2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #23

Acid oceans can be fought at home

For coastal communities in the United States, the path to confronting souring seas can likely be found close to home in their very own backyards.

In fact, according to a recent study co-authored by several current and former Stanford researchers, there are several local and regional actions—many of which are not too costly—that can be taken to accelerate the adaptation to ocean acidification.

"We think of ocean acidification as being controlled by carbon dioxide, and it is, but there are a lot of different things humans do that affect the chemical equilibrium of the carbonate system in the coastal zone," said Aaron Strong, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources.

Acid Oceans Can Be Fought at Home by Elspeth Dehnert and ClimateWire, Scientific American, June 5, 2014

Africa's climate policies burned by firewood dependence

The women folk of Eye-Nkorin, a farming community of 500 people in Nigeria’s Kwara State, make a living from cooking up mashed cassava - and for this they need a huge amount of energy, supplied by firewood from nearby forests.

Piles of logs are stacked on the edge of frying pits, and women feed the wood into the fire to keep their pans searing hot. The dry, granular food they produce, known as garri, is a popular meal across Nigeria, and most of it is processed on wood-fired pits, contributing to deforestation.

Aina Odere, a 25-year-old garri maker, laughs at the suggestion the village women might use other sources of fuel to roast their cassava flour. “Some people have kerosene stoves, but they only use them if it rains and the wood is wet. Kerosene is expensive - and you cannot always get it,” she said.

Africa's climate policies burned by firewood dependence by Kayode Ogunbunmi and Madalitso Mwando, Thomson Reuters Foundation, June 2, 2014

A small 'sigh of relief' in climate debate

While environment leaders met in Brussels to discuss how to speed up the transition to a green economy, China and the US grabbed headlines with emissions-capping measures. Have we reached a turning point?

A small 'sigh of relief' in climate debate by Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle (DW), June 4, 2014

Australia experiences its hottest two years on record

Australia has experienced its hottest two years on record and high temperatures are set to continue through winter in a clear sign of climate change, a report warns.

May 2012 to April 2014 was the hottest 24-month period ever recorded in Australia, but that is likely to be eclipsed by the two years between June 2012 and May 2014, according to the Climate Commission's latest report, Abnormal Autumn.

"We have just had an abnormally warm autumn, off the back of another very hot 'angry summer'," Professor Will Steffen of the Climate Council said.

"The past two-year period has delivered the hottest average temperature we have ever recorded in Australia.

Australia experiences its hottest two years on record, The Guardian, June 2, 2014

Blackout on green projects if target for renewables is axed

This week saw US President Barack Obama unveil the most ambitious policy in US history to cut greenhouse gas emissions - a requirement for 1600 power plants to cut emissions 30 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 - and news that China was also working on a cap for its greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week, South Korea announced plans to cap carbon emissions as part of a carbon trading scheme kicking off at the start of next year.

In Australia, however, the clean energy sector - which by its own count employs 24,000 people and has generated $20 billion in investment - feels under siege, amid government plans to dismantle climate agencies and uncertainty about the future of the nation's Renewable Energy Target.

Blackout on green projects if target for renewables is axed by Peter Hannam, Teh Sydney Morning Herald, June 7, 2014

China follows USA with emissions pledge

One day after the United States said it would slash carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30% below 2005 levels, China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, said it would set an absolute cap on its emissions by 2016.

The announcement comes ahead of the start of U.N.-sponsored climate talks in Bonn, Germany, on Wednesday. The steps being taken by the world's top two polluters are important announcements that signal positive steps in addressing the planet's changing climate, Christiana Figueres, the U.N.'s top climate official, told USA TODAY on Tuesday.

However, she cautioned, "We need ever higher ambition by all nations in the run-up to the U.N. climate convention meeting in Paris in 2015 — ambition that can match emission reductions and support for adaptation in vulnerable countries and communities with the sobering scientific reality."

China follows USA with emissions pledge by Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today, June 3, 2014

China says aid a key to climate deal, not just CO2 cuts

China says aid a key to climate deal, not just CO2 cuts by Alister Doyle, Reuters, June 6, 2014

Energy choices

Nate Silver got a lot of grief when he chose Roger Pielke Jr., of all people, to write about environment for the new 538. Pielke is regarded among climate scientists as a concern troll – someone who pretends to be open-minded, but is actually committed to undermining the case for emissions limits any way he can. But is this fair?

Well, I’m happy to report that Pielke has a letter in today’s Financial Times about the economics of emissions caps – something I know a fair bit about – that abundantly confirms his bad reputation. Better still, the letter offers a teachable moment, a chance to explain why claims that we can’t limit emissions without destroying economic growth are nonsense.

Energy Choices, Op-ed by Paul Krugman, New York Times, June 5, 2014

Global citizens to elites: join climate fight 'or step aside'

More than 100 organizations representing millions of global citizens held a demonstration in Bonn, Germany on Friday as they delivered a direct message to government leaders gathered forclimate talks with a simple, but urgent message: "Stand with us, or step aside."

The morning event saw organizations from every continent – including trade unions, social movements, environmental groups, gender and youth groups, indigenous groups and NGOs – join together to demand climate justice as they warned that current levels of inaction by governments are dangerously off-track in addressing the climate emergency.

The groups delivered a joint declaration to government envoys to the talks. "The global climate movement is building its strength and power in every country of the world," it read in part. "We call on those who claim to represent us to either act in our interests or step aside."

Global Citizens to Elites: Join Climate Fight 'Or Step Aside' by John Queally, Common Dreams. June 6, 2014

How does air pollution affect clouds?

The answer could help clarify how warm climate change might get.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Clouds? by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, ClimateWire, Scientric American, June 6, 2014

India riots sparked by heat wave, power outages

Thousands of people enraged by power cuts during an extreme heat wave rioted across northern India, setting electricity substations on fire and taking power company officials hostage, officials said Saturday.

The impoverished state of Uttar Pradesh has never had enough power for its 200 million people — about the population of Brazil — and many receive only a few hours a day under normal conditions, while 63 per cent of homes have no access to electricity at all.

But recent temperatures that soared to 47 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) have caused power demand to spike at 11,000 megawatts — far higher than the state's 8,000 MW capacity — triggering blackouts that shut down fans, city water pumps and air conditioners.

India riots sparked by heat wave, power outages, AP/CBC News, June 7, 2014 

Kenya’s climate change legislation takes shape to save struggling farmers

Daniel Njau, a small-scale farmer from Nyeri County, central Kenya, is torn. He just may have to give up his six-hectare tea plantation in favour of farming climate-resilient food crops.

“Tea is very sensitive to climate change. Any drastic weather changes spell doom for the cash crop. In recent years, I have made more losses than gains,” he told IPS.

But statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture show that Njau is only one of an estimated 500,000 small-scale tea farmers facing uncertainty when it comes to their livelihoods.

United Nations scientists have also warned that as maize-growing areas become warmer, production of maize — the country’s main staple crop — will reduce by a fifth. Yields of other staple foods, including beans, will shrink by 68 percent.

Kenya’s Climate Change Legislation Takes Shape To Save Struggling Farmers by Miriam Gathigah, International Press Service (IPS), June 4, 2014

Measure climate-related destruction in the many trillions of dollars

Measure the cost of destructive climate change-related impacts in the trillions of dollars, says a United Nations report published Thursday.

The report, which focuses on the world's 52 Small Island Developing States (or SIDS) found predominantly in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, highlights how the nations and people least responsible for the climate crisis face the most severe damage. However, the report notes, the costs associated with the destruction of low-lying nations, coral reefs, and vulnerable coasts will be felt globally.

According to the UN's Environment Program (UNEP), the coral reefs in all SIDS regions are already severely impacted by rising ocean surface temperatures. And the report says that the global net loss of the coral reef cover - around 34 million hectares over the coming two decades - will cost the international economy nearly $12 trillion, with the economies and very existence of those small nations especially impacted.

Measure Climate-Related Destruction in the Many Trillions of Dollars: UN by John Queally, Common Dreams, June 6, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how Republicans

If you care about the place of science in our culture, then this has to be the best news in a very long time. Last Sunday night, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey—which airs on Fox and then the next day on the National Geographic Channel—actually tied ABC's "The Bachelorette"for the top ratings among young adult viewers, the "key demographic" coveted by advertisers. And it did so by—that's right—airing an episode about the reality of climate change.

Tuesday evening, I had the privilege of sitting down with the show's host, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, to discuss this milestone, and how he feels generally as the 13-part series comes to a close. (The final episode, entitled "Unafraid of the Dark," airs this Sunday night.) "The ratings are exceeding our expectations," said Tyson, fresh off the climate episode triumph. But Tyson emphasized that to him, that's not the most important fact: Rather, it's that a science show aired at all in primetime on Sunday night.

"You had entertainment writers putting The Walking Dead in the same sentence as Cosmos," said Tyson. "Game of Thrones in the same sentence of Cosmos. 'How's Cosmos doing againstGame of Thrones?' That is an extraordinary fact, no matter what ratings it earned."

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains How Republicans Blew It on Climate Change by Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, June 5, 2014

US hottest spots of warming: northeast, southwest

The United States is warming fastest at two of its corners, in the Northeast and the Southwest, an analysis of federal temperature records shows.

Northeastern states — led by Maine and Vermont — have gotten the hottest in the last 30 years in annual temperature, gaining 2.5 degrees on average. But Southwestern states have heated up the most in the hottest months: The average New Mexico summer is 3.4 degrees warmer now than in 1984; in Texas, the dog days are 2.8 degrees hotter.

US hottest spots of warming: Northeast, Southwest by Seth Borenstien, AP, June 4, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 7 June, 2014

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