2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #39B

Extreme rain and climate collapse

The biggest climate-driven extreme weather event since Katrina - Boulder's Carolyn Baker reports on fracking leaks, climate, economic hit. Plus Calif. songwriter Dan Imhoff on new album "Agraria".

Extreme Rain and Climate Collapse, Eco Shock Radio, Sep 26, 2013

How many Hiroshimas does it take to describe climate change?

Canadian rock legend Neil Young is worried about the environmental impacts of extracting oil from the tar sands near Fort McMurray, Alberta. “The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” Young said at a recent event for the National Farmers Union in Washington, DC, where he warned that carbon emissions are causing climate chaos for farmers. Some critics called Young’s reference to the devastating World War II nuclear attack irresponsible and unwarranted but most focused on extolling the virtues of Fort McMurray rather than those of the tar sands that lie beyond city limits.

Young isn’t the only climate campaigner to go nuclear in recent months. At the Climate Action Summit in June, John Cook, a research fellow on climate communication at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, said “our planet has been building up heat at the rate of about four Hiroshima bombs every second—consider that going continuously for several decades.” The headlines seized on Cook’s analogy: “Climate change like atom bomb,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported, and a number of other newspapers followed suit.

How many Hiroshimas does it take to describe climate change? by Dawn Stover, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Sep 26, 2013

How the insurance industry is dealing with climate change

When it comes to the calculating the likelihood of catastrophic weather, one group has an obvious and immediate financial stake in the game: the insurance industry. And in recent years, the industry researchers who attempt to determine the annual odds of catastrophic weather-related disasters—including floods and wind storms—say they’re seeing something new.

How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing With Climate Change by Joseph Stromberg, Surprising Science, Smithsonian.com, Sep 24, 2013

Leading climate change economist brands sceptics 'irrational'

Climate change sceptics who claim the dangers of global warming are small and far-off are "unscientific" and "irrational", and should not dissuade governments from tackling rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, the author of the world's landmark review of economics and climate change said.

Lord Nicolas Stern told the Guardian: "It is astonishing, irrational and unscientific to suggest the risks are small. How can they say they know the risks are small? The clear conclusion from 200 years of climate science and observations show a strong association between carbon dioxide rises and global surface temperature.

He added: "The science is unequivocal and shows there is serious danger. What is coming from [sceptics] is just noise, and should be treated as noise."

Leading climate change economist brands sceptics 'irrational' by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Sep 24, 2013

On 5th IPCC eve, news stories say there'll be scant surprise

A roundup tomorrow on media reports following the UN/IPCC's official release of the latest assessment report on climate change, or AR5, still seems worthwhile. But after reading the latest stories from major outlets, including those that specialize in climate science, one wonders. Advance stories seems to have most of the important parts already. On top of that, and just as the general public may be tired (and some have retreated into scorn) of these things, what with the same general message since the first one in 1990, so may the IPCC itself be weary of doing the near-continuous hard slog it takes to draw them up. The changes this time and from the start have been in the details for forecast rises in temp, the emission scenario alternatives, and the confidence that human society's emission of greenhouse gases is to blame. Even a terrifying truth can grow tired with repetition and little action. Same old same old.

Global Warming: On 5th IPCC eve, news stories say there'll be scant surprise ... maybe time to rethink how to do climate updates by Charlie Petit, Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Sep 26, 2013

Rising Temperatures Hurt Pollination – and Food Production

A rise in temperature modifies the physiological features of some plants – a consequence of climate change that is less perceptible than stronger and more frequent hurricanes, but just as harmful to food production.

In tropical species in the Cucurbitaceae family, “like squash or cucumber,” pollination is interrupted if it is hotter than normal during flowering season, Cuban agronomist Sergio Rodríguez explained to Tierramérica.

When the female squash flower is ready to be pollinated, the pollen from the male flower, carried by bees, is transferred to the stigma in the centre of the female flower. But if it’s too hot, the sticky sweet substance on the stigma dries up, the pollen can’t stick, and the fruit will not develop.

“When pollination doesn’t work properly and yields drop, we often don’t understand the reasons,” said Rodríguez, director of the Cuban National Research Institute of Tropical Root Vegetables (INIVIT). “That’s because higher temperatures or drought are more subtle effect of climate change.”

Rising Temperatures Hurt Pollination – and Food Production by Patricia Grogg, Terramerica, Inter Press Service (IPS), Sep 26, 2013

Scientists deploy underwater observatory to track warming, acidification

A machine off the coast of Japan will take a variety of measurements hoping to improve understanding of oceans, climate change and biodiversity 

Scientists Deploy Underwater Observatory to Track Warming, Acidification by Coleen Jose and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Sep 24, 2013

We could see 7°C (12°F) warming, and a mass extinction, by 2100

This is the third part in our three-part series, Climate Crisis: The View from 10,000 Feet. The three parts are:

These three essays together form the opening chapter of a book I’m working on. They present the long view and put the discussion in historical context. There are no more important questions than these, especially given the nearness of the deadlines:

We could see 7°C (12°F) warming, and a mass extinction, by 2100 by Gaius Publius, American Blog, Sep 24, 2013

What it means to be 95 percent certain about climate change

Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.

They are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe. They say they are more certain about climate change than they are that vitamins make you healthy or that dioxin in Superfund sites is dangerous.

They'll even put a number on how certain they are about climate change. But that number isn't 100 percent. It's 95 percent.

And for some non-scientists, that's just not good enough.

There's a mismatch between what scientists say about how certain they are and what the general public thinks the experts mean, experts say.

What it means to be 95 percent certain about climate change by Seth Borenstein, AP/The Huffington Post, Sep 24, 2013

What you need to know about the forthcoming IPCC report

Talk about management by committee: one group of more than 800 scientist authors to cope with more than 9,000 scientific publications on climate change and more than 20,000 comments from “expert reviewers” (plus another 30,000 or so from various other interested parties.) Now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is into four days of wrangling in Stockholm between scientists and governments over the wording of a warning on climate change that we’ve all heardbefore.

They will literally go over it line by line, with countries like Russia asking that plans for gargantuan mitigation projects like geoengineering be included somehow and countries like Saudi Arabia wondering whether climate change is such a big deal after all. Because, you know, the “hiatus,” or “pause,” or whatever you want to call it.

Of course, said plateau in the upward trajectory of average global surface temperatures says nothing about the fundamental physics that involves molecules of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapping ever more heat within the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Nothing has fundamentally changed since the first assessment in 1990 concluded: “emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases… These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface.”

What You Need to Know about the Forthcoming Climate Change Report by David Biello, Scientific American, Sep 24, 2013

Winds of change: why antarctic sea ice is growing

The ice that covers the Arctic Ocean has been on an overall downward trend in summer for more than three decades now, but the growth of sea ice in winter at the opposite end of the world in the Antarctica has been trending upward over the same time span. That doesn’t contradict the idea of global warming — for one thing, the growth is very slow compared with ice loss in the Arctic — but it’s still a scientific mystery that scientists want to understand. 

Now a University of Washington scientist named Jinlun Zhang may have solved it. Writing in the Journal of Climatology,Zhang argues that about 80 percent of the growth can be explained by changes in the prevailing winds around the frozen continent; the remaining 20 percent, he suspects, might be the result of changes in ocean circulation.

Winds of Change: Why Antarctic Sea Ice Is Growing by Michael D. Lemonick, Climate Cnetral, Spe 23, 2013

World won't cool without geoengineering, warns report

Global warming is irreversible without massive geoengineering of the atmosphere's chemistry. This stark warning comes from the draft summary of the latest climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

World won't cool without geoengineering, warns report by Fred Pearce, New Scientist, Sep 25, 2013

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 28 September, 2013

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