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2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #25

Posted on 22 June 2019 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, Jun 16 through Sat, June 22, 2019

Editor's Pick

A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter

Sunset over ocean NASA

Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech

Part 1 of a Two-Part Series

If you could ask a sea turtle why small increases in global average temperature matter, you’d be likely to get a mouthful. Of sea grass, that is.

Of course, sea turtles can’t talk, except in certain animated movies. And while on-screen they’re portrayed as happy-go-lucky creatures, in reality it’s pretty tough to be a sea turtle, dude (consider the facts), and in a warming world, it’s getting tougher.

Sea Turtles

Since the temperature of the beach sand that female sea turtles nest in influences the gender of their offspring during incubation, our warming climate may be driving sea turtles into extinction by creating a shortage of males, according to several studies.1

A few degrees make a huge difference. At sand temperatures of 31.1 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit), only female green sea turtles hatch, while at 27.8 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) and below, only males hatch.

A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter by Alan Buis, NASA's Global Climate Change, Vital Signs of the Planet, June 19, 2019 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun June 16 2019

Mon June 17 2019

Tue June 18 2019

Wed June 19 2019

Thu June 20, 2019

Fri June 21 2019

Sat June 22 2019

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. Corn based ethanol and similar crop based ethanols look increasingly like a failed idea. Looking at the article above the majority of the studies appear to suggest corn ethanol has no advantages over other options, or at best a small advantage. Displacing millions of hectares of forests and other crops for at best a possible small advantage looks like insanity to me.The risks of losing considerable areas of cropland and forests do not justify this.

    Corn is claimed but not proven to sequester good levels of carbon, and is also used as cattle feed in intensive farming, but there is also some evidence that the alternative of feeding cattle on open grasslands with rotational grazing sequesters soil carbon and is an alternative to corn feed. So this alternative should at least be considered in the 'modelling'. Of course it does put pressure on land so this needs to be also considered.

    We need to be asking what do we 'really' need biofuels for? Perhaps aviation fuel, and to power shipping and long haul trucking because electrifying these things is going to be challenging. Blending corn ethanol in petrol for cars is stupidity, because we have electric cars and once you get above a token blend of about 20% ethanol engine's cant handle it. Token blends simply dont achieve anything of significance to my way of thinking.

    We have other options for biofuels that don't compromise forests and crop lands. I recall reading biofuels can be made from scrub grown on waste land, harvesting grasses, growing algae and from various other waste materials. This may not be as economic short term as corn biofuels, but in the long term this doesn't disrupt other essential land uses. It may be enough to fuel things that cannot be electrified. Someone needs to work that one out, and it will give a better picture of whether corn biofuels are of any use.

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  2. If you are 15 years old, emissions rose 30% in your lifetime.

    If you are 30 years old, emissions rose 60% in your lifetime.

    In the next 10 years, emissions will rise 10% at least.

    After 30 years of trying, solar and wind are 2% of total world energy use.

    To avoid 2 C, emissions must drop 50% in 10 years, and 100% in 20 years.

    5 of 13 major tipping points are triggered like dominos below 2 C.

    When these 5 tipping points begin, they reinforce each other and trigger the other 8.

    Runaway hothouse earth cannot be stopped or reversed once started.

    The earth will take many, many thousands of years to recover.

    Runaway mass extinction cannot be stopped or reversed once started.

    The earth will take many millions of years to recover.

    Nobody wants to admit it.

    There are 25 billion chickens on earth.

    Humans and livestock are 98% of all land vertebrate biomass.

    10,000 years ago, humans and livestock were 0.03% of all land vertebrate biomass.

    All male vertebrates are being biologically emasculated, feminized, sterilized, stupified and crazyfied.

    If you want tons of data on how and why, go to Loki's Revenge Blog and read: The Withering Bones of Humanity

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  3. BeezelyBillyBub,

    Improving awareness and correcting understanding need to be understood to be the objectives (of every person who is trying to be helpful).

    Try to avoid using terms that are open to too much interpretation. Divisive resistance to correction and improvement thrives on opportunities to make-up misleading claims that would appeal to people who are inclined to dislike their awareness and understanding being improved in a way that would challenge their developed perceptions of status (prosperity, helpfulness, opportunity for more personal benefit, ...), for themselves or any sub-tribe of global humanity they identify with.

    And it is more helpful to point people to more robust presentations of understanding like the Sustainable Development Goals.

    It may take more words to describe things in more detail, but when trying to be clear, fewer words can result in run-away popularity of misleading counter-claims. Less detail can make it easier to abuse motivated reasoning or confirmation bias to dismiss a presentation of information. I support the presentation of 'worst case future results', but only with a detailed presentation of the basis for the worst case.

    "Runaway hothouse earth" may be interpreted as "Earth becoming Venus".

    The nasty thing about global warming impacts is indeed the way that exceeding each tipping point starts something harmful that adds to the total impacts even without more impact from humans, and may be practically impossible for humans to completely stop or reverse (unlike the ending of fossil fuel use and other harmful developed human activities). However, my understanding is that the best developed understanding is that Earth is almost impossible to be impacted by human impacts to a degree that triggers tipping-points that would result in Earth becoming like Venus. And my understanding is that the tipping-points will not do what you have claimed (5 triggered below 2.0 C warming that are unstoppable and inevitably trigger the other tipping points in a runaway warming leading to Venus-like conditions on Earth).

    I see the simple undeniable beauty of the other brief points made. But the 'runaway hothouse earth' and 'runaway mass extinction' points need more details or a different simple wording (I do not have alternative simple wording alternatives to offer)

    What needs to be presented is how the amplification of the feed-backs of each of the tipping points will add up, how each one takes away the potential for human corrective actions to reverse what has been done.

    That concern may be well explained by starting with the understanding that future reality is the sum of the actions of every person through the string of progressive moments in time. Everybody's impacts add up. Any harmful impact that accumulates collectively contributes to the "Harm Done". That is why people cannot be allowed to 'believe what they want and do as they please' (even though that understanding is understandably unpopular). Helpful people may even be able to substantially remove CO2 from the atmosphere or other corrective actions, but if harmful people are still able to be harmful the Helpful people's actions are just attempts to try to limit how much worse things will be, not able to 'make things better'.

    Every person choosing a harmful action makes the problem worse, no matter how much the helpful people reduce their own impacts. That leads to the need to explain why less fortunate people should be allowed to create impacts and must be helped by the more fortunate to live at least basic decent lives that are not harmful to the future of humanity. Claiming that the supposedly less advanced, less fortunate should know better and behave better before "all" of the more fortunate people behave more helpfully (less harmfully) is 'absurd'. Which leads to the need, and opportunity, to explain that Helpfully Altruism must Govern and Limit the behaviour of everyone, especially Governing the actions of the supposed winners/leaders (if they did not and do not Self-Govern by Helpful Altruism they do not deserve their status).

    Each tipping point has a "life of its own", adding to the collective impacts. But, unlike human impacts that can be reduced and even reversed by helpful human actions over-powering the harmful impacts of Others, tipping points can be harder for humans to "put back in the box they came out of". An example is the way that changes of Ocean Chemistry due to the human production of massive amounts of excess new CO2 are very hard for humans to reverse. Even reducing atmospheric levels of CO2 would not significantly reverse the Ocean chemistry changes, or the related impacts on Ocean Biodiversity.

    And added information that could be helpful would be the detailed presentation of the likely amplification of global warming by each tipping-point triggered result.

    That is a lot more difficult to present than saying 'Runaway hothouse Earth'. But it can short-circuit any attempt to create a potentially popular misleading counter-claim. The refutation of the counter-claim would likely be able to be shown to be part of the initial presentation of information that the person is trying to discredit.

    However, I can suggest a simple brief comment that is difficult to create misleading counter-claims of. I recommend pointing people to more robust presentations of collective understanding of what is required for the future of humanity. People should be pointed to the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a Climate Action Goal which has things like the IPCC Reports as 'part' of its basis. The SDGs are open to improvement, but they are undeniably what need to be Governing human activity, especially the activity of Winners/Leaders who want to sustain their developed perceptions of Status.

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  4. The solution for the sea turtles is simplicity itself, technically, but as usual really hard in practice.  Collect eggs from sea turtle beaches and transfer them to other beaches all over the place and make these beaches off limits for people (almost impossible).  Presumably the turtles will return to the beaces where they have hatched and some beaches will be at the right temperatures. 

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  5. Regarding BeezelyBillyBub's list of factoids. It creates a graphic picture of our dillema, but it is so "full on" people might say we are doomed, and its pointless doing anything, and this is is why I avoid writing lists like this. I would be interested in what other people think?

    If we concentrate on all the considerable challenges in developing renewable energy, the small ammount so far developed, and roadblocks in the way like oil exporting countries, do we risk creating a self fullfilling prophesy of failure ?

    I'm not a natural optimist, but I prefer to at least try to take a positive view and solutions focussed approach. And it's definitely not too late to mitigate the climate problem.

    However we obviously shouldn't understate the problem either. Fear does motivate people, and people have a right to know about plausible worst case scenarios and can't be treated like children.

    Some of the factoids in BBB's list create a false impression. Yes humans are a huge part of the earths vertebrate biomass, so were dinosaurs once, etcetera. So what? We have evolved to be the dominant apex predator and lifeform so we have to manage the situation so as to not wreck the planet in the process. We have no other choice.

    Agree with OPOF's comments especially  that we need a nuanced and accurate definition of hothouse earth. It's most certainly is a big problem for humanity,  but it is better defined as a tropical earth with  parts of the earth essentially uninhabitable for humans, but it is extremenly unlikely to turn the earth into Venus. Hyperbole will give denialists ammunition to make scientists look foolish.

    We can most certainly still avoid a hothouse earth scenario. My understanding is that for hothouse earth conditions the permafrost and certain other tipping points have to be crossed and this is thought to be at plus 3 degrees c above the pre industrial basline so we still have a chance to stop this.

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  6. nigelj @5,

    I like to pair the explanation that 'everybody's actions add up to be the future' with dramatic but true points made like BBB does.

    It highlights that the lack of correction to date is the problem. And a continued lack of correction of how people act continues to rapidly make things worse. That makes it clear that there is never a time when 'it is too late to make corrections'.

    The pairing of that type of understanding can also clearly point out that the less corrected people are the 'worse the worst will be' and the more dramatic the required correction becomes. Today's climate impact emergency developed because, 30 years ago, global leadership of the supposedly more advanced nations did not start responsibly leading the understood to be required 'significant correction', because the understanding and correction were easily made unpopular because harmful unsustainable activity had become profitable and popular.

    And there in lies the biggest barrier to improving climate science understanding. Understanding what has been happening undeniably requires accepting that freer competition for popularity and profit will develop harmful results that can be very difficult to correct. And defending the freedom to get away with misleading political marketing is one of the greatest harms humanity has ever inflicted upon itself.

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  7. OPOF

    "And defending the freedom to get away with misleading political marketing is one of the greatest harms humanity has ever inflicted upon itself.'

    Yes however I feel its in the general publics hands. They need to stop voting for ignorant people who have no integrity, and who cherrypick and deceive. The public need to stop rewarding people who are dishonest and incompetent. Political Parties need to put up candidates with a record of integrity otherwise we end up with the absurd scenario last election in the USA where it became the choice of the lesser of two evils. People need to stop seeing elections as a gladatorial contest for their amusement, and realise awful candidates are exactly what they appear to be, awful, and that it will have nasty repercussions for their lives.

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