2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #45A

29 bullets tell all about climate challenge

The results are in. Yesterday the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released it final report crystallizing 13 months of work by more than 800 scientists. The “synthesis report” gives a no-nonsense assessment of how the climate is changing, what is causing the change, the impacts the changes will have on us and the planet, and the “mitigation” steps we should take to prevent the impacts from getting worse. The recommendations are intended first and foremost for national leaders, who in 2015 will make what may be a last-chance effort to reach a binding global climate treaty.

Although the report’s authors try to give a condensed snapshot of the most important data and recommendations, the document still clocks in at 116 pages. I will attempt, here, to capture what you need to know most, in 29 bullets. Forgive the staccato.

29 bullets tell all about climate challenge by Mrak Frischetti, Scientific American, Nov 3, 2014

Abbott must put climate change at front of the G20 agenda in Brisbane 

The most important assessment of climate change ever prepared, which was published yesterday in Copenhagen, should place enormous pressure on the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, to make it a major agenda item at the G20 summit later this month, instead of shunting it to the sidelines.

The Synthesis of the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lays out the evidence that climate change is already having an impact around the world through rising temperatures, shifts in extreme weather, disappearing glaciers and ice sheets, and advancing sea levels.

With each successive decade being warmer than the last globally, and this year shaping up to be the hottest ever recorded, the reality of climate change is undeniable, and cannot be simply wished away by politicians who lack the courage to confront the scientific evidence.

Tony Abbott must put climate change at front of the G20 agenda in Brisbane by Nicolas Stark, The Guradian, Nov 1, 2014

Amazon rainforest losing ability to regulate climate, scientist warns

The Amazon rainforest has degraded to the point where it is losing its ability to benignly regulate weather systems, according to a stark new warning from one of Brazil’s leading scientists.

In a new report, Antonio Nobre, researcher in the government’s space institute, Earth System Science Centre, says the logging and burning of the world’s greatest forest might be connected to worsening droughts – such as the one currently plaguing São Paulo – and is likely to lead eventually to more extreme weather events.

The study, which is a summary drawing from more than 200 existing papers on Amazonian climate and forest science, is intended as a wake-up call.

Amazon rainforest losing ability to regulate climate, scientist warns by Jonathan Watts, The Guradian, Oct 31, 2014

Climate change fight affordable, cut emissions to zero by 2100

Governments can keep climate change in check at manageable costs but will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100 to limit risks of irreversible damage, a U.N. report said on Sunday.

The 40-page synthesis, summing up 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists already published since September 2013, said global warming was now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and pushing up sea levels.

"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in presenting the report in Copenhagen that is meant to guide global climate policy-making.

Climate change fight affordable, cut emissions to zero by 2100-UN by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Nov 2, 2014

Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist

Two years ago, Camille Parmesan, a professor at Plymouth University and the University of Texas at Austin, became so “professionally depressed” that she questioned abandoning her research in climate change entirely.

Parmesan has a pretty serious stake in the field. In 2007, she shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for her work as a lead author of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2009, The Atlantic named her one of 27 “Brave Thinkers” for her work on the impacts of climate change on species around the globe. Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg were also on the list.

Despite the accolades, she was fed up. “I felt like here was this huge signal I was finding and no one was paying attention to it,” Parmesan says. “I was really thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” She ultimately packed up her life here in the States and moved to her husband’s native United Kingdom.

Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist by Madeleine Thomas, Grist, Oct 28, 2014

Denmark considers phasing out coal by 2025 in big green shift

Denmark should ban coal use by 2025 to make the Nordic nation a leader in fighting global warming, adding to green measures ranging from wind energy to bicycle power, Denmark's climate minister said on Saturday.

Denmark has already taken big steps to break reliance on high-polluting coal - wind turbines are set to generate more than half of all electricity by 2020 and 41 percent of people in Copenhagen cycle to work or school, higher than in Amsterdam.

"The cost (of phasing out coal) would not be significant," Climate, Energy and Building Minister Helveg Petersen told Reuters of a proposal he made this week to bring forward a planned phase-out of all coal use to 2025 from 2030.

Denmark considers phasing out coal by 2025 in big green shift by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Nov 1, 2014

G20: Australia makes token concession on climate change

Australia has reluctantly conceded that climate change can be included in a single brief paragraph of the G20 leaders’ communique after heavy lobbying by the US and European nations.

The government had resisted any discussion of climate at the Brisbane meeting on the grounds that the G20 is primarily an economic forum, but other nations argued leaders’ agreements at meetings like the G20 are crucial to build momentum towards a successful international deal at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris next year.

The final wording of the leaders’ statement after the meeting is still being finalised but it is believed to simply recommit to addressing climate change through UN processes.

G20: Australia makes token concession on climate change after US lobbying by Lenore Taylor, New York Times, Nov 2, 2014

IPCC report: six graphs that show how we're changing the world's climate

We look at the data that underpins the forthcoming IPCC climate science report detailing humanity’s influence on the climate, global impacts and solutions.

IPCC report: six graphs that show how we're changing the world's climate by Adam Vaughn, The Guardian, Oct 31, 2014

New IPCC report: busting myths, both scientific and economic

The headline statements of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new Synthesis Report – unequivocal climate change, almost certainly driven largely by humans, and an urgent need to cut emissions – won’t come as any surprise to people who paid attention to the three larger reports the IPCC has released over the past 14 months.

But reading the full synthesis report, as opposed to the shorter Summary for Policymakers (SPM), shows that while the facts haven’t changed, the IPCC has subtly altered its approach to how it presents this information. Instead of dealing largely in forecasts and responses, as in previous syntheses, it now frames the climate problem squarely in terms of risk management.

Not everything of importance in the full synthesis report made it into the SPM. The language in the SPM is also weaker, particularly about the nature of irreversible risks and about threats to food security. The full report contains valuable pointers for managing climate risks and the benefits of acting, so should be preferred for decision-making purposes.

The report is also great for debunking some of the persistent myths about climate change, both scientific and economic. But, unfortunately given the urgent need for new economic policy to cut carbon, it’s stronger on the former than the latter. 

New IPCC report: busting myths, both scientific and economic by Roger Jones, The Conversation AU, Nov 3, 2014 

Panel’s latest report misses global slumber party on energy research

The new synthesis tends to echo the panel’s earlier reports on global warming mitigation options, implying that a price on carbon and some shifts in policy (subsidies, for instance) are all that’s needed for an swift and affordable transition from conventional use of fossil fuels.

But without a substantial boost in basic research and development and large-scale demonstration projects related to technologies like mass energy storage, capturing and storing carbon dioxide, grid management and a new generation of nuclear plants, it’s hard to see timely progress.

In all of the graphics and take-home points in the panel’s synthesis effort, the only language I can find on these points is turgid and buried. Skip to the bottom of this post to see what I mean.

Panel’s Latest Warming Warning Misses Global Slumber Party on Energy Research by Andrew Revkin, New York Times, Nov 2, 2014

Stark IPCC climate report shows the time for talking is over

In terms of the physical science, there are perhaps three key headline messages: human influence on the climate system is clear; warming of the climate system is unequivocal; limiting the risks from climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of GHG emissions. 

Stark IPCC climate report shows the time for talking is over by Simon Buckle, The Conversation AU, Nov 1, 2014

The 10 things you need to know from the new IPCC climate report

The latest IPCC report is out, and the news is not happy.

The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri,called today’s report the “strongest, most robust and most comprehensive” to come out of the IPCC, which has been tracking climate change since 1988. It is “yet another wake-up call to the global community that we must act together swiftly and aggressively,” the White House said in a statement.

The report’s language is stronger than in years past: Warming is “unequivocal,” and the changes we’re seeing are pervasive, it states clearly. We must take action quickly to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, it warns. If we don’t, we’ll face “further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

The 10 things you need to know from the new IPCC climate report by John Light, Grist, Nov 2, 2014

The implications of the US midterm elections for climate change policy

US voters will head to the polls tomorrow to decide which party rules Congress for the next two years. Environmental groups have spent millions trying to make climate change an electoral issue. Come Wednesday morning, they'll see what those bucks bought.

The US legislature looks like it's heading for a shake up. Polls show the Republican party has a good chance of winning a majority in both chambers of Congress for the first time in almost a decade.

That could have serious ramifications for the country's climate policy.

US commentators have done a good job of rounding up what that could mean state-side. We take a more international perspective, looking at what it might mean for the world's chances of agreeing a new global climate deal.

The implications of the US midterm elections for climate change policy: An international perspective by Mat Hope, The Carbon Brief, Nov 3, 2014

U.N. panel warns of dire effects from lack of action over global warming

The gathering risks of climate change are so profound they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report.

Despite rising efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the overall global situation is growing more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said here on Sunday.

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, the mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report declared. 

U.N. Panel Warns of Dire Effects From Lack of Action Over Global Warming by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Nov 1, 2014

When thawing glaciers release pollutants

As glaciers increasingly melt in the wake of climate change, it is not only the landscape that is affected. Thawing glaciers also release many industrial pollutants stored in the ice into the environment. Now, within the scope of a Swiss National Science Foundation project, researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Empa, ETH Zurich and the University of Berne have measured the concentrations of a class of these pollutants – polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – in the ice of an Alpine glacier accurately for the first time. The measurements reveal that the PCB levels in the atmosphere have decreased since the 1970s thanks to the meanwhile global ban on PCBs. Through the progressive melting of the glaciers, however, this residual waste risks being released back into the atmosphere.

When thawing glaciers release pollutants by Thorsten Bartels-Rausch, Phys.org, Nov 3, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Tuesday, 4 November, 2014

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