Category Archives: Climate Change

Diabolical Wind Turbine Rays

I’d like to thank Dave Clarke for directing me to his webpage in one of his comments here…and for giving me some new terminology to use…. diabolical wind turbine rays….

Please visit Dave’s page here.

 

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Qld electricity providers trying to block solar from grid, lobby group says

Following from my last post about how worthless coal has become in Queensland comes this story from Eric Tlozek at the ABC.

Australia’s peak solar power body fears Queensland’s electricity companies are trying to put people off installing new solar systems.

The Australian Solar Council has criticised moves by Ergon and Energex to encourage new customers to install smaller solar systems that do not feed electricity back into the power grid.

Ergon and Energex said the changes, which included new rules about installing systems that feed-in power, would help them manage the detrimental impact of solar on their power networks.

“These new rules will help avoid many of the costs associated with upgrading Ergon’s network to cope with increasing numbers of these systems – costs that are ultimately borne by all electricity customers,” Ergon chief executive Ian McLeod said.

“In some cases, customers have their applications to install PV (photovoltaic) systems on constrained sections of the network downsized, unless they are prepared to pay for an upgrade to the network.

“The new standards potentially give them another option of installing a PV system of their preferred size that does not export power back into the grid.”

We’re seeing a tremendous amount of people inquiring weekly that they want to get away from utilities to live on their own systems.

Solar installer Brian Cooke

 

But John Grimes from the Australian Solar Council said he believed the power companies were trying to limit solar uptake.

“There’s a very small number of instances where there are technical issues caused by solar uptake, but they are a tiny fraction of a per cent,” Mr Grimes said.

“Instead of dealing with the technical issues that arise, they’re using a sledgehammer to try and block solar from the grid altogether.”

The uptake of solar energy in Australia, particularly in Queensland, has been huge over the past five years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said solar generation output rose by 58 per cent to 2,700 gigawatt hours (GWh), equal to about 1.3 per cent of electricity consumption, in 2012-13.

Renewable energy advocates say it is now at 3.4GW – 1.1GW of which is in Queensland.

They also believe any moves by energy companies to limit the growth of solar will lead to so-called grid defections, where people install solar and batteries and disconnect from the network.

“By trying to stop people from using solar, the unintended consequence is that people are more likely to go solar and leave the grid much quicker than they otherwise would have,” Mr Grimes said.

 

Price of solar has come down, but not batteries: installer

Solar installer Brian Cooke specialises in systems that allow households to generate all their own electricity.

He said poor battery technology was limiting the ability of people to go “off the grid”.

“The price of solar has come down dramatically but the other associated cost of batteries, which is the other major cost, is not really coming down,” Mr Cooke said.

However that has not stopped the growth in people looking to become self-sufficient.

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of people inquiring weekly that they want to get away from utilities to live on their own systems,” Mr Cooke said.

“The amount of inquiries we’re getting now… more and more people would be looking at doing it.”

The ABS said only 0.2 per cent of Australian households were not connected to mains power.

One of those belongs to renewable energy advocate Doone Wyborn, who disconnected from the power grid two years ago when he and his partner moved to a rural property in northern New South Wales.

“Batteries are the biggest problem but the solar panels themselves have come down so much in price over the last few years that in many cases you’re better off having a solar system, even if you’re living in the city,” he said.

“Our solar system can easily cope with all the energy requirements of a relatively efficient house, a small one, in fact we’ve got more than we need from the system that we have.”

Original story here

 

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Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete

from Giles Parkinson at the Guardian

As early as 2018, solar could be economically viable to power big cities. By 2040 over half of all electricity may be generated in the same place it’s used. Centralised, coal-fired power is over.

Rooftop solar panels

In a solar-driven energy democracy, even free coal has no value. Photograph: AAP

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

The influx of rooftop solar has turned this model on its head. There is 1,100MW of it on more than 350,000 buildings in Queensland alone (3,400MW on 1.2m buildings across the country). It is producing electricity just at the time that coal generators used to make hay (while the sun shines).

The impact has been so profound, and wholesale prices pushed down so low, that few coal generators in Australia made a profit last year. Hardly any are making a profit this year. State-owned generators like Stanwell are specifically blaming rooftop solar.

Tony Abbott, the prime minister, likes to say that Australia is a land of cheap energy and he’s half right. It doesn’t cost much to shovel a tonne of coal into a boiler and generate steam and put that into a turbine to generate electricity.

The problem for Australian consumers (and voters) comes in the cost of delivery of those electrons – through the transmission and distribution networks, and from retail costs and taxes.

This is the cost which is driving households to take up rooftop solar, in such proportions that the level of rooftop solar is forecast by the government’s own modellers, and by private groups such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance, to rise sixfold over the next decade. Households are tipped to spend up to $30bn on rooftop modules.

Last week, the WA Independent market Operator forecast that 75% of detached and semi detached dwellings, and 90% of commercial businesses could have rooftop solar by 2023/24.

The impact on Queensland’s markets last week is one of the reasons why utilities, generators and electricity retailers in particular want to slow down the rollout of solar.

The gyrations of wholesale power prices are rarely reflected in consumer power bills. But let’s imagine that the wholesale price of electricity fell to zero and stayed there, and that the benefits were passed on to consumers. In effect, that coal-fired energy suddenly became free. Could it then compete with rooftop solar?

The answer is no. Just the network charges and the retailer charges alone add up to more than 19c/kWh, according to estimates by the Australian energy market commissioner. According to industry estimates, solar ranges from 12c/kWh to 18c/kWh, depending on solar resources of the area, Those costs are forecast to com down even further, to around 10c/kWh and lower.

Coal, of course, will never be free. And the rapid uptake of rooftop solar – dubbed the democratisation of energy – is raising the biggest challenge to the centralised model of generation since electricity systems were established more than a century ago.

Network operators in Queensland, realising the pent up demand for rooftop solar, are now allowing customers to install as much as they want, on the condition that they don’t export surplus electricity back to the grid.

Households and businesses have little incentive to export excess power. They don’t get paid much for it anyway. Ergon Energy admits that this will likely encourage households to install battery storage.

The next step, of course, is for those households and businesses to disconnect entirely from the grid. In remote and regional areas, that might make sense, because the cost of delivery is expensive and in states such as Queensland and WA is massively cross-subsidised by city consumers.

The truly scary prospect for coal generators, however, is that this equation will become economically viable in the big cities. Investment bank UBS says this could happen as early as 2018.

The CSIRO, in its Future Grid report, says that more than half of electricity by 2040 may be generated, and stored, by “prosumers” at the point of consumption. But they warn that unless the incumbent utilities can adapt their business models to embrace this change, then 40% of consumers will quit the grid.

Even if the network operators and retailers do learn how to compete – from telecommunication companies, data and software specialists like Google and Apple, and energy management experts – it is not clear how centralised, fossil-fuel generation can adapt. In an energy democracy, even free coal has no value.

Original article here.

 

 

 

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Hydrogen breakthrough

I’m certainly not a chemist so am unsure of the voracity of this but on the surface it seems like a good thing. Is the much criticised hydrogen as a vehicle fuel about to undergo a massive improvement in cost and efficiency? I hope so. It would be a welcome input into the energy mix of the future. An energy mix that if left in its current form will result in catastrophic climate change.

Read about the latest breakthrough here.

 

 

ough could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels

Jun 24, 2014 by Marion O’sullivan

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-hydrogen-breakthrough-game-changer-future-car.html#jCp

Hydrogen breakthrough could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels

Jun 24, 2014 by Marion O’sullivan

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-hydrogen-breakthrough-game-changer-future-car.html#jCp

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global warming, climate change or something else?

I am expecting a few comments to end up in my spam folder as a result of this post spouting bullshit about scientists changing the name and at least one reference to Al Gore……blah blah blah….. don’t fucking bother.

from Alexander White writing for the Guardian.

Why is climate communication so hard?

The recent debate about “climate change” versus “global warming” highlights why climate communication is so difficult.
An ice cap melting

How people communicate about controversial topics like global warming are powerfully influenced by heuristics. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

What term works better to communicate about our warming planet, “climate change” or “global warming”?

With the release of a new Yale study, the question has been rekindled, with blogs as diverse as FiveThirtyEight and Thinkprogress looking at the study and its implications.

The study, and the various commentary about it,  is interesting, not just because it finds that “the terms global warming and climate change often mean different things to Americans—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond”, but because it highlights why climate communication is so difficult.

Just why is it so hard to talk about the climate?

Harry Enten’s FiveThirtyEight article is a good place to start, because it underscores the problem. The article explores the use by Democratic and Republican members of congress. Enten shows that despite the Yale study showing that Democratic voters responding better to the “global warming” terminology, Democrats in congress prefer to say “climate change”. In fact, Republicans were more likely to say “global warming” than Democrats, which is the opposite of what the Yale study recommends. Enten also notes that the same phenomenon is found in US television, with Democratic-leaning shows like Hardball preferring “climate change” and Republican leaning shows like Hannity preferring “global warming”.

The Yale study showed that not only did Americans use the term global warming themselves, but they heard it more in public discourse, suggesting that despite Democrats politicians and media figures saying “climate change” more, it engages them less.

Of course, there have been many studies, and the frustrating thing for climate communicators and campaigners is that they are often contradictory. For example, a study from 2011 showed that Republicans preferred “climate change” to “global warming” when endorsing the reality of the threat.

Another study by EcoAmerica from 2009 suggested “global warming” be ditched and the phrase “our deteriorating atmosphere” be deployed to better engage “soccer moms” and “environmental agnostics”. The awkward term never caught on, and neither has Joe Romm’s preferred term “hell or highwater” or “global weirding” (coined by Friedman).

Even the Australian Parliamentary Library has weighed in with a briefing paper on the topic, unhelpfully adding the UNFCCC’s use of “climate variability” to the mix.

The debate about terminology would be an interesting side note were not the issue so important. Global warming, or climate change if you prefer, is the greatest threat facing humankind this century. These seemingly innocuous phrases profoundly affect how people perceive the issues, assess the seriousness and support efforts to mitigate global warming. The complication is that although terminology is important, the manner and scale of influence is difficult to measure or understand.

Yet, commentators and communicators often firmly come down on one side or the other, with staunch views about what works and what doesn’t. (I use the terms interchangeably in this article and more generally in my articles for The Guardian.)

A significant contributor to this is the illusion of asymmetric insight, a fascinating cognitive bias that helps explain, in my view, why climate communication is so diabolically difficult.

Asymmetric insight is a phenomenon where someone believes they understand the reasons why other people do or believe things, while at the same time being skeptical that others could ever understand them.

Research by academics Pronin, Ross, Kruger and Savitsky from 2001 into this phenomenon found that not only do you believe you understand hidden states in others far better than they know in you, but when this is expanded to groups, it’s even more pronounced:

The results showed liberals believed they knew more about conservatives than conservatives knew about liberals. The conservatives believed they knew more about liberals than liberals knew about conservatives. Both groups thought they knew more about their opponents than their opponents knew about themselves.

This bias is commonplace and widespread, and definitely not confined to climate communication. During elections, we see this cognitive bias on display nightly by pundits and commentators who confidently explain that movements in polls can be explained because voters think one thing or another, or are responding to a recent event.

When you hear statements like “people support Obama’s climate change policies because…” or “Democrats prefer the term ‘global warming’ because…”, you are seeing this bias.

People, especially commentators, believe that they see the world how it really is, whereas most other people (especially those people who disagree with them) are deluded, ignorant or self-interested. The bias of asymmetric insight means that people are less likely to see others who disagree with them in nuanced or complex ways; simple things can explain complex and multifaceted changes in opinion or actions.

Tying into the difficulty of climate communications is the fact that typically the people doing research into this field – and again, the same applies to other areas – are heavily invested in the area. Climate communicators mostly care deeply about the dangers of run-away climate change. The result is that they often underestimate the extent to which most people are ambivalent or uninterested in the issue.

Because asking questions about peoples’ attitudes on an issue will generally prompt a response, the disinterest and ambivalence is hidden, and so it is easy to assume that most people have a latent interest or concern about global warming, when in fact they probably don’t. The ups and downs of climate polling in Australia for example appears to show an increase in the polarisation over the issue, but it is easy to over emphasise that when you’re asking the question compared to large swathes of the community where the issue may rarely or never come up.

The Yale study found that as many people “use neither” (35 percent) as use the term “global warming” (35 percent) and more than double that use “climate change” (15 percent). This suggests to me that as a communications challenge, regardless of the term used, the biggest barrier is disinterest, not the specific language being used.

A lot of communications is done by heuristics, but even when hard numbers, in the form of polling, is brought to the equation, there is an enormous risk that judgemental shortcuts are used to interpret those numbers. Because we believe we can understand why people believe the things they do (while at the same time not believing that others could possibly understand us), it is easy to skew or ignore the results of research like the Yale study.

As far back as 2003, Republican pollster Frank Luntz advocated Republicans use the term “climate change”, ostensibly to give the Republicans cover against the far more effective term “global warming”. The memo is worth reading even eleven years later, and the Yale study and many other studies over the last few years simply confirms much of what Luntz wrote then.

And although Luntz highlights his “words that work”, really what he does is build a context through which he can influence peoples’ attitudes. Creating this context goes beyond the “silver bullet” of a single phrase by creating shared meaning. The Yale paper again underscores this, as I noted earlier: the terms “global warming” and “climate change” mean different things to different people.

Just changing from one phrase to another without also shifting the context is unlikely to change attitudes. This would be as ineffective as the long-standing and fruitless focus on the “deficit model” of environmental communication.

The diabolical challenge for climate communications is that we often think we are gaining valuable insights from research like the Yale study, but more likely we are succumbing to the illusion of asymmetric insight.

Original article here

 

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supercritical steam production makes solar thermal as reliable as fossil fuels

A test solar thermal plant in Australia has broken records for steam production making it a serious rival for fossil fuels. However, with the most scientifically illiterate, backward, fossil fuel funded, conservative government in our history, the technology will struggle to take off. The Abbott government is dismantling all incentive schemes for renewable energy technologies as well as the renewable energy target. Read about it here.

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Why people shouldn’t read LimitedNews publications

Australians are being deliberately misled on the very real and present danger of climate change by a dominant rightwing media so that their vested interests are protected. Unfortunately ,many of my fellow Australians are too ignorant to see it. Many of those wilfully so.

http://theaimn.com/2014/05/30/the-political-economy-of-climate-change/

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NZ television takes climate change seriously

I’m constantly disappointed in climate change coverage in the MSM here in Australia. There are rarely any serious discussions about what is happening and what actions we might take in response.

This morning I received a dodgy comment from an anthropogenic climate change denier in New Zealand who ironically provided me with an excellent television discussion of the problems climate change pose in relation to the Antarctic. Thanks Mack.

Interview: Chuck Kennicutt and Gary Wilson

Saturday 19 Apr 2014 2:14p.m.

Chuck Kennicutt and Gary Wilson

Oceanographer Professor Chuck Kennicutt and Otago marine scientist Professor Gary Wilson

Lisa Owen: I’m going to come to you first Chuck, let’s flesh out why this matters. What is Antarctica doing for the rest of the globe?

Chuck Kennicutt: To put it simply Antarctica serves a critical role in the earth’s system and this is related mainly to the energy, the heat but also the water budget. So in areas like Antarctica that change, they affect the entire global system and this is seen through melting of ice, warming of sea water, changing of weather and also the ozone hole which has led to effects that we see around the globe.

So basically it’s the engine room?

Yes

So in light of that, the IPCC says that we’re not cutting greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees so what would that mean for Antarctica?

 Well, what we see and these predictions are based on the best scientific knowledge that we have today. And what we understand is that those types of temperature rises will continue not only in the trends that we already have seen but accelerate them. So there’ll be more melting of ice, there’ll be more rising of ocean water temperatures and air temperatures so we can very accurately predict now that continuing along the same path that we’ve been following will simply make the effects that we see much worse into the future.

So what are you seeing now in terms of changes?

Well what we see is loss of sea ice which is generally related to a rise in sea level globally, we see the disintegration of ice shelves, retreat of glaciers we see across the globe and also shifts in the populations of various species so it’s a real wide range of impacts across the spectrum of the physical and living environment.

So it’s the West Antarctic Ice Shelf that’s making scientists particularly concerned isn’t it? Why is that?

That’s an interesting question and what leads to that is most of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf is actually below sea level so it means that the ice is below the surface of the water and it raises a lot of questions. And we know over geologic history that that ice shelf has completely disintegrated and the question is, is that the most vulnerable part of Antarctica? As we heard there’s about 60 metres of sea level rise that potentially would happen if all of Antarctica melted and about 20 metres of that is in West Antarctica.

And what are the other consequences of that, you know, does it dilute a nutrient-rich ocean, what happens?

It fundamentally changes the heat and energy balance of the planet. The most direct connection though is the actual supply of water into the ocean. Typically you see particularly around Auckland and other major cities worldwide, they’re very close to the water so very small, literally feet, metres rise of sea level will inundate most of the major cities worldwide.

That’s the perfect opportunity to bring Gary into the conversation – what impact will it have directly on New Zealand then, starting with say the weather here?

Gary Wilson: Well I think the first point is to just go back and say Antarctica might seem like this place on the bottom of the planet but yes, it’s connected directly to here so the Antarctic Circumpolar Current washes across southern New Zealand and all the ocean fronts are kind of stacked up in the New Zealand part of the world.

So what does that mean for us – rainfall you’re talking about here?

That’s just in the ocean but when it comes to the atmosphere the same is true. That the atmosphere is subdivided so you’ve got a cold polar cell of circulation around Antarctica and that boundary and the westerly wind system comes across New Zealand and the westerly winds bring our rainfall, certainly in the South Island. But that’s the major contributor to rainfall in the South Island.

So our economy – fishing, farming, tourism – how dependent is all of this on Antarctica?

I mean most of it’s dependent on primary industries so it’s all dependent on the environment and it’s all dependent on ocean and climate and in the long term those things are connected to what’s driven out of Antarctica. In the short-term, we see some impact from the north as well and the interaction between the warm north and the cold south but in the long term it’s the Antarctic that’s driving those longer term trends.

What will those trends be? We talk about one-in-one hundred year storms – that will become potentially a storm a year? What are the consequences?

I think the contribution from Antarctica can be considered something of a baseline so if you’re raising sea level, yes you might see incremental rises in sea level of millimetres per year and centimetres per decade but as you increase the sea level the storm intensity and the ability of the storm to inundate coastal areas of course is intensified. So that’s, the two go hand in hand really.

So we know that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed before so it’s conceivable it could happen again. What is the best scientific guess for if, and when that might happen again?

Well rather than guessing if we look back in geological time, what we know is that the last time the Earth had a CO2 level of about 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, then that was the end solution of a prolonged earth in that state, was that the West Antarctic ice sheet retreated. In a couple of years we’re in 400 parts per million, the question then is –

So we’re heading into the danger level is what you’re saying?

We’re certainly heading into the danger level but the question is what’s the pathway to get there? Are we going to see incremental melting and incremental increase in the climate warming if you like or are there going to steps and changes and thresholds and tipping points in that so that it kind of goes up in jerky movements rather than just the straight line condition and that’s the unanswered question. What’s that going to look like.

So we have about a hundred thousand New Zealanders who are living within I think it’s three metres of the coastline and we’ve got a lot of low-lying cities, all our airports seem to be right next to the ocean. Even this week when we had a storm, a number of the roads were covered in water because they’re right next to the ocean so are we ready for the worst?

Well the short answer is no. We’re not ready. But the real question is how do we get ready? And that’s where the research comes in. It’s a question of you know, what are the timeframes on this change, what can we work out about how fast this change is going to happen. We kind of know the end game, we don’t know the rates of getting there. So really that’s where the research comes in. I’d like to think that over the next, 10, 20 years we can actually get some solid research in to be able to develop the policies and plans around it.

But what can we do now from what we know now?

I mean there’s two answers to that. And one is you know one is can we mitigate this or are we planning to adapt and I guess we’re planning to adapt. But at some point we probably want the world to take more notice because we’re a pretty small emitter here and really New Zealand can play on the international research stage and point out what it is that’s so important about this part of the world and these currents that we’re talking about, the westerly winds and what does that mean globally, so that globally people take a bit more attention, pay some attention

I just want to pick up on what you said there, you said we’re moving to adaption. So are we talking about life behind sea walls or do we actually need to make some radical changes like saying leave your car at home two days a week, cap dairying or are we just accepting this is a fait accompli and we’re just working with it.

Well, yeah, that’s an interesting question. I mean –

What do you think though?

We’re certainly committed to a degree of change. We’re certainly committed to some change at this point so it’s not good enough to just say we can now mitigate the change because CO2 levels haven’t actually leveled out in the atmosphere yet. They’re climbing faster than ever. So we’re certainly committed to seeing some change so we’re going to have to do some adapting. We’re not going to be able to maintain some of these coastal infrastructures and we’re going to have to think about how we use our land.

So what do you think of that Chuck? We’re accepting it, we’re just going to tinker?

Well essentially what Gary is saying, if we do not act we are committed to the changes not only that we’re seeing but as I mentioned accelerating changes and the only recourse at that point will be adaption, which as you say, will be moving away from coastal areas, sea walls, a number of ways of addressing the change in climate and so it really becomes a matter of public will. And are we willing to do things that really impact our daily lives but solve these problems in the long term and that’s really I think the political debate that’s going on now.

I want to pick up on willingness in the context that we know one of the biggest drivers of our problems here is economic growth. We’re getting millions of people out of poverty around the world, through development, we’re feeding them our dairy products at a massive rate, how do we balance that tension between slowing climate change and bringing people’s lot up?

There’s two assumptions there. One is that economic growth is only realised at the cost of environmental impact and I think that’s a sort of false bargain. And so the question is, is future growth going to follow the same trajectory that past growth has. A lot of the technologies we currently use were really invented in the 1950s, 1960s and as we go forward it’s not necessarily the case that future economic growth is going to follow using these same technologies and there’s a lot of effort now to really reduce the per capita consumption of energy which is the fundamental currency which drives climate change. And if those technologies are put into place you can have both economic growth at the same time as protecting the environment. So I don’t think you necessarily have to sell your future simply to have to raise the level of the economy worldwide.

I want to just touch on another issue, which is resources. We know that there’s a treaty aimed at protecting Antarctica but isn’t one of the big issues when it comes to this part of the world, mining and resources and a potential rush for those goodies?

That’s another very good question. The Antarctic Treaty has been in force for about 50 years, a little over 50 years and New Zealand has been a very active member in making sure that the Antarctic is managed in a ways, manner based on science. But going forward though is as we have this increasing demand for resources worldwide, will the Antarctic Treaty be stable enough to be able to manage those types of changes and it’s not clear.

The Chinese have already said that they’re looking at science there in order to, and this is a quote from the president, take advantage of ocean and polar resources. That sounds like more than just gathering information?

Yes, and that’s correct. If you look at the history of Antarctica, science is only one aspect of why people are in Antarctica. It’s also geopolitical as well as resource based and there’s many countries out there – China, including Russia – who have a clear eye on the natural resources not only oil and gas, fisheries and bio-prospecting and the use of other resources. So again, it comes back to the question of whether this international agreement called the Antarctic Treaty will be able to mediate those types of pressures going into the future.

Read the original transcript here.

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Euro ambassadors ‘shocked’ by Australia’s anti-climate stance

How much more internationally embarrassing can our loony right wingnut government be? Backwards thinking and arrogantly and ignorantly proud of it.

Euro ambassadors ‘shocked’ by Australia’s anti-climate stance.

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Global weather forecast isn’t pretty

by TOM MCKAY at PolicyMic

The Weather Forecast for the Rest of Year Is Out, And It Could Be Catastrophic

the, weather, forecast, for, the, rest, of, year, is, out,, and, it, could, be, catastrophic,

The news: This year’s weather might be awfully weird — and potentially very, very dangerous. Meteorologists are preparing for an El Niño that could rival the catastrophic 1997-1998 phenomenon, which the Wire calls “potentially terrifying.” And for good reason — that event killed 1,500 people and cost the globe as much as $35-45 billion. In Peru some 350,000 people were driven from their homes; in Argentina, 150,000.

The designation “El Niño,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.” Such events are responsible for disrupting typical weather patterns (often severely), and depending on where you live, El Niño can trigger anything from torrential rainstorms to severe drought. This usually happens every few years, but environmental scientists worry that climate change could increase the phenomenon’s frequency.

Data collected from a NASA satellite has seen a series of “Kelvin waves,” massive ripples in the ocean that typically precede an El Niño event. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Climatologist Bill Patzert told NASA Science that “a pattern of sea surface heights and temperatures has formed that reminds me of the way the Pacific looked in the spring of 1997.”

Image Credit: NASA

How could it affect me? For one, it depends on where you live. While it’s not certain we’ll get hit this year, if we do, be prepared for a big one.

The 1997-1998 event caused deadly flooding and mudslides in Peru and created Hurricane Linda off the Mexican coastline — the “strongest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone ever recorded.” Extreme weather systems fueled a mosquito boom across Africa, leading to epidemics of tropical disease. The U.S. mostly just experienced heavy rainfall. And while that might sound appealing to drought-starved states in the American West, it also means that the coming winter might dump a lot of snow and ice. In addition to the extreme weather, it also made 1998 one of the hottest years to date.

Is it linked to climate change? Environmental scientists believe so, though a definitive connection has yet to be established. A 2013 study examined 7,000 years of coral fossils and found “tentative” evidence that El Niño gets stronger with higher levels of atmospheric carbon — which, by the way, is currently at the highest recorded level ever.

If a severe El Niño hits the world and wreaks havoc, climate change could again be propelled to the front of the world’s political agenda. The New York Times even suggests it might force people to pay attention to climate change:

“The timing could provide an uncomfortable backdrop for Republican presidential hopefuls who are skeptical of climate change, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who recently said he did not believe human activity was causing climate change. Democrats, eager to cast Republicans as anti-science or to appeal to voters in the endangered coastal city of Miami, might be likelier to re-emphasize climate change if polls show an increase in the public’s belief in global warming, which [Stanford University professor] Jon Krosnick anticipates will happen if global temperatures rise to record levels.”

If it doesn’t — well, that’s probably good news for everyone. But it will hit us sooner or later.

Original story here.

 

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