutt)
  • 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #12 (John Hartz)
  • 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Waming Digest #12 (John Hartz)

Poster of the Week...

 2017 Poster 11

Climate Feedback Reviews...


SkS Week in Review... 

97 Hours of Consensus...

97 Hours: Matthew England 


Matthew England's bio page 

Quote provided by email 

High resolution JPEG (1024 pixels wide)

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Comments 1 to 18:

  1. "Trump's administration on Thursday proposed a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget"

    Yes correct, but it goes much further. Matt Gaetz, a republican member of the house of representatives has launched a bill seeking to "completely eliminate"  the EPA as below. He wants to leave it to the individual states.

    Part of Geatz"s rhetoric is that environmental rules are allegedly costing jobs. He provides no evidence, and given unemployment has fallen from 11% to about 5% over the last 8 years it's hard to see where his evidence would come from. The EPA has implimented various emissions rules over this period, but unemployment has fallen. I would suggest he would actually find evidence environmenal rules create jobs, given they inevitably lead to development of new technologies.

    It hardly needs to be said how senseless it would be to eliminate or cut the EPA. Before the EPA and things like the clean air act,  there were all sorts of different rules in different states, and it was inconsistent and confusing, and became a race to the bottom.

    Environmentals standards were mostly pretty poor quality back then. Levels of pollution were very high.

    You would have another huge problem, with environmental issues decided by individual states. The environment doesn't really have any borders, so it will lead to endless fighting among the states.

    These are some of the very reasons regulation by individual states didn't work in the past, and why the EPA emerged. Is Gaetz so stupid he can't work that out?

    You Americans have elected complete clowns. We in the rest of the world are just stunned, I cant tell you.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Rest assurred, many, if not most, Americans were also completely stunned by the election of Trump and are totally embarrassed by his antics and actions since he was sworn into office.

  2. Correction - some of you Americans have elected complete clowns. I realise theres huge division of opinion. And my country is facing many similar issues and debates over how to regulate environmental matters, hence my interest. But all our political parties see at least some place for a central agency.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Perhaps the old adage, "Give a man enough rope and he will surely hang himself." will be played out.

  3. nigelj,

    From our point of view as CS communicators & AGW mitigation advocates I consider a blessing that some many chaotic developments (anti-immigrations, anti-helthcare, border wall, racism and fake evesdropping allegations) are preoccupying this administration. Because if not preoccupied my his own-inflicted moronic mess, the president would urely focus on fighting the "chinese hoax". So far 31% EPA cuts are the biggest fight he's undertaken. But rest assured, far more to come, including wfforts to destroy Paris agreement. I only hope the US politicians come to (or are force to) terms with reality and impeach the moronic sociopath before he starts really damaging the environment.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The annual budget proposed by the President is typically "DOA" in the Congress. 

  4. chriskoz @3, Trump's proposed budget cuts in relation to climate change are far more extensive than just his cuts to the EPA.  Predictably, he also proposes to cut all funding to UN climate change programs, including funding to help poor nations to transition to a low carbon economy.  He also proposes to massively cut climate related research, including at NASA and the Department of Energy.  In fact a Trump spokesman has been quoted as saying that there will be no further funding of climate research.  Further, climate change adaption programs at NOAA will also be cut.

    From appearance, the only federal funding to research, mitigate or adapt climate change if those portions of the proposed budget are passed are those that have escaped the Trump administrations attention.  Given their general incompetence, that may still be significant, but I would not count on it.

    Nor would I be as sanguine as JH.  While I do not expect most of the budget to pass, neutering action on climate change is close to the heart of many Republican members of Congress, and to their most vocal supporters.  I do not expect a lot of pushback in that area of the budget.

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  5. Further to my comment @4, here is a more detailed report of Trump's proposed cuts to science research in general.  The picture is grim, only being 'relieved' for some branches of science with extra funding drawn from funding released by cutting climate research.

    This is now a distinct pattern.  One of the fundamental arguments of deniers is that the science is still uncertain, that we need more research before we do anything.  Now, however, the Harper government in Canada cut climate related research, defunded the preservation of data, and placed a gag order on scientists;  the Abbot/Turnbull government in Australia defunded the Climate Commission that was supposed to advice it on climate science, and cut CSIRO funding on climate research.  And now we have Trump trying to completely gut all climate research in the US, all climate programs in the US and UN, and also placing a gag order on scientists.

    The evidence could not be clearer that conservative know that the science is against them, that their claims that it is uncertain are deliberate distractions.  Otherwise they would fund more science, not less.  It is also fairly clear that conservatives are enemies of science.

    It is no surprise.  Alternative facts do not fair well under scientific investigation. 

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  6. "It is also fairly clear that conservatives are enemies of science."

    Crystal clear unfortunately. Only 6% of American scientists now identify as republican, according to Pew research

    "One of the great political shifts in the past decade has been the move of scientists toward the Democratic Party, a casualty of the Republican Party’s war on reality. It’s not about politics for scientists, it’s about the fact that only one party accepts scientific findings on everything from global warming to evolutionary theory to what does and doesn’t prevent pregnancy. Only 6 percent of scientists identify as Republican, whereas 55 percent identify as Democratic. In October of 2012, 68 Nobel-winning scientists co-signed a strong endorsement of Obama, saying the President “has delivered on his promise to renew our faith in science-based decision making.”

    The latest economic data (refer to this weeks economist journal) show the econimic recovery is increasing in America and globally. Wages are rising. This shows free trade and globalisation delivering benefits and that Obamas stimulation and low interest rates, and quantitative easing are delivering benefits (not that these things are totally without problems).

    The so called "administrative state" Trump wants to destroy is clearly also delivering benefits.  Recovery is always slow after financial crashes, any economist will tell you this, so it's taken a while to come through.

    Trump risks wrecking all this. I know this seems a little off topic, but it puts in context how wrong his thinking is on so many things, and therefore how suspicious you have to be on his environmental matters.

    And what on earth are these tweets about accusing Obama of wire tapping, without even the slightest evidence? Not very dignified, more like sandpit behaviour.

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  7. And we can see what Trump  and his team is trying to do. It's transparently obvious. He threatens to do totally outrageous things, hoping people will settle on slightly less outrageous compromises, that are still totally destructive.

    Don't be sucked in by this crafty ignoramus. I know you guys posting above won't,  but many will be tempted.

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  8. Tom Curtis@4,

    Thank you for bringing this budget analysis to my attention. I'm not surprised by its content.

    You say:

    From appearance, the only federal funding to research, mitigate or adapt climate change if those portions of the proposed budget are passed are those that have escaped the Trump administrations attention.

    But I find therein:

    One EPA climate program that would likely survive is the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which measures emissions from industries around the country. Congress has mandated this monitoring, and getting rid of it would require legislative changes. So the EPA could still quantify US greenhouse gas emissions — it just couldn’t very much about it.

    (emphasis original)

    So, it might actually be that those aspects anaffected by this budget simply cannot be affected by the presidential order. No doubt the president would love to scale them back but he cannot. The case of GHG monitoring does not invalidate your point about presidential incompetence though: when he does not mention anything important, it's highly likely because he does not understand it.

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  9. Recommended supplemental reading:

    4 Reasons Why the Trump Budget Cuts Won’t Happen by Ed Kilgore, The Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, Mar 17, 2017

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  10. A couple of types of events that could tragically reveal the incompetence of the Trump administration:

    • A military incident where a lack of diplomacy and crisis management could have a devastating effect and lead to unnecessary military conflict and possibly outright war. 
    • A natural disaster such as a major hurricane, earthquake or flood that affects heavily populated areas and/or critical infrastructure. (The understanding, forecasting, and dealing with natural disasters is heavily dependent on science - which is why I am commenting on it.)

    Management of either of these types of crises requires a steady hand at the helm, and a competent and prepared staff to manage the details. Effective natural disaster management requires a willingness to examine and understand relevant science. I don't see any of these attributes in the members of current U.S. Executive Branch. 

    Michael Brown, the "horse lawyer" (a former head of the Arabian Horse Association) who was appointed to the FEMA Administrator post under President George W. Bush, had no training or experience in crisis management. "Brownie," as Bush affectionately called him, displayed an incredible lack of leadership and effectiveness in the planning for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and managing the aftermath - as did President Bush himself. 

    With President Trump, it is even worse. Like many important appointed federal administrative positions, the offices of FEMA Administrator and Deputy Administrator are still vacant according to the FEMA website. There is currently no one at the helm for natural disaster planning and response in the U.S., and Trump himself is obviously not capable of the leadership to handle any such event. 

    Effective leadership of FEMA requires logic, reason, intelligence, a forceful personality with good communication skills, and the ability to face unpleasant realities head-on. Trump appoints only those who publically praise him, support his agenda, and basically kiss his butt - and is having trouble finding potential administrators and bureaucrats who have even a modicum of qualification. I fear that when the FEMA leadership positions are filled, it will be by totally unqualified toadies, and not top-notch qualified disaster response specialists. 

    If there is a major natural disaster - particularly in the U.S. - during Trump's term in office, I fear that there will be much unnecessary suffering, and many needless deaths.

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  11. I've starting seeing news items featuring 'floating island cities' as a way of dealing with rising sea levels. I wonder how they plan on coping with seas like the Dorset coast photo above?

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  12. Xulonn @10, good points. Trump and Bannon have stated they want to deconstruct the so called administrative state. They forget these organisations are there for good reasons. 

    Of course like so many things in politics there us a small grain of truth in their criticisms. Bureaucrtaic organisations can become slow and over staffed sometimes, or in a small number of cases serve no useful purpose. But the way to fix these things is with some refined and subtle policies that scrutinise what they do, put caps on staff numbers for a period, etc.

    You don't eliminate them all, or slash their funding in an arbitrary fashion. Trump is using a sledgehammer to crack open a nut. It is driven by ideology and nothing more.

    Modern economies are complex and so will be their administrative apparatus. This is true at the level of government,and equally true within large companies. Much of the great economic advances of modern society as well as ancient societies is a direct function of the administrative state. Greece, Rome, the colonising powers, the modern consumer society, modern wealthy economies everywhere.

    The real challenge we have is running bureacracies well, not getting rid of them. It can be done, and there are ample examples around the world.

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  13. When the ocean circulation shuts down there will be a strong accumulation of heat in equatorial waters as this heat is not taken pole-ward.  It is highly unlikely that any reduction of emissions now will save the coral reefs.  We can only hope they will recolonize from small remaining pockets when  we get back down to, say, 250ppm.  None of us alive today will see this.  The one ring that controls them all is money in politics.  Remove this barrier and results are not guaranteed but they are possible.  Leave vested interest money in politics and we will continue sitting in the middle of the freeway with the Mac Diesel roaring down on us.

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  14. William @13, I have heard of the possibility of north atlantic currents slowing right down, but not so much pacific currents, and this is where many of the coral reefs are. Maybe the experts know more on this.

    But regardless, ocean temperatures dont have to change much to pose a threat to coral. There may not be much we can do now.

    I agree with your money in politics comments. It's like a log jamming up the river of progress on so many things, including climate change. But the alternative is tax payer funded election campaigns, and many people are resistant to this, and don't see how it's in their longer term interests.

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  15. Tom Curtis @ 5:

    >>It is also fairly clear that conservatives are enemies of science.<<

    Don't fall into the same paradigm as deniers, Tom, by implying that ALL Xs are Ys.

    Because one is of a conservative disposition does not automatically mean that one's brain is offline. As a conservative I am perfectly capable of assessing the arguments and coming to the conclusion that the science is correct.

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  16. Wol @15, you are correct.  My statement was over general, and was not believed by me in its over general interpretation.  I should more correctly have said that conservative parties are the enemies of science, and restricted that claim to the English speaking nations in the Americas and Australasia.

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  17. I see Wake is on an alternative fact rant today.  Now I understand where his climate change denial is coming from.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I have just deleted a bunch of Wake's most recent posts because they were nothing more than inflamatory sloganeering.

    [DB] Due to his inability to adhere to the SKS Comments Policy, Wake has recused himself from further participation in this venue. 

  18. Green parties can be enemies of science too, which happens when they exploit enviromnetal issues to peddle political ideology and agendas. 

    To say that conservative parties are enemies of science is not only a generalisation it's also incorrect, given that Conservatism has underpinned our entire technology era which was and is fueled by science.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Sloganeering snipped. You have posted comments on this website long enough for you to be acquainted with the SkS Comments Policy. Please adhere to it. 

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