2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #22B

Big waves bust up sea ice

Big ocean waves whipped up by storms hundreds or even thousands of miles away from Earth’s poles could play a bigger role in breaking up polar sea ice and thus contributing to its melt more than had been thought, a new study suggests.

The study, detailed in the May 29 issue of the journal Nature, found that these waves penetrate further into the fields of sea ice around Antarctica than current models would suggest, breaking up the ice well away from the edge of the ice. And previous studies have suggested that bigger waves might be more common near the ice edges at both poles as climate change alters wind patterns.

Incorporating this information into models could help scientists better predict the patterns of retreat and expansion seen in the sea ice in both Antarctica and the Arctic — patterns that are at least partly related to the effects of climate change — the researchers say. 

Big Waves Bust Up Sea Ice , May Be Playing Role in Melt by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, May 28, 2014

Climate change doomed the Ancients

THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security.

The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.”

But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.

Climate Change Doomed the Ancients, Op-ed by Eric H. Cline, New York Times, May 27, 2014

Cutting back on carbon

Next week the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new rules designed to limit global warming. Although we don’t know the details yet, anti-environmental groups are already predicting vast costs and economic doom. Don’t believe them. Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy.

Just ask the United States Chamber of Commerce.

O.K., that’s not the message the Chamber of Commerce was trying to deliverin the report it put out Wednesday. It clearly meant to convey the impression that the E.P.A.’s new rules would wreak havoc. But if you focus on the report’s content rather than its rhetoric, you discover that despite the chamber’s best efforts to spin things — as I’ll explain later, the report almost surely overstates the real cost of climate protection — the numbers are remarkably small.

Cutting Back on Carbon, Op-ed by Paul Krugman, New York Times, May 29, 2014

Global warming vs. climate change

A newly released report out of Yale and George Mason University should be required reading for anyone attempting to write about the climate. Researchers examined the public reaction to two catch phrases many science writers use interchangeably: Global warming and climate change.

It’s not too surprising that the study revealed a much stronger, more emotional reaction to the phrase “global warming”. It’s a more pointed, more specific expression. Climate change is vague, nebulous, and carries a whiff of political correctness.  

Global warming vs. climate change. Study shows people care about one of these by Faye Flam, Knight Science Journalism Tracker, 

How Obama's EPA will cut coal pollution

Here's a primer on the EPA's upcoming rules for polluting power plants

How Obama's EPA Will Cut Coal Pollution by Tiffany Stecker and ClimateWire, Scientific American, May 30, 2014

How will El Nino impact weather patterns?

Confidence remains high that El Niño is developing and that this will impact global weather patterns during the upcoming year. For more information on what El Niño is, see my previous article.

However, there is uncertainty regarding just how strong El Niño will become later this year. 

The ultimate strength of El Niño is critical to forecasting the impact on our weather across Canada as we head into the fall and winter. As we look to the past, we can see that a weak to moderate El Niño often has the opposite impact on some regions compared to what we typically see from a strong El Niño.

How will El Nino impact weather patterns? by Dr. Doug Gillham, The Weather Network, May 28, 2014.

IPCC co-chairman says scientists being intimidated

Global warming deniers have been involved in a “concerted campaign to isolate individual scientists and destroy them,” according to one of the co-chairmen of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Prof Thomas Stocker, Swiss-born co-chairman of the panel’s working group on the scientific basis for climate change, said the campaign to undermine its fifth assessment report was led by “people and organisations with vested interests”.

Speaking to The Irish Times prior to giving a public lecture in Dublin, he said claims that there had been no global warming for 15 years were “quite a clever way to divert the attention of policymakers from the broader perspective of climate change”.

IPCC co-chairman says scientists being intimidated by climate change deniers by Frank McDonald, The Irish Times, May 29, 2014

Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems

Human activities - industry, transportation and energy production - release billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which is gradually warming our planet and throwing off the balance of the climate. However, this carbon dioxide is also having an impact on the oceans, threatening marine ecosystems and possibly posing an even greater threat to us. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. The atmosphere had an average of around 270 parts per million (ppm) back before then, and currently it's at just over 400 ppm and rising. The atmosphere isn't the only part of our planet that's seeing a rise in CO2 levels, though. A significant amount is dissolving into the oceans, and it's changing the chemistry of the marine environments. The chart below shows the rise in CO2 concentration in both the atmosphere, measured at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and in the ocean at Ocean Station Aloha - a 10-km-radius patch of Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii - and the resulting impact on the ocean's pH levels:

Ocean acidification, global warming's 'evil twin', threatens marine ecosystems by Scott Sutherland, The Weather Network, May 28, 2014 

Richard Tol's attack on TCP has 'critical errors

One of the most consistent of all the attacks from climate science sceptics and deniers is the one which tries to convince the public that expert scientists are divided on the causes of climate change.

Those attacks have come from ideologically motivated think tanks and the fossil fuel industry, often working together. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal published a polemic to try and mislead the public that a consensus does not exist.

Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors' by Graham Readfearn, DeSmog Blog, May 30, 2014

U.S. Bishops call for reduction on carbon pollution

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called on the Environmental Protection Agency to combat climate change in a May 29 letter. It specifically focused on the issue of carbon pollution, particularly from power plants.

“The USCCB recognizes the importance of finding means to reduce carbon pollution,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. “These standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially children, the elderly, as well as poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution emitted from power plants and from the impacts of climate change.”

Addressed to Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the letter emphasized the need for specific action on the issue. "We appreciate your commitment to address this urgent global challenge confronting the human family. The USCCB stands ready to work with you, the Administration, and members of Congress to ensure that measures necessary to address climate change both care for creation and protect 'the least of these.'"

U.S. Bishops Call For Reduction On Carbon Pollution by Yasmine Hafiz, The Huffington Post, May 30, 2014

U.S. industry gears up to fight Obama's climate change rules 

This summer is likely to see a series of attacks by industry opponents of a U.S. plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants in a bid to stir voter anger ahead of elections in November, when voters in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia may determine whether Democrats keep control of the Senate.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose new rules to crack down on power plant emissions, part of President Barack Obama's efforts to combat global climate change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will release a report Wednesday analyzing the effect the yet-to-be-announced regulations will have on the economy.

U.S. Industry Gears Up To Fight Obama's Climate Change Rules by Roberta Rampton, Reuters/The Huffington Post, May 28, 2014

White House energy report omits Keystone, other controversial issues

A White House report on its energy policy Thursday stressed good news but omitted any discussion of controversial issues such as lifting a ban on oil exports, the long-delayed Keystone pipeline or growing concern about crude oil in railroad tank cars.

Coming days before a signature White House proposal to crack down on carbon emissions at power plants, the administration’s report card touting its “all of the above” energy strategy was sharply criticized by green groups. They complained that President Barack Obama tries to look tough on pollution while eroding that very effort by touting the record U.S. production of oil and natural gas.

“He’s trying to straddle the fence on this,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of several environmental groups unhappy with the Obama administration. “If he’s serious about climate change, he can’t have it both ways.”

White House energy report omits Keystone, other controversial issues by Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Washington Bureau, May 29, 2014 

White House stresses widespread energy progress 

The White House has released a report charting progress on several energy fronts that is clearly aimed at setting the stage ahead of President Obama’s expected announcement next Monday of the first regulations restricting carbon dioxide from existing power plants. (It’s been a very long journey — abetted by an important Supreme Court decision, since President George W. Bush tried to restrict carbon dioxide from such plants and quickly reversed course.

One interesting facet of the report, “The All-Of-The-Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth,” is how much of the progress it describes — particularly in reductions of petroleum and coal use — came as a complete surprise. (Read “Why Energy Forecasting Goes Wildly Wrong,” a recent paper in the Journal of Energy Security, for some background on this consistent phenomenon.) Here’s one graph that shows how this works:

White House Stresses Widespread Energy Progress Ahead of New Climate Rule by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, May 29, 2014

World on brink of Sixth Great Extinction

Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.

The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said study lead author noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.

"We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."

The work, published Thursday by the journal Science, was hailed as a landmark study by outside experts.

World On Brink Of Sixth Great Extinction, Species Disappearing Faster Than Ever Before by Seth Borenstein, AP/the Huffington Post, May 29, 2014

WSJ’s shameful climate denial: the scientific consensus is not a myth

97% of scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening, and a transparent Op-Ed fails to argue otherwise.

WSJ’s shameful climate denial: The scientific consensus is not a myth by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, May 28, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 31 May, 2014

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