2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #11

Climate change showdown in Florida governor's race

Florida, the most vulnerable state in the country to climate change, faces a key election this November that could have significant ramifications for its ability to cope with the challenge of rising seas and intensifying coastal storms.

If incumbent Tea Party-aligned Rick Scott is reelected governor, it is expected to mean four more years of inaction on global warming. His likely opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist, a former governor of Florida, is committed to aggressive climate action. Environmental groups, scientists and policy experts say that if Crist or another climate hawk wins, it would give the state at least a shot at staving off the worst effects of global warming. 

Climate Change Showdown in Florida Governor's Race by Katherine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Mar 13, 2014 

How much hotter is the planet going to get?

The climate is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide, according to several new studies, which means that our greenhouse gas emissions will lead to strong warming. The finding suggests we need to cut emissions fast if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

This may seem surprising given that the slower warming in the past decade has led some to conclude that the sensitivity of the climate is low. But the latest findings show that the cooling effect of aerosol pollution from factories and fires has been underestimated. This means warming will resume with a vengeance if countries in Asia clean up their skies.

It's a complicated story. So New Scientist has broken it down.

How much hotter is the planet going to get? by Michael Le Page, New Scientist, Mar 9, 2014

Industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'? By Nafeez Ahmed, Earth Insight, The Guardian, Mar 14, 2014

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent? 

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

The earthquake that rocked L'Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent? by Lawrence Torcello, The Conversation (Australia), Mar 13, 2014

Kerry orders U.S. diplomats to press case for climate action

Over the weekend, ahead of a round of low-level climate treaty talks that kicked off today in Bonn, Germany, Secretary of State John Kerry sent a fresh signal that he plans to keep global warming at the top of the State Department’s agenda.

The signal came in the form of Kerry’s first policy guidance message to all of his far-flung diplomats. Here’s an excerpt and link to the full document: 

Kerry Orders U.S. Diplomats to Press Case for Climate Action by Andrew Revkin, Dot  Earth, New York Times, Mar 10, 2014

New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere

Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed.

The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed "ozone depletion is not yesterday's story."

New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere by Damien Carrington, The Guardian, Mar 9, 2014

Number of days without rain to dramatically increase in some regions 

By the end of the 21st century, some parts of the world can expect as many as 30 more days a year without precipitation, according to a new study by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researchers.

Ongoing climate change caused by human influences will alter the nature of how rain and snow falls; areas that are prone to dry conditions will receive their precipitation in narrower windows of time. Computer model projections of future conditions analyzed by the Scripps team indicate that regions such as the Amazon, Central America, Indonesia, and all Mediterranean climate regions around the world will likely see the greatest increase in the number of "dry days" per year, going without rain for as many as 30 days more every year. California, with its Mediterranean climate, is likely to have five to ten more dry days per year.

This analysis advances a trend in to understand climate change on the level of daily weather and on finer geographic scales. 

Number of days without rain to dramatically increase in some world regions, Phys.org, Mar 14, 2014

Obama, EU to stand together on climate change draft

U.S. President Barack Obama and EU leaders meeting in Brussels this month will throw their combined weight behind tackling climate change, a document seen by Reuters says, in a show of developed world solidarity on the need for a new global deal.

But the guarded, diplomatic language is likely to disappoint environmentalists calling for urgent, ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Sustainable economic growth will only be possible if we tackle climate change," a draft communique ahead of the EU-US summit on March 26 says. The text is subject to further negotiation between the European Union and the United States.

Obama, EU to stand together on climate change draft by Barbara Lewis, Reuters, Mar 12, 2014

Swiss seek precision as nations shape carbon market

Nations setting up carbon markets must standardize their emission-reduction benchmarks to ensure international efforts to limit global warming stay on track, according to Switzerland’s climate envoy.

At least 30 of 200 countries meeting at talks this week in Bonn are developing carbon trading systems to help meet emissions targets under a worldwide treaty to start in 2020. Nations should measure greenhouse-gas cuts as tons of carbon dioxide even if they pursue hard-to-quantify policies such as emissions taxes and energy efficiency rules, said Franz Perrez, who represents the alpine nation in United Nations talks. 

Swiss Seek Precision as Nations Shape Carbon Market by Mathew Carr, Bloomberg, Mar 10, 2014

Tony Abbott: the boxer picking a fight with the environment

John Cook, a physicist and prolific climate blogger in Brisbane, Australia, likes to tell this story:

“Remember former South African president (Thabo) Mbeki?” asks Cook. “He denied science. . . . Look what happened. Tony Abbott is doing the same.”

Tony Abbott: the boxer picking a fight with the environment by Raveena Aulakh, Toronto Star, Mar 9, 2014 

Warming leads to longer cold snaps

Climate-change skeptics -- and everyone else in Canada -- had better bundle up. Research shows extended cold snaps like we’ve seen this winter could be a direct result of climate change.

In a Rutgers University paper published last year, researchers Jennifer Francis and Stephen Vavrus wrote that the melting of Arctic ice was weakening the jet stream, the band of fast-moving wind that separates colder northern air from warmer air further south. As it weakens, it dips southward for longer periods than in the past, bringing icy-cold air with it for increasingly long stays.

The weaker winds “may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events that result from prolonged conditions, such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves,” says the article, published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Experts quiet climate-change skeptics: Warming leads to longer cold snaps by Saira Peesker, CTV News, Mar 13, 2014

What's going on with global warming and Antarctica's growing sea ice?

How melting ice sheets and increased winds could be behind Antarctica's apparent paradox of growing sea ice in a warming world.

What's going on with global warming and Antarctica's growing sea ice? by Graham Readfearn, Planet  Oz, The Guardian, March 11, 2014        

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 15 March, 2014

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