2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #6B

14 CEOs want to rid the global economy of carbon emissions by 2050

Fourteen high-profile business leaders and CEOs are calling on international leaders to agree to a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050, arguing the ambitious goal would lead to “new jobs, cleaner air, better health, lower poverty and greater energy security.”

Led by high-profile billionaire and Virgin founder Richard Branson, the B Team — which includes Huffington Post Media Group President Arianna Huffington, U.N. Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin, and Unilever CEO Paul Polman — directed their message at the 196 nations that are expected to meet at the Paris climate talks at the end of the year. The meeting is widely considered the last chance for a global agreement that could feasibly keep the rise in global average temperatures under 2°C.

The group also urged business leaders to commit to emitting the equivalent of no carbon emissions in their long-term plans. A net-zero goal would mean dramatically reducing emissions while offsetting any remaining emissions with actions that reduce or absorb greenhouse gas pollution, like planting trees, using technologies that capture carbon, or funding clean energy ventures.

14 High-Profile CEOs Want To Rid The Global Economy Of Carbon Emissions By 2050 by Emily Atkin, Climate Progress, Feb 5, 2015

Agricultural movement tackles challenges of a warming world

With temperatures rising and extreme weather becoming more frequent, the “climate-smart agriculture” campaign is using a host of measures — from new planting practices to improved water management — to keep farmers ahead of the disruptive impacts of climate change.

Agricultural Movement Tackles Challenges of a Warming World by Lisa Palmer, Yale Envoronment 360, Feb 5, 2015

Climate consensus: Signs of new hope on road to Paris

After years of frustration and failure, a more flexible approach to reaching an international strategy on climate action is emerging – and it could finally lead to a meaningful agreement at climate talks in Paris later this year.

Climate Consensus: Signs of New Hope on Road to Paris by David Victor, Yale Environment 360, Feb 2, 2015

Earth's dashboard is flashing red—Are enough people listening?

Scientists are having trouble convincing the public that people are changing the climate.

Pew Research Center survey, released last week as part of a broader report on science and society, found that only 50 percent of Americans believe that humans are mostly responsible for climate change,while 87 percent of scientists accept this view. This 37-point gap persists even though thousands of scientists during the past few decades have been involved in publishing detailed reports linking climate change to carbon emissions.

Evidence of a human role in climate change keeps piling up. Recent studies of record-breaking temperatures, rising sea levels, and high levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere all point to an Earth under stress from a rapidly expanding human presence. 

Earth's Dashboard Is Flashing Red—Are Enough People Listening? by Dennis Dimick, National Geographic, Feb 2, 2015

Earth's past climate reveals future global warming

That carbon belching from our factories causes global warming is well-known, but beyond that, the science becomes controversy. The details of how much a unit of carbon dioxide raises global temperature is hotly debated in climate change literature.

The value most accepted comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which finds that temperatures will rise by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius with a doubling of CO2. And the threshold for "catastrophic" climate change that would terminate lifestyles as we know it is 2 C.

But this conclusion, like all derived from scientific endeavor, is uncertain. People who doubt climate change have picked up on the uncertainty to suggest that hidden factors—the "unknown unknowns"—in the climate system may come into play as the Earth grows warmer. And these factors could suddenly alter the way the planet responds to CO2 and make it pretty near impossible to predict how warm or cool the world will be in a hundred years.

Earth's past climate reveals future global warming by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Feb 5, 2015

Emotions, not science, rule U.S. climate change debate - study

Despite a scientific consensus that human activity is causing the planet to warm up, ingrained attitudes among Americans mean policy changes on global warming are unlikely, academics said in a new study.

Improving dialogue between believers and sceptics on the importance of human activity for climate change is the best way to foster consensus among ordinary people, according to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Strategies for building support for (climate) mitigation policies should go beyond attempts to improve the public's understanding of science," Ana-Maria Bliuc, a professor at Australia's Monash University who co-wrote the study, said in a statement.

Emotions, not science, rule U.S. climate change debate - study by Chris Arsenault, Thompson Reuters Foundation, Feb 5, 2015

'Fighting for the Places We Love': A vision for the climate battles to come

Ahead of upcoming Global Divestment Day, a conversation between author Naomi Klein and 350.org executive director May Boeve

'Fighting for the Places We Love': A Vision for the Climate Battles to Come by Naomi Klein, May Boeve, Common Dreams, Feb 6, 2015

Health benefits of addressing climate change

Opponents of action to mitigate climate change often suggest that regulation could have a negative impact on jobs. But such a view may diminish the importance of other factors and obscure a fuller understanding of the big picture.

To accurately assess climate change mitigation activities, stakeholders need to consider other benefits, too. For instance, lower emissions could produce savings in the form of lower health care costs, reductions in premature death and greater well-being.

In a recent study published in Climatic Change, we examined the potential health care savings from reducing greenhouse gas emissions through different CO2-reduction activities in the United States. We found the reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution that would accompany such activities could result in fewer health problems, potentially saving between $6 billion and $14 billion in health care costs in 2020, depending on the activity pursued. That’s $40 to $93 in health care savings per metric ton of CO2 reduction.

Health Benefits of Addressing Climate Change by Ramya Chari, Jeffery B. Greenblatt  Dev Millsttein and Kritiew L. Ebi, Newsweek, Feb 4, 2015 

No, climate models aren’t exaggerating global warming

Weather and climate agencies around the world have been almost unanimous in declaring 2014 the hottest year on record — something that has promoted considerable chagrin among climate change doubters. That’s because these “skeptics” have long sought to cast doubt on man-made global warming by pointing to an alleged global warming “pause” or “slowdown” — going on to suggest that the computerized climate models that scientists use to project future temperatures are flawed, and overestimate carbon dioxide’s warming effect.

So, is that true? Do the models consistently overestimate the warming effects of greenhouse gases like CO2?

As a recent study suggests, the answer is no. While many models didn’t predict the relatively modest surface-warming “hiatus,” it’s not because they’re biased in favor of greenhouse-gas emissions’ warming effects. Rather, researchers report in Nature, these computer simulations just struggle to predict “chaotic” (or random) short-term changes in the climate system that can temporarily add or subtract from CO2 emissions’ warming effects.

No, climate models aren’t exaggerating global warming by Puneet Kollipara, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 4, 2015

Obama's national security strategy lists climate change among 'top strategic risks' to U.S.

The Obama administration's new national security strategy, released Friday, puts a top priority on climate change, calling it "an urgent and growing threat."

Climate change, the strategy says, is "contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water."

The strategy lists climate change as one of eight "top strategic risks" to U.S. interests, along with a catastrophic attack on the U.S., threats or attacks against citizens abroad, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"The present day effects of climate change are being felt from the Arctic to the Midwest. Increased sea levels and storm surges threaten coastal regions, infrastructure, and property," states the strategy. "In turn, the global economy suffers, compounding the growing costs of preparing and restoring infrastructure."

Obama's National Security Strategy Lists Climate Change Among 'Top Strategic Risks' To U.S. by Kate Shepard, Common Dreams, Feb 5, 2015

One of the world's worst climate villains could soon be booted from office

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is terrible on climate change. He has gutted his country's historic cap-and-trade carbon pricing system, has called climate science "crap," and has spoken out against strong international action to fight global warming. He praises coal as "good for humanity."

But there might soon be good news for critics of Abbott's climate policies: It looks like Australia's skeptic-in-chief could be coming to the end of the road as prime minister. Members of his party are plotting to dump him, and while it's still far from certain if the current leadership crisis will ultimately result in his downfall, one thing is clear: The climate would find a much better friend among his potential replacements.

Here's a little Westminster System 101: Even though Australia's leaders run colorful, personality-driven campaigns similar to US presidential contests, prime ministers aren't actually elected by the people: Their fates are decided by a vote within the governing coalition. Abbott, a combative, uncompromising right-winger, has become deeply unpopular in Australia—and his colleagues in parliament are eyeing his disastrous polling numbers with mounting horror. As a result, Abbott is now facing a rapidly escalating revolt from within his own Liberal party (that's Australia's conservative party) that could culminate in a leadership challenge as early as next week.

One of the World's Worst Climate Villains Could Soon Be Booted From Office by James West, Mother Jones, Feb 4, 2015

Richard Branson leads call to free global economy from carbon emissions

Governments should set a clear target of making the world’s economy free from carbon emissions by mid-century, Sir Richard Branson and a group of other prominent businesspeople have urged.

The goal – of eliminating the net impact of greenhouse gases, by replacing fossil fuels and ensuring that any remaining emissions are balanced out by carbon-saving projects such as tree-planting and carbon capture and storage – is more stretching than any yet agreed by world governments. The G8 group of rich nations has pledged to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, and some developing countries to halving emissions by then.

Branson, long a vocal advocate of action on climate change, said that setting such a goal would galvanise businesses into reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and cutting carbon dioxide. “Taking bold action on climate change simply makes good business sense,” he said. “It’s also the right thing to do for people and the planet. Setting a net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050 will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world for what will soon be 9 billion people. Why would we wait any longer to do that?”

Richard Branson leads call to free global economy from carbon emissions by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Feb 5, 2015

The vaccine issue is nowhere near as polarizing as climate change

As the vaccine issue has been thrust into mainstream politics, there has been intense focus — and frantic poll-crawling — to try to find out who thinks what about it.

So let’s play along. It turns out there’s revealing new data on this front this morning from Yale researcher Dan Kahan — who finds that members of the tea party are slightly more skeptical of vaccines than Democrats or mainstream Republicans. But he also finds that this is absolutely nothing like the gap between the tea party and the other groups on climate change.

Here’s the first chart that Kahan provides, examining Democrat, mainline conservative Republican, and tea party beliefs on whether vaccines are worth the risk. Both the central and right column depict the views of conservative Republicans, but they are separated by whether they self identified as members of the tea party (on the far right) or not (in the center):

The vaccine issue is nowhere near as polarizing as climate change by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 5, 2015

World has not woken up to water crisis caused by climate change

Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations as the world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many countries face as a result of climate change, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists warned on Tuesday.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.

Countries such as India are likely to be hit hard by global warming, which will bring more freak weather such as droughts that will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security.

World has not woken up to water crisis caused by climate change: IPCC head by Nita Bhalla, Thompson Reuters Foundation, Feb 3, 2015

Your winter could be a lot less cold by the end of the century

Hearing about climate change may bring heat waves and sweltering summers to mind, but in most regions in the U.S., winter temperatures are also on the rise. In spite of last year’s East Coast blizzard and polar vortex, winters have, on average, been getting warmer since the 1970s. One of the starkest examples of this is the overall drop in the number of nights below freezing in most cities.

For many Americans the idea of fewer freezing nights is a welcome prospect. But warmer winters can have negative impacts: ski resorts need freezing temperatures for snow, some crops rely on a chill period, and pests can flourish year-round if winter temperatures aren’t cold-enough for them to die off.

Climate models project that freezing temperatures will become even less frequent as greenhouse gas emissions further increase global temperatures. What will these warming winters feel like? For ourWinter Loses Its Cool interactive we have projected the number of nights below freezing for the end of this century for 697 cities, and then showed which U.S. city currently experiences that number of freezing nights. Several striking examples are highlighted above, but explore the interactive to find out how the cold season will be affected in your city.

Your Winter Could Be A Lot Less Cold By The End Of The Century, Climate Central/The Huffington Post, Feb 4, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 7 February, 2015

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