2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #6

A conversation on tobacco and coal exports and moral responsibility 

I sent my recent post on exports of life-shortening tobacco and dirty fossil fuels to a variety of climate and energy scientists and analysts and the result was an interesting email conversation that is excerpted below. 

A Conversation on Tobacco and Coal Exports and Moral Responsibility by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Feb 7, 2014

Arctic's 'layer cake' atmosphere blamed for rapid warming

The Arctic is leading a race with few winners, warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. Loss of snow and ice, which reflect the sun's energy, is usually blamed for the Arctic temperature spike.

But a new study suggests the Arctic's cap of cold, layered air plays a more important role in boosting polar warming than does its shrinking ice and snow cover. A layer of shallow, stagnant air acts like a lid, concentrating heat near the surface, researchers report today (Feb. 2) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"In the Arctic, as the climate warms, most of the additional heat remains trapped in a shallow layer of the atmosphere close to the ground, not deeper than 1 or 2 kilometers [0.6 to 1.2 miles]," said Felix Pithan, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany and lead author of the new study. 

Arctic's 'Layer Cake' Atmosphere Blamed for Rapid Warming by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Feb 2, 2014

Can ‘unbiased, fact-based, in-depth’ environmental news compete?

Al Jazeera America says it is out to advance environmental news coverage on cable TV. And it’s not letting up … but can it compete with the likes, for instance, of reality TV, Donald Trump or ‘the Biebs’?

Can ‘Unbiased, Fact-Based, In-Depth’ Environmental News Compete? by Lisa Palmer, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Meida, Feb 4, 2014

Climate change proves a survival experiment for wildlife

In the 1993 blockbuster movie "Jurassic Park," a sleazy scientist played by Jeff Goldblum quips that "life finds a way." For real biologists, climate change is like a massive, unplanned experiment, one that may be too fast and strange for some species to survive it.

Some animals are already in the middle of it. As Arctic ice shelves melt, polar bears are ransacking seabird nests to sustain themselves. Migrating geese are exploring valuable but previously unseen real estate, due to melting permafrost.

But whether these adaptation attempts will succeed remains a big question, researchers say. As temperatures rise, entirely new environments are forming, changing how species interact with each other and their surroundings in often unexpected ways.

Climate Change Proves a Survival Experiment for Wildlife by Elizabeth Harball and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Feb 7, 2014

Ending the world the human way

Here’s the scoop: When it comes to climate change, there is no “story,” not in the normal news sense anyway.

Ending the World the Human Way: Climate Change as the Anti-News by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, Feb 2, 2014

Establishing consensus is vital for climate action

A scientific consensus is necessary to understand and address problems that have a scientific origin and require a scientific solution. The public’s perception of that scientific consensus is necessary to stimulate political debate about solutions. When the public comes to understand the overwhelming agreement among climate scientists on human-caused global warming, acceptance of the science and support for climate action increase.

Establishing consensus is vital for climate action by Stephan Lewandowsky & John Cook, the Conversation, Feb 7, 2014

European parliament votes for stronger climate targets 

The European parliament voted on Wednesday to require member states to meet binding national targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

In a decisive vote, 341 to 263 MEPs called for three binding targets for 2030: a 40% cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels; at least 30% of energy to come from renewable sources; and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency.

This was stronger than the proposal from the European commission last month, that called for 27% of energy to come from renewable sources by the same date. Under the commission's plan, there was no target for energy efficiency, and – crucially – the UK was successful in ensuring that the renewables target would be binding only at the bloc level. 

European parliament votes for stronger climate targets by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Feb 5, 2014

'Fossilized rivers' reveal clues about disappearing glaciers

An amazing landscape left behind by melting ice sheets offers clues to the future of Greenland's shrinking glaciers, a new study suggests.

The incredible terrain is in northern Canada, which is ridged with thousands of eskers — the sinuous, gravelly remains of streams and rivers that flowed beneath the ice. Canada was once buried beneath miles of ice, similar to the way Greenland is today. Called the Laurentide Ice Sheet, this massive ice cap covered all of Canada and parts of the northern United States 15,000 years ago. When the Laurentide Ice Sheet started melting, the retreating ice left behind a record of its demise, such as the eskers, still visible on the Arctic tundra. Deciphering this record could provide a better forecast of the future of Greenland's changing ice sheet, scientists think

'Fossilized Rivers' Reveal Clues About Disappearing Glaciers by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Feb 3, 2014

How to convince your friends to believe in climate change

Environmental­ists have a reputation for being self-righteous and a little naggy, which makes them ripe for parody. (Seen “Portlandia”?) The perception that the eco-conscious are trying to take the fun out of life, however, is unfair. It also has some unfortunate consequences: It drives people away. Nagging breeds defiance.

But if you’re serious about the environment and want others to share your passion, don’t be intimidated by the potential mockery or resistance. There’s an extensive body of research on how to persuade those who view science with suspicion — it’s called the science of science communication. Much of the work centers on climate change.

How to convince your friends to believe in climate change. It’s not as hard as you think. by Charles Palmer, Washington Post, Feb  3, 2014 

Prince Charles is right about climate change

Ignoring global warming and its causes is a comforting path for politicians paralysed by self-interest and the consolations of denial.

Prince Charles is right about climate change, Op-ed by Paul Vallely, visiting professor of Public Ethics at the University of Chester, The Independent, Feb 2, 2014

Sea walls may be cheaper than rising waters

Every country worldwide will be building walls to defend itself from rising seas within 90 years because the cost of flooding will be more expensive than the price of protective projects, researchers predict in a new study.

The encroaching seawater threatens to flood hundreds of millions of people every year by 2100 as homes that are already below flood heights, or will be, succumb to climbing oceans. If governments fail to take any action, the annual cost of damage stands to reach hundreds of billions of dollars, at best, and as high as $100 trillion under grimmer scenarios, according to the paper, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sea walls may be cheaper than rising waters by Evan Lehmann and ClimateWire, Scientific America, Feb 4, 2014

U.S. launches 'climate hubs' to help farmers face climate change

President Barack Obama's administration announced the formation on Wednesday of seven "climate hubs" help farmers and rural communities adapt to extreme weather conditions and other effects of climate change.

The hubs will act as information centers and aim to help farmers and ranchers handle risks, including fires, pests, floods and droughts, that are exacerbated by global warming.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, briefing reporters at the White House, said the country's experience with extreme weather patterns recently underscores the need for taking steps now to address the impact of climate change on agriculture and forestry.

U.S. launches 'climate hubs' to help farmers face climate change by Jeff Mason, Reuters, Feb 5, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 8 February, 2014

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