2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #48

Can you talk turkey with your climate-change-denying relatives this Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is coming and you know what that means, folks: dinner with your climate-change-denying relatives.

You know who I'm talking about. The uncle who thinks sunspots are the reason the planet's getting warmer. The cousin who thinks dinosaur farts are to blame. Grandma, who also thinks President Barack Obama is a lizard from space.

Maybe you try to avoid these conversations at your Thanksgiving dinner. But there usually comes a point in the evening when, having exhausted all conversation about how lovely the new trivet is and yes, the traffic yesterday was just the worst, other topics come up. Sometimes you start talking about the weather … and then all of a sudden you're arguing about whether Al Gore's breath is really the reason it's been so hot lately.

But as unpleasant as it can be, and as much as you might want to avoid the topic, I'm a firm believer that you can find ways to have a discussion with even the most hardened skeptics of climate science. I don't think you can do that by peppering them with the latest climate science. That's not going to work. What you can do, however, is find ways to connect the issue to values that your relatives already hold. 

Can you talk turkey with your climate-change-denying relatives this Thanksgiving? by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Nov 26, 2013

Climate talks will fail unless parties agree to a carbon price

How do we identify and measure the damage that comes from climate change? Businesses have tried to answer this question in various ways. The one we encounter most frequently is the airlines' carbon offset programmes. Passengers pay a surcharge intended to mitigate the adverse consequences of our air travel through funding such actions as tree planting in the tropics. It seems fairly straightforward, if not obviously effective. Clearly, this approach hasn't funded new homes for flood victims or more seed for drought victims, but it might have reduced our individual net carbon emissions.

Climate talks will fail unless parties agree to a carbon price by Alison Kemper and Roger Martin

Emissions of methane in U.S. exceed estimates, study finds

Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater in the United States in the middle of the last decade than prevailing estimates, according to a new analysis by 15 climate scientists published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The analysis also said that methane discharges in Texas and Oklahoma, where oil and gas production was concentrated at the time, were 2.7 times greater than conventional estimates. Emissions from oil and gas activity alone could be five times greater than the prevailing estimate, the report said. 

Emissions of Methane in U.S. Exceed Estimates, Study Finds by Michael Wines, New York Times, Nov 25, 2013

Global warming's villains are finally identified

90 companies have produced two-thirds of all the global-warming gases that are currently in our atmosphere and dooming our planet, and they've produced half of that since just 1986, according to the first-ever scientific analysis of the sources of the planet's global-warming gases.

Virtually all 90 of these firms are oil, gas, and coal producers. Starting with #1, the top 20 are: ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Aramco (Saudi Arabia), BP, Gazprom (Russia), Shell (Netherlands), National Iranian Oil Co., Pemex (Mexico), ConocoPhillips, Petroleos de Venezuela, Coal India, Peabody Coal USA, Total (France), PetroChina, Kuwait Petroleum, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (UAE), Sonatrach (Algeria), Consol Energy USA, BHP-Billiton (Australia), and Anglo-American (UK, the company that got America's CIA to install the Shah in Iran). 

Global Warming's Villains Are Finally Identified by Eric Zeusse, The Huffington Post, Nov 26, 2013

Least active Atlantic hurricane season in 30 years

Defying dire outlooks issued in the spring, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends Nov. 30, was the least active since 1982, and the sixth-least-active season since 1950, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Monday.

There were no landfalling hurricanes in the U.S. in 2013. In fact, it has been more than 8 years since the last major hurricane of Category 3 intensity or greater struck the U.S., a record stretch. The last major hurricane strike occurred in 2005, when Hurricane Wilma hit Florida. When the start of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season rolls around on June 1, 2014, it will have been 3,142 days since that storm made landfall, a record timespan.

Least Active Atlantic Hurricane Season In 30 Years by Andrew Freedman, Climate Entral, Nov 25, 2013

Philippines' typhoon rebuilding may cost more, last longer than Aceh

The Philippines' post-typhoon reconstruction could take as long as 10 years, with the leadership of President Benigno Aquino put to a test amid complex problems such as property rights, missing title deeds and land zoning, experts said on Wednesday.

The task will likely take longer and cost more than the rebuilding of Indonesia's Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami, they said.

Super typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on Nov. 8, with seven-metre storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province alone.

Haiyan killed at least 5,500 people, left more than 1,700 missing, displaced as many as four million and destroyed around $563 million worth of crops and infrastructure.

Philippines' typhoon rebuilding may cost more, last longer than Aceh by Rosemarie Francisco, Reuters, Nov 27, 2013

Sea level experts concerned about ‘high-end’ scenarios

A survey of nearly 100 experts on sea level rise reveals that scientists think there is a good chance the global average sea level rise can be limited to less than 3.3 feet by 2100 if stringent reductions in planet-warming greenhouse gases are rapidly instituted. However, the survey, which is the largest such study of the views of the most active sea level researchers ever conducted, found that if manmade global warming were to be on the high end of the scale — 8°F by 2100 — the global average sea level is likely to jump by between 2.3 and 3.9 feet by the end of this century.

Worse yet, such a temperature increase could boost sea levels by up to 9.9 feet by 2300, the study found. Such a drastic increase in sea level would not just put heavily populated coastal cities at risk of flooding, but could also jeopardize the existence of low-lying island nations, the study found. 

Sea Level Experts Concerned About ‘High-End’ Scenarios by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central, Nov 22, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: When do you say "It's time to start talking about climate change?"

Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, sweeping the island nation with near-record winds and a towering storm surge. There are many scientific uncertainties around the factors contributing to storms such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, but scientists know that rising sea levels driven by manmade climate change worsen the damage caused by these storms. Yet an analysis of Typhoon Haiyan coverage in television and print media finds that less than five percent of stories mentioned climate change. 

Typhoon Haiyan: When Do You Say "It's Time To Start Talking About Climate Change?"  by Denise Robbins & Laura Saint Hanam, Media Matters, Nov 19, 2013

U.S. methane study says emissions 50 percent higher than EPA estimates

The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

That means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn't stay in the air as long.

Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says. It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

U.S. methane study says emissions 50 percent higher than EPA estimates by Seth Borenstein, AP/The Huffington Post, Nov 25, 2013

Why climate change skeptics and evolution deniers joined forces

All across the country—most recently, in the state of Texas—local battles over the teaching of evolution are taking on a new complexion. More and more, it isn't just evolution under attack, it's also the teaching of climate science. The National Center for Science Education, the leading group defending the teaching of evolution across the country, has even broadened its portfolio: Now, it protects climate education too.

How did these issues get wrapped up together? On its face, there isn't a clear reason—other than a marriage of convenience—why attacks on evolution and attacks on climate change ought to travel side by side. After all, we know why people deny evolution: Religion, especially the fundamentalist kind. And we know why people deny global warming: Free market ideology and libertarianism. These are not, last I checked, the same thing. (If anything, libertarians may be the most religiously skeptical group on the political right.)

And yet clearly there's a relationship between the two issue stances. If you're in doubt, watch this Climate Desk video of a number of members of Congress citing religion in the context of questioning global warming:

Why Climate Change Skeptics and Evolution Deniers Joined Forces by Chris Mooney, The Huffington Post, Nov 27, 2013

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 23 November, 2013

Creative Commons License The Skeptical Science website by Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.