2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #25A

Americans are again getting more worried about the climate

The financial crisis made Americans less worried about climate change. The Democrats’ attempt to pass sweeping climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 probably reduced Americans’ anxiety level as well, as paradoxical as that may sound. But now Americans are getting more worried again.

About 69 percent of adults say that global warming is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, up from 63 percent in 2010. The level of concern has still not returned to that of a decade ago; in 2006, 79 percent of adults called global warming serious.

It’s impossible to know exactly why concern about the climate fell — and why skepticism that global warming was real increased — starting around 2008. Both economics and politics probably play a role. The financial crisis and recession made Americans more worried about the immediate condition of the economy, rather than about the long-term condition of the planet.

Americans Are Again Getting More Worried About the Climate by David Leonhardt, New York Times, June 16, 2015

Beware casting Pope Francis as a Caped Climate Crusader

All eyes are on the Vatican after an Italian news magazine leaked what is very likely the final text (the Italian translation) of Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical letter on humanity’s obligations to protect the environment, avoid dangerous climate change and overcome poverty and inequity. The official release of the letter, “Laudato Si’ — On the Care of Our Common Home,” comes Thursday, but interpretations abound already as translations spread. While there are allegations that traditionalists in and around the Catholic Church leaked the text to the magazine to deflate the impact of the release, I don’t see that happening.

I added quite a few translated passages to my initial post last night, reflecting Francis’s dim view of consumptive capitalism and yearning for greater human care for the environment and the most vulnerable among us. There is something for everybody in his messaging.

Beware casting Pope Francis as a Caped Climate Crusader by Andrew C Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, June 16, 2015

Global warming as seen through the glorious life work of a singular man

The first time I met Ron Naveen was in the dining room of an Antarctic cruise vessel. Most passengers on the Akademik Ioffe were dressed for the south pole; two or three base layers, lots of high-quality goosedown. Naveen was wearing a very old pair of jeans, a baseball cap emblazoned with images of hairy penguins, a disintegrating T-shirt and a pair of sandals. I reckoned, with his afterthought hair and warm eyes, he must have been in his mid-70s. He looked, frankly, like a bum.

Over the next few days, I watched Naveen in penguin colonies throughout the Antarctic peninsula. All the time, he talked to camera about the different breeds and the survival issues that they faced. He talked about corners of the Antarctic continent where few people had ever been, the challenges posed by increased tourism and the temperamental life cycle of the penguins’ main food source, krill.

He talked about adélies and gentoos, he talked about chinstraps and emperors. He talked without ever losing enthusiasm or reaching the edge of his knowledge. All the time, he wore those jeans and that baseball cap with the hairy penguins beneath his parka. If we hadn’t reminded him, he probably would have worn the sandals too.

Global warming as seen through the glorious life work of a singular man by Bella Bathurst, Guradian, June 13, 2015

Here's what a GOP Presidential debate on climate change might be like — based on actual quotes

Moderator: A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support political candidates who promise totake action against climate change, according to a recent poll conducted by the The New York Times, Stanford University and non-profit environmental research group Resources for the Future. Overall, two-thirds of respondents, including 48 percent of Republicans, said that they would support candidates who promise to do something about climate change. So I want to thank you for agreeing to be a part of this important debate on a critical topic. Americans are very curious to find out what you plan to do about climate change if you are elected president. But before we get into a policy discussion, let's begin with a basic question and we'll start with Senator Paul: Is climate change real?

Here's What a GOP Presidential Debate on Climate Change Might Be Like — Based on Actual Quotes by Reynard Loki, Alternet, June 16, 2015

How climate change deniers got it right — but very wrong

It turns out the climate change deniers were right: There isn’t 97% agreement among climate scientists. The real figure? It’s not lower, but actually higher.

The scientific “consensus” on climate change has gotten stronger, surging past the famous — and controversial — figure of 97% to more than 99.9%, according to a new study reviewed by msnbc. 

James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Only five reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause, he found.

How climate change deniers got it right — but very wrong by Tony Dokoupil, Greeenhouse, MSNBC, June 16, 2015

In leaked draft, Pope Francis takes 'Hard Core' stance on climate debate

In a lengthy and moving letter to Roman Catholic bishops leaked on Monday, Pope Francis unequivocally asserts that "human activity" is to blame for our planet's destruction, and the only solution is for humanity to change its "lifestyle" and "consumption."

The draft encyclical, published by Italian newspaper L'Espresso on Monday, three days before its intended release, is making waves among the international community as it boldly condemns both climate-deniers and carbon credit speculation, and upholds the growing climate movement and push to divest from fossil fuels.

"Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it," he wrote in the draft. "Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity."

In leaked draft, Pope Francis takes 'Hard Core' stance on climate debate by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, 

Intense rain bursts rise with heat, forecast more flash flooding

The heaviest rain bursts within a storm happen when it’s warmest, according to new research that suggests rising temperatures could exacerbate flooding as intense downpours are concentrated into smaller windows.

The analysis by two Australian engineers shows that storms are becoming more unruly. They’re prone to fits of faster rainfall during condensed periods of severity, and lessening rainfall during calmer, cooler times within the same event.

In other words, storms are being reorganized, said Ashish Sharma, a professor at the University of New South Wales who co-authored the study. So even if the overall volume of rain doesn’t rise under climate change, storms could be more damaging as increased precipitation drums the ground in shorter amounts of time, he said.

Intense rain bursts rise with heat, forecast more flash flooding by Evan Lehmann, ClimateWire/Scientific American , June 15, 2015

In trade debate, climate concerns roar back to House floor

Global warming has returned to Washington.

An issue that Congress largely ignored since the death of climate and energy legislation five years ago has come back in a most unlikely place: the trade debate.

In a 15-minute speech just before Friday's vote that may—repeat, may—sink the trade package, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi repeatedly brought up the impact the "fast track" trade legislation would have on the environment. Saying she was "second to none" in the House on climate change, Pelosi chastised Congress for failing to act on the issue while the fast-track bill was prioritized.

"Time is running out to rein in the consequences of climate change," Pelosi said. "We are slowing down our responses [to climate change] while we should be proactive, and yet here we are fast-tracking [trade] legislation," she added, before affirming that she would vote against the Trade Adjustment Assistance measure, a key part of the trade package.

In Trade Debate, Climate Concerns Roar Back to House Floor by Jason Plautz, National Journal, June 12, 2015

Is the 1.5C global warming goal politically possible?

For the past five years, international climate change negotiations have been guided by the principle that the rise in global average temperatures should be limited to "below 2C above pre-industrial levels".

Is this goal adequate? Probably not, according to a   report conducted by the UN and launched at the climate change negotiations in Bonn.

Containing the views of 70 scientists gathered together in a process called the " structured expert dialogue", the report warns that even current levels of global warming - around 0.85C - are already intolerable in some parts of the world. It says: 

"Some experts warned that current levels of warming are already causing impacts beyond the current adaptive capacity of many people, and that there would be significant residual impacts even with 1.5C of warming (e.g. for sub-Saharan farmers), emphasising that reducing the limit to 1.5C would be nonetheless preferable."

This report provides the evidence base for discussions at UN level over whether the world is being ambitious enough on long-term action to tackle climate change.

Is the 1.5C global warming goal politically possible? by Sophie Yeo, The Carbon Brief, June 15, 2015

Naomi Oreskes, a lightning rod in a changing climate

The job interviewer scrutinized the young American geology student sitting across from him. She was about to graduate from the Royal School of Mines in London, and was trying to break into a field long unwelcoming to women.

What, he wanted to know, might she have to contribute to the geology of mining? Naomi Oreskes had a simple answer: “I want to find an ore deposit!”

She wound up in the Australian outback in the early 1980s — not to search for deposits, exactly, but to help work out the complex geology of one that had just been found. It would eventually become one of the world’s largest uranium mines.

Yet, in time, prospecting for ores could not hold her interest. Today, from a professorship at Harvard University, Dr. Oreskes is still in the mining business. But rather than digging for minerals, she tunnels into historical archives, and she is still finding radioactive nuggets.

Dr. Oreskes is fast becoming one of the biggest names in climate science — not as a climatologist, but as a defender who uses the tools of historical scholarship to counter what she sees as ideologically motivated attacks on the field.

Naomi Oreskes, a Lightning Rod in a Changing Climate by Justin Gillis, New York Times, June 15, 2015

The Carbon Brief Interview: Dr Fatih Birol

Dr Fatih Birol is the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, and is responsible for its World Energy Outlook publication. He is also chairman of the World Economic Forum's energy advisory board. Before joining the IEA in 1995, he worked at the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna. Birol will take over as chief executive of the IEA in September.

The Carbon Brief Interview: Dr Fatih Birol by Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, June 16, 2015

The latest global temperature data are breaking records

Just today, NASA released its global temperature data for the month of May 2015. It was a scorching 0.71°C (1.3°F) above the long-term average. It is also the hottest first five months of any year ever recorded. As we look at climate patterns over the next year or so, it is likely that this year will set a new all-time record. In fact, as of now, 2015 is a whopping 0.1°C (0.17°F) hotter than last year, which itself was the hottest year on record.

Below, NASA’s annual temperatures are shown. Each year’s results are shown as black dots. Some years are warmer, some are cooler and we never want to put too much emphasis on any single year’s temperature. I have added a star to show where 2015 is so far this year, simply off the chart. The last 12 months are at record levels as well. So far June has been very hot as well, likely to end up warmer than May. 

The latest global temperature data are breaking records by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - the 97%, Guardian, June 15, 2015

The Pope can see what many atheist greens will not

Who wants to see the living world destroyed? Who wants an end to birdsong, bees and coral reefs, the falcon’s stoop, the salmon’s leap? Who wants to see the soil stripped from the land, the sea rimed with rubbish?

No one. And yet it happens. Seven billion of us allow fossil fuel companies to push shut the narrow atmospheric door through which humanity stepped. We permit industrial farming to tear away the soil, banish trees from the hills, engineer another silent spring. We let the owners of grouse moors, 1% of the 1%, shoot and poison hen harriers, peregrines and eagles. We watch mutely as a small fleet of monster fishing ships trashes the oceans.

Why are the defenders of the living world so ineffective? It is partly, of course, that everyone is complicit; we have all been swept off our feet by the tide of hyperconsumption, our natural greed excited, corporate propaganda chiming with a will to believe that there is no cost. But perhaps environmentalism is also afflicted by a deeper failure: arising possibly from embarrassment or fear, a failure of emotional honesty.

The Pope can see what many atheist greens will not Op-ed by George Monbiot, Guardian, June 16, 2015

The pressure is mounting on Abbott to deliver on climate

International and domestic forces appear to be conspiring to significantly ratchet up the pressure on Prime Minster Tony Abbott’s climate policy.

Growing concerns about a global decline in demand for coal and the spectre of stranded fossil fuel assets featured in this week’s ABC Four Corners program. This program, noting the growing influence of the divestment movement on Australian climate debate, painted Australia’s investment in fossil-fuel-driven exports as misguided, even financially irresponsible.

Predictably, the Minerals Council of Australia and Newscorp have lined up to pillory the national broadcaster over the program’s claims. But there is little doubt that the economic case for coal mining and its expansion is becoming less compelling.

Certainly, this case will take another large hit if this year’s Paris climate talks lead to agreement on global emissions reductions, and help for developing states to transition to low-carbon economies.

More concerning still for the prime minister is that public concern about climate change continues to grow. The Lowy Institute’s annual survey, released this week, suggests that a majority now views climate change as a “serious and pressing problem”, while also identifying support for renewable energy and strong Government action on climate change.

The pressure is mounting on Abbott to deliver on climate by Matt McDonald, The Conversation AU, June 16, 2015

What Bill’s downpours tell us about Texas’ future

Tropical Storm Bill is crashing into the Texas coast, bringing with it storm surge, high winds and, most worryingly, the likelihood of very heavy rains. Eastern Texas is already waterlogged after record-breaking May rainfall, and is expected to see another 4 to 8 inches (and possibly localized spots up to 12 inches), setting up the potential for widespread flooding.

The often torrential rains last month and those expected from Bill are an example of what Texas — and the globe as a whole — are likely to see more of in a warming world. As the atmosphere steadily heats up due to the effect of accumulating greenhouse gases, it also holds more moisture, which means more fuel for rainstorms, whether they come in a tropical cyclone or not.

The increase in heavy downpours is expected no matter what the overall precipitation trend is for a region. So even in areas like the U.S. Southwest, which are expected to become more arid, when it does rain, it’s more likely to do so in short, heavy bursts. This effect has already been observed across the U.S. as a whole, as well as in Texas.

What Bill’s Downpours Tell Us About Texas’ Future by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, June 16, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Wednesday, 17 June, 2015

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