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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #21

Posted on 27 May 2018 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Opinion of the Week... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... SkS Spotlights... Video of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week... 

Story of the Week...

What Is Kilauea’s Impact on the Climate?

Scientists are tearing their hair out over baseless myths about the erupting volcano in Hawaii.

Kilauea Volcano Eruption Mario Tama/Getty

Maarten de Moor would like to clear up a few things about the dramatic, weeks-long eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

Kilauea’s spectacular explosions won’t set off earthquakes on America’s West Coast. They won’t cause a tsunami, either. They won’t trigger a bigger, more catastrophic eruption like the one of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, in 1991. “Not gonna happen,” de Moor, a volcanologist, said. And even though Kilauea is emitting lots of carbon dioxide, it won’t worsen global warming to any meaningful degree. “That one,” he said, “is just not based on any facts at all.”

Each of these myths about Kilauea have spread on the internet in one form or another since the volcano began spewing lava on May 3. They’ve been largely debunked thanks to scientists like de Moor, who monitors volcanic emissions for the Deep Carbon Observatory and the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica. The Associated Press, for example, corrected its May 13 story that wrongly stated that Kilauea was part of the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of severe seismic activity that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. The popular-science publications Earther and National Geographic have also published extensive articles refuting most of these claims.

But one of these myths has been especially persistent. 

What Is Kilauea’s Impact on the Climate? by Emily Atkin, The New Republic, May 26, 2018

Editorial of the Week...

Taxpayers shouldn't foot bill for climate change alone

Coal fired power plant pollution

Getty Images

On Thursday, May 24th, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard arguments on a motion to dismiss a pioneering lawsuit filed by San Francisco and Oakland against oil and gas producers like ExxonMobil, Shell, and others, seeking to recover the massive costs of adapting to climate change. If the case survives and moves to trial, it would be the first to do so, and would represent a watershed moment for climate liability lawsuits which have been filed by 13 localities across the country.

Not surprisingly, these lawsuits have generated predictable denunciations from fossil fuel allies: First, they argue there’s no comparison between big oil and industries like tobacco that were brought to account through the courts. Then they claim we’re all responsible, so no one, especially not the oil industry in particular, is responsible. And finally, they argue that addressing climate change is a political question that cannot be decided in the courts.

Let’s take a look at the claims.

Taxpayers shouldn't foot bill for climate change alone, Opinion by Richard Wiles*, The Hill, May 26, 2017

*Richard Wiles is the executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, an initiative of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

Toon of the Week...

2018 Toon 21  

Quote of the Week...

A landmark climate case in the Netherlands, the first to rule that a government has a constitutional duty to protect its citizens from the impacts of climate change, is heading back to court on Monday for a hearing on the Dutch government’s appeal.

The Dutch court’s ruling in Urgenda Foundation v. The State of Netherlands in 2015 ordered the government to take more aggressive action to cut carbon emissions. It inspired similar lawsuits around the world from activist groups and citizens trying to compel governments to act more decisively on the climate crisis.

The lawsuit was filed by the Urgenda Foundation and 886 citizens in 2013, seeking to hold the government accountable for its promises to aggressively cut emissions at a time when the country was falling behind in reaching its renewable energy goals.

“The case completely changed the political debate on climate policy. Now it is the top topic in Dutch politics,” said Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel of Urgenda Foundation in Amsterdam. “The case created an enormous amount of hope around the world for people who lost faith in the political process.”

Netherlands Works to Overturn Landmark Urgenda Climate Ruling by Ucilia Wang, Climate Liability News, May 24, 2018

Graphic of the Week...

Warming stripes

A new set of climate visualisations, communicating the long term rise in temperatures for particular locations as a changing set of colours from blue to red. Each stripe represents the temperature of a single year, ordered from the earliest available data to now.

Annual global temperatures from 1850-2017 

Annual Global Temps 1850-2017

The colour scale represents the change in global temperatures covering 1.35°C [data]

Warming stripes by Ed Hawkins, Climate Lab Book, May 22, 2018

SkS Spotlights...

Institute for Government & Sustainable Development (IGSD)

IGSD logo

Promoting just & sustainable societies

IGSD’s mission is to promote just and sustainable societies and to protect the environment by advancing the understanding, development, and implementation of effective, and accountable systems of governance for sustainable development.

Strengthening environmental law

IGSD brings together professionals from around the world who are committed to strengthening environmental law and institutions to promote sustainable development.

IGSD advances:

  • Understanding of governance through research and education
  • Effective implementation of policies through capacity building, advice, and advocacy
  • Cooperation through networking
  • Enhanced public awareness through media including film and television

Connecting professionals from around the world

IGSD has a broad range of projects in a variety of regions. Its members include practitioners and scholars from a variety of developed and developing countries – including lawyers, political scientists, economists, scientists and others – representing a diversity of geographic regions, and a wide range of cultural, legal and political traditions.

Working with leading international organizations

IGSD collaborates with leading national and international and academic organizations including:

  • United Nations Environment (UN E)
  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD)
  • Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
  • Tshingua University, Beijing 

Click here to access the IGSD homepage.

Video of the Week...

Meet NASA’s New Dynamic Duo: A Pair of Climate Change-Tracking Satellites by Julissa Treviño, Smithsonian, May 22, 2018

Coming Soon on SkS...

  • Yes, EVs are green and global warming is causing sea level rise (Dana)
  • Climate change is already making droughts worse (Benjamin Cook)
  • Global warming, hurricanes, and rain (John Abraham)
  • Climate science websites around the world (Baerbel)
  • New research this week (Ari)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22 (John Hartz)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #22 (John Hartz)

Climate Feedback Reviews...

Business Insider highlights health impacts of climate change, but some aspects are misleading

2018 Climate Feedback 21 

Climate Feedback asked a team of scientists to review the article, The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere just hit its highest level in 800,000 years and scientists predict deadly consequences by Kevin Loria, Business Insider, May 8, 2018

Six scientists analyzed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be 'neutral'.

A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Confused.

Review Summary 

This article at Business Insider describes the impacts of climate change on human health which covering the fact that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere recently passed 410 parts per million.

Scientists who reviewed the article found that many of the listed impacts were described accurately and supported with links to relevant published studies. However, cited numbers for current deaths due to common air pollutants and the concentration at which CO2 itself can impact brain function are misleading. In their comments, the scientists provide context for interpreting these numbers. Additionally, the article’s language conflates CO2’s effect as a climate-changing gas with the direct health effects of other pollutants.

Business Insider highlights health impacts of climate change, but some aspects are misleading, Edited by Scott Johnson, Climate Feedback, May 15, 2018 

SkS Week in Review... 

Poster of the Week...

2018 Poster 21 

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Volcanoes just don't emit enough CO2 to explain global warming over the last several decades. The magma from volcanoes does have a lot of dissolved gases including CO2, however emissions from fossil fuels are approximately 100 times greater, and emissions from volcanoes have been measured in multiple ways. The keeling curve is also smooth, rather than punctuated by peaks when volcanoes explode.

    Its also a question of what explains the increased atmospheric levels of CO2 in the keeling curve . I was as curious as anyone, so last year I did some digging. Volcanic activity has just not increased over the period when CO2 levels have significantly increased, so volcanoes cannot be the source of the growth of CO2. Look up "list of large volcanic eruptions of the 19th century on wikipedia" and ditto for the 20th century. There are no clear differences between the two centuries overall, although if anything the 19th century had a couple more really large eruptions. I'm not aware of any evidence of significant changes in undersea volcanic activity.

    Generally volcanic activity is reasonably regular on these time scales which is not surprising given its a release of pressure from a regular sort of process beneath the crust.

    Unfortunately people listen to other people on talk back radio or websites that spread climate denial ignorance, but who sound plausible and confident. I'm a strong freedom of speech advocate, but this ignorance is now on a huge scale.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Also see the SkS rebuttal article, Do volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans?

  2. Of course,, the "it's volcanoes" argument was also used for stratospheric ozone damage, too. The volcanoes put out more chlorine, etc., than come from CFCs.. (No, they don't.) It's as if they just did a search-and-replace on the ozone anti-science articles.

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