2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #10B

28 US Senators will stay up all night to talk about climate change

A group of 28 senators will take over the Senate floor on Monday evening for an all-night talk-a-thon on climate change.

The senators plan to start their climate-fest on Monday, March 10, after the last votes, and continue until around 9 a.m. on Tuesday. The senators are part of the Climate Action Task Force, which was launched in January.

The event, said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), is meant "to show the growing number of senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change."

28 Senators Will Stay Up All Night Monday To Talk About Climate Change by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Mar 7, 2014

20,000 megawatts under the sea: Oceanic steam engines

IF ANY energy source is worthy of the name "steampunk", it is surely ocean thermal energy conversion. Victorian-era science fiction? Check: Jules Verne mused about its potential in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. Mechanical, vaguely 19th-century technology? Check. Compelling candidate for renewable energy in a post-apocalyptic future? Tick that box as well.

Claims for it have certainly been grandiose. In theory, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could provide 4000 times the world's energy needs in any given year, with neither pollution nor greenhouse gases to show for it. In the real world, however, it has long been written off as impractical.

This year, a surprising number of projects are getting under way around the world, helmed not by quixotic visionaries but by hard-nosed pragmatists such as those at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. So what's changed?

20,000 megawatts under the sea: Oceanic steam engines by Helen Knight, New Scientist, Mar 3, 2015

As temperatures climb, so does malaria

Warming temperatures expand the risk area for malaria, pushing the disease farther uphill in afflicted regions, according to a new study.

Infecting more than 300 million people each year, malaria emerges from a tapestry of temperature, rainfall, vectors, parasites, human movement, public health and economics. Fighting the disease involves pulling on all of these threads, but scientists have a hard time figuring out which ones are the most important to predicting where the disease will go.

As Temperatures Climb, So Does Malaria by Umair Irfan and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Mar 7, 2014

Climate change felt in deep waters of Antarctica

In 1974, just a couple years after the launch of the first Landsat satellite, scientists noticed something odd in the  Weddell  Sea near Antarctica. There was a large ice-free area, called a polynya, in the middle of the ice pack. The polynya, which  covered an area as large as New Zealand, reappeared in the winters of 1975 and 1976 but has not been seen since. 

Scientists interpreted the polynya’s disappearance as a sign that its  formation was a naturally rare event. But researchers reporting in Nature Climate Change disagree, saying  that the polynya’s appearance used to be far more common and that climate change  is now suppressing its formation.

What’s more, the polynya’s absence could have implications for the vast conveyor belt of ocean currents that move heat around the globe. 

Climate Change Felt in Deep Waters of Antarctica by Sarah Zielinski Smithsonian Magazine, Mar 3, 2014 

Climate change hampers fight against malaria

Malaria risks spreading to high altitudes as global temperatures rise and further warming might cause a significant increase in malaria cases in highland regions where malaria is endemic, according to a study published on Thursday.

Unless disease-monitoring and control efforts are boosted and sustained, the disease will spread to new high-altitude areas, making populations living there particularly vulnerable because of a lack of immunity.

Climate change hampers fight against malaria - study by Magda Mis, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Mar 6. 2014

Cut the 'weirdo words' and put a human face on climate change

Scientists are making a huge effort to translate and humanise climate change - and cut out "weirdo words" the public and policymakers can't understand, the UN's chief climate official said yesterday.

Christiana Figueres told reporters that the UNFCCC, the body dedicated to reaching a global deal on climate change, needs to prioritise getting better at communication. But the way she tells it, there's a revolution going on.

Cut the 'weirdo words' and put a human face on climate change, says UN chief by Ros Donald, The Carbon Bried, Mar 5, 2014

Forging a new climate change narrative

A new narrative that is designed to encourage action to combat climate change must acknowledge the abstract nature of global warming. First and foremost we need to address the fact that people are not rational actors. Perhaps the most cogent approach to managing the Herculean task of communicating with an inherently irrational public is to focus on a narrative that deals with fostering the right mental attitude. A new narrative designed to change peoples’ mindset must deal with the following five psychological realities. 

Forging a New Climate Change Narrative: Addressing 5 Psychological Realities by Richard Matthews, Global Warming is Real, Mar 6, 2014

Get ready for next climate phenomenon: El Nino

For West Coasters sick of the ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure and East Coasters tired of hearing about the polar vortex, get ready for a new climate phenomenon to dominate headlines. El Niño could be making a return this fall after a 4-year hiatus, changing rainfall and temperature patterns across the world. It could even boost the odds of 2014 being the globe’s hottest year on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an El Niño Watch on Thursday, indicating conditions are favorable for the climate phenomenon to develop in the next 6 months. “Neutral” conditions are likely through the summer, but by fall NOAA's joint forecast with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society puts the odds of an El Niño developing at more than 50 percent. It’s been nearly 48 months since the last El Niño formed.

Get Ready for Next Climate Phenomenon: El Nino by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Mar 6, 2014

Keystone review assumes 'global failure to address climate change' 

As the deadline for public comment on the Keystone XL pipeline arrived on Mar. 7, environmental groups told the Obama administration that the State Department's analysis of the project was based on flawed assumptions that clash with the nation's commitment to mobilizing global action against climate change.

In its final environmental impact statement (EIS) issued on Jan. 31, the State Department asserted that no single project would have much effect on the growth of Canada's tar sands industry. It based its conclusions partly on business-as-usual projections that demand for oil and prices would rise amid continued worldwide inaction on global warming.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said in wide-ranging comments that the EIS "makes a fundamental error by relying on energy consumption scenarios which assume a global failure to address climate change."  

State Dept Keystone Review Assumes 'Global Failure to Address Climate Change' by John H Cushman Jr., Inside Climate News, Mar 7, 2014

Report warns of 'cascading system failures'

From roads and bridges to power plants and gas pipelines, American infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a pair of government reports released Thursday.

The reports are technical documents supporting the National Climate Assessment, a major review compiled by 13 government agencies that the U.S. Global Change Research Program is expected to release in April. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory put together the reports, which warn that climate-fueled storms, flooding and droughts could cause "cascading system failures" unless there are changes made to minimize those effects. Island Press has published the full-length version of the reports, which focus on energy and infrastructure more broadly.

New Government Report Warns of 'Cascading System Failures' Caused By Climate Change by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Mar 6, 2014

Role of Arctic sea ice melt in mid-latitude cold extremes

Don’t look now, but there’s a sensible, and perhaps even meaningful and healthy, debate among real climate scientists over a hot issue: It all involves research on the rapidly melting Arctic sea ice and the kinds of blustery weather that has made the winter of 2014 so miserable for mid-latitude areas across much of the U.S.

It’s not one of those made-for-cable “talking heads” yell-a-thons that climate scientists so rightly deplore. Nor does it follow the all-too-common mass media practice of pitting the flame-thrower on the far left and the wacko on the far right against each other. This one, warts and all, shows how serious science can work at resolving differences of interpretation and significance.

At Issue: Role of Arctic Sea Ice Melt in Mid-Latitude Cold Extremes by Bud Ward, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, Mar 5, 2014

Why women are the secret weapon to tackling climate change

As countries around the world look to celebrate International Women's Day on Saturday, it is important to reflect on the unique position of women when it comes to climate change.

Although climate change affects all people, women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt. This is due to their central role in their families and communities.

For example, most of the world's small-scale farmers are women, producing most of the food. This is especially true in developing countries where men often must leave their villages in search of work.

Why women are the secret weapon to tackling climate change by Christiana Figueres, Special to CNN, Mar 6, 2014 


Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 8 March, 2014

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