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2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #41

Posted on 11 October 2020 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Climate Feedback Article Review... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review...

Story of the Week...

How Joe Biden could reorient foreign policy around climate change

A new report lays out a series of bold steps Biden could take as president without any help from Congress.

Joe Biden


When climate activists evaluate Joe Biden, they tend to focus on domestic policy. But the realities of the US system of government are such that the president is fairly constrained on domestic policy — by Congress, the courts, and his own party.

It is foreign policy where the president has the most power and discretion. How and whether Biden centers climate change in his foreign policy will be an enormous part of his legacy.

Biden has a deep record on foreign policy — his personal connection with world leaders is one of his regular talking points — and in particular he claims considerable credit for securing the Paris climate agreement (though the exact extent of his involvement is somewhat in dispute). But relative to his domestic policies, his climate pledges on foreign policy have come in for less attention and scrutiny from the climate world.

new report out Friday from the Climate Solutions Lab (CSL), housed at the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, helps address that deficit. It takes a close look at what Biden has pledged to do to advance climate action through foreign policy and suggests 10 further actions he could take — on his own, on day one — without any help from Congress.

One of the overarching lessons from the report is that the president’s foreign-policy powers are extensive and have never been fully pressed in service of climate action. It is a look at how Biden can best use his power where he has the most of it.

The report is divided up based on the three core foreign policy goals Biden has articulated: restoring US leadership on key global challenges, safeguarding America’s economic future, and strengthening US democracy and democratic alliances. In each area, CSL recounts the climate commitments Biden has made so far and explains why and how he should go further. Let’s run through them quickly.

Click here to access the entire article as originally poted on the Vox website.

How Joe Biden could reorient foreign policy around climate change by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 9, 2020

El Niño/La Niña Update...

La Niña’s reign continues in the tropical Pacific, with an approximately 85% chance of lasting through the winter. Forecasters currently think this La Niña will be on the stronger side.

Let’s check in with the tropical Pacific

The temperature of the ocean surface in the Niño3.4 region was about 0.8°C cooler than the 1986–2015 average, according to the ERSSTv5 dataset. We monitor the Niño3.4 index with a few different temperature datasets—more on that here—but they are all comfortably below the La Niña threshold of -0.5°C. The three-month-average Niño3.4 index, called the Oceanic Niño Index (remember this for later!) was -0.6°C. The Oceanic Niño Index is our primary metric for the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, aka ENSO, the whole El Niño/La Niña ocean/atmosphere system.

Geopolar SSTA Sep 2020

September 2020 sea surface temperature departure from the 1981-2010 average. Lots of cool water at the equator in the Pacific. Image from  Data Snapshots on

The atmosphere is responding to La Niña’s cooler-than-average ocean surface. A strengthened Walker circulation is what we expect with La Niña conditions, and it’s what we have: air rising vigorously over the very warm western Pacific, traveling eastward high up in the atmosphere, sinking over the cooler central-eastern Pacific, and traveling back westward near the surface.

Walker Circulation in LaNina Conditions

Generalized Walker Circulation (December-February) anomaly during La Niña events, overlaid on map of average sea surface temperature anomalies. Anomalous ocean cooling (blue-green) in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean and warming over the western Pacific Ocean enhance the rising branch of the Walker circulation over the Maritime Continent and the sinking branch over the eastern Pacific Ocean. Enhanced rising motion is also observed over northern South America, while anomalous sinking motion is found over eastern Africa. NOAA drawing by Fiona Martin.

Near-surface winds along the tropical Pacific (the trade winds) were stronger than average through the month of September and into early October, as were upper-level winds over the east-central Pacific. The two indexes we use to measure the change in sea-level pressure between the western and eastern Pacific, the Southern Oscillation Index and the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index were positive, indicating the presence of more rising air (lower surface pressure) over the west and more sinking air (higher surface pressure) over the east—more evidence of an enhanced Walker circulation.

October 2020 La Niña update by Emily Becker, ENS0 Blog, NOAA's, Oct 8, 2020

Toon of the Week...

2020 Toon 41 

Hat tip to the Stop Climate Science Denial Facebook page.

Climate Feedback Article Review...

Article by The Daily Caller oversimplifies drivers of wildfires and downplays role of climate change

2020 Climate Feedbzck 41 

Analysis of "Wildfires Will Become Worse Thanks To Decades-Old Liberal Policies, Says Fire Expert Who Predicted Uptick In Blazes"

Published in , by  on 13 Sept 2020

Three scientists analysed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be ‘low’.

A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Biased, Misleading.

Article by The Daily Caller oversimplifies drivers of wildfires and downplays role of climate change, Edited by Nikki Forrester, Climate Review, Sep 28, 2020

Coming Soon on SkS...

  • Bleak views of melting Antarctic ice, from above and below (Karin Kirk)
  • What does the global shift in diets mean for climate change? (Josh Gabbatiss)
  • SkS New Research for Week #41 (Doug Bostrom)
  • The Debunking Handbook 2020: now freely available for download (John, Baerbel)
  • Debunking Handbook 2020: Misinformation is damaging and sticky (John, Baerbel)
  • 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #42 (John Hartz)
  • 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #42 (John Hartz)

Poster of the Week...

2020 Poster41 

SkS Week in Review... 

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