Decisions made in India over the next few years will play a key role in global efforts to head off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The country has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and its energy consumption is growing rapidly as a result — but it still relies largely on fossil fuels. India has a general election that will wrap up in June 2024, and both major parties say they support moving the country away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, a position backed by a sizable majority of citizens.

Global institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have pledged to help finance efforts to cut climate pollution. But many experts say more help is needed if India and other developing countries are to meet their energy goals.

As Indian Environment Secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta said in an interview with the Economic Times, “Without adequate climate finance being definitively available, we can’t commit” to curbing India’s carbon emissions fast enough to meet the country’s targets under the global Paris climate agreement of 2015.

How much does India contribute to climate change?

India has only generated about 3% of total historical climate pollution compared to 25% for the United States. But it is the third-highest carbon-polluting country today. To have a chance of meeting the Paris targets, the world cannot afford for India and other developing countries to follow the same path that made rich countries wealthy: burning “cheap” fossil fuels, because we now know the tremendous indirect costs of fossil fuel via environmental and health damages.

The size of India’s economy has almost doubled since Narendra Modi became prime minister a decade ago. The country surpassed China last year to become the most-populated country in the world with over 1.4 billion people. The number of Indians living in poverty has declined from 317 million in 2016 to 140 million today, although 90% of the population still lives on less than $10 per day.

With improved living conditions comes greater energy use and more pollution. India’s coal consumption has nearly tripled since 2005. India accounts for 14% of global coal demand, behind only China and is expected to account for most of the increase in global coal consumption in the coming years. India’s overall climate pollution is about 75% higher than in 2005, largely due to coal-fired power.

Still, although per-person carbon emissions in India have doubled since 2005, the average Indian’s carbon footprint remains less than half the world average and seven times lower than the average American’s.

Sources of electricity generation in India. Created by Dana Nuccitelli with data from the government of India.



2024 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #18

Posted on 5 May 2024 by BaerbelW, Doug Bostrom, John Hartz

A listing of 26 news and opinion articles we found interesting and shared on social media during the past week: Sun, April 28, 2024 thru Sat, May 4, 2024.

Story of the week

"It’s straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. In fact, research by John Cook and his colleagues has shown that character assassination has been one of the most common ways in which fossil fuel interests have attempted to deny accountability for the climate crisis."

— Geoffrey Supan

Why go low? Because when one can't fly, one creeps and crawls. Widely remarked: to fall back on ad hominem remarks is to declare intellectual surrender, at best a Hail Mary attempt to change topics— and easily spotted even by children arguing on a playground. "Going ad hom" is a common failure mode when talk turns to human-caused climate change. US Senator (from hydrocarbon-rich Louisiana) John Kennedy's  waving the white flag and ceding a vast territory of evidence and facts to Geoffrey Supan by diving into the gutter is the subject of our story of the week. Kennedy humiliated himself in the most public of places: in a televised US Senate Budget Committee hearing.

In a nutshell, Senator Kennedy attempted to discredit Prof. Supan and divert attention from the content of Supan's testimony by highlighting a single social media item Supan had reposted, an innocuous description of tactical choices made by a youth-led climate action organization.This was thin fabric, comically so, and made worse by Kennedy's needing to read various expletives from other posts— unrelated to Supan's repost— into the congressional record. 

Senator Kennedy's weird diversion encourages us to speculate— and legitimates scrutiny of Kennedy himself. With Kennedy's having created his own first mover disadvantage by changing the topic of the hearing from science to personalities, we are free in turn to wonder over his puzzling public messaging. Are we are seeing genuine inability to track a topic, or instead something more resembling a retail transaction? Emily Atkin's coverage in Heated tells the whole story and offers hints of where a parsimonious interpretation may lie.

Given Prof. Supan's testimony about the connection between fossil fuel industry contributions and politician support for industry agendas, a reasonable person reading this story must form their own conclusions over the root cause of Kennedy's rhetorical flop. One would think Senator Kennedy would understand how he was walking into a self-made trap of creating suspicions and doubts, issuing an unfavorable invitation to comparisons. After all, Kennedy was among the top four congressional recipients of fossil fuel industry campaign contributions for the 2022 election cycle. With money generally not being handed out in large quantities for zero consideration, one might see this as explanation for an otherwise curious choice to look foolish in front of the world. 

As we can't read Senator Kennedy's mind, we are stuck with speculation. Is he only feigning incompetence? We can't truly know. It is of course for Senator Kennedy to choose how he leads our imaginations and is perceived— we can only respect his wishes, for bad or worse. If Kennedy wants to be remembered by history as "fond of loudly losing, but why?" who are we to question that?

Stories we promoted this week, by publication date:

Before April 28

April 28



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #18 2024

Posted on 2 May 2024 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Open access notables

Generative AI tools can enhance climate literacy but must be checked for biases and inaccuracies, Atkins et al., Communications Earth & Environment:

In the face of climate change, climate literacy is becoming increasingly important. With wide access to generative AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, we explore the potential of AI platforms for ordinary citizens asking climate literacy questions. Here, we focus on a global scale and collect responses from ChatGPT (GPT-3.5 and GPT-4) on climate change-related hazard prompts over multiple iterations by utilizing the OpenAI’s API and comparing the results with credible hazard risk indices. We find a general sense of agreement in comparisons and consistency in ChatGPT over the iterations. GPT-4 displayed fewer errors than GPT-3.5. Generative AI tools may be used in climate literacy, a timely topic of importance, but must be scrutinized for potential biases and inaccuracies moving forward and considered in a social context. Future work should identify and disseminate best practices for optimal use across various generative AI tools.

Astronomy’s climate emissions: Global travel to scientific meetings in 2019, Gokus et al., PNAS Nexus:

Travel to academic conferences—where international flights are the norm—is responsible for a sizeable fraction of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with academic work. In order to provide a benchmark for comparison with other fields, as well as for future reduction strategies and assessments, we estimate the CO2-equivalent emissions for conference travel in the field of astronomy for the prepandemic year 2019. The GHG emission of the international astronomical community’s 362 conferences and schools in 2019 amounted to 42,500 tCO2e, assuming a radiative-forcing index factor of 1.95 for air travel. This equates to an average of 1.0 ± 0.6 tCO2e per participant per meeting. The total travel distance adds up to roughly 1.5 Astronomical Units, that is, 1.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. We present scenarios for the reduction of this value, for instance with virtual conferencing or hub models, while still prioritizing the benefits conferences bring to the scientific community.

The IPCC’s reductive Common Era temperature history, Esper et al., Communications Earth & Environment:

Common Era temperature variability has been a prominent component in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports over the last several decades and was twice featured in their Summary for Policymakers. A single reconstruction of mean Northern Hemisphere temperature variability was first highlighted in the 2001 Summary for Policymakers, despite other estimates that existed at the time. Subsequent reports assessed many large-scale temperature reconstructions, but the entirety of Common Era temperature history in the most recent Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was restricted to a single estimate of mean annual global temperatures. We argue that this focus on a single reconstruction is an insufficient summary of our understanding of temperature variability over the Common Era. We provide a complementary perspective by offering an alternative assessment of the state of our understanding in high-resolution paleoclimatology for the Common Era and call for future reports to present a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of our knowledge about this important period of human and climate history.

Phasing out coal power in two major Southeast Asian thermal coal economies: Indonesia and Vietnam, Do & Burke, Energy for Sustainable Development:

The phase-out of unabated coal power is crucial for meeting climate agreements in coal-dependent economies such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Despite both countries committing to the 2021 Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement, translating phase-out pledges into action poses considerable challenges. Drawing insights from interviews with government, civil society, and industry experts, this study identifies the key barriers hindering coal phase-out in each country. Concerns about potentially escalating electricity prices and power shortages loom large, with the former being more prominent in Indonesia and the latter more prominent in Vietnam. The obstacles appear particularly significant in Indonesia for reasons including its higher coal dependence. We conclude that prioritizing renewable energy growth, as well as halting the construction of new coal plants, would be the most practical and viable way forward for both countries rather than an oversized early focus on coal plant closures. The analysis is of high relevance to informing plans under the two countries' Just Energy Transition Partnerships.

The decision maker’s lament: If I only had some science!, Bisbal, Ambio (perspective):

Environmental decision makers lament instances in which the lack of actionable science limits confident decision-making. Their reaction when the needed scientific information is of poor quality, uninformative, unintelligible, or altogether absent is often to criticize scientists, their work, or science in general. The considerations offered here encourage decision makers to explore alternative approaches to alleviate their disappointment. Ironically, many researchers lament the lack of support for the science they wish to deliver and accuse decision makers of failing to realize the value of the scientific studies they propose. Both communities would benefit by remembering that producing actionable science for a pending decision requires knowing the context for that decision beforehand. They may also look inward. Only then will they find answers to the question: What can I do within my own capacity to ensure that the necessary actionable science becomes available and facilitate its use to inform decisions?

From this week's government/NGO section

Heavy precipitation hitting vulnerable communities in the UAE and Oman becoming an increasing threat as the climate warmsZachariah et al., World Weather Attribution:

From April 14 to 15 2024, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the northern parts of Oman were hit by exceptionally heavy rainfall causing massive disruption in infrastructure and public life in the area and leading to at least 20 fatalities in Oman and four in the United Arab Emirates UAE. The disagreement between model results and observations prevents the authors from concluding with certainty that human-induced climate change is the main driver making this event more likely. However, while multiple reasons could explain the absence of a trend in the model results, the authors have no alternative explanation for a trend in observations other than the expectation of heavy rainfall increasing in a warmer climate.

Climate Reality on-Screen: The Climate Crisis in Popular Films, 2013-22Schneider-Mayerson, et al., Buck Lab for Climate and Environment, Colby College:

The authors provide audience members, screenwriters, filmmakers, studios, and researchers with a straightforward way to evaluate whether climate change is represented—or omitted—in any narrative through a two-part, binary evaluation tool that is simple, illuminating, and powerful.

140 articles in 64 journals by 910 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Asymmetric impacts of forest gain and loss on tropical land surface temperature, Zhang et al., Nature Geoscience 10.1038/s41561-024-01423-3

Carbon budget concept and its deviation through the pulse response lens, Avakumovi?, Earth System Dynamics Open Access 10.5194/esd-15-387-2024

Observations of climate change, effects

Anthropogenic influence on seasonal extreme temperatures in eastern China at century scale, Hu et al., Weather and Climate Extremes Open Access 10.1016/j.wace.2024.100675



At a glance - Clearing up misconceptions regarding 'hide the decline'

Posted on 30 April 2024 by John Mason, BaerbelW

On February 14, 2023 we announced our Rebuttal Update Project. This included an ask for feedback about the added "At a glance" section in the updated basic rebuttal versions. This weekly blog post series highlights this new section of one of the updated basic rebuttal versions and serves as a "bump" for our ask. This week features "Clearing up misconceptions regarding 'hide the decline'". More will follow in the upcoming weeks. Please follow the Further Reading link at the bottom to read the full rebuttal and to join the discussion in the comment thread there.


At a glance

It's been many years since 'climategate' - when in 2009, the email server at the Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia, was hacked. The unidentified hacker helped themselves to thousands of emails. These were sifted through and a selection was in due course made available for public download on a Russian server.

What followed was typical of the tactics used in the campaign to deny the existence of human-caused climate change and is illustrative for that reason. A lot of this manufactured controversy centred on one email, written by Dr Phil Jones, in which the following sentence was picked out and trumpeted all over the media:

"I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

"Gotcha!", the deniers proclaimed.

Climategate was marketed to the public by encouraging them to take such sentences at face value - without any idea of what they actually meant. The notion being planted was that climate scientists were busy covering up declining temperatures.

It meant nothing of the sort. The people in that email were not talking about temperatures. They were talking about tree-rings.

"Mike's Nature trick" referred to a technique described in a 1998 Nature paper. The paper presented a 600 year-long global temperature reconstruction by Michael Mann and colleagues. Michael has long used tree-ring growth patterns in ancient wood to reconstruct conditions at the time those rings formed. The basic idea is that in cold, dry years, trees grow more slowly so their rings are relatively narrow and densely-spaced. In warm wet years, it's the opposite.

The "trick" is the technique of plotting recent instrumental data - in other words direct temperature measurements - alongside the reconstructed tree-ring data for the time they overlap. Why? Because it's one way of checking if the reconstructed tree-ring data are a good proxy for temperatures of the past. It therefore makes entire sense to run such checks. Now to the 'decline'. What declined?

Beyond a certain point on the timeline, around 1960, the temperature reconstructions based on some tree-ring data fell away and downwards from observed thermometer records. They declined from reality. This only happened with certain tree-ring datasets from specific places. Known as the 'divergence problem', it had been discussed in the scientific literature since the mid 1990s - 15 years before 'climategate'. However, not a lot of people realised that. How lucky for the deniers. "Hide the decline!", they chanted feverishly, to anybody who would listen.

Everything that occurs in the physical world has a cause. The divergence of temperature reconstructions, based on tree-ring growth, from the observational temperature record is a case in point. The loss of tree-ring sensitivity to temperatures kicked in around 1960. It only affected certain tree-species at certain locations. However, in those cases the post-1960 tree-ring datasets do not reflect the actual conditions. In other words, the data are useless. That's the decline for you. Much ado about nothing.

Please use this form to provide feedback about this new "At a glance" section. Read a more technical version below or dig deeper via the tabs above!

Click for Further details



Pinning down climate change's role in extreme weather

Posted on 29 April 2024 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from The Climate Brink by Andrew Dessler

In the wake of any unusual weather event, someone inevitably asks, “Did climate change cause this?” In the most literal sense, that answer is almost always no. Climate change is never the sole cause of hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, or any other disaster, because weather variability always plays a primary role in the genesis of the events.

However, climate change can make these events more intense and, given the non-linearities in the damages, this can vastly increase the damage and misery from extreme weather. So quantifying the role of climate change is therefore of great interest.

To do this, scientists turn to extreme event attribution studies. These rely on three separate lines of evidence. The first is the observational record: If you have good observations of the climate over a long enough period, the data set can be statistically analyzed to determine whether the event in question is becoming more frequent as the climate warms.



2024 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #17

Posted on 28 April 2024 by BaerbelW, Doug Bostrom, John Hartz

A listing of 31 news and opinion articles we found interesting and shared on social media during the past week: Sun, April 21, 2024 thru Sat, April 27, 2024.

Story of the weekScreen capture of CarbonBrief news item.

Anthropogenic climate change may be the ultimate shaggy dog story— but with a twist, because here endless subplots definitely depend upon one central element in the unfolding drama of our grand physics accident: the dominant story mechanic is that we're changing Earth's climate. This leads to outcomes. One way of seeing this is via the abstraction of statistics, while another perspective is that of individual experiences each of which is only an anecdote but together lead us back to statistics. Our story of the week is Carbon Brief's annual summary State of the climate: 2024 off to a record-warm start:

This year is shaping up to either match or surpass 2023 as the hottest year on record.

Global temperatures have been exceptionally high over the past three months – at around 1.6C above pre-industrial levels – following the peak of current El Niño event at the start of 2024.

The past 10 months have all set new all-time monthly temperature records, though the margin by which new records have been set has fallen from around 0.3C last year to 0.1C over the first three months of 2024. 

April 2024 is on track to extend this streak to 11 record months in a row.

Author Zeke Hausfather continues this informative summary by delivering a complete numerical rundown of where we stand with regard to global surface temperature. In sum we're we're living a spike. Our shock is belated. Expert opinion suggests we're  experiencing another wiggle in a upward-trending graph. We've seen this before in historical records, only less remarked given we're only now having our first brush with 1.5 °C of overall warming.  In any case, the directed herky jerky plot of global warming inevitably unfolds a bevy of subplots exemplified by other stories from this week's roundup, "anecdotes" in the grand scheme of global temperature records:

This shaggy dog story will continue to proliferate and evolve while we wait to reach our next record year. 

Stories we promoted this week, by publication date:

Before April 21

April 21



Fact Brief - Is Antarctica gaining land ice?

Posted on 27 April 2024 by SkS-Team

FactBriefSkeptical Science is partnering with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. This fact brief was written by Sue Bin Park in collaboration with members from our Skeptical Science team. You can submit claims you think need checking via the tipline.

Is Antarctica gaining land ice?

noWhile Antarctic sea ice varies seasonally, the continent's land ice has continued to melt at an increasing pace.

Sea ice forms during the Antarctic winter and retreats during the warmer months. Such freeze-thaw cycles have no impact on sea levels since they happen within the ocean. However, Antarctic land ice has seen a net decrease, resulting in a significant increase in fresh water flowing into the sea. That does affect global sea levels.

The behavior of Antarctic land ice varies from region to region. In particular, the West Antarctic Peninsula has seen drastic ice retreat. On the other hand, East Antarctica's land ice has remained relatively stable to date. But if global warming crosses a specific threshold, serious loss is expected to occur. The planet has already moved a third of the way towards that threshold and will pass it within a century, if fossil fuel burning continues unabated.

Go to full rebuttal on Skeptical Science or to the fact brief on Gigafact

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.