2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #16

6 things you need to know about reducing emissions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) newest installment, Working Group III (WGIII): Mitigation and Climate Change, highlights an important message: It’s still possible to limit average global temperature rise to 2°C,—but only if the world rapidly reduces emissions and changes its current energy mix.

Getting to this finding meant analyzing more than 1,000 potential emissions pathways, modeled using the latest research and technology. In short, the report reveals the emissions trajectory we’re currently on—and the one we need to shift to if we’re to limit warming to 2°C, and avoid increasingly dangerous forest fires, sea level rise, heat waves, and other climate impacts.

Here are six things you need to know about the level of emissions reductions needed to rein in runaway warming:

Analyzing the IPCC Report: 6 Things You Need to Know About Reducing Emissions by Kelly Levin and C. Forbes Tompkins, World Resources Institute, Apr 13, 2014 

Climate change and desertification a threat to social stability

William Tell, in popular legend, takes a stand against a system that undermined his human dignity – tyranny and oppression. He refused to bow down before the hat of the evil bailiff Gessler, but was then forced to shoot an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow.

This tale has a universal message. When you are pushed into a corner, your freedom and liberty are under pressure and your family and future are threatened, you take a stand.

So why are we ignoring the fundamental threats to the liberty and freedom of more than one billion poor people globally and pushing them to take a stand? Why do we fail, time after time, to turn the challenges presented by desertification, land degradation and drought into opportunities?

Climate change and desertification a threat to social stability, Op-ed by Monique Barbut, Thompson Reuters Foundation, Apr 16, 2014

Climate concerns in a time of growing ‘climate fatigue’?

Worry about science-based concerns over potential risks in a warmer climate is running into worry also about what it will take for scientists’ messages to get through to the public and policymakers … and the ‘climate fatigue’ concern. 

Just Thinking … Climate Concerns in a Time of Growing ‘Climate Fatigue’? by Bud Ward, Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, Apr 17, 2014

Costs of climate change may prove high for future

Economists and scientists may have seriously underestimated the "social cost" of carbon emissions to future generations, according to a warning in the journal Nature.

Social cost is a calculation in US dollars of the future damage that might be done by the emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide as greenhouse gas levels soar and climates change, sea levels rise and temperature records are broken in future decades.

How much would society save if it didn't emit that ton of carbon dioxide? One recent federal estimate is $37. Such a measure helps civil servants, businessmen and ministers to calculate the impact of steps that might be taken. 

Costs of climate change may prove high for future by Tim Radford and The Daily Climate, Scientific American, Apr 16, 2014

Drunken trees: dramatic signs of climate change

Sarah James, an Alaska Native elder, says global warming is radically changing her homeland. Even the forests no longer grow straight. Melting ground has caused trees to tilt or fall.

"Because permafrost melts, it causes a lot of erosion," says James, who lives in Arctic Village, a small Native American village in northeastern Alaska. "A lot of trees can't stand up straight. If the erosion gets worse, everything goes with it."

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground. But climate change has caused much of that ground to melt at an unprecedented rate. The ground buckles and sinks, causing trees to list at extreme angles.

Drunken Trees: Dramatic Signs of Climate Change by Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic, Apr 17, 2014

Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water

Escalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain, joint Australian and US research has found.

A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be “seriously affected” by greater exposure to CO2.

Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea.

Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water by Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Apr 13, 2014

EPA drastically underestimates methane released at drilling sites

Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows.

Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that such drilling releases between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The agency is expected to issue its own analysis of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as early as Tuesday, which will give outside experts a chance to assess how well regulators understand the problem.

EPA drastically underestimates methane released at drilling sites by Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times, Apr 14, 2014

Pope Francis urged to back fossil fuel divestment campaign

Religious groups have urged Pope Francis to back a campaign to encourage millions of people, organisations and investors to pull their money out of the fossil fuel industry.

Multi-faith groups in Australia and North America have sent a letter to the pope saying it is "immoral" to profit from fossil fuels.

The letter, shown exclusively to the Guardian, says 80% of global fossil fuel reserves must "stay in the ground" if dangerous climate change is to be avoided.

Pope Francis urged to back fossil fuel divestment campaign by Graham Readfearn, The Guardian, Apr 16, 2014

Salvation gets cheap

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which pools the efforts of scientists around the globe, has begun releasing draft chapters from its latest assessment, and, for the most part, the reading is as grim as you might expect. We are still on the road to catastrophe without major policy changes.

But there is one piece of the assessment that is surprisingly, if conditionally, upbeat: Its take on the economics of mitigation. Even as the report calls for drastic action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, it asserts that the economic impact of such drastic action would be surprisingly small. In fact, even under the most ambitious goals the assessment considers, the estimated reduction in economic growth would basically amount to a rounding error, around 0.06 percent per year.

What’s behind this economic optimism? To a large extent, it reflects a technological revolution many people don’t know about, the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular.

Salvation Gets Cheap, Op-ed by Paul Krugman, New York Times, Apr 17, 2014

 Universities must end financial ties to climate denying fossil-fuel giants

There are many compelling reasons for universities to divest themselves of investment in the fossil fuel industry – including and especially the physical and potentially irreversible effects of climate change to which university endowments essentially contribute.

But for our colleagues now asking for an end to these investments, there's an almost equally compelling argument: universities exist to foster knowledge, learning and understanding, and the fossil-fuel industry has worked systematically over the past 20 years to undermine that work. It has worked and continues to work in direct opposition to our mission as scientists and educators through the political process and PR campaigns

Universities must end financial ties to climate denying fossil-fuel giants – now, Op-ed by Naomi Oreskes and Clara Belitz, the Guardian, Apr 17, 2014 

Why climate change risk misperception doesn’t necessarily matter

David Ropeik, the risk communication consultant and author of “How Risky is it, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts,” had some concerns about the way I characterized our “inconvenient minds” in my TEDx talk in Portland, Ore., over the weekend.

He’s right, of course. The 19-minute presentation on how, with sustained work, we’re a perfect fit for a complicated, consequential century was necessarily oversimplified. Here’s his “Your Dot” piece filling in many blanks, and noting that no one should presume better climate change communication is the path to action on global warming:

A Risk Analyst Explains Why Climate Change Risk Misperception Doesn’t Necessarily Matter by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, Apr 16, 2014

Years Of Living Dangerously: Is this the new trend?

Showtime's new nine-part documentary on climate change features hard-hitting connections between global warming and extreme weather, interviews with expert scientists, and calls for action. Is "Years of Living Dangerously" catching on to a new trend with reporting on climate change?

Years Of Living Dangerously: Is This The New Trend? by Denise Robbins, Media Matters, Apr 14, 2014 

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 19 April, 2014

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