2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #36A

Antarctic sea-level surge linked to icesheet loss

Sea levels around Antarctica have been rising a third faster than the global average, a clear sign of high melt water runoff from the continent's icesheet, say scientists.

Satellite data from 1992 to 2011 found the sea surface around Antarctica's coast rose by around eight centimetres in total compared to a rise of six centimetres for the average of the world's oceans, they report in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The local increase is accompanied by a fall in salinity at the sea surface, as detected by research ships.

These dramatic changes can only be explained by an influx of freshwater from melting ice, say the study's authors.

Antarctic sea-level surge linked to icesheet loss by AFP/ABC Science, Sep 1, 2014

China plans a market for carbon permits

China plans to introduce its national market for carbon permit trading in 2016, a government official said on Sunday, adding that Beijing is close to completing rules for what will be the world’s biggest emissions trading program.

The nation accounts for nearly 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it plans to use the carbon market to slow its rapid growth in climate-changing emissions.

China has pledged to reduce the amount of carbon it emits per unit of its gross domestic product to 40 to 45 percent below its 2005 levels by 2020.

It has already introduced seven regional pilot markets in a bid to gain experience ahead of a nationwide program.

China Plans a Market for Carbon Permits, Reuters/New York Times, Aug 31, 2014

China's big carbon market experiment

China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Historically, it has been reluctant to cut emissions, fearing that doing so could impede its economic growth. But there are signs that position is shifting.

Late last year, the government banned the building of new coal power plants in particular areas due to air pollution concerns. Now it has announced it will seek to implement a national carbon market by 2016.

The announcement wasn't much of a surprise. Since 2011, China has been developing seven pilot carbon markets with the aim of one day creating a national scheme. The National Development and Reform Commission - the department responsible for the schemes - has long said it wants to include plans for a national market in China's next five year plan.

But could a carbon market form the backbone of China's response to climate change?

Analysis: China's big carbon market experiment by Mat Hope, The Carbon Brief, Sep 2, 2014

Dame Julia Slingo: the woman who reads the skies

At the Met Office in Exeter the clouds are gathering ominously. It's a typical dodgy-looking summer's day and, glancing up, I have no idea whether to reach for the sun cream or dig out my brolly. But while the clouds have me baffled, they are one of Dame Julia Slingo's specialities. In fact they're one of the reasons why Slingo became a meteorologist in the first place. "Meteorology just seemed to me to be the epitome of physics in action," she tells me once I duck indoors. "You could look out of the window and see a rainbow, or you could see clouds form, and you knew exactly what was going on to create what you were seeing."

In taking up the mantle of chief scientist at the Met Office in 2009, Slingo returned to the very institution in which she began her career nearly 40 years before. Managing the work of around 500 scientists, it's Slingo's responsibility to steer research that ranges from forecasting tomorrow's weather to modelling what the climate will be up to a century from now.

Dame Julia Slingo: the woman who reads the skies by Nicola Davis, The Observer, Aug 30, 2014

DeSmog UK launches to combat climate denial in Europe

A welcome message from DeSmogBlog executive director Brendan DeMelle.

We’re pleased to introduce DeSmog UK, a brand new investigative journalism and research outlet dedicated to clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science and exposing the individuals and organizations attacking solutions to global warming.

The newest addition to the international DeSmog network, DeSmog UK seeks to expose the same fossil fuel industry funded attacks on science and democracy that its colleagues at DeSmogBlog and DeSmog Canada investigate every day. 

DeSmog UK has appointed as Editor the intrepid British journalist Brendan Montague, who has spent the past three years examining climate denial and the origins of the think tanks and front groups that have waged war on climate science and policy solutions to global warming.

DeSmog UK Launches To Combat Climate Denial in Europe Ahead of Paris Climate Talks by Brendon DeMelle, DeSmog UK, Aug 31, 2014

Has climate change become a business story?

ne of the more robust periods of study in the modern history of climate change has taken place this past year. It began in September 2013 with a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which supported the idea that a large portion of fossil fuel reserves will have to stay underground to avoid dangerous rises in temperature across the planet. Then, in March, came one from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which claims to be the world’s “largest general scientific society.” Among its conclusions was that we are at risk of pushing the earth’s climate system toward “abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes.” By May, the federal government had weighed in with the Third National Climate Assessment, making similarly dire predictions and underscoring the wisdom of its prophesies made five years earlier. 

But something different happened in June. Another report, yes. Only this one was of a different character. It was called “Risky Business,” and the team that produced the analysis wasn’t at all like the other climate-change sages. It was co-chaired by A-list titans of American business and former government officials, including Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer. With such headliners, media coverage wasn’t hard to come by. 

The novelty of the report was that it talked relatively little about science and more about what this whole threat is going to cost us. With its emphasis on the economic impact of climate change, it broke down each region and endangered economic sectors to assess the looming damage. And with this shift in focus—from the physics of climate change to its financial consequences—came a subtle yet perhaps significant change in media coverage. While science and political reporters have primarily covered the topic during the past decade, the “Risky Business” report garnered the attention of business reporters and their editors.

Has climate change become a business story? by Robert S. Eshelman, The Observatory, The Columbia Journalism Review, Sep 2, 2014

How the IPCC is sharpening its language on climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is sharpening the language of its latest draft synthesis report, seen by Carbon Brief.

Not only is the wording around how the climate is changing more decisive, the evidence the report references is stronger too, when compared to the  previous version published in 2007.

The synthesis report, due to be published on 2 November, will wrap up the IPCC's fifth assessment (AR5) of climate change. It will summarise and draw together the information in IPCC reports on the science of climate change, its  impacts and the  ways it can be addressed.

We've compared a draft of the synthesis report with that published in 2007 to find out how they compare. Here are the key areas of change.

How the IPCC is sharpening its language on climate change by Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, Sep 1, 2014

Mountain forest changes threaten water supplies

Hike high enough up California’s Sierra Nevada and the forest morphs around you. At around 6,000 feet, the dazzling diversity of the lower montane forest, replete with California black oak, ponderosa pine, and incense cedars gives way to more monotonous landscapes of red fir and lodgepole pine. Hike further still and trees eventually disappear altogether, replaced with rocky topographies reminiscent of Mars.

As the globe warms, these landscape transformations are occurring at higher altitudes. Temperature gradients over the sierra are shifting uphill, and they appear to be dragging lush, diverse, thirsty forests with them — up into lands where temperatures had previously been too cold for them to survive.

These landscape changes in the warming Sierra Nevada could have major repercussions for California’s economy. The thirstiness of the dense forests that flourish in the mountain’s middle reaches, an expanding sweet spot where water is more ample than in the lower ranges, and where temperatures are more amenable to plant life than in the higher stretches, makes them bona fide water hogs.

Mountain Forest Changes Threaten Water Supplies by John Upton, Climate Central, Sep 1, 2014

No, the Bureau of Meteorology is not fiddling its weather data

Over the past week or so, the Bureau of Meteorology has stood accused of fudging its temperature data records to emphasise warming, in a series of articles in The Australian. The accusation hinges on the method that the Bureau uses to remove non-climate-related changes in its weather station data, referred to as “data homogenisation”.

If true, this would be very serious because these data sets underpin major climate research projects, including deducing how much Australia is warming. But it’s not true.

No, the Bureau of Meteorology is not fiddling its weather data by Lisa Alexander and Andy Pitman, The Conversation, Aug 31. 2014

No more pause: Warming will be non-stop from now on

Enjoy the pause in global warming while it lasts, because it's probably the last one we will get this century. Once temperatures start rising again, it looks like they will keep going up without a break for the rest of the century, unless we cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

The slowdown in global warming since 1997 seems to be driven by unusually powerful winds over the Pacific Ocean, which are burying heat in the water. But even if that happens again, or a volcanic eruption spews cooling particles into the air, we are unlikely to see a similar hiatus, according to two independent studies.

Masahiro Watanabe of the University of Tokyo in Japan and his colleagues have found that, over the past three decades, the natural ups and downs in temperature have had less influence on the planet's overall warmth. In the 1980s, natural variability accounted for almost half of the temperature changes seen. That fell to 38 per cent in the 1990s and just 27 per cent in the 2000s.

No more pause: Warming will be non-stop from now on by Michael Slezak, New Scientist, Aug 31, 2014>

No, you can't claim Arctic ice is "recovering"

Sigh. Here we go again.

The Daily Mail and Mail Onlineare to scientific accuracy what a sledgehammer is to an egg. Especially when it comes to global warming.

David Rose is oftentimes the wielder of that sledgehammer. He’s written error-laden climate articles in the past, like saying that global warming has stopped (no, it hasn’t), that the world is cooling (no, it really really isn’t), and the IPCC had to hold a crisis meeting because Rose’s articles have caused such a fuss (that meeting never happened, which Rose had been told several times, but still made the claim). Other examples abound.

This time, In Sunday’s Mail Online he writes that Arctic sea ice, which hit a major record low in 2012, “has expanded for the second year in succession.”

No, You Can't Claim Arctic Ice is "Recovering" by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Sep 1, 2014

Polar vortex visits to U.S. linked to climate change

Remember the polar vortex, the huge mass of Arctic air that can plunge much of the U.S. into the deep freeze? You might have to get used to it.

A new study says that as the world gets warmer, parts of North America, Europe and Asia could see more frequent and stronger visits of that cold air. Researchers say that's because of shrinking ice in the seas off Russia.

Normally, the polar vortex is penned in the Arctic. But at times it escapes and wanders south, bringing with it a bit of Arctic super chill.

That can happen for several reasons, and the new study suggests that one of them occurs when ice in northern seas shrinks, leaving more water uncovered.

Polar vortex visits to U.S. linked to climate change, AP/USA Today, Sep 2, 2014 

Some important context on Arctic sea ice melt

The Mail on Sunday reports that Arctic summer ice is on the increase, disproving the "myth of Arctic meltdown".

But the article, by journalist David Rose, acknowledges a declining trend in summer Arctic sea-ice. And scientists tell us the increase in ice is natural year-to-year variation.

Climate change is warming the Arctic, and scientists think it will make the region ice-free in summer at some point this century - points that despite the hyperbolic headline, the Mail on Sunday notes. 

Some important context on Arctic sea ice melt by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, Sep 1, 2014

Two secret funders of Lawson’s climate sceptic organisation revealed 

Two secret funders of Nigel Lawson’s climate sceptic organisation have been revealed. This is the first time anyone financing the group has confirmed their contributions. Both are linked to a free-market thinktank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which has admitted taking funding from fossil fuel companies and has also argued against climate change mitigation.

Lord Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation since its inception in 2009, stating only that none have significant fossil fuel interests. The GWPF has become the most prominent climate sceptic group in the UK, but critics of the GWPF argue that funders’ names should be made public in the interest of transparency.

Two secret funders of Nigel Lawson’s climate sceptic organisation revealed by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Sep 2, 2014

Warming Gulf of Maine imperils lobster, fish catch

The New England region's famous fish and lobster could one day disappear, and its rocky beaches could become invisible, obscured by constant high waters.

It's already starting to happen. The culprit is the warming seas along the North Atlantic—and in particular the Gulf of Maine, whose waters are heating up faster than 99 percent of the world's oceans, scientists say.

Long-established species of commercial fish, like cod, herring and northern shrimp, are departing for colder waters. Black sea bass, blue crabs and new species of squid—all highly unusual for the Gulf—are turning up in fishermen's nets.

The Gulf of Maine's warming reflects broader trends around the North Atlantic. But the statistic—accepted by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—underscores particular fears about the Gulf's unique ecosystem and the lucrative fishing industries it supports for three U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.

Warming Gulf of Maine imperils lobster, fish catch by Patrick Whittle, AP/Phys.org, Sep 3, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Wednesday, 3 September, 2014

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