2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #9B

A cause for pause? Scientists offer reasons for global warming 'hiatus'

It's been dubbed both a "pause" and a "faux pause," and it's ignited debate among climate scientists and their critics.

After a period of rapid global warming throughout most of the 20th century, the pace of global temperature rise has slowed greatly over the last 10 to 15 years.

This unexpected slowdown has raised questions about the accuracy of climate change forecasts, and sent scientists searching for an explanation.

A cause for pause? Scientists offer reasons for global warming 'hiatus' by Monte Morin, Los Angeles Times, Feb 26, 2015

A February first: CO2 levels pass 400 PPM milestone

With only one day left in the month, it’s basically official: February’s average carbon dioxide level will be above 400 parts per million, a marker of how much of the greenhouse gas is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human emissions.

Last year, the monthly average didn’t go above the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark until April, which was the first month in human history with carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that high. Levels stayed that high for a full three months, and they are likely to stay that high for many more this year.

In just a few years, CO2 levels will be above this threshold permanently.

A February First: CO2 Levels Pass 400 PPM Milestone by Andrea Thomspson, Climate Cnetral, Feb 27, 2015

AMS: Dem’s climate-funding probe sends 'chilling message'

The American Meteorological Society is condemning a prominent Democrat's investigation of university professors who stake out skeptical or contrarian positions on climate change.

"Publicly singling out specific researchers based on perspectives they have expressed and implying a failure to appropriately disclose funding sources—and thereby questioning their scientific integrity—sends a chilling message to all academic researchers," the group wrote Friday to Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee.

The letter marks the latest criticism of the Arizona lawmaker's search for ties between fossil-fuel interests and professors at several schools who have testified before Congress at the invitation of Republicans.

AMS: Dem’s climate-funding probe sends ‘chilling message’ by Ben Geman, National Journal, Feb 27, 2015

Coral collapse millennia ago may preview global warming impact

About 4,100 years ago, coral reefs in Panama violently collapsed and ceased growing for the next 2,500 years. Intrigued, a Florida graduate student, her adviser and a team of researchers set out to discover why.

By analyzing the chemical signatures of six coral reef cores taken from multiple sites in the Pacific Ocean around Panama, the scientists found an extreme weather event associated with what we would call La Niña today triggered the reef collapse. A series of events similar to El Niño continued to suppress the reef for the next two millenniums.

"What ultimately caused these reefs to collapse was the extreme frequency of these extreme events," said Lauren Toth, who conducted the research as a graduate student at the Florida Institute of Technology.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows at the time of the collapse the water was very cool, rainfall had increased and upwelling was stronger in the region.

Coral collapse millennia ago may preview global warming impact by Brittany Patterson, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Feb 26, 2015

Even as the eastern U.S. freezes, there’s less cold air in winter than ever before

Residents of the eastern United States are enduring one of the most painfully cold periods in modern times. Since January, Syracuse, N.Y., has never had more days below zero. Bangor, Maine is witnessing its coldest month ever recorded. On Tuesday, Washington Dulles Airport experienced its most bitter morning measured so late in the season, plummeting to minus-4.

Yet, in what may seem like a paradox, the amount of wintertime cold air circulating around the Northern Hemisphere is shrinking to record low levels. This winter (2014-2015) is on track to see the most depleted cold air supply ever measured.

“We are still on pace to break the all-time record — no question about it,” says Jonathan Martin, a professor of meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Despite the brutal cold in the eastern U.S., the whole hemisphere is warmer this winter than it has ever been in history.”

Even as the eastern U.S. freezes, there’s less cold air in winter than ever before by Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, Feb 25, 2015

Five decisions the IPCC made today about its future

This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made some interestingdecisions about how to make its reports more useful, communicate them more effectively, and involve more scientists from developing countries.

It's worth noting, this week's meeting in Nairobi was not in response to Dr Pachauri stepping down as chairman after 13 years.

As is customary for the IPCC after the release of one of its major assessment reports, this week has been about reflecting on lessons learnt and how to move forward.

So what's been decided?

Five decisions the IPCC made today about its future by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, Feb 27, 2015 

Glacial melting in Antarctica makes continent the 'ground zero of global climate change'

From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging thousands of feet (hundreds of meters) below to re-shape Earth. 

Water is eating away at the Antarctic ice, melting it where it hits the oceans. As the ice sheets slowly thaw, water pours into the sea — 130 billion tons of ice (118 billion metric tons) per year for the past decade, according to NASA satellite calculations. That's the weight of more than 356,000 Empire State Buildings, enough ice melt to fill more than 1.3 million Olympic swimming pools. And the melting is accelerating. 

In the worst case scenario, Antarctica's melt could push sea levels up 10 feet (3 meters) worldwide in a century or two, recurving heavily populated coastlines. 

Parts of Antarctica are melting so rapidly it has become "ground zero of global climate change without a doubt," said Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica. 

Glacial Melting In Antarctica Makes Continent The 'Ground Zero Of Global Climate Change' by Luis Andres Henoa & Seth Borenstein, AP/The Huffington  Post, Feb 27, 2105

Majority of Americans agree fighting climate change a 'moral obligation'

A majority of Americans believe they are "morally obligated" to fight climate change, a new poll by Reuters/IPSOS has found.

Of the 2,827 people surveyed in the poll, 66 percent said world leaders are ethically bound to reduce carbon emissions, while 72 percent believed that responsibility lay with themselves as well. In addition, 64 percent believe that rising greenhouse gases, which drive climate change, are caused by human activity.

The poll was conducted to parse the impact of moral language in the climate debate and the results suggest that an ethics-based appeal to address environmental issues may be the key to shifting the debate on the topic.

Majority of Americans Agree Fighting Climate Change a 'Moral Obligation' by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams, Feb 27, 2015

NASA satellites start tracking down the sources of climate change

NASA scientists are showing off some of the first results from a fresh crop of satellites and space station sensors designed to track the factors behind climate change and extreme weather on a near-real-time basis.

"We're really looking forward to the contributions that these new missions will make to science and to life on Earth," Peg Luce, deputy director of the Earth science division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said Thursday during a teleconference to discuss the results.

Some of the observing instruments are still being calibrated, but they're already providing data for weather forecasts and climate modeling, the scientists said. The latest Earth-monitoring missions include:

NASA Satellites Start Tracking Down the Sources of Climate Change by Alan Boyle, NBC News, Feb 26, 2015

Official data confirms Chinese coal use fell in 2014

Chinese coal use fell by 2.9 per cent in 2014 compared to the previous year, according to official Chinese government data published today.

The official data confirms widely discussed expectations of a reduction in coal use first published by Greenpeace  last October. The reduction in coal use was despite an increase in the capacity of coal-fired power stations, the figures show.

Significantly, preliminary analysis suggests the reduction in coal use will mean Chinese emissions fell in 2014.

The official data also shows that low-carbon generation capacity, including nuclear and renewables, grew rapidly during 2014. However, it remains a long way behind China's coal capacity.

Official data confirms Chinese coal use fell in 2014 by Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, Feb 26, 2015

Peak fossil fuel won’t stop climate change – but it could help

Fossil fuels are ultimately a finite resource – the definition of non-renewable energy. Burning of these fuels – coal, oil and gas – is the main driver of climate change. So could the peak of fossil fuels help mitigate warming?

The short answer is maybe … but perhaps not how you might think.

In a paper published this month in the journal Fuel, my colleagues and I suggest that limits to fossil fuel availability might take climate Armageddon off the table, although we will still need to keep some fossil fuels in the ground for the best chance of keeping warming below 2C.

But more importantly, the peak of Chinese coal use is changing the face of global alternative energy industry development, and is soon likely to impact on international positioning for a low-emissions future.

Now for the long answer.

Peak fossil fuel won’t stop climate change – but it could help by Gary Ellem, The Conversation US Pilot, Feb 25, 2015

Switzerland first to submit climate plan for Paris U.N. deal

Switzerland became the first nation on Friday to submit a plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020 as a basis for a U.N. deal to limit climate change due to be sealed in December.

Some other countries - including China, the United States and the 28-nation European Union - have outlined their domestic plans for slowing global warming beyond 2020 but have not yet formally handed details to the United Nations.

The Swiss government submission said it would cut national greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, with at least 30 percent of the curbs at home and the rest by investing in carbon-cutting projects abroad.

The country has a long way to go. In 2012, Switzerland said its emissions were just 2.8 percent below 1990 levels.

Switzerland first to submit climate plan for Paris U.N. deal by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Feb 27, 2015

We could keep a huge amount of carbon out of the atmosphere just by changing people’s behavior

It may be one of the few parts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” — a regulation to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — that’s not controversial.

In its proposed rule published back in June, the EPA suggested that one key tool that states and utility companies can use to meet their required emissions reduction goals is what the agency calls “demand-side energy efficiency.” For instance, significant energy savings – and emission cuts – could be reaped by programs that incentivize people to buy more energy-efficient home appliances, that encourage buildings to use energy more efficiently, or that change individual behavior itself to reduce energy consumption.

More specifically, the EPA lists energy efficiency as one of four “building blocks” that can help states reach their emissions reductions goals, calling it “a proven, low-cost way to reduce emissions, which will save consumers and businesses money and mean less carbon pollution.” The agency suggests that a 1.5 percent reduction in a state’s emissions might be achieved through this route.

We could keep a huge amount of carbon out of the atmosphere just by changing people’s behavior by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 27, 2015 

What happened to the lobbyists who tried to reshape the US view of climate change?

In 1998 major fossil fuel companies put $2m behind a plan that would effectively fuel the fires of climate science scepticism among the American public. We reveal where the 12 people behind that plan are now.

What happened to the lobbyists who tried to reshape the US view of climate change? by Graham Readfearn, The Guardian, Feb 27, 2015

World should not rush to judge Paris climate deal, says top US negotiator

The world should not rush to judgment on the outcome of the Paris talks on climate change later this year, president Obama’s chief climate change official has warned, as it would take a few years for the effects to become apparent.

Declaring the talks a success or failure too soon would be a distortion, said Todd Stern, US envoy for climate change and the country’s lead negotiator in the UN talks. “We will not know in 2015,” he said. “The rush to judgment, that this [agreement] does not do enough [for example], is not the way to think about this.”

He said that the process from Paris would not be a “one-off” agreement, but the first in a series of deals that would carry on after 2020, with countries “ratcheting up” their commitments to cut emissions in subsequent years, as the effects of the first targets became apparent.

World should not rush to judge Paris climate deal, says top US negotiator by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Feb 27, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 28 February, 2015

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