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Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Global warming is real and human-caused. It is leading to large-scale climate change. Under the guise of climate "skepticism", the public is bombarded with misinformation that casts doubt on the reality of human-caused global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming "skepticism".

Our mission is simple: debunk climate misinformation by presenting peer-reviewed science and explaining the techniques of science denial.

 


SkS Analogy 1 - Speed Kills: How fast is too fast?

Posted on 28 January 2022 by Evan, jg

Tag line

How fast is too fast?

Elevator Statement

While driving down a road you get distracted and look down. When you look up, you see a brick wall directly in front of you blocking the road, because the bridge ahead is out. No matter what you do, you will hit the wall. What can you do to minimize the damage to your car and to its occupants?

When is it too late to put on the brakes?

Climate Science

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations drive global warming. Global warming drives climate change. The rate of increase of CO2 is important because it determines the rate of global warming, and therefore the rate at which natural systems must adapt to a changing climate. Figure 1 shows CO2 concentrations from the end of the recent ice age to the present. Think of Fig. 1 as the Keeling Curve with historical context, illustrating how rapidly CO2 is rising relative to the most recent deglaciation rate. If we limit the rate of increase of CO2 to that experienced during a deglaciation cycle, we expect nature will adapt; the further away we move from this base rate the more difficult it is for nature to adapt, because rapid rises of temperature are often associated with extinction events.

CO2 Concentration from before last deglacition up to the present

Figure 1. Rate of increase of CO2 relative to the rate during the recent deglaciation. The range of the Keeling Curve is indicated by the bracket. The animals running up the CO2 "hill" indicate that nature can adapt to this rate of change. A stable CO2 level provided a relatively stable climatic base for the development of modern civilization. Can modern civilization surmount the CO2 cliff in front of us? (Clipart licensed from iStock/skalapendra (car), iStock/blueringmedia (herd), Getty Images/zaricm (caveman), and 123RF/Lorelyn Medina (chariot))

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #4 2022

Posted on 27 January 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

"In the event of an actual climate emergency..."

Most of us know the drill for our role as airline passengers. By briefings and inspection, cabin crew give us quick instructions on matters of physics and then make sure our lesson has sunk home, by making sure our safety belts are fastened. Disagreement on and refusal of our applied physics lessons are not options. Buckle up, or stay home. It's that simple. Why would it be otherwise? Physics follows its own rules, not ours; E ∝ mv2 and the destruction that comes from that are not personal matters.  

For quite a while now, learning about other physics related to airline travel typically happens long before we walk a jetway and enter an aircraft cabin. One would have to be flightless and living beneath a rock to have avoided learning about the annoyingly, inconveniently large CO2 footprint we create as commercial aviation customers and consumers. As with the more direct physics of staying strapped into our chairs in the event of problems, most of us agree with or at least defer to the science of aviation being a climate threat; reasonable people understand that our personal choice to "fly" comes with a physics pricetag expressed in warming of the planet. 

Unlike our sensible respect for the physics underpinnings of safety belts, what we perfectly well know as a rational matter about our impact on climate as armchair aviators isn't translating into conscientious behavior when it comes to flying. In Willingness-to-pay for carbon dioxide offsets: Field evidence on revealed preferences in the aviation industry Sebastian Berger et al. meticulously employ a set of 62,000+ real-world airline ticket purchases and assess what ticket purchasers are willing to pay for CO2 offsets. In the real world today, the authors crisply show that "median willingness-to-pay to voluntarily offset a ton of carbon dioxide from flight-related emissions is zero, with the mean willingness-to-pay being around 1 EUR." 

This is a finding that might surprise even a diehard cynic, or ignite cynicism in an otherwise sunny disposition. Assuming that arguments over the efficacy of offsets are a bit too esoteric to be a large factor in decisions at this retail level, an essentially complete lack of cooperation is puzzling. It's tempting to cast harsh judgements on air travelers, in the face of such seeming complacency. The statistical outcome  encompasses large numbers of individual people quite able and even eager to entertain discussions about climate change and how personal choices affect climate, including choices about traveling by aircraft.

Leaving aside all questions about the fundamental premise of offsets and aviation, here's a chance to learn more about ourselves. Perhaps we're not looking at a fundamentally sad and depressing fact of human nature. Maybe these numbers can be improved.  More data might be helpful toward resolving our true qualities.

Berger et al. is distinguished and a distinct advancement in understanding through its reliance on empirical data produced by actual ticket purchases. As opposed to asking abstract hypotheticals, in the case of buying a real ticket a concrete method to incorporate offsets becomes involved. The process of exposure to offset options is well described in the paper. To the purchaser it's not necessarily obvious that offsets are important or even (with inattention) available, hence there is no solidly certain cue to memory and no overt nudge to be conscientious included in the purchase process. Offset is an ancillary bolt-on along with other optional features of the flight in question.

Perhaps we're seeing here a communications failure in the airline ticketing process; Given what Berger and this team of authors have found, it would be very interesting to see the effect of a) making offset choice an unavoidable decision point in the purchase process and b) making the choice to opt out of a precalculated offset necessary in order to make the "wrong" decision. In the latter implementation, perhaps it's the case that cognitive discomfort caused by actively choosing "wrong" would have a powerful effect.  it may be necessary or at least better to engineer a collision between a purchaser and thinking about knock-on effects of travel,  provide a blatant nudge fully intimate to the moment of purchase. 

 Other notables:

Globally elevated chemical weathering rates beneath glaciers is yet another paper revealing a more subtle effect of warming, and the amazing ultimate reach of "just a trace gas." 

Living with sea-level rise in North-West Europe: science-policy challenges across scales is by its nature a good foothold on what the future portends for much of Europe.

Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities. What's on the label is what's in the tin. The authors argue that we're in a situation of runaway technology exceeding safe planetary limits.  

Hydrogen’s Hidden Emissions. Shell’s misleading climate claims for its Canadian fossil hydrogen project. Fossil fuels with a simpler molecule and another name? Read to find out. 

All of the above are open acces and free to read. 

145 articles in 53 journals by 761 contributing authors

Observations of climate change, effects

Siberian taiga and tundra fire regimes from 2001–2020
Talucci et al. Environmental Research Letters
Open Access 10.1088/1748-9326/ac3f07

Changes of Southern Hemisphere westerlies in the future warming climate
Deng et al. Atmospheric Research
10.1016/j.atmosres.2022.106040

Earlier snowmelt predominates advanced spring vegetation greenup in Alaska
Zheng et al. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
10.1016/j.agrformet.2022.108828

Active fires show an increasing elevation trend in the tropical highlands
Xiao et al. Global Change Biology
10.1111/gcb.16097

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Why people believe misinformation and resist correction

Posted on 26 January 2022 by Guest Author

This is a repost from Justin Hendrix on Tech Policy Press published on January 14, 2022. It provides a neat summary of the recently published paper "The psychological drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction" (Ecker et al. 2022).

From COVID-19 and vaccine conspiracies to false claims around elections, misinformation is a persistent and arguably growing problem in most democracies. In Nature, a team of nine researchers from the fields of psychology, mass media & communication have published a review of available research on the factors that lead people to “form or endorse misinformed views, and the psychological barriers” to changing their minds.

Acknowledging that “the internet is an ideal medium for the fast spread of falsehoods at the expense of accurate information,” the authors point out that technology is not the only culprit, and a variety of interventions that have sought to solve misinformation by addressing the “misunderstanding of, or lack of access to, facts” have been less than effective. The so-called “information deficit model,” they argue, ignores “cognitive, social and affective drivers of attitude formation and truth judgements.”

The authors are particularly concerned with the problem of misinformation as it concerns scientific information, such as on climate change or public health matters. In order to better understand what can be done to address the problem, they look at the “theoretical models that have been proposed to explain misinformation’s resistance to correction” and extract guidance for those who would seek to intervene. Then, the authors return to “the broader societal trends that have contributed to the rise of misinformation” and what might be done in the fields of journalism, education and policy to address the problem.

The authors summarize what is known about a variety of drivers of false beliefs, noting that they “generally arise through the same mechanisms that establish accurate beliefs” and the human weakness for trusting the “gut”. For a variety of reasons, people develop shortcuts when processing information, often defaulting to conclusions rather than evaluating new information critically. A complex set of variables related to information sources, emotional factors and a variety of other cues can lead to the formation of false beliefs. And, people often share information with little focus on its veracity, but rather to accomplish other goals- from self-promotion to signaling group membership to simply sating a desire to ‘watch the world burn’.

Drivers of false beliefs

Figure 1: Some of the main cognitive (green) and socio-affective (orange) factors that can facilitate the formation of false beliefs when individuals are exposed to misinformation. Not all factors will always be relevant, but multiple factors often contribute to false beliefs. Source: Nature Reviews: Psychology, Volume 1, January 2022

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SkS Analogy 1 - Speed Kills: How fast are we going?

Posted on 25 January 2022 by Evan

This is an updated version of Analogy 1, which illustrates the impact of the rate of increase of CO2 on the natural world's ability to adapt. The original version is here.

Tag line

Speed Kills

Elevator Statement

Deceleration from 60 mph to 0 in …

  • 30 seconds (base rate): Normal exit from a freeway; no drinks spilled; life goes on.
  • 3 sec (10 times base rate): Slam on the brakes. Loose items end up on dashboard. Those not wearing seat belts do ungraceful face plants. Survivable injuries.
  • 0.3 sec (100 times base rate): Like running into a parked car. Crumple zones in both cars absorb much of the energy, but people are seriously injured, some mortally.
  • 0.03 sec (1000 times base rate): Like running into a brick wall. You get the point.

Climate Science

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations cause global warming. Global warming drives climate change. The rate of increase of CO2 concentration is important, because it determines the rate of global warming, and therefore the rate at which natural systems must adapt. Figure 1 shows CO2 concentrations from the end of the recent ice age to the present. Think of Fig. 1 as the Keeling Curve with historical context, illustrating how rapidly CO2 is rising relative to the most recent deglaciation rate. If we limit the rate of increase of CO2 to that experienced during a deglaciation cycle, we expect nature will adapt; the further away we move from this base rate the more difficult it is for nature to adapt, because rapid rises of temperature are often associated with extinction events.

CO2 Concentration from before last deglacition up to the present

 Figure 1. Rate of increase of CO2 relative to the rate during the recent deglaciation. The animals running up the CO2 "hill" indicate that nature can adapt to this rate of change. A stable CO2 level provided a relatively stable climatic base for the development of modern civilization. Can modern civilization surmount the CO2 cliff in front of us? (Clipart licensed from iStock/skalapendra (car), iStock/blueringmedia (herd), Getty Images/zaricm (caveman), and 123RF/Lorelyn Medina (chariot))

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UN report: The world’s farms stretched to ‘a breaking point’

Posted on 24 January 2022 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Almost 10% of the 8 billion people on earth are already undernourished with 3 billion lacking healthy diets, and the land and water resources farmers rely on stressed to “a breaking point.” And by 2050 there will be 2 billion more mouths to feed, warns a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

For now, farmers have been able to boost agricultural productivity by irrigating more land and applying heavier doses of fertilizer and pesticides. But the report says these practices are not sustainable: They have eroded and degraded soil while polluting and depleting water supplies and shrinking the world’s forests. The FAO report discusses some important climate change impacts, such as changing distribution of rainfall, the suitability of land for certain crops, the spread of insects and other pests, and shorter growing seasons in regions affected by more intense droughts. While not the sole source of obstacles facing global agriculture, the report makes clear that climate change is further stressing agricultural systems and amplifying global food production challenges.

The report also offers hope that the problems are solvable: Water degradation can be reversed by turning to smart planning and coordination of sustainable farming practices and by deploying new innovative technologies. More sustainable agriculture can also help fight climate change: For instance, the report notes that wiser use of soils can help sequester some of the greenhouse gasses currently emitted by agricultural activities. 

Drastic changes in climate will require regions to adjust the crops they grow. For example, the report predicts that much cereal production will probably have to move north, to Canada and northern Eurasia. Brazil and northern Africa may have a harder time growing coffee, but it may get easier in eastern Africa. A changing climate “may bring opportunities for multiple rainfed cropping, particularly in the tropics and subtropics.” And for areas “where the climate becomes marginal for current staple and niche crops, there are alternative annual and perennial tree crops, livestock, and soil and water management options available.”

The report recommends seed and germoplasm exchanges globally and among regions, and investments to develop crops that can withstand changes in temperature, salinity, wind, and evaporation.

The changes will not be easy, the report says, but they may be necessary to avoid widespread hunger and other catastrophes.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #3

Posted on 23 January 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, January 16, 2022 through Sat, January 22, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week: The Drip, Drip of Disaster, Antarctica latest research: Doomsday Glacier ice shelf will be gone in 5 years!, To survive climate change, Venice needs to rethink its outdated flood defenses, After sun-dimming setback, geoengineers seek a diplomatic fix, Tongan blast was violent and vast, but may not disrupt global warming, and The tragedy of climate change science?.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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The phenomenon of ‘Don’t Look Up’ (Part 2)

Posted on 21 January 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Michael Svoboda

By the end of the Sunday, January 9, Don’t Look Up, writer-director Adam McKay’s dark satire about the impending impact of an Earth-killing comet, intended as an analogy for inaction on climate change, had been streamed on Netflix for a total of 322 million hours, putting it within striking distance of the most-watched movie in the platform’s history.

Dividing that imposing number by the film’s running time (2 hours and 18 minutes) provides a high-end estimate of the number of viewings: 140 million. That’s 51 million more than the number of people who bought tickets to see Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow (Day After) during the entirety of its 2004 run. In other words, in just three weeks Don’t Look Up has eclipsed Day After as the most widely viewed fictional film treatment of climate change.*

But Don’t Look Up’s run isn’t over. On January 7, McKay’s production company, Hyperobject Industries,** released the first two episodes of its podcast about the making of the movie, The Last Movie Ever Made. The company plans to release four more episodes, one each week until Friday, February 4. By continuing to provide new material for discussion, through the podcast and his tweets and blog posts, McKay is likely to keep people talking about, and watching, Don’t Look Up.

In fact, the discussion among film critics and fans is already quite lengthy and animated, another metric by which Don’t Look Up has matched or surpassed the impact of Day After. (See this site’s accounts of the production and reception of Day After here and here.)

Since the film’s limited theatrical release on December 10 (its Netflix run began on December 24) YCC has identified 59 reviews of Don’t Look Up, of which 35 were mostly positive (59%) and 24 mostly negative (41%). This slightly more positive ratio – Rotten Tomatoes had a positive score of 55% – likely reflects the inclusion of later, more personal reactions to the film by climate scientists and activists who objected to the early, often dismissive reviews. (Readers can find Yale Climate Connections’ review of Don’t Look Up here.)

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #3 2022

Posted on 20 January 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Cloud tops fade from sight at a critical juncture

Employing the Earth orbiting instrument MISR, Travis Aerenson et al. appear to confirm subtle hints by prior observations tracking what climate models broadly predict: a gradual increase in the topping altitude of high clouds. Their paper When Will MISR Detect Rising High Clouds (pdf) details this work. This seems an important finding, as high clouds have a significant positive feedback effect on Earth's surface temperature. The article shines in offering a full education on the subject via references, but in a nutshell these clouds rising still higher produce the net effect of impeding the escape of longwave radiation, making our original CO2 problem worse. 

The authors find this initial detectable signal in clouds over the oceanic southern hemisphere. With modeling they show that emergence of this feature in the tropics and northern hemisphere may be imminent, within 3-10 years. This is a significant claim surely deserving of attention and further scrutiny.

The awful rub of this situation is that MISR is carried by the Terra (pdf) satellite, launched in 1999 and with the expenditure of its last normal station-keeping reactant budget early last year no longer able to maintain a precisely controlled orbit. As well, with age (plus damage from an earlier likely orbital debris strike) the spacecraft's batteries are failing. It's highly unlikely the MISR instrument will be able to carry on with observations as the predicted emergence of ascending cloud tops in other regions become visible. 

Ignoring the concerning nature of apparent confirmation of a feedback effect, MISR and Terra serve as yet another object lesson on effects of governmental inability to maintain long attention and funding spans colliding with crowded research agendas. Together these make impossible true operational Earth observational systems of the type we absolutely require. The immediate situation's root causes are akin to the recent GRACE data gap, a longitudinal series interrupted and hence needing inherently imperfect splicing. There is a relatively paltry lack of money forcing bad choices on researchers. A copy of the first GRACE duo should have been available for orbital deployment before the next more  refined version was developed. Instead as a matter of fiscal reality new research ends up competing with mandatory operational needs.

We can't afford to continue making mistakes. Observations of the type made by MISR are not purely scientific in nature but are also akin to instrumentation on an engine. If an idiot light burns out on our car's dashboard, we can replace it easily and quickly. MISR and GRACE— examples of key instrumentation of critically important Earth systems— are more important than idiot lights. 

Ideally our policy would be to quickly identify experimental instruments that reveal themselves as potentially important operational features and then to ensure that this equipment is practicably available for continuous coverage. In particular, it seems perhaps wise to think about achieving some economy of scale, reduce the need to constantly produce novel space-qualified hardware. Instead, think more along the lines of meteorological radiosondes. Radiosondes are not redesigned for every launch. The benefits of accomodating this "boredom" are plain to see. In turn, such a pragmatic approach could make congressional relations in seeking operational budgets easier. 

Obviously radiosondes are a different case than orbital instrumentation. But with the first copy of an instrument  costing so much compared to duplicates and with spacecraft buses far past the point of needing reinvention for each launch, perhaps it would be good to heavily emphasize in planning decisions "is this experimental package likely to be operationally beneficial?" Then, accomodate in plans routine operation of a given instrument package— including timely orbital replacement— commensurate with that estimation, at the earliest stages of development. Most of all, see and avoid the potential folly of spinning up tooling, skills and vendors to produce only a single copy of an instrument— very expensively. That's a mistake we've already made and we needn't continue repeating.

Other notables:

Atmospheric Rivers Bring More Frequent and Intense Extreme Rainfall Events Over East Asia Under Global Warming. Why should we care, wherever else we are? Not so long ago flooding in the region caused a multi-year disruption of computer hardware supply delivery. 

Top Risks 2022 (pdf) in our government/NGO report section describes awkward details of our "today" energy economy colliding with urgent requirements to shift to tomorrow's.

The effectiveness of nudging: A meta-analysis of choice architecture interventions across behavioral domains. "Nudging" is an appealing means to statistically shift our collective behavior in a more friendly way than simple coercion. Does it work? 

Quantifying the climatic impact of crude oil pollution on sea ice albedo is where we see a kind of irony: "you don't even have to burn it to cause climate problems."

Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States from Columbia University Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Law details the remarkable feature of cavemen trying to hold us all back, by law.

All of the above open access. 

97 articles in 49 journals by 605 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Quantifying the climatic impact of crude oil pollution on sea ice albedo
Redmond Roche & King
Open Access pdf 10.5194/tc-2021-372

Opportunistic experiments to constrain aerosol effective radiative forcing
Christensen et al.
Open Access pdf 10.5194/acp-2021-559

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‘Don’t Look Up’ – See the movie. Ignore the comet. (Part 1)

Posted on 19 January 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Michael Svoboda

2022 is already feeling as stressful as the worst stretches of 2021 – and without the prospect of a fresh start with a new administration.

Newscasters report that COVID-19 cases are arising at three times the rate posted during the peak of last summer’s wave. And on TV, phone, and computer screens, first-anniversary autopsies of the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol are repeatedly streaming videos of angry Trump supporters breaking windows and battering security officers.

Everyone needs a break, some comic relief.

Don’t Look Up, the new star-studded comedy directed by Adam McKay and now the most watched film on Netflix, seems the perfect remedy. It’s even billed as a climate film. Should YCC readers see it?

That depends – on their solar plexuses.  

The film has been widely promoted as a kick-in-the-pants send-up of American inaction on climate change. But what the two-plus hour film actually delivers is a kick-in-the-stomach depiction of America’s narcissistic (social) media and its dysfunctional politics. Like this critic, some viewers may finish the film feeling even more pessimistic about the prospects for real action on climate change. But they may also realize something important in the process.   

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United with Manchester: What happens when we all choose poorly

Posted on 18 January 2022 by Doug Bostrom

The city government of Manchester, England is coming under some fire for choosing to lease space on pavements (also known as sidewalks) for electronic display advertisements, or "digital out of home advertising."  Criticism is twofold in nature. Some point out that crowding of pavements with bulky fixed installations is an insult to pedestrians. Others are looking at the problem a different way, at how this choice boosts energy consumption.

How much energy? Quite a bit.

"According to analysis of data revealed by a freedom of information request, each of the 86 digital advertising boards in Manchester city centre uses 11,501kWh of electricity every year."

Manchester electronic ad boards each use electricity of three households

It seems an awfully large number, perhaps even wrong. But it works out to about 1.3kW to power each sign. Not difficult to achieve if nobody is thinking about efficiency at any point in the design and decision process leading to signs planted on pavements. 

Manchester's city council declared a "climate emergency" in 2019. In the face of that, energy profligacy to the tune of 11.5kWh to run a single sign for a year should be more than conspicuous but even unthinkable.  If we think of "climate emergency" as something akin to "war emergency,"  take this matter seriously and are not only paying lip service, very hungry twinkling signage is indeed a puzzling choice to make.  How do Manchester's leaders feel they're guiding their constituents to victory with choices to burn more energy for no particularly compelling reason? 

And by extension and not to unfairly pick on Manchester, if by "we" we mean voting constituencies in general, many of us are tolerating this type of undermining behavior in the face of disaster.

But we need to see what  poor decisions look like, understand how and why thoughtless behavior can add up to large numbers, and how being oblivious has ripple effects. Knowing those things, we can identify options for tuning, ways of coming to at least a partial solution to something that unfortunately— due to matters unrelated to climate— does have something of the nature of a dilemma to it.

Tradeoffs are required, but happily there's likely room for productive trading. 

Getting skeptical about "renewable = panacea"

Facing criticism over energy waste, Manchester's city government immediately deployed the "no worries it's renewable power" card. At 11.5 MWh/year of electrical consumption to power each sign, the situation affords a nice opportunity to interrogate "it's ok, it's powered by renewables," an easy excuse to make but one that can support only a limited number of confused or deeply motivated thinkers leaning upon it. 

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The top 10 global weather and climate change events of 2021

Posted on 17 January 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

The year 2021 made an indelible mark in the annals of weather history. Not only did it feature the most extreme heat wave in history – the late June heat wave over western North America that smashed all-time records by unprecedented margins – it also had four weather mega-disasters costing over $20 billion each, tied with 2017 for the most such disasters on record.

Disasters 1980 - 2021 time series

Figure 1. Time series of global weather mega-disasters costing at least $20 billion (adjusted to 2021 dollars). Data for the U.S. is from NOAA; data for the rest of the world is from the international disaster database, EMDAT. There has been a concerning rise in these mega-disasters in recent years, as evidenced by the blue linear trend line, and 2021 had the most on record: four. Note that the database from insurance broker Aon has at least one $20+ billion-dollar event not in the EMDAT database: monsoon flooding in China that cost $35 billion in 2020.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #2

Posted on 16 January 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, January 9, 2022 through Sat, January 15, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week: Climate Scientists on “Don’t Look Up:” It’s Infuriating, Soul-Sucking and On-the-Nose, New NASA chief scientist to focus on climate change, Don’t Look Up: four climate experts on the polarising disaster film, Could crushed rocks absorb enough carbon to curb global warming?, Scientists call for a moratorium on climate change research until governments take real action,  and Inside The New York Times’ crossword correction on coal.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Big numbers – dollars and institutions – behind divestments from fossil fuels

Posted on 14 January 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Kristen Pope

About $39 trillion – that’s trillion, with a T – is the total some 1,500 institutions are planning to divest from funds in fossil fuels. And those numbers are growing.

The Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Commitments Database, maintained by two nonprofit divestiture advocacy groups, Stand.earth and 350.org, tracks institutions that have pledged to divest from fossil fuels fully, partially, or with regard to certain subsets, such as coal. The roughly 1,500 institutions include pension funds, governmental, philanthropic, faith-based, and educational institutions, and others.

Faith-based organizations comprise the single largest group at about 35% of the total, followed by educational institutions (nearly 15%), philanthropic foundations (12.6%), pension funds (11.8%), governments (11.4%), and for-profit corporations (8.7%).

Calling climate change “the most consequential threat facing humanity,” and pointing to a “need to decarbonize the economy,” Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow in September 2021 called an end to the university endowment’s “direct investments in companies that explore for or develop further reserves of fossil fuels.”

Divestment advocates, including a coalition called Divest Harvard, had pushed for the university to divest for nearly a decade. “It was a great triumph of a decade-long struggle by thousands of students and lots of faculty and alumni,” author, writer, and 350.org founder Bill McKibben chimed in, commending their “perseverance.”

Nearby Boston University soon followed suit, joining universities, including Brown, California Institute of the Arts, Columbia, Cornell, George Washington, Georgetown, Oxford, Rutgers, Syracuse, and many others in the U.S. and around the world. (Details on Yale University’s fossil fuel investments policy are here and on its implementation of those principles here.)

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #2 2022

Posted on 13 January 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Geoengineering five minute university 

Not long ago we added a new section to New Research for select reports and reviews from governmental agencies and NGOs, material not within our original remit of peer reviewed research articles published in academic journals. Thanks to their typical target audience of nonspecialists, these publications are often an excellent way to quickly come up to speed on major salient features of a given knowledge domain. 

This week's New Research includes just such a feature. For readers bumping into the term "geoengineering" and wanting to get a quick basic grip, Climate Control: International Legal Mechanisms for Managing the Geopolitical Risks of Geoengineering from RAND will help. The report concisely synoposizes the nuts and bolts technicalities of geoengineering for the lay reader.

A few minutes spent on RAND's quickly informative "executive summary" of geoengineering science and technology will immediately lead any thinking person to realize that we're looking at a veritable Pandora's box in terms of "secondary effects," or how RAND delicately expresses "blowback."

At this juncture we may not want to foreclose reaching into this box of tools but we'd best be forearmed in imagining ways doing so could go wrong. The report goes on to describe potential scenarios of unilateral engineering efforts and how those might be checked or at least managed. We don't have to invent governance from whole cloth, fortunately. RAND illustrates several tried and more or less true frameworks for creating legal or at least normative mechanisms to help make geoengineering less risky, if or when it should become a less abstract matter. RAND concludes by suggesting we may best be making policy before the geoengineering horse escapes the barn. 

Other notables

Complex and yet predictable: The message of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics, a perspective looking at the unusual significance of the 2021 prize.

Responsibility of major emitters for country-level warming and extreme hot years views CO2 emissions through  an unusual and possibly uncomfortable lens of attribution.

Perspectives on tipping points in integrated models of the natural and human Earth system: cascading effects and telecoupling suggests research priorities commensurate with the state of high risk and high unknowns concerning tipping points.

Sea-ice retreat suggests re-organization of water mass transformation in the Nordic and Barents Seas, a modest title for a paper describing what unpacks as big implications. 

All of the above open access.

150 articles in 55 journals by 808 contributing authors

Observations of climate change, effects

Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues through 2021 despite La Niña Conditions
Cheng et al. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00376-022-1461-3

Sea-ice retreat suggests re-organization of water mass transformation in the Nordic and Barents Seas
Moore et al. Nature Communications
Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41467-021-27641-6

Increased Fire Activity in Alaska since the 1980s: Evidence from an Ice Core-derived Black Carbon Record
Sierra?Hernández et al. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
10.1029/2021jd035668

Impact of freshwater runoff from the southwest Greenland Ice Sheet on fjord productivity since the late 19th century
Oksman et al.
Open Access pdf 10.5194/tc-2021-373

Long-term variability of cloud cover in Poland (1971–2020)
Matuszko et al. Atmospheric Research
10.1016/j.atmosres.2022.106028

Retreat of Northern Hemisphere marine-terminating glaciers, 2000-2020
Kochtitzky & Copland Geophysical Research Letters
10.1029/2021gl096501

Intense ocean freshening from melting glacier around the Antarctica during early twenty-first century
Pan et al. Scientific Reports
Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41598-021-04231-6

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Cranky Uncle - Resources for Educators

Posted on 12 January 2022 by John Cook, BaerbelW

This is an adapted repost of the educators' resource page on CrankyUncle.com.

Cranky Uncle uses cartoons, humor, and logic-based inoculation to build resilience against misinformation – an ideal tool for teaching critical thinking to students. This page features resources for educators interested in using Cranky Uncle (the game or the book) to teach critical thinking in their classes. For starters, the game is freely available on iPhones, Androids, and browsers (e.g., for anyone with internet access):

CrankyGame-MockUps

This blog post provides an overview of resources for educators about how the Cranky Uncle game can be used in the classroom. We will update the article as additional resources become available.

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The 1.5 degrees goal: Beware of unintended consequences

Posted on 11 January 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Richard RichelsHenry JacobyBenjamin Santer, and Gary Yohe

“Keep 1.5 alive” emerged as the haunting refrain of the recent United Nations climate conference in Glasgow. Although a well-intentioned rallying cry, it raises important questions about how the chant is to be interpreted. Unfortunately, 1.5° centigrade is often presented as an immutable crisis point, rooted in established scientific consensus. It’s implied that beyond this point, climate-induced damages increase dramatically.

Given the prospect that the 1.5°C target may not be met, proponents might come to rue their choice of mantra. Not only will it likely cause unnecessary despair, but oversimplification of the underlying science provides those resolutely opposed to acting on climate change with opportunities for further mischief.

This is not to argue that danger points don’t exist. There is ample evidence in paleoclimate records of sudden and dramatic shifts in Earth’s climate system, though the conditions that triggered them are not fully understood and are not directly comparable to present-day conditions.

Another reason for concern comes from computer models of the climate system. Models also alert us to the possibility that continued warming may cause rapid climate changes that cannot be easily reversed for centuries or longer. Examples of such changes include abrupt sea-level rise and slowing or even shutdown of a key part of the ocean’s system for circulating heat. While few studies suggest that these changes are imminent, models and “deep time” climate records both tell us that somewhere out there, beyond the 1.1°C of warming experienced to date, dangerous tipping points exist. We don’t know exactly where they are, just that further warming makes it more likely we will cross them.

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Historic tornadic weather extremes in mid-December

Posted on 10 January 2022 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Think back to mid-December. It’s not easy.

But for the moment forget things like the Christmas, Hannukah, and New Years holidays. And set-side briefly the frightening wind-blown fire that ravaged parts of Colorado near Boulder; the sudden early January heavy snowfall that blanketed the Mid-Atlantic and left hundreds (including U.S. Senator and one-time Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine) abandoned on one of the nation’s most heavily travelled interstates – I 95 from Washington, D.C., area south to Fredericksburg, Virginia; the sub-zero temperatures in Montana and parts of the upper Midwest.

Fuhgeddaboudit. Though only for long enough to check independent videographer Peter Sinclair’s new Yale Climate Connections video on the “first-ever” extreme tornadic activity that grabbed national headlines and prime-time network and cable coverage for days in – get this – in December, no less. 

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #1

Posted on 9 January 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, January 2, 2022 through Sat, January 8, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week: ‘Don’t Look Up’: Hollywood’s primer on climate denial illustrates 5 myths that fuel rejection of science, Watching Don’t Look Up made me see my whole life of campaigning flash before me, An Evangelical Climate Scientist Wonders What Went Wrong, Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ could have far-reaching climate effects, The Conspiracy Handbook - Downloads and Translations, Termite Fumigation in California Is Fueling the Rise of a Rare Greenhouse Gas,  and Creative Messaging on Climate Change.

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #1 2022

Posted on 6 January 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Incidental rainmaking with utility-scale PV?

Ths week's geoengineering section includes an article that focuses not on planetary cooling but instead  a surprising possible feature of decarbonization, for certain circumstances. The analysis treats a particular geographic context and so it's not possible to say how widely it could be replicated. Even so, the idea that significantly positive increases in rainfall in a part of the world very much in need of more rain could be a side-effect of large scale photovoltaic power installations is not only quite surprising but also quite tantalizing. In this case, it seems possible that at PV plant scales the authors concede are large, water sufficent for the needs of 2.5 million people could be delivered by rainfall to areas already having catchment and reservoir capacity to gather and store it.   Sea Breeze Geoengineering to Increase Rainfall over the Arabian Red Sea Coastal Plains (pdf) published in the AMS Journal of Hydrometeorology by Suleiman Mostamandi et al. explains how this may be possible. Open access and free to read.

'Alarming' recent change in an important river

Irina Panyushkina et al. identify evidence  of  very recent and large differences in the behavior of the largest river draining into the Arctic Ocean, in Unprecedented acceleration of winter discharge of Upper Yenisei River inferred from tree rings (pdf), published in Environmental Research Letters. Paying careful attention to details of climate influences on ring growth, the authors vastly extend the paleohydrographic record for the Yenisei, deep into the 18th century.  They find no precedent in the past 214 years for sudden changes in very recent years, specifically an increase of 80% in winter surge flows. Permafrost melting and warming-induced fires appear to drive this and ultimately result in yet another unfortunate feedback process. The article is open access and free to read. From the abstract:

We discuss the impact on the baseflow rate change of both the accelerating permafrost warming in the discontinuous zone of South Siberia and widespread forest fires. The winter discharge accounts for only one third of the annual flow, yet the persistent 25 year upsurge is alarming. This trend is likely caused by Arctic Amplification, which can be further magnified by increased winter flow delivering significantly more fresh water to the Kara Sea during the cold season.

90 articles in 36 journals by 531 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Decoding the dynamics of poleward shifting climate zones using aqua-planet model simulations
Yang et al. Climate Dynamics
Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00382-021-06112-0

Observations of climate change, effects

Spatiotemporal changes in global aridity in terms of multiple aridity indices: An assessment based on the CRU data
Ullah et al. Atmospheric Research
10.1016/j.atmosres.2021.105998

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Devastating Colorado fires cap a year of climate disasters in 2021, with one side of the country too wet, the other dangerously dry

Posted on 5 January 2022 by Guest Author

Shuang-Ye Wu, Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, University of Dayton.  This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wildfires that swept through Sequoia National Forest in California in September 2021 were so severe they killed ancient trees that had adapted to survive fires. AP Photo/Noah Berger Shuang-Ye Wu, University of Dayton

Alongside a lingering global pandemic, the year 2021 was filled with climate disasters, some so intense they surprised even the scientists who study them.

Extreme rainstorms turned to raging flash floods that swept through mountain towns in Europe, killing over 200 people. Across Asia, excessive rainfall inundated wide areas and flooded subway stations in China. Heat waves shattered records in the Pacific Northwest, Europe and the Arctic. Wildfires swept through communities in California, Canada, Greece and Australia.

The area around Boulder, Colorado, was so unusually dry on Dec. 30, 2021, that a powerful wind storm sent grass fires racing through neighborhoods in Superior and Louisville, burning hundreds of homes in a matter of hours. Officials said the winds were so strong, there was little firefighters could do but evacuate homes and businesses in the fires’ paths.

In the U.S. alone, damage from the biggest climate and weather disasters is expected to total well over US$100 billion in 2021. Many of these extreme weather events have been linked to human-caused climate change, and they offer a glimpse of what to expect in a rapidly warming world.

In the U.S., something in particular stood out: a sharp national precipitation divide, with one side of the country too wet, the other too dry.

As a climate scientist, I study the impact of global warming on precipitation and the water cycle. Here’s what happened with precipitation in the U.S. in 2021 and why we’re likely to see similar scenarios in the future.

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