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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #35

Posted on 2 September 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed's marine fauna – study

Antarctic Sea 

Antarctic sea has a species-rich environment but global warming could make some species dominant with devastating implications for marine life. Photograph: STAFF/Reuters

Marine life on the Antarctic seabed is likely to be far more affected by global warming than previously thought, say scientists who have conducted the most sophisticated study to date of heating impacts in the species-rich environment.

Growth rates of some fauna doubled – including colonising moss animals and undersea worms – following a 1C increase in temperature, making them more dominant, pushing out other species and reducing overall levels of biodiversity, according to the study published on Thursday in Current Biology.

The researchers who conducted the nine-month experiment in the Bellingshuan Sea say this could have alarming implications for marine life across the globe as temperatures rise over the coming decades as a result of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Gail Ashton of the British Antarctic Survey and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center said she was not expecting such a significant difference. “The loss of biodiversity is very concerning. This is an indication of what may happen elsewhere with greater warning.” 

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed's marine fauna – study by Jonathan Watts, Guardian, Aug 31, 2017

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Aug 27, 2017

Mon Aug 28, 2017

Tue Aug 29, 2017

Wed Aug 30, 2017

Thu Aug 31, 2017

Fri Sep 1, 2017

Sat Sep 2, 2017

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Comments 1 to 29:

  1. My Kaspersky antivirus says that this site's certificate is invalid - either out of date or too early.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Our technical team will have a look, but I note that digicert is giving the site a clean bill.

  2. Thanks - Kaspersky still saying same thing @ 11.08 4 Sept:

    >>This certificate or one of certificates in the certificate chain is not up to date<<


    Now I notice that although the browser points to skepticalscience.COM the Kaspersky warning refers to skepticalscience.NET!

    The details of the certificate, issued by Let'sEncryptAuthorityX3 include:

    >>This Certificate may only be relied upon by Relying Parties and only in accordance with the Certificate Policy found at<<

    Just wondering if some third party has infiltrated the site - my technical knowledge isn't up to doing any more than asking the question!

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  3. I have a laptop with Macaffe anti virus and google chrome, and I'm not getting a certificate message. I note the information pages for Macaffe says "this website is minimal risk" their lowest risk rating.

    But my other computer has windows defender and google chrome as well, and is giving a message "this page is trying to load scripts from unauthenticated sources"  whatever that means.

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  4. Re: "How Much Is the Future Worth?" by Will Oremus, Slate, Sep 1, 2017.  This is a really fascinating article about how to calculate the 'social discount rate' to evaluate present-day investments in, for example, climate change remediation that have future benefits decades away.  The author asks "How much should [Houston]... have been willing to spend? [in the 1990s, to harden the city against predictions of a Harvey-scale event]".  I'm not an economist but one thing I would note is municipalities generally have a legal responsibility to prepare for 1-in-100 year events.  So when the President came on twitter and called Harvey a '1-in-500 year event', he was making a subtle legal argument: that Harvey was an 'Act of God' which couldn't be prepared for, rather than a more common event that should've been prepared for.  This is where climate attribution studies can be really important.  If, due to climate change, Harvey has become a 1-in-100 year event, or even more frequent, then Houston has a legal obligation to prepare for such, and possibly can be sued if it doesn't.

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  5. You may be right ubrew, as this kind of loophole exploitation is exactly what one would expect. However, Houston has experienced about 3 events of that kind in 3 years, so it would be easy to argue that after the 2nd one, the entire risk/probability ranking should at least have been reviewed.

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  6. Ubrew - 

    Harvey has become a 1-in-100 year event, or even more frequent, then Houston has a legal obligation to prepare for such, and possibly can be sued if it doesn't.

    I would note is municipalities generally have a legal responsibility to prepare for 1-in-100 year events.

    No they dont  - Can  you provide a citation for any court that has upheld that concept 

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  7. Tom13: No, I don't have the legal background for that.  It's common among builders, for example, to design buildings to withstand 100 year events (a roof withstanding a 100-year snowfall, for example), so I assume its also used as a metric for urban planners designing drainage systems, etc.  I'm pretty sure the building code is a legal requirement.  I would be surprised if urban planners aren't held to a similar standard.

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  8. Here is a good article from Slate that discusses Houston's code.

    Houston is well known for lax building codes.  Approximately 7,000 homes are built in the 100 year flood plane and require Federal flood insurance.  This flood was so big that most of the homes flooded would have flooded anyway if they had better codes.

    The bigger issue is they have had three big floods in the last five years.  SInce that is likely due to AGW they have only more big floods to look forward to.

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  9. Michael #8

    A) the article you cited from Slate deals with zoning, not lax building codes.

    B) Houston has been flooding for decades, (see the 1935 flood)

    C) Houston is build on a bayou, the whole city is practically one big Bayou. It is flat as a pancake, virtually no place for the water to run off.   As with any major city, there is lots of concrete. Those are the primary reasons for the flooding.  

    D)  Attached is a link to a pdf detailing Texas huricanes,  There has been virtually no discernable change in the number of tropical storms and huricanes since the 1800's, which makes it difficult to attribute Harvey to anything other than natural causes.

    See also

    Vecchi and Knutson 2008 acknowledge that the recorded increase is due to lack of the ability to detect storms prior to the mid 1960's.  

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  10. Tom @13

    "Attached is a link to a pdf detailing Texas huricanes, There has been virtually no discernable change in the number of tropical storms and huricanes since the 1800's, which makes it difficult to attribute Harvey to anything other than natural causes."

    Yes numbers of hurricanes haven't changed, and may not change, but I think you miss the point. Climate change is expected to make hurricanes more intense, because of higher ocean temperatures and more atmospheric water vapour etc. There is research evidence this has already happened.

    The following is commentary on hurrcane harvey from Michael Mann where he states climate change certainly made it worse and gives reasons:

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  11. Nigelj -From the 9th paragraph of the Atlantic article

    Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist at the NOAA fluid-dynamics laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, told me that a “trade-off” signal still isn’t strong enough to see in the hurricane data. “We haven’t really detected clear changes in the data in the same way we can detect changes in global mean temperature,” he says. “I just think [30 years] is a rather short record to be inferring [human-caused climate] effects, because you can also have natural modes of variability over a period of several decades.”


    The Atlantic article starts off with the premise that GW has caused more intense and less frequent hurricanes - yet the 9th paragraph admits that they  have no scientific basis to make such a claim.  

    The NOAA data from the mid 1800's to present, shows no discernable difference (other than normal cyclical trends).

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  12. Regarding 1:100 year event design. As a Professional Engineer in Civil/Structural I am very familiar with the issue.

    The code that is in effect at the time a drainage system (or building roof) is designed includes a specific value for the 1:100 year rain event as the 'code minimum design requirement'. The value of the 1:100 year design basis may be changed in future updates of the design code but already existing items are typically not required to be modified to meet a 'new code requirement' (unless there is a serious risk of failure that would result in harm to people).

    And the design code values are typically based on the weather history of the region, particularly the most recent 30 year history.

    The weakness of that method is that with rapid climate change what happened in the past 30 years is no longer very relevant for design into the future.

    As a result, code design values 'should' be updated based on a conservative evaluation of the rate of climate change and a conservative evaluation of how much more severe any design condition could become because of that rapid climate change. And all existing drainage/storage features should be required to be modified/corrected to survive possible events far beyond 100 years into the future (or we just 'save money' making a bigger problem that others will suffer from sooner in the future).

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  13. NigelJ - This statement from the NOAA sums up the scientific thought on GW and tropical storms and hurricanes.  See NOAA geophysical fluid dynamics lab (8/30/2017).

    It is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet confidently modeled (e.g., aerosol effects on regional climate).

    In other words, they admint there is no data to support any connection between Global warming and hurricane activity  but they have reached the conclusion that global does in fact increase hurricane activity not withstanding the lack of data.

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  14. OnePlanetOnlyForever@12 said: "the design code values are typically based on the weather history of the region, particularly the most recent 30 year history."  That seems sufficient.  My earlier point is municipalities need to start planning for the updated standards.  The argument that failure to do so is not a legally-prosecutable offense seems very weak because such planning is 'adaptation', and not 'mitigation'.  Adaptation doesn't argue that humans are causing climate change.  It's simply accepting that, whatever the cause, its happening.  Houstonians may have built in a bayou, but they aren't crazy.  They made an estimation that they'd be OK in the short term, and Harvey now encourages them to revisit that estimation.  In doing so the climate community should give them new targets to aim for.  If the fossil-fueled deniers want to do the same, they can do so (and back it up with evidence).  But Houston would be legally culpable, I think, if it didn't peg its planning to somebodies estimation of what a 100-year event now looks like.

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  15. Also I point out that when somebody builds in a bayou and is thus required Federal flood insurance, they are asking me, and other Americans, to subsidize their flood risk.  That's absolutely not OK, and if I were a self-professed 'libertarian' that would go double.  My point is climate change is now impacting us in the pocketbook.  We're being asked to subsidize risk for people who should know better (as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida this is heavy on my mind).  

    This is no longer about saving the Polar bears.  The climate deniers are hitting us where we live.

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  16. Tom13 @11

    The article I linked to had research that hurricane 'intensity' has already become more intense, but I accept it's not definitive research and opinions do differ.  Part of the problem is not enough accurate records going back as your NOAA study notes.

    But the article I posted goes on to note the IPCC has high confidence hurricane intensity will increase in the future. The reasons are obvious scientifically given warming oceans etc.

    The 2014 IPCC report also noted high confidence that heavy rainfall events have already increased and will increase further. (This was the main issue with Hurricane Harvey so its relevant).

    IPCC synthesis report on extreme weather etc below:

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  17. Regarding flooding, and buildings codes, and land zoning. In the past I was involved in building design consultancy work in New Zealand. All our building codes are based around 1:100 year floods etc and set certain minimum floor levels and ground clearances  and storm water disposal etc. I certainly know that several other oecd countries are the same, but not sure if all are.

    Like OPOF suggests climate change now makes all this complicated and codes may have to change. It's also a moving target with several possible sea level rise scenarios (none of them good)  so hard to decide what to do.

    I appreciate that houston floods and is built on a flat sort of bayou. I suppose a lot of this is old past history.  But regardless, local government officers legally owe a duty of care like anyone. If they continue to allow building on low land they could be in trouble legally given climate change impacts.

    Local government could possibly be in trouble legally if they dont mandate sufficient ground clearance in building codes to deal with climate change.

    Our councils are formally warning locals in writing about predicted rates of sea level rise, just as an information thing, and this is useful. Councils are also debating whether to forbid building on very low lying areas, and issues around building floor heights in the code but no decision has been made as yet.

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  18. Tom13 @9, thank you for the "txhur" link to a history [published 2009] of Texas hurricanes.  

    Interesting reading, of historical woes, and hurricane frequency.  As others have pointed out, the "noisy" background makes it difficult to detect the initially small but now growing influence there of AGW/climate-change.

    Particularly of note (and also noteworthy in view of the author's effort of 3 years in total preparation) was the brief paragraph titled "Long term trends/hurricane cycles".  From which I quote: "We are currently [2009] in a hurricane-rich period which began in 2003.  This is expected to last until around 2014, plus or minus a few years."

    Not even a hint of a mention of Global Warming, or its likely effects.  Possibly that derives from local censorship pressures in Texas — or from some bias on the part of the author (who is not representative of the NOAA).   But a remarkable omission, even for 2009.

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  19. Tom13 @ comment 13:

    You make a serious logical error when you equate "It is premature to conclude" with "they admit there is no data to support any connection".

    If you are making this error subconciously, sit back and think about how much evidence it takes to draw a conclusion on a subject you know well, and then think about how far that is from the time when you knew nothing about that subject.

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    The NAS report, however, assigns “lower confidence” to making attributions about how climate change may be affecting hurricanes.

    "It is awfully difficult to see climate change in historical data so far because hurricanes are fairly rare," Kerry Emmanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT in Boston, told AFP.

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  21. Tom13: The following articles address the surrent scientific thinking about various components of the the hurricane-climate change connection. You would do well to read them with an open mind.

    Harvey Shows How Planetary Winds Are Shifting by Eric Roston, Bloomberg News, Aug 30, 2017

    Does Harvey Represent a New Normal for Hurricanes? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, Aug 29, 2017

    Katrina. Sandy. Harvey. The debate over climate and hurricanes is getting louder and louder by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Aug 30, 2917

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  22. Thanks for the article: World’s soils have lost 133bn tonnes of carbon since the dawn of agriculture by Daisy Dunne, Carbon Brief, Aug 25, 2017

    Which of course is significant considering atmosphere has a net extra approx. 230 GtC cumulative since 1870.

    It's even more significant when you consider that vast areas were "blacked out" in the charts and losses of soil carbon from these were not counted, although recent discoveries indicate they too may have been caused by human activity. For example: Humans as Agents in the Termination of the African Humid Period covers an area much larger than all the arable land used in the study but is not counted at all. It is blacked out. A similar thing happened in Australia. A similar thing is still happening in the southwest US.

    When you add all the carbon lost from the soil sink from all causes it exceeds all the extra carbon in the atmosphere. Which means we can reverse global warming.

    Executive summary:

    Yes we can reverse Global Warming.

    It does not require huge tax increases or expensive untested risky technologies.

    It will require a three pronged approach worldwide.

    1. Reduce fossil fuel use by replacing energy needs with as many feasible renewables as current technology allows.
    2. Change Agricultural methods to high yielding regenerative models of production made possible by recent biological & agricultural science advancements.
    3. Large scale ecosystem recovery projects similar to the Loess Plateau project, National Parks like Yellowstone etc. where appropriate and applicable.

    But of course as you can see already it is looking grim. The arable land is decreasing, which means our ability to capture and store carbon in the soil is also decreasing, even while the total lost from the soil increases and the total in the atmosphere from emissions increases. We wait much longer to make real significant changes, and we lose our window of opportunity.

    So while I don't 100% agree with the study, given they ignored way too much land area that should have been included, it is still a good eye opener for many people who had no idea the ranges were even on the same order of magnitude. It's a start. Looking forward to better studies in the future.

    Oh and BTW, the people focusing on Hurricanes and flooding? Carbon in the soil won't stop tide surges. But it will greatly mitigate the type of flooding Huston suffered. Instead of infiltration rates around 1/2 - 1 inch per hour or even less in clay or hardpan soils, you can infiltrate a foot or more per hour with high carbon healthy soils. High infiltration rates virtually eliminate runoff and greatly decrease flood risks. The total cumulative holding capacity for water is also equally increased.

    Gabe Brown: Keys to Building a Healthy Soil

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  23. #21 JH - you linked to Blomberg, the atlantic, and the Washington post, not exactly 

    I linked to the EPA, NAP etc, (scientific studies, reports, etc), each of which noted there is little empirical evidence of increased hurricane activity since the mid 1800s (during a time in which the planet has warmed 1.5C ).  Another of the links conceeded that there is low confidence in the ability to predict future hurricane activity.  In other words , science has 160+ years of good emprical evidence, yet some scientists are projecting a change in the trend.  

    Most rational observers would place more weight on the empirical evidence.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Inflammatory snipped.

    FYI, sock puppet accounts are frowned upon in this venue.

  24. Tom 13: If you were to read the articles that I suggested you read, you would see that the scientific understanding of the of the climte change- hurricane* interface is evolving and expanding. 

    *Cyclones in the Northen Hemisphere only.  

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  25. John

    Do you not see a conflict between the theory in those articles and the lack of any discernable trend for the last 160+ years during a period of warming vs the projected future increase in hurricane during a period warming which is projected to be similar warming - perhaps that is why the NAS has placed low confidence levels on their projections for future hurricane activity .

    Empirical evidence is generally afforted greater weight in projecting future events - 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] You appear to be engaging in a straw man argument. First please cite the science papers that predict an increase hurricane activity before arguing against it. I believe other commentators have pointed you to references as to what science actually predicts. Feel free to compare empirical evidence against those predictions.

    [PS] Just noticed that Benestad has a post up on Extremes and global warming.

  26. Tom 13: Do you not see that the frequency of hurricane events in the Northen Hemisphere is only one element of the climate change-hurricane connection?

    BTW, who are the scientists arguing that climate change has caused more frequent hurricans in the Northen Hemisphere? 

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  27. Tom @13

    "in other words , science has 160+ years of good emprical evidence, yet some scientists are projecting a change in the trend.

    This statement is just unmitigated nonsense. We dont have particularly good empirical evidence of past hurricane intensity, because hurricanes just arent all that common and past records of intensity are not that reliable. We just dont know if intensity has changed or not. This point is made in some of the very articles by the scientific bodies Tom claims to respect.

    Tom is also appearing to erroneously claim yet again that past trends must be a guide to future trends as if nothing can change or accelerate. Its just astonishing to make the statements he makes.

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  28. nigelj: Here's an excellent article on an issue that you broached upstream...

    Hurricane Harvey's aftermath could see pioneering climate lawsuits, Analysis by Sebastien Malo, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Sep 5, 2017

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  29. Note that Tom13 @25 is again making the logical error that lack of a statistically-significant trend is equivalent to saying that no evidence exists.

    Also note that the most frequent (well, in my viewing) data on hurricanes - as presented by "skeptics" - is the data on hurricanes that had landfall in the US. Such data is:

    1. Only a subset of all hurricanes
    2. A relatively infrequent occurance
    3.  ...and thus a noisy data set, which makes it really hard to detect trends.

    I will leave it to the reader to decide whether this is a feature or a bug. I seem to remember a blog post (Tamino? Couldn't find it) that did an analysis of this, showing how poor a choice it is.

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