2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #24A

25 of the most powerful voices on climate change brought to you by The Weather Channel

Some very prominent voices have gotten a lot of media attention for their comments on climate change, including President Obama and Pope Francis. And there are people within the scientific community who have been speaking out for years, providing us with information and thoughtful insights.

The Weather Channel’s new media package, The Climate 25: Conversations With 25 of the Smartest Voices on Climate, Security, Energy and Peace, is bringing to the forefront a diverse set of voices and perspectives worthy of more attention.

It describes the project as “a digital media and television experience featuring interviews with the world’s 25 most compelling voices on one of the most pressing issues of our time—the impact of climate disruption on human security.” 

25 of the Most Powerful Voices on Climate Change Brought to You by The Weather Channel by Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch, June 10. 2015

America’s billionaires are officially playing God with the fate of the planet

There has been a long running joke in political circles that we should just force politicians to wear the logos of their donors and favored lobbyists the way NASCAR drivers wears logos on their jumpsuit. It would make it much easier for voters to identify to whom our elected representatives really answer. Right now they just wear an American flag pin and that doesn’t really tell us much.

As I wrote the other day, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot we can do about this. Billionaires are perfectly happy to “own” politicians these days. If they ever had any shame about openly offering huge sums of money to anyone who will advance their agenda, paying lip service at best to the idea of democracy, they have managed to overcome it.

(Ironically, the group which filed the lawsuit challenging the democratic concept of “one person, one vote,” which was just accepted by the Supreme Court, is financed by right-wing millionaires through the old-fashioned tax-deductible “charitable trust” model, so perhaps these ostentatious billionaires aren’t quite ready to take full ownership of the franchise just yet.)

America’s billionaires are officially playing God with the fate of the planet by Heather Digby Parton, Salon, June 11, 2015

Climate change could cut growing days of plants and crops by 11%

The number of days each year when conditions are suitable for plants to grow could fall as the climate warms, according to new research.

Researchers in Hawaii found rising temperatures and falling soil moisture could curtail growth of plants and crops across much of the tropics. And if emissions remain unchecked, gains in plant growth at higher latitudes won't make up for these losses.

But other scientists, not involved in the study, tell Carbon Brief the new research may have overestimated the negative impacts of climate change.

Climate change could cut growing days of plants and crops by 11% by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, June 11, 205

Coal plant rules proposed by EPA survive challenge in federal court

A federal court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by the nation’s largest coal companies and 14 coal-producing states that sought to block one of President Obama’s signature climate change regulations.

The lawsuit, Murray Energy v. E.P.A., challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. If enacted, the rule could shutter hundreds of such plants, freeze construction of future plants and slow demand for coal production in the United States.

The lawsuit was the first in a wave of expected legal challenges to the E.P.A. climate change rules. Legal experts expect that some of those challenges will ultimately make it to the Supreme Court.

Coal Plant Rules Proposed by E.P.A. Survive Challenge in Federal Court by Coral Davenport, New York Times, June 9, 2015

Despite hurdles, solar power in Australia is too robust to kill

No nation has as high a penetration of residential solar as Australia, with one in five homes now powered by the sun. And while the government has slashed incentives, solar energy continues to grow, thanks to a steep drop in the cost of PV panels and the country’s abundant sunshine.

Despite Hurdles, Solar Power in Australia Is Too Robust to Kill by Jo Chandler, Yale Environment 360, Jun 11, 2015

G7 carbon goal may come too late, scientists say

Ridding the global economy of its carbon is the only way to stabilize the climate, something the leaders of the G7 nations recognized Monday when they called for all countries to cease emitting climate-changing greenhouse gases over the next 85 years.

But there’s a sense among some climate scientists that such a goal may be too little too late, even though it serves as a necessary first step toward a commitment among nations to slash global carbon emissions. A new pact is expected to be finalized at the Paris climate summit taking place in December.

G7 Carbon Goal May Come Too Late, Scientists Say by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, June 9, 2015 

G7 leaders target zero-carbon economy

Global climate talks received a symbolic boost today, as the G7 group of rich nations threw their weight behind a long-term goal of decarbonising the global economy over the course of this century.

The joint communique from the leaders of Japan, Germany, the US, UK, Canada, Italy and France reaffirms their commitment to the internationally agreed target of limiting warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels. It also reiterates their commitment to deep cuts in emissions by 2050.

Today's declaration goes a step further, however, backing a long-term goal of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions at the "upper end" of 40-70% below 2010 levels by 2050 and decarbonising completely "over the course of this century"

G7 leaders target zero-carbon economy by Simon Evans & Sophie Yeo, Carbon Brief, June 8 29015

Irreversible loss of world's ice cover should spur leaders into action

We need only look to the world's ice cover to see the urgency with which emissions need to come down, scientists told delegates at this week's climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

At a press conference today, US and German scientists updated negotiators and journalists with the latest science on the state of Arctic sea ice, the Antarctic continent and thawing permafrost.

New observations gathered since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report show the cryosphere in serious and irreversible decline, they warned.

Pam Pearson, director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, the network of policy experts and researchers holding the event, told the audience:

"This is not like air pollution or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before."

Irreversible loss of world's ice cover should spur leaders into action, say scientists by Roz Pidcock, Crbon Brief, June 9, 2015

No one’s buying ALEC’s bullsh*t anymore: The Koch-backed group is losing the clean energy battle

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch-backed free market lobbying group that spends most of its time dreaming up ways to screw over the environment, learned the hard way that outright climate denial is a losing message: in the fall of 2014, Google chairman Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of “just literally lying” about climate change and announced that Google would not be continuing its membership in the group. The ensuing exodus basically confirmed that the public’s beginning to see through the group’s (persuasively crafted) bullshit.

Undermining climate science, though, is just a side project for ALEC: its main work in the environmental sphere involves crafting model policies that serve the fossil fuel giants that fund its operations and convincing states to adopt them. A major efforthas been to kill renewable portfolio standards (RPS): mandates set by states that require utilities to generate a certain proportion of electricity using clean energy. ALEC and its supporters, naturally, don’t like that the standards interfere with the free market; what’s more, they argue that they’re a bad deal for consumers.

Unfortunately for ALEC, it seems more and more people aren’t buying that logic, either.

No one’s buying ALEC’s bullsh*t anymore: The Koch-backed group is losing the clean energy battle by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, June 10, 2015

Norway will divest from coal in push against climate change

Norway’s $890 billion government pension fund, considered the largestsovereign wealth fund in the world, will sell off many of its investments related to coal, making it the biggest institution yet to join a growing international movement to abandon at least some fossil fuel stocks.

Parliament voted Friday to order the fund to shift its holdings out of billions of dollars of stock in companies whose businesses rely at least 30 percent on coal. A committee vote last week made Friday’s decision all but a formality; it will take effect next year.

The decision — which could seem paradoxical, given that Norway is a major producer of oil and gas — is certain to add momentum to a push to divest in fossil fuel stocks that emerged three years ago on college campuses. The Church of England announced last month that it would drop companies involved with coal or oil sands from its $14 billion investment fund, and the French insurer AXA said it would cut some $560 million in coal-related investments from its portfolio. 

Norway Will Divest From Coal in Push Against Climate Change by John Schwartz, New York Times, June 5, 2015

Record boost in new solar power continues massive industry growth

A record amount of solar power was added to the world’s grids in 2014, pushing total cumulative capacity to 100 times the level it was in 2000.

Around 40GW of solar power was installed last year, meaning there is now a total of 178GW to meet world electricity demand, prompting renewable energy associations to claim that a tipping point has been reached that will allow rapid acceleration of the technology.

“For the first time ever in Europe, renewables produced more power than nuclear – and solar power was key in achieving this remarkable achievement,” said Michael Schmela, executive adviser to trade body SolarPower Europe, which compiled the statistics published on Tuesday.

Record boost in new solar power continues massive industry growth by Arthur Neslen, Guardian, June 9, 2015

Republicans' leading climate denier tells the pope to butt out of climate debate

"Washington’s notorious snowball-thrower was at it again – even on a June day with forecast highs of 92 degrees – as the Senate’s most powerful environmental leader delivered a pep talk to activists who deny the science behind climate change.

"Oklahoma senator James Inhofe, who now chairs the Senate environment and public works committee despite famously calling global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”, took a star turn on Thursday at the Heartland Institute, whose conferences function as a hub for climate deniers.

"His message – that 'God is still up there; and that Pope Francis should mind his own business – sent a clear signal to his fellow conservatives: climate sceptics have a loyal – and newly powerful – friend in Congress. 

Republicans' leading climate denier tells the pope to butt out of climate debate by Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, June 11, 2025

Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years

The secretive funders behind America’s conservative movement directed around $125m (£82m) over three years to groups spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking Barack Obama’s climate change plan, according to an analysis of tax records.

The amount is close to half of the anonymous funding disbursed to rightwing groups, underlining the importance of the climate issue to US conservatives. 

The anonymous cash flow came from two secretive organisations – the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund – that have been called the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement. 

Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years by Suzanne Goldenberg & Helena Bengtsson, Guardian, June 9, 2015

Tony Abbott viewed by French as reluctant actor on climate change

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is unlikely to back an "ambitious fight" against climate change but other ministers in his cabinet including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop are more open on the issue, according to a source within the French presidency.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said it would be "a bit difficult" for developed countries like Australia to avoid signing up to deep cuts to greenhouse gases at the Paris climate summit at the end of this year if the European Union, United Kingdom and the US agree to do so.

As hosts, the French government is lobbying hard the 196 parties planning to attend the Paris summit. The meeting aims to conclude a pact that will keep global temperatures from breaching the 2-degree warming level on pre-industrial times they have already agreed on.

Paris 2015: Tony Abbott viewed by French as reluctant actor on climate change by Perer Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, June 9, 2015

Why warmer storms could lead to more flooding than expected

As the climate changes, we can expect more frequent and more extreme weather events, which will put pressure on our current infrastructure. It has been suggested that increasing temperatures will intensify rainfall, indicating that we are likely to endure bigger storms and more dangerous flooding in a future warmer climate.

Our study, published today in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows that this intensification in flooding may be even greater than expected. This is because of changes to the distribution of rainfall within storms – something known as the “temporal pattern”.

This study is the first to show that temperature changes are disrupting temporal rainfall patterns within storms themselves. When it comes to flash flooding, this is just as important, if not more so, than the total volume of rainfall that a given storm delivers.

If this trend continues with future climate warming, more destructive flooding across Australia’s major urban centres is likely. Because our findings were true across every Australian climate zone, ranging from tropical and arid to temperate, we can expect similar risks throughout the country, and conceivably elsewhere in the world too.

Why warmer storms could lead to more flooding than expected by Conrad Wasko & Ashish Sharma, The Conversation AU, June 8, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 13 June, 2015

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