2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #43B

Acidification of oceans threatens to change entire marine ecosystem

Ocean acidification due to excessive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is threatening to produce large-scale changes to the marine ecosystem affecting all levels of the food chain, a University of B.C. marine biologist warned Friday.

Chris Harley, associate professor in the department of zoology, warned that ocean acidification also carries serious financial implications by making it more difficult for species such as oysters, clams, and sea urchins to build shells and skeletons from calcium carbonate. Acidic water is expected to result in thinner, slower-growing shells, and reduced abundance. Larvae can be especially vulnerable to acidity.

“The aquaculture industry is deeply concerned,” Harley said. “They are trying to find out, basically, how they can avoid going out of business.”

Acidification of oceans threatens to change entire marine ecosystem by Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, Oct 25, 2013

Can oil companies thrive in warming world?

Will ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy and the world’s 43 other largest fossil fuel companies be able to thrive in a business climate heavily affected by global warming?

That’s a question a coalition of investors, led by the sustainable business advocacy group Ceres, is asking those companies, demanding to know if they can be viable if markets or government-imposed mandates prevent them from burning all of their proven carbon reserves.

“Investors are asking fossil fuels companies, what is your plan B?” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “If you’re unable to use major portions of your fossil fuels reserves, where do you go?” 

Can Oil Companies Thrive in Warming World? by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, Oct 25, 2013

Climate Council finds 'clear link' between bushfires and climate change

There is a “clear link” between climate change and bushfires, with the current New South Wales fires influenced by a rising frequency of hot, dry days, according to the climate body that had its funding withdrawn by the Coalition government.

The Climate Council’s findings offered a rebuke to Tony Abbott’s assertion that there was no correlation between climate change and the New South Wales fires, which the prime minister renewed on Friday when he dismissed claims of a link as "complete hogwash".

Climate Council finds 'clear link' between bushfires and climate change by Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Oct 24, 2013 

Clock is ticking for Cape Wind project

The Cape Wind project, which would install 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts, is in a race against time.

It’s intended to be the first offshore wind farm in U.S. waters, and once it’s up and running, it could provide three-quarters of the electricity used at Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. But if construction doesn’t start by the end of this year, its backers stand to miss out on a federal tax credit and $200 million worth of investment promised by PensionDanmark, throwing its future into doubt.

What’s the holdup? The project has been besieged by lawsuits, most of them filed by folks who worry that the turbines would interfere with their views and boat outings.

Clock is ticking for Cape Wind project by John Upton, Grist, Oct 23, 2013

Cuba's mangroves dying of thirst

In the 1960s, the Cuban government declared that storage of fresh water for times of drought or hurricanes was a matter of national security, and it began to dam up the country’s rivers. But that policy has claimed an unforeseen victim: mangroves.

The sea swallowed up the old road connecting Batabanó and Mayabeque beaches, in southwest Cuba. In the last 50 years, more than 100 metres of coastline have been lost in that area to the south of Havana. The weakened mangroves, which now receive hardly any fresh water, were unable to prevent it from happening.

“The mangroves deteriorated so much that in 2008, Hurricane Ike pushed the sea a metre and a half inland, and it never went back out. Since then, it has continued to advance inland,” Flora Yau, who lives in Surgidero de Batabanó, told IPS.

Cuba’s Mangroves Dying of Thirst by Ivet González, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 22, 2013

IPCC's 'carbon budget' will not drive Warsaw talks

A key finding of the UN climate panel's latest report on climate change is too politically "difficult" to drive international climate talks in November, according to the UN's climate chief.

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated how much carbon dioxide the world could emit in future without going over 2C of warming – and showed that, at current rates, this "budget" would be exhausted within 30 years. It effectively put a limit on the amount of CO2 that the human activities such as burning fossil fuels can produce, without risking what scientists regard as dangerous climate change.

But Christiana Figueres, executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said carbon budgets were a good scientific exercise but said that they could not be the basis for negotiations. "I don't think it's possible," she told the Guardian in an interview. "Politically it would be very difficult. I don't know who would hold the pen [in setting out allocations of future budgets]."

IPCC's 'carbon budget' will not drive Warsaw talks, says Christiana Figueres by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Oct 25, 2013

IPCC's new estimates for increased sea-level rise

Estimates for higher sea-level in coming decades are one of the major “take home” messages from the newly released IPCC report.

Projected sea-level rise had been a particularly controversial aspect of the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, with many scientists decrying the absence of modeling of dynamic ice sheet movements and arguing that models had underestimated historical sea-level rise. As a result, many had expected treatment of sea-level rise to be the focus of much attention on the new report, and that has been the case.

Understanding why sea-level rise now is forecast to be greater, and why substantial uncertainties remain, requires examining the different causes of sea-level rise and the different ways of estimating future sea-level rise using both physical models and evidence from Earth’s geologic past. 

IPCC’s New Estimates for Increased Sea-Level Rise by Zeke Hausfather, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, Oct 23, 2013

Mangroves help Guyana defend against changing climate

Theola Fortune can recall how residents of Victoria would ridicule her and others every time they went into the east coast village to warn residents about the importance of mangroves and the need to protect them.

“They would accuse us of breeding mosquitoes in the community,” Fortune said. Yet scientists say that mangrove trees, which grow mainly in tropical and subtropical regions, can shield cities and towns from rising seas and storm surges by creating a natural barrier where the ocean meets the land.

Approximately 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives on a narrow coastline strip a half to one metre below sea level. That coastal belt is protected by seawall barriers that have existed since the Dutch occupation of the country. In recent times, however, severe storms have toppled these defences, resulting in significant flooding, a danger scientists predict may become more frequent.

Mangroves Help Guyana Defend Against Changing Climate by Desmond Brown, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 26, 2013

Mystery of the 'missing' global warming: the grid

Have you heard the one about how global warming stopped in 1998? It’s been called a “pause,” a “hiatus,” a “slowdown” and a “siesta.” Above all, it’s a red herring, and it isn’t difficult to find where some of the ‘missing’ heat has gone.

First, in case you haven’t been paying attention: 97 percent of climate scientists agree about global warming and its man-made causes, now with 95 percent certainty, according to a report this month by the IPCC, the world’s most authoritative body of climate scientists. Greenhouse gases trap heat, which melts ice, raises seas and floods cities; this fundamental equation is not in doubt.

Mystery of the 'Missing' Global Warming: The Grid by Tom Randall, Blloomberg News, Oct 23, 2013

Thailand suffers worst dengue epidemic in more than 20 years

Thailand is experiencing its largest dengue epidemic in more than two decades, with a record number of people infected by the mosquito-borne disease and 126 fatalities so far this year, health experts said on Thursday, pointing to climate change as a factor behind the spike in cases.

"We are experiencing the highest number of cases in over 20 years, but the fatalities are not alarming compared to previous years, which shows our medical response is improving," said Sophon Mekthon, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Public Health.

More than 136,000 cases of dengue fever, the world's fastest-spreading tropical disease, have been confirmed so far this year, with the highest concentration of cases in and around the capital Bangkok and in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

Thailand suffers worst dengue epidemic in more than 20 years by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Oct 24, 2013

Wall St demands answers on 'unburnable' carbon

Groundbreaking initiative is forcing an investor rethink: What's the value of fossil fuel stocks if companies must leave reserves in the ground?

Wall Street Demands Answers From Fossil Fuel Producers on 'Unburnable' Carbon by Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News, Oct 24, 2013

Why Australia's wildfires are so extensive now

Prolonged warm and dry conditions have provided extra fuel for four large fires and 53 smaller ones currently burning in New South Wales.

Why Australia's Wildfires Are So Extensive Now by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience/Scientific American, Oct 22, 2013

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 26 October, 2013

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