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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #26B

Posted on 28 June 2015 by John Hartz

Alaska’s glaciers seen as major source of sea level rise

The ice that tumbles into the ocean along Alaska’s coastline often makes for dramatic images that show one of the ravages of climate change – melting tidewater glaciers that contribute to sea level rise. But a new study finds that far more meltwater is flowing into the sea from a similar, if less frequently photographed source – inland glaciers.

Compared to their coastal counterparts, inland glaciers account for 95 percent of glacial mass loss due to climate-driven melting, a study published this month in Geophysical Research Letters shows. In fact, researchers found that Alaska’s glaciers are melting so fast that they would cover the state with a 1-foot thick layer of water every seven years.

“This is the first time that we’ve assessed all of the glaciers and been able to say how much of the total is coming from tidewater glaciers, and here’s how much of the total is from lake and land glaciers,” Shad O’Neel, a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher and co-author of the study, said.

Alaska’s glaciers seen as major source of sea level rise by Chelsey B. Coombs , Climate Central, June 25.

Alberta's new climate plan seen as a meaningful first step

The newly elected government in the Canadian province of Alberta announced what it called "important first steps" to rein in the province's growing emissions of greenhouse gases. It vowed to tighten its existing regulations, raise its carbon price modestly, and promised new rules governing the oil and gas sector.

But it appears that the new approach, like the old one that was about to expire, would allow carbon dioxide emissions from Alberta’s gigantic tar sands operations to keep rising, at least for the time being.

Tar sands emissions are the main reason for Canada's failure to achieve its past promises to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta's New Climate Plan Seen as a Meaningful First Step by John H Cusman Jr, InsideClimate News, June 25, 2015

Barack Obama interviews Sir David Attenborough in unique White House encounter for BBC1

Normally, it is President Obama who answers the questions. But on this occasion the US President invited Sir David Attenborough into the White House for a unique interview in which he grills the broadcasting legend about his career and prescriptions to save the planet.

The summit between the President and the great natural history educator took place on Sir David’s 89th birthday.

During the candid encounter, they discussed the future of the planet, their mutual passion for nature and what can be done to protect it.

Barack Obama interviews Sir David Attenborough in unique White House encounter for BBC1 by Adam Sherwin, The Independent, June 26, 2015

Climate change should be top foreign policy priority, G7 study says

Tackling climate change risks must become a top foreign policy priority if the world is to combat the global security threat it poses in the 21st century, according to a new study commissioned by the G7 countries.

Multiple conflicts have taken the government systems for dealing with them “to their limits”, according to one of the authors of the report, which was launched at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Tuesday.

Written by an international consortium including peacebuilding NGO International Alert and the European Union Institute for Security Studies, it calls climate change “the ultimate threat multiplier” in fragile situations.

Climate change should be top foreign policy priority, G7 study says by Emma Howard, Guardian, June 24, 2015

Climate change? Yeah, nah

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of climate change scepticism in the developed world, a study has revealed. Surprisingly, we have more sceptics per capita than in the US, where large numbers of right-wing media and politicians refuse to accept climate change is man-made.

A new paper from the University of Tasmania, called Scepticism in a changing climate: a cross-national study, found 13 per cent of New Zealanders were climate change sceptics.

It was third only to Norway (15 per cent) and Australia (17 per cent). The United States came in at 12 per cent.

The study, which was published in the journal, Global Environmental Change, was based on surveys taken in each of the 14 countries and was designed to be representative of adults aged over 18.

Climate change? Yeah, nah by Matthew Theunissen, New Zealand Herald, June 28, 2015

For faithful, social justice goals demand action on environment

For an earnest young Christian named Ben Lowe, revelation came on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Africa. A relentless warming of the lake was reducing the catch of fish, the people were going hungry — and he had learned of scientific evidence that climate change was to blame.

For the Rev. Brian Sauder, who grew up attending a small Anabaptist church in rural Illinois, the moment came in a college classroom. Studying the fallout from environmental degradation, he learned of poor people who had to walk hours longer each day to gather firewood from depleted forests.

For both men, Christian duties that their upbringing had led them to regard as separate — taking care of the earth and taking care of the poor — merged into a morally urgent problem. “Why haven’t I ever made this connection before?” Mr. Sauder recalled asking himself.

It is a connection that many people of faith all over the world are starting to make.

For faithful, social justice goals demand action on environment by Justin Gillis, New York Tiems, June 20, 2015

If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble

We are used to hearing that if everyone lived in the same way as North Americans or Australians, we would need four or five planet Earths to sustain us.

This sort of analysis is known as the “ecological footprint” and shows that even the so-called “green” western European nations, with their more progressive approaches to renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport, would require more than three planets.

How can we live within the means of our planet? When we delve seriously into this question it becomes clear that almost all environmental literature grossly underestimates what is needed for our civilisation to become sustainable.

Only the brave should read on.

If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble by Samuel Alexander, The Conversation US, June 26, 2015

It’s time for conservatives to end the denial on climate change

Reducing Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si” to a white paper on global warming is, in George Weigel’s fitting analogy, “akin to reading ‘Moby Dick’ as if it were a treatise on the 19th-century New England whaling industry.” The whole spirit and story of the thing are missed.

The pope’s sprawling, ambitious statement — setting out a theory of nature and of the human person — will be profitably scrutinized for decades. Environmentalists who like some of Francis’s conclusions will find, if they sit quietly with the text rather than rummage through it for the politically relevant bits, that the pope is making a frontal assault on a technological and utilitarian worldview that treats creation as “raw material to be hammered into useful shape,” reduces humans to mere consumers and treats inconvenient people as so much refuse.

In the pope’s vision, both nature and human nature are gifts to be appreciated and accepted, not despoiled or redefined. And the ultimate demonstration of God’s attitude toward nature is the incarnation, in which the creator — so the remarkable story goes — somehow became a crawling, puking, sleeping, living, dying creature, occupying a biological niche, in a thin layer of air, on a floating, fragile ball.

It’s time for conservatives to end the denial on climate change Op-ed by Michael Gerson, Washington Post, June 25, 2015

Megacity drought: Sao Paulo withers after dry 'wet season'

After four years of low rainfall Brazil's commercial capital, Sao Paulo, is suffering from a grim combination of high temperatures and water shortages, writes Leila Carvalho. And now the drought has given rise to a lethal plague of dengue fever.

Megacity drought: Sao Paulo withers after dry 'wet season' by Leila Carvalho, Ecologist, June 26, 2015

Most extreme weather has climate change link, study says

In the wake of major hurricanes, floods and heat waves, scientists are quick to say that no single weather event can be attributed to climate change until careful analysis draws that conclusion. Now, a new study argues that thinking is backwards, that all extreme weather has a link to climate change.

The default position has been holding science back in connecting weather and climate, concludes the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change.

This "could be a game changer in how these studies are done in [the] future," lead author Kevin Trenberth said in an email.

Most Extreme Weather Has Climate Change Link, Study Says by Lisa Song, InsideClimate News, June 23, 2015

No, coal is not the fix-all solution to energy poverty

Pope Francis' papal encyclical on climate change and the environment, titled "On the Care of Our Common Home", was released last Thursday, recognizing climate change as a moral issue (the poor will suffer the most from a changing climate), while also calling on political leaders to replace fossil fuels with less-polluting sources of energy. The encyclical endorses the science that says climate change is human-caused, resulting from coal, oil, and natural gas use, and also states that humanity is failing in "its God-given role to be a responsible steward of Earth," while time is running out to fix the problem. Papal encyclicals are one of the highest forms of papal teaching, expected to be taken very seriously by Catholics.

In what is a victory for climate hawks (the encyclical is basically a call to actiontargeted at the Vatican's bishops around the world), the encyclical provided a new target for conservatives in the U.S. and elsewhere; conservative media in the U.S. came up with all types of critiques in response to the Pope's new encyclical; Australian climate deniers insisted that "if you're an Australian, [the encyclical] is not good news"; while in Poland (a largely Catholic country dependent on coal), a conservative paper called the encyclical 'anti-Polish.' In the U.S., the coal industry relied on their GOP allies to dissuade the public of the Pope's stance by providing U.S. Republicans a list of talking points to be used in defense of fossil fuels. One of these talking pointswas the claim that "[only coal] is capable of providing the energy emerging economies and struggling communities need to rise up out of abject poverty and towards a new-found hope"— basically an attempt to out-do Pope Francis' moral integrity.

No, Coal is NOT the Fix-All Solution to Energy Poverty by Rosaly Byrd, Huffington Post, June 26, 2015

Solar minimum could bring cold winters to Europe and US, but would not hold off climate change 

Over the past few decades, our Sun has been relatively active, giving off high levels of the solar radiation that warms the Earth. However, in recent years this peak activity has tailed off, prompting scientists to wonder if the Sun is heading into a period of lower output.

A new study says even if the Sun's activity did drop off for a while, it wouldn't have much impact on rising global temperatures. But it could mean a higher chance of a chilly winter in Europe and the US, the researchers say.

Solar minimum could bring cold winters to Europe and US, but would not hold off climate change by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, June 23, 2015

The case for Australian coal in India is weakening

“India needs Australian coal” is a view promoted by government and industry alike, most recently in the Institute for Public Affairs' latest report. The report argues that opening up Australia’s Galilee Basin for the export of coal to India will provide 82 million Indians with electricity to transform their lives.

This echoes sentiments previously expressed by the coal industry and Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In response to a contrasting report released today by the Climate Council, arguing that Galilee coal is “unburnable”, Michael Roche of the Queensland Resources Council replied:

In fact we know India has 300 million people without electricity and that Prime Minister Modi is determined to give those people access to affordable electricity by 2040 […] We also know that no credible forecaster expects India to be able to meet Mr Modi’s target without use of imported coal to supplement domestic supply.

But is there really a case for Australian coal in India? The evidence suggests not.

The case for Australian coal in India is weakening by Lynette Molyneaux, The Conversation US, June 24, 2015

Top Doctors call on charities to 'Do no harm' and divest from fossil fuels

Fifty of the world's leading medical doctors and researchers on Thursday joined in the call for two multibillion dollar charities—Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation—to divest their endowments from "the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies over the next five years"—because global health depends on it.

"Divestment rests on the premise that it is wrong to profit from an industry whose core business threatens human and planetary health, bringing to mind one of the foundations of medical ethics—first, do no harm," wrote the doctors and scholars in an open letterpublished in The Guardian.

Signatories included Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of The British Medical Journal, Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, and professors from across the United Kingdom.

Top Doctors call on charities to 'Do no harm' and divest from fossil fuels by Sarah Lazare, Common Dream, June 26, 2015

US climate deniers call Paris summit 'a threat' to the world

The godfather of climate denial has warned that a United Nations deal on global warming would spell “economic suicide” for America and a disaster to the world, according to a leaked fundraising letter.

In the rambling 13-page letter, Fred Singer, a retired rocket scientist who rejects the science underlining climate change, appeals for at least $425,000 (£270,212) to stop what he called the “radical, economy-wrecking and sovereignty-destroying UN climate pact”.

The letter, penned on behalf of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (Cfact), an ultra-conservative group that denies the existence of climate change, suggests growing desperation about the prospects of a climate change deal emerging from the Paris meeting. Cfact did not dispute authenticity of the document.

A leaked copy of the letter which was sent to Cfact supporters was obtained by the Guardian.

US climate deniers call Paris summit 'a threat' to the world by Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, June 26, 2015

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Comments 1 to 9:

  1. destruction (treating) flue gas emissions and the Future power engineering
    Global warming, power generation, and pollution
    Site "scisyhp-physics - PG-1"

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your post is too cryptic to ascertain why you have posted the links to three separate websites. Please explain the points you want to make in a new post. Thank you.

  2. The eco-village piece points out that the good people at Findhorn fail to meet sustainable footprint levels mostly because they faly at levels normal for Westerners. I too have noticed that reducing or eliminating flying on quizzes like that at dramatically reduces one's footprint.

    It would be great to see more info on the contributions of flying toward climate change. Is there something about where the emissions are injected into the atmosphere (mostly much higher than most other sources) that changes the profile. Or is it just the large amount of energy and so fuel it takes to accelerate a large metal object to about 600mph away from earth's gravitational center?

    I don't really mean to further burden the mods on this, but if other commenters have any insights or links on this, I would appreciate it.

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  3. Wili... Currently aviation accounts for about 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, but their effect is about double that because the emissions are primarily released at altitude. Aviation is still a growing industry, but they're also not a denial-driven industry like the FF industry. The entire aviation industry is actively working on more efficient aircraft, alternative fuels, as well as alternative propultion systems. And as anyone who flies can attest (with much grumbling), they're clearly trying to get as many human bodies into the smallest possible aircraft as possible. :-)

    Surface transportation will continue to be the bigger nut to crack since it accounts for 30% of CO2 emissions.

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  4. Rob, can you elaborate or point me to a source for aircraft emissions having an effect double their value? Are you talking about CO2 or the ensemble of CO2 and particulates? Does that include the effect of contrails? I would have thought that CO2 emitted closer to the surface, where the IR emitted, would have had more effect. 

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  5. Philippe... Here's some information from IPCC AR4 about aviation where they break it down into relative radiative forcing. The figures seem to agree with what I said above with 2015 projections for aviation having a contribution of about 5% of total anthropogenic radiative forcing.

    Some folks will try to slip in the 2-3% CO2 emissions figure to make it seems smaller, but the net total effect is in the range of 5% or so.

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  6. Apropos the NZers et al who are sceptical....

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his comfortable lifestyle depends on not understanding it."

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  7. Per the AR5, Contrails and Contrail-Induced Cirrus

    "Estimates of the RF from persistent (linear) contrails often correspond to different years and need to be corrected for the continuous increase in air traffic. More recent estimates tend to indicate somewhat smaller RF than assessed in the AR4...we assess the combined contrail and contrail-induced cirrus ERF for the year 2011 to be +0.05 (+0.02 to +0.15) W m–2 to take into uncertainties on spreading rate, optical depth, ice particle shape and radiative transfer and the ongoing increase in air traffic." Contrails and Contrail-Induced Cirrus

    "AR4 assessed the RF of contrails (persistent linear contrails) as +0.01 (–0.007 to +0.02) W m–2 and provided no estimate for contrail induced cirrus. In AR5, Chapter 7 gives a best estimate of RF due to contrails of +0.01 (+0.005 to +0.03) W m–2 and an ERF estimate of the combined contrails and contrail-induced cirrus of +0.05 (+0.02 to +0.15) W m–2. Since AR4, the evidence for contrail-induced cirrus has increased because of observational studies (for further details see Section 7.2.7)."

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  8. Thanks, that's plenty to chew...

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  9. Yes, thanks to all for a very informative discussion.

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