2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #30A

4C degree rise in global temperature may make outdoor work impossible in North India

If the world warms up by 4 degrees Celsius, there is 30 per cent probability that temperatures will be so high that even moderate outdoor work cannot be carried out in the hottest month in northern India, a study on the risks of climate change has said.

There would also be a 40 per cent chance that individuals in northern India will not be able to participate in competitive outdoor activities in summertime if global average temperature rises on an average by one degree.

An international group of climate scientists, energy analysts and experts from finance and military recently released an independent assessment of the risks of climate change commissioned by the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

4 Degree Rise in Global Temperature May Make Outdoor Work Impossible in North India: Study, All India/KDTV. July 19, 2015

Arctic sea ice volume rebounds, but not recovering

Over the last few decades, and particularly in recent years, the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by a skin of sea ice has steadily shrunk. But it’s not just this extent that matters — the volume of sea ice, which takes into account its thickness, is also important, but traditionally much more difficult to measure.

The 2010 launch of the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite finally allowed scientists to take a wide-scale view of Arctic sea ice volume, and the first five years of data have yielded some surprises.

The volume of sea ice left at the end of the summer melt season seems to vary more from year to year than had perhaps been previously appreciated; after declining for several years, sea ice volume shot up after the unusually cool summer of 2013, the data revealed.

The authors of a new study reviewing the volume data, detailed on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, are quick to caution, though, that one single year of rebound doesn’t suggest any sea ice recovery, as the overall trend is still downward. Rather, the view afforded by CryoSat-2 will help them get a better handle on the ice’s future. 

Arctic Sea Ice Volume Rebounds, But Not Recovering by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 20, 2015

California just got slammed by “super-historic” rainfall — but it still won’t be enough to end the drought

As if the weather in California couldn’t get any weirder, July — typically the driest month of the year for a state already suffering through a historic drought — is instead bringing record rainfall.

The deluge, “super historic” in the words of one National Weather Service meteorologist, set all-time records for July in Los Angeles, San Diego and a dozen or so other Southern California cities. Downtown LA saw 0.36 inches Saturday, demolishing its former record for the single wettest July day — 0.25 inches — that’s stood since 1886. San Diego received 1.7 inches in 36 hours — more than it’s seen in the past 101 Julys combined. Even more rain, all of it resulting from what was Hurricane Dolores, is expected through Monday evening.

The rain was heavy enough to close beaches, cause power outages and mudslides and wipe out part of California highway I-10. The Los Angeles Angels had a home game rainout — the first time that’s happened since 1995. 

California just got slammed by “super-historic” rainfall — but it still won’t be enough to end the drought by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, July 20, 2015

Climate seer James Hansen issues his direst forecast yet

James Hansen, the former NASA scientist whose congressional testimony put global warming on the world’s agenda a quarter century ago, is now warning that humanity could confront “sea level rise of several meters” before the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are slashed much faster than currently contemplated. 

This roughly ten feet of sea level rise—well beyond previous estimates—would render coastal cities such as New York, London and Shanghai uninhabitable.  “Parts of [our coastal cities] would still be sticking above the water,” Hansen says, “but you couldn’t live there.”

This apocalyptic scenario illustrates why the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius is not the safe “guardrail” most politicians and media coverage imply it is, argue Hansen and 16 colleagues in a blockbuster study they are publishing this week in the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry. On the contrary, a 2 C future would be “highly dangerous.”

If Hansen is right—and he has been right, sooner, about the big issues in climate science longer than anyone—the implications are vast and profound.  

Climate Seer James Hansen Issues His Direst Forecast Yet by Mark Hertsgaard, The Daily Beast, July 20, 2015

For G.O.P., Pope Francis’ visit to Congress comes with tensions

In the Reading, Ohio, neighborhood where Speaker John A. Boehner grew up, nearly every house had two things on the wall: a crucifix and a photo of the pope. “You never ever expected to meet the pope,” said Jerry Vanden Eynden, a lifelong friend of Mr. Boehner’s. “In all of our minds, the pope was the closest thing to meeting God in person here on earth.”

When Pope Francis comes to Capitol Hill in September, he will be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress, where more than 30 percent of the members are Catholic. The visit will fulfill a long-held dream of Mr. Boehner, who says only his working-class roots as a bar owner’s son are more essential to his core than his Catholic upbringing. He has extended offers to popes for the last 20 years, and Francis, after taking nearly a year to consider, was the first to accept.

The pope’s visit comes with inherent tension for many Republicans, including those who are Catholic. While he has made no changes in church doctrine, Francis has forcefully staked out ideological ground opposite that of Mr. Boehner and his party. He has excoriated the excesses of capitalism as the “dung of the devil,” pleaded for action to stop global warming and enthusiastically supported the new nuclear accord with Iran

For G.O.P., Pope Francis’ Visit to Congress Comes With Tensions by Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times, July 19, 2015

Ocean acidification may cause dramatic changes to phytoplankton

Oceans have absorbed up to 30 percent of human-made carbon dioxide around the world, storing dissolved carbon for hundreds of years. As the uptake of carbon dioxide has increased in the last century, so has the acidity of oceans worldwide. Since pre-industrial times, the pH of the oceans has dropped from an average of 8.2 to 8.1 today. Projections of climate change estimate that by the year 2100, this number will drop further, to around 7.8 — significantly lower than any levels seen in open ocean marine communities today.

Now a team of researchers from MIT, the University of Alabama, and elsewhere has found that such increased ocean acidification will dramatically affect global populations of phytoplankton — microorganisms on the ocean surface that make up the base of the marine food chain.

In a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers report that increased ocean acidification by 2100 will spur a range of responses in phytoplankton: Some species will die out, while others will flourish, changing the balance of plankton species around the world.

Ocean acidification may cause dramatic changes to phytoplankton by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office, July 20, 2015

Passage of California climate change bill could set global example

When Gov. Jerry Brown visits the Vatican this week for an international conference, he'll be carrying a resolution from state lawmakers supporting Pope Francis' recent encyclical on climate change.

He's hoping the Legislature will send an even stronger message later this year by passing new environmental rules aimed at helping California slash greenhouse-gas emissions over the next few decades.

Approval of the legislation, intended to enact goals outlined by the governor this year, would bolster Brown's calls for global action on climate change with a display of regulatory muscle in his own state. 

Passage of California climate change bill could set global example by Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2015

Plumb secrets of light to unlock better clean energy

Pushing against the receding darkness of basic science, researchers are looking at the physics behind capturing and producing light—work that could illuminate breakthroughs in clean energy.

In the fight against climate change, governments and private companies are focusing much of their attention on engineering devices like light bulbs and solar cells, chasing single-percentage-point efficiency gains.

These marginal improvements could have major effects: The U.N. Environment Programme estimated that 19 percent of the world’s electricity goes toward lighting, accounting for up to 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Plumb Secrets of Light to Unlock Better Clean Energy by Umair Irfan, ClimateWire/Scientific American. July 20, 2015

Pope Francis convenes world's mayors to discuss global warming

Anyone who thought that Pope Francis was going to issue his climate change manifesto, and then recede quietly into the background on the issue was sorely mistaken.

In fact, judging from his agenda this week, it's clear that Francis intends to be a major player in spurring leaders to combat global warming, which he sees as inextricably linked to efforts to lift the plight of the world's poor.

This week, the Vatican's science committees will host two days of meetings with 50 mayors and governors from around the world; they will discuss ways to implement policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, boosting resilience to climate extremes and eradicating poverty.

Pope Francis convenes world's mayors to discuss global warming by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, July 19, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Tuesday, 21 July, 2015

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