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I. Climate Science

New research, October 29 - November 4, 2018

Skeptical Science - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 13:22

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change impacts 

Mankind

Altered Disease Risk from Climate Change (A special issue in EcoHealth)

Climate change perception: an analysis of climate change and risk perceptions among farmer types of Indian Western Himalayas

Climate change adaptation and mitigation – a hitherto neglected gender-sensitive public health perspective

Associations between ambient temperature and daily hospital admissions for rheumatic heart disease in Shanghai, China

Investigation on fatal accidents in Chinese construction industry between 2004 and 2016

Drivers of diversity in human thermal perception – A review for holistic comfort models (open access)

Quantifying the effect of rain events on outdoor thermal comfort in a high-density city, Hong Kong

Bridging Research and Policy on Climate Change and Conflict

The potential effects of climate change on air quality across the conterminous US at 2030 under three Representative Concentration Pathways (open access)

Climate change implications for irrigation and groundwater in the Republican River Basin, USA (open access)

Using impact response surfaces to analyse the likelihood of impacts on crop yield under probabilistic climate change (open access)

Are agricultural researchers working on the right crops to enable food and nutrition security under future climates? (open access)

Machine learning methods for crop yield prediction and climate change impact assessment in agriculture (open access)

Analysis of meteorological dryness/wetness features for spring wheat production in the Ili River basin, China

Effects of large‐scale climate anomalies on crop reference evapotranspiration in the main grain‐production area of China

Assessing the climate change impacts of cocoa growing districts in Ghana: the livelihood vulnerability index analysis

Yield response to climate, management, and genotype: a large-scale observational analysis to identify climate-adaptive crop management practices in high-input maize systems (open access)

A Reappraisal of the Thermal Growing Season Length across Europe

Enough is enough: how West African farmers judge water sufficiency

Of climate and weather: Examining Canadian farm and livestock organization discourses from 2010 to 2015

Designing collaborative governance: Insights from the drought contingency planning process for the lower Colorado River basin

Biosphere

The influence of climatic legacies on the distribution of dryland biocrust communities

Soil microbial moisture dependences and responses to drying‐rewetting: the legacy of 18 years drought

Comparison of budburst phenology trends and precision among participants in a citizen science program

Adaptation of soil microbial growth to temperature: using a tropical elevation gradient to predict future changes

The response of boreal peatland community composition and NDVI to hydrologic change, warming, and elevated carbon dioxide (open access)

Functional reorganization of marine fish nurseries under climate warming

Climate change threatens central Tunisian nut orchards

Tree rings reveal long-term changes in growth resilience in Southern European riparian forests

Boreal tree growth exhibits decadal‐scale ecological memory to drought and insect defoliation, but no negative response to their interaction

Tree resilience to drought increases in the Tibetan Plateau (open access)

Warming impacts on early life stages increase the vulnerability and delay the population recovery of a long‐lived habitat‐forming macroalga

Miami heat: urban heat islands influence the thermal suitability of habitats for ectotherms

Other impacts

Forest fire hazard during 2000–2016 in Zhejiang province of the typical subtropical region, China

Evaluating regional resiliency of coastal wetlands to sea level rise through hypsometry‐based modeling (open access)

Climate change mitigation

Climate change communication

Educational Backgrounds of TV Weathercasters (open access)

Perceptions of mountainous people on climate change, livelihood practices and climatic shocks: A case study of Swat District, Pakistan

Climate Policy

Effect of carbon tax on the industrial competitiveness of Chongqing, China

Energy production

The existence of barriers and proposed recommendations for the development of renewable energy in Indian perspective

Emission savings

CO2-equivalent emissions from European passenger vehicles in the years 1995–2015 based on real-world use: Assessing the climate benefit of the European “diesel boom” (open access)

Club convergence and spatial distribution dynamics of carbon intensity in China’s construction industry

Geoengineering

Targeting carbon dioxide removal in the European Union (open access)

Climate change

Science directions in a post‐COP21‐world of transient climate change: enabling regional to local predictions in support of reliable climate information (open access)

East Asian climate under global warming: understanding and projection

Temperature, precipitation, wind

ENSO-related Global Ocean Heat Content Variations

The importance of unresolved biases in 20th century sea-surface temperature observations (open access)

Formation of contrasting March surface air temperature trends in the eastern Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk during 1979–2015

Long term variability of the northerly winds over the Eastern Mediterranean as seen from historical wind observations

Quantifying the Importance of Rapid Adjustments for Global Precipitation Changes (open access)

Extreme events

Spatiotemporal Analysis of Near-Miss Violent Tornadoes in the United States

Plant‐physiological responses to rising CO2 modify simulated daily runoff intensity with implications for global‐scale flood risk assessment

On the decadal predictability of the frequency of flood events across the U.S. Midwest

Rainfall threshold determination for flash flood warning in mountainous catchments with consideration of antecedent soil moisture and rainfall pattern

Flood mapping under uncertainty: a case study in the Canadian prairies

Characteristics of meteorological droughts in northwestern India

Mechanisms and Early Warning of Drought Disasters: An Experimental Drought Meteorology Research over China (DroughtEX_China) (open access)

Projecting changes in societally‐impactful northeastern U.S. snowstorms

Forcings and feedbacks

Rapid and reliable assessment of methane impacts on climate (open access)

Impact of climate change on solar irradiation and variability over the iberian peninsula using regional climate models

Effective radiative forcing in the aerosol–climate model CAM5.3-MARC-ARG (open access)

Additional global climate cooling by clouds due to ice crystal complexity (open access)

Characterizing uncertainties in the ESA-CCI land cover map of the epoch 2010 and their impacts on MPI-ESM climate simulations (open access)

Cryosphere

Impact of the recent atmospheric circulation change in summer on the future surface mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet (open access)

Basal control of supraglacial meltwater catchments on the Greenland Ice Sheet (open access)

Soil thermal conductivity and its influencing factors at the Tanggula permafrost region on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau

Detecting soil freeze/thaw onsets in Alaska using SMAP and ASCAT data

Improving Met Office seasonal predictions of Arctic sea ice using assimilation of CryoSat-2 thickness (open access)

Mechanisms for and predictability of a drastic reduction in the Arctic sea ice: APPOSITE data with climate model MIROC

Widespread and accelerated decrease of observed mean and extreme snow depth over Europe

Basal ice formation in snow cover in Northern Finland between 1948 and 2016 (open access)

Hydrosphere 

Evolution of 21st Century Sea‐level Rise Projections (open access)

Combined use of multiple drought indices for global assessment of dry gets drier and wet gets wetter paradigm

Climate change expectations in the upper Tigris River basin, Turkey

Cooling and freshening of the West Spitsbergen Current by shelf‐origin cold core lenses

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

Performance of CMIP5 models in the simulation of Indian summer monsoon

A robust constraint on the temperature and height of the extratropical tropopause

West African Monsoon: current state and future projections in a high-resolution AGCM (open access)

Reassessing the Role of the Indo‐Pacific in the Ocean's Global Overturning Circulation

Weakened anomalous western North Pacific anticyclone during El Niño decaying summer under a warmer climate: Dominant role of the weakened impact of tropical Indian Ocean on the atmosphere

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Differences of soil CO2 flux in two contrasting subalpine ecosystems on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau: A four-year study

Nitrous oxide emissions from inland waters: Are IPCC estimates too high?

Total deposition of nitrogen in Swiss forests: Comparison of assessment methods and evaluation of changes over two decades

Other papers

General climate science

100 Years Later: Reflecting on Alfred Wegener’s Contributions to Tornado Research in Europe (open access)

Heat‐engine and entropy‐production analyses of the world ocean

Palaeoclimatology

A Pinus cembra L. tree-ring record for late spring to late summer temperature in the Rhaetian Alps, Italy

Dendrochronological potential of four neotropical dry-forest tree species: climate-growth correlations in Northeast Brazil

Other environmental issues 

Mortality and hospitalizations due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases associated with air pollution in Iran: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Effects of air pollutants on occurrences of influenza-like illness and laboratory-confirmed influenza in Hefei, China

Trends in air pollutants and health impacts in three Swedish cities over the past three decades (open access)

Public Attention to Natural Hazard Warnings in Social Media in China

Categories: I. Climate Science

Myths of the transition: The intermittency of renewables prevents an energy transition

Carbon Tracker Initiative - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 01:00

Myth 2. The intermittency of renewables will prevent the transition

This is the second of the Energy Transition Myth Busters series, written by our New Energy Strategist, Kingsmill Bond. Download the full analyst note here.

Key Findings The Myth

Given that the sun does not shine at night, and the wind does not always blow, solar and wind will always play a small role in electricity provision, and there can be no energy transition.

The Mythbusters

The tipping point is much sooner. You don’t need 100% renewables for there to be an energy transition. The tipping point for the existing electricity providers comes much sooner, when solar and wind provide under 15% of electricity supply.

The technology already exists to get to this tipping point. Electricity grids already handle a lot of variability. The IEA notes that it is possible to get to 15% solar and wind ‘quite easily’ by ‘upgrading some operational practices’. Better grid codes, better forecasting, better scheduling and so on are not capital intensive.

Plenty of countries have already passed the tipping point. From the US to Chile, Italy to Romania, the tipping point has been passed and the electricity transition has started.

Some nations are already in the next phase. Countries like Germany and the UK are taking the solar and wind share to 25% and beyond. Solutions include: making existing power plants more flexible; enhancing the grid; demand side management; and selective use of new storage technologies.

Maximum integration levels keep increasing. Denmark has already gone beyond 50%, and aspires to 75%. New developments continue to expand the realms of what is possible. Examples include: lower battery costs and wider deployment; system integration with transport and heat; the use of electricity to make hydrogen through electrolysis.

The global tipping point will come in the 2020s. Solar and wind in 2017 supplied 6% of global electricity and are still growing at 20% a year. Assuming they remain on S curves of growth, global fossil fuel demand for electricity will peak in the early 2020s when solar and wind are 14% of global electricity supply.

Reality

The technology already exists to enable variable renewable sources to become large enough to kick off an energy transition in the electricity sector, in country after country. Variability is simply an issue to be managed, not an insoluble impediment

The post Myths of the transition: The intermittency of renewables prevents an energy transition appeared first on Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Categories: I. Climate Science

Climate change science comeback strategies: 'In it for the money'

Skeptical Science - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 22:44

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Karin Kirk

Image by Karin Kirk.

When you don’t like the message, attack the messenger. It’s an age-old tactic and an easy way to energize opposition while distracting from the real issue at hand.

With climate change, ad-hominem attacks on scientists are intended to shake public trust in the scientific evidence that underpin the whole issue. After all, who could be more villainous than the world’s climate scientists? Does one really think this group of bicycle-riding, organic-cotton-wearing PhDs might be pulling off a skillfully-coordinated global conspiracy, one involving 100 years of research from hundreds of scientists all over the world?

The notion of scientists-as-conspiracists seems preposterous – but for those who have never met a practicing scientist, are unfamiliar with the scientific process, and are emotionally invested in the idea that humans aren’t changing the climate, maybe it does seem plausible that climate scientists are stealthily, greedily, falsifying their reports to score the next big grant.

Ergo, this common complaint from those alleging climate scientists are “in it for the money”:

Most climate science is being paid for to prove a hypothesis, not disprove it. Scientists are getting funding to prove a result based on a single variable. And, guess what? Of course they’re going to prove it to keep getting paid. Scientists are told, “Take a million bucks, and prove global warming is a result of manmade CO2.” That’s what’s happening in climate science, and it’s not the way science is supposed to work.

This is a modified version of a comment on a science news Facebook page.

Such sentiments are reliable laugh lines at professional scientific conferences, but given how pervasive they are, they’re not funny at all. Nonetheless, they can spur some good questions. How do research grants work? Why won’t this myth die? And where’s the real financial lever in the climate change debate?

Read on to see how three experts in science and communication unpack this misconception and clear the air.

Strategy #1 – Correct the science

For a glimpse into the life of a research scientist, let’s first turn to Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech. As a top-notch atmospheric scientist, evangelical Christian, and adept communicator, Hayhoe offers an unusually well rounded outlook. She’s a frequent spokesperson for building awareness about climate change.

First, Hayhoe personalizes the message by sharing her perspective as a scientist.

One of the most frequent objections I hear is, “you scientists are just in it for the money.”

What many people don’t realize, though, is that most of us could easily have chosen a different field – like astrophysics, where I began my education – where we’d make exactly the same money. Or, we could use our skills in industry, working for a fossil fuel company (I interned at Exxon during my master’s degree and published several papers with Exxon scientists), and earn easily ten times what we do now. If I wanted to make more money, there are a lot of ways smart people with technical skills could do that without putting up with the harassment climate scientists receive every day.

Then she adds the facts: money from research grants isn’t making people rich. It just covers basic costs, sometimes just barely.

None of the research money I receive goes into my personal pocket; instead, it’s used to pay graduate students the princely sum of about $25k per year and around $2,000 a pop to publish our research papers.

Hayhoe doesn’t let her feathers get ruffled by the assertion. “Their question or objection deserves respect,” she says. But, she asserts, it’s important to “show that we have a clear and rational answer to this objection.”

Strategy #2 – Expose the myth, misinformation, or fallacy

Wonder why some of these climate myths stick around forever, despite their being wrong? That’s because they’re designed with a strong understanding of how human brains hang onto information. These messages offer the precise fodder their intended audience wants to hear (irrespective of whether the information is true or not), and they are “sticky.” That is, they are short, simple, and easy to remember and repeat. Repeatable messages beget even more repeating, and pretty soon the refrain seems so familiar that it must be true. Interests opposed to action on climate change have spent nearly $3 billion on disinformation campaigns, plus over $2 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions in just 10 years, according to investigations by InsideClimate News. That kind of cash buys some well-designed and well-distributed messaging.

John Cook and the volunteers at Skeptical Science have written a handy guide to debunking climate myths. Their responses are short, sweet, and easy to remember.

“The golden rule of debunking is to fight sticky myths with stickier facts,” says Cook. “In other words, it’s not enough to show that a myth is wrong. We also need to dislodge it with a factual replacement.”

Applying that idea to the topic at hand, Cook points out, “If the myth is that scientists are motivated by money, we need to dislodge that myth by explaining what really motivates scientists.”

Scientists don’t get funding to prove what we already know – their job is to push our boundaries of knowledge. Science also makes incredibly valuable contributions to society – helping us build a safer, healthier world.

 

Funding for scientific research doesn’t go into scientists’ pockets. It goes into the operational costs of research programs. If climate scientists were truly interested in money, they have other more lucrative options.

“This is an ideal opportunity to explain how science really works,” offers Cook, pointing to a silver lining in mythbusting – it opens the floor for sharing better information.

Strategy #3 – Engage in dialogue

Karin Tamerius, of SMART Politics, offers her take on this myth. She begins by indicating agreement with the commenter and asking a question to kick off a dialog. Tamerius points out that asking “gotcha” style questions is unlikely to promote dialogue. Instead, she takes a few steps back, to the point where there’s a potential opening for a less controversial avenue that can be explored together.

“You are absolutely right that money can corrupt science. That’s one of the reasons I try to get my information from a wide variety of sources. Which science sources do you think are most trustworthy?”

As she considers her next step, Tamerius takes stock of the underlying concern of the commenter, “This person seems wary of scientific sources,” she observes. Much of the debate on any issue nowadays involves rote repetition of messages coming from one’s preferred camp, and Tamerius strives to get beyond that. “I’m trying to encourage the other person to reflect on where they get their information. My hope is to turn that skeptical spotlight back on their own sources of information.”

As for where the conversation might lead, Tamerius strives for both parties’ being “able to talk about how to tell ‘good’ science from ‘junk’ science,” she says. “Ideally, we would walk away from the conversation with a few reliable scientific sources we can agree on.”

Want to try your hand at being radically civil? SMART Politics hosts a Facebook groupthat runs practice discussions touching on different themes and topics.

Strategy #4 – Be persuasive

When it comes to changing minds, it takes a blend of solid facts, an appreciation for the concerns of your audience, and a compelling delivery. For this multi-pronged approach, we return to Katharine Hayhoe. While some scientists report their research results and leave it at that, others wade directly into the public conversation. Hayhoe has nearly 54,000 Twitter followers, and her Global Weirding video series illustrates key elements of persuasion.

To grapple with the influences of money in climate science, Hayhoe doesn’t shy away from exposing the real financial forces in play – corporate powers that, for decades, have attempted to derail the climate change conversation.

Let’s look at who really has the most to lose when it comes to weaning ourselves off the old, dirty ways of getting energy. … Take the 10 richest corporations in the world. Eight of them depend partially or even totally on the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for their bottom line. Yes, 80% of the richest corporations in the world have everything to lose from giving up fossil fuels.

So yes, I absolutely agree: let’s follow the money. I think we can see where it leads!

Lastly, Hayhoe offers solutions, with a blend of inspiration, optimism, and patriotism.

But let’s also consider this: we are currently undergoing as big a transition as we did when we went from horse-drawn buggies to the Model T Ford. Globally, renewable energy investment has outstripped fossil fuel investment since 2014. And China and India know this. They’re not investing in fossil fuels. They’re shutting down coal-fired plants and flooding coal mines and covering them in solar panels.

The money of the future IS in green energy. We are being left behind. Did you know that China already leads the world in wind and solar energy production? Are you okay with that?

One of Hayhoe’s hallmarks is her optimism about clean energy solutions. Paradoxically, concern for a low-carbon economy is what drove fossil fuel interests to cast doubt on the science of climate change in the first place. But as it turns out, most people actually like the idea of clean energy. Few would advocate for a life with more pollution.

“Acknowledge their objection, respect it, answer it, but then turn the conversation to the real issue: solutions,” advises Hayhoe. “As long as we can agree on the solutions, what’s the problem?”

Categories: I. Climate Science

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #44

Skeptical Science - Sun, 11/04/2018 - 08:33

Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week... Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming

A post-sunset swimmer at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Calif., this month. (Mike Blake/Reuters) 

The world’s oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realized, suggesting that Earth could be set to warm even faster than predicted in the years ahead, according to new research published Wednesday.

Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought, said Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the startling study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The difference represents an enormous amount of additional energy, originating from the sun and trapped by Earth’s atmosphere — the yearly amount representing more than eight times the world’s annual energy consumption.

In the scientific realm, the new findings help resolve long-running doubts about the rate of the warming of the oceans before 2007, when reliable measurements from devices called “Argo floats” were put to use worldwide. Before that, differing types of temperature records — and an overall lack of them — contributed to murkiness about how quickly the oceans were heating up.

The higher-than-expected amount of heat in the oceans means more heat is being retained within Earth’s climate system each year, rather than escaping into space. In essence, more heat in the oceans signals that global warming is more advanced than scientists thought. 

Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming by Chris Moody & Brady Dennis, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Oct 31, 2018 

Toon of the Week...

 

SkS in the News...

In his Op-ed, In praise of 'real' science, published in the Times Colonist (Victoria, BC), Geof Johnson wrote:

In the online journal Skeptical Science, John Cook, a research assistant professor at the Centre for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, writes: “The assertion that humans are, one way or another, at the root of global warming is the position of the academies of science from 80 countries.” 

Quote of the Week

 “We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted,” said Resplandy, who published the work with experts from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and several other institutions in the United States, China, France and Germany. “But we were wrong. The planet warmed more than we thought. It was hidden from us just because we didn’t sample it right. But it was there. It was in the ocean already.”

Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming by Chris Moody & Brady Dennis, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Oct 31, 2018  

SkS Spotlights...

Climate Action 100+ is a five-year initiative led by investors to engage systemically important greenhouse gas emitters and other companies across the global economy that have significant opportunities to drive the clean energy transition and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Investors are calling on companies to improve governance on climate change, curb emissions and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures.

Investor representatives from AustralianSuper, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), HSBC Global Asset Management, Ircantec and Manulife Asset Management have helped to lead the design and development of Climate Action 100+. The initiative is coordinated by five partner organisations: Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC); Ceres; Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC); Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC); and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). It builds on the successful investor engagement programmes coordinated by the partner organisations over a number of years. 

Coming Soon on SkS...
  • How (not) to talk about climate change (Climate Adam)
  • Climate sensitivity uncertainties leading to more concern (Greenman)
  • Climate change science comeback strategies: 'In it for the money' (Karin Kirk)
  • What the US midterm election means for climate change (Dana)
  • New research this week (Ari)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #45 (John Hartz)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #45 (John Hartz)
Climate Feedback Reviews Washington Post accurately describes ocean warming study with potential implications for future carbon budget

Climate Feedback asked a team of scientists to analyze the article, Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming by Chris Moody & Brady Dennis, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Oct 31, 2018

Three scientists analyzed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be 'high'.

A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: AccurateInsightfulSound reasoning.

Review Summary 

This article in The Washington Post covers a new study estimating the amount of heat energy that has accumulated in the ocean in recent decades. Such estimates have been limited because the most complete network of ocean temperatures did not exist until the 2000s. The new study uses an indirect method, instead relying on changes in atmospheric gases caused by warmer oceans. This method leads to a larger estimate of the ocean warming that resulted from human activities.

Scientists who reviewed the article found that it did a good job of describing the study, while noting that the study’s conclusions (and implications) require additional investigation. In particular, discussion among scientists has focused on clarifying what impact this study’s results have on our understanding of climate sensitivity (how much warming occurs from a given amount of greenhouse gas emissions) and, consequently, how much the world can emit before reaching 2 °C warming. 

Washington Post accurately describes ocean warming study with potential implications for future carbon budget, Edited by Scott Johnson, Climate Feedback, Nov 3, 2018

SkS Week in Review...  Poster of the Week...

Categories: I. Climate Science

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #44

Skeptical Science - Sat, 11/03/2018 - 08:40
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week from Sunday through noon on Friday.   Editor's Pick Earth’s carbon dioxide levels are likely the highest they've been in 15 million years Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980.

We’ve entered some profoundly unfamiliar planetary territory.

Amid a backdrop of U.S. politicians still questioning whether the changing climate is attributable to humans (it is), it's quite likely that we’ve actually boosted Earth's carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas — to the highest levels they’ve been in some 15 million years. 

The number 15 million is dramatically higher than a statistic frequently cited by geologists and climate scientists: That today's carbon levels are the highest they've been on Earth in at least 800,000 years — as there's irrefutable proof trapped in the planet's ancient ice.

Though scientists emphasize that air bubbles preserved in ice are the gold carbon standard, there are less direct, though still quite reliable means to gauge Earth's long-ago carbon dioxide levels. These measurements, broadly called proxies, include the chemical make-up of long-dead plankton and the evidence stored in the breathing cells, or stomata, of ancient plants.

Scientists have identified this 15 million number by measuring and re-measuring proxies all over the world. 

Earth’s carbon dioxide levels are likely the highest they've been in 15 million years by Mark Kaufman, Science, Mashable, Oct 29, 2018

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Oct 28, 2018

Mon Oct 29, 2018

Tue Oct 30, 2018

Wed Oct 31, 2018

Thu Nov 1, 2018

Fri Nov 2, 2018

Categories: I. Climate Science

New research, October 22-28, 2018

Skeptical Science - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 13:16

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change

Temperature, precipitation, wind

Radiosondes show that after decades of cooling the lower stratosphere is now warming

Verification of an approximate thermodynamic equation with application to study on Arctic stratospheric temperature changes

Global Wind Speed and Wave Height Extremes Derived from Long-duration Satellite Records

The interannual variability of wind energy resources across China and its relationship to large‐scale circulation changes

Changes in Canada's Climate: Trends in Indices Based on Daily Temperature and Precipitation Data (open access)

Recent trends of surface air temperatures over Kenya from 1971 to 2010

Central European air temperature: driving force analysis and causal influence of NAO

Temporal trends in absolute and relative extreme temperature events across North America

Projected extreme temperature and precipitation of the Great Lakes Basin

Spatiotemporal characteristics of future changes in precipitation and temperature in Central Asia

Modeling climate change impacts on precipitation in arid regions of Pakistan: a non-local model output statistics downscaling approach

Decadal Variability in Summer Precipitation over Eastern China and its Response to Sensible Heat over the Tibetan Plateau since the Early 2000s

Impact of urbanization on hourly precipitation in Beijing, China: Spatiotemporal patterns and causes

Increasing influence of central Pacific El Niño on the inter‐decadal variation of spring rainfall in northern Taiwan and southern China since 1980 (open access)

Predictability of Extreme Precipitation in Western U.S. Watersheds Based on Atmospheric River Occurrence, Intensity, and Duration

Extreme events

On modeling the maximum duration of dry spells: a simulation study under a Bayesian approach

Extratropical cyclone statistics during the last millennium and the 21st century (open access)

A statistical assessment of Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclone tracks in climate models

Urban floods in Hyderabad, India, under present and future rainfall scenarios: a case study

Interdependencies and Risk to People and Critical Food, Energy and Water Systems – 2013 Flood Boulder Colorado, USA (open access)

An Intensified Mode of Variability Modulating the Summer Heat Waves in Eastern Europe and Northern China (open access)

Impacts of synoptic and local factors on heat wave events over southeastern region of Korea in 2015

Attributing human influence on the July 2017 Chinese heatwave: the influence of sea-surface temperatures (open access)

Forcings and feedbacks

Evaluating Climate Sensitivity to CO2 Across Earth's History

Volcanic radiative forcing from 1979 to 2015

Understanding Rapid Adjustments to Diverse Forcing Agents

Evaluating cloud properties in an ensemble of regional online coupled models against satellite observations (open access)

The lifecycle of anvil clouds and the top-of-atmosphere radiation balance over the tropical west Pacific

Contrasting the effects of the 1850‐1975 increase in sulphate aerosols from North America and Europe on the Atlantic in the CESM model

Infrared radiation in the thermosphere near the end of solar cycle 24

Cryosphere

Arctic climate: changes in sea ice extent outweigh changes in snow cover (open access)

An Observationally‐Based Evaluation of Sub‐Grid Scale Ice Thickness Distributions Simulated in a Large‐Scale Sea Ice ‐ Ocean Model of the Arctic Ocean

Processes controlling Arctic and Antarctic sea ice predictability in the Community Earth System Model

Estimated Heat Budget during Summer Melt of Arctic First Year Sea Ice

The internal structure of the Brunt Ice Shelf from ice-penetrating radar analysis and implications for ice shelf fracture (open access)

Retrieval of Englacial Firn Aquifer Thickness from Ice‐Penetrating Radar Sounding in Southeastern Greenland

Spatiotemporal patterns of snow depth within the Swiss‐Austrian Alps for the past half century (1961 to 2012) and linkages to climate change

Permafrost thaw induced drying of wetlands at Scotty Creek, NWT, Canada (open access)

Linking permafrost thaw to shifting biogeochemistry and food web resources in an arctic river (open access)

A decade of remotely sensed observations highlight complex processes linked to coastal permafrost bluff erosion in the Arctic (open access)

Hydrosphere 

Climate change and water resources in arid regions: uncertainty of the baseline time period (open access)

Inter-comparison of satellite-retrieved and Global Land Data Assimilation System-simulated soil moisture datasets for global drought analysis

Projected increased risk of water deficit over major West African river basins under future climates

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

Gulf Stream Variability in the Context of Quasi‐Decadal and Multidecadal Atlantic Climate Variability (open access)

A Nonstationary ENSO-NAO relationship due to AMO modulation

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Satellite‐based estimation of particulate organic carbon export in the northern South China Sea

Emissions of nitrous oxide from continuous permafrost region in the Daxing'an Mountains, Northeast China

Quantifying the legacy of snowmelt timing on soil greenhouse gas emissions in a seasonally dry montane forest (open access)

Climate change impacts 

Mankind

Small island developing states and 1.5 °C (Introduction to special issue in Regional Environmental Change)

A global assessment of atoll island planform changes over the past decades

Responding to Climate-Related Security Risks: Reviewing Regional Organizations in Asia and Africa

Weather Extremes, Disasters, and Collective Violence: Conditions, Mechanisms, and Disaster-Related Policies in Recent Research

Multisource data based agricultural drought monitoring and agricultural loss in China

Simulating the impacts of climate change on soybean cyst nematode and the distribution of soybean

Cross-Sector Management of Extreme Heat Risks in Arizona (open access)

Vulnerability and its discontents: the past, present, and future of climate change vulnerability research (open access)

Nomads’ indigenous knowledge and their adaptation to climate changes in Semirom City in Central Iran

Biosphere

Wave refraction and reef island stability under rising sea level

Declining glacier cover threatens the biodiversity of alpine river diatom assemblages (open access)

Tree growth and water-use in hyper-arid Acacia occurs during the hottest and driest season

Combined effects of warming and nutrients on marine communities are moderated by predators and vary across functional groups (open access)

Genotypic variation in phenological plasticity: reciprocal common gardens reveal adaptive responses to warmer springs but not to fall frost

The Influence of Climate and Livestock Reservoirs on Human Cases of Giardiasis (open access)

Range change evolution of peatmosses (Sphagnum) within and between climate zones

Extreme drought pushes stream invertebrate communities over functional thresholds

The ability of macroalgae to mitigate the negative effects of ocean acidification on four species of North Atlantic bivalve (open access)

Local adaptation of trees at the range margins impacts range shifts in the face of climate change

Beyond the 1984 perspective: narrow focus on modern wildfire trends underestimates future risks to water security (open access)

Long‐term changes in the impacts of global warming on leaf phenology of four temperate tree species

Characterizing 32 years of shrub cover dynamics in southern Portugal using annual Landsat composites and machine learning regression modeling

Other impacts

A VIIRS direct broadcast algorithm for rapid response mapping of wildfire burned area in the western United States

Climate change mitigation

Cautious optimism and incremental goals towards stabilizing atmospheric CO2 (open access)

Climate change communication

Self-assessed understanding of climate change

Comparing farmers’ perceptions of climate change with meteorological data in three irrigated cropping zones of Punjab, Pakistan

Intergenerational learning: Are children key in spurring climate action?

Taking climate change here and now – mitigating ideological polarization with psychological distance

Climate Policy

A contingent approach to energy mix policy

Energy production

Effects of development of wind energy and associated changes in land use on bird densities in upland areas

2014 residential wood combustion survey: Results overview and spatial allocation of emissions estimates

Emission savings

Climate change mitigation potential of community-based initiatives in Europe

Groundwater depletion and associated CO2 emissions in India (open access)

Geoengineering

Solar radiation management not as effective as CO2 mitigation for Arctic sea ice loss in hitting the 1.5 and 2 °C COP climate targets (open access)

Comparison of the Fast and Slow Climate Response to Three Radiation Management Geoengineering Schemes

Other papers

General climate science

An objective global climatology of polar lows based on reanalysis data 

 

Categories: I. Climate Science

Negative emissions: Scientists meet in Australia to discuss removing CO2 from air

The Carbon Brief - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 05:20

An international group of researchers and policymakers met in Australia’s capital this week for the country’s first major conference dedicated to the topic of “negative emissions”.

The two-day event, held at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome in Canberra, played host to a range of ideas for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it on land, underground or in the oceans.

The topics discussed ranged from “natural” solutions, such as boosting the carbon stores of soils and giant kelp forests, to the more experimental, including “fertilising” the world’s oceans.

Carbon Brief was at the conference, which was organised by researchers from Australian National University and the University of Tasmania, to take in the presentations, talks and discussions.

The Australian perspective

This year has seen a ramping up of interest in negative emissions technologies (NETs) on both national and international levels.

In January, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) – an independent group that offers science advice to EU policymakers – published a report looking at the feasibility and overall potential of NETs from a European perspective.

This was followed by the world’s first international conference on NETs, which was held in Sweden in May. The three-day event, which was covered in depth by Carbon Brief, saw scientists debate a range of issues, with a particular focus given to land-based methods such as afforestation and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

In September, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering jointly published a report looking at NETs from a UK perspective and, in October, the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine published a national research agenda for NETs.

Australia’s offering to the growing field comes at a time when its government is facing criticism for inaction over climate change. Concerns over political apathy were articulated by Prof John Hewson, a former leader of the country’s conservative Liberal Party and prominent voice on climate change within Australia.

In a rousing introductory talk, Hewson said he was “personally embarrassed” by the government’s lack of emissions reduction policies and raised a round of applause from the audience after saying: “If a government doesn’t have a climate action plan, it forfeits the right to be a government.”

Former liberal leader Prof John Hewson gets a round of applause in his introductory talk after saying: “If a government doesn’t have a climate action plan, it forfeits the right to be a government.” #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/WrQRaoYoYV

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 29, 2018

Speakers at the conference also alluded to the harsh impacts that Australians are already facing as a result of climate change and how NETs could play a role in alleviating these effects.

In a plenary talk, Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery, a former governor-general for Australia and founder of the non-profit Soils for Life, spoke of the threats to Australian farmers caused by record droughts and increasing soil infertility. Efforts to boost soil carbon could offer a lifeline to farmers, he said.

Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery opens the second day of #NEConf2018 by stating his personal stake in climate change: “I’m a very worried grandfather with 10 grandchildren.” pic.twitter.com/fw10oeZ3BW

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 30, 2018

Across the two days, Carbon Brief spoke to a range of scientists about the possible positive and negative impacts that could be caused by negative emissions, both in Australia and globally.

In the video below, Carbon Brief asked delegates to comment on whether large-scale negative emissions could be achieved without side-effects for humans and the natural world. The speakers include:



Natural solutions

A major topic of conversation among delegates was the potential of “natural climate solutions” to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

These methods are typically aimed at enhancing the carbon stores of soil and plants, which currently soak up around 40% of the CO2 emissions resulting from human activity.

Perhaps reflecting Australia’s position as an island in the southern hemisphere, several discussions were devoted to the potential of enhancing “blue carbon”– the carbon stored by seagrass, mangroves and saltmarshes.

Prof Catherine Lovelock, a marine ecologist from the University of Queensland, spoke on the wide-ranging potential co-benefits of boosting blue carbon stores by restoring coastal wetlands. These co-benefits could include improving natural flood defences and water quality and, in Australia, providing job opportunities for Indigenous communities, she said.

Prof Catherine Lovelock talks us through the co-benefits of “blue carbon” (carbon stored by marine environments such as sea grass, mangroves and tidal marshes) #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/qzUrug3ziI

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 30, 2018

Although wetlands can store large amounts of carbon on a per area basis, their activities can also cause the release of large amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas that is 34 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period.

However, Lovelock pointed to research released in 2017 which suggests that the methane emissions of wetlands can be minimised by reintroducing saltwater to restored areas.

The possible co-benefits of enhancing blue carbon stores were also discussed by Prof Todd Michael, a scientist from the J Craig Venter Institute. His research is focused on giant kelp – the world’s largest species of marine algae –  which is found along the coast of California, western South America and parts of Australia.

Giant kelp absorb CO2 in a similar way to trees. However, because kelp absorbs CO2 directly from seawater, it could also play a role in tackling ocean acidification. The restoration of kelp habitats could also benefit a wide range of species, ranging from small invertebrates to large mammals, Michael said.

Todd Michael @JCVenterInst talks about how we could boost the growth of wild giant kelp, which draws down CO2 and provides a habitat for fish and mammals (and makes surfing better in California!) #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/9IU9EKMgM3

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 30, 2018

Another natural solution up for discussion was afforestation – planting new forests in areas with no previous tree cover. (As a forest grows, it naturally removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in its trees.)

Prof Justin Borevitz, a biologist from Australian National University, discussed the potential benefits of agroforestry, a type of afforestation where trees are incorporated into farmland.

His research is focused on “regenerative agriculture” – which would see agroforestry combined with other technologies such as drones and real-time data collection. The video below shows a demonstration of this in action.

An advantage of this type of agriculture is that it allows land to be used for food production and carbon storage simultaneously, he said. This could help address what he called “the land-use paradox” – the growing need for both food production and conservation of green spaces. He told the conference:

“The solution is to try to overlap the food production area with the carbon sequestration area and biodiversity areas. This is how we solve this land-use paradox.”

Prof Justin Borevitz @BiologyANU shares a proposal for solving twin problems of agricultural land degradation and climate chance via new management approaches, negative emissions techs, and new digital tools #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/DiYUGilSup

— Bec Colvin (@bec_colvin) October 30, 2018

Incorporating trees into agricultural land could also help Australian farmers manage “the intensifying cycle of droughts, fires and floods” caused by climate change, he added.

Another way to boost the productivity of agricultural land while enhancing carbon stores could be through the use of “biochar”, according to Dr Wolfram Buss, a biologist from Australian National University.

Biochar is charcoal made via the pyrolysis of biomass, which could range from wood dust or rice husks to used coffee cups and sewage sludge, according to Buss. When biochar is spread over land, it can boost soil carbon storage while improving soil fertility.

It could also be preferable to other land-based NETS, such as BECCS and afforestation, because it requires relatively low amounts of water and land for its production, he told the conference:

“Biochar has a reasonably low environmental impact, but still has reasonable potential for carbon sequestration.”

BECCS

The potential for BECCS in Australia was discussed by Prof Peter Cook, a prominent scientist from the Peter Cook Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Melbourne.

Put simply, BECCS involves growing crops, burning them in a power plant to generate energy and then capturing the resulting CO2 before it is released into the air. The captured CO2 is then sent to an underground or undersea storage site.

Where could we store our #carbon underground in Australia? Peter Cook @unimelb says we need the right #geological conditions: rocks with high permeability/porosity and a layer of seal rocks above plus in a depth deeper than 800 m.#NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/1zvxPDf2Qb

— Svenja Halfter (@svenja_halfter) October 30, 2018

Cook’s talk touched on some of the common concerns about BECCS. This included the worry that growing the amount of crops needed for large-scale BECCS would take up large amounts of land, which could threaten food production and wildlife.

However, he also hit out at claims that BECCS would not work at scale. In his opinion, the main barrier to large-scale BECCS is a lack of available economic incentives. He told the conference:

“There’s absolutely no reason to do it at the moment, you don’t get any more money for electricity that’s produced using CCS, there’s no drivers in the economy to do it.”

Overall, though, BECCS alone cannot solve climate change, he added:

“Let me be clear, BECCS is no silver bullet, it’s part of the rich tapestry of options that we’re going to need.”

“Let me be clear, BECCS is no silver bullet, it’s part of a rich tapestry of options,” says Prof Peter Cook @unimelb #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/gShKPgdVLS

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 30, 2018

BECCS was also discussed by Dr Jessica Strefler, a researcher from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research (PIK). In a wide-ranging talk, she discussed the degree to which negative emissions will be needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

She pointed out that while many describe the land use needs associated with BECCS as unsustainable, it is bioenergy, rather than BECCS, that is likely to drive demand in the future. She told the conference:

“The most important criticism of BECCS in my view is that the large use of bioenergy is unsustainable. I would say that’s certainly true, but it’s really important to distinguish between bioenergy and BECCS.

“If you look at scenarios for energy demand in 2050…if CCS is available, BECCS is used. But, if CCS is not available, the models use just as much bioenergy. The reason for that is it is one of the rare alternatives to oil for liquid fuel.”

Ocean options

A number of the presentations at the conference were devoted to the possibility of enhancing the productivity of the world’s oceans.

The oceans contain millions of microscopic plants – known as phytoplankton – that absorb CO2 as they photosynthesise. Scientists have suggested that artificially increasing the rate at which they photosynthesise could cause CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere.

There are various ways this could be achieved. One idea, known as “ocean fertilisation” involves releasing iron into parts of the ocean where it is currently lacking. This could trigger a bloom of phytoplankton, which would remove CO2 from the air.

Others have suggested that marine plant growth could be stimulated by pumping deep sea water, which is rich in nutrients, up to the ocean’s surface.

Previous NETs assessments have shown limited enthusiasm for these techniques. One reason for this is because they remain largely untested, according to the EASAC report released in January:

“These issues require considerable further research and field trials to be clarified, before [they] could be regarded as a potential contributor to achieving negative emissions.”

However, several speakers argued that more research should be channelled into these techniques.

In a talk focused on options for long-term negative emissions, Prof Andreas Oschlies, from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research at Kiel University, told the conference that research suggests that, in some cases, the “ocean appears less vulnerable than many land systems” to the impacts caused by negative emissions.

More support for ocean-based negative emissions from Prof Andreas Oschlies @GEOMAR_en “The ocean appears less vulnerable than many land systems” to the impacts caused by negative emissions, he says. #NEConf2018

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 30, 2018

This does not mean that ocean fertilisation would come without risks, he added. He pointed to research suggesting fertilisation could lower the availability of oxygen in some parts of the ocean and may have a negative impact on economically-important fish.

Options for increasing the CO2 storage of oceans were also discussed by Dr Phillip Williamson, an honorary reader at the University of East Anglia and science coordinator of the UK government-funded Greenhouse Gas Removal from the Atmosphere research programme.

In his plenary talk, he explained the findings of his recent research which evaluated 13 ocean-based solutions for tackling climate change. (Williamson recently explained each of these 13 ideas in more detail in a guest post for Carbon Brief.)

Governing change

In addition to scientific research into NETs, conference talks also focused on the social issues surrounding the topic.

Several speakers tackled the issue of what terminology should be used when talking about NETs.

In his plenary, Williamson argued that the most preferable term for NETs should be “greenhouse gas removal” – since this could “keep options open for novel approaches”, such as emerging methods for removing methane from the atmosphere.

Also, we should think about #greenhousegas removal rather than #CO2 removal, as it keeps our options open for new approaches!#NEconf2018 pic.twitter.com/5uJEjqGZjf

— Svenja Halfter (@svenja_halfter) October 30, 2018

Terminology was also discussed by Prof Matthew Kearnes, a member of the environmental humanities group at the University of South Wales Sydney. The variety of words used to describe NETs each come with their own connotations, he told the conference.

So many terms related to the same topic! We have to think about what word to use when discussing the issue of how to get rid of #carbonemissions with policymakers and the wider society says Matthew Kearnes @UNSW.#NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/KPBTeOPh5V

— Svenja Halfter (@svenja_halfter) October 31, 2018

Several speakers addressed the moral issues surrounding NETs. Dr Clare Heyward, a researcher of philosophy from the University of Warwick and the Arctic University of Norway, argued for an “integrative approach” to NETs.

One way this could be achieved is looking at NETs through the lens of the world’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), she said. (This is the approach that was recently taken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on 1.5C of global warming.)

Clare Heyward asks us to consider an integrationist approach to negative emissions – shares great work by @HoneggerM on the #SDGs #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/k6BJA1nct1

— Bec Colvin (@bec_colvin) October 29, 2018

In another talk, Aaron Tang, a PhD student at Australian National University, addressed the “moral hazard issue” for negative emissions. In this case, the moral hazard issue describes the fear that offering policymakers an option to remove CO2 from the atmosphere could prompt them to backtrack on their commitments to cut emissions.

Despite the prominence given to the idea, there is little empirical evidence for it happening, Tang argued. However, there is evidence that politicians could use such framing to further their own agendas, he added.

“Negative emissions does not guarantee a future we want,” says Aaron Tang @ANU_Climate – pointing to possible issues of biodiversity, plastic pollution etc #NEConf2018 pic.twitter.com/phhQW36ik0

— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) October 31, 2018

The conference ended with an announcement that a follow-up event will be held in the first half of 2019. This event will invite a wider range of stakeholders, according to its organisers, including representatives from the oil and gas industry and farming sector.

The post Negative emissions: Scientists meet in Australia to discuss removing CO2 from air appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Categories: I. Climate Science

Myths of the transition: Renewables are too small to matter

Carbon Tracker Initiative - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 02:00
Myth 1. Renewable energy sources are too small to impact the giant fossil fuel sector.

This is the first of a series on the myths of the energy transition, written by our New Energy Strategist, Kingsmill Bond. We contrast myth with reality, and cast light on the merchants of doubt. Download the full analyst note here.

Key Findings

Markets are moved by growth not size. Investors react as growth slows, not when sales have already halved. Markets therefore look for peaks and the end of incumbent growth.

The rule of 3%. Any fast-growing challenger will rapidly take all the growth in a slow growing market. As a rule of thumb, incumbent sales will peak when the challenger gets to around 3% market share.

Other energy transitions were similar. US horse numbers peaked when cars were 3% of their size. UK steam demand peaked when electricity was 3% of power supply. UK  gas lighting demand peaked when electricity was 2% of lighting.

The impact is now. Renewable energy is already damaging the more exposed parts of the fossil fuel system. The European electricity sector has written off $150bn of stranded assets since 2008, Peabody filed for bankruptcy in 2016 when coal demand was 4% below its peak, and GE has lost half its capitalisation in the last year.

It is normal for markets to react at the peak. The share price of Nokia peaked just after the launch of the iPhone, and Kodak’s share price peaked when digital cameras had a market share of just 3%.

Reality
Renewables are fast-growing disruptive technologies that have reached critical mass and are transforming the global energy system. Investors in incumbent energy companies are at risk.

Download the full analyst note here.

Kingsmill Bond is New Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, and focuses on taking our research out to investors.

The post Myths of the transition: Renewables are too small to matter appeared first on Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Categories: I. Climate Science

Climate impacts

Skeptical Science - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 22:53

This is a re-post from ...and Then There's Physics

Carbon brief has a very nice interactive report that show the impacts of climate change at 1.5C, 2C and beyond. It presents the various projected climatic, ecological, and economic changes on both global and regional scales. It is an impressive dive into the relevant literature.

On Twitter, Doug McNeall said something I’ve often wondered myself. Essentially, why don’t projections of large climatic and ecological changes lead to large projected economic damages? Of course, I don’t know the economic literature particularly well, so one potential answer is that some economic analyses do project large changes. However, it also seems that some certainly do not.

One possibility is that the global economic impact will indeed be relatively small, even if the climatic and ecological changes are large. Of course, even if this were the case, this wouldn’t necessarily imply that a cost-benefit analysis wouldn’t still suggest that it would be beneficial to address climate change.

Additionally, even if the global economic impact is relatively small, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be large impacts in some regions, or that some of the impacts (such as the loss of ecosystems, for example) aren’t things that are difficult to quantify economically, at least in a way that we would all broadly agree with.

However, I do think there are reasons to be cautious about some of these economic analyses. Let me provide a caveat up front. I’m not an expert at this, so am happy to be corrected if I get something wrong, and am partly writing this in the hope that I might learn something more.

For starters, these analyses are typically linear. This essentially means that they can say nothing about the possibility of some kind of large shock. Some of these analyses actually suggest the possibility of quite small global economic impacts even for extremely large changes in climate (see links below), which would seem to suggest that there is some point at which these calculations break down.

Also, as I understand it, most of these analyses do not consider how climate change might impact economic growth itself (see this Carbon Brief Explainer about IAMs). If the global economy grows at 3% per year, then it will be about 10 times bigger in 2100 than it is today. A large economic impact in 2100, might then seem small by comparison to the global economy at that time. Equivalently, if you discount these future economic costs to today, they can also seem quite small. Is it reasonable to assume that global economic growth will be largely unaffected by climate change?

My own view, which I’m happy to be convinced is wrong, is that these kind of analyses are fine if you want to understand things like what would happen if we did something (like impose a carbon tax). They’re probably also fine if you’re interested in how the economy will response to relatively small climate and ecological perturbations, or will respond over the next few decades. Where I think we should be more cautious is when the climate/ecological perturbations are large, or when considering very long, multi-decade timescales.

You might regard it as ironic that I’ve defended climate projections over quite long timescales, while suggesting that we should be cautious about economic projections over the same timescales. For starters, there are aspects of these climate projections about which we have more confidence than others (global versus regional responses, for example), and the uncertainty does grow as the timescale increases. So, it’s not as if we completely trust climate projections either. However, as this paper by Jonathan Koomey points out, physical systems have structural constancy, while economic and societal systems do not. We can be confident that the response of a physical system to a perturbation will be the same in the future as it is now. We can’t be similarly confident when it comes to economic/societal systems.

Hence, I think it is reasonable to be more confident in the long-term climate projections than in the long-term economic projections. However, I’m not suggesting that these economic projections have no value. As George Box said, all models are wrong but some are useful. I think it’s important to understand when we can be confident in what a model is suggesting, and when not. If some think we should be confident in economic projections over long timescales and even when the projected climate/ecological changes are very large, I’d be interested to hear why.

Links:
The impacts of climate change at 1.5C, 2C and beyond (Interactive Climate Brief post about climate impacts).
Q&A: How ‘integrated assessment models’ are used to study climate change (Carbon Brief post about Integrated Assessment Models – IAMs).
Economics and Values (Post I wrote about economics and values).
We don’t even agree about the basics (Post I wrote about why we shouldn’t judge climate models in the same way we might judge economic models).
The Treatment of Risk and Uncertainty in the US Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (Paper highlighting: To take the DICE model as an example (Nordhaus, 2008; Nordhaus & Boyer, 2000), it can easily be shown that the assumption of a quadratic relationship between damages and temperature, together with the modellers’ specific coefficient values, implies that global warming can reach more than 6°C before the equivalent of 10% of global GDP is lost, and 18°C before the equivalent of 50% is lost.)

Categories: I. Climate Science

Guest post: Did bombing during second world war cool global temperatures?

The Carbon Brief - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 03:55

Prof Alan Robock is a distinguished professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US.

Between 3 February and 9 August 1945 during the second world war, an area of 461 square kilometres in 69 Japanese cities was burned by US bombing raids. This included the nuclear bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The resulting fires saw plumes of thick, dark smoke rise high into the atmosphere. Much like the cloud and ash thrown into the air by volcanic eruptions, this soot had the potential to block out incoming sunlight, cooling the Earth’s surface.

In a recent paper, published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, we investigate whether the smoke from these fires was enough to change global temperatures.

Nuclear winter

I’ve been working on the threat of nuclear winter for 35 years now. In the 1980s, using simple climate models, we discovered that global nuclear arsenals, if used on cities and industrial areas, could produce a nuclear winter and lead to global famine.

Smoke from the fires would last for years in the upper atmosphere, blocking sunlight, and making it cold, dark and dry at the Earth’s surface. It would also destroy ozone, enhancing ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface.

While the immediate effects of nuclear strikes might kill hundreds of thousands, the numbers that would die from starvation in the years that followed could run into billions.

Normally scientists test their theories in a laboratory or with real world observations.  Fortunately, we do not have a global nuclear war to examine. So how can we test nuclear winter theory?

One option is to look at the impact of forest fires. Large wildfires have been observed to pump smoke into the upper atmosphere – the stratosphere – above where rain can wash it out, and then be further lofted by solar heating. Such was the case with a massive fire in British Columbia in August 2017.

We also have many examples of cities that have burned in the past. Accidental fires burned numerous cities, such as London in 1666, Chicago in 1871 and San Francisco in 1906.

But while we don’t have a global nuclear war to study, we do have two cases where nuclear weapons were deployed – Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war.

Photo of Main Street, Hiroshima. Taken on 13 July 1946 in Hiroshima. Credit: National Archives, RG-342-FH-60579AC, from www.japanairaids.org

Temperature drop

While the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively – have gone down in history as the first use of nuclear weapons in warfare, what is less well known is that they were part of a larger bombing campaign by US B-29 Superfortress bombers.

Between 3 February and 9 August 1945, an area of 461sq kilometers in 69 Japanese cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was burned during these air raids – killing 800,000 civilians. The smoke produced by Hiroshima and Nagasaki made up less than 5% of the total.

Part of Shizuoka after it was bombed on 19 June 1945. Credit: National Archives, RG-342-FH-59080AC, from www.japanairaids.org

In our study, we calculated how much smoke was emitted based on estimates for the area burned by fires, the amount of fuel, how much soot was emitted into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, and how much was washed out by rain.

We then estimated the impact on the climate using observed records of solar irradiance – i.e. the amount of the sun’s energy that reaches the Earth’s surface – and land surface temperature. Fortunately, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory maintained two long-term records for solar irradiance – at Mount Montezuma in Chile and on Table Mountain in California, US – so there are data available.

The solar irradiance observatory at Mt. Montezuma, Chile. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7005, Box 187, Folder: 9, Image #2003-19480.

For global land surface temperature records, we used GISTEMP from NASA and CRUTEM from the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The chart below shows the land temperatures during the 1940s and 1950s for CRUTEM (yellow) and GISTEMP (green) as anomalies from the 1940-44 average. Both temperature records show a drop in global temperature (left-hand chart) in 1945 of around 0.1C and in northern hemisphere (right) temperature of 0.2C.

Global (left) and northern hemisphere (right) annual average land surface air temperature anomaly (K) with respect to 1940-1944 average. Data are from CRUTEM and GISTEMP. The green whisker (plotted at 1948 in (a)) is the uncertainty of the GISTEMP observations (95% confidence limit) accounting only for incomplete spatial sampling. Source: Robock & Zambri (2018)

However, we know that there were other factors in play. For example, seasonal temperatures show that cooling in 1945 started at the beginning of the year, before the air raids on Japan. This suggests that natural variability was also playing a role.

Yet there were no significant volcanic eruptions in 1945, nor any El Niño or La Niña event in 1945 or 1946. (In fact, you can see the cooling effect of La Niñas later in the data series – two of the largest La Niñas on record occurred in 1950 and 1956.)

Therefore, despite a detectable amount of cooling in 1945, the multiple uncertainties mean we cannot say for sure that it was caused by this period of bombings in the second world war.

Arsenal

Although our results could not formally detect a cooling signal from second world war smoke, it does not invalidate the nuclear winter theory that much more massive smoke emissions from nuclear war would cause large climate change and impacts on agriculture.

There are many analogues that support parts of nuclear winter theory – not least the way in which major volcanic eruptions create long-lasting clouds in the stratosphere, cooling the Earth and reducing rainfall. The 1815 Tambora eruption in Indonesia, for example, caused the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816, bringing crop failures and food shortages across the northern hemisphere.

Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the global nuclear arsenal has been reduced by a factor of four. The world currently possesses about 14,000 nuclear weapons, distributed among nine nations – the US, Russia, France, the UK, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Yet our climate model simulations show that these would still be enough to produce nuclear winter – and that even 1% of them could cause climate change unprecedented in recorded human history.

The post Guest post: Did bombing during second world war cool global temperatures? appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Categories: I. Climate Science

Budget 2018: Key climate and energy announcements

The Carbon Brief - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 01:31

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, has delivered his last budget before the UK is set to leave the EU in March 2019. It was a lengthy speech full of technical detail, but included no references to climate change.

In a nod to the environment and repeating near-identical language used in last year’s budget speech, Hammond said: “We cannot secure our children’s future unless we secure our planet’s future.”

His budget “Red Book” adds: “The economy of the future will be low carbon and green, and the UK is well positioned to lead this global transition. The budget sets out how the government is accelerating this shift to a clean economy.”

The most notable energy- and climate-related details in Hammond’s budget are likely to have a decidedly mixed impact on the shift to a clean economy, however. They include maintaining current carbon prices – even in the event of a no-deal Brexit – but with a signal that the “total carbon price” in the power sector would be cut in 2021-22 if it “remains high”.

Elsewhere, the chancellor extended the nine-year freeze on fuel duty and unveiled a major new £30bn transport deal, with the vast majority of investment ring-fenced for roads.

Claiming the era of austerity “is coming to an end”, Hammond set out departmental spending limits that will – outside the National Health Service – rise with inflation to 2023-24 after years of cuts. These limits are not broken down by department, meaning cuts could continue in some areas.

 

 

Carbon pricing

The budget maintains the UK’s top-up carbon tax at £18 per tonne of CO2 until April 2021, scotching fears Hammond might move to reduce it. This Carbon Price Support (CPS) applies to the power sector in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) and has been a key factor in driving coal off the UK grid.

However, the red book says the government will seek to reduce the CPS “from 2021-22 if the total carbon price remains high”. It does not say what would count as “high”. Government estimates suggest a high and rising carbon price is needed to limit warming to 2C, reaching close to £80/tCO2 by 2030.

A seven-page technical note published alongside the budget also fleshes out plans to replace the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) with a UK carbon tax, in the event of a no-deal Brexit in March next year. It would start at £16/tCO2 – roughly the same as the current EU ETS price – effectively maintaining the level of carbon pricing across the UK economy at similar levels.

The tax would apply to the industrial installations and power plants currently covered by the EU ETS, but not to mobile sources, such as aviation. For the power sector, it would apply in addition to the CPS, which would continue. (The technical note says: “In a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU the CPS would remain in place.”)

The details of the scheme would have to be ironed out after the tax had started – possibly not until 2020 – following consultation during 2019.

Even if the UK secures a deal on exiting the EU and agrees a future relationship with the bloc, its future participation in the EU ETS remains unclear. Ministers have said they want the UK to remain “highly aligned” with the scheme, even if the UK can no longer be a full member.

The technical note says:

“If the UK secures an implementation period [that would apply from March 2019], it would remain a member of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) during the implementation period. The government is continuing to develop options for long term carbon pricing, including remaining in the EU ETS; establishing a UK ETS (linked to the EU ETS or standalone) or a carbon tax.”

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which officially provides “independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances”, has significantly increased its forecasts (pdf) since March for EU ETS receipts – “by £0.8bn a year on average from 2019-20”. It says this is “largely due to the recent rise in expected carbon prices”.

OBR has more than doubled its EU ETS receipts forecast for 2019-20…

“we have not assumed any change to the UK’s membership of the EU ETS”#Budget2018https://t.co/HGsc4QyWoC pic.twitter.com/NllmlzEc8x

— Leo Hickman (@LeoHickman) October 29, 2018

Hammond’s decision to maintain the UK’s top-up CPS at £18/tCO2 follows last year’s budget, which had cryptically said the government viewed the then-current – and much lower – total carbon price as being at “the right level”. This total carbon price is currently made up of the CPS and prices on the EU ETS, which as the OBR notes, have increase significantly over the past year.

Last year’s budget had said that it would aim to maintain the total price at a similar level – though it never explained how – until unabated coal was off the system. Now, the government is effectively pledging to maintain a much higher rate until at least 2021.

At the time of last year’s budget, the total price was around £24 per tonne of CO2, made up of £18/tCO2 from the CPS plus around £6/tCO2 from the EU ETS. Following recently agreed reforms to the scheme, the EU ETS price now stands at around £18/tCO2 – meaning the total is £36/tCO2.

Before this week’s budget, separate coalitions of energy firms and green groups had written to the chancellor urging him to maintain the current CPS. The letters warned that market conditions already favoured greater use of coal power – up a quarter year-on-year in September – and that a reduction in the £18/tCO2 levy would have risked increasing UK CO2 emissions still further.

“Maintaining a higher carbon price is critical to decarbonising the UK’s electricity sector,” wrote Will Gardiner, chief executive of Drax – formerly Europe’s largest coal plant – in a piece published on Monday in City AM. He pointed to Aurora Energy Research analysis, which found a cut to the CPS would see coal stay on the system for longer and risk the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets.

Similar analysis from the NGO Sandbag had suggested a return to the £24/tCO2 total carbon price seen at the time of last year’s budget could have meant coal burn increasing by a third this winter and nearly tripling in winter 2021, compared to maintaining the CPS at its current level.

The OBR says that receipts from the CPS are “little changed, with the rise in electricity generation from renewables and natural gas at the expense of coal continuing to reduce the tax base”.

Note that budget 2016 had already announced the CPS would be frozen at £18/tCO2 until 2020-21. It had originally been due to increase each year after its introduction in 2013, reaching £30/tCO2 by 2020. The detailed budget documents show the continuing freeze at £18/tCO2 will cost the Treasury £15m in 2020-21. This is because the CPS had been due to rise with inflation.

 

Fuel duty freeze

Hammond’s budget also confirms another freeze in fuel duty, with planned increases having been scrapped in each of the nine years since 2010-11. The OBR describes the latest one-year freeze as “traditional”, listing it among this year’s budget “giveaways”.

In a piece for the Sun on Sunday, Hammond says it will “sav[e] people around £800m this year alone”. It was first announced by prime minister Theresa May at last month’s Conservative Party conference.

The freeze means another cut in real terms, notes Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank, with the annual cost to the treasury now £9bn.

Fuel duty will be frozen for the ninth year in a row, the Prime Minister will announce today.

We’ve found that keeping fuel duty essentially unchanged since 2010-11 now costs the Treasury around £9bn per year. pic.twitter.com/dGVvkPZkCH

— IFS (@TheIFS) October 3, 2018

This financial year, the government is expected to collect £28bn in fuel duty, according to motoring publication Autocar. This means the freezes will have cut fuel duty revenue by a quarter, compared to the level they would have reached. In the longer term, this income will be undermined by the rise of electric vehicles, prompting government interest in road-pricing schemes, Autocar reports.

Fuel duty freezes since 2010 have increased road traffic by 4%, decreased public transport use and added 4.5m tonnes to annual UK CO2 emissions (roughly 4%), according to analysis published in June by campaign group Greener Journeys.

Indeed, transport emissions have been rising in recent years and are essentially unchanged since 1990, meaning the sector is now the largest contributor to UK CO2 output.

The OBR says fuel duty receipts will reach £32bn by 2023-24. However, this is premised on a resumption of the planned year-on-year increases that have been cancelled every year since 2010. Its forecast also includes a dampening on demand due to rising oil prices.

 

Road spending

Meanwhile, Hammond announced £30bn of new investment in UK transport, largely centred on increased road spending.

Of this, £28.8bn will go into a new “National Roads Fund” which ring-fences Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) raised in England for spending on roads, Hammond wrote in the Sun on Sunday. The programme is set to run over five years from 2020 to 2025 and marks a 40% increase on the previous five-year investment cycle’s £17.6bn, according to Autocar.

The red book says:

“The fund will provide long-term certainty for roads investment, including the new major roads network and large local major roads schemes, such as the North Devon link road.”

Another £420m will go to local councils in 2018-19 for fixing potholes and repairing damaged roads, as well as keeping bridges open. A further £150m will be used to improve local junctions, Hammond wrote, allowing better access to workplaces, high streets and other community facilities.

Hammond added in his Sun on Sunday article that he is “committed to honouring [the] legacy” of Margaret Thatcher’s involvement with the building of the M25. “The funding will help make journeys quicker and easier, while boosting productivity and improving access,” he wrote.

Labour shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald criticised the move, arguing that increasing spending on major roads is the “wrong decision” when public transport is in decline. He added:

“It simply isn’t sustainable to repeatedly ramp-up major road spending, especially at a time when air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths each year and climate change is threatening a global crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Transforming Cities Fund, which allocates funding to cities for new buses, trams and cycling routes, will be extended by £680m, the Independent reports.

Hammond wrote he will also “look to the future by investing in next-generation methods of transport”, potentially including self-driving shuttle services. This will include the creation of new “future mobility zones”, such as in the West Midlands, the red book says.

The new systems could potentially also include electric bikes and extending digital payments to cover more methods of travel across more cities. Hammond added in the Sun on Sunday:

“Not only could this revolutionise our transport network, it will also help us become a global leader developing future technologies.”

Earlier this month, the government ended grants for plug-in hybrid electric cars, which previously sat at £2,500. It also reduced the maximum grant for cars with a zero-emission range of over 70 miles from £4,500 to £3,500. The budget did not contain new measures to support EVs.

 

Tree planting

The budget sets out a new £60m of investment in tree planting in England, separated into two pots.

Up to £50m will be used to buy carbon credits from landowners who plant “qualifying woodland”, the Treasury says, providing for an estimated 10m new trees over the next 30 years.

The remaining £10m will be used for new street and urban trees, with local authorities and community groups expected to match funding contributions.

In its 25 Year Environment Plan, released in January 2018, the government promised it would both increase tree planting and better protect existing trees and forests. It has committed to planting 11m trees in England during this parliament. (Environment is a devolved matter).

Around 1.6m trees were planted between April 2017 and April 2018 through government support, largely via the Rural Development Programme for England. The Forestry Commission has said this, along with current plans and agreements, “gives confidence” the end-of-parliament target will be met. An earlier promise set out in the 2015 Conservative manifesto to plant 11m trees by 2020 is expected to be missed.

Environmental campaigners criticised the disparity between spending £60m on tree planting and £30bn – 500 times more – on roads. “Tree planting is important, but no substitute for tackling road emissions,” said Dustin Benton, policy director of environmental think tank Green Alliance.

 

North Sea

Hammond said rates for the oil and gas industries will stay at their current level. On this, the red book says:

“This will help the oil and gas industry continue its recovery from the 2014 oil price crash, protect jobs, and ensure the UK is attractive for new investment, whilst giving the nation a fair return for its natural resources.”

The chancellor also announced a call for evidence to help make Scotland a “global hub for decommissioning” oil rigs. The red book adds: “The government will also amend the Petroleum Revenue Tax rules on retained decommissioning costs to simplify the way older fields can be sold to new investors. This will provide further support for an industry that is a vital part of the economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Meanwhile, the OBR forecasts that revenues from oil and gas production in the UK will more than double from £1.2bn this year to £2.9bn in 2023-24.

Buried in #budget2018 UK govt sees revenues from oil and industry doubling between now and 2023/24, albeit low historically-speaking. What impact do growth of electric vehicles pose for the taxman? https://t.co/ISYqeBlPGk pic.twitter.com/oYBdPZHeT8

— Alex Pashley (@A_Pashley) October 29, 2018

This reflects the sudden change in fortunes for the North Sea sector, following the global rise in oil prices. In 2016 and 2017, the sector was actually a net drain on the exchequer, but this has now changed, according to HMRC.

HMRC published this chart back in June, but it’s worth looking at again on #Budget2018 day to see the rollercoaster that govt revenues from UK oil & gas production have been on historically – and continue to be on…https://t.co/3EJzll508P pic.twitter.com/SL4G9fw7wL

— Leo Hickman (@LeoHickman) October 29, 2018

However, the forecasted cost of decommissioning old North Sea rigs continues to rise, according to the OBR (spreadsheet, tab 2.14), which will, in turn, dampen otherwise rising tax receipts. In March, it said that decommissioning would likely total £1.9bn a year by 2022. Just six month on, it has revised this up to £2.2bn. Likewise, it now says that the sector’s capital expenditure (capex) will be £4.3bn by 2022 (up from its March forecast of £3.6bn).

 

Climate Change Levy

The Climate Change Levy will be cut for electricity during 2020-21 and 2021-22, with the lower rate for gas rising in the same period to reach 60% of the electricity rate. The budget documents do not list the new rates, however, the budget costings suggest the move will be revenue neutral.

The levy is a tax on business energy use and is currently charged at different rates, depending on whether the fuel is gas, coal or electricity. This year, for example, electricity use attracts an 8.5p per kilowatt hour (kWh) charge, whereas gas is subject to a rate of 3.4p/kWh.

The latest change was trailed in a 15 October Sun “exclusive”, which said – it now appears incorrectly – that the move would raise “up to half a billion” for the Treasury by equalising the rate of the levy between gas and electricity. According to the Sun article, the Treasury said in 2016 that it would equalise the rates by 2025.

Energy-intensive industrial firms can get a rebate of up to 90% of the cost if they enter into a “Climate Change Agreement” setting out investments to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions.

The levy had been increased in 2019-20 by an announcement at Budget 2016.

Regarding the Climate Change Levy, the OBR says: “Receipts in the near term are little changed since March, but they are boosted in 2023-24 when the current [Climate Change Agreement rebate] scheme comes to an end.”

 

Other announcements

There were some other climate- and energy-related announcements in the budget:

  • £20m in support for UK nuclear fusion. Commentators noted that the UK is set to be cut off from world’s biggest fusion project in event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • A “call for evidence” on a new business energy efficiency scheme focused on smaller businesses designed to reduce bills and emissions.
  • A £315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund “to support significant energy users to cut their energy bills and transition UK industry to a low carbon future”. This will be funded by ending “Enhanced Capital Allowances”, a scheme that allows energy efficiency investments to be set against taxable profits.
  • A freeze in Air Passenger Duty for short-haul flights, with long-haul rates rising with inflation. This is despite a push from some quarters, particularly in Northern Ireland, to abolish the levy. Hammond made no mention of this in his speech.
  • A new study on improving the resilience of UK infrastructure “in light of technological advances and future challenges such as climate change”, to be published in Spring 2020.
  • £13m to tackle risks from floods and climate change. The red book says this will go to “pilot projects to ensure property owners have the best information on protecting their homes, and expanding the flood warning system to an additional 62,000 at-risk properties”.
  • A study into a new “Great Thames Park” in the Thames Estuary, which the government says should “improve access to and use of the Thames for pedestrians and cyclists”.

The post Budget 2018: Key climate and energy announcements appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Categories: I. Climate Science

A eulogy to Guardian's Climate Consensus - the 97%

Skeptical Science - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 22:51

The Guardian editors recently decided to discontinue their Science and Environment blog networks.  This is the story of Climate Consensus - the 97%.

Way back in 2012, newspapers were struggling to hang on to readers. Blogs were all the rage, and with the stability of the Obama administration, a steadily improving economy, the UK still in the EU (how I long for those good old days), there wasn't today's demand for daily newspapers. Papers were trying to come up with new ideas, and the Guardian editors decided to experiment with international blog networks.

It was a very clever idea. There were lots of smart science and environment bloggers out there, writing on their own blogs for free. By folding them into The Guardian, the paper was able to add their expert analysis. By splitting the ad revenue, they guaranteed some profit for the paper while bringing in new readers for the expert analysis, and the bloggers who previously wrote for free got a bit of pay for their work, plus the prestige of affiliation with The Guardian. It was a win-win.

The experiment worked with the Science blog network, so in late 2012 they decided to expand with an Environment blog network. Over 800 bloggers applied. I had a bit of a foot in the door, because I'd been writing for Skeptical Science for about 2 years. Whenever some prominent climate denier regurgitated a myth that was picked up in the media, I would quickly debunk it at Skeptical Science, and a few times The Guardian picked up and re-published my pieces. So I was a known quantity, and they hired me on along with about 10 other Environment bloggers. Some didn't pan out and dropped off, but several like Graham Readfearn and Martin Lukacs (and of course me and John Abraham) lasted for the long haul. They 'handed us the keys' to our blogs, and off we went.

And it worked great. For over 5 years we provided expert analysis, brought in readers and a bit of profit to the paper, required minimal oversight, and had very few problems. We averaged around 20k views per post, topping out at half a million when I wrote one criticizing Trump's pullout of the Paris agreement. But gradually the editors who launched the blogs moved on. And then we got Trump, and Brexit, and there was so much bullshit 'fake news' out there that people started to value and consume reliable media sources like the NYT, WaPo, and Guardian. With this beefed up readership, they hired more journalists, including on the science and environment beats.

The new editors weren't invested in the blogs and were focused on the expanded traditional reporting. Nobody was keeping an eye on the bloggers, which was fine - we had 5 years of experience and hummed along like a well-tuned EV - but I think they started to worry that we represented some liability. A rogue, unsupervised blogger could cause problems. They didn't want to worry about us, and felt they didn't need us anymore. We were no longer an "exciting new experiment," as one Guardian staffer told us. The experiment had worked! But the editors wanted to move to a new era that focused more on traditional journalism.

So, this summer they decided to discontinue all the blogs by the end of August. Though somehow they forgot to tell a bunch of us Environment bloggers, so we kept writing and publishing, blissfully unaware that we had been laid off months earlier. Ironically, October will end up being one of our blog's most-trafficked months. We had some big stories, two months after we were supposed to have been terminated.

It goes to show how little oversight we needed that none of the editors apparently noticed we were still publishing for nearly 2 months until this week, when we finally got the bad news. But, they did tell us that they value our content, and asked that we continue pitching them stories, albeit on a less frequent basis (approx. monthly rather than weekly, depending on what climate news pops up).

I don't agree with the decision. I think the expert analysis and readership we brought in outweighed any small chance that we could create a significant problem for the paper. But that's the editors' call, and I do appreciate that they want us to keep submitting stories. I'm also glad they've been able to expand their science & environment reporting and that people are reading it.

So, that's the whole story of our Guardian blog. All good things must come to an end. I'll miss it - it was really the perfect platform to communicate what I've learned about climate science and economics and policy and politics, and it was great that they gave us free rein to write whatever we wanted. It was a lot of work, but I loved every minute of it. In all likelihood I'll keep publishing in the paper, unless I find another regular gig elsewhere.

A toast to Climate Consensus - the 97%. I'll miss you!

Categories: I. Climate Science

Solar geoengineering may not cool the oceans, study says

The Carbon Brief - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 09:00

Spraying aerosols high in the stratosphere could dampen global warming over land, but may not prevent the oceans from heating up, new research says.

The findings suggest that this type of “solar geoengineering” – a set of techniques that aim to tackle global warming by reflecting sunlight back into space – may not necessarily stem sea level rise or prevent damage to the world’s marine ecosystems.

The research indicates that solar geoengineering could carry “major uncertainties and risks”, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

The study also raises the issue of whether global average temperature “is the best metric to control” when addressing the impacts of climate change, another scientist tells Carbon Brief.

Harnessing a volcano

Solar Geoengingeering options. Graphic by Ros Pearce for Carbon Brief

Scientists have suggested that releasing aerosols into the atmosphere – a technique known as “stratospheric aerosol injection” – could cool the planet in a similar way to a large volcanic eruption.

When a volcano erupts, it sends an ash cloud high into the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide released in the plume combines with water to form sulfuric acid aerosols, which reflect away incoming sunlight, temporarily cooling the Earth.

Artificially introducing aerosols into the atmosphere – via a plane or a high-altitude balloon – could have a similar cooling effect, researchers say.

The idea has never been tested, but previous research using computer simulations suggests that releasing aerosols could help limit global temperature rise to 1.5C – the aspirational target of the Paris Agreement – and keep rainfall from becoming irregular.

However, an aerosol sunshade would not protect the planet from rising CO2 emissions – which is causing oceans to become more acidic and crops to become less nutritious, among other problems.

The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, identifies, for the first time, another potential downfall of the proposed technique: it may not be able to limit warming in the deep ocean.

This is because aerosol release could cause rainfall to decrease in some regions, which could influence ocean circulation patterns, says lead author Dr John Fasullo, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder. He tells Carbon Brief:

“The explanation involves two key stages. In the first, the aerosols reduce the amount of rainfall that occurs globally. This change in rainfall is not uniform, rather, reductions are larger in some key regions – namely, the northern Atlantic Ocean – and this increases the salinity of those ocean areas, making the water more dense.”

This increase in water density could cause the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” (AMOC) to speed up, he says. The AMOC is a perpetual conveyor belt that transports heat from the equator up to the North Atlantic. It is part of a wider network of global ocean circulations patterns that transports heat all around the world. Fasullo says:

“The North Atlantic is a key region of deep-water formation and higher density therefore leads to an acceleration of this circulation. The speed up in deep-water formation buries more heat in the deep ocean that would have otherwise occurred.”

Other worlds

To explore the impact of aerosol release on oceans, the researchers used a set of 20 computer simulations looking at what would happen if aerosols were released between 2020 and 2099. This set of simulations is known as the “geoengineering large ensemble” (GLENS).

Glossary

RCP8.5: The RCPs (Representative Concentration Pathways) are scenarios of future concentrations of greenhouse gases and other forcings. RCP8.5 is a scenario of “comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions“ brought about by rapid population growth, high energy demand, fossil fuel dominance and an absence of climate change policies. This “business as usual” scenario is the highest of the four RCPs and sees atmospheric CO2 rise to around 935ppm by 2100, equivalent to 1,370ppm once other forcings are included (in CO2e). The likely range of global temperatures by 2100 for RCP8.5 is 4.0-6.1C above pre-industrial levels. The release of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) has introduced a number of additional “no-new-policy” scenarios, meaning RCP8.5 is no longer the sole option available to researchers as a high-end no-mitigation pathway.

RCP8.5: The RCPs (Representative Concentration Pathways) are scenarios of future concentrations of greenhouse gases and other forcings. RCP8.5 is a scenario of “comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions“ brought about by rapid population growth,… Read More

The simulations assume that aerosols are released at uniform points across the globe. (Previous research shows doing this would prevent large regional changes in temperature and weather.)

The researchers compared their geoengineering simulations to another set of simulations where no geoengineering takes place and little action is taken to tackle climate change, leading to high emissions in the coming decades (a scenario known as “RCP8.5”).

The chart below shows how global average temperature (full lines, left-hand y-axis) and global rainfall levels (dashed lines, right-hand y-axis) are expected to differ between the high-emissions scenario (RCP8.5) simulations and GLENS.

Changes to global mean temperature (full lines, left-hand y-axis) and global rainfall levels (dashed lines, right-hand y-axis) under a scenario with solar geoengineering (GLENS; blue) and a scenario with no geoengineering and high greenhouse gas emissions (RCP8.5; red). Source: Fasullo et al. (2018)

The chart shows how, in the geoengineered world, the global average temperature is kept constant while global rainfall levels fall. In comparison, temperatures and rainfall levels continue to rise under the high-emissions scenario.

The maps below show expected changes to ocean heat content (OHC) between 2010-30 and 2075-95 in the upper ocean (0-300m; left) and in the full-depth of the ocean (right) under the geoengineering scenario. On the maps, red shows increases in OHC, while blue shows decreases.

Expected changes to ocean heat content (OHC) between 2010-30 and 2075-95 in the upper ocean (0-300m; left) and in the full-depth of the ocean (right) under a solar geoengineering scenario. Red shows increases in OCH, while blue shows decreases. Source: Fasullo et al. (2018)

The charts show how, in the geoengineering scenario, some shallower parts of the ocean are expected to heat up. This includes the Arctic Sea and waters off the western coast of North America.

When the full depth of the ocean is considered, however, many more regions are expected to see OHC increases – with warming likely to be most severe in the Arctic Sea and in the Southern Ocean.

Rising tides

The findings suggest that – contrary to previous research – solar geoengineering could fail to prevent sea level rise.

Sea level rise is chiefly driven by the expansion of seawater as a result of warming and by the melting of land ice at the world’s poles. In some parts, including in Western Antarctica, melting occurs where land ice comes into contact with warm ocean water. Fasullo says:

“Relative to present day, it is extremely likely that sea level will continue to rise under our geoengineering approach, but it is also likely that the rate of this rise will be less than under a business-as-usual climate trajectory [RCP8.5].

“We cannot say with confidence what that rate of rise might be as we don’t have models of the ice sheets fully coupled to our climate simulations, nor have we sufficiently vetted such models to have confidence in their projections at this point.”

The results could also mean that solar geoengineering would fail to prevent marine heatwaves, which pose a major threat to undersea wildlife, and the expected increases in hurricane intensity. (Although no research has looked at these issues, specifically, so it is still too soon to draw conclusions, Fasullo says.)

The study raises the issue of whether global average temperature “is the best metric to control” when addressing the impacts of climate change, says Prof Govindasamy Bala, a physical scientist from the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Science, who was not involved in the study. He tells Carbon Brief:

“However, as this is a single modelling study, it is not clear to me if the results of this paper are robust. A multi-model based approach would be needed to verify the robustness.”

The findings imply that solar geoengineering could have “large potential downsides”, says Fasullo:

“There have been various high-profile policymakers in the US that have framed climate change as an engineering challenge. I think the key takeaway from our work is that geoengineering itself carries major uncertainties and risks.”

The post Solar geoengineering may not cool the oceans, study says appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Categories: I. Climate Science

Cheaper to build new renewables than run existing coal plants within 10 years’ time in South-east Asia

Carbon Tracker Initiative - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 03:17

$60 billion in stranded value at risk in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines

LONDON, October 29 — Compared to operating existing coal-fired power stations, by 2027/28 it will be cheaper to build new solar PV in Indonesia and Vietnam, and new onshore wind in Vietnam by 2028.

This is a key finding of Carbon Tracker’s new research which examines how meeting climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement could affect the role of coal-fired power plants in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. As government policy, market liberalisation and renewable technology advances play out across the three countries, owners of coal power units in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines risk losing up to $60 billion in stranded value.

Matt Gray, head of power and utilities at Carbon Tracker said:

“Given that power sector investments have multi-decade time horizons, investors and policymakers need to act now to minimise stranded assets and avoid high-cost energy lock-in.”

The companies most at risk from stranded assets are: PT PLN Persero (Indonesia) $15billion, San Miguel Corporation (Philippines) $3.3billion and EVN (Vietnam) $6.1billion (see table below).

Stranded Risk Summary Table – Refer to Individual Country Briefs for Full Breakdown

In addition, Carbon Tracker researchers found:

  • From 2010-17 coal generation increased 72% Vietnam, 50%+ in the Philippines, and 53% in Indonesia
  • Due to rapidly declining cost of renewable energy, the average coal unit in these nations will be retired at just 15 years old, far earlier than forty-year assumptions often associated with coal plant lifetimes

Matt Gray, head of power and utilities at Carbon Tracker said:

Vietnam currently has $40bn of coal capacity under construction and planned. As consumers and tax payers continue to demand the lowest cost options, this analysis exposes not only the viability of new investments in coal power but the long-term role of the existing fleet.”

“The Philippines currently has $30bn of coal capacity under construction and planned. As consumers and tax payers continue to demand the lowest cost options, this analysis exposes not only the viability of new investments in coal power but the long-term role of the existing fleet.”

Indonesia currently has $50bn of coal capacity under construction and planned. As consumers and tax payers continue to demand the lowest cost options, this analysis exposes not only the viability of new investments in coal power but the long-term role of the existing fleet.”

“Thanks to the dramatic fall in the cost of renewable energy, phasing-out coal power by 2040 will likely prove to be the lowest cost option for these South East Asian nations. Policymakers should act now, to avoid stranded coal assets as the rapid pace of the energy transition becomes increasingly apparent to investors.” 

The Window For New Coal Investment is Closing Rapidly

As the world rapidly transitions to a low carbon economy, investors are becoming increasingly wary of the regulatory and environmental risk associated with coal-powered electricity generation and the increasing competitiveness of renewables and are subsequently withdrawing funding.

Standard Chartered[1], RBS and Nippon Life[2] have announcing their complete withdrawal from coal in the region.  Analysts at Citi have noted an 80% reduction in coal financing 2010-2018[3] and the increasing challenge in attracting cash for new projects, that is likely to drive up coal prices, resulting in higher bills for consumers and utilities.

Methodology

Carbon Tracker employs a detailed asset level economic model for each country to inform the results of these briefs. This is underpinned by detailed asset inventory data, asset performance data and comprehensive technical, market and regulatory assumptions. For further details on the applied methodology, please refer to the Appendix of the individual country briefs.

To arrange interviews with the author Matthew Gray, please contact:

Joel Benjamin – jbenjamin@carbontracker.org

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/09/25/stanchart-becomes-latest-bank-pull-funding-new-coal-power-plants/

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-coal-divestment/japans-nippon-life-to-stop-financing-coal-fired-power-idUSKBN1KD08P

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/1a14b070-ca83-11e8-b276-b9069bde0956

The post Cheaper to build new renewables than run existing coal plants within 10 years’ time in South-east Asia appeared first on Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Categories: I. Climate Science

Canada passed a carbon tax that will give most Canadians more money

Skeptical Science - Sun, 10/28/2018 - 22:45

Note: this will be our final entry on Climate Consensus - the 97%. The Guardian has decided to discontinue its Science and Environment blogging networks. We would like to thank this great paper for hosting us over the past five years, and to our readers for making it a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, Canada will implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax starting in 2019, fulfilling a campaign pledge he made in 2015.

The federal carbon pollution price will start low at $20 per ton in 2019, rising at $10 per ton per year until reaching $50 per ton in 2022. The carbon tax will stay at that level unless the legislation is revisited and revised.

This is a somewhat modest carbon tax – after all, the social cost of carbon is many times higher – but it’s a higher carbon price than has been implemented in most countries. Moreover, a carbon tax doesn’t necessarily have to reflect the social cost of carbon. The question is whether it will be sufficiently high to meet the country’s climate targets.

Paris was a key motivator behind the Canadian carbon tax

The Preamble in the Act is worth reading. It begins by noting “there is broad scientific consensus that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global climate change” (this is somewhat understated – carbon pollution is the dominant factor). It also notes that Canada is already feeling the impacts of climate change through factors like “coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, increases in heat waves, droughts and flooding, and related risks to critical infrastructures and food security.”

The Preamble also notes that in 1992, Canada signed the UNFCCC whose objectives include “the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” and that Canada ratified the Paris Agreement, whose aims include limiting global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures.

Canada’s Paris commitment requires cutting its carbon pollution by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Prior to the implementation of the carbon tax, its policies were rated Highly Insufficient to meet that goal. Instead Canada’s emissions were on track to fall only about 4% below 2005 levels by 2030. So, the carbon tax is an important policy to close that gap.

Some provinces already have carbon pricing in place

Several Canadian provinces have already implemented or plan to implement carbon pricing systems. British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec already have such systems in place; the Canadian government noted that these provinces were “among the top performers in GDP growth across Canada in 2017.”

Provinces whose carbon prices meet the federal standards are already in compliance, so the new law won’t apply to them. Several other provinces (Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador) have planned or proposed carbon pricing systems that will meet the federal requirements. The federal carbon tax will be applied to the remaining provinces.

 Green indicates that the province’s own carbon pricing system meets the federal standards. Purple and orange indicate a province’s planned or proposed carbon pricing will meet the federal standards, respectively. Red indicates that the federal carbon pricing will apply to the province. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

Energy prices will rise

A $20/ton carbon tax translates into a 16.6 cent per gallon surcharge on gasoline. So, in 2022, the $50/ton carbon tax will increase Canadian gasoline prices by about 42 cents per gallon (11 cents per liter). For comparison, the average price of gasoline in Canada is $1.43 per liter, so that would be about an 8% gasoline price increase in 2022.

The price of coal would more than double, with a carbon tax surcharge of about $100 per ton in 2022. Natural gas prices will rise by about 10 cents per cubic meter in 2022 compared to current prices of around 13 cents per cubic meter – about a 75% increase. This will increase demand for cheaper carbon-free electricity. However, Canada already supplies about 60% of its electricity through hydroelectric generation and 16% from nuclear – only about 20–25% comes from fossil fuels.

For that reason, only 11% of Canada’s carbon pollution comes from generating electricity. The industrial sector is responsible for the biggest chunk of Canadian carbon pollution (40%). It will not be subjected to the carbon tax, but rather to an Output-Based Allocations system (similar to cap and trade).

But rebates will more than offset higher fuel costs

One key component of the federal carbon tax is that it’s revenue-neutral, similar to the policy proposal from Citizens’ Climate Lobby. All the taxed money will be distributed back to the provinces from which they were generated. The provinces will in turn rebate about 90% the revenues back to individual taxpayers. The rebates are anticipated to exceed the increased energy costs for about 70% of Canadian households.

For example, a Manitoba family will receive a $336 rebate in 2019 compared to its increased costs of $232. A similar family in Saskatchewan will receive $598 compared to its higher costs of $403. In Ontario, families will receive $300 to offset its $244 in carbon taxes. And in New Brunswick a $248 rebate more than offsets the average household cost of $202. The rebates will more than double by 2022 as the carbon tax rises, and the net financial benefit to households will grow over time.

Click here to read the rest

Categories: I. Climate Science

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #43

Skeptical Science - Sun, 10/28/2018 - 10:56

Story of the Week... Editorial of the Week... Toon of the Week... SkS in the News... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 

Story of the Week... Scientists Push for a Crash Program to Scrub Carbon From the Air

A coal plant in Colstrip, Mont. Scientists say countries have put off reducing carbon emissions for so long that even a breakneck shift toward clean energy would most likely not be enough. Credit: Janie Osborne for The New York Times

With time running out to avoid dangerous global warming, the nation’s leading scientific body on Wednesday urged the federal government to begin a research program focused on developing technologies that can remove vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in order to help slow climate change.

The 369-page report, written by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, underscores an important shift. For decades, experts said that nations could prevent large temperature increases mainly by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and moving to cleaner sources like solar, wind and nuclear power.

But at this point, nations have delayed so long in cutting their carbon dioxide emissions that even a breakneck shift toward clean energy would most likely not be enough. According to a landmark scientific report issued by the United Nations this month, taking out a big chunk of the carbon dioxide already loaded into the atmosphere may be necessary to avoid significant further warming, even though researchers haven’t yet figured out how to do so economically, or at sufficient scale.

And we’ll have to do it fast. To meet the climate goals laid out under the Paris Agreement, humanity may have to start removing around 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year by midcentury, in addition to reducing industrial emissions, said Stephen W. Pacala, a Princeton climate scientist who led the panel. That’s nearly as much carbon as all the world’s forests and soils currently absorb each year.

Scientists Push for a Crash Program to Scrub Carbon From the Air by Brad Plumer, Climate, New York Times, Oct 24, 2018  Editorial of the Week... How Scientists Cracked the Climate Change Case

The biggest crime scene on the planet is the planet. We know the earth is warming, but who or what is causing it?

Credit: Emilia Miękisz

The latest report from the world’s climate scientists has made clear the size of the challenge if the world is to stay below the global warming limit hoped for in the Paris climate agreement. Unfortunately, with current trends we are likely to cross this threshold within the next two decades because we are already two-thirds of the way there.

But how do we know what is driving these climate trends? It comes down to the same kind of detective work that typifies a crime scene investigation, only here we are dealing with a case that encompasses the whole world. Let me give you my view, which does not necessarily represent the position of NASA or the federal government.

For the past 100 years we have documented good, independently confirmed observations of change at the surface of the planet, and for the past 40 years satellites and comprehensive measuring efforts have provided a much fuller view of changes throughout the earth system. These observations show clearly that among other things, the surface of the planet has warmed, the upper atmosphere has cooled, the oceans are gaining an enormous amount of heat, sea level is rising, Arctic ice has greatly receded and glaciers around the world are in retreat.

Scientists Push for a Crash Program to Scrub Carbon From the Air by Brad Plumer, Climate, New York Times, Oct 24, 2018 

Toon of the Week...

 

SkS in the News...

The SkS Graphic Human vs. Natural Contributions to Global Warming is prominently featured by David Roberts in his article Why conservatives keep gaslighting the nation about climate change published in the Energy & Environment section of Vox on Oct 23, 2018.

Coming Soon on SkS...
  • Canada passed a carbon tax that will give most Canadians more money (Dana)
  • Eulogy for Climate Consensus - the 97% (Dana)
  • China's GHG emissions (Riduna)
  • Climate Impacts (ATTP)
  • New research this week (Ari)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #44 (John Hartz)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #44 (John Hartz)
Poster of the Week...

 

SkS Week in Review... 
Categories: I. Climate Science

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #43

Skeptical Science - Sat, 10/27/2018 - 10:27
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week including,,,  Editor's Pick They Know Seas Are Rising, but They’re Not Abandoning Their Beloved Cape Cod

Lifelong residents are building higher with each flood. But while they deal with climate change, some say they aren’t sure what to believe about the cause.

 

Sea level is rising at an accelerated pace along the Mid-Atlantic coast, from Cape Hatteras to north of Boston, while land in some of those areas is sinking. Residents can try to adapt or face more frequent flooding. Credit: Robert Scott Button 

"It flooded in early January, and then it happened again two or three months later," says Matt Teague of Barnstable, Mass., about the slew of storms that hit Cape Cod in the winter of 2017. "We're like, what are we doing here?" he says, opening his arms skyward.

It is now the peak of summer as I stand with Matt in the seaside community of Blish Point at the front door of the house he owns—a house that's about to be demolished. Matt, 43, with a trim graying beard and a belt buckle in the shape of a fishhook, is the owner of REEF Design & Build, which works all across Cape Cod. He bought the house with his brother and father more than 10 years ago as an investment. Blish Point, an area where native fishermen once laid out their nets to dry, today contains a couple hundred homes nestled between the mouth of Barnstable Harbor and the verdant marsh of Maraspin Creek. Some of the homes are upscale; others are simple cottages. The Teague house, one of the simple cottages, was ruined by flooding: five major storms in the past three years alone have struck this area, and two of the four nor'easters last winter inundated the ground-level home.

Matt pushes his sunglasses atop his head, revealing a pale strip of untanned skin along his temple, as he stretches out his hand 2 feet above the door's threshold to show me where the water rose to during the storms. Over his shoulder, a hungry excavator sits ready to begin its work as Matt's extended family arrives, setting up lawn chairs across the street from the doomed house, joking about who forgot the popcorn. They have come to watch the carnage.

In spite of his own rhetorical question, after the demolition, Matt is going to rebuild—not elsewhere, but right here, only higher. 

They Know Seas Are Rising, but They’re Not Abandoning Their Beloved Cape Cod by Meera Subramanian, InsideClimate News, Oct 26, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Oct 21, 2018

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Fri Oct 26, 2018

Sat Oct 27, 2018

Categories: I. Climate Science

New research, October 15-21, 2018

Skeptical Science - Fri, 10/26/2018 - 13:27

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change mitigation

Climate change communication

From climates multiple to climate singular: Maintaining policy-relevance in the IPCC synthesis report

Audience Segments in Environmental and Science Communication: Recent Findings and Future Perspectives (open access) 

Energy production

An analysis of the historical trends in nuclear power plant construction costs: The Japanese experience

Community financing of renewable energy projects in Austria and Switzerland: Profiles of potential investors

Life cycle inventory of power producing technologies and power grids at regional grid level in India

Social implications of palm oil production through social life cycle perspectives in Johor, Malaysia

Like having an electric car on the roof: Domesticating PV solar panels in Norway (open access)

Ranking renewable energy production methods based on economic and environmental criteria using multi-criteria decision analysis

Emission savings

Prospective “warm-glow” of reducing meat consumption in China: Emotional associations with intentions for meat consumption curtailment and consumption of meat substitutes

Assessing the progress toward lower priced long range battery electric vehicles

The roles of network embeddedness, market incentives, and slack resources in the adoption of clean technologies by firms in developing countries

Striking divergences in Earth Observation products may limit their use for REDD+ (open access)

Geoengineering

Upper tropospheric ice sensitivity to sulfate geoengineering (open access)

Climate change

Differences and variations in the elevation-dependent climatic growing season of the northern and southern slopes of the Qinling Mountains of China from 1985 to 2015

Climate change evidence in brazil from Koppen's climate annual types frequency

Temperature, precipitation, wind

Changes in Global Monsoon Precipitation and the Related Dynamic and Thermodynamic Mechanisms in Recent Decades

Quantifying the importance of rapid adjustments for global precipitation changes

Analyses for High‐Resolution Projections through the End of the 21st Century for Precipitation Extremes over the United States (open access)

Recent and future changes of precipitation extremes in mainland Portugal

Future high-temperature extremes and stationarity

Observed Changes in Temperature Extremes over China‐Pakistan Economic Corridor during 1980‐2016

Changing station coverage impacts temperature trends in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Lake Surface Water Temperature Change Over the Tibetan Plateau From 2001 to 2015: A Sensitive Indicator of the Warming Climate

Spatial distribution of unidirectional trends in climate and weather extremes in Nile river basin

Extreme events

Substantial increase in heatwave risks in China in a future warmer world (open access)

An intensified mode of variability modulating the summer heat waves in eastern Europe and northern China

Stronger Contributions of Urbanization to Heat Wave Trends in Wet Climates

Future Projections of Global Pluvial and Drought Event Characteristics

Meteorological and hydrological drought on the Loess Plateau, China: Evolutionary characteristics, impact, and propagation

Quantifying flood events in Bangladesh with a daily-step flood monitoring index based on the concept of daily effective precipitation

Benefit analysis of flood adaptation under climate change scenario

Rural versus urban perspective on coastal flooding: the insights from the U.S. Mid-Atlantic communities (open access)

The 2011 floods’ impact on the Thai industrial estates’ financial stability: a ratio analysis with policy recommendations

Rapid Intensification of Typhoon Mujigae (2015) under Different Sea Surface Temperatures: Structural Changes Leading to Rapid Intensification

Estimating damages from climate-related natural disasters for the Caribbean at 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming above preindustrial levels

Forcings and feedbacks

Temporal Characteristics of Cloud Radiative Effects on the Greenland Ice Sheet: Discoveries from Multi‐year Automatic Weather Station Measurements

Balanced cloud radiative effects across a range of dynamical conditions over the tropical west Pacific

Exploiting satellite observations for global surface albedo trends monitoring

Summer cooling driven by large volcanic eruptions over the Tibetan Plateau

Cryosphere

Local coastal water masses control heat levels in a West Greenland tidewater outlet glacier fjord

Spatio-temporal variability of Antarctic sea-ice thickness and volume obtained from ICESat data using an innovative algorithm

Recent sea ice decline did not significantly increase the total liquid freshwater content of the Arctic Ocean

Melt pond conditions on declining Arctic sea ice over 1979–2016: Model development, validation, and results

Influence of Atmospheric Rivers on Mountain Snowpack in the Western U.S.

Hydrosphere 

Long-term changes in evaporation over Siling Co Lake on the Tibetan Plateau and its impact on recent rapid lake expansion

Response of the hydrological cycle in Asian monsoon systems to global warming through the lens of water vapor wave activity analysis

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

Unprecedented strength of Hadley circulation in 2015–2016 impacts on CO2 interhemispheric difference (open access)

Asymmetric changes of ENSO diversity modulated by the cold tongue mode under recent global warming

Recent changes in summer Greenland blocking captured by none of the CMIP5 models (open access)

The key role of ozone depleting substances in weakening the Walker circulation in the second half of the 20th century

Climate‐driven change in the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean can greatly reduce the circulation of the North Sea

Atlantic Water heat transport variability in the 20th century Arctic Ocean from a global ocean model and observations

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Organic matter characteristics in yedoma and thermokarst deposits on Baldwin Peninsula, west Alaska (open access)

Analysis of long-term (2003–2015) spatial-temporal distribution of atmospheric methane in the troposphere over the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau based on AIRS data

Climate change impacts 

Mankind

A systems network approach for climate change vulnerability assessment (open access)

Understanding island residents’ anxiety about impacts caused by climate change using Best–Worst Scaling: a case study of Amami islands, Japan

Biosphere

Deciphering carbon sources of mussel shell carbonate under experimental ocean acidification and warming

Global warming-induced temperature effects to intertidal tropical and temperate meiobenthic communities

Indications of future performance of native and non-native adult oysters under acidification and warming

Contrasting biosphere responses to hydrometeorological extremes: revisiting the 2010 western Russian heatwave (open access)

Mechanisms of northern North Atlantic biomass variability (open access)

Northward Expansion and Intensification of Phytoplankton Growth During the Early Ice‐Free Season in Arctic (open access)

Seedling growth of savanna tree species from three continents under grass competition and nutrient limitation in a greenhouse experiment

The climatic drivers of normalized difference vegetation index and tree‐ring‐based estimates of forest productivity are spatially coherent but temporally decoupled in Northern Hemispheric forests

Changes in tall shrub abundance on the North Slope of Alaska, 2000–2010

Assessing Phytoplankton Activities in the Seasonal Ice Zone of the Greenland Sea over an Annual Cycle

Recolonization of marginal coral reef flats in response to recent sea‐level rise

Divergent trends in the risk of spring frost damage to trees in Europe with recent warming

The influence of weather on avian spring migration phenology: What, where and when? (open access)

Other impacts

Impact of the North American Monsoon on wildfire activity in the southwest United States

Other papers

General climate science

Using Neural Networks to Correct Historical Climate Observations

A 19th century daily surface pressure series for the Southwestern Cape region of South Africa: 1834‐1899

Palaeoclimatology

Coastal primary productivity changes over the last millennium: a case study from the Skagerrak (North Sea) (open access)

Flood events in Transylvania during the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age

The role of regional feedbacks in glacial inception on Baffin Island: the interaction of ice flow and meteorology (open access)

Vulnerability, resilience and adaptation of societies during major extreme storms during the Little Ice Age (open access)

New constraints on massive carbon release and recovery processes during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (open access)

Glaciochemical records for the past century from the no. 1 Qiangtang glacier ice core on the central Tibetan Plateau: Likely proxies for climate and atmospheric circulations

Other environmental issues 

Environmental perception in 33 European countries: an analysis based on partial order

Present status of water chemistry and acidification under nonpoint sources of pollution across European Russia and West Siberia (open access)

Long-term trends in the ambient PM2.5- and O3-related mortality burdens in the United States under emission reductions from 1990 to 2010 (open access)

Categories: I. Climate Science

CCC: England’s coastal defences need ‘urgent’ rethink to cope with climate change

The Carbon Brief - Thu, 10/25/2018 - 16:01

New policies are “urgently” needed to protect homes and landscapes from coastal flooding and erosion in the long term, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says.

These coastal risks will increase in the future due to climate change, the committee says in a new report to government. But long-term action can help to manage their impact, it adds.

The current approach to protecting the coastline in England “really isn’t fit for purpose”, Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, tells Carbon Brief. “We’re trying to encourage an honest conversation about that.”

One metre

England will “almost certainly” have to adapt to at least 1m of sea level rise at some point, the report says. Some model projections indicate that this will happen over the next 80 years – within the lifetime of young people alive today. [Sea levels are expected to rise48cm by 2100 – if global temperature rise are kept to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels].

Rising sea levels will increase the frequency of the most damaging coastal floods, the CCC says, and increase rates of coastal erosion. It adds:

“Many of England’s coastal defences are likely to be at risk of failure as sea levels rise. For example, a sea level rise of 0.5m is projected to make a further 20% of England’s coastal defences vulnerable to failure.”

The CCC says these changes must be accounted for in long-term land-use and coastal defence plans. But the public are not clearly informed about current or future risks of coastal erosion and flooding, it says.

The damage caused by the tidal surge and flooding of 6 December 2013 at Hemsby, Norfolk, England. Credit: jon gibbs/Alamy Stock Photo.

There is also a possibility of accelerated ice sheet melt – and, thus, higher sea level rise than 1m – in the absence of more mitigation on climate change, Professor Jim Hall, who leads on flooding and coastal erosion at the CCC, tells Carbon Brief. “What we’re talking about here very much has a global mitigation context,” he says.

Damage

Losses from coastal erosion and flooding are already being felt today, the CCC says, with damages amounting to an average £260m per year. There are 520,000 properties in England in areas at risk from coastal flooding and 8,900 properties are in areas at risk of being lost through coastal erosion, the CCC adds.

The CCC estimates the total value of assets at risk from coastal flooding to be around £120-150bn, though it says this is difficult to quantify.

By the 2080s,1.5m properties – including 1.2m homes – may be at risk of coastal flooding, it says, with a further 100,000 at risk from coastal erosion. Around 1,600km of road, 92 railways stations and 12 substations and nuclear power stations could be at risk from coastal erosion or flooding by 2100, the CCC adds.

[All of the UK’s operating nuclear power plants are on the coast; they are responsible for their own coastal defences and, according to Hall, they look a lot further into the future with respect to sea level rise than is typically done for coastal communities.]

The population at risk of coastal flooding could almost quadruple by 2080, according to the CCC’s earlier 2017 risk assessment, as shown in the chart below.

Population at 0.5% or greater risk of coastal flooding in England in any given year up to the 2080s. The lower range shows a 2C, low population growth and higher adaptation scenario; the higher range shows a 4C, high population growth and lower adaptation scenario. Source: CCC Climate Change Risk Assessment (2017), using data from Sayers et al. (2015).

Other research has shown the damage from coastal flooding in the UK could be very high in the absence of upgrades to protection. One Nature Climate Change study found the UK could see up to €236bn in annual damages and 1.1 million people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100. It found the UK to be the worst hit European country by far, although others will also be severely affected.

The CCC notes that the risks of harmful coastal flooding and erosion “cannot be eliminated altogether”. However, stronger actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change could reduce the risk for 400,000-500,000 people in England by 2100, compared to a “baseline” level of climate adaptation, it adds.

Shoreline plans

Strategic responsibility for overseeing English coast rests with the government’s Environment Agency, Hall tells Carbon Brief. But local authorities also have some responsibility, in particular in areas of coastal erosion.

These two groups work together to develop local Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs), which identify responses to future coastal changes using a 100-year policy framework. They were first developed in the mid-1990s and revised between 2006 and 2011. The map below shows how they are split up into 22 separate areas.

Shoreline Management Plan areas in England and Wales. Source: CCC, using Environment Agency data.

But as they stand, these plans “cannot be relied” on to reduce the risks from coastal flooding and erosion, the CCC says. This is because they are not legally binding and contain unfunded proposals. Implementing current policies to protect England’s coast would cost £18-30bn in total, the CCC adds, depending on the rate of climate change.

Importantly, many of the unfunded coastline protection plans are far less “cost-effective” than the measures funded by government today. Hall says current plans for around 150 kilometres of coastline are not cost-beneficial to implement. This raises the need for honest conversations with those affected about “the difficult choices they face”, he says.

“There genuinely will be homes that it will not be possible to save,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee, at a briefing for journalists on the new report. “That’s why we need those discussions, that’s why people need information, so they can take rational decisions about the level of risk they are prepared to take.”

Shoreline Management Plans the core reason why the CCC’s concludes that England’s current approach to protecting the coastline “isn’t fit for purpose” says Stark. “They are non-statutory, they’re unfunded, and they give this kind of illusory protection,” he tells Carbon Brief.

Adaptation

Sustainable coastal adaptation is possible with long-term commitment and proactive steps by the government, Stark says.

The report sets out several ways forward, from simple acknowledgement and communication about changing coastal risks by the relevant authorities to the development of more rigorously implemented local plans. There is also a need for more evidence-based, quantified outcomes, the CCC says, since much of government policy fails to outline actions that can be assessed in terms of their impact on overall exposure or risk.

However, the government will also need to make long-term funding and investment available in the face of coastal risks, the CCC says, including to help affected communities cope with inevitable changes.

This funding needs to be based on a “broader and more inclusive economic case” than is current practice, the report adds, since areas where investment in hard defences is uneconomic tend to lose out. It says:

“[T]hese places also need funding to assist them to adapt to inevitable changes, so whilst hard defences may not be fundable they still need support for a broader package of adaptation actions, including community engagement, asset relocation and compensation to move households where appropriate.”

The post CCC: England’s coastal defences need ‘urgent’ rethink to cope with climate change appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Categories: I. Climate Science

IEA: Clean energy transition makes reforms ‘inescapable’ for oil states

The Carbon Brief - Wed, 10/24/2018 - 16:00

A changing energy system is posing “critical questions” for many of the world’s largest oil and gas producing countries, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.

The rise of shale gas and oil in the US, global improvements in energy efficiency, and the response to climate change are leading to “sustained pressure” on countries that rely heavily on hydrocarbon revenues, it says.

In a new report, the IEA explores what these changing dynamics mean for six major oil-producing states and the consequences of a global push to meet climate change goals.

Oil producers

The report focuses on “producer economies”: large oil and gas producers which rely on hydrocarbon exports for a large portion of their national budgets.

Many of these countries are shown (in purple) in the chart, below. The report narrows in on six of these – Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Venezuela – chosen for their range of circumstances.

Oil and gas exports as a share of total exports (x-axis) and oil and gas revenue as a share of fiscal revenue (y-axis) in selected countries in 2017. Source: IEA Outlook for Producer Economies 2018

In these six countries, between 40% and 90% of government revenues come from oil and gas income. These earnings make up a similar share of the countries’ total exports.

This somewhat precarious position has been exposed by low oil prices since 2014. This has seen many of these countries facing recessions, falling incomes, budgetary deficits and even social unrest.

The “shale revolution” and long-term uncertainty over demand for oil and gas are “intensifying pressures for change” in these countries, the report says. It adds:

“[H]ow these producers respond to a changing policy and market environment is crucial not only for their own future prospects, but also for global energy markets, energy security and the achievement of global sustainable development goals.”

Alternative scenarios

The new report presents three different scenarios for how global oil prices and climate policies will play out over the coming decades. Oil and gas income for the six producer economies is shown in the chart below, under each of the three scenarios.

Average annual net income from oil and natural gas by scenario for six producer economies (Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela). Source: IEA Outlook for Producer Economies 2018

The IEA’s main scenario is called “New Policies”. This aims to take a “measured assessment” of where currently announced policies and the evolution of known technologies could take the energy sector up to 2040. [Note that this scenario would breach the climate goals of the Paris Agreement].

Here, despite rapid renewables growth, global hydrocarbon demand and prices rise, particularly as US oil production plateaus in the mid-2020s. Producer economies see far higher revenues from oil and gas than in the other two scenarios.

Even in this scenario, however, the IEA says the arguments for reform remain strong, due to market volatility risk, long-term policy uncertainty and the need to create jobs for large numbers of young people in countries such as Iraq, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

In the “Low Oil Price” case, meanwhile, oil prices settle at around $60-70/barrel, and oil and gas income never recovers to levels seen in 2010-2015. A cumulative $7tn is lost up to 2040, compared with the New Policies scenario. The IEA says of this scenario:

“Without far-reaching reforms, this would translate into large current account deficits, downward pressure on currencies and lower government spending. In the Middle East, the downside economic risk equates to a $1,500 drop in average annual disposable income per person.”

In the third “Sustainable Development” scenario, the main energy-related components of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are met and the world remains on track to meet the “well below 2C” goal of the Paris Agreement. Oil demand peaks earlier and gas demand sees lower growth as a result of strong policies on fuel efficiency and fuel switching, as well as rising electric car use.

Oil and gas revenues to 2040 are similar to those in the Low Oil Price case, but the changing circumstances mean producer economies would have “little option but to ready themselves for a world in which hydrocarbons are no longer their main source of revenue”, the IEA says. It adds:

“In this scenario, there is an inescapable imperative to prepare for a world in which hydrocarbons are no longer the main source of revenue, even if…there may be alternative ways to monetise hydrocarbon resources that do not contribute to global emissions.”

Resource curse

Producer economies already tend to be “less diversified and more vulnerable to price shocks” than other economies, the IEA says.

In particular, changing oil prices – shown in the chart below – have brought some structural weaknesses “into sharp relief” in these countries, it says.

Historical movements in the oil price. Source: IEA Outlook for Producer Economies 2018

Most recently, oil prices started falling in 2014 and saw the steepest decline in the industry’s recent history. Since then, income from oil and gas extraction has fallen by between 40% for Iraq and 70% for Venezuela, with “wide-ranging consequences for economic performance”, says the IEA.

These major swings in revenue can be “deeply destabilising” if finances and economies are not resilient, says the IEA. In a nod to the so-called “resource curse”, it notes that economies which rely on oil and gas exports generally performed less well than non-producers:

“[A]cross a wide range of economies, a ten percentage point increase in the share of oil in exports is associated with relative decline of 7% in long-run per-capita income.”

Wasteful use of energy in producer economies also often contributes to this paradox, the report says. These countries often maintain low prices (compared to the international norm), which can result in higher consumption than elsewhere. In Russia, for example, nearly three times more energy is required to generate a unit of GDP than the world average, the IEA says.

The Russian Druzhba oil pipeline passing through farmland outside the city of Ivano Frankivsk. Credit: Philip Wolmuth / Alamy Stock Photo.

A number of countries have already announced reforms which aim to reduce dependence on volatile oil and gas revenue. For example, Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” aims to increase private sector and foreign investment, cut energy subsidies and increase non-oil government revenue by a factor of six. [Saudi Arabia has also been criticised, however, for pushing for delays in climate action in order to protect its oil revenue].

Some producers have incorporated low-carbon technologies in their diversification strategies: the UAE, for example, plans to source 25-30% of its power from renewables and nuclear by 2030. Traditional oil and gas producers in the Middle East have some of the best solar irradiation rates in the world, the IEA says, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE have seen some of the lowest bids so far seen for solar power projects.

Making use of this huge solar potential and implementing more ambitious energy efficiency policies will be important as Middle Eastern countries try to meet the rapid projected growth in energy demand, particularly for cooling, the IEA says.

Fossil fuel subsidies

But highly subsidised oil and gas for power generation has so far limited renewables development in the Middle East, the IEA says. The graph below shows subsidies in a range of producer economies.

Estimated value of fossil fuel subsidies in selected producer economies in 2017. The bars show subsidies in $bn while the yellow dots show the subsidy rate (the ratio of the subsidy to the international reference price). Source: IEA Outlook for Producer Economies 2018

Some producer economies have already taken steps to introduce reforms to fossil fuel subsidies, the IEA notes, particularly in light of the fall in oil price from 2014. Iran, for example, has more than doubled the price of regular gasoline since 2010, with plans to invest the extra money in job creation.

The IEA adds that the comparative advantage in energy of major producers will not necessarily disappear during the coming energy transition.

“These countries can produce some of the least costly and least emissions-intensive oil and gas, and could choose to play a leading role in energy technology development, including areas such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage and hydrogen supply.”

The post IEA: Clean energy transition makes reforms ‘inescapable’ for oil states appeared first on Carbon Brief.

Categories: I. Climate Science

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